Tag Archives: Celia (Mimm) Stoutner

A Valentine’s Day love story: my grandmother elopes (a re-post)

Sepia Saturday 457. From the archives: Three years ago I wrote this blog about my maternal grandparents’ marriage — and it is still my most visited post. So here it is again for readers who may have missed it. 

Valentine’s Day this year brought to mind one of my favorite family love stories — how my maternal grandmother eloped during the Roaring Twenties to marry my maternal grandfather. Pieced together like an heirloom quilt from precious scraps of information, this tale begins in the early 1900s in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

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My maternal grandparents Tony and Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence in 1926 with their first child — my mother Peggy, age 3 weeks, who was born about two years after they married. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My grandmother Elizabeth Christina Stoutner, born on 20 Nov. 1905, was a third generation German-American — descended from ancestors who arrived in the 1850s. They appear in census reports as machinist, brick manufacturer, milliner, railroad employee and glove workers.

Born on 2 May 1902, my grandfather Antonio W. “Tony” Laurence (his surname anglicized from Di Lorenzo) was an Italian-American whose mother was born here and whose father arrived from Italy in 1896. His family members populate the census as junk dealer, garage owner, shoe shiners and glove factory workers.

The boy next door

Growing up, Tony and Lizbeth (as he called her) lived next door to each other on Wells Street in Gloversville1— she in a house built from brick manufactured by her grandfather and he in a wood frame house just around the corner from his father’s Peter Laurence Filling Station on East Fulton St.

Sometime in the early 1920s, my tall, artistic, stylish and high strung grandmother Lizbeth fell for my grandfather Tony, the warm, handsome, solid boy next door — a skilled mechanic, craftsman and troubleshooter who was anchored in a large, lively extended family. And he fell for her.

But the road ahead was rocky because Lizbeth’s mother was “very against their marriage,” according to the daughter of one of my grandmother’s oldest friends.

I have to wonder why: Was my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner influenced by the anti-Italian sentiment then sweeping the country? Or was she just intent on running her oldest daughter’s life? Whatever the reason, her opposition spurred my strong-willed grandmother to action.

Secret meetings

My great grandmother must have told Lizbeth to stop seeing Tony, and she pretended to agree. But all the while my grandmother was carrying on a subterfuge that fooled her family — including her younger siblings, my mom’s Uncle Andy and Aunt Margaret. Years later, Margaret shared this story:

Elizabeth was working at the school [a one-room country schoolhouse on Bemis Rd. about 3 miles east of Gloversville] and we all thought she had stopped seeing Tony. She would leave in the morning and walk all that way to the school, then in the evening walk all that way back. Well, we found out later that she would actually leave the house and walk a few blocks to meet Tony, who drove her to the school. At the end of the day, he would pick her up, drive her back and drop her a few blocks away so she could walk up to our house alone.

Exactly when my grandmother’s family discovered these secret meetings I can’t say for sure. But after high school, my grandparents were separated geographically when they both went away to study — Lizbeth to teachers college in Oneonta, Otsego, N.Y., and Tony to learn automotive mechanics in Detroit, Wayne, Mich.

I’ll bet my great grandmother Celia thought distance would put an end to my grandparents’ courtship — but if so, she didn’t know her daughter very well. Sure, my grandmother Lizbeth put on a great show while she was still underage and needed permission to marry — but I think she was just biding her time, waiting to turn 18 so she could finally follow her heart.

Young love endures

How they planned it I don’t know, and my mother was never told. But after she came of age, my grandmother Lizbeth joined my grandfather Tony in Detroit, where they were married by Father J.J. Hunt, a Catholic priest, on 9 Jan. 1924 — just 50 days after her eighteenth birthday.

My grandmother had boldly embraced her future, and she clearly did not want her family coming after her. The 1924 Return of Marriages in the County of Wayne, Michigan2shows that, while my grandfather admitted that he was from New York, my grandmother said she was from Michigan.

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The treasured  souvenir of my maternal grandparents’ marriage: A tiny loving cup showing the Post Office in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan — the city where they were married in 1924. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Returning to Gloversville as a couple, my maternal grandparents Elizabeth and Tony remained married for life — confounding the nay sayers and eventually winning Celia over. And they left tangible evidence that their young love endured.

