SPILLMAN-WATKINS FAMILY HISTORY
Dorothea Ellen Spillman was born on October
16, 1898 and died in March 1991. She was born in Ohio.
She was the fourth daughter of Daniel Spillman and Pauline Miller. Her three
older sisters were Bertha, Cora, and Iva. She had a
younger brother, named Ernest (always called Bud). When Dot was nine years old,
her mother died. Her father owned a lumber company in Ohio.
After Pauline died, Daniel was "out of his head" in grief. He lost
his business, and finally after trying to hire help for his family was forced
to separate his children. The oldest, Bertha married Oscar Gamble from Van
Wert, Ohio. When my mother was
twelve, she went to live with a distant cousin, Mollie Melvina
Baldwin Rodman, who was 26 at the time. The other girls and Bud went to live
with Bertha and her husband. Dot lived on a farm with "Aunt" Mollie
and her family. Mother took care of her three sons, Pat, Cyril, and Phillip. My
mother went to County School
until she was 15, then they moved to Plymouth, Michigan
to 900 Church Street.
Mother went to two years of High School (right down the street) but when she
was 16, she and "Aunt" Mollie went to work for the telephone company.
"Aunt" Mollie had by that time divorced her husband Arthur Rodman. I
always called her "Aunt" Mollie because her sister, Margaret Groth lived on the street next to us (Ann
Street). Margaret had two children, a son Albert,
who was a few years older than I, and a daughter Barbara Mollie (who was called
"little Mollie"). They called her aunt, so we called her aunt.
My mother became engaged to a man who was killed in World War I. She then went
to work at Ford Motor Company in Plymouth.
In 1925, she met my father. Dot was a friend of my father's sister Doris. She
set them up on a date and later married. By then "Aunt" Mollie had
married Joseph Tracy (his first wife had died, they lived down the street). He
moved into Mollie's house on Church Street.
"Aunt" Mollie remained in the same house until she died in the
My mother had little contact with her sisters or brother through most of her
early life. Her sister Bertha had one daughter, Marcille.
Soon after Marcille was born, Bertha died. Cora was
married to James Mericle and they had three children, Pauline, Kenneth, and
Helena (they lived in Toledo, Ohio).
Iva married Harry Deal in Van Wert. They had five
children, George, Thelma, Jerry, Norma, and Dick. My mother began a closer
relationship with her family. Her brother Bud lived in Morenci,
Michigan. He and his wife Ethel had two
children, both of whom died young. Bertha's daughter was rather sickly growing
up, in and out of hospitals. When she was better, she married Oscar Carper
(they lived in Ohio and kept a
lot of parakeets), they never had children.
Pauline, Cora's daughter, married Paul Hoyt and had three boys and one girl.
Kenneth married Blanche and had one daughter, Loralee Ann, and Helena
married Clarence W. (Pete) Phetteplace (now living in
Colorado) and had one daughter,
George, Iva's son married Kay, and had four boys.
Thelma married Paul Hipsley and had three children.
Jerry married twice, and had a daughter, Jerry Francis by her first husband,
Foster Brondige. Her second husband was Arthur
Bellman and they had a son, Karl. Norma married Harold Totten
from Belleville and had four
children. She later married his cousin David Totten
and had three more children. Dick was married twice and had a son. Uncle Harry
died two weeks after my father. Aunt Iva died
suddenly, in 1975 and a few weeks later her daughter, Thelma died.
When my brother and I were growing up, we spent a lot of time with my cousins.
Aunt Cora and Uncle Dell lived in Belleville
and had two restaurants, the Mary Anne and the Del
Mar, at the same time we had "Dot's Grill." When I was in High
School, we had lots of family around. Kenneth and Blanche, with Loralee lived
with us on Main Street.
Sybil (Watkins) moved into the house we lived in on Second
Street and put in a beauty shop. Aunt Doris and
Uncle Bill moved to Belleville and
he ran the bowling alley. This was all during the War. When my brother was 16,
he joined the Navy, using my birth certificate. He was on his way to Hawaii
when the war was over. He was on the U.S.S. Corrigador.
He was in Hawaii for some time
after the war ended. He came home after we closed the restaurant and moved to 238
My mother worked for Rice's Department Store at this time. Aunt Cora and Uncle
Dell sold their restaurants and moved to Picacho, Arizona,
where they opened another restaurant, called Mericle
Grill. Aunt Sybil and Aunt Doris with Uncle Bill left Belleville
and moved to Plymouth. Aunt Sybil
moved near Pontiac and opened
another beauty shop. Her husband, Leroy returned after the war and they lived
in a nice house at the lake.
It was a few years after the war that my brother and I got married and started
families. In 1952, we moved to Alpena and the next year my parents followed. We
moved to Springfield, Ohio
in 1961. My parents stayed for a few years in Alpena, before retiring to Plymouth
in 1964. At this time, Aunt Frances and Uncle Otto moved to Florida,
where their daughter and family lived. Aunt Doris divorced Uncle Bill and also
moved to Florida with Sybil, who
had divorced Leroy.
My father died in 1967, leaving mother alone in her little house. Her
"mother," "Aunt" Mollie had died shortly before, mother was
with her. Mother could not stay alone. We had traveled back and forth from our
home in Ohio many times. They had
lived close to where Chris was living in the "facility" and they
visited him and had him to the house many times. But, she didn't want to be
alone. Mother sold her house and car (she didn't drive much) and went to live
with Iva in Van Wert. We visited back and forth easily.
My brother and Joanne had divorced many years earlier and he bought a house in
River Rouge. My mother moved in with him after Iva's
death. She lived with him almost twenty years. During that time she made many
visits to see Sybil and Doris in Florida
and to our home in Fredericksburg, Virginia
(where we moved in 1969). Nearing the end of her life after a stroke, and a few
falls, she moved to a nursing home in Riverview,
Michigan. She died there in March 1991. She
was a loving a caring person, as was my father.
Through my lifetime we were always close to the family. I feel bad that my
children have not had this experience. Some of my cousins are still living, but
I have not had any contact with them for several years. A few years ago, my
brother went to the funeral for our cousin Jerry, she had lived near Detroit.
He hadn't seen any of the family in years, and said they were mostly young
people in attendance, children of children that we knew. Most did not remember
us at all.
Written by Betty J. (Dane) Watkins