William Francis Vadnais (Part 2)

My grand-uncle, William Vadnais courted his future wife Rachel Hauser for a fairly short period of time before they married.   William was in North Dakota and Canada some of this time and would write Rachel.  As his letters imply, he had gone to work during the harvest.  Excerpts from these letters follow.

On August 14, 1910 William wrote Rachel from Ambrose, North Dakota where his brother Joe and his wife Nellie were living at the time: “Dear Sweetheart Ray, …Say dear I thought of you pretty often since I left.  And wished you were here with me…  I am not working yet it is a little early to thresh here… Threshing is not going to last very long this fall.  The crops are not very good.  I would not have came (sic) if I thought it was not going to be better than this.  I was expecting to make a little more money than I am going too…  Will close with much Love and kisses.  I am as ever your true Love Billie”

On August 24, 1910 William wrote Rachel from Wapella, Saskatchewan: “Dear Sweetheart, …I am pretty lonesome of you Dear.  I fall asleep with you on my mind every night…  I am one of the spike pitchers [a member of a threshing or baling crew who pitches bundles, headings, hay, or straw from a stack or derrick to the machine or who helps the hauler unload his wagon at the machine]. But Thursday the fireman was sick and I took his place [a fireman is a person whose occupation it is to tend the fire for the running of a boiler or powering a steam engine.  Much of the job is hard physical labor, such as shoveling fuel, typically coal, into the boiler’s firebox]… Say kid I wonder whose (sic) kissing you now.  There is no one here for me to kiss.  Only the girls in the cook car.  And they don’t look good to me… Well sweetheart I will have to close with much Love and all kinds of kisses.  I am as ever the same old kid Billie.”

On September 7, 1910 William wrote Rachel that he was home in White Bear and closed the letter saying that: “…I certainly Love to see you after being away from you like I was.  Good Bye Dear With Love and kisses.  I am as ever your true Love, Bill.”

For the remainder of 1910 William was not away from Rachel for any extended period of time.  The last piece of correspondence that year was a Christmas postcard.

Christmas postcard to Rachel simply signed “From Bill”

Rachel Marguereta Hauser was born in White Bear on March 18, 1893 to 38 year old Jacob Hauser and 23 year old Laura (Meyer) Hauser.  Her record of birth has numerous errors and in 1948 an amended birth record was recorded.

The original birth record for Rachel is recorded in the 1893 Return of Births in the Village of White Bear.  The record states, among other things, that —- Howser, a son, was born to Jacob Howser and Laura Howser on March 10, 1893.1   
Amended birth record for Rachel Marguerta Hauser filed on September 20, 1956
(the typing in red are the corrections that were made to what was recorded on the original record)
Rachel Hauser – maybe 15-18 years old
Studio photograph of Rachel in her late teens – Rachel said that when they were courting William would often say, “small in the waist and pretty in the face”

On June 10, 1911 at 18 years old, Rachel married 26 year old William.2

Minnesota Marriage License and Certificate for William and Rachel
Left to right: groom William Vadnais, his brother Edmund Vadnais, bride Rachel (Hauser) Vadnais and her sister Bertha Hauser
White Bear Life, June 16, 19113

The couples’ first home was on 4th Street in White Bear Lake to the east of the home of William’s brother Adlore and his wife Ellen.   William’s brother-in-law Lewis Heckel built the home. 

Platt map showing 4th Street home location, White Bear Lake

Just over 9 months after William and Rachel married, their first child Margaret Mary was born on March 20, 1912 at White Bear.4  Rachel was 19 years old and William was 27 years old.

Circa 1913 – William holding daughter Margaret, home on 4th Street

Over the next 4 years Rachel gave birth to 2 more children: Robert William born on December 5, 19135 and Dorothy May born on May 24, 1916.6

Circa 1926 – left to right: Margaret (14 years old), Robert (12 years old) and Dorothy (10 years old)
They are my first cousins once removed.

On September 9, 1918 William registered for the World War I draft.  The birth day given (31) is incorrect, he uses Frank and not Francis as his middle name, and there is no specific residence address listed.  Although by this time William had already developed a variety of skill sets, including well drilling, the occupation listed is that of an engine wiper for the Northern Pacific Railroad.  His physical characteristics show that he is short, medium build, has black hair and brown eyes. 7

World War I draft registration card for William Vadnais

By the 1920 U. S. census, William, Rachel and the children are living in a rental home at 414 Miller Avenue in White Bear Lake.8  They would purchase the same house on December 30, 1922.  It remained in the family until being sold on September 19, 2003.

