Adopted Potter Children
Find Each Other

3 Brothers, Sister
Reunited at Riceville;
Separated 45 Years

RICEVILLE, IOWA - Three brothers and their infant sister were separated in 1915 after the death of their mother on a farm near here.

This summer - 45 years later - one brother's search for his mother's grave reunited the four children.

The mother was Mrs. Ceile (Alta) Potter, who died May 8, 1915, 11 days after the birth of her daughter, Rose. She was buried three days later in Robbins Cemetery near the David community. Ceile Potter was left with the problem of caring for his infant daughter and his three sons, Elmer, Avery and Alba.

His wife's mother, Mrs. Elmer Buttolph, helped care for the children for a time, but the decision was finally made to place the children in foster homes.

The oldest son, Elmer, was adopted by Ceile Potter's sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Nicholson.

The Nicholsons took Elmer to Kansas City, Mo., and renamed him Russell Nicholson. He was raised with an adopted sister and didn't know until he was a young man that he wasn't the Nicholson's own child.

Recently, he asked his foster mother if she knew if he had any brothers and sisters and if his father and mother were living. Mrs. Nicholson said she'd try to find out, and she wrote to a cousin, 91-year-old Genevieve Stuckey at Osage. Mrs. Stuckey had raised two of Ceile Potter's children - Avery (known as Avery Stuckey) of McIntire and Rose Potter, who is now Mrs. Cliff Peterson, Cambridge, Idaho. Mrs. Stuckey then wrote Mrs. Nicholson, telling the location of the other children in the family. Russell Nicholson then decided to try and see his brothers and sister and to try to locate his father.

Photo of Alta Potter's tombstone in Robbins Cemetery at David, Iowa -- July 2005

The father, Ceile Potter, has disappeared and no one knows where he is. When he was last heard of, many years ago, he was living in Tennessee.

Albe, who was two years old when his mother died, grew up with his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Buttolph, and for some time was known as Alba Buttolph. He now lives in Riceville. While he was living with his grandparents, they tattooed his right forearm with the boy's initials so that they could always identify the boy.

All of Ceile Potter's children resemble their mother in stature - she was a tiny woman who wore only a size 1 shoe. Her daughter, Rose wears a size 4 shoe. Alba is the tallest member of the family, 5-feet 2 inches tall. Avery is 5 feet and Russell is 4-feet 9 inches tall. Rose is 4-feet 7 inches tall.

Russell, now employed as a janitor in a Kansas City bank, was employed for years as a long-distance trucker before a heart condition forced him to stop trucking. After he'd learned where his brothers and sister were, he set out to find his mother's grave.

Over the July 4th weekend, Russell came to Osage to visit Mrs. Genevieve Stuckey, to learn more of his family.

From there, he went to McIntire, where he met his brother Avery and then met his brother Alba at Riceville. When Russell met Alba at Riceville, he asked Alba if he knew who he was. The two men look like twin brother, except that Russell's hair is a bit more gray. Alba told Russell, "No, but I take it you must be some relation."

Two weeks ago, the brothers and their sister were finally reunited. Another reunion is planned for early next month.

The mother's grave was located in the Robbins Cemetery, where a small steel marker identifies the grave. An odd shaped stone which Ceile Potter took from his field and placed by her grave is still in place.

[Waterloo Daily Courier, Sunday, July 24, 1960, Waterloo, Iowa]
(Credit: S. Bell)