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Elizabeth Geraldine Notley

by Carol Covin (and herself)

Here is a photo of my grandmother, Geraldine Notley, born 1882, in Worthington, Ohio, outside Columbus. Her mother graduated from Oberlin College; my grandmother from Kansas University, and my mother from the University of Michigan. When I graduated from George Washington University, my mother told me I was the fourth generation of women in our family to graduate from college.


My grandmother was not afraid of adventure. She joined her brother, an engineer, in Alaska for two years, and on the way home was recruited to teach in Nogales, Arizona, where she married and my mother and uncle were born. She told stories about Pancho Villa coming through and shooting up the town. However, my grandfather contracted syphilis and the family went to his family home in Vicksburg, Michigan when his health deteriorated. His mother decided to help out the young family by moving in with them after he was hospitalized, later building them all a new house in Ann Arbor, where my grandmother's sister-in-law had told her about an opening for a teacher at a new school for children hospitalized for prolonged illnesses at the University of Michigan Medical Center. My grandmother retired from that position years later, after both her children had finished college.

Below is a short autobiography she wrote. The photo is date unknown, but probably high school or college years. I saw her 1901 graduation photo at Baldwin City (Kansas) High School when I visited last fall. I am now transcribing letters from my great-grandmother to my grandmother from 1898 to 1927 that were in her cedar chest that my Mom gave me. 

[The following document was typewriter transcribed Nov. 1986 by Donald F. Notley from an original penciled manuscript of 1960. It was subsequently converted to a digital file by Charles S. Notley on March 10, 2015, to include some additional text, as indicated by brackets.]



Written c. 1960


            I was born on a cold winter night Dec. 16, 1882 in the little town of Worthington, Ohio, which is five miles north of Columbus. My parents, George W. and Frances Eliza, lived in my grandmother Tuller’s house. It was a large ten room house built by my grandfather Homer Tuller. He took my grandmother into this home as a bride. She was 26 years old and he was 39.


            My two sisters and my brother were all born in this home. My oldest sister Mary died the day she was born. This way my parent’s first great sorrow. My grandmother—Eliza Ann [Kilbourn] Tuller—was a deeply religious woman and an ardent Presbyterian. Our family had our pew in the little Presbyterian Church, which is still standing and there is a beautiful stained glass window given by my grandmother with the name Tuller in gold letters. When my brother was six weeks old my father left our home for Kansas. He never liked Worthington and did not return but once to visit us when I was about nine years old.


            We were supported by my grandmother from rents she collected from houses left to her. At times our standard of living was pitiful and my mother worried constantly over our finances.


            After my grandmother died at the age of 87 on April 1897 we moved to Baldwin, Kansas where my father had bought a 16-room hotel, the only one in the town. My sister Stella had graduated from the Worth High School and was ready at the age of 16 to enter college. Situated in Baldwin was a small Methodist college—so my sister entered and took courses required for teaching. At the age of 18 she was teaching in a country school near Baldwin. My brother and I entered the high school and graduated four years later.

            We were not adjusted to hotel living and my father dismissed his former help after we arrived—aside from the cook—and this threw the responsibility of the care of the rooms and waiting on tables onto the rest of us. I was assigned to the dining room and my mother felt that we were too closely related to commercial living which was a contrast to the manner which she had been brought up.


            When my brother and I were ready for college, my mother and the other members of my family, aside from my father, moved to Lawrence, Kansas and Walter and I entered the University of Kansas. Lawrence was our home for many years. My other took the last of her inheritance and bought a home. My sister secured a position in the Jr. High Dept. of the Lawrence schools. My first position was in the little town of Meriden, Kansas, a few miles from Topeka. I was Assistant Principal, and stayed there for three years with an advance in salary each year.


            I had a great desire to go out to western or mid-western Kansas, so secured a very nice position in Kingsley, which was a county seat town in the wheat belt. As the Board had just finished a large expensive building, they felt that any salary increase would be delayed several years. I decided that it would be wise to secure a Masters Degree, as that would be required at some future time, so returned at the end of one year to K.U. and spent a very pleasant and profitable year living with my mother at her house. The following year I was appointed to a high school position in Valdez, Alaska, a coast town on Prince William Sound. My brother who was a superintendent of a power plant, had secured the position for me. Those two years spent there were the most colorful in my entire life. I had the opportunity of seeing glaciers dead and active, waterfalls higher than Niagara, lakes made by beavers, snow 20 feet deep, and meting people from all over the world, including the man who discovered Mt. McKinley. [She is probably referring to William Dickey]


            On my way home, I decided to go down the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles, visiting relatives on my mother’s side. While in L.A. I met a school superintendent from Nogales, Arizona who was looking for teachers. After a short conversation he offered me a contract to teach in the high school. My summer was spent in Lawrence with mother and Stella. E were glad to be together again.


