Sunday, September 2, 2018

Lawrence & Allene Wisner Family History Interview

This is a transcription of a video interview from 2008 by Sheree Morrison for her son Bennett’s family history report for 3rd grade. The first part is Lawrence speaking, and then at the end is Allene.

Lawrence S Wisner
family ca1910
My grandfather was named Lawrence Smith (Wisner), his middle name was Smith, from Illinois. I have no idea why they came out to California, probably to get rich. Oregon and Washington was the land of money, ya know. I heard that my great grandfather, I don’t know what his first name was, but he left Illinois on a wagon train headed for Washington, and they never heard from him again. So they don’t know if Indians got him or whether he just failed to write.

[note: Lawrence B. Wisner's great grandfather was George A Wisner. George moved to central Washington around 1901 and died there in 1905. By then wagon trains were no longer in use. Lawrence S. Wisner, with wife and son Ray C. Wisner moved to the same area of central Washington, lived there for a few years, before moving to central California.]

Raymond C Wisner Family

When I was young I was picked on by a couple girls…my sisters. I was in the middle, Ruth was the youngest and Millie was the oldest. They would gang up on me all the time. That’s the reason I’m so short! We got along really good though I guess.

Millie and Lawrence
I was born down in Chowchilla, California in 1924. Then we went to Lindsey, CA. Then we went to North Sacramento, that’s where I was in the 1st grade. And then we went to West Point. We moved so much cause we had ants in out pants I guess! We were lookin’ for greener pastures I guess. My dad was a butcher. In Chowchilla I think he got involved in a slaughterhouse.

Hess Butcher Shop Chowchilla, CA
Ray C Wisner center in white coat

And then he got his own meat market, or was working in a meat market there in Lindsey. Then he went to North Sacramento and he had a market there or worked in a market. And then he got sick – he was going in and out of the cooler so much, and so we went to West Point, CA and got a job to herd goats on horseback. I was in the 1st grade and Millie was in the 3rd, and we had to walk I guess a good mile and a half to catch a station wagon (or bus) that came by, and we’d go and sit up on this rock and wait until this bus would come, and they’d take us about a mile. And the schoolhouse is still there, but it’s now turned into a house though, residential. But if we missed the bus, then we’d have to walk the rest of the way.

West Point Church
And that’s when my dad got saved, there in West Point. They would have missionaries come and have special meetings and stuff. Joe Kirk was the preacher for the little country church. My dad had been a good Methodist and he got to reading the New Testament when he was riding the horse there, chasin’ the goats, checking on the goats. And so my dad went over to Joe Kirk’s house, and knelt down by a chair in their kitchen and accepted Christ. My mom just came along, I guess he influenced her. We attended the church, but she never did make a statement when. She just always went along with my dad.

Then we went back to Lindsey, got a job, and we lived in a garage with all our stuff, and Millie don’t remember that. And he was earning money to go to Huntington Park, CA, where the Training School for Christian Workers was. And he graduated from there, as a preacher. Later, the school moved and is now Azusa Pacific University.

My dad helped develop the Evangelistic Tabernacle Church in Mt Shasta. On a summer break while attending school (1934), we went up to Mt Shasta and he worked in a Sunday School and helped organize it into a church. It started as a Sunday School by a man named Conner. My dad helped build the church building. They tore down a dance hall and used the lumber to build the church. As far as I know there’s never been anything built on the lot where the dance hall was. I was in 3rd grade. Then we went back to Huntington Park in the fall, and he finished his schooling.

After graduating in Huntington Park, we moved to Rail Road Flat, CA. He was a part of the American Sunday School Union. They were an organization that went around and built Sunday Schools in out of the ways places. And he organized the Sunday School there in Rail Road Flat into a church, and it’s quite a going church now. We had services in the schoolhouse. But they have since then built a new building out a ways there, and it’s going pretty good.

When I was in school we had a chapel time, and I heard a message, and I was just 10 years old, and it was about Daniel. So I was laying in bed, and I got to thinkin’ about that and so I went in to my mom, she was in the kitchen (we were living in the school house then) and I talked to her and we kneeled down to a chair and that’s where I accepted Christ, and it’s made a difference all along my life.

