Jay Cecil King and Freda Catrina Johanna Harm

The making of a man is a combination of his childhood and upbringing, his experiences, and the places he has been. The early life of Jay Cecil "Curly" King remains a mystery. I have thus far been unable to find a written record of his life before the year 1916 when he was 31 years old.

Jay Cecil "Curly" King was born in Missouri on 12 August 1885; possibly in Clark County in the northeast corner of the state as it shows on his marriage license, or near the town of Savannah in Andrew County in the northwest corner of the state as it shows in his obituary. Perhaps he was born near the town of Lineville, which straddles the states of Iowa and Missouri. Lineville is the place he always told his children he was from.

Curly was born to the marriage of Jay King and Alice Allen, both natives of England. He acquired the nickname of "Curly" because he had one lock of hair above his forehead that curled. The rest of his hair was straight. He knew of one sibling before he left home sometime between the years 1895 - 1897 when he was 10-12 years old. Her name was Lena. Curly left home following the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother. He had no further contact with his mother or stepfather. He did visit his sister once as an adult when she was living in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sometime after leaving home and before 1916, Curly enlisted in the state militia of Company K of Illinois. Further research on this aspect of his life is planned.

The following paragraphs are from the memory of Elmer Cecil King regarding memories of his father

"Before Dad arrived in the Pierson area all we know is from some of the things that he told us at times. He told about working in 'shops' in Illinois. This, from his stories, was probably Rock Island. I don't remember any more about it.

Some of his time was spent as a 'hobo'. He was careful to point out that was not the same as a 'tramp'. He traveled by catching rides on freight trains. He lived in hobo jungles -- places where groups of hobos lived. We'd call it camping. This was the way he followed work around the country.

He talked mostly of haying, grain harvest, and picking corn. I assume from his stories that this was mostly, or perhaps all, in Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

He also told of selling life insurance for Metropolitan Insurance Company."

Curly King eventually arrived in Woodbury County, Iowa and met the Henry Harm family. The Harms had been farming near Pierson in Woodbury County since the year 1894 when they immigrated from Germany. Among the eight siblings of the Harm family was a daughter, Freda, who in 1916 was 27 years old. Freda was born near the village of Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany on 4 March 1889. She was the daughter of John Henry Harm and Auguste Wieck. It appears Curly was living in Correctionville, about 10 miles from Pierson and was hired by farmers in the area for seasonal farm work. Curly frequently visited Freda in Pierson, or the two would meet to attend dances in the area. They fell in love and were married in Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa on 22 August 1917.

In the first years of their marriage, Curly and Freda rented a farm near Moville in Arlington Township, Woodbury County, Iowa, where they grew fruits and vegetables. It was here that the first two of their seven children were born, Earl Henry on 23 April 1918 and Elmer Cecil on 26 September 1919. Earl and Elmer were very close. They both began school together in the fall of 1924 and graduated in the same class, Correctionville High School Class of 1937.

After the census was taken in March 1920, the King family moved to the Rutland Township near Pierson where they also rented a farm. It was here that Emmett Arnold was born on 12 September 1921. In 1922, the family moved to a home in the town of Correctionville. Everett Leonard was born there on 12 July 1923, Ernest "Ernie" Eugene on 25 March 1925, Ellis Frederick on 6 October 1928 and (finally a girl!) Elaine Ruby on 6 September 1930.

The King children made extra money by sharing a paper route delivering the Sioux City Journal.  Earl and Elmer had a job of keeping the neighbors' dairy cattle out of Copeland Park in Correctionville when the cattle wandered in from their pasture. The boundary between the pasture and park was the Little Sioux River. The two boys would keep the cattle away from the park while fishing and swimming in the river. Elmer doesn't remember the pay, if any, they received for providing this service, but it was a pleasant way to while away a hot, muggy Iowa summer day.

Elmer also herded cows between fences on a country road for a one-mile stretch. The children picked fruit on shares, mostly cherries but also some apples. They dug, ground and added vinegar to horseradish and sold it by the glass for 10 cents each. At one time, their goal was to sell 41 glasses so they could buy a coaster wagon that cost $4.10. They met that goal. After selling the horseradish, they would go around later and collect the empty glasses.

Other activities including doing chores for a neighbor, which among other things, included milking a cow that seemed to routinely get in a fence and require treatment. Earl and Elmer trapped gophers in the summer. The county paid a dime bounty for each pair of front feet. Some farmers also paid a nickel or dime. Emmett and Ernie trapped fur animals in the winter, mainly fox and skunk. They all trapped for cottontail rabbits in the winter. For refrigeration, they hung the rabbits on the north side of the house.

On most of the King Children's early jobs, they worked together. For one-person jobs, they switched off frequently. As the children got older, the jobs got more personalized. Earl's jobs seemed to be mostly in automotive service of one kind or another. Elmer worked in a cream station part time, where he rustled cans of cream at curbside from cars or horse-drawn vehicles. Sometimes it was crates of eggs or chickens in addition to or instead of the cream. He also candled eggs (candled: to examine an egg for freshness in front of a light), and tested the cream for butterfat content in a centrifuge. Elmer also worked in a hardware and automotive store. He changed oil and clerked on the floor, among other duties. He worked as a farm hand by plowing and haying and by shocking grain, soy beans and seed clover. He spiked grain bundles for threshing crews, sometimes with tractor power and sometimes with horses. Elmer never did pick corn in corn country.