On my bookshelf sits a tiny, silver plated loving cup from the Detroit Post Office — the only souvenir from their wedding — treasured and re-silvered by my grandmother and passed down from my mom to me.

After my grandfather died at age 80, inside his wallet we found my grandmother’s pristine calling card with her maiden name embossed in gold, on which she had penned her address on Elm St., Oneonta, N.Y. — where he may have gone to fetch her for their clandestine drive to Detroit all those years ago.

May we all have love like theirs in our lives — and many Happy Valentines Days in our future!

Up next: A bewildering Blakeslee saga unfolds. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1908: My Stoutner ancestors in Gloversville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 387: Fourth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

Seeking the roots of my maternal grandmother’s signature style, I turned to a group shot that captures three generations of my German Stoutner ancestors from Goversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

My grandmother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence is the youngest family member. In her little white dress and hair ribbon, Liz was probably about three when the photo was taken — which dates it to circa 1908. Surrounding her are some spiffy-looking adults.

My Stoutner ancestors in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. (circa 1908). My stylish maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence is shown here at about age three sitting on the lap of my German great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner. The entire group is smartly dressed. Even the dogs are well groomed. Photo poss. by Rector Mann. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Standing, from the left: Edson Haggart and his wife Gertrude (Stoutner) Haggart;  my great-grandfather Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner and his wife, my great-grandmother Ceila (Mimm) Stoutner; and Crosby Van Arnum, friend and business partner of John H. Stoutner, who is seated in front of him.

Seated, from the left: Mary (Stoutner) Mann; my grandmother Liz held by my great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner; his wife, my great-great grandmother Christina (Aleitz) Stoutner; and their son Uncle John.

The two boys are Gertrude and Edson’s sons Clyde E. Haggart, at left, and Gilbert Haggart, standing in front. Mary’s husband, Rector Mann, was living when this photo was taken, but he does not appear in the picture — so he may be the photographer.

A tale of three families

My German immigrant great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner (b. 1832) had three families over his lifetime. According to family lore, his first wife died in childbirth — but I have yet to discover her name or further details.

He remarried and, with his second wife Elizabeth D. Stouther (b. 1844), had two children — William A. Stoutner (b. 1862) and Mary E. Stoutner (b. 1864). Mary appears seated in the photo above. Sadly, Elizabeth also died in 1865, leaving Andrew a widower with two small children.

Andrew and his third  wife — my great-great grandmother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner, also from Germany — had three surviving children together: John H. Stoutner (b. 1869), Gertrude Stoutner (b. 1871) and my great-grandfather Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner (b. 1875). They all appear in the photo above.

Generations of style

From whom did my grandmother inherit her style? If this photo is any indication, probably from her entire extended family!

Uncle John and his partner Crosby, who co-owned The Smart Shop, were women’s clothing professionals. They appear nattily attired at the right of this photo — and everyone else looks pretty good, too.

My great-grandfather Pete Stoutner, a strapping railway employee and Liz’s dad, shows a bit of flare with his white shirt and vest. Next to him, my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner, Liz’s mom, looks lovely in a Gibson Girl blouse and au courant updo.

Couture consciousness

The wall behind them may be the side of my great-great grandparents’ house at 4 Wells Street — constructed with bricks manufactured at my great-great grandfather Andrew Stoutner’s Gloversville brick works.

I suspect this three-generation photo of my German immigrant ancestors, their children, and grandchildren was carefully posed to send a message of success to relatives back home.

From oldest to youngest, everyone seems well turned out — even my grandmother’s cousins Clyde and Gilbert are snappily dressed. So is it any wonder that my grandmother developed couture consciousness — learning an early lesson from her elders about putting her best fashion foot forward?

Up next: More on Uncle John H. Stoutner, the family clothier. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1915: The stylish Stoutner siblings

Sepia Saturday 386: Third in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

By the time my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was 9 years old, she had two younger siblings — Andrew J. Stoutner, born in 1909, and Margaret Catherine Stoutner, born in 1914.