Rachel holding either Robert or Dorothy, and William on the front walk outside of 414 Miller Avenue
(the current address is 4786 Miller Avenue)

By May of 1921, William has gone into business for himself as a well driller and plumber.  White Bear was growing and the building of the community infrastructure was taking off.  William’s skill set would prove to be an asset to himself and the community.

Circa 1924 – Earl Martineau (left) and William Vadnais with well drilling equipment at a site near Centerville Road
White Bear Press Ad – 19279
White Bear Press, February 24, 192710

William, shown as being 55 years old, is enumerated in the 1940 U. S. census as a self-employed plumber making $1500 per year.  The 4th grade is listed as his highest grade of education and his wife Rachel (47 years old) shows a 6th grade education level.  Son Robert at 26 years old is a well digger making $350 per year and the oldest daughter Margaret, her husband Forest, and their son William are living in their own area upstairs at the family home.11  The other daughter Dorothy is married to Michael Strantz and is living in St. Paul.12

1940 U. S. census showing William Vadnais and family

Both William and his son Robert registered for the World War II draft.  Robert registered on October 16, 1940 and left for the service on March 7, 1942.13

Siblings Dorothy, Robert and Margaret in 1942 on front steps at 414 Miller Avenue right before Robert left for military service

On April 26, 1942, not long after Robert left, William at 57 years old registered in the “Old Man’s Draft,” but was never called to fight.  William’s draft registration shows that he has gray hair and that part of his right thumb is missing.14  From what I was told, the thumb accident occurred when a cast iron tub slipped during installation.

1942 Draft Registration card for William Vadnais

During the war the plumbing business was difficult to maintain.  William no longer had his son to help him and, because of war shortages, the materials needed to operate the business were scarce.  From 1942 through 1945 William worked on a number of government/defense related jobs as a steam fitter/pipe fitter.  The work often either had long travel times (Rosemount, Minnesota) or took him far away from home living in a barracks (Hanford, Washington).  While he was away, he wrote weekly letters to his wife and sent his paychecks home.  Paycheck stubs show that he worked long hours including overtime.  Since William was nearing retirement, I’m sure he was appreciative of the work and its associated pay.

July 1944 – Rachel and William Vadnais at their home on Miller Avenue

In early 1945 William, at 61 years old, slipped and fell in some oil while working for Standard Anderson Sterling Company.  The accident led to several rounds of hospitalization from March through June.  By October William was slowly recuperating and pursuing daily walks.

William’s son Robert was discharged from the Army on October 20, 1945 and returned to White Bear Lake.15  He rejoined his father in the business which he would eventually take over.

William and son Robert at Wm. Vadnais Plumbing & Well Work located in the garage at 4786 Miller Avenue, the family home

Here are a few more pictures:

Son-in-law Mike Strantz and William Vadnais
Left to right: Dorothy, Margaret, Rachel, William and Robert
Rachel and William
Left to right: Dorothy, William, Rachel and Margaret

William’s health issues continued and after a 2-month stay at Rochester State Hospital, William passed away on Tuesday, September 11, 1956; he was 71 years old.  The cause of death was heart failure due to hardening of the arteries.16

William Vadnais Minnesota death certificate, September 11, 1956
(the birth year is wrong)

Services were held at St. Mary’s Church on Friday, September 14, 1956.  The officiant was Father Bernard Reiser and the pallbearers were George Vadnais, Gordy Vadnais, Jack Vadnais, Marvin Heckel and 2 unidentified Heckel boys.  William was buried at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery in White Bear Lake.

Obituary in the White Bear Press, September 20, 195617
Prayer card for William F. Vadnais (the birth year is wrong)

Rachel was 63 years old when her husband William passed away.  She would live another 20 years before passing away on November 3, 1976 at Mounds Park Hospital in St. Paul.  She died at 83 years old from congestive heart failure due to hardening of the arteries and diabetes.18

Rachel (Hauser) Vadnais
Rachel Vadnais Minnesota Death Certificate, November 3, 1976
Prayer card for Rachel M. Vadnais

Rachel was laid to rest with her husband at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery.

Rachel M. and William F. Vadnais monument at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery19
William F. Vadnais’ headstone at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery

Thanks for visiting, come back soon,

© 2023 Copyright by Cynthia Vadnais, All Rights Reserved

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