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From Valentine L. SPAWR to the SPAWR Family of the 21st Century

Apparently his illness didn't totally incapacitate Valentine SPAWR. He met Lucena Johanna Carley, the daughter of George B. and Martha A. (Jackson) Carley of nearby Ashkum, Illinois. They evidently became more than friendly, with Lucena giving birth in 1879 to a baby boy who was named Loren. Valentine and Lucena were married in 1880, but the baby was apparently raised by Lucena's parents (he is listed in the 1880 census as being just another member of the Carley household).

Lucena Johanna (Carley) SPAWR was born in Portland, Indiana, in 1855. Her parents were farmers who had moved to Ashkum, Iroquois County, Illinois. In March 1881, she gave birth to my grandfather, Clarence Valentine SPAWR, at her parents' home in Ashkum, IL; it appears that both Loren and Clarence were being raised by Lucena's parents as he struggled in his last months of life. Valentine became progressively more incapacitated until he finally died on June 24, 1882, and was buried next to Irena in the Gilman Cemetery.

Before his death, however, Valentine summoned sufficient strength to impregnate Lucena one more time. She gave birth to a daughter, Ruth Naomi Spawr, in early 1883. After 1883, however, there is relatively little information available other than through hazy family stories and half-remembered anecdotes.

In 1886, Lucena married John Johnson of Kankakee, Illinois. Rumored to be involved in the horse trade, he is thought to have been a less-than savory character; although Lucena bore him some children, she was not, until 1891, awarded guardianship of her son Clarence Valentine and daughter Ruth. It is not clear what had happened in this period to Loren (he would have been approximately 12 years old at this time); it seems likely that he was still being raised by Lucena's parents; the 1890 US census would be most helpful in this regard, but it was destroyed in the 1921 U.S. Commerce Department fire; therefore, we just don't know what happened.

It is interesting to note that the lives of Elizabeth and Clara SPAWR and their half-sister Ruth SPAWR intersected in later years, although precisely how extensively or frequently they did so is not clear. It seems certain that they remained in contact with each other, as the three of them appear in a party photograph taken in Chicago at Halloween in the early 1920's (see the party photo in the SPAWR Family photo album by clicking here). It is doubtful that this was a random or chance occurrence; it is even possible that Clara played a role in the lives of Valentine and Lucena's children after their deaths.....the historical record is simply not clear.

Family tradition tells that life for Clarence SPAWR with the Johnson family was not good. It is told that he was "kicked from pillar to post" in the Johnson household; my grandfather once included his brother in that unfortunate description, a clue that perhaps Lucena did take her children to her second marriage to Johnson, at least for a time.

Lucena died in Chicago, IL, in 1896, of complications of Bright's Disease. She is buried in the local cemetery with her parents in Ashkum, IL. Interestingly, the stone markers and plot marker stones for Lucena and her parents' graves were purchased in 1913 by her son, Clarence Valentine SPAWR (my paternal grandfather).

Shortly after Lucena's death, Clarence Valentine SPAWR, then age 16, petitioned the District Court to allow the McGillivray family of Ashkum, IL, to be his guardian. The court approved this petition, but it is not clear what that meant for Loren and Ruth. From 1897 through the end of the century, there is little available record of the three SPAWR children.

The SPAWR Family's Third American Century

Clarence Valentine SPAWR surfaces again as a 1903 graduate of Ferris State Institute (now Ferris State University) in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he completed his undergraduate preparation for medical school. He subsequently graduated from Loyola University Medical School in Chicago, IL, in approximately 1907, and worked as a plant medical officer at the Buffalo Steel works for a brief period. In 1908, he married Edith Peck, daughter of Charles and Catherine R. (Hearney) Peck of Chicago, and moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where he began a private medical practice.

Clarence and Edith SPAWR built a bungalo-style house at 1500 Colfax Avenue in Benton Harbor in 1911, and raised three children: Catherine Rose (1912-1971), Clarence Valentine Jr. (1914-1980), and Charles Edgar (1923-1996). In addition to his medical practice, Dr. SPAWR served in the US Naval Reserve, and served on board the battleships USS Massachusetts and USS Rhode Island during World War I. He was one of the founding members of the American Legion Post in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 1923.

Apparently my father, Clarence Valentine Jr., was a bit of a disciplinary problem as a teenager. Only Dr. SPAWR's close friendship with Benton Harbor's local law enforcement community kept his son out of serious difficulties, but that insulation from the consequences of his actions only emboldened him further. Finally, Dr. SPAWR decided that his oldest son needed more structure and discipline than he was capable of providing at home. So, in 1928, Clarence Valentine SPAWR Jr., was enrolled at the Onarga Military Academy, in Onarga, Illinois, only a few miles from Ashkum, the town in which Dr. SPAWR had been born and raised.