A neighboring couple who were both Evangelical ministers held church services in their home. Earl and Elmer attended the services. When the congregation had grown enough to move to a church building, the boys belonged to the youth group and sang in the choir.

Growing up in the King household, the children were bilingual. Freda was of 100% German ancestry, and until they began attending school, the children spoke both German and English. Although Iowa had a large German population, once they started going to school, the King children no longer spoke German.

Curly began his career of well digging and installing farm water supply systems when the family lived in Correctionville. He also installed sewer systems, connecting homes to the city sewer, and cleaned and repaired water wells. He was a State Organizer for the Worker's Alliance of America and, at the time of his death, was Constable of Rock Township in Correctionville. The job of Constable involved serving legal papers summoning residents of the township to court. He was well respected and well known in the area.

To get to work circa 1922 and prior, Curly drove a team and wagon rig. The family owned two horses; Pat, a bay gelding and Lady, a black mare. They usually had a pet dog and one Elmer remembers in particular was a male border collie named Trusty. The home in Correctionville was on three acres where the family raised chickens, goats and rabbits and had a large garden. The children all shared the chores of tending the garden and taking care of the 100 chickens and several rabbits and goats. The lot was in the shape of a right triangle and bordered the railroad tracks. Before this home was purchased, the family rented it for a time. The rent was $7.00 per month. The house has since been torn down. In 2003, the area is a vacant, open field with waist high grasses and wildflowers. It is at the northeast corner of 3rd Street & Juniper Street in Correctionville, Iowa. According to a local resident, there are plans to develop the lot soon.

The decade of the 1920's was a big part of the transition period from horses to motor vehicles as the primary method of personal transportation. Earl and Elmer disagree on the exact year, but sometime in 1922 or 1923 the family sold their horses and bought a 1918 or 1919 (again Earl and Elmer disagree on the year) Model T Ford. The Model T became Curly's work vehicle, along with a trailer, and lasted for several years. The team of horses wound up the the possession of the rural mail carrier. He used the team to deliver the mail. The second family car was a 1928 Chevy bought in the early 1930's. Elmer remembers learning to drive in the Model T and taking his driver's test in the Chevy. He passed.

In the early 1920's, before the horses were sold and the Model T purchased, Curly was injured while moving dirt with a team of horses using a slip (similar to a front end loader). He never fully recovered. He had suffered from stomach or digestive disorders for as long as Elmer could remember, and these disorders may have been a result of this accident. He was on a special diet, which included goat's milk; this is the reason the family raised goats.

Curly went through surgery for ulcers at St. Vincent Hospital in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa in the fall of 1937, but due to his weakened condition was unable to recover. His death occurred on 12 October 1937 at the age of 52 years and he is buried in the Correctionville Cemetery, Woodbury County, Iowa.

Freda received a widow's pension following Curly's death. She still had all seven children at home; Earl, age 19; Elmer, age 18; Emmett, age 16; Everett, age 14; Ernie, age 11; Ellis, age 9; and Elaine, who had just turned 7 one month earlier. Earl and Elmer had recently graduated from high school and were able to help a great deal with the finances. Elmer stayed in Correctionville for another year and worked part time at the local creamery and part time at Gambles Hardware & Automotive, where his duties included changing oil and being a retail clerk. Earl worked on area farms and at a filling station, which Earl later bought. The younger children still had their paper route. Through Freda's efforts, all the children graduated from high school and went on to become successful citizens.

Freda was visiting a family member at the Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital in Cherokee, Cherokee County, Iowa in February 1956. She slipped and fell in the icy parking lot. She was admitted to the hospital in good condition with a broken left hip. During surgery in an attempt to repair the hip, Freda died. This was on 7 February 1956. She was 66 years old. She is buried next to Curly at the Correctionville Cemetery in Correctionville, Woodbury County, Iowa.

rev. 08/2003  L.V.

Sources

1. Conversations with Elmer Cecil King, and his conversations with his siblings.

2. U. S. Census, Woodbury County, Iowa for the years 1910 and 1920.

3. Obituary of Jay Cecil King from Correctionville News, October 1937.

4. Newspaper article "Woman of 66 Injured on Hospital Grounds" (specific newspaper unknown).

5. Newspaper article "Brothers Carry Journal and Sister Hopes to Follow in Their Footsteps" (specific newspaper unknown - probably Sioux City Journal).

6. Clark County, Missouri Birth and Death Records 1883-1892 (Film #1014211 in Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Utah). There was no mention of any children born to a Jay King and Alice Allen, however, not all births were reported in those days.

7. Postcards written by Curly to Freda in 1916.

8. Copy of Marriage Returns of Jay Cecil King and Freda C. J. Harm acquired from Iowa Department of Public Health Vital Records,  321 E. 12th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319-0075.


This site last updated on Thursday, August 23, 2007 

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