Eugene A. Volkman enumerated the Beem family and their neighbors in rural West Fork Township, Woodbury County, Iowa, on April 8, 1940.
Arthur and Irene Beem had a full household in 1940. At age 30 years old, they had four children: Evelyn (7), who had just completed the first grade, and Jeanette (3), James A. (2), and Mary Jane (1). The census indicates that Arthur had completed four years of high school, and his wife had one year of college. Arthur was at work “For pay or profit in private or nonemergency Govt. work during week of March 24-30.” He worked 60 hours as a farmer that week. He worked a total of 52 weeks the previous year. Arthur’s farm schedule was listed as number 37. Irene was engaged in “home housework.”
Irene’s widowed grandmother, Clara Peterson, also lived with the family during this time. She was the only member of the household not born in Iowa; she was born in Wisconsin 84 years before. As a child, she had only completed the sixth grade. Because of her advanced age in 1940, it is unsurprising that the census shows she was unable to work.
Arthur and Irene owned their farm home outside of Hornick, Iowa. The house was worth $6,000 in 1940 – the equivalent of about $96,716 today (as of 2012). Although they were not new to the community, they had been in their home less than five years.
They were well off enough to employ two people. Ray (21) and Leona (19) McCoy were both single young people who had each completed four years of high school and were now living with their employers. Ray worked with Arthur as a farm laborer while Leona was a “hired girl” who helped Irene with the housework. Both Ray and Leona worked 60 hours a week; Ray’s wages were $90 while Leona earned $100. Ray had worked 12 weeks in 1939, Leona 26.
In a quirk of the 1940 census, additional questions were asked of Leona because she happened to be enumerated on line 29. From this we know that she was not a veteran, English was spoken in her home during her earliest childhood, her father was born in Missouri, her mother was born in West Virginia, she did not have a social security number, and she worked in a private home. Based on this information, we can identify her parents as William and Nora McCoy, farmers who lived in the same area with five other children.
Living next door were Arthur’s parents, E. Lee (61) and Anna M. Beem (54) with their last child still at home, Edwin D. Beem (17), who had completed three years of high school, and Irene Becker (13), a lodger who had completed the eighth grade.
Lee was born in Kansas and only finished the sixth grade while in school, while Anna was native to Iowa and had finished the eighth grade. They were now farmers living in a home worth $8,000 – $128,955 in today’s dollars. According to the census, it was the same home they lived in five years before.
As a farmer engaged in private work, Lee claimed to have worked 72 hours the week of March 24-30 with 52 work weeks in 1939. Their farm schedule was listed as number 37.
Although the record doesn’t say, I find it likely that the neighboring renter, Frank Cook, worked for Lee. Frank was listed as a farm laborer who earned a wage of $310 and paid $5 rent for the home he, his wife Pearl, and their two children lived in.
There were plenty of cousins, aunts, and uncles scattered throughout the Woodbury County countryside. Just as a small example, Alfred Larsen was listed just after the Frank Cook family. Alfred was Anna M. Beem’s only brother (and consequently, Arthur’s uncle). He was 45 in 1940 and living with his wife Esther (39) and five children. A few homes later, Lee and Anna’s oldest son, Earnest Beem (31), lived with his wife Lois (31), two sons, and his brother T. DeWitt (23). The Beem family was deeply rooted in the Iowa farmland in 1940.
1940 U. S. Census, Woodbury County, Iowa, population schedule, West Fork Township, enumeration district (ED) 97-96, page 443 (stamped), sheets 3A and 3B, dwellings 41-44 and 46, Arthur Beem, Lee Beem, Frank Cook, Alfred Larsen and Earnest Beem households; digital images, Ancestry.com