The Stoutner siblings in 1915. From left, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence,9; Margaret Catherine Stoutner, 1; and Andrew J. Stoutner, 5. Scan by Molly Charboneau

They appear together in this studio photograph, which was probably taken for Aunt Margaret’s first birthday in January 1915.

This picture provides the clearest evidence yet of a family influence on how the Stoutner children dressed.

Lovely in linen

At the left, my grandmother wears what appears to be a linen or cotton-linen dress — long-waisted, short sleeved, with contrasting piping at the neckline and yoke.

White stockings and a white, high-necked blouse, with vertical stitching at the yoke and lower sleeves, echo the piping detail. High-buttoned black boots, a pendant necklace and two satin bows containing a looser hair style complete my grandmother Liz’s fashionable portrait.

Stylish siblings

Next to my grandmother, one-year-old Aunt Margaret wears a frothy, white dress with lacy cuffs and collar and vertical yoke stitching.

Although similar to my grandmother’s dress at age one, Aunt Margaret’s dress features two contrasting flower details, perhaps in a shade of pink, at each side of the yoke . Her fair hair is combed in a simpler style and she wears no jewelry. White stockings and little button boots finish her look.

Beside her, Uncle Andy completes the group — his hair dark like my grandmother’s and trimmed in a handsome cut. He appears to be all in white, from a sailor-collared shirt and knee-length bloused pants with button detail to stockings above his polished black boots. At the neckline is a contrasting satin bow, perhaps in a shade of blue.

The Stoutner family in 1915

I wondered what the Stoutner family looked like in 1915 when the children’s photo was taken. The New York State census for that year (in which they were enumerated as “Staughther”) provides a snapshot, as excerpted below.

1915 New York State Census – Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. – ED 1, Ward 3 Census date: 1 June 1915 – The Andrew Stoutner Family living at 4 Wells Street – Source: NYS Archives/Ancestry.com
Name Relationship Age Occupation
Andrew Stoutner Head 40 Machinist
Celia Stoutner Wife 37 Housework
Elizabeth Stoutner Daughter 9 School
Andrew Stoutner Son 5 School
Margaret Stoutner Daughter 1 No occupation

Families have high hopes for the next generation and my German-American great-grandparents Celia (Mimm) and Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner were no different.

As children of immigrants, Pete and Celia were probably strivers who sought to give their children every advantage — starting with dressing for success. My grandmother Liz learned this fashion lesson early and stuck by it all her life.

But who else played a role? Did Pete’s brother John — a garment industry professional — help out with this? What about the rest of the extended Stoutner family? Were they also snappy dressers who passed on their flair for style?

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1910: My fashionable grandmother at age five

Sepia Saturday 385: Second in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

In the last post I discussed my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashionable attire at age one. This trend continued as she grew, as shown in the photo below of Liz at age five.

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence at age five (circa 1910). She is wearing a fur-trimmed wool coat with fashion-forward accessories: a fur muff, a spectacular hat and satin bows. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My grandmother is wrapped in a fur-trimmed wool coat accessorized with a spectacular hat and muff — each sporting shiny satin bows. Her long, ringlet curls complete the look.

Clearly Liz did not select these toddler clothes or hairstyle herself — so I wondered whether her German-American family’s fashion sense contributed to her evolving clothing style.

Fashion in the family

My maternal ancestors lived in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. They were German immigrants on my grandmother Liz’s side and Italian immigrants on my grandfather Antonio W. Laurence’s side (Tony’s surname anglicized from Di Lorenzo).

Glove turning tool from Meyers Glove Company of Gloversville, N.Y.  Discovered  in my grandmother Liz’s sewing cabinet, this tool may have been used by my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner to turn gloves with internal seams when she worked at home sewing gloves. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When Liz was growing up, fur, leather and glove production were primary industries in Gloversville and nearby Johnstown.

Many of my German-American and Italian-American ancestors worked in these fashion-related trades.

Liz’s mother — my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner, — was among hundreds of women who sewed and turned gloves at home using materials provided by nearby factories. Her mother — my great-great grandmother Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm — was also a glove worker.

My strapping great-grandfather — Liz’s dad Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner — broke with this tradition and worked for the railroad. However, his brother — Liz’s uncle John H. Stoutner — made his career in fashion.

