Friday, December 29, 2017
Clayton Folkerts was born in Iowa in 1897, the same years as my great grandmother Grace. He was a self-taught extremely gifted mechanic and was building airplanes by the time he was 19 years old. Although my grandfather claimed he "invented" the timing mechanism for firing a machine gun through the front prop, I'm pretty sure that part is pure fiction. Clayton did work with an Iowa based aerospace company after World War I ended and maybe had a hand in perfecting the mechanism. He was famous for his radical designs and is credited with building the first monocoupe. By 1928, 90% of all light airplanes sold were monocoupes. Also known is that Charles Lindbergh was one of Clayton's most famous customers.
In the 1930's through the 1950's, Clayton's airplanes dominated the world of speed flying and won/set numerous records. It is documented that when World War II began, Clayton was a project manager in the development of trainers and gliders used during the war. After the war, Clayton returned to Iowa, retired and lived a quiet life until his death in 1964.
He didn't get married until later in life and married someone named Florence Fontaine whom both my grandparents claimed to be a cousin to my great grandmother Grace. I can find very little on the internet about Florence but was able to find a number of records on her using my genealogy resources. It appears from the age of 11 when I picked up her trail until she met and married Clayton, she was an orphan and moved around a lot. My grandparents gave me what they thought was her surname and although there is a Florence in that line, my ancestor Florence was 19 years younger and didn't live in any of the places Florence Fontaine or Clayton Folkerts did. I was pretty convinced that if Florence Fontaine is related, it is more distant than a first cousin.
The next time I saw my grandparents, I questioned them about how Florence Fontaine was related to my great grandmother Grace and told them that she apparently was orphaned at an early age. That seemed to spark their memories that she may have just grown up with my great grandmother Grace. Although they may have, it would be between the census records taken every ten years because according to them, Florence Fontaine was never in Iowa until after the war when Clayton Folkerts retired and moved back there. Then she lived a handful of miles away from my great grandparents and this is the time my grandparents can remember visiting them.
Whatever the truth is, the Folkerts and my great grandparents became good friends and when Florence died in 1982 without any heirs, she left a sum of $30,000 to my great grandmother who used those funds to buy a condo in a retirement community that gave her great joy until she passed away. As I suspected, there was some truth in what my grandparents told me and it definitely is an interesting story but I may never know it all.