All Good Betide

How much can a single postcard tell you? Quite a lot, actually. All it takes is some effort, a bit of luck, and most importantly, just enough details to launch a viable search. And always, “hope’s beacon” pointing the way.

Front of New Year’s postcard. (Author’s collection)

This particular story begins with a postcard sending good wishes for the New Year, 1912.

Dec. 28, 1911

Zero temperature in our town this morning.
Am having hard work to settle down to every day affairs again. Hope Howard’s cold is all well.
Love from Mama & Papa.

Part of Raphael Tuck & Sons’ “New Year” Series No. N. 5016, the postcard was sent to a Mr. & Mrs. R.E. Duchine, Elmira, New York, #405 Franklin Street, and postmarked Beloit, Wisconsin.

Reverse side of postcard.

It was purchased as part of a miscellaneous (i.e. unrelated, as far as can be determined) group from the Just Stuff antique store in Lake View, Oregon on July 13, 2011: souvenirs that were bought during a motorcycle trip, brought to Victoria, British Columbia, and gifted to me.

The Just Stuff store in Lake View, Oregon, 13 July 2011.
(B. Nicholson photo)

Since then, they’ve been tucked safely away, waiting until the time when someone (that is, me) was ready to look deeper, beyond the holiday greetings and the floral designs. Now, as another New Year approaches, that time has arrived. The plan? To learn as much as I can about each one, and to share the stories that emerge — even if they’re incomplete. If I’m really lucky, the postcards will make their way back to family members, or at the least, an appropriate archives.

More on the other cards later, though. This first chapter belongs to the Duchine family.

The 1917 “Elmira-Made” directory for Elmira Heights and Horseheads lists Ray E. Duchine, of 405 Franklin, as a foreman for the A.L.F.E. Company. A Howard S. Duchine, along with Louise Duchine, are also included in the directory. Both were employees of A.L.F.E. as well; as a clerk and stenographer, respectively. They lived at 377 Fulton — two and a half blocks from Ray and his wife Anna.

The “Elmira-Made” Elmira Heights and Horseheads Directory, 1917.
(Source: joycetice.com)
Google Street View, 405 Franklin Street, Elmira, NY.
(Screenshot captured 5 December 2021)

A.L.F.E. most likely stands for the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company, which was one of the oldest fire apparatus manufacturers in America. It was most well-known for its fire engines, producing its first motorized engine in 1907. The company went through a number of names and iterations, before forming in 1903 under the A.L.F.E. name. It ceased operations in 2014. (It is here that we find a small local connection: through its history, the Saanich Fire Department had a number of LaFrance engines in its fleet. For those of you from elsewhere, Saanich is a municipality in the Greater Victoria area.)

1929 GMC La France outside Saanich Fire Department Station No. 1,
3681 Douglas Street (Saanich Archives 2006-014-031)

According to a November 10, 2015 article in the Elmira Star-Gazette titled “Elmira, Fire Engine Capital of the World”,

The company began to manufacture other firefighting equipment and in 1880 became the LaFrance Fire Engine Company. The 1890s was an era of business consolidation with the growth of trusts. A rival firm was created named the American Fire Engine Company. With the idea of creating a monopoly, in 1900 the International Fire Engine Company was announced. It included the American Fire Engine Company, LaFrance Fire Engine Company and Thos. Manning Jr. and Co. Three support equipment manufacturers were included, three fire extinguisher manufacturers also joined the company. In 1903, the company reorganized into the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company and in 1906 company headquarters were relocated from New York City to Elmira.

Elmira Star-Gazette, 10 November 2015.

So, the American Fire Engine Company was a big part of life in Elmira, and certainly for Ray Duchine. But let’s go back even earlier, following vital, census, and other records available online.

Ray Elwood Duchine was born in 1888 or 1889 in Rhode Island to Frank T. Duchine and Carrie C. Steadman. His future wife, Anna Elizabeth Hoxsie (spelled in some sources as Hoxie), also hailed from the same state (born 1889 or 1890) as did her parents, James T. Hoxsie and Mercy A. Harris. Ray and Anna were married at Hopkinton, Washington, Rhode Island on December 29, 1909. The postcard sent to them two years later by one set of parents (unclear which) would have coincided with their second wedding anniversary.