My dad was a night watchman at McCloud’s Saw Mill. He walked around with a punch key. He would go in and punch his timecard to prove that he had been there as he walked around the mill. He had a big clock that he wore.

And then from then, Millie graduated from 8th grade there in Rail Road Flat. And so my dad heard about this Christian school in El Monte, CA, called H.E.I. (Holiness Evangelistic Institute). We needed money to go down there, so my dad went into San Andreas and worked in the cement plant, and we were there for a little while.

Then we went to El Monte, and my dad took the job of dean of boys, there at HEI, and he taught school too I guess. That’s where Allene and me met. We were at school together, in the 7th or 8th grade or so. We took Spanish in the same class. Miss Avery was the teacher. Millie and Allene were in the same grade and became close friends before we even paid any attention to each other. He preached at Bethel Church on Elliot Street, that’s where we got married.

Lawrence Wisner's 8th grade class at HEI

While there at HEI, there was some people by the name of Mathes, that started this Sunday School in their house. And my dad went over and helped them organize it into a church.

From there my dad moved to east Los Angeles. I don’t know how he got the property but his parents passed away in Lodi, so he sold their house for $900. He was looking around for a house to move to. Then the war came and he didn’t settle on a house so he went to east Los Angeles and got reclaimed lumber (that’s where they would take old beams and saw them and make boards) and he built a church there. And I think it’s a Mexican church now, I heard. And he was there quite a spell.

From there he went back to Mt Shasta and that’s where he helped developed it into a church. And that’s where he retired too.

The Military
We were drafted and we were in for the end of the war, plus 6 months. I had to register when I was 18 years old, and 6 months later I was in the military. They sent me my draft notice. Everybody was anxious to go then, there wasn’t all of the wrangling and stuff that there is now. In January (1942) there were about 11 people that I knew, they got their draft notices and I didn’t. And so in February I got mine. And these 11 people all went to a different place. They went all they way from Maine to Florida to down in Texas, and I was kinda anxious to go cause I can get outa California, cause we (our family) went from one end to the other and couldn’t get out. So they drafted me and they took me to Riverside. So the basic was there, and for our advanced training we went out to Barstow and back. We were in what they call the coast artillery. These were ground mounts, 50 caliber on a post. And when we’d move we’d have to break it all down and put it in the trucks. But then somebody got the idea well putting these guns on a half-track. And so we found out later we were an experimental outfit to see if it would work. And so we travelled from Riverside out to Barstow out in the desert out there, and back and forth. And it was very successful actually. We went through the coast artillery and went through our basic and when they changed us over to half-track we went through basic training again. That’s probably one factor is because we was as accurate as we were.

I was in the service a year when we got married. I came home on the last furlough and got married, before going overseas. The reason I wanted to was because the government would give the wives benefits, and I think it was all of $10 a month.

We were in the Sur Valley, protecting the 26th infantry, and they lost about 75% of their division. So they were sending these new recruits in, and everything was kinda quiet, so they said we’ll send you back to Metz, France, and we’ll send these new recruits over there. And they put them through basic training again, to give them some training.

I got my feet not frostbitted, but we had to wear leather shoes for so long, no place to dry them out, we just wore wet shoes, so my feet were what they call trench foot. I had a big blister on my heel, it was about the size of a quarter. And I had walked (and I still do) on the ball of my foot, on the toes. It got so painful that I was just standing on my toes. And I’s standing by the kitchen range cookin’ breakfast, the Lieutenant says “Wisner, does your feet hurt that bad?” and I says they sure do! And he says why don’t we go to the hospital and they can see what they can do for you. So I went in and the doctor took a tweezer and he pulled the skin up and sliced it, and made a V-shape and let the blood out, cause it was inverted see, it wasn’t sticking out, it was into my heel.

