Monday, May 24, 2021

Moving up to the 'burbs


Sometimes, to trace what has become of a family, we need to reach farther back in time and actually follow their footsteps through the land where they settled. In the case of the Ijams family—the two sons of Joseph Ijams who each pursued a mission of specialized education for the deaf children in their respective states—it helps to trace that movement through the history of the houses where they lived.

Right now, we're following the story of Joseph Ijams' grandson, Harry Pearle Ijams of Knoxville, Tennessee. His father, once the principal of the Tennessee school for the deaf in Knoxville, had suddenly died in 1882, when Harry was six years of age. While the school offered Harry's widowed mother a position there as instructor, the loss of their father necessitated the family's move from the principal's housing on campus to a nearby residence in downtown Knoxville.

Once Harry had married the former Alice Yoe, he too had settled in the downtown area, where he managed an engraving shop. However, by 1920, the census record indicated his occupation as commercial artist, and the 1921 city directory confirmed that, while he kept an office downtown, he had moved his family to the new suburbs of Knoxville.

The Ijams family's new digs were located in an area to the southeast of the downtown area, up against the south bank of the Tennessee River, called South Knoxville. This section of land had originally included a six hundred acre farm parcel which was acquired by Knoxville entrepreneur Perez Dickinson in 1869, which he called Island Home. With a bridge constructed to span the Tennessee River and connect the area with the downtown Knoxville business district via trolley service, portions of that original Island Home farm were acquired from Dickinson to establish a suburb development in 1899.

Housing construction at the Island Home Park development began in 1910, and Island Home Park was annexed by the city of Knoxville in 1917.

As for Harry and Alice Ijams and their four daughters, they were among those counted as residents of Island Home Park by 1920.

Census records, however, don't always tell the full story of a family's situation. What may sound like a nice home in the 'burbs for a couple and their four young children cannot possibly be differentiated on paper in a census record from the Eden that horticulturalist Alice Yoe Ijams created for her family, or from which the nature-loving ornithologist Harry drew inspiration for his artistic creations.

That same parcel of land out in the new suburbs at Island Home Park which Harry and Alice now called home was apparently the beautiful haven they carved out of a twenty acre farm which had been in their possession since 1910—notable in many respects not only for what they had made of the place over the years, but for what it was yet to become.


  1. I have the set of Maryland Calendar of Wills and in 5 of the volumes, there are listings for surname IJAMS. I am having to copy these for you. Can you please let me know how to send these to you? I'm not sure how many characters fit on the comments section. You may contact me through my email that I signed up with. There are quite a few of these.

    1. Winnie, thank you for your kind offer. I imagine there are quite a few entries for Ijams family members in Maryland!

      Unfortunately, though I saw your offer in a previous comment, your actual email address does not show publicly, so I had no way to contact you. However, if you wish, you may email me at afamilytapestry (at) gmail (dot) com and we can continue our conversation there.


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