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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