I was there for a couple of days and the Bulge broke out, and they (my outfit) got orders to go and fight up there. And so they got orders to come over to get me to take me back in there. We were sittin’ in the office of this hospital, kind of a waiting room, and I says I’d like to go back to the outfit, but I don’t know where they are. And they says well you’ve got all of your papers right in your lap so if you left nobody would know anything about it. So I guess it was a couple hours and then they loaded us into a truck and took me into a field hospital. Then they came over to take me back to the outfit, but they didn’t know where I was, and that’s the day the Bulge broke out, and of course we (our outfit) was right up there on the front line into Belgium. And so I know the folks were at home prayin’ for us, and got me outa there. 
Feb. 1945, after returning
to his outfit

And from then I went from the field hospital, and into a hospital in Paris, then they loaded me up onto a train (all because of trench foot. I couldn’t walk on it, and I was putting salve on it), and then took me back into Normandy to another field hospital. They said your next stop would be back in England and I says “I don’t want to cross that English Channel again!” So they said to only other option you have is to go back to your outfit, and I said ok I’ll take that. So they found out where the outfit was and they loaded me in a 2 and a half-ton truck and got me up into the Metz hospital again. And there was snow on the ground. They issued us rifles. And they took us out to shoot the rifles, laid us all down in the snow, we was just out of the hospital. I stayed there for 3 or 4 days and they found somebody that knew where the outfit was. So I went and got in a Jeep and got to the outfit. But I’m sure the folks’ prayer was what cleared me out of the Battle of the Bulge.

Post War Jobs
I put in Wisner Rd. in Mt Shasta. In Mt Shasta, we chopped the brush. We were a good half a mile off the main road. We were driving on the dirt, and built our little house and garage house. Then I went to the county and I told them that we need to make a county road out there. And so he got a paper and wrote it out. It went past our house and up to Millie’s and tied back into the other road, Pine Grove I think. So he says what will we name this street? I said I don’t know. He says “what about Wisner Rd?” I says “well, OK.” That bothered my mother. She said “why did you call it a road? It could have been an avenue or boulevard or anything!”

When we got out of the military they gave us the GI bill, to subsidize our wages. And so I took that up. And I got $90 a month for that. I worked as a plumber. I hired on to a plumber to work for him as an apprentice. And I got just about that much from the plumbing too. The plumbing was kinda slowing down, it was wintertime, and there was an opening at the school. The plumbing union out of Redding wanted to send me to Susanville and give me journeyman’s wages. But out kids were just getting started so I says no I think I won’t so I took the school job. Then I worked as a school supervisor, in charge of the cleanin’ and the maintenance. And stayed there for 12 years.

We lived there for a long time. I got it just about where I wanted it, ya know fixin’ things up, and then we sold it and Lorene graduated from High School and Ray was finishing up his sophomore year, and I had a chance to come and work down in Carmichael. A fellow that I knew had got me in.  So in ’64 I started working at the school district. We rented the first year that we were down here in Carmichael, and we built this house. This is where we’ve been ever since. Now were stuck with a house and were gonna have to turn it over to you kids and wonder what you’re gonna do with it!

Allene Wisner
Allene Orrell, age 4
My name is Jennie Allene Orrell. I don’t know why I go by Allene, that’s just the way it was done. That’s just what the family always called me.

I was 4 when I became a Christian. I wasn’t really old enough to go to school. My mother wanted me to learn how to read and so she spoke to the teacher that was teaching at the school if she would teach me to read. They had a chapel upstairs and that’s where we would go to church. I remember this time, as far as I can remember I was the only one that went forward. And I can remember the spot at the altar, and the preacher prayed with me. And after the service was over with he took me down into the dining hall, they boarded some students there too, and they had this long dining hall and kitchen, and in the pantry they had these peanuts in the shell, and he took me down there and got me a handful of those (chuckle chuckle). The name of the school was Old Paths.

The Orrell siblings: Edgar, Elvie, John and Allene

That place raised broom horn(?), and they manufactured brooms there. We were there until I was I think 13, and then we moved to El Monte.

Ruth, Millie, Allene 
We moved from Arkansas out to California and they stopped along the way you know. My dad would work a while, anyway it wasn’t a rush trip or anything. Our dad had took us to this school he had heard of, a Christian School there in El Monte, called HEI. That’s where we met. Larry’s sister (Millie) was in the same grade I was, I was in 8th grade. So we were real close friends, the four years we were there.

