Posted by: marthabernie | February 21, 2019

Aunt Annie and the Rainier Cafe, Seattle, Washington circa 1918

Those of you familiar with this blog know that I often write about my Great Aunt Matilda Anna Laura McMenus Forkner/Faulkner Tweddell.  She was my grandmother’s older sister and my mother was named after her.  I also got “Anne” as a middle name in her honor.  She led an interesting life, born in 1868 in the area known as Phillipsburg, Laclede County, Missouri; marrying in 1886 Lon Forkner and having four children.  They farmed land that had originally been granted to Lon’s great grandfather, Micajah Forkner, in the early 1840s when 40 acre parcels of “Missouri swampland” were being sold by the federal government for $40 each (I still have the original land grant documents);  Micajah bought two adjoining parcels and they were handed down in the family until Lon and Annie farmed there.  Their youngest child, “Little Ray” was born in 1891 but unfortunately died in 1900, probably from pneumonia.  For reasons still not completely clear, the family decided to rent out their farm in 1906 and went by train to Stevensville, Montana, where they lived for the next few years.  A Forkner cousin had settled there and told them there was work to be had, etc.  Annie became housekeeper for the May family, a prominent local family, and Lon did farm work and general labor.  Their two daughters, Ednah and Ethyl, were married on Christmas Eve, 1908 in Stevensville in a joint wedding ceremony.  It was in Stevensville that the family name was changed from Forkner to Faulkner, though this was really just reverting back to the original English name.  It has been established that the original “Forkner” ancestor who came from England was in fact Faulkner and that the name went through many spelling changes and variations over the generations as the descendants moved south and west from VA and the Carolinas eventually landing in what is now Webster and Laclede Counties, Missouri.  As these pioneers moved into totally uninhabited areas without benefit of schools etc., phonetic spelling was the norm and many name changes occurred.  A similar thing happened to Annie’s maiden name, McMenus.  DNA has shown that we link back to Lawrence McManus from Fermanagh, (now Northern) Ireland, but the McManus surname has undergone multiple changes in spelling over the centuries resulting in our McMenus variation in Missouri.

Anyway, Annie and husband Lon moved to Milton, Oregon in 1912 where they lived for a time.  She also became housekeeper for the Cockburn family near Walla Walla at one point, taking care of two little boys who had lost their mother to consumption.  IN the summer of 1914, she and Lon worked at the Drumheller Ranch near Walla Walla, Washington during the harvest.  Lon worked in the fields and Annie cooked in the cook wagon.  If you search on Drumheller on this blog, there are a couple of photographs.

By 1918, Annie’s daughter Ednah was divorced, remarried and living with her second husband in Seattle, Washington.  Annie also divorced Lon that year, a bold step for a single woman in those days.  Unfortunately, we don’t have any written commentary from Annie about these years, just documents, receipts, and in the case above, a business card when she was the proprietor of the RAINIER CAFE at the Georgetown Station, 6015 Duwamish Avenue, Seattle.  My mother always said that Aunt Annie did not like to talk about the difficult parts of her life and while she was a voracious letter writer, the actual letters themselves are few and far between today.  Annie kept letters from many of her family members, some of them spanning thirty or more years, so I have many of the letters my grandmother wrote to her sister etc; she also kept love letters and courting letters she received before she married.  But no one receiving mail from Annie around 1918 seems to have kept anything which might have shed light on her career as a café proprietor.

I have several copies of the business card shown above and I put one on eBay recently, hoping that someone collecting Seattle memorabilia might purchase it for historic purposes.  At this point in time, I am not going to get rich in this endeavor and I really just want historically interesting pieces to go to people who have an interest and will preserve them.  Not only did my hope materialize, but I had a lovely conversation with a Mr. Bennett today about the Georgetown Station area and how it has become revitalized in the past twenty years or so.  It appears that Aunt Annie had the café after prohibition went into effect in 1916 and that by 1920, the area was a virtual “ghost town.”  This makes sense in the chronicle of Aunt Annie’s life as by 1921 she had relocated to Chehalis, Washington where she was a house mother, cook, and teacher of domestic science at the State Training School for Boys, aka Reform School aka orphanage.  Mr. Bennett owns the building where the café was located and he said he would give a copy of the business card to the present proprietor.   This makes me happy as I feel another part of Aunt Annie’s life has come full circle.

Search on this blog if you are interested in Seattle, Aunt Annie, Drumheller, Walla Walla, Milton Oregon, Cockburn family, etc.


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