Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: Tragedy in the life Jerry Rose - born Gladys Irene McPherson

Jerry Rose. When I first heard my McPherson aunties talk about Jerry Rose, I thought her first and middle names were connected. Not so. She was born Gladys Irene McPherson on the 13 Jul 1901 in Lawler, IA. She did not like the name Gladys, so from the time she was a young girl she had everyone call her Jerry. The name Rose was the last name of her second husband, but everyone I knew always called her Jerry Rose.

A few years ago, I asked my Aunt Olive to tell me about Jerry Rose. Jerry Rose was 25 years older than my three youngest aunts, but about the same age as my Aunt Bertha. Jerry Rose, her sister Lucille and brother Bill also came out to California and lived close to Bertha and Cecil Clouse in Calipatria. She maintained contact with my McPherson aunts and uncles throughout her life. They were more like siblings that cousins.

According to Olive, Jerry Rose was “like a gypsy-woman.” Intrigued, I wanted to know what made her a gypsy-woman. “O, she always wore beautiful bright colors, lots of earrings and bracelets, and her skirts and scarves were wispy and flowing. --- And she wrote poetry and had lots of writer friends.”

Hmmmm, I wanted to know more. Her early years were marked by tragedy. When she was 12 years old, her mother, Bertha Swenson, died of cancer not too long after the birth of the youngest child James Lester. Jerry's father James Septimus McPherson took his five children to his parent's home to live. Grandma McPherson reared the children until her death.
Tragedy seemed to lurk around her. Her grandparents were going to move from the house at Crow Wing Lake, where she and her siblings had lived since their mother's death. However, Jerry had met and been courted by Ernest M. Brandt, a sharp shooter in the Canadian Princess Pat brigade during WWI. They were to be married in December of 1918. Snow fell the day of the wedding, but family and neighbors filled the house.
My Uncle Ralph remembers coming down the stairs in his suit when he heard someone say the house is on fire. He ran out into the yard, looked up and sure enough the whole roof was ablaze. Family stories about the house fire abound, but I have never heard whether Jerry married Brandt before the fire or after.

By 1922, Jerry and Brandt were living with her grandparents and her siblings in Barrows – also Uncle Clare and her father James. There were problems between the couple. Brandt was told to leave and not come back. However,a couple of weeks later, he came back to the farm and shot and killed Jerry's father and grandmother, also wounding her grandfather. (For the newspaper account, click here and here). The rather idyllic life by Crow Wing Lake had ended.

Although the first third of her life was marked by tragedy, from what I have heard from the Aunties, Jerry came to California, married Raymond Rose, and lived a good life. But, oh, how I want to know more about that gypsy-woman with her flowing scarves and skirts, her big earrings and bracelets. I want to know about the writer, the poet – but I know no one to ask. She had no children and her contemporaries have joined her shade. No one to ask --- well, no one to ask who is easy to access. So, I will have to get down to serious research and detective work to know more of my gypsy-woman, my 1st cousin, 1x removed.

Note: The information in this post came from newspaper articles, conversations with my McPherson Aunties, and the letters of Ralph J. McPherson.//JGH


  1. Jerry sounds like she was a wonderful gal with a rich life! Very interesting!

  2. Dorene, Thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm glad you enjoyed meeting Jerry Rose. I hope to learn more about her.

  3. Good luck finding information about your gypsy woman - I'd like to know more about her, too!

  4. Thanks, Greta. Right now, I am pulling strings and trying to find one that will unravel this mystery gypsy-woman.

  5. I'm intrigued by Jerry (Gypsy?) Rose too - wonder if any of her writings were published. Hope you find out more. Jo

  6. Joan, I cannot wait to read what you find out about her!