The Wainwright Family of Essex County Massachusetts

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The Dame (Damm) and Noll Families

  Last Updated 27 May, 2011

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harles Everett Wainwright  married Anna Margarethe Dame  in 1938 and lived in East Boston. The search for the Dame family has been one of my more interesting pieces of detective work. The Dames have been known by that name only since about 1880. Before that, the family name was Damm. 

My research into the Damm/Dame line would be incomplete and untraceable were it not for two letters found by my mother during her genealogical research.  The first letter was written in January 1975 to my Uncle, Rev. John Dame  by a Mrs. Jane Hill Morey of Concord New Hampshire requesting his assistance in tracing her Dame ancestry.  John forwarded the letter to Dot Rogers  with a note on the bottom saying that he had referred Mrs. Morey to Dot.  The second letter was from Mrs. Morey to Dot Rogers, thanking her for the information she had shared on the phone.  She asked Dot to review the enclosed family history chart and make any additions she could remember.  The second page of this letter contained a Damm family history chart, including the names of Dot’s grandfather and his children.  She annotated the chart in ink with additional information.  

Dot’s immigrant ancestor, Michael Dame, was born the third son of John and Rebecca Damm in Darmstadt Germany around 1830. Michael and four of his siblings went to England about 1850 and, about 1857, traveled on to America. William Damm, the oldest, settled for a time in Williamsburg New York, then moved to Boston where, in his later years, he shared a home with Michael's widow Margaret.  John came to Boston much later than his siblings,  then moved on to places unknown.  Michael's younger brother Henry lived in England and in 1870 came to Boston to live near Michael with his wife Rachel and 10 children.  Sister Elizabeth arrived in Boston about the same time as Michael, married Frederick Shultz and ultimately settled in Chicago Illinois.

In census records Michael lists his occupation as Musician.  His first marriage to Katherine Noll, took place at All Saint's Church in Derby England and the couple had three children; Henry, Mary Katrina and Christopher.  Henry became a musician aboard a transatlantic steamer and died unmarried in Boston at the age of 24.  Mary Katrina appears in the Census for Boston in 1870 but no other record of her exists in Massachusetts.  Christopher, as we shall see, married Eva Schmidt and lived his life in Boston.

Michael traveled to America with his Noll in-laws, and we find them all living on the same block in the North End of Boston in the 1860 Census.  Katherine either did not survive the trip or died shortly after her arrival.  Michael married Margaret Kahlin Boston on 15 February 1859.  They had seven children, five of whom  lived to maturity:  Caroline married Peter Andersen from Sweden and, when she died in 1895, he married Caroline's sister Mary.   Caroline's twin sister Christiana married Peter Larson Walgreen from Holland but divorced him and married Henry Muller.  Henry married Lena --- from Germany.  Peter,  the youngest, moved to Rutland Massachusetts in Worcester County and married Eva Parker of Worcester.  These families remained close to one another right up to the Second World War.

In his later years, Michael made several crossings to Europe. He and his son Henry are listed in a passenger manifest of the Steamer Rhein  in 1870.  It was during one of these trips in 1880 that Michael died.  His widow Margaret died in Boston in 1892.

Throughout their lives, Michael and Margaret associated with the family of Michael's first wife.  Christopher Noll and his family never lived far from the Dames.  The two families even lived together in England before immigrating to Boston.  When Margaret returned to Boston from Germany, a widow in 1880 she lived with Christopher and his wife.  And when Michael's brother John came to America in 1880 he took up residence with Christopher's son Charles. 

Music seems to have dominated the lives of the Damm and Noll families.  While in England, Michael's father-in-law or brother-in-law served as a musician in the All Saints Church in Derbyshire.  In Boston, the building in which the immigrant Damm family lived was occupied primarily by musicians.  Michael and his son Henry .are listed in  the 1870 Census as musicians   Michael worked as a musician at a tavern run by his brother-in-law Christopher Knoll..  Christopher's son Charles also became a musician.

Although Michael's son Christopher lists his mother as Margaret in his 1881 marriage record, the date of birth he provides is over a year before Margaret's marriage to Michael.  It is more likely that Christopher is the youngest child of Michael and Katherine Noll Perhaps causing Katherine to die in childbirth.  In any case, it is reasonable to expect that Michael would have considered Margaret to be his mother.

In September 1881 Christopher married Eva Schmidt, a recent German immigrant.  From that time on, Christopher and the rest of his family used the name Dame.  Family tradition holds that Christopher changed his name because in English Damm was considered a profanity. 

Eva Schmidt’s origins have proven to be enigmatic, though some discoveries have shed some light on her background.  In 1900, Eva told the Census taker that she emigrated from Germany in 1878.   She often told her children that she was born in a German territory in France and had to leave when the Franco-Prussian War broke out.  The 1880 US Census for Oregon reveals that one Eva Schmidt was living in Portland, Oregon territory with William Schmidt, a bookkeeper from Germany.  Their relationship is unclear but they could have been married or siblings  The 1900 Census shows this William married to another woman and Eva is not listed in Oregon.  If this is our Eva, it would explain why she has been so difficult to trace.

Christopher, Eva, and their growing family appear in the US Census and City directories in Boston regularly though the turn of the century. Christopher and Eva had eight children, four of whom lived to maturity.  Their oldest, John William Frederick Dame married Bertha Laforet of Waltham and died in 1914.  Bertha was the daughter of an immigrant from the Alsace region of France and outlived her husband by decades, surviving as an active member of the Dame family until 1963. Gertrude Dame, born in 1888 married Joseph Haskins of Nova Scotia and also died in 1914.  Emma Louisa Dame, born in 1894 married John James Nuskey, the caretaker of Greater Brewster Island who drowned in 1940.  Emma lived as a widow until 1984. Christopher died in 1907 of Tuberculosis. 

William Michael Dame married Hedvig Margarethe Bjerring Osmo, a recent immigrant from Norway, in 1918.  They had three children; Anna, John, and Roy between 1919 and 1923.  In 1926, Hedvig returned to her native Norway with her children. John returned alone to America about 1931, and Anna returned to the US in 1936.  Hedvig and Roy remained in Norway until the conclusion of the war in 1945.  From Boston, William  initiated divorce proceedings against his wife, and they remained estranged for the remainder of their lives.  While the marriage did not last, their relationship did, and they were buried together in Everett Massachusetts.

Bill Dame's wife and son were unable to pay for their return passage to the US before hostilities broke out in Europe and Roy, a US Citizen, was marooned as a foreign national in Norway.  When the US entered the war, Roy's status changed to that of an enemy alien.

Because he was of military age he was offered his freedom in return for the renunciation of his US citizenship. This he did, but he was shortly thereafter inducted into the much hated Norwegian Quisling Army. Roy escaped to the safety of Sweden. He was interred in a camp there for the duration of the war.

Through the teens, twenties and thirties, the Dame family enjoyed summers on Greater Brewster Island.  The Caretaker of the island, John James “Peg-leg” Nuskey, husband of William’s sister Emma,  provided the lodging.  Many of the photos from that period on the island show that it was a time of great joy.  Jack Nuskey was the subject of a story “The King of Calf Island” written by Edward Rowe Snow in which the author implies that Nuskey’s death in 1940 was not accidental.  His wife pursued damages against Snow unsuccessfully.

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