17 August 1912: 601 Rosenberg Avenue: The striking but somewhat ponderous Post Office and Customs House building was completed in 1891 on the southern edge of the downtown district at the southeast corner of Rosenberg and Church. The supervising architect was Nicholas Clayton, from designs of other architects in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, described by Julian Ralph in an 1895 article in Harper’s Weekly, as “of strictly northern form, put up by the Federal government, and such as would dignify a northern or eastern town, jars on the eye here as being massive, heavy, cold and stuffy.” The tower which could be seen all over Galveston bears a striking resemblance to the First Presbyterian Church in Houston. Out of view to the right was the Seaboard Lumber and Milling Company, rendering the neighborhood dusty and noisy, not highly desirable.The visible block was occupied largely by blue collar workers of both white and black races. At the corner of 26th at 2603 Church Street (1911) was Henry Davis (c, in the index, referred to colored residents), a porter; 2605 - Samuel H. Goodman, a peddler; 2609 - Henry P. Wightman, a packer at Thomas Goggan & Bros piano and sheet music store; 2615 - Frank J. Boyle, a driver at Hose Co. No. 3; 2617 - Henry C. Robinson (c); 2619 - Miss Annie Hart; 2621 - Mrs. Hannah Blum; 2623 - Lillian Snow (c); 2627 at the corner of 27th - The New Orleans Hotel providing lodging exclusively for colored tenants, proprietor Benjamin Lockett (c).
24 March 2019: In 1933 the customs offices were moved to a new building at 1700 Strand, and two years later the old post office building was demolished and replaced by a larger structure filling the entire block. The building was designed by Houston architect Alfred Charles Finn (1883-1964) in the Art Deco style.
Postmarked: 17 August 1912; Galveston, Texas
Stamp: Removed; Flag Cancel
To: Miss Cornelia Wickles
Message: John E. Wickles C. M. A. C.
Des Moines Iowa
c/o Recruiting Officer M. S. Ch.
J. E. W.
When John sent this postcard to his sister Cornelia he was 23 and she was 16. It is unclear what he was doing in Galveston, but he may have been on some kind of military business since he directs further mail to himself as recruiting officer in Des Moines, IA. Galveston was still reeling after the crushing blow of the 1900 hurricane, and remained a construction zone for many years as the city erected a 17’ seawall along a 10 mile sea front and raised the grade level of the city as much as 11 feet. The only military post in Galveston was Fort Crockett, but during the reconstruction of the island, it was empty. When the gun emplacements were integrated into the seawall in 1911, The U. S. Coast Artillery Corps (CAC) finally garrisoned the fort. A year later when John Wickles visited, he may have been in town on a military liaison with 6th Cavalry at Fort Des Moines where he was apparently living as an artillery corps soldier. His stay in Texas was surely brief and he was soon back in Iowa, still there 5 years later when he registered for the draft as a civilian working as a cabinet maker for Jaeger Manufacturing Company, makers of doors, sashes and moldings in Des Moines.
John was born in Germany and immigrated as an infant in 1891. He grew up in a large family in Hatfield, Hampshire County, MA, the eldest of a family of 13 children: John Edward (1889), Thomas John (1892), Frank (June 20, 1893 – July 30, 1894, died of meningitis at 13 months, 8 days), Frank Joseph (July 19, 1894, apparently named for his soon to be deceased brother), twins Henry Conrad and Cornelia “Connie” (1895), Conrad (who died in 1904 at 7 years and 7 months), Katherine A. (1898), Margaret (1899), Anton J. (1902), Mary (1904), Frederick (1908) and one other who apparently died young. His father was Anton Wickles (b. 1861), who traveled alone at the age of 27 boarding at Antwerp on the Belgenland from Seelig, Bavaria to New York City arriving on 19 July 1888. John was born 17 March 1889 so it is not unlikely that Margaret would not have known she was pregnant when the ship departed with Anton. There may have been a flurry of letters, and although no record of their immigration has been found, Margaret and two-year old John arrived in 1891 according to later census records. Anton and Margaret were married on 28 March 1891 in Manhattan, and they must have moved to Massachusetts soon after the marriage, as their first American-born child, Thomas John, was born in Massachusetts on 25 February 1892.
When Anton immigrated, he listed his occupation as “waiter,” but once he had moved to Massachusetts, he worked as a farmer (1900) and began to grow his large family. Some time around the birth of his last child Frederick on 26 September 1908, Anton had a breakdown and was institutionalized at Northampton Insane Hospital, one of about 800 individuals at the facility. Later he was moved to Grafton State Hospital (1920, 1930) where some work therapy was available for some inmates, but he died in custody in 1933 and was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Northampton, Hampshire County, MA.
Margaret was thrust into the responsibilities of keeping the family together with no assistance from Anton. They remained at the house at 20 Chestnut Street in Hatfield, a large home with 1.41 acres and a tobacco barn in productive farmland of the floodplain of the Connecticut River. Margaret managed the tobacco farm and the sons assisted and worked in various supplementary occupations. John Edward may have joined the military and gone to Des Moines, Iowa; he worked as a machinist of various kinds and as carpenter, and in due course returned to the family fold. Henry was a carpenter and Frank worked as a farm hand at home and on neighboring farms. The family was Catholic, opening up a calling as nuns for Cornelia and Katherine, who affiliated with a religious order in Holyoke, Hampden County, MA a few miles south of Hatfield. Mary R. Wickles (b. 1904) found a home as a religious sister at the Holy Family Institute in Holyoke. Margaret joined a similar order, working at Farren Memorial Hospital in Montague in Franklin County (1920), but left the religious order and married William Chalmers in 1925, then moved to Quincy in the eastern part of the state. Elizabeth became a teacher at 21 in 1923 and by 1930 she is no longer home. Margaret adopted a son, James Wickles, born in 1922 in Pennsylvania, who may or may not have been her natural grandson.
John Edward Wickles had returned to Massachusetts by 1930, living with his mother, Frank, Anton, Jr. and James. John was owner of a public garage then, and in 1940 he was a machinist in St. Luke’s Hospital in Pittsfield where his sister Catherine had worked ten years earlier, perhaps retaining some affiliation there. His younger brother Anton, Jr. seems to have eluded employment, and is listed as a dependent on his brothers’ draft applications (both Henry Conrad and Frank Joseph) in 1917, later listed as unable to work (1940). Henry married Abbie V. Kelly in 1918 in Rhode Island, returning to the Hatfield area where he raised a family of 2 girls. Thomas John married Agnes Frances Phelan, moved to a house on the next block and raised 2 sons in Hatfield. These four children are all the descendants of Anton and Margaret, despite their large family.
St. Mary Cemetery in Northampton holds the remained of many of the Wickles Family: Conrad Wickles (1897-1904), Anton Wickles (1861-1933); Margaret Lintner Wickles (1867-1943); Anton J. Wickles (1902-1943); Frank J. Wickles (1894-1965); Thomas J. Wickles (1892-1967); John Wickles (1889-1970). Catherine Wickles died in 1982 and is buried as Sr. Mary Jude Wickles in Calvary Cemetery of the Sisters of Providence in Holyoke, Hampden County, MA. Cornelia Wickles died in 1976 in Holyoke, and may be buried there as well, but not marked among the 66 tombstones. Mary Wickles died in 1969, perhaps she is Sr. M. Eugenius Becley in the same cemetery. Margaret Theresa Wickles Chalmers (1899-1983) is buried in Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton, Norfolk County, MA. James Joseph Wickles (1922-1992) moved to Ocala, FL where he was for many years the owner - operator of Stevens Motel with his wife Norine Marie Dorn (1923-2014).