George Henry Laber b 20 Dec 1894

George Laber was born 20 December 1894 in Barton Vermont.  He was the sixth of nine children of Frank T and Lizzie (Laclair) Labor.  (All of Frank’s children used the “er” spelling of their last name.)  In 1900, George lived with his parents and siblings in Barton.  I have not been able to find the Laber family in the 1910 census, but they should have been living in Lebanon, as that is where the younger children were born.

George’s daughter (name omitted as she is still living) has written up quite a bit of her immediate family’s history, and is the source for much of the anecdotal information.  She stated that George H. Laber “went to Strafford, VT to work in the mica mines when he was 18 years old.  He met a cute girl there who was free with her intentions and he married her.  In a matter of weeks, he returned from work to find her in bed with another guy.  He divorced her while she was pregnant further along than he had known her.  That was his first wife.”  For a long time, I did not have the name of this first wife.  When Ancestry released a lot of vital records from VT, I was able to identify his first wife as Effie Inez Chapman, who was just short of her 18th birthday.  They were married in Thetford, VT 1 July 1912.  According to later census records, Effie had already had a son a full year before she married George.  While looking through photocopies of Plainfield NH records for information on a different relative, I recently “rediscovered” the marriage information about Effie.  I had it for years, and didn’t know it.  But what else I didn’t notice was that the Plainfield records also had a daughter listed for George and Effie – Edna Irene Laber b 31 Jan 1913.  I found no other records for that child, so don’t know if she died young, or was adopted out.

George’s daughter believes that he met Helen who was a neighbor of George’s sister Lana.  There is no information as to how long they dated or details of their wedding but it was always believed by the older generation that daughters should get married off as soon as possible before they could get into trouble, so it is believed that they did not necessarily have a long engagement.  George, now divorced, married Helen Marie Brooks on 9 April 1915 in Lebanon NH.  He was a farmer and she was a mill operator.  The 1915-1916 city directory for Lebanon lists George as an employee at C&R mill, h 11 Mahan, with Mrs. B Nash, his mother-in-law.  George’s WW1 Draft registration card requests exemption due to his “wife and right eye”.  At that point, he was listed as an unemployed machinist, living at 7 Foundary Street.  In 1920, he was renting a house in Lebanon.

George had left the mining job and was hired as a handy man on a farm which included a house in which to live. Their first child was born about four years after they were married. He had to drive Helen ten miles by horse and buggy over dirt roads to get to the nearest hospital. After the birth, they bought a small 4-bedroom house in Lebanon near Helen Marie’s mother “Lizzie” (Cotta).  The house had water, sewage and a small shed.  They were able to raise chickens, farm a small garden and can vegetables for the winter.  They installed lights and an indoor flush closet, which were rare commodities once you left the main streets and entered the country.

George had four children, one of which died at the age of nine months. The family lore is that the baby choked on an apple skin and went into convulsions.  However, his death record says “fermentative diarrhea.”  Another daughter was born in 1922, and a son in 1927. 

George and Helen continued to do fairly well for uneducated people of the times.  During this time they were able to completely pay off their home while George worked in the local mill.  Helen made all of their clothes except long johns, hats and shoes.  She cooked all their meals and canned for winter.  George belonged to a couple of clubs and took up the collection on Sunday at the Baptist Church where Helen belonged to a Women’s Group and the eldest daughter went to Sunday school.  Helen often took her to afternoon movies and church picnics. The Laber family, which was made up mostly of George’s brothers and sisters, all lived relatively close to each other and would often walk the one-mile distance to gather at Frank T. Labers house for an afternoon of cards or share a holiday meal.

Helen and a woman friend had gone back to Plainfield to visit some old high school friends when they happened to drive past a deserted farm in Meridan, with a “For Sale” sign in front.  It must have looked like a Norman Rockwell painting to her because the apple trees in the orchard were all in bloom with a big barn contrast against a panoramic view of the mountain in the background.  Helen and George decided that this was the home that they wanted, so they put a deposit down on the farm and found a buyer for their house. It wasn’t too long after this that it seemed like all of a sudden their world began to fall apart.  During a title search, it was discovered that there had been a lien placed on the farm which George had to pay off.  Helen’s mother divorced her fourth husband and now needed money, so George moved his family in to live with her.  About the same time, Helen became pregnant with the fourth child. The mill where he worked had closed down and George Henry was now out of a job.  He was able to find work in the lumber yard but it only lasted about two years.

In June, 1927, George’s wife committed suicide, leaving him to care for their three small children.   In shock over Helens untimely death, George was never the same man again. He could not sell the farm since there had been no will, and according to law, two-thirds of the sale price had to be set aside for the children.  Being unable to sell the farm, and with very little work available, he was prevented from getting a fresh start.

In order to provide some assistance and support, George’s brothers and sisters had offered to take the three children into their separate homes until something more permanent was established. George wanted to keep the children together and did not favor the idea of splitting up his family, so he posted a “Help Wanted” ad for a house keeper in the Boston Globe. Shortly thereafter, a woman called Lillian Jones arrived answering to the ad with a young boy she called “Albert”. She had wild black hair and a face heavily painted with rouge. Since George needed someone to look after the children while he looked for work in other localities, he had to make a decision quickly.  Ms Jones was hired and she did not appear to be a very good housekeeper. The house had no running water and that didn’t help matters much either.

Having maintained “Lillian Thomas Jones” as a housekeeper for three years, pressure was now placed on George by his family and Helen’s mother to either get married or find someone else more permanent for the kids. George and the housekeeper were married on June 30, 1930.  This was the first time that the children ever heard the name of the new step-mother actually being Elizabeth Ellen Thomas.   She was 35 years old when she came to live with the family and had previously lived in the Boston area with her other brothers and sisters. About the time that Albert was born, she moved to Concord, N.H. with no reason given.  Although George and Elizabeth were married, the Laber children never really got along with the step-mother and knew very little about her past because she told so many different stories. The first daughter looked for residence elsewhere during her teenage years and left home to live with her aunt and uncle. The son left at an early age for a career in the Navy.

Work was hard to find, yet when the state started to improve the state road below the farm, George was hired as a helper. When that work was completed, the Perroni Construction Company offered George a job on the highway being built from Boston to Worcester, Mass.  George leased the farm and stored the belongings in a shed and began to follow the construction company wherever there was work. Since there were no mobile homes at the time, the family continually relocated with each move as the road work completed. The family moved nearly a dozen times within the following two years. Sometimes the two adults and four children would sleep in two or three rooms but usually all four children would sleep in one bed. When the lease on the farm was up, they would return to it poorer than when they left it and find that their personal belongings were either damaged or stolen.   

Besides his own children, George raised Elizabeth’s son, and they adopted a daughter as well.  George died 4 November 1944. It was speculated that he died from a heart attack or a sugar attack, since it was reported that he had a mild case of sugar diabetes

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