My maternal grandfather’s mother, Ada Jane Lewis Hooker, died when my grandfather was still a child. My grandfather died when I was not quite ten, before I started asking any stories about prior generations. In addition, sons don’t talk much about their mothers and my grandfather was a taciturn man. So I never heard much about Ada Jane, and I know little about her.
And yet, I have her Seth Thomas eight-day pendulum clock in my living room—this clock is the only possession I have inherited that I know belonged to any of my great-grandparents. I call it “my grandfather’s clock,” because my grandfather (Ada Jane’s son) was the first person I remember owning it. But it came from his mother. Or so I was told.
The story goes that this clock sat in Ada Jane’s kitchen in her home in Dallas, Oregon, when my grandfather was young. She kept it on a shelf above the stove, and over time the clock became coated with grease and other cooking residues. But it has always looked clean and beautiful to me, for as long as I can remember it, back to my earliest childhood days when the clock was a fixture in my grandparents’ house. Someone along the way—maybe my grandfather?—must have had the clock restored to its original late-19th-century glory.
I don’t know how old the clock is. I’ve looked for similar Seth Thomas clocks online, and my clock appears similar to 1870s models, though I have yet to see pictures of any other clocks with the same style wood frame or metal painted face. I used to fantasize that my clock came across the plains in a covered wagon along with my ancestors. Ada Jane’s relatives arrived in Oregon sometime in the mid-1800s, and her husband’s ancestors, the Hookers, arrived in 1848. But after some investigation, I doubt the clock dates back to the 1840s or ’50s.
My research shows that though the clock was in Ada Jane’s kitchen, it probably did not come from her birth family. It was probably purchased by the Hooker family she married into. Inside the clock, behind its painted face, are the words “I.A. Hooker May 1875,” handwritten in pencil. Ira Allen Hooker was my grandfather’s grandfather, Ada Jane’s husband’s father. Ira was the first of my Hooker ancestors born in Oregon, the child of the Hookers who emigrated to Oregon in 1848.
Thus, it appears that Ada Jane got the clock from her in-laws, and most likely it was purchased in or not long before 1875.
Other than the clock in her kitchen, all I have of Ada Jane is a picture of her with my great-grandfather, Thomas B. Hooker. I know very little about her ancestors, only that her maiden name was Lewis.
There are records showing Lewises coming to Linn County, Oregon, as early as 1846, and other Lewises in Polk County, Oregon, by 1847. But I don’t know which of these Lewises—if any of them—were related to Ada Jane. I don’t know where her ancestors came from before they emigrated to Oregon.
All I know about Ada Jane’s life is that she was born on April 6, 1883, married my great-grandfather Thomas B. Hooker (but I don’t know the date of the wedding), had two children, and died December 12, 1917, when she was only 34. My grandfather Robert Eugene (called Gene) was the older of her children, born on March 15, 1905, and he had a younger sister Gwendolyn, born on September 18, 1906. So Ada’s children were only twelve and eleven when she died.
“Mrs. T.B. Hooker, wife of Deputy Sheriff T.B. Hooker, passed away at her home in this city [Dallas] Wednesday after a lingering illness of several years caused by cancer. Mrs. Hooker, who was one of Polk county’s native daughters, was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Lewis, pioneer residents of the Lewisville neighborhood, and was born on April 6, 1883. She is survived by her husband and two children, Eugene and Gwendolyn of this city, her father and mother and ten brothers and sisters. The funeral services will be held this morning in the United Evangelical church of this city and interment will take place in the family cemetery at Lewisville.” Capital Journal, Saturday, December 15, 1917
I don’t know what kind of cancer Ada Jane had. Her son, my grandfather, developed colon cancer in his last year, though he died of a stroke. He lived longer than her 34 years, but he died relatively young at age 60.
After Ada Jane died, her husband Thomas married her much younger sister Winona Grace Lewis. Both Thomas Hooker and Winona survived into my childhood. Nona, as we called Winona, was born in 1897 and lived until 1987, or seventy years after her sister Ada Jane died. Nona had one child, Thomas B. Hooker, Jr., who was many years younger than his half-siblings/cousins (my grandfather and his sister). In my current work-in-progress, I write about a widower who married his first wife’s younger sister. That idea came from this detail of my own family history.
Ada Jane was originally buried in Smith Cemetery, but her grave was moved to the Dallas Cemetery prior to World War II. Now all three of them—Thomas Hooker and his two wives, Ada Jane and Winona—are buried under the same headstone in the Dallas, Oregon, cemetery.
I wish I had more of Ada Jane than her picture and an old family clock.
What do you wish you knew about your ancestors?