Sept. 19 and 24, 1919

Sept. 19

Have been rushing for a week getting ready to go to California. Papa, Mama, Flossie, myself, and trunks all went to Northville. Took the 4 o’clock train. Got our thru tickets at Huron and on our train at 8. Slept in a berth. nothing unusual happened. Stopped at Lexington, Nebr. Over Sunday and Aunt Cannies and Aunt Emmas. Had a lovely time. Left there at 2 on Monday. Stayed on the train until we arrived in Los Angeles on Sept. 22. Seen Pres. Wilson in Omaha. Spent two days going over the desert. It certainly is an awful looking place. Seen many wonderful sights. Had supper at the Boos Bros Cafeteria Sept 22 and hunted up Curtains and ah such a time. Finally found their house but they weren’t home so went to the Stillwell Hotel, it was swell. Could see a long way from our window. Had breakfast at the Cafeteria and then went to the Curtains again. Started to the University with Faye and seen some rooms for rent, so went back and told Aunt Mae. She rented the house and we slept there Thursday Sept. 23 for the first time.

Sept. 24

Got up late and had breakfast at a restaurant on Vermont and such awful pan-cakes-cold and greasy. Got some stuff to eat and started house keeping.

M&StL tracks: Cresbard to Northville, and branch line Northville to Huron

The Horens first took a train from Cresbard to Northville. Northville was on the Minneapolis & St. Louis line that Clara took to Conde when she and the William’s family hurried to Rochester to be at a dying Edgar’s side. It was two stops to the east. From there, they caught a 4:00 PM train south to Huron, SD. This was most likely also the Minneapolis & St. Louis railway, and the route can be seen on the map. This must be a branch line.

Once in Huron, the family caught another M&St.L train to Omaha before heading on an 8:00 PM Union Pacific sleeper train to Los Angeles. But wow! Their layover allowed them time to see President Woodrow Wilson in Omaha.

September 9, 1919 St. Paul, Minnesota

Wilson was on a nationwide tour trying to sell the American public on the League of Nations. On September 3, 1919, Wilson boarded the train at Washington’s Union Station that would take him on a trip crossing 8,000 miles in 22 days. At the rear of the train, the presidential car, called the Mayflower, contained a sitting room/dining room, an office, a compartment for First Lady Edith Wilson’s maid, a compartment for Wilson’s personal aide Dr. Greyson, and two bedrooms: one for the president and one for his wife.

But that was only one of the cars. The locomotive also pulled baggage cars, a diner, and Pullman cars for stenographers, secret service, and the press.

Because radio was still in its infancy, Wilson would rely upon those two dozen representatives of the media—journalists, still photographers, newsreel photographers, and an official from the Western Union Telegraph Company—to capture him as he attempted to gain the support of the people for his treaty. The train pulled away from the station a little after seven P.M.

At five A.M. on September 8, the Mayflower rolled into Omaha, Nebraska, 

Here is a great description of Wilson’s visit to Omaha:

Unfortunately, the strenuous schedule was too much for the president. In Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25, 1919, he collapsed from exhaustion. The speech he gave that day, his last, as he returned to Washington, became known as the Pueblo Speech

Once back in DC, Wilson suffered from a stoke days later, on October 2. He recovered, but he was unsuccessful in convincing Congress to join the League.

The Horen family then left Omaha in a sleeping birth as they made their way west. They disembarked in Lexington, Kentucky, a trip of a bit over 200 miles, to visit family, Aunt Cannie and Aunt Emma.

Train from Omaha to Lexington (right near the middle of the map)

Aunt Cannie is Candace Martin, who lived on 1409 Lincoln Street, and Aunt Emma is Emily Remmele, who lived on 111 15th Street. Clara’s mother, Florence, had an older sister named Harriet, who was married to a man named Edwin Martin. Harriet died young, at thirty years old, leaving three young children only 9, 7, and 4 years old. These two women are Edwin’s sisters, Emily his older sister and Cannie his younger sister.

Aunt Emma and her son James in 1937, Lexington

After a visit with them, the family re-boarded the train for the multi-day trip to Los Angeles. Once they arrived, they were ready for supper, so they ate at Boos Bros Cafeteria. The Boos brothers, Henry, Cyrus, Horace, and Johnopened their first cafeteria in downtown LA in 1906. They were the first to try the self-service style restaurant, and although widely mocked, they were so successful that by 1916, they had four such restaurants downtown (648 S. Broadway, 618 S. Olive Street, 530 S Hill Street, and 2nd Street between Spring and Broadway).

An interesting piece of gossip about the Boos Bros. The oldest brother Henry was married to Cassie, and Cassie found herself in a series of courtroom dramas in 1916. Apparently, she and a married man, E. E. Ernst, developed an interest in each other. That interest resulted in a “alienation of affection” suit filed by Ernst’s wife, an extortion suit filed by Cassie against Ernst’s wife, and a false arrest suit filed by E.E. Ernst against Cassie. Ultimately, all of them were either dismissed or withdrawn. Cassie did remain married to Henry following this and for another forty years. 

Clara mentioned hunting up the Curtains. I haven’t figured out what this means. I am not sure if this is a family or if this is a place. Whichever it is, Clara certainly enjoyed their time there. She then says that they finally found “their” house, but they weren’t home. This is clearly the home of the people they expected to stay with when arriving.

I don’t know who “they” are, but they do have family in Los Angeles. Clara’s mother, Florence, has a brother, Edward, and his wife Katherine in Los Angeles. Their daughter Edna Mae is 15 years older than Clara, so she may be referring to her as Aunt May, who lives at 734 Valencia Street with her husband and ten-year-old daughter Violet.

Unfortunately, they weren’t home, so the family had to find a hotel for the night. They stay at the Stillwell Hotel, at 838 S Grand Ave, which is only a mile from Aunt Mae’s house.

Stillwell Hotel

So much of this journal has revealed just how similar life was a hundred years ago and how, in reality, people haven’t changed. But this part instead reminds us how much things have changed. I imagine Clara and her family (with their trunks??) making their way to the house where they are supposed to stay, finding that no one is home, thinking nothing of it, instead finding a hotel, and having a “swell” time. Today, if we had arrived by train to Los Angeles, we would have texted our hosts multiple times before we ever knocked on their front door. And if it turned out that no one was home, we would frantically text and call, wondering why they weren’t there, creating all kinds of stories about why they weren’t there. And we would be paralyzed. 

The next morning, they went back to the Curtains, whatever that means. Then they went to USC to look for a place to rent. When they found somewhere, they went back to told Aunt Mae. This is what makes me think they stayed with Edna Mae. For one, the house is close to the hotel, and it seems that many people in this journal are called by their middle names.

Clara and her parents, George and Florence, as well as her older brother Azel end up renting the house they found at 3426 McClintock Street.

Jim Devine

It is at this point that the journal ends. But I do know some things about Clara that I can add here. Aunt Clara married James Henry Devine at the age of 22 in 1922 back in South Dakota. He was from Faulk County, so I assume the two of them met before Clara and her family left for California. Soon after they married, they moved to Sacramento, California. According to my father’s papers, Clara and husband packed up school bus in late 20s and moved to Sacramento.

Their son James was born right after they arrived in Sacramento, and their daughter Dawn sixteen years later. Sadly, she did end up getting divorced. However, she remarried when she was 63 years old. She had 18 years of this second marriage before she died at 81 years old. 

I can only hope that she had a good life, that on her death bed, she was satisfied and ready to pass, that she had what can only be called, a “good life.”

Before finishing this last post, I want to discuss something that happened in Omaha only twenty days after the Horen family boarded the train for California. When I read that Clara saw President Wilson in Omaha, I dove in to find out what he was doing in Nabraska. And I couldn’t miss in my search that on September 28-29, 1919, the city of Omaha was home to a horrific race riot. Honestly, horrific is an understatement. But I want to include that information here because much of this blog has been drawing connections between a time when the world suffered from a global pandemic 100 years ago and a global pandemic today. And as our country is immersed in protests and rioting, triggered the murder of an unarmed black man by the police and calling for an end to systemic racism. So racial tension is another similarity.

The summer of 1919 was coined the Red Summer, a reference to blood that was shed in riots across the country where mobs of whites attacked and killed hundreds of black men, women, and children. “Between April and November of 1919, there would be approximately 25 riots and instances of mob violence [and] 97 recorded lynchings.”

At the end of World War I, hundreds of thousands of African-American soldiers returned to the United States. And large numbers of African-Americans were migrating to northern cities in the Great Migration to escape Jim Crow laws in the South. Omaha was one of them. 

Hundreds of African American men, women and children were burned alive, shot, lynched or beaten to death by white mobs. Thousands saw their homes and businesses burned to the ground and were driven out, many never to return.

Historian John Hope Franklin called it “the greatest period of interracial strife the nation has ever witnessed.”

In Omaha, the number of African Americans in the city doubled in the previous ten years. It had the largest number of black people in any city besides Los Angeles. Many had been hired in meatpacking plants as strikebreakers, increasing the tension. But then there was a report of a rape of a 19-year-old white woman. And the incident was sensationalized in the local paper and the coverage was later blamed for inciting violence. Forty-one-year-old African American Will Brown was arrested for the crime.

Will Brown

On September 28th, a group of white students began a march to the courthouse. By the time they reached it three hours later, the group had grown to perhaps 15,000. They wanted vigilante justice. So they attacked police officers, threw bricks and rocks, breaking nearly every window of the courthouse. Eventually, they stormed through police lines and into the courthouse. The chief of police arrived and climbed up on a window still to calm the mob. He failed miserably. No one was interested in what he had to say.

The police completely lost control, as the mob took guns and badges from the police. Within two hours, all of the police had retreated to the fourth floor. Downstairs, gas had been spilled over the floor and set on fire. Outside, the people, whites, were beating blacks, looting stores, stealing guns, and shooting at the courthouse.

Eventually, the mayor, a white man, emerged from the burning building, only to be hit with a baseball bat before a noose was slipped around his neck. And so began a fight for the mayor between people trying to save him and those trying to hang him. The fight included turning over a police car, another police car driving into a crowd of people, the mayor hanging from a traffic signal tower, a risky rescue, and a hospital visit that left the mayor near death. He did eventually recover.

Destroyed Omaha Courthouse

Back at the courthouse, the fire had reached the third floor. The police and the prisoners retreated to the roof, where black prisoners tried to throw Brown off the roof to quell the rioting. While the sheriff saved Brown from being thrown off the roof, he eventually turned Brown over to the mob. 

Will Brown had been captured. A few minutes later, his lifeless body was hanging from a telephone post at Eighteenth and Harney Streets. Hundreds of revolvers and shotguns were fired at the corpse as it dangled in mid-air. Then, the rope was cut. Brown’s body was tied to the rear end of an automobile. It was dragged through the streets to Seventeenth and Dodge Streets, four blocks away. The oil from red lanterns used as danger signals for street repairs was poured on the corpse. It was burned. Members of the mob hauled the charred remains through the business district for several hours.

The riot continued until 3 AM, when 1600 federal troops arrived to put an end to it.

The inhumanity is hard to believe. The horror is shocking. The details are nearly unspeakable. And this is the story of only ONE city on ONE night in the Red Summer. Sadly, this isn’t even the worst of it. For example, in Chicago, in July, 38 were killed over six days of rioting.

Honestly, this is the first I have ever heard of the Red Summer. And it may be possible it is the first you have heard of it too. It did get some attention last year because it was the 100-year anniversary of the riots. But this has been what can only be said as consciously left out of history books. There have been a number of books written on the subject, but I have decided to read Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America. It’s time to get educated.

4 thoughts on “Sept. 19 and 24, 1919

  1. I had never heard of Red Summer (1919). Horrific. Having recently learned of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, the history of native Americans at the hands of white settlers and the continuing threats and actions of physical harm towards minorities to this day, I ask myself, “Is there a more loathsome creature than a white American?”


      1. I didn’t know about “Riot and Remembrance”. You have made it so easy to get a copy of it and “Red Summer”, with those convenient Amazon links. Also, I really enjoyed reading along with Clara’s diary and your narrative of historical context. Thank you!


  2. It depends on where one went to school as to whether or not you ever heard of it. All places didn’t omit it from their school curriculum. In some places Black History was a required course. It’s not surprising so many people never heard of it.


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