March 20th, 2011

Interviewers: Jeff Woodard

Transcribed by Carol Herdien. Edited by Susan Hartzold.

JW: This is Jeff Woodward. Today is Thursday, March 10, 2011, and today I’m talking to Lucy J. Woosley. She‘s going to be sharing some information about her grandfather who migrated to McLean County in the early 1900s. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from?

I’m from here in Bloomington, Illinois. My parents are Darrell and Nicki Hardin. My dad worked for the Fire Department for 30 years. The last seven years he was the Chief of the Fire Department here in Bloomington.

JW: And you have children?

Yes, I have two boys and I have a brother and a sister. My brother’s name is Paul Hardin and my sister is Sandra Hardin Skelton. And my eldest son is Darrell, Jr., and then I have a son, Herbert. My husband’s name is Darrell. So there were three immediate Darrells in the family.

JW: Okay, where were you born, Lucy?

In Bloomington.

JW: Okay, and the reason why I thought I should talk to you today is because the Museum got in our hands a copy of a Declaration of Intention and also a Petition for Naturalization for a Pedro Chavez -- or a Chabes -- C h a b e s as it is spelled on the Naturalization Petition -- and that is your grandfather?

That’s right.

JW: What can you tell me about your grandfather?

He was born in Moroleón, Mexico. \[He\] worked at the railroad station, but he had traveled from Moroleón, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas. Then he and my grandmother got married in Kansas. Then they moved to Chenoa and then in 1919, I believe, they came here in Bloomington, Illinois.

JW: So, they first entered McLean County in maybe 1910?

I believe so, yes.

JW: And your grandfather, Pedro, he was born June 29, 1892.


JW: And now it says here, on his naturalization papers that he was white.

Okay. I didn’t notice that, but he is definitely a descendant from Mexico.

JW: I just noticed that.

I never even noticed that.

JW: And he says here that he was married October 18, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas, to Grace.

Right -- Salazar.

JW: Grace Salazar. So now we have Pedro Chabas, your grandfather, and your grandmother, Grace. When did they come to the United States?

June of 1903.

JW: And they were married in June of 1917.


JW: Okay, let’s trace their path again. Your grandfather came from MoroleónJW: , Mexico? They left Mexico, they came to Texas, and from Texas they went to Topeka, Kansas . . .

And then from Topeka, Kansas, they came to Chenoa.

JW: Okay, do you know where your grandfather met your grandmother?

No, I do not.

JW: We just have documents that say they were married in Topeka.

Correct. So I don’t know if my grandmother and her family came at the same time as my grandpa did or not.

JW: They entered the United States in El Paso, Texas, around about May 15, 1912. And they first went to Chenoa.


JW: And tell me about that. What do you know about his experience of coming to McLean County?

Unfortunately, I really don’t have any history of how. I know that he came to Chenoa because of the work on the railroad station, but I don’t know how they got here or anything else. Mother doesn’t know. I wish I had more history on how they got here and stuff.

JW: But you did mention that you know he did work for the railroad. Do you know which railroad he worked for?

G M & O, I believe it was.

JW: Any stories you want to share with me that maybe your mother shared with you about your family‘s history as Latinos coming to Illinois?

All she’s really ever said was that they had five kids; my grandma and grandpa, and they had one son that was born in and then died in Topeka, Kansas. And I did not have that done there. And then the rest of the kids were born in Chenoa, except for my uncle, the youngest . . . no, I have an uncle and an aunt that was born here in Bloomington. Mother never really did talk that much about her family. She said that my grandfather had a sister who still lived in Mexico, and that my grandfather had an oil well. And my grandfather’s sister was wanting my grandfather to sell the oil well to her. I guess he did, and I wish I could find out somehow where in Moroleón he had this oil well. And he was born in a state -- and I’m not sure how to pronounce it. It’s spelled G u a n a j u a t o.

JW: So, he was born in the state of Guanajuato.

And there are two different places . . .

JW: Yeah, it says that it was two different places where he was born -- it looks like they made a change.

Also, on my grandmother, one is San Francisco, Mexico, and the other one is San Francis, Mexico.

JW: San Francee? This is probably an error; it‘s probably a typo.

Well, neither one of them could speak any English, so whatever . . .

JW: So, you do have an aunt and an uncle that were born in McLean County? In Bloomington?

Yes, in Bloomington.

JW: Do you have any recollections or memories of their life here?

They are both still alive. My uncle was born on December 20, 1928.

JW: And his name?

Pedro. He was named after my grandfather. And then my aunt, Delores (I call her Di). She was born on May 13, 1932 here. And then, like I said, my mother was born June 28, 1924, in Chenoa. She has a sister that was born in Chenoa on November 21, 1923.

JW: Now, what’s her name?

Her name is Santo.

JW: It looks here that she says on the Petition for Naturalization, Santos Chabas, female, Chenoa, Illinois.

And my mother, Pauline, \[was born\] June 28, 1924. And then I have an aunt \[Casemeada Chavez Prather\], her nickname is Lupe. I cannot find the papers that has her real birth name on it.

JW: Lupe Chabas . . .

. . . was born March 3, 1927, in Chenoa.

JW: Okay, so this during the Great Depression in McLean County. What did they do for a living? What did your aunts and uncles do for a living? Your grandfather worked for the railroad. His kids, his daughter and his son, what did they do?

