This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is Naughty. Well I have a few and have written about some of them already. This ancestor seems to fit into the category. While searching for my 2x great grandfather, Thomas Wilkins, I came across an interesting newspaper article from Davenport, Iowa on July 16, 1880. Now I don’t want to believe this about him, but the more I think I have found, the more it looks like this is him. It seems he may have swindled some investors in his newly started Singer sewing office.
Thomas Wilkins came here seven weeks ago and opened up an office on Rodman Avenue for the purpose of carrying business here for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. He had two assistants and seemed to have a good business, and everything went along swimmingly until last Tuesday morning, when the climax came. It seems he lived formerly in Burlington, Iowa, and last week he sent for his wife and children to come here. He sent no money to the wife and so she sold part of the household goods and bringing the rest with her arrived here with her four children, the oldest not over nine years of age, Tuesday morning. No loving husband met her at the depot, but she had been directed to go to Peal’s Hotel and there she went, and found out that her Thomas had engaged rooms there for the family and had stayed there himself Monday night, but had left at 5 o’clock Tuesday morning. Mrs Wilkins is now staying at the Peal House with her children, but she has not as yet seen her husband, nor does not know where he is. She is without money, and her furniture is still at Rock Island with a $5 freight bill against it. Mr Peal has procured a pass for herself and children back to Burlington, and a collection will be taken up to pay the freight on her furniture, and she will probably return there today, unless she hears from her husband. Mr Wilkins has not been leading the straightest life since his sojourn here, and he has managed to get into debt to the amount of about $300 during his seven weeks stay here, and his creditors will all be delighted to see him once more.
Reasons I think this is my 2x great grandfather:
1. My great grandmother, Alpha, was born in Burlington, Iowa on May 18, 1880.
2. They were raising 4 children by 1880, the oldest being Great Aunt Tess born 1870.
3. If I found the right person in Sweden, he was in jail for stealing.
4. If I found the right person, he was a tailor’s apprentice in Sweden after jail. His brother Ernest was a tailor in Kansas.
5. His half sister Anna was living in Burlington in the 1880 census.
6. Thomas naturalization paper is dated April 2, 1880 and he was living in Burlington, IA.
Thomas probably knew enough about sewing or at least had the credentials as a tailor to work a scam involving sewing machines. This family moved to Chicago at least by the time their next child was born in 1884. They are not on any censuses and my great grandmother Alpha is living on her own in Chicago by 1900, she was 20 years old. My mom doesn’t remember hearing any stories about them from either her mom or her grandmother, Alpha (their daughter). My grandmother who I saw a lot, never spoke about her grandparents. I think because she never knew them.