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Frances & Ernest Bloomquist

Frances Melvina Stringham, daughter of Rowland and Harriet (Raber) Stringham, was born September 7, 1900 near Des Moines, Iowa.  The family moved to Des Moines where Frances was educated in the Des Moines schools, graduating from North High School and Highland Park College, part of Des Moines University (in a two-year program of study). She received a third-class state certificate for teaching June 1921. Frances also studied violin at Drake University.  

As a high school senior in 1919, she was vice-president of the student advisory board, as well as active in the school orchestra.  In the Oracle (school year book) there is the following paragraph: "She's smart, she can make a 'fiddle' talk and she has the prettiest hair in North High . . . ."  (Frances or "Frankie" as she was known to many had reddish-auburn hair).  She was 5'4" tall.  

Frances was a member of an all-girl string quintet, which toured a Chautauqua circuit in towns of Iowa, the Dakotas, southern Minnesota, and other areas for one year.  She was a teacher in the Boxholm, Iowa Consolidated School, teaching junior high school subjects of English and History.  

In Boxholm, she met Ernest W. Bloomquist and they were married December 31, 1923 in
Des Moines. At the time they met, apparently in 1922, Ernest was Assistant Cashier in the Farmers State Bank in Boxholm where Frances did business.  It is inferred from personal letters written to Frances from Ernest that their courtship lasted about one year. There was reference to travel between Boxholm and Des Moines by the inter-urban train (an electric trolley conveyance), Ernest's automobile, and frequent use of a taxi to and from the train in Des Moines.  Frances' address was 3919 Sixth Avenue in Des Moines. Ernest's address was simply Boxholm. Boxholm was not a large town at the time--and it is probable Ernest could walk from one end of it to the other in five minutes. There is question whether Ernest was living in a room in town at the time or still residing on the family farm. There is no mention of farm activities in his letters to Frances. He mentions his idleness when he is alone, etc. His letters carried a formal tone for the most part and even within a month of their marriage there was no talk of romance or their planned future together. (However, that type of correspondence for couples was not unusual for that era. And both Ernest and Frances were people who believed in a certain reserved decorum).   

After their marriage, they resided in Boxholm. Frances frequently referred to Ernest as "Bud" or E. W. in her diary entries. She taught school off and on after her marriage. Frances later related that her teaching experience covered a total of seven years; that she was doing substitute teaching in the late 1920s; and that she was highly esteemed by her students, fellow-teachers, and principals. She mentions in her writings that unmarried teachers lived in a "teacherage" (something similar to a "parsonage"). Frances was frequently asked to coach declamation competitions, direct plays, and play violin solos and duets for different functions.

Ernest William Bloomquist was born October 1, 1901 near Gowrie, Iowa. His parents were Anna Olivia Torn and Carl Eric Bloomquist. He was the third child of five sons.

An early "almanacka," dated 1892, with Carl Ericís handwriting and entries in Swedish, shows his name as K. E. GustafsSon, and beneath that, Charly E. Blomquist. It is gathered from that almanac that Carl traveled to the United States by ship of the  "Dominion Line" from Goteburg Sweden March 3, 1892 to Liverpool then Portland, Maine March 14, 1892 (with a stop at port of Halifax, N.S). He traveled by train March 17, to Chicago, Illinois then on to Harcourt, Iowa March18, 1892. His journey ended March 20, 1892. He makes mention of "storm" many times while he was at sea.  It is not known when he officially changed his name. And there is some question as to accuracy of previous dates because the same almanac includes a few entries for 1893-1896.

Ernest grew up on a farm. When he was two his family moved to a farm near Boxholm, Iowa.  His mother, Anna, died in childbirth December 7, 1912 when he was eleven. While his older brothers did outdoor farm work, Ernest became experienced in keeping house and caring for his three-year-old brother, Laurence. He learned to cook, clean, and do laundry. He graduated from Boxholm High School in 1921. He recalled being in class plays all through high school. He furthered his education with correspondence courses. Originally he wanted to study engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, but his plans were altered by a change in personnel at the bank. Ernest was a slim 6'3" man with reddish hair.    