I think most of my aunts were really just housewives. I have two aunts who had seven kids, so they didn‘t have time to go out and work. They had to stay home and take care of the children. And then my Uncle Pete (it’s what I call him, it’s Pedro) he worked at St. Joe’s Hospital for 30 years here in Bloomington. My mother; she had various jobs. She had worked at Livingston’s Department Store and then she worked at Eureka-Williams. She worked for a tomato factory and then her last job was at Beich’s Candy Company.

JW: And this is your mom?

Yes, this is my mother.

JW: And her name again is --


JW: And she was born in 1924 in Chenoa.

JW: Okay, so she worked outside of the house.

Yes, she did, and I believe she was the only female that worked outside the house.

JW: Your grandfather is no longer living?

No, he passed away in 1950. And my grandmother passed away in 1946.

JW: His wife, Grace, she passed in 1946.

They both had tuberculosis.

JW: I guess what strikes me is that a lot of time the history is not there and it’s passed down by word of mouth. Were your grandparents religious at all?

They were Catholics.

JW: And they worshiped in the Catholic Church?


JW: Which one, do you know?

St. Patrick’s. I have a certificate that is my uncle’s, and on the certificate it says that he was baptized at St. Pat’s Church, and they have Felix Pedro Chabas on here.

JW: Okay, so your uncle Pedro who is listed as Felix Pedro Chavas, the child of Pedro Chavas and Grace Salazar, was baptized. Certificate of Baptism, St. Patrick’s Church, 1209 West Locust Street, in Bloomington.


JW: And that took place the 20th day of December, 1928. So your uncle was baptized here on Locust Street. That’s interesting. And of course your aunt and uncle are both retired?


JW: Lucy, when were you born?

July 30, 1944.

JW: And do you have children?

I have the two sons, yes.

JW: I think we talked about that.

Yes, we did.

JW: What else do you have for me today?

I have that in McLean County Circuit Court that they had been a resident of Illinois since 1919. But I’m not . . . I think that’s probably wrong because they were in Chenoa first. And isn’t Chenoa in McLean County?

JW: Yes.

So, I don’t know. It had to be a lot sooner than that because that‘s saying that . . . well it says they were residents of Illinois since April of 1919.

JW: To U.S. from Moroleón, to El Paso, Texas, May 1, 1910, on foot. Declaration of Intent March 21, 1941; Circuit Court McLean Count; Resided in Illinois since April 1919. And then of course there are witnesses here. Lee C. Rogers had a grocery business and James J. Medgar who was unemployed. So, it looks like they took an oath of allegiance on September 18, 1943. Oh, yes, and this is the picture he used for his naturalization, and then the other one is your grandma?


JW: She is very young.

Yes, she was 15 when they got married. And her father had to sign for her marriage certificate because she was so young.

JW: And this was in Topeka?

Yes, that was in Topeka. And the only thing I have on my grandmother is her dad’s name since he had to sign the marriage certificate, and it didn’t say what his was . . .

JW: Nicholas . . .


JW: That was your mom’s dad?

That was my grandmother’s dad. She was 15 and he was 25 and it was done in 1917.

JW: I would also like to make some copies of the other things you have here. Also, if there are any documents, any railroad papers . . .

I went to the GM&O on the Internet and there were so many Chavas or Chabas, and it looked like there was quite a bit of the “P’s” which would be Pedro, so I could not find anything. I wish I could find a listing of where my grandpa worked for the railroad.

JW: I don’t know what the situation is, but it may be possible that your mother may have some documents or something.

I’ll check and see that, or see if my uncle . . . Uncle Pete and Aunt Dolly were the last two that was living with Grandpa before he passed away.

JW: In Bloomington --


JW: Do you know where your Grandfather Pedro is buried?

St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bloomington here. I think it is. I wish I could go further back. I really do, but I don‘t know where to find the information.

JW: Well, we’ll have some people this fall working on our project and maybe perhaps through that we may be able to find someone that could help you do that.

That would be wonderful. The reason we started this is my sons are getting older and right now I don’t think that they are really interested in the family history. I wasn’t until about 10 years ago, and then I got to thinking it would be neat to find out where my grandparents came from — on both sides. And then I thought, well, someday they may need the family history of what their grandmothers and grandfathers died of. Because as we get older — did your family have this disease or that disease? And this is the reason that got me started on it. And then I thought my folks’ grandparents are from Mexico. I would like to find out how far back I can go to see if maybe I still have relations there. And some day I would like to go there just to see if they have any records of my grandparents. I would love help getting more information on this.

JW: Well, we will see what we can do. We got a pretty good start there. You’ve got documents -- fabulous documents in these naturalization papers. Is there anything else you can think of?

No, not really. I know in order to get the marriage certificate for my grandparents I had to have my mother sign her name on a letter that I had wrote to them asking for a copy of the marriage certificate.

JW: Okay, so your grandfather -- his place of residence was 903 North Poplar Street?


JW: And his occupation was listed as a section laborer, and he was listed as being 51 years of age at that time, and you said he passed away when he was --

In 1950.

JW: And he’s buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery.


JW: Does he have a grave marker?

Yes, he does.

JW: And your grandmother, Grace?

She’s buried next to him.

JW: And she worked outside of the home?

No, I don’t believe that Grandma did.

JW: She didn’t have an opportunity then?

No. She had tuberculosis and she was in the Sanitarium for quite some time.