Mystery Monday: Searching for Lewis Chappel (Part 1)

Ancestor Hunt

My mother’s grandfather, Lewis Chappel, has been an enigma in my family research for years now. By the time mom was born, he was already missing in action and no one, not even her grandmother who raised her, ever talked about him. The challenge of locating information about him will be great, but my desire to know what happened to him is greater.

So my very own, “WDYTYA?” for Lewis Chappel begins today!

Census Records

Since I don’t have any home sources such as — birth, marriage, death, religious, school, and personal records — about Lewis to go on, I will begin my search for him in the U. S. Federal Census enumerated with my great-grandmother, Carrie, and their son Joseph. So I start my search with the 1940 decade and work backward, decade by decade.

1940 – Nothing!
1930 – Nada!
1920 – Niente!

It wasn’t until the 1910 US Census did I finally find them together as a family!

Lewis, Carrie, and Joseph Chappel, 1910 U. S. Census

[Abstraction]

Enumerated on the 18th day of April 1910, this U. S. Federal Census reports living at 1609 Saulnier Street, Houston Ward 4, Harris County, Texas were: [1]

Line 36:  Louis Chappel, head of household, age 27, married 7 years, born in Texas as were his parents, works as a Pipefitter for a Gas Company, rents the house he lives in

Line 37: Carrie Chappel, wife, age 27, married 7 years, mother of 1 child that’s living, born in Texas with parents reportedly born in Mississippi, has no occupation

Line 38: Joseph Chappel, son, age 7, single, born in Texas

Analyzing the Data

Analyze the Data

Let me pause here and say that as I take a closer look at the information reported in this record and other census records; I must keep in mind that though these records are a genealogist gold mine, they’re not perfect! All of the information recorded was done orally. There will be errors on both parts — the enumerator and my ancestor, or person, giving the facts. Enumerators, depending on their level of education, misspelled names miscalculated years of birth and marriages, and simply did not record information as accurately and carefully as reported. Those giving information, depending on their level of education too, sometimes didn’t know all the facts needed, or they would make up information as they went along with the interview. Oh, and let’s not forget those ancestors who were not always “forthcoming” with the truth about their lives for a variety of reasons.

Name | Relation | Personal Description

My great-grandfather’s given name is spelled with an “ou,” as oppose to Lewis spelled with an “ew.” This is a reminder that I must include variations of how his given name may be spelled in my search process as well as possible nicknames he may have used like Lou or Louie. Something else I noticed is that my mother spells her maiden name, Chapple, with the “le” ending as opposed to Chappel with the “el” ending. So when did the spelling of the surname change? That’s an excellent question! But this also means that I must consider all spelling variations of the surname in my search process too!

Something I was surprised to see was the middle initial “E” associated with my great-grandmother’s name. As far as I know, she wasn’t born with a middle name. My mother who is named after her wasn’t born with a middle name either. BUT I have seen on some of my mother’s vital records, “Louise,” as her middle name. When I asked her about it, she said school officials insisted that she have a middle name for their records back then. Mom said she refused to let them call her Carrie Bell or Carrie Mae. So she chose Louise for her middle name on school records. So in light of how my mother came to have a middle name, I wonder what “E” name my great-grandmother was using for her middle name at that time? Interesting indeed — LOL!

Both of my great-grandparents are 27 years old, which means they were born around 1883. Great-grandmother Carrie was born 28 Feb 1883. Therefore, her age is correct on this record. I just hope this is the case for Lewis’ year of birth too.

According to this record, they had been married for seven years, which would put their year of marriage around 1903.

My mother always believed that her father, Joseph, grew up in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas where he was born, then moved to Houston during his young adult years. But this wasn’t the case at all since this census record shows him living with his parents in Houston, Harris County, Texas at the age of 7.

Nativity

Both of my great-grandparents were born in the state of Texas. My great-grandmother was born and raised in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas. And their son (my grandfather), Joseph, was born in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas too. So is it possible that the city of Eagle Lake, in Colorado County, Texas is where Lewis is from as well? If not the city of Eagle Lake, which town in Colorado County did he live?

Occupation

Lewis’s occupation as a Pipefitter for a Gas Company gives a significant clue to the type of knowledge and skills he possessed if he was indeed a Pipefitter at this time.
According to Wikipedia, “a pipefitter is a trades person who lays out, assembles, fabricates, maintains and repairs piping systems. Pipefitters usually begin as helpers or apprentices.” [2]

Keeping in mind my great-grandfather’s race and the 1910 era in which he lived, more than likely he worked as a Pipefitter Helper, than a licensed apprentice for the gas company.
Is Houston Electric Light & Power (HL&P) the company he worked for at the time? It is possible given the fact that his home at 1609 Saulnier Street was in the vicinity of where the city’s first gas plant was built along the west banks of Buffalo Bayou. “HL& P filed a charter in 1882 and was granted a franchise by the Houston City Council. Over the next century, HL&P generated electricity from steam, natural gas, coal or lignite and finally nuclear fission for sale and delivery to retail customers in the rapidly growing Houston area.”[3]

Ownership of Home

The house that they rented at 1609 Saulnier Street was in 4th Ward, better known as Houston’s historic Freedman’s Town. This community, which began with 1,000 newly freed slaves from the Brazos River Cotton Plantations in 1866, grew to over 17,000 by 1910 making it the center of black cultural and professional life in Houston. [4]

Another tip I want to include here is how important it is to carefully review ALL of the families enumerated on each census page you find your ancestor(s) recorded! Ancestry.com  makes this process very easy because each census record you attach to your ancestor’s timeline includes a link to “view others on page” (see below).