In 1910, the year before the postcard was mailed to them, Ray was 22 and Anna was 20. They lived at 213 Hudson Street. According to the Census, he was a clerk at the Fire Engine Company. As we have already learned, by 1917, he had moved up to Foreman.

Sometime after 1910, Anna’s parents moved in with her and Ray; they show up in the 1915 New York State Census but as of the 1905 Rhode Island Census were still living in Hopkinton. They weren’t the only members of the family to make the move the Elmira, however.

As it turns out, the Howard S. Duchine mentioned above — and most likely the same Howard referred to in the postcard — was Ray’s younger brother. Howard, born in 1893, was still living in Hopkinton in 1910 with his mother Carrie, grandmother Emma Steadman, uncle Trederick E. Steadman, and aunt Mary E. Briggs. His mother, grandmother, and uncle were all widowed, according to records. He was 16 years old at the time and like his mother and uncle, worked at the Woolen Mill, (Carrie and Howard as weavers).

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MP6T-Q85 : accessed 8 December 2021)
Google Maps directions between the different Duchine addresses.
(Captured 7 December 2021)

He married Louise E. Hatfield on November 23, 1916 in Chemung, New York. And as we learned earlier, Ray, Howard, and Louise all worked at the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company in 1917. Howard and Louise had a son, James H. Duchine, in 1919. Howard’s (and Ray’s) mother had joined the family at 377 Fulton Street by 1920. Later, they would move to 517 Jefferson Street. In Elmira, the various members of the family never seemed to live more than a few blocks away from each other, despite their multiple moves.

Meanwhile in 1920, the United States Census recorded only Anna’s mother as living with Anna and Ray. Ray’s occupation was “Stow Mgr, Factory Office”. They had moved four blocks away from their home on Franklin Street to 516 South Avenue, built in 1900 — still within a close distance of Howard and his household.

Google Street View, 516 South Avenue, Elmira, NY.
(Screenshot captured 5 December 2021)

A quick internet search turned up a matchbook imprinted with the same South Avenue address and the name R.E. DuChine (RED on the other side). Ray is listed only as “Representative” — of what, it doesn’t say.

R.E. DuChine matchbook for sale on eBay.
(Accessed 6 December 2021)

The whereabouts of Anna’s father, James T. Hoxsie, from 1920 to 1925 aren’t clear. Records show he died on September 30, 1925. His ashes are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira; however, he died in Yokohama, Japan of what is described as “fracture of spinal column”. His wife Mercy remained with her daughter and son-in-law.

By 1930, Ray was a salesman in a tire store. One could presume his work with the manufacture of fire engines would have provided him with some relevant experience. Sadly, he would die eight years later at the age of 49 or 50. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, Chemung County, New York.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X7H5-CKX : accessed 8 December 2021)

After Ray’s death, Anna and her mother continued to live together at 516 South Avenue. Anna was listed as the head of household in the 1940 Census; the document notes her highest level of education as high school, 4th year. There is never any mention of children over the years, which would leave nephew James as Anna and Ray’s descendant. James married widow Ruth Elizabeth Ford in Broward, Florida on March 31, 1943.

Mercy died in 1949 and is also buried at Woodlawn, Elmira. I have not been able to locate any record of Anna’s life after her mother’s passing, nor could I find her death certificate.

And so this story both begins and ends with a mystery: just how did this postcard come to find itself at an antique shop on the opposite end of the country; and what became of one of the addressees, Anna?

The question of the sender, at least, is easier to surmise. Given that Ray’s mother was already widowed by the time the postcard — signed with love from Mama and Papa — was sent, it probably came from Anna’s parents. Did it bring good tidings to the Duchine’s? While genealogical records can’t tell us the answer, on its 110th anniversary, the hope is yes. As far as this research journey, it certainly gave me the “blithe success” it wished upon its recipients.

Front of postcard (detail).

Do you have any information to add about the Duchine and Hoxsie families? Are you a descendant? If so, please reach out via my Contact page. I’d love to hear from you!

Published by Sonia Nicholson

Sonia Nicholson is an archivist, executive assistant, and writer. She was born and raised in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada and studied French and Spanish at the University of Victoria. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia with her husband, two children, and two rescue dogs. Follow her on Twitter @nicholsonsonia_

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