Homer Derr: An Uncle Who Lived South Dakota and Other Interesting Places

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, August 27, 1912:Our company came today. Didn’t study very much this evening.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Who came? And, why were they four days—4 days!!!—late?

On Saturday, August 24 Grandma had written:

We’ve been expecting company for the last several days, but it seems to be as if they aren’t coming. It seems to be the luck around here.

The guest(s) must have come from a great distance. .  . Did they come by train?

I suppose that all of the plans had been made by exchanging letters—and that when there was a delay the guests had been unable to inform the Muffly’s of the change in plans.

The visitors could have been anyone. (Grandma—How could you possibly have forgotten to write in your diary the names of visitors who apparently came from afar?)

I do know that Grandma’s mother’s (Phoebe Derr Muffly) had a brother, Homer Munro Derr,  who lived in South Dakota in 1910. He was the family adventurer and academic. Homer was ten years younger than Phoebe.

According to information posted on the Rootsweb site:

In the 1910 Census, Homer Munro Derr, was a college professor at Brookings, South Dakota. The Rootweb site also indicates that:

February 5, 1872—Born in Pennsylvania

1900—School teacher, Manhattan, New York

1904—Physics professor, Epworth College, Oklahoma

1910—College professor, Brookings, South Dakota

1920—Engineer for the state, Minneapolis, Minnesota

1930—Mathematics Professor, Montgomery (Fayette County), West Virginia

May 31, 1958—Died in Los Angeles, California

Homer was married to Anna and in 1910 had one daughter, Coralie. They later had a second child, Steven.

And, here is the picture I “clipped”  Homer out of. It also shows Grandma’s mother Phoebe, their parents, and other siblings.

John and Sarah Derr Family. Taken about 1900. L to R. Front Row: John, Annie (Derr) Van Sant, Sarah. Back Row: Miles, Fuller, Alice (Derr) Krumm, Elmer, Phoebe (Derr) Muffly, Judson, Homer

An aside—If I’d cleaned and cooked for guests on Saturday, I won’t still be prepared the following Wednesday. I guess people were just more flexible back then.

17 Responses

  1. They must of been real careful not to mess things up waiting for company.

    • I wonder if they’d given up on the company ever coming–and were surprised when the person actually arrived; or if it was just par for the course in those days for people to come on dates other than the anticipated arrival date.

  2. Thank you for sharing this trip back in time with us. I invite you to visit my blog and I will be back to visit you. Hugs, Barbara

  3. So glad to see someone else using Rootsweb. We travel a lot and seem to be an adventurous couple, so I wonder what our descendants will say about us. When you live 92 days in a pickup truck with two tents for shelter…in the Canadian and Alaskan wilderness…well, family members probably do have reason to call us adventurous…or a few other terms, I think.

    I think I like Uncle Derr. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great photo of the family. I think Helena takes after her mother and grandmother. People definitely had more patience then we do today. If it was my company we would have had “buckets” of chicken waiting if they were this late! ;) I also like Uncle Homer, he does have the look of an adventurer! Blessings – Patty

  5. Great family photo and love how people had more formality about group photos rather than the haphazardness of today when there is always one hiding behind another. I wonder if it was posted in the paper of the times of who was visiting. When they did this, who did the posting? The visitors or the visitees? I have an old family obituary that notes as a separate article who traveled to the funeral and where they came from “so and so left such and such college to attend her uncle’s funeral”. They would not be able to keep up with today’s travels nor would we be looking for it in the paper if it were now and I guess Twitter and facebook replaced all of that.

    • I grew up in the same rural area where Grandma lived. When I was a child, the local newspaper reported when someone came to visit, who attended a baby shower, and so on. Each little hamlet in the paper’s circulation area had a “local” reporter. Whenever my family got company, my mother would call the local reporter and tell her who had come to visit–and the it would appear in the paper a few days later.

  6. These family histories seem to branch out in all directions. I know when I look at my own tree… I start to feel so connected to so many people I don’t know that it seems easy to be connected to the whole human race. I hope your Grandmother enjoyed learning about her guests and sharing life stories.

    • I also find that family histories branch in all directions. I try to stay focused on my core research interests–but sometimes a distant relative intrigues me and I can’t resist doing a little research.

  7. He certainly enjoyed longevity, that’s really something given when he was born, I beleive the average life span for a male born then was probably much shorter. They’re a dapper looking group. I see the mustache was a certainty, what a great photo.

    • A number of my ancestors from that generation lived to ripe old age. Grandma’s father Albert Muffly was 92 when he died. Her mother (Homer’s sister) didn’t live quite as long. She was 79 when she died.

  8. Love the way you tie this all together! I would also like to know why there seems to have been one old guy with the weird crazy beard assigned to each family photo of this era? Variations of this guy is thru out all our family pix as well :)

    • You’re right, it does seem like one guy has one of those crazy beards in most group photos from this era. They always make me think of a couple of US presidents who had crazy beards–maybe Garfield or Hayes.

  9. […] 1910 census indicates that one son, Homer, was a college professor living in Brookings, South Dakota. How did he get the message about his […]

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