The Frakenfield Sisters & 1428 Northampton Street.
Updated: Dec 1, 2019
In July of 2019, I had the privilege to visit 1428 Northampton Street in Easton, Pennsylvania. One hundred years earlier, this letter had arrived there.
No one was living in the house at the time of the visit. It was for 'Sheriffs Sale', which was signposted several places around the property. Since the visit, online real estate sites report that the house was indeed sold in September of 2019.
The colonial style house was built in 1870. It is three stories and has three bedrooms. It was the home of Bessie Frankenfield. In 1919 she was the girlfriend of a young man named Jess M. Cook who was stationed abroad serving in the U.S. military as part of the World War One effort.
The U.S. federal Census reports that in 1939, Bessie Frankenfield was 39 years old and living in 1428 Northampton with her mother, Elizabeth (65) and sister, Jessie (also 39 years old). It is possible that Bessie and Jessie were likely twins. Both sisters were listed as unmarried. Elizabeth, head of the household was found to be a widow.
In a Census from 1900, we can see that Bessie is living in the house with her indeed twin sister (both born September 1898), their mother "Lizzie" (25) and their father Charles R. Frankenfield (25), registered as a "Cigar Maker". There is an Emily Schaffer (12) listed as a "Sister In Law" attending "School" as well living in the house. It appears that Emily is the younger sister of Elizabeth, as other census indicate a number of misspellings of the last name "Schaffer" but we're confident the stories link.
Bessie would go on to die in 1986, at the age of 88, in 1428 Northampton Street. Her twin sister Jessie would die in 1995 at the age of 95. Mrs. Lizzie M. Frankenfield, who was born in 1875, died in March of 1944. Her husband and father of Bessie and Jessie, Charles, was also born in 1875 but preceded Lizzie by 11 years, dying in 1933.
In the Census of 1910, only 9 years before the letter I have was written, Lizzie and Charles were parents to a pair of twin daughters and living in the house on Northampton Street. Charles was listed as a Conductor on the Trolley Line.
In the last Census before Charles' death in 1933, he (55) is listed as an "Insurance Salesmen". Bessie (31) is recorded as a "Book Keeper" for "Automobile Co." while Jessie (31) is a "Teacher" at "Public School". Ten years later in 1940 Census above, Bessie (39) is a "Stenographer" while Jessie (39) is again listed as a "Teacher".
For reasons unknown to us, Jess and Bessie did not marry. We were able to find record of Jess M. Cook using his address from the letters, specifically "Evacuation Hospital #49". It looks like he was born in Texas in 1897 to Issac Cook (35), a "Farmer", and Joana Cook (31). Jess had a brother and sister. Ima May Cook, his sister, was born in 1898, while his brother William was born in 1895. All three children were born in Texas, while Issac and Joana came from Louisiana.
We were able to find this U.S. Army Passenger Transport List, where #99 lists Jess M. Cook, son of Issac Cook, as having been based at "Evacuation Hospital #49".
This is the ship named "Powhatan" which brought Jess to France from Hoboken New Jersey, in 1918.
This is the ship which brought him home in August of 1919 -- the "Panaman". He would return from the front a mere two months after the letter photographed above, arrived to Bessie in Easton, Pennsylvania.
In the 1920 Census, we see that Jess is living again in Texas with Issac and Joana. We can only imagine that his relationship with Bessie had dissolved at this stage. Jess has no profession listed, but as he returned from the front in 1919 it is imaginable that he was working alongside Issac as a "Farmer". By 1920, Jess has three more siblings: Theodore (born 1903), Annie (born 1910) and Cora (born 1912). William and Ima May are not included in the Cook family home Census for 1920.
At the age of 33, in 1930, Jess is recorded as "Lodger" in the home of E.N. Drake, who is listed as running a "Hotel". The Hotel's name is "Hotel Blayilaner". Jess is working as a "Cotton Buyer" for a "Cotten Farm". He is listed as "27 at the age of first marriage" tho there is no wife noted.
After 1930, Jess M. Cook disappears entirely from records. There are no obituaries, further censuses etc. So while we know that in Pennsylvania, Bessie and her sister Jessie would live unmarried in their childhood home until their respective deaths we can't be sure what became of Jess Cook.
Interestingly, the first letter in the World War One series we've shared here pertaining to the Bessie Frankenfield truly belongs to Jessie Frankenfield -- her sister.
From what we can tell with the limited information, it comes from a John J. Lamb from Elizabeth New Jersey. The distance between Elizabeth, NJ and Easton, PA in modern times averages to approximately 1 hour. In our best estimation from records available, this is likely the author of the letter above. He mentions Jess Cook visiting so they might have been friends or familiar with each other -- which would make sense as the sisters Bessie and Jessie might have met the men at the same time or were introduced by one or the other. If what we've found is truly belonging to John J. Lamb then we know that the did indeed fight in World War One (his draft card pictured below).
If this indeed the right man, we found that in the 1920 Census he was living as a "Ship Builder" at the age of 24 with his parents. His parents, Ida (54) and John Sr. (68), were born in Ireland but John J. Lamb Jr. was born in New Jersey in 1896. If this is indeed true, then that would mean that John Sr. and his wife were born less than a decade after the Irish Potato Famine.
We were also able to find this New Jersey specific census, dating from 1915 when John is 21 years of age. Here we see mention of siblings Jessie and Matilda.
In 1930, it appears that John Sr. has died as Ida is reported to be a widow. We see the sister named Matilda (36) and John Jr. is working as "Chemists Helper".
In 1942 we see that the unmarried, now approximately 46 year old John re-enlists with the U.S Military to help in the World War Two effort.
Records indicate from here that John Joseph Lamb, if this is the John J. Lamb penpal of Jessie Frankenfield, dies at the age of 71 in 1967.
So while we can't be sure about the circumstances which led to the results detailed above, we can be sure of one thing: the house at 1428 Northampton Street in Easton Pennsylvania still stands today and it is home to a new family. But its history remains and for that, we're forever grateful.