When I viewed all of the families enumerated on the same census page with my great-grandparents, I discovered that my great uncle Patrick Robert Blanton, Sr., one of my great-grandmother’s older brothers and his family, lived next door at 1607 Saulnier Street! Below is a Google Satellite street view of where these old homesteads are today. Those original 1910 houses they lived in are long gone. But similar row houses were built in their place by the 1920’s and 1930’s.

House A on the left (1607 Saulnier) was the home of Uncle Patrick Blanton, Sr. House B on the right (1609 Saulnier) was the home of  Lewis & Carrie (Blanton) Chappel, Freedman’s Town, Houston in 1910

So based on information from this census record, what key information have I learned about my great-grandfather that I didn’t know before?

o Names (given, middle, and nicknames) – Lewis Chappel, or possibly Louis Chappel
o Occupations – Pipefitter for a Gas Company (1910 Census)
o Birth date and place – abt 1883, Texas, USA (1910 Census)
o Age – 27 yrs old (1910 Census)
o Residence – 1607 Saulnier Street, Houston, Texas 77019 (1910 Census)
o Family structure – married to Carrie Blanton and has one son, Joseph Chappel
o Marriage – Married Carrie Blanton abt 1903 (1910 Census)

You know, I’m not surprised that my great-grandparents are living in Houston’s historic Freedman’s Town. But finding them together as a family in only one census record leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions:

  • When and where was Lewis Chappel born?
  • Who are his parents?
  • When and where did he meet and marry Carrie?
  • Where were they living at the time their son Joseph was born (in Eagle Lake, TX or another city/town of Colorado County, Texas)?
  • What year did they come as a family to Houston?
  • What became of this family beyond 1910?

Stay tuned, for this is only the beginning of my WDYTYA? journey!

Think we have a family connection?
Let me hear from you because  . . . I’m Claiming Kin!

—–

Source Citation:

1. “United States Census, 1910,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M2MJ-KDV : accessed 29 Mar 2013), Louis Chappel, Houston Ward 4, Harris, Texas; citing sheet 3B, family 75, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375573.

2. Pipefitter. (2013, February 12). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipefitter

3. Company History. (n.d.). CenterPoint Energy. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://www.centerpointenergy.com/about/companyoverview/companyhistory/

4. Fourth Ward, Houston. (2013, April 08). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Ward,_Houston

6 thoughts on “Mystery Monday: Searching for Lewis Chappel (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Charles Lewis Chappel

  2. Your mothers, grandfather occupation as Pipefitter is a clue
    to go after let me explain. When Hess Oil was on St. Croix many
    pipefitters would come in from various states, and many of them worked from
    state to state, never any one place and was rarely with their family. Therefore, they would miss out on the
    census. Perhaps there was recruitment
    for pipefitters to work outside of that community/state that he might have enlisted. Maybe the local newspapers might have
    something.

    Your work on this research is beautifully outlined I look
    forward to being on this exciting journey cheering you all the way.

    Like

    • Shelleye sis, THANK YOU so much for that awesome information and excellent tip! My great-grandfather’s occupation was not an area that I focused a lot on, but what you’ve just shared let’s me know that I better add that to my research checklist in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      I’m delighted to have you on this journey because I will certainly need those cheers for I have a feeling this ancestor hunt is going to be a doosy — LOL!

      Blogging about my research process this way is definitely a “first” for me (one of my 3 words for 2013)! But it also allows me to literally “think out-loud” and really think about the information and facts before me . . . not to mention that it also allows me to receive valuable feedback, suggestions, and help from the genealogy community as a whole.

      Thanks so much for being here!!!!

      Like

  3. I’m so glad you finally found Lewis (Louis) in 1910, and I think it’s so cool that this family were living in Houston’s historic Freedmen’s Town that dates from 1866, right after the war. That’s such a hopeful concept, that a community would just spring up right there instead of undergoing a diaspora. (Someone just gave me the book “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.”)

    I can so relate to the variations in spelling of first and last names . . . between the person listed, the census taker, and the indexer, letters get garbeled like it’s a game of “Telephone” at a party.

    One thing really stood out to me: Your mother just happened to take as her middle name the name of her grandfather (well, sort of, who was missing in action when she was born? What a coincidence.

    I hope you can find what happened to him. I wonder if he stayed in Texas or went to another state? Your research is so painstaking and impressive.

    Like

    • @6b0c520a79b761cad1ebd94cc1e36588:disqus, thank you so much for following along on my Mystery Monday journey for my great-grandfather, Lewis Chappel. I was worried that I wasn’t going to find them in the census at first, but I finally found them!

      I must admit that I was pleasantly surprise to learn that they played a role in the development of one of Houston’s oldest Black communities — Freedman’s Town. Despite all of the gentrification that has taken place in that community over the years, I’m still happy to see local efforts being made to not only restore the area, but its vast black history too!

      Thanks for pointing out that connection between my mom’s middle name and this great-grandfather I want very much to know more about. So stay tuned, as I work hard to find answers to all of my questions about Lewis!

      Like

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