June 14, 2011

What happened to Jackson C. Waite?

In my last post, I mentioned that Jackson C. Waite, a previous occupant of the Hugh Finlay Duplex, apparently disappeared after 1915. Thanks to the internet, it did not take any special training or rare talent for me to find out what happened to him. There wasn't enough space to share what I found out in that previous post, but I think it's worth a separate post.

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The last time Waite appeared in the Detroit city directory was 1915, in which he is listed at 307 (now 2255) Wabash. When searching for his name on Ancestry.com, the first post-1915 document I came across was a voter registration list from Glendale, California in 1916.


Because "Jackson C. Waite" is such a rare name*, I knew this was very likely our man. As you probably noticed in the image above, there is a Mrs. Carrie A. Waite living at the same address. I searched the next census (from 1920) for a Jackson and Carrie Waite in Glendale, California, and found this:


This is the same couple. Here Mr. Waite gave his age as 54, implying a birth year of 1866. (He was in fact born in 1861--errors like this in old census records are very common.) He also listed his birthplace as the state of New York. This is definitely the Jackson C. Waite we're looking for. But who is this new wife of his? I never did find a marriage record or an obituary, so discovering her maiden name took some work. Based on the age given in the census record, she should have been born around 1879. She indicated that she and both of her parents were born in the state of Maine.

Mr. and the second Mrs. Waite were still residing in Glendale during the 1930 census:


Here Mr. Waite correctly gave his age as 69. Mrs. Waite gave her age as 59, this time implying a birth year of 1871. Again she gives the state of Maine as the birthplace of herself and both of her parents.

Carrie A. Waite's name also appears in the California Death Index. She passed away July 25, 1959. This record gives her birth date as April 27, 1865--yet another deviation--but does confirm that she was born in Maine. This is all I had to go on for awhile. I could have paid money to order a death certificate from Los Angeles County in the hope that it would list her parents names, but it didn't seem worth the gamble at the time.

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I subscribe to the genealogy website Footnote.com because it provides access to digitized Detroit city directories from 1861 to 1923. One day, however, I searched for any records of Jackson C. Waite throughout the entire website--not just the Detroit directories. I was surprised when I actually got a few hits--in the city directories for Boston, Massachusetts, of all places. Waite lived at several addresses from as early as 1892 to 1910. If you remember from my last post, I mentioned that Waite was a "traveling agent", an archaic term referring to traveling salesmen and similar company representatives. He evidently traveled to Boston so often and was well-enough established there to appear in the city directory.


I wondered, could Waite have met "Carrie" in Boston? Without a last name, I couldn't search for her directly. What I did instead was first choose a census year in which Waite appeared in the Boston city directory. In this case, I chose the year 1900, when he was listed at 159 West Springfield Street. Next, I attempted to find that address in the census records. That information, however, is not directly searchable. I had to search the city directory for addresses close to 159 West Springfield, and then search for the corresponding names in the census. This is much less reliable and a lot more time-consuming than it sounds. However, I finally found the address.


It turned out that this was an apartment building with many units. I looked through every name in the building to see if any women by the name "Carrie" lived there. And this is what I found:


This woman's name was Carrie Ackerman, born March of 1865--the same year as the death record mentioned above, but one month off. And this is what was written for the birthplace of herself, her father, and her mother:


This is our woman. However, Ackerman is not her maiden name. This record states that she is a widow, although only 35 years old. It also states that she is the mother of one child, who was still alive but did not live at that address. Her stated occupation is "dressmaker".

I then searched for a Carrie Ackerman living in Boston in the next census, in 1910.


Carrie Ackerman was still a dressmaker at the time, and by then her daughter, Della May Ackerman, was living with her. Interestingly, Della May's birthplace was California, and so was that of her father. Now that I had her daughter's name, I could go back to the 1900 census to search for her:


Thirteen-year-old Della May Ackerman (who was mistakenly transcribed as "Julia N Ackerman" in the database) was living with sixty-five-year-old Mary A. Bean in Lowell, Massachusetts. Again she indicted that she and her father were born in California and that her mother was born in Maine. I suspected that Mary Bean was Della May's grandmother, but there was no way to tell from this. Mary was born in Maine and, like Carrie, was a dressmaker.

I still had no confirmed maiden name for Carrie. I would have searched for her and her daughter in the 1890 Census, but those records were destroyed by fire in 1921. I also tried looking for a marriage record for Della May (which would have listed her parents' names), but was not successful.

I searched for Mary Bean in the 1880 Census, and at last, I found a record that confirmed Carrie's maiden name:


The two lived at 115 Middlesex Street, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Mary was a dressmaker. Carrie (whose name was spelled "Carrai" by the census taker) worked in a cotton mill.

Carrie was actually counted twice in the 1880 Census. She also appeared as living in one of the boarding houses owned by the cotton manufacturers, some of which still stand today behind Boarding House Park.


Carrie was part of a very large workforce of young women that would be known as the "Lowell Mill Girls". These girls worked ten-hour days (reduced from fourteen) and were required to attend weekly religious services. Carrie Bean worked for the Appleton Corporation, whose mill has since been converted into loft apartments.

A Lowell mill girl at a loom (Center for Lowell History)

In the census record for the place where Carrie Bean lived with her mother, there is a young man listed in the same building named George Ackerman, who was born in California. He is probably connected to the California-born Ackerman who Carrie married soon after, but her first husband's name was not George. I found a record showing that Carrie A. Bean married Louis D. Ackerman on June 25, 1880--just days after the census was taken.

After knowing this much about Carrie Bean, finding her in the 1870 Census was not difficult.


Carrie was six years old at the time. No father is listed. The family lived in Alva Plantation, Maine--now known as the town of Blaine--on the Canadian border. In contradiction to other records, here it is indicated that Carrie and her mother were born in the adjacent Canadian province of New Brunswick.

It is now possible to create a very rough sketch of the woman for whom Jackson C. Waite left Detroit. Carrie A. Bean was born in New Brunswick on April 27, 1865 and moved just over the U.S. border soon afterward. Her father apparently died before she was six years old. She had two siblings, both of whom died young. Like thousands of other women and girls in New England at the time, Carrie and her mother were attracted to the jobs offered at the massive cotton mills in Massachusetts. It was there that Carrie met Louis Ackerman, her first husband. They married in 1880 and moved to California at some point before their daughter's birth in 1887. Louis was dead by 1900, when Carrie was living in Boston and working as a dressmaker. Somehow she came to know Jackson C. Waite, a traveling agent who spent a lot of time in her city. We know that, at least once, both were listed at the same address in the same year. In 1915, Waite left his wife of twenty-four years and their three sons (ages 16, 19, and 23) and married Carrie Bean. The two moved to California right away. Maybe moving to the west coast was Carrie's way of reliving the first time she escaped the endless hours at the cotton mills with her first husband thirty-five years earlier. They spent the rest of their lives in California. Carrie died on July 25, 1959 at the age of 94. It is not known when Jackson C. Waite passed away.

Although this information doesn't have much to do with Corktown directly, I hope I have been able to give you a sense of what it is like to solve the kind of mysteries one encounters when researching old houses and family histories.

*Searching for "Jackson Waite" in the Social Security Death Index (a public database of every deceased person who was ever issued a Social Security number) yields only one result. The resulting name is not our man--this is just an illustration of how uncommon that name is. By contrast, searching for "Richard Nixon" yields 103 results.