In 1928 Ernest was elected Cashier of the Boxholm Farmer's State Bank. He remained there until 1930 when the bank closed along with all other banks due to the "Bank Holiday" declared by the Federal Government under Franklin D. Roosevelt. He did auditing in Boone for a time and later went to work for the Farmer's Savings Bank in Madrid. It was liquidated in 1933 to become the Madrid State Bank. The Bloomquists lived in Madrid, Iowa before making the move to Illinois.     

A five year diary presented to Frances by her husband December 25, 1927 included the following entries:

     2 Jan 1928--Ernest had a holiday. He saw movie "Man Crazy" in Boone.
     4 Jan 1928--taught 7th and 8th grade at Lanyon.     
     6 Feb 1928--went to declamation--Ernest kept time--Marion fainted.
     8 Jan 1928--Hilma operated on 9:30 last night.  Doing fine.
     1 Feb 1928--went to sewing circle at teacherage.
     25 Feb 1928 Arnold and Mabel married in Boone.
     1 March 1928--went to Ft. Dodge. Saw "The Little Spitfire Princess"--One headlight went out on the way up--other coming home.  Drove in moonlight.
     3 Mar 1928--spent first eve at home for 2 months.
     5 Mar 1928--eve went out to see folks--Larry has made a radio--attached to Edison.  Works fine.  Got fresh eggs.
     18 Mar 1928--drove to Des Moines.  Saw Paul's new home.  They were gone.  It is close to school. (addresses for Paul Stringhams in diary gives them as: 3804 10th, Des Moines, Iowa;
1020 Indiana St., Lawrence, Kansas).     
     29 Mar 1928--drove out to Dads--heard movies stars over Lawrence's radio from New York and Hollywood.
     2 Apr 1928--listened to French violinist on radio.
     9 Apr 1928--gave dinner in honor of Arnolds.  All family here.  Had white tapers, rose nut cups, bride place cards, etc.
     12 Apr 1928--went to Mabel's shower at her aunts. Alma also hostess.
     13 May 1928--saw Gloria Swanson in "Sadie Thompson."     
     14 Jun 1928--listened to Republican convention at Dads.  Hoover nominated for president.

     Ernest and Frances were both Republicans and excited about the nomination of Herbert Hoover for president.  
     19 Jul 1928--spent eve reading and sewing.  Bud studying law.

     The first part of Aug 1928 Frances spent time in Des Moines, helping care for Helen Marie Stringham, helping her folks in painting, cooking for thrashers, canning, etc.
     3 Sep 1928--E.W. attended bank board meeting--elected cashier of the bank.
     11 Sep 1928--got new Atwater Kent electric radio.  Dad and Lawrence came.  Made ice cream.  Stormy so we could not use radio.
     23 Sep 1928--went to Paulís for chicken dinner.  Helen walks everywhere.
     24 Sep 1928--did big washing with new washing machine.  I like it fine.
     6 Oct 1928--had a bake sale--funds go for presidential campaign funds.

     The radio was now an even more important part of their lives.  Frances wrote that they heard Al Smith speak from Oklahoma City.  In October they traveled to Iowa City to attend a political rally (banquet, speeches, and teas) for Hoover.  Hoover's aunt and cousin were the Hoover representatives apparently.  Frances was an election teller.  They went shopping for a radio table after their return from Iowa City.     
     5 Nov 1928--everyone is excited about the election.  Hoover and Al Smith made final pleas to people--Hoover from California, Al from New York City.
     6 Nov 1928--chilly--went to vote at 8 A.M. Voted for Hoover. Arvidís came to hear election returns.  Herbert Hoover overwhelmingly elected.


     2 Nov 1929--Mr. Muench brought us a pheasant. This will be a treat for it is our first.
     29 Nov 1929 Schmidtís spent day here while their house being fumigated for scarlet fever.
       5 Dec 1929--traded for new Whippet-six-sedan. Maroon color. Drove to Arvid's in eve.
There were frequent diary notations referring to their regular and frequent movie attendances at Boone, Des Moines, and Boxholm. They were also active in Emmanuel Methodist Church activities.  Ernest was an active participant of amateur theater productions as an actor.  Frances belonged to WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union) and was its president for one year.  Frances also gave music lessons to several children.  We assume they were violin lessons, although Frances did play piano too. But in later years Bruce took piano lessons from someone other than his mother.

