Granny’s family is from North Carolina. Poppy’s family is from North Carolina. So how did we end up in Ohio, I wondered as a child. Poppy’s dad was the key.
My Poppy’s father, my great-grandfather, Everett Montague Sebastian, was born 29 January 1897 in Wilkes County, North Carolina, the oldest of ten children of Doctor Franklin Sebastian and Elizabeth Dowell. His father was a farmer.
On the 1920 census, Mont, at age 22, is listed as a “lodger” in the home of James Llewellyn at 12506 Lancelot Ave, Cleveland, Ohio. James’ two brothers and a sister are also living in the home. All four are listed as born in Ohio. However, their parents are listed as Welsh. All three brothers are listed as working as machinists in a factory while their sister is listed as the keeper of a boarding house.
Mont’s younger brother by four years, Earl, is listed with him as a lodger. Earl
is listed as an inspector and Mont is listed as a moulder in a factory. Since Earl is only 18, if they came together, I would guess they hadn’t been in Cleveland long. Four other men from North Carolina ranging in age from 21 to 23 are also listed as lodgers in the home and working in various capacities in a factory. The home is a mere 12 minute walk to the home his future wife, Shirley, is listed at on the 1920 census.
On 21 August 1922, Mont and Shirley married. They had three children, Betty Jane, Harry Lincoln, and Sybil Gladys. Not long after, Shirley passed away in 1927. Mont never remarried.
The 1930 census finds him and the three children living on Capitol Avenue next door to his sister-in-law and her family. He was renting the home for $20 a month and working as an inspector in a stove foundry. The 1930 census is the only census that asks if there is a radio in the home. Mont and the kids did indeed have one according to the census.
By 1940, Mont and son Harry are living alone at a rented home at 6615 Lucerne Ave. It is difficult to read the line on the census asking how long he had been unemployed prior to March 24, 1940. It appears to say 184, which would be 3.5 years. However it also states he made $635 the previous year. That amounts to $53 per month, $12 of which was going to rent in 1940. At the time of the census, Mont was “at public work” as a laborer on a paving project. When I first found this piece of information, I was quite excited. How interesting to think that my great-grandfather helped construct a Cleveland building, bridge, or road working for the Work Projects Administration.
This led me to research more about Mont’s place in history. The first half of 1935, Cleveland’s unemployment rate was a whopping 23%. The largest WPA project in America, the “East Shoreway” (I-90), was built in Cleveland, not far from where Mont lived. Is it possible he worked on this project? I was disturbed to find workers for the WPA were the brunt of jokes that they were lazy and that former WPA workers often found it difficult to find jobs afterward because their work ethic was questioned. A strong work ethic is one of the values my grandfather passed on to us, and I feel sure he learned it from his dad who grew up on a farm. I remember Poppy telling us he often watched people pull wagons full of fresh food home and asked his aunt why they could not get all that good food. Her response: “Harry, that’s aid. We don’t take aid.” In the end, by the time the WPA ended in 1942, about 27% of Cleveland families had survived the Great Depression thanks to WPA employment. For more information, see this article from Case Western Reserve University.
Mont passed away 22 March 1959 and was buried at Highland Park Cemetery with his wife.