When I was growing up, my father, Eliot, told me that his grandfather, Oliver Fairfield Wadsworth, Jr., heard Horace Greeley's advice, "Go West, Young Man" and that he did. I knew he had settled in Great Falls, Montana. I knew his sons, Oliver Fairfield III and Eliot, moved back to Boston, while my grandmother, Zylpha Mary (Dit), met my grandfather at Glacier National Park and came back with him to Wisconsin.
I knew that his wife's name was Rose, and that they were friends with the artist, Charles Russell, but that was all I knew until I began corresponding with my fathers cousins, Oliver Fairfield Wadsworth IV (Waddy) and Eliot M. Wadsworth in October of 2009.
Eliot was kind enough to answer my questions of "What sort of work did he do?" and "How did his sons get back to the East Coast?" in an e-mail on October 19, 2009.
"What I know, or think I know, is that Oliver went to college in Boston, maybe a mix of Harvard and MIT, and then went to Montana representing Boston investors interested in participating in the big mining/minerals boom going on there, including coal, copper, etc. About 5 years ago, I went to a wedding in great Falls and took the opportunity to search out the family home, a tall, wood frame structure which is still standing on a point of land at the northeast corner of the city, overlooking what is not a very channelized Missouri River.
"The local newspaper archives were not very revealing but did mention him as one of the active business community in Great Falls, where I am quite certain he died, I think in 1934-5 while my father, Eliot, was in law school in Boston. Yes is it my understanding that both sons, and likely your mother as well, were sent east to school and college and never went back for any meaningful amount of time. My father evidently spent a year in bed with typhoid fever when he was about 10 years old, spent a lot of happy summer days at a place called Flathead Lake where he evidently enjoyed running speedboats of some sort, and learned to fly an airplane very early, apparently because his Dad had some financial or operating role in an airport. As Waddy will report, all of our old papers include lots of worthless mining stick certificates.
"Our grandmother was of German extraction, may have actually been named Muller, which was Anglicized, and was a serious pianist. I could find no record of her passing but I believe she was no longer alive when I was born in 1942, but could be wrong."
Waddy added an interesting story about his college football career in an e-mail on October 20, 2009.
"Oliver F. our Grandfather was a football player. In his days one did not have to be a giant, physically, to play the game. He played for Harvard his first year and then decided ,according to my Father, that M.I.T., the following season, might have a better team. So he left Harvard and enrolled at M.I.T. After that season he determined that Harvard would have a better team, so he returned to Harvard and graduated there in 1891."
Waddy also shared a story about Oliver and Rose in an e-mail to my father on October 13, 2009.
"Allow me to tell you, both Eliots, just another little story about our Grand Father in common . Note well I have not written common Grand Father, because I assure you that this gentleman was far from being common. The following was told to me by Eliot W’s Father on a winter’s evening in Beverly Farms. According to him, our Grand Mother, Rose, Oliver’s wife was a very devout roman catholic. In fact my Father, the oldest of the three children, as a little boy, had to go to church every Sunday in Great Falls Montana and pump air into the organ so that instrument could produce its melodious sounds. He did so by peddling a peddle, attached to a series of pipes which fed air to the organ. Rose would sing beautifully, which probably identifies the source of all the musical talent of Eliot W, his son and his siblings. Rose’s husband, Oliver, our Grand Father, according to Eliot W’s Father would never set a foot inside the church. Indeed the only time he was adjacent to it was when he designed the tennis court probably still located on its grounds today. ---- Irrespective of anyone’s religion whether it be Hindu, Moslem, Budhist or Catholic or any other religion for that matter. If an individual passes the Pearly Gates and notices a man measuring out a tennis court in the heavens of Paradise----That man is our Grand Father."
Waddy also mentioned to me that the Olivers in his family alternated nicknames by generation between "Ollie" and "Waddy", so this Oliver was called Waddy as well. I can confirm that because I've seen a postcard from Charles Russell to him addressed to "Friend Waddy".
All of this discussion piqued my curiosity, and led me to conduct some Internet searches. In books.google.com I found a pamphlet produced by the Harvard University Class of 1892. It was written in 1907 evidently as a prelude to their 15th reunion, and collected information on their classmates current endeavors. Here is the entry Oliver, which also includes a good deal of information on Rose.
OLIVER FAIRFIELD WADSWORTH, JR.
Born at Boston, Massachusetts.
Is still engaged in the real estate and insurance business at Great Falls, Montana. Was married at Shawano, Wisconsin, November 8, 1899, to Rose Evelyn Miller, daughter of Mathias and Katheryn Miller. Has one son: Oliver Fairfield, 3d, born at Great Falls, Montana, June 27, 1904. Home address: 104 Third Avenue Park, Great Falls, Montana. Business address: McKnight Block, Great Falls, Montana.
I had seen a note that Rose was from Wisconsin where I grew up, and this entry seems to confirm it. Perhaps it wasn't such a stretch for my grandmother, Dit, to settle in Wisconsin, if she had relatives here on her mother's side.
I note that Waddy and the pamphlet have different graduating years assigned to Oliver, perhaps due to his year at M.I.T., but I left it as the sources indicated. To me it is close enough 100 years on. I'll leave it to more committed genealogists than I to discover the truth.
Originally publshed on the Elf Home Page - October 2009
In the 2010s, a woman named Susie from Great Falls, Montana, contacted me. She said she'd been doing some work in my Great Grandfathers house in Great Falls. We exchanged messages, and then the owner of the house, Theresa, got in touch with me. She sent me a bunch of pictures about Great Falls back in the day and specifically about Oliver Fairfield Wadsworth, Jr. Check this out: