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William & Annie (Hirth) May


Posted By: Steve May (email)
Date: 3/4/2008 at 13:01:25

William & Annie (Hirth) May
by Steve May

Both my paternal and maternal ancestry have multiple generations of Allamakee County roots, and I have extensively used the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb website in my family history research.

I thought that Allamakee County history buffs might be interested in the following story, with Allamakee County connections.

One of my great-grandfathers was Henry May. His younger brother, William Merton May, was born on May's Prairie outside Lansing in 1856. Anna (Annie) Hirth was also born on May's Prairie in 1856. They grew up as neighbors on May's Prairie, and you can imagine that they grew up together as classmates and playmates. From the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb site, I know William and Annie were married in Waukon on November 21, 1878, in St. Paul's Methodist Church.

They and their infant daughter Ida are included in the 1880 US Census in Lansing township. I did not find them in US Census records after 1880 (the 1890 US Census being incomplete), but I found a clue regarding their whereabouts from an obituary that was posted on the Allamakee co. Obit board for Annie (Hirth) May's brothers. The obituaries stated that she was alive in both 1917 and 1939, and lived in Victoria, British Columbia in 1939.

I followed that clue and found her listed as a widow in the 1911 Canadian Census in Victoria. I also found Annie and William in the 1901 Canadian Census in Vancouver, having moved there in 1899.

I found a B.C. death registration for Annie in 1940, and found the cemetery where she is buried (Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria). I then found the cemetery record for William, also buried in Ross Bay Cemetery. His death date was given as March 1910. The place of his death was listed as Wellington, WA.

I 'Googled' Wellington, WA and found a fascinating story of an avalanche that killed nearly 100 people standed in the Cascade mountains on two Great Northern Railroad trains on March 1, 1910. I discovered that William and two of his grandchildren (Ida's children with the surname Starrett) died in the avalanche. (Note: William and Annie, as well as Ida, had moved to Minnesota prior to moving to Canada. They can be found in Minnesota state census records.)

There are numerous books and websites that tell the story of the Wellington avalanche tragedy. One book recently published is, "The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche", by Gary Krist, Henry Holt and Company, NY,published in 2007. The William May family is prominently featured in this book, although no mention is made that their roots are in Allamakee County, Iowa.


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