Friday, February 21, 2014

#5 - Flora G Bancroft Knows How To Live Large

Flora Bancroft Manages to Get Through it All

“Most people are good-natured as long as nothing is bothering them at the moment.” said some sage.
Our ancestors had to take every day as they found it like I do—not knowing the tragedies or the small triumphs ahead. Flora seems to have been thrust into situations beyond her control but to have come out looking like she sailed through life without a worry. That’s what I call living large.

Flora was my mother’s father’s mother, the only daughter of PS Bancroft and Bella Brinker. When I heard my grandfather’s recollection of his own youth, and pieced it together with the facts, I realized she had a long stretch of rough patches.

Early Years, the Farm and Loss
She was born to Isabell S. Brinker (aka Bella)- of old Butler, PA family-and Peter S Bancroft in 1867, just two years after the Civil War.  A brother Earl followed in 1868, and Grove in 1869. 

Unfortunately when she was 7 her mother died, leaving her father with a farm, 3 children too young to work it (Earl was 6 and Grove was 5 ). After the Civil War, her father, PS Bancroft had only one good arm.  With a household and no wife and a sole arm, he was forced to turn from farming to education, and so the family moved to Butler, PA. (Remember the post-war economy was in a severe recession.)

While Butler, PA was a city, it was a city in the country, benefiting from the Plate Glass Company, and other industries that fed into Pittsburgh, the nearest large city.

Butler - Finding Friends and A Husband
Story has it that Flora married her husband William H Tilton (also a relative newcomer to Butler) “on the rebound” from a would-be boyfriend. 

Flora Bancroft Tilton abt 1905

Whether that is true or not, they weren’t very compatible. Possibly Flora knew and liked his parents, the respectable Henry A Tilton and Louisa (Copes). Henry was high up in management, coming from Brooklyn to Butler for his job .
His son (Flora's husband) William Tilton “clerked”at Plate Glass, but was enamored with hunting and fishing. Willliam was not at all like Flora’s father—professor, writer, educator, nor was he  career-minded as his own father.  He was content to fish, hunt, smoke his pipe.

Wiliam H Tilton abt 1908
WH Tilton with rabbits abt 1910
Having no mother (her father never remarried), and no sisters, and no close aunts, Flora seemed to associate with female friends: the McNair sisters (who she would later become related to by marriage).
Flora-far left-with McNairs early 1900s
And she was especially close to her husband’s sister Isabella Tilton Roe. 

WH Tilton's sister, Belle Tilton Roe,1895

Possibly it was Isabella (or Belle) helped her get through when Flora’s 29 year old brother Grove died in 1899 at 29—leaving a widow and a little girl. A year later Flora & William had a baby (Henry Addison) in 1900, but he died in 1901 at less than a year old—a devastating loss.  The closeness of Belle Tilton Roe & Flora Bancroft Tilton can be measured her second (and last) child's name: named after Belle Tilton Roe’s husband, Charles. Charles Bancroft  Tilton was born in 1902.

While the Tiltons and Bancrofts were educated for that era, they weren’t wealthy. My grandfather said "we were the  genteel poor.”  But PS Bancroft kept busy with the newspaper and William Tilton had a job. Still, PS Bancroft was a widower with a small income, so he lived with Flora, her husband, and my grandfather (Charles).  Charles recalls a youth of sitting with his grandfather while his parents sat in a separate room—I get the impression the PS was fine with having an inquisitive little boy around while William Tilton might have wished for quiet to smoke & read the paper….that’s speculation.

William Tilton liked to smoke: pipes and cigars...and did so often.
Then at some point, he got quite ill (I think cancer)—an industry magazine ran this announcement: 

from the: National Glass Budget Weekly Review of the American Glass Industry, July 24, 1915, p. 5

Tilton Leaves Standard Plate 
After 23 years continuous service William H Tilton has resigned his position with the Standard Plate Glass Co at Butler, Pa.  Mr. Tilton was at the head of the invoicing department and is regarded as a very efficient office man.  He is the son of Henry A Tilton, deceased, who was at one time general manager of the Standard company.”
Loss Upon Loss
Less than a year after her husband quit working (due to poor health, I think), her father, PS Bancroft, got sick and died within 10 days in early May 1916.  At the same time, her husband’s health was worsening—a month later on June 16, 1916, William Tilton died.

It was the summer of 1916, not yet World War I, and Flora lost her mother, a brother, a father, a son and a husband. 

Her son was 13 ½ and in school. She had no real skills nor job training, no means of support. She had no real property to sell–the farm in Meadville, PA, which had belonged to her fathers’ family, had been a casualty of the post-war recession.

Flora went to her local dress shop – the same dress shop she used to buy her dresses in— and worked there for a time. 

Remarriage and a Setback
When she was a widow, a certain Alexander Patrick Moore (Paddy) courted Flora, persisting till she finally agreed to marry, which they did in 1922 (my grandfather was 19 or 20). 
But the newlyweds didn’t fare well financially  to put it mildly. My understanding is that Flora hoped for some financial security entering into the marriage—and found the opposite.  Family lore says Mr. Moore had business setbacks in the early to mid-1920s from which he never recovered, financially. He was also quite traumatized. 

Charles went away to colleges, going as far away as Penn State (State College) where he had a full scholarship.

After Charles graduated in the mid-1920s, he managed a large dairy farm in PA. He realized his mother and stepfather where in dire straits financially and so he convinced the owner to allow the Moores to stay for free in the very rudimentary house (little more than a shack) on the farm property. (In 1927, her only other brother, Earl Bancroft died in Butler).

Paddy Moore & Flora, NY late 1920s

A Daughter-in-Law & Grandchildren

After this point, for the most part (except for a couple years, possibly) wherever Charles and Elizabeth (Tyson, his wife) lived, Flora (and Paddy Moore when he was alive) lived with them: in their early years in Westchester, NY,  in Philadelphia, and in Biglerville, PA and other places in Adams County, PA.

This is a
n exceptionally rare occurence where the mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law were fine under one roof; it seems there was tranquility in the arrangement.

Flora’s final days with the Tiltons were sunny and bright—despite the financial and social upheavals of the mid-20th century with the Depression of the 1930s, and World War II.

My grandparents had nothing but positive memories of her long stay with them. Flora was absorbed into Elizabeth Tyson's family: she is often mentioned in her daughter-in-law's "Tyson Family News" which was circulated to Tyson family members during World War 2. 

Flora died in Gettysburg,  Adams County, PA in 1949 in her 82nd year. 

Billy Tilton, Chas Tilton, Mardy Tilton, Flora
Ann (with cat) & Mardy and Flora, 1940s, Adams Co, PA


  1. My mother (Margaret Tilton Walmer) loved Nanna so. She told us stories of her, the most memorable being that Nanna had something amiss with her feet (bunions? corns?) and that whenever Mom came near her, Nanna would remind her to be careful of them. In her little-girl excitement, Mom invariable stepped, with all her little-girl weight, on Nanna's poor feet, making her wince and howl. Mom always feel so bad about that.

  2. I heard she had fashion sense, too. Did you hear that?

  3. A big thank you (all these years later) for posting this about Flora. I found this while looking into her father Peter. The little I know of him is here:


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