Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Being Obsessed is hard work

I've been doing research on the couple who first built this house because I was curious about what sort of people they were. Evidence of them is all over the attic: signs hanging from the rafters that meticulously catalogue where to store everything from camping equipment to Christmas decorations, 30 year old empty boxes that once held brand new stand mixers, giant rolls of old shag carpet that just beg to be put back into operation, and old tax records. So I did a little research on Lillian and Norman Flaigg and found put all kinds of interesting stuff. He was an amateur archeologist who is name-checked all over the internet by the Texas Archeological Society and they both dabbled in plant photography and have many photos of flowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center that are referenced online. They did amazing landscaping in our yard and took fantastic care of the house. But one thing always nagged us: we were handed over plans for the house from the previous owners, and a different name is on the plans: "Colonel and Mrs. Jack Harpster and Marty". The previous owner, Jared, was completely confident that the Flaggs were the original owners. Despite what the plans say. Well the plot thickens...

Tim was cleaning out the garage the other night and he found a bunch of stuff behind a stuck door. A master's thesis, some photographs and notes on arrowheads, and something I'd never heard of before: a "memory book" for the deceased. I read it and discovered that Mr. Flaigg had been married before, to a Beatrice Flaigg, who died in 1969 in OKLAHOMA! Our house was built in 1968! There is a letter in the box with the memory book and it is addressed to Mr. Flaigg at an address in Oklahoma and was written after the funeral. So my guess is that they were not the original owners. I also discovered that Mr. Flaigg and his first wife had a son, Don, who died of AIDS in 1989. So the poor man had to bury two wives and a son before his own death in 1998. So now I'm faced with a great mystery: when did Mr. Flaigg move to Texas and buy this house? When did he marry the second Mrs. Flaigg? And did the Harpsters actually see the house through to completion and if they did, how long did they live here? Why did they move from the house they'd worked so hard with the builder on to make their own? Unfortunately I'm just hitting dead-ends with my internet research on the Harpsters. Too common of names and most likely they moved around a lot because he was military. But I must continue my search. I'd like to compile a book that includes the history of all of the owners of the house and put it in the attic. That way, one day after Tim and I are long gone the next owners can already know who lived here before them rather than having to do all this research that I am! If anybody has some tips for finding info on people, send them my way!

5 comments:

K in the Mirror said...

That is fascinating! Keep us posted if you find anything out.

I'm surprised all that stuff is still there- I'm always really paranoid about not leaving stuff when I move. Is it common to move into a house with an attic full of things?

Jooley Ann said...

Really fascinating stuff. I wish my house were so interesting!!

Kate said...

Is there anywhere in Austin where you can research homes? There's a place here that has photos and ownership records. I think it's related to the library. Big sis would know.

I think that's fascinating! It does seem kind of strange to me to leave all that behind. The woman who sold us our house in New Jersey left us a packet of colored papers/construction paper because she knew 4 little kids were moving in.

kimhardy said...

Julie, I am Lillian Flaigg's niece. I was so excited to find your blog! I do not know the answer to your question but do know the answer to what incredible individuals my aunt and uncle were. I miss their home so much and am glad you treasure what was left behind. I hope the St. Augustine grass is still in the front yard and would love a clipping. I miss them so much and am so pleased you have filled the house with more love. email be anytime as i have been looking for documentation to prove Don was Norms son. I have the death records but no birth info, I was pregnant with my first child when he died and had to turn the sale of the home over to a trust company to complete for me as I live and work in Memphis. Email me anytime! khardy@colliersmgmt.com Take Care! Kim Hardy

Jcuz said...

I ran across your blog by accident while looking up Norman Flaigg. Norman was a very dear old friend, one whom I miss very much. We shared many good times at many field schools and other projects with the Texas Archeological Society over a span of at least 25 years. We shared several things in common, including a particular sense of humor, and we even collaborated now and then on written articles and certain activities in the field. I alwasy admired Norman and Lillian for their varied interests and storehouses of knowledge on a wide range of subjects, from wildflowers to hydrology. I had the privilege of working directly with Norman on several archeolgical projects, and on at least a couple or three, he was one of the best crew chiefs I ever had working at my sites. I relied heavily on him for accurate and thorough work, with great attention to detail and much enthusiasm that he spread to his own crews. I was his guest in your home a couple of times and was made welcome by him and the very gracious Lillian. Unfortunately, I don't know the answers to your questions about the history of the house, but I did know that there was a previous marriage and that Norman lived in Oklahoma. He lived there when or shortly after he did work in my area of the Panhandle, near Amarillo, that resulted in Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (he was against the construction of a dam in that area). I do know one thing about Norman that perhaps you don't know: He was one of the earliest successful cardiac bypass survivors, having lived some 25 years or more post-surgery by the time of his untimely death. He and I kidded about that now and then, too -- I five-upped him by having quintuple bypass the year before he died. My code greeting for him was, "Five to one, Norman, five to one -- let's show some respect." Speaking of respect, I must say that I had a very great deal of respect for Norman, and I am very proud to be able to have called him friend. Take care of the house and its memories. Enjoy it -- I know Norman and Lillian did. Cheers. Jim