            Two years were spent teaching in Nogales. There I met my future husband—George Claire Notley from Vicksburg, Michigan. He was a graduate of the University of Chicago and felt we had much in common as both had traveled and bother were liberal in our religious views. We were married July 7, 1916 in my home in Lawrence—a very quiet wedding, as my mother was an invalid from arthritis at that time. We returned to Nogales where George held the position as U.S. Customs officer and court interpreter, as he was the only Spanish-speaking man in the service.


            Elizabeth Day was born April 14, 1917 in Nogales, the first grandchild on either side of the house. She was the joy of our lives and very popular with all our friends. When Betty was a year old we moved into a two-apt. house which we had built. September 6, 1919 Donald Francis was added to our family. Again our cup of joy was full and Betty was the proud possessor of a baby brother. When the children were still too young to enter school, we moved to Douglas, Arizona where their father had charge of the Customs Office. Our stay there was less than two years, as George’s health was failing and he wanted to return to his home in Michigan. He preceded our going about seven months. I dreaded the thought f living in a cold climate. I had loved the warmth and sunshine of Arizona and felt I would never be happy away from it. Little did I know then that I would spend more years in Michigan than in any other state that I had called home.


            George lived a little over two years, spending most of his time in a hospital in Kalamzoo. Mother Notley, the children and I lives in Vicksburg, Mich. In a small house, as she had sold her larger home after father Notley had died. The question of the support of my family and financial help to my invalid mother faced me, so I decided to return to my profession.


            We moved to Ann Arbor, Mich. Where I had been appointed as Director of the University Hospital School, located in the U.M. Hospital. My husband died that first year and Mother Notley and I decided that we would continue living in Ann Arbor, as the educational and cultural opportunities were abundant. We built a very lovely home in one of the new additions on Shadford Road. We were very happy there with many friends and pleasant neighbors. Both Betty and Don were baptized in the First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor where I was a member. Due to many home duties and no method of transportation, I did not attend church to any extent.


            I held by position as Director of the Hospital School for 24-1/2 years, resigning July 1, 1951. After much thought I decided to sell my home and move to Shawnee, Oklahoma, where Don was located as geologist for the Texas Oil Co. Don and his wife Bea finally consented to sell me their five-room home which was till new and attractive, and they would buy a larger house. So the most difficult move of my life was accomplished that summer. I felt that I was giving up the home that I loved and in which we had had so many happy years. The adjustment to a smaller house, new friends, and an entirely (new) life, was somewhat of a frustrating experience. Thoughts of past years were mingled constantly with new scenes. However I was happy in the realization that Don and Bea wanted me to live so near them. Their love and understanding helped me adjust to a new life. The children became so much a part of my thinking.


            Before my move to Shawnee and after the sale of my home in Ann Arbor, I spent three months in Betty’s home in Indianapolis. It was a most delightful visit. My previous visits had always been all too brief. During this time I had a chance to get really acquainted with her [husband Ray Frederick, and her] children, [Bob, Carol, and Bruce], and enjoyed every hour I was with them. The first months in Shawnee would have been much harder had I not been given these months in Betty’s home, surrounded by love and understanding.


            Ready-made friends awaited me in Shawnee, and before long I was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, thus adding to my list of new friends, and was later asked to be president of the older women Sunday School Class. For the first time in my life I had time and interest in joining worthwhile clubs. I was invited to be a member of one of the garden clubs, also a Circle in the Church. During my stay in Shawnee I made several trips to visit Betty and her family who had moved to Cedar rapids, Iowa. One trip was saddened by the death of my sister Stella in Lawrence. I was with her for six weeks preceding her death.


            My brother Walter, who still lived in Ketchikan, Alaska, died the following year. Our affection for each other was very close, as we were near together in years. Don was at this time connected with the Sinclair Oil Co. and in 1955 he was transferred to Lafayette, La. We sold our homes and build new ones in one of the most beautiful Additions in Lafayette called Bendel Gardens. Our homes were lovely indeed and the Gardens were like a large park. Lafayette is an old French town and the oil center for the Southwest. It is strictly a southern city with a large Negro population, one political party, and the Catholics have the greatest number of adherents.


            After living three years in this land of flowers the year ‘round, and a few miles from the Evangeline country, we moved to Tulsa, Okla. From here on, the history of the two families living here, is familiar to both of you [referring to Betty and Don]. Betty and family joined the caravan of movers and located in Richardson, Texas. The cousins had more opportunity to get acquainted, although visits were not frequent, as all members in both families had many business and professional interests.


[Although Geraldine Notley’s manuscript ends here, Don continues:


She might have added that in 1963 her son was transferred again, this time to Roswell, New Mexico. As in the past, she sold her Tulsa home and moved into an apartment in Roswell. While in Lafayette, Don had taken up with the Unitarians, and Geraldine Notley went along with this group right on through the transfer to Tulsa, where she was most active with the Unitarian womens’ groups and gain in Roswell. Geraldine (Stuart) Notley died of heart complications in a Roswell hospital on Dec. 8, 1963. She was buried a few days later next to her mother, in Lawrence, Kansas.]


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