A commercial clothier’s influence

Uncle John and his partner Crosby E. Van Arnum operated The Smart Shop in Gloversville — a women’s millinery and clothing store carrying everything from undergarments to outerwear — and ran ads in the local newspapers.

A New York Times notice of Uncle John’s arrival in New York City as a buyer for the Argersinger Company of Gloversville, N.Y. (11 Nov. 1913). Did Uncle John’s garment expertise contribute to my grandmother’s fashion sense? Source: Old Fulton New York Post Cards

Did Uncle John play a role in recommending or providing outfits for my grandmother? There’s no way to know for sure — but he certainly had the credentials.

According to the New York Times, Uncle John traveled to New York City to buy the latest in suits, waists, corsets and millinery for the Argersinger Co. before opening The Smart Shop.

My grandmother Liz was the first female child born in her generation to the extended Stoutner family — so she was probably surrounded by doting adults.

They may have given fashionable gifts for her wardrobe — particularly Uncle John, who was 41 and single when my grandmother was born and knew his way around the garment business.

In whatever way it happened, one thing is apparent — by age five Liz was well on her way to a signature style that would last throughout her life.

Up next: The stylish Stoutner siblings. Please stop back. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1906: My fashionable grandmother at age one

Sepia Saturday 384: Piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

For as far back as I can remember, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was a clothes horse. She followed fashion trends and kept up with the latest in age-appropriate clothing, footwear and accessories.

Me with my stylish grandmother (1950). Even for casual times, like holding me as a baby out on the porch, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was always fashionably dressed and accessorized. Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

A 1950 photo from the day that she and I first met in Gloversville, N.Y., shows her stylishly attired with every hair in place.

Not that she spent inordinate sums on her outfits.

Known in our family as Boom from my childhood rendering of Grandma as “Booma,” my grandmother was a serious sales shopper keen to find quality at reduced prices.

To this end, she frequented garment industry company stores once common in her home town and in the Albany Capital District, where she lived when I was growing up.

Fashionable from a young age

My grandmother at age one in winter hat, coat and bows (1906). Scan by Molly Charboneau

I wondered how far back her fashion sense went — then I discovered two photos of Boom taken in 1906 when she was about one year old.

Clearly, her German-American parents started her on a fashion-forward footing at a young age.

In the first photo, my grandmother’s shiny black hair peeks out from beneath a snug little winter hat.

She is posed for the studio photographer in a light, double-breasted fur coat with a Bishop sleeve. Atop her head and at her neck are full, fashionable bows.

A dress with staying power

In the second picture, my grandmother looks very smart in a crisp, white ankle-length dress and patent leather shoes — accessorized with a chain and pendant, a baby ring and a little bracelet.

My grandmother at age one in eyelet dress, patent leather shoes and accessories (1906). Scan by Molly Charboneau

Her dark hair, gathered up at the top, shines even more brightly in this photo.

The dress features an eyelet hem, eyelet detail and gathered sleeves with eyelet cuffs. Vertical stitching adds interest at the yoke, which falls from a lacy neckline.

As I studied the photo, something about the dress seemed familiar — so I took a look in the closet where I store family heirloom garments.

How wonderful to discover this dress among several recently given to me by my younger sister Amy — saved and passed down through four generations.

A textile legacy

My grandmother’s little eyelet dress at 111 yeas old (2017). Photo by Molly Charboneau

My maternal grandmother Liz was big on family and heritage. She set up “baby boxes” for her daughters (my mom Peg and my Aunt Rita).

Then — starting with their baby shoes — she filled each box with important artifacts and documents from their childhoods.

Boom also maintained a huge collection of family photos, passed on by her parents and my grandfather’s family — which she carefully labeled for future generations.

So is it any wonder that she would save her baby dress from that handsome photo?

The cherished outfit was probably tucked away and passed down by her mother — my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner. Although ivory with age, my grandmother’s little dress has held together for 111 years.

Could this be the quality garment that started my grandmother Liz on a lifetime of carefully dressing for every occasion? If so, what a wonderful textile legacy.

Up next: My fashionable maternal grandmother at age five. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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