My sister (Elvie), she was the oldest, she went to what used to be Beulah College, down in southern California. The rest of us went to this school (HEI), but my brothers were enough older than me. They were gone by the time I went through.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Village of Dedgum - Still Small

In the small village of Dedgum, there lived some Broersmas. Dedgum is a small village today, but it has always been small. The first references to Dedgum (aka Deddingaheem) are from around the year 855. Yes, that's right, 855 (I didn't forget to put a 1 in front of the 8). In the 1200s they built a small church. This drawing above is from 1790, and is how the village looked for a long time, probably centuries. Most of the small villages in Friesland all look very similar, they are small, have a few houses and barns, and also have a church in the middle on a hill, or a terp. 

By the late 1800s this church was beginning to fall a part, as you can see in this other picture. They rebuilt it and that church is still standing there today. 

I went to go visit this village because in the mid 1700s, Allert Broers Broersma was a school master there. He was born and married in a nearby village of Wons. In 1732 he moved to Dedgum where he became school master, and later a village judge. He may have lived here the rest of his life, but I have not been able to find a death date for him.

So how big was Dedgum back then? Probably around 40 or 50 people. That's how many were registered in 1744. You can see all the families on one page. Mr. A Broersma is about 2/3rds down the page. 

As you can see he has a wife and 2 children. In the far right column you can see the number of people in each household, and at the bottom is the total of all people: 46. That's how small the village was then, just 10 households. Over half of the population were kids, so most of them were probably attending his school. 

Unfortunately, the school is no longer there. When we visited the village in 2013, we asked. Someone told us that there used to be a school house, but it had been torn down. Now it's someone's backyard. We took a picture anyway though.

We grabbed a couple pictures of the church. I liked the fence. 

And I went ahead and stole this picture so you can get a birds eye view of how small the village is.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

God's Surprises - by Delmar Broersma

Delmar Broersma, son of This Broersma and Gertrude (Wichers), just published a book of his memories and how God has been a part of his life. He also talks about his heritage and how God has been a part of that as well. He includes some nice pictures and stories from the Broersma family.

You can buy it online if you are interested:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thys Broersma Family Portrait

Thys Broersma was the first Broersma in the family to leave the Netherlands and come to the USA. He settled down, and married Gertrude Wichers, and lived the rest of his life in the USA. I recently was able to see a copy of this portrait for the first time. This photo was taken around 1950, of his an Gertrude's 6 kids.

Thys Broersma Family
Thys Broersma (1895-1978)
Gertrude (Wichers) Broersma (1901-1955)
Jeanette Broersma (born 1927)
Julian Broersma (1927-2003)
Marion Broersma (1931-1965)
Chester Broersma (1933-2004)
Delmar Broersma (born 1934)
Marcella Broersma (born 1938)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - The Broersma Brothers

Recently, I've been trying to find out more about the Broersma brothers that left the Netherlands and ended up in Canada: Jack and Peter. They were brothers of Thys and Lawrence Broersma. Both Jack and Peter ended up in Ontario near Toronto, with their wives. Both couples never had any kids though. After many years of searching we finally know which cemeteries they are buried in, and here are their gravestones, thanks to the community of

Peter Broersma Grave

Jack Broersma Grave

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Such A Nerd...

Well, I think I might officially be a genealogy nerd, if I wasn't already.

I was searching some newspapers for anything I could find on the Broersmas. Yeah, that's kinda nerdy, but I wasn't searching newspapers in the US, I was searching Netherlands newspapers on this site: I don't speak Dutch, or really read it either, so that makes it a little difficult. So that took the nerd factor up a notch.

Then I came across this mention of my great grandparents, Lawrence Broersma and Grace Wichers, and it was their marriage announcement.

This announcement was printed on 8 April 1926. They were married on 4 April, which was Easter Sunday. I was excited because I thought that this was a mention of their marriage in a Dutch newspaper. Turned out that was half right. This is from a newspaper that was printed in Dutch, but is actually published in Iowa. It's called "De Volksvriend". Since parts of Iowa have large Dutch populations, as a result from immigrations during the early 20th century, I guess there was enough people that spoke Dutch and got their news from this source.

So to recap - I was searching newspapers for genealogy info, on a Dutch website in the Netherlands, and looking at newspapers that are actually in the USA that are printed in Dutch. AND I was getting excited about it, cause I was finding some tidbits of info on some other family members from this same newspaper.

I am a nerd.