In Dec 1929 Frances and Ernest moved to a "bungalow--block nearer town."  It was apparently a exciting move for Frances as she happily detailed plans and decorating projects.  An amusing story was her telling of crawling in and out of a window while the newly varnished floors dried.

A son, Bruce Bradley was born 6 Nov 1930. Frances was most discreet about mentioning her pregnancy in a diary with early entries for 1930. She would simply enter "ill" for weeks and nearly three months on end. She commented on one occasion that she must have the flu, that she was feeling sick all the time  (evidently pregnancy was not yet a consideration).  Apparently she and Ernest had agreed to care for her invalid mother in their home just prior to the onset of her pregnancy. For about one month (9 Feb-14 Mar) she tended to her mother's "demanding" needs, which caused much stress and unhappiness on all their parts (according to Frances' diary). Gerald who was only 21 at the time had left Iowa 5 Jan 1930 to work in St. Louis, Missouri at the Strauss Hotel. It was Gerald who came to Frances and Ernest's home 19 Aug 1930 informing them that Hattie had gone to live with an older lady, a nurse, as the Paul Stringhams were making a move to Kansas. In the late summer of 1931 Hattie went to live with her widowed older sister, Mattie, on the former Raber farm. There in her childhood home Hattie died of a stroke 1 A.M. 15 Sep 1931.  

In May 1930 prior to Bruce's birth, Frances had finally mentioned in her diary that she was "busy gathering together some interesting little garments for an important event which is to take place in October." A diary entry for 5 Nov 1930 reads "cleaned house--went to Dr. then to Boone to the hospital. In OB room 11 P.M.-4:10 A.M." On Thursday 6 Nov the entry is "This is a great day. A son, Bruce Bradley was born to us today at 4:10 A.M. Elinor Moore County Hospital, Boone, Iowa." The following day she writes "Bud slept part of yesterday then came to see me. Came today." The entry for 15 Nov is "Got up for first time. Sat up for lunch. Very weak. Now we are home--just we three. Agnes cleaned house and got supper." The following day Frances writes "Gave baby his first bath!! What a job. Mrs. Schmidt brought pumpkin pie, medicine cabinet for Bruce." (It is believed Bruce still has that small green wooden cabinet). There were no further diary entries for the remainder of 1930!!  
Bruce was christened 17 May 1931 with only Ernest's family members and a few friends in attendance.  Little was chronicled about the next few years.  Bruce remembers occasional visits to the Arvid Bloomquist's farm, which in his memories were more play than work related. The Paul Stringhams were living in Kansas. All communication had ended with Gerald Stringham. He had left Iowa after heated and bitter exchanges following Hattie Stringham's death and burial. Apparently there had been many disagreements over the distribution of the family estate where Gerald was seemingly overlooked or at the very least--not treated as an equal. In later years Frances did not want any mention of his name. He was never heard from again. It was believed he had eventually married and moved to Florida. According to Social Security Death Index in 1995, Gerald Stringhamís death was shown as Nov 1985 in Dade Florida (birth date there 4 Dec 1906, in error, apparently; 1908 birth year recorded with family).    
In Jan 1935 Ernest's bank employment brought the family to Illinois and the Middletown State Bank where he became its Cashier or "head of banking." There were many bank failures in 1934 and when the Madrid bank was reorganized, Ernest lost his job with them. When Ernest received word of the reorganization of the Middletown Bank in Illinois, he applied for a position there. He worked in Middletown for several months before having his family join him.  They moved during a cold, snowy time into the Elmer Primm house, originally built by a man named Kirby. The house was later purchased by the Bloomquists and owned by them until it was sold 10 Jul 1992. (It is located on the western edge of town, on the corner of Anson and 8th Street).    
Eventually Ernest become the majority stock-holder of the Middletown State Bank. There were many years of saving and material sacrifice before he attained his goal of bank owner. In 1966 his son, Karl, joined him in the business, eventually becoming bank president and cashier.  He and Bruce both became share holders and directors of the bank. On 31 Jan 1973 Ernest was chosen Logan County Man of the Month. It was revealed he had been a Mason for fifty years. He had been on the boards of schools, bank, church, and community organizations for many years; serving as president of the Logan County Bankers Confederation twice. The bank was sold in 1978.  
Ernest and Frances' second son, Karl DeForest, was born 18 Nov 1938. In 1946 at age eight, Karl was accidentally shot in the eye by a playmates' b.b. gun. His eye was saved but the vision impaired. The accident affected him emotionally and physically. According to Frances, he didn't grow an inch in four years. It was thought the shock of the shooting incident affected him for that length of time. Karl expressed concern that he would never be as tall as his brother. Frances and Ernest worried for their son's well-being as parents will.  

