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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Tuesday July 23rd 2024

Small Newspapers Help Tell the Vaders’ Story

from Tales from Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery


223rd in a Series

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an estimated 30% of children did not live to see their fifth birthdays. Of those, the majority did not reach their first birthdays. Cemetery records, census information, and death records tell part of the story, but other sources, especially newspapers, help fill in some of the blanks. Around that time, there were two newspapers, The Appeal and the Twin Cities Star, that served Minneapolis’ early African-American community. Although their stories were often brief, they help bring us closer to understanding the grief and losses that families experienced more than a century ago.
Jerry (Jeremiah) Vader and Lois Cush Vader had ten children. Jerry, who was African-American, was born in Bradford, New York, on June 26, 1852. He was the son of Moses Vader, who was described in the 1840 Federal Census as a “free person of color.” Sometime around the early 1850s, the family relocated to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was there, in 1877, that Jerry married Lois Cuish, who was Native American. Their first child, Flora, was born in Mayville, Wisconsin in 1879. Nine more children followed. Their second child, Franklin Vader, was born in 1885, after the family moved to Minneapolis. The following year, Guy Vader was born, followed by George in 1888, and Louis in 1889. Eugene Vader was born in 1899.
These were perilous times for infants. The Vader family lost five of their sons, four of them before their first birthdays. Franklin was six weeks old when he died from convulsions; Guy was one year, four months old when he died from cholera infantum; George died from hydrocephaly when was he was ten months old. Louis died at two weeks old from an intestinal hemorrhage, and Eugene died from cholera infantum at seven months old.
Their parents suffered yet another devastating loss in 1898, when Flora, their 19-year-old daughter died. Although the exact details of what happened are lost to history, the anger and outrage about her death is not. On November 12, 1898, The Appeal, ran an article about Flora’s death:
“Miss Flora Vader died last Thursday night and the attending physician certified the cause of death as heart failure. Possibly such may be the case, but professional negligence in time of need is the probable cause, [and] if so, someone should be made to suffer for it because Miss Vader was…very quiet, amiable and [she was] dutiful to her parents and was very well liked by all of her acquaintances…The funeral ceremony was the most sorrowful bereavement that every occurred here.”
Six years later her father, Jerry Vader, described by The Appeal as “one of our oldest citizens,” died. His death on December 28, 1904, resulted from injuries that he received after he was kicked by a horse. It was a story that was not covered by either the Minneapolis Tribune or the Minneapolis Journal, the city’s two largest newspapers.
In May of 1915, the Twin Cities Star reported that Lois Vader had been ill for some time. Over the next few months, the paper published several updates about her health. On June 12, 1915, they reported that she had been baptized by Rev. G. W. Mitchell of Zion Baptist Church. When she died two months later, on August 8th, from an aortic aneurysm, Reverend Mitchell conducted her funeral.
It is those details, as brief as they are, that give shape to the Vaders’ lives. There are never enough to tell the whole story, but every small piece of information brings us closer to understanding what they experienced.
Flora, Jerry and Lois Vader were initially buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery but were moved to Crystal Lake Cemetery in the late nineteen-teens or early-twenties. The family decided not to move the Vaders’ five young sons, and they remain in Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. Franklin and Guy Vader are buried in the same grave in Lot 35, Block G. The other boys are buried in various other locations throughout the Cemetery. All of their graves are unmarked.

Sue Hunter Weir is chair of Friends of the Cemetery, an organization dedicated to preserving and maintaining Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. She has lived in Phillips for almost 50 years and loves living in such a historic community.

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