George Shelby Edminster
1904 – 1990
George Edminster was my husband’s dad. Here’s his life’s story, fleshed out by memories of those who knew and loved him.
The City of Tonganoxie Kansas was, and is a small town in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Originally a rural farming area with many German, Irish, English and other settlers, Tonganoxie as well as Basehor, Fairmount and other small communities is now a part of the Kansas City Metro area. Edminsters were settled in the region before 1880 and it was here that George was born on April, 4, 1904, the second child of Reuben Walter and Anna Marie (Neust) Edminster.
Reuben and Anna were married in Akron, Ohio August 6, 1901 and their first child, Lillian Della Marie was born there on March 20, 1902. Before George was born in 1904, the family had moved to Kansas, and and it was there that sisters Mildred Hattie (March 20, 1906) and Florence Louretta (February 1, 1909), and brother Clyde Dale (December 8, 1914) were added to the family. Sometime in 1917, at the urging of friends, the Edminsters pulled up stakes and moved to the Townsend, Montana area to become wheat farmers only to find over a four year period, that drought, hail and other natural disasters would end their dream. In 1920 the family was enumerated on the U.S. Census as living in the Ray Creek School District and two more children had been born there. Reuben eventually returned to his vocation of Plasterer and they moved to Helena, Montana. The youngest son, Reuben Walter, Jr. was born in St. Regis in 1925 during the move from Montana to Washington State.
According to family stories, George had his first job changing fuses at Leavenworth prison….these were the fuses that controlled power to the prison’s electric chair! Now George would have been quite young, only 12 or 13 years old at that time so you may draw your own conclusions about this employment, but he always maintained that the Leavenworth Prison job was his first employment. Troubles between George and his Father led to George leaving home when he was about 15 years old. He got a job installing telegraph or telephone lines, and at some point found himself in Michigan where he met a sweet young girl named Beatrice Ruth Sherman. Ruth, as she was called, was the daughter of William Clay and Johannah (Hartwell) Sherman and she was born in Michigan on June 4, 1907. But Johannah wasn’t ready for Ruth to marry, especially to a mere lineman and so Ruth was sent out to Helena, Montana to attend school. Coincidentally, the job George was on went right through Helena so he took the opportunity to find her…..and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ruth and George were married on December 21, 1923 and were the parents of two sons, both born in Montana. As George’s job moved gradually westward so moved the family, eventually settling in Olympia Washington on Scammell Avenue. Since George was an electrician he sent away for a Home Study course for electricians and both he and Ruth studied it. In 1933 Ruth gave birth to stillborn twins and in her weakened condition contracted diptheria and died on November 29. Ruth is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Olympia.
George married second, Geraldine Eels, daughter of Chester C. and Daphne Loomis Eels. During their married life, George and Geraldine sold the Scammell Avenue house and bought an old farm in the South Union area near Deep Lake. The farm house had burned down and the barn on the property was so old that every time the wind came up the top of the barn would shift about 18 inches away from the rest of the structure. So the first project was to convert the double car garage into a house. After that a bunk house was built for hired men, fences were repaired……only then was it time to go out and start buying the cattle, chickens, horses and pigs that were part of farm life. George and Geraldine also put in fruit trees and a large garden. At one time the couple had 23 cows, four horses and 49 pigs…and of course that meant that a new, larger barn was needed. So with the help of Chester and Ed Eels and three hired men, a 100 foot barn with horse stalls, calf pens and a bull pen was erected. There was also space for the milk cows and of course a large hay loft complete with a track for the hay fork, and a silo. George and Geraldine had two children, John Shelby, b. February 6, 1936 and Rosalie Hope, b. September 21, 1938, both now deceased. Geraldine died February 15, 1941 of complications resulting from a blood clot.
Evelyn Virginia Gribble became George’s third wife. While they were living at the farm George had an old Fordson tractor, but since it didn’t work very well he bought a pair of strawberry roan work horses to use instead. They were very beautiful, and great work horses until one day when George had them out plowing and the plow unearthed an underground yellow jacket’s nest. The team bolted and raced off, only to crash into a fruit tree where both horses were killed. After that George decided to go back to using tractors and bought a Ford Ferguson and all the equipment that went with it. Another purchase was a Model “T” dump truck with a ruxel transmition. Evelyn and George had one child. Evelyn died March 5, 1947.
On July 6, 1948 George Edminster married Nena Althea (Jones) Stoehr, a widow. Nena and George proceeded to raise the families each brought to the marriage and also had two children of their own. The first several years of their married life George and Nena lived in Tenino Washington, but still owned 10 acres on Deep Lake Road near the farm George bought during his marriage to Geraldine. Eventually George decided to build another home out on the 10 acres. In the process of building it was discovered that the ground out there was mostly solid rock and so George proceeded to remove rock little by little to make room for a homesite. When he found the rock made an excellent building material he faced all the exterior surfaces with the granite.
Neighbors next to the new house had cows and noticed George was putting up an electric fence for his own stock, so the farmer asked about it and of course was told how “hot wire” fences worked. The farmer thought it was a good idea and installed his own electric fence. However, a few days later the farmer stopped in again and was furious because his heifer had died after touching the new fence. What George found out was that the farmer had hooked up his fence directly to a 110 power source without adding a transformer!!!
George loved God and for some time was a minister in addition to his job at Puget Sound Power and Light (now Puget Sound Energy). There’s an old story that two missionaries came by to see him while he was in the process of digging a well, and of course they wanted to tell him about their beliefs. He agreed to listen to them if after they finished they’d give him the same amount of time to hear what he had to say…..at the end of the conversation both of the men agreed to convert to George’s faith and attend his church.
A newsletter for Puget Sound Power and Light retirees carried the following article about George:
MARRYING PEOPLE IS HIS HOBBY by Art Kramer
George Edminster, retired General Line Foreman in Olympia, is known for his cheerfulness, sincerity and constructive attitude. He is also an ordained minister in the Evangelican Christian Church. Prior to retiring from Puget Power in 1969, he and his wife, Nena, built a new home near Millersylvania State Park, just south of Olympia, designed with a large living room to accommodate 40 people. It is a very attractive room.
Here in retirement he has happily married at latest count 35 couples. His wife freely admits that, as elesewhere, some do not stay married, “In fact,” she says, “one couple has come back to be re-married three times. But,” she added, “George’s funerals are very final.”
The knots are tied in front of the fireplace in a traditional wedding ceremony. Young couples like the homey and rural setting. Weddings are a blend of solemnity and good cheer. They are meaningful. George’s popularity stems from his many friends and from farm groups such as the local Grange. Couples of all ages come to be married at the Edminster home.
George and Nena share solid values, live a happy, essential life, and to them to continue into retirement his avocation of a minister is a pleasurable experience.
There are many things that can be said about George Edminster. He was a Minister, a Line Foreman, a farmer, a husband and father. But most importantly he was loved by those who knew him.
George and Ruth