The experience seems to have worked. While not an exemplary student, young Clarence graduated in 1932, along the way nearly making the US Olympic team for the 1932 Olympics as a marksman. His announced plan at graduation was to attend the University of Chicago, where he intended to study political science. Instead, he worked in odd jobs until he was employed at Western Electric in Chicago, working there for several years. In 1938, he enlisted in the US Naval Reserve, and in 1939, was finally accepted for training as a member of the Michigan State Police. In letters to the Commissioner of the Michigan State Police, COL Oscar Olander, in the early 1930's, he expressed a serious interest in police work; he even reminded the Commissioner of his close friendship with Dr. SPAWR.

State Police Trooper Clarence Valentine SPAWR Jr. served in his new capacity until his reserve unit was called up for service in World War II. Instead of going to war with his Naval Reserve unit, he joined an Army ordnance unit, accepting the rank of Technical Sergeant. Not long before leaving for the war, he married Jane Hall of St. Joseph, MI. Apparently the marriage was a major social event in the twin cities. The couple was married in the fall of 1941, but it wasn't long before the new husband departed for military training and overseas deployment; he left with his unit for North Africa in the autumn of 1942.

The young marriage resulted in the birth of a daughter, Jane, in January 1943. Unfortunately, before he returned in November 1945, his young wife had filed for divorce. My father never met or saw his young daughter. He died in 1980 without ever seeing her. My mother, Jane Marie WEYER, recalled one day in the 1950's, when my father signed the papers approving his daughter's adoption by her step-father; however, neither of my parents would ever discuss the matter further.

It was not until late 1999 that his daughter Jane was reunited with her siblings from Clarence Spawr's second marriage (described below). Interestingly, Clarence Spawr's two families knew vaguely of each other, but had virtually no information to use to find each other. Finally, in early November 1999, Jane (SPAWR) Barbour found her brothers and sisters through this webpage on the Internet. The reunions were wonderful, but also short-lived; my half-sister Jane cut off all contact, and moved to South Carolina. Neither or nor my siblings have heard from her or her children in many years. We were for at least a brief while united...our father would be very proud and happy for that, of only for a brief time.

Sergeant Clarence V. Spawr participated in the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942, and also served in Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. By the end of the war, he had been battlefield-commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and was in charge of a Prisoner of War camp in France. He returned to America in late 1945, and resumed his career as a Trooper in the Michigan State Police. His initial duty station was at Jonesville, MI, but that was very short-lived; he was transferred in early 1946.

Stationed at the State Police post in Romeo, Michigan, he met and married Jane Marie Weyer in August 1946. They raised five children:

Clarence Valentine SPAWR III (1947-)
Lucy Anne (1948-)
Michael Lynn (1951-)
Sally Jo (1953-)
Kari Kay (1957)

Lieutenant Clarence Valentine SPAWR Jr., retired from the Michigan State Police in January 1965. In 1968, he retired from the Michigan National Guard with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died suddenly in December 1980; our mother Jane died in December 1982. They were cremated and buried together in the SPAWR family plot at the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Moving toward the 21st Century

The last SPAWR with Valentine as part of the name is me. As a child, I was harassed by the name; even as an adult the ribbing was a long step beyond irritating. My Dad once told me that neither he nor his father had liked it either, that he had given me the name under pressure from his father: I guess everybody assumed it was part of his name because it was his father's name. Since Valentine L. SPAWR had died when his son was only a year old, there was nobody left to pass along the family history. Nobody seemed to know that there really was history behind the name.

The name Valentine in the SPAWR family goes back over 200 years, back to my great-great-great-great grandmother's maiden name...Anna Margaretta VALENTINE. It appears in almost every succeeding SPAWR generation down to and through my own. My own antipathy to the name was born of frustration and childhood taunting, and as a result, I did not pass the name...or the tradition...along to either of my sons. Now, in retrospect, I almost feel guilty at having inadvertently ended a 200+ year tradition. Had I been aware of the tradition, my attitude may have been different...maybe not. Oh well, life does go on.

The SPAWR lineage--and heritage--continue....my wife, Linda Sue (maiden name Cox) (1953-) and I were married on 31 December 1972 in the Alumni Memorial Chapel on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. We are raising two sons: Alexander Thomas Cox (1982-) and Ryan Christopher Cox (1984-). Alex's middle name "Thomas" was given in honor of Thomas J. SPAWR, who was killed in action during the Civil War in 1863 near Rolla, Missouri. I hope that one day their own family ancestral history will become as valuable and interesting to them as it is now to me, and help them to see themselves as I now see myself in a very special historical perspective.


To return to the SPAWR Family of American homepage, click here.

To return to the page describing Valentine L. SPAWR's life, click here.