Frances worked for many years at the Middletown Bank until health problems necessitated her retirement in 1963, with subsequent hospitalization and surgery. She had been involved in women's clubs throughout the years, and hobbies of sewing, crocheting, card and board games. Following her surgery in 1963 she suffered a small stroke and struggled with speech and language skills for many years afterwards. She never recovered many of her former interests and talents. However, her children and grandchildren will remember Frances for her attention to good manners and courtesy. She loved shopping--particularly for matching hats, shoes, and gloves. She was a stickler for punctuality in letter writing and thank you notes.  Frances died 15 Jun 1976 after a brief illness. She succumbed to gangrenous blocked blood vessels in the abdomen from multiple emboli, according to a pathologist's report.

The following information was recorded by Frances regarding Frances and Ernest's 50th wedding anniversary celebration:
On December 27, 1973, we had our anniversary
dinner at Cranwillís in Mason City, Illinois.
Those present were: Myself and Ernest, the bride and groom of 50 years ago.
Our son Bruce and his wife Donna Lou and their two children, Bruce Jr. and Brian;
Our son Karl and his wife Wanda and their three children, Donna Ann, Phyllis, and Joseph.
Harvey and Bess Litwiller (Wanda's father and mother);
Paul and Shirley Tibbs (Wanda's sister, husband, and their two daughters);
Lucille F. Kerschner (our dependable bank employee);
Percy and Mary Boyer (Mary another dependable bank employee);
Faye Agnew an employee of the bank could not be present because of illness.

I wore a pink cocktail dress and a yellow rose corsage.
Ernest wore a yellow rose boutonniere.
Bruce and his family gave us a nice gold anniversary clock, and Karl and his family gave us a nice cash gift to apply on a trip we plan to take.

A number of other nice gifts were received and all is recorded in a nice anniversary book given to us by John and Ed Barry and their wives of Lincoln, Illinois.

Ernest remarried 22 May 1978.  He married Edna (Betty) Kiler Ralford and lived in Springfield, Illinois until Betty's death 11 Jan 1980. After extensive remodeling of the family home in Middletown he returned there to live.

On 20 Sep 1980 he married Marcella Bottorf, a close friend of his former wife, Betty. There was a family gathering at their home in Middletown Labor Day 1981 with many games and photos taken. Marcella died 17 Sep 1981, about a week later, after a brief illness. In just five years Ernest had been widowed three times.
For many years Ernest continued to stay active and drive, even when roads and weather were hazardous. There was a frightening incident in Dec 1982 when he drove into a flooded area of highway near Sugar Creek, south of New Holland on his way to Middletown. He was rescued from the raging waters by residents nearby who had seen his headlights disappear into the flooded area. Ernest survived the ordeal but his car was a total loss. Eventually Ernest's health began to fail particularly after a fall in his yard when he broke a hip. He was confined to a nursing home shortly afterwards. He died 28 Aug 1990 in the Mason City Nursing Home where he had been a patient for over two years. Both he and Frances are buried at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery north of Middletown, overlooking Salt Creek and adjacent farmland.