The Story of Alpha Wilkins

Alpha Josephine Wilkins is my great grandmother. She was born to Thomas Wilkins and Christine Pearson on May 18, 1880 in Burlington, Iowa. She is the fourth of either five or six children. Her mother was previously married and had a child Teresa Hammerstrom in 1870. After Christine married Thomas, they had Alma 1876, Hugh 1877, Alpha 1880, Florence 1884, and Lawrence? 1886. I was given the information about Lawrence from a distant cousin but cannot verify this. Between Alpha and Florence’s birth the family moved to Chicago, Illinois. Alpha’s parents died in the 1890’s. First Thomas in 1895 then Christine in 1897.

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Alpha with Charles and four of their grandchildren.

The first census Alpha appears on is the one in 1900. She is living on 60th street in Chicago and is a boarder. I heard that she worked in a restaurant and one day, the president was going by, she ran with the other employees to the window to look out and she fell and hurt her leg. She walked with a limp the rest of her life. The president was most likely William McKinley as he was the president at the turn of the century.
At the age of 21, Alpha married on June 2, 1901 to Charles Bostwick in Chicago. Alpha had eight children, Florence 1902, Raymond 1904, Marion 1907, Delphine 1911, Virginia 1913, Dorothy 1916, Margaret 1919, and Lucille 1922. Margaret died as an infant at 2 weeks of age. Alpha is found in the 1905 census in Yonkers, New York living with Charles, Florence, and Raymond. In addition, her sister Florence and her niece Dorothy Wood (Teresa’s daughter) are living there. In the 1910 census, Alpha can be found in New Bedford, Massachusetts, along with her sister Teresa and niece Dorothy. I am not certain as to why she is there while her husband and children are in Chicago. I have been told that her husband liked to go out dancing without her and that she left him for a little time. This might be the time she separated from him. Or perhaps her sister needed some help and she went there to give her a hand. By the 1920 census, Alpha is back with the family and had a few more children. Her oldest two are working, Florence as a stenographer and Raymond as an office boy. Florence is my grandmother and she was married shortly after this census and had her first child, my mom, the following year. Alpha had one more child after my mom was born so she is 1 year older than her aunt. I was told that Alpha would press some pennies into her grandchildren’s hand and whisper “don’t tell your mom I gave this to you.” She was a fun grandmother and unfortunately she died young. At the age of 49, Alpha passed away from pneumonia on August 8, 1929 in Chicago. The wake was in my mom’s house and she remembers they would shut the casket at night before they would go to bed. Alpha was buried on August 12th in Mt Hope Cemetery.

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