Friday, February 26, 2021

Photo Friday - Heinz Rice Flakes


I have no idea who this man was driving a car that advertised Heinz Rice Flakes.

Pictures available online of Rice Flakes suggest they could have been a forerunner of Rice Krispies. "Snap, Crackle, and Pop!" probably was a more effective slogan than "Cereal with a vegetable effect." No plastic prizes in that box, that's for sure.  


The cereal dates back to the 1920s, so possibly this gentleman was a salesman who brought this happy, healthy breakfast item to my grandparents’ store in Shenandoah, Virginia.

The roofline of the vehicle suggests it might have been a delivery truck much like this 1930s metalcraft toy truck.

1930s era toy truck
as seen on eBay, Etsy, and Pinterest


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

52 Ancestors - POWER: Councilman Harry W. Escue

Mattie Coleman Escue
(1882 - 1978)

There was a time when everyone in Shenandoah, Virginia knew my grandfather’s cousin, “Miss Mattie Escue.” It’s a small-town thing. She was a school teacher and EVERYONE – whether from a small town or a big city – can recall a particular teacher from their past. In Shenandoah, it was Miss Mattie.

I do not know if Mattie’s husband Harry W. Escue enjoyed the same kind of “fame,” but he was well-liked enough to serve several terms on the town council. Admittedly, his was hardly the powerful position of a governor or president, but in a small town, the council was indeed the seat of power where big decisions affecting the lives of the town’s citizens were made. Here are some of the ordinances written while Harry Escue was a councilman:

1912: That fire crackers and other explosives be exploded only between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Christmas and New Year’s days, under penalty of $1.00 fine and costs.

1913: That the Eagle Hotel management be notified by the Sergeant not to pump sewage into the gutter before ten o’clock at night. However, any sewage that is run through the terra cotta pipe may be pumped at any time.

1914: That notices be posted that a fine of $1.00 shall be imposed upon any person riding on sidewalks either on roller skates, bicycles, or wagons.

1917: All users of electric lights who own their meters shall pay 10 cents per kilowatt with a minimum of $2.00 per month for business and $1.50 per month for private residence.

1934: Repealed an ordinance from 1897 that regulated the speed of locomotives through town.

1935: Set license rate on slot machines at $25 per annum.

Yes, important issues.

Harry Escue and son
probably Emile

What else is there to know about Harry W. Escue? First of all, the “W” stands for “Waltzingham.” Where in the world did that name come from? Often children will carry their mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name; however, I have yet to find this name in Harry’s lineage. Admittedly, I have not tried that hard.

What I do know, though, is that Harry Waltzingham Escue was born to Lilburn Henry Escue and Lutie Belle Brown on 4 October 1871 in Albemarle County, Virginia. 

Lilburn was a veteran of the Civil War and earned a living as a carpenter. He and Lutie Belle married in 1868 and had three children: Mary, Harry, and Loula. 

By 1880, Lilburn was out of the family picture. Lutie and children were living with a woman known as Mary Beadles. Meanwhile, Lilburn had moved back home with his parents as had 5 siblings ranging in age from 24 to 45. All of them claimed to be single.

For the rest of his days, Lilburn was enumerated in census records as living with a sister. He died 17 February 1923. His death certificate shows his body was found on a lot in Charlottesville where he had frozen to death.

As for Lutie Belle, she made her home with her children. In 1900, she was a dressmaker living in Shenandoah with her daughter Lula Belle Wade and family. In 1910 Lutie Belle was with Harry.

Harry had married Sallie Florence Drummond in 1893. They had 4 children: Lula Florence, Clement Willard, Emile Clarence, and Emet who died in infancy. Sallie’s untimely death in 1906 might have prompted Lutie Belle to move in with Harry to care for the children.

Harry remained a widower for 16 years. In 1922 he married Mattie Coleman, daughter of Jack Coleman and Emma Jollett Coleman. At the age of 40, Mattie became a stepmother to adult children.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
23 Jan 1939

Harry worked all his adult life for the Norfolk & Western railroad. The town of Shenandoah was a major hub along the route between Hagerstown, Maryland and Roanoke, Virginia. In 1939, Harry was awarded a Diamond insignia for 50-years of service.

Harry died a year later in 1940. Mattie outlived him by 38 years.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
11 Jan 1940


the Escues
Coverstone Cemetery in Shenandoah, VA

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 22, 2021

On This Day

My great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis died on this day in 1950.


Mary Frances Jollett Davis
10 Jan 1870 - 22 Feb 1950



© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Sepia Saturday: The Baby Name Book

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of the man with a ZOOM lens shows we have reached the letter “Z.” As a child, I hated for anyone at school to see any kind of “official” paper like a report card or notice from the principal that might have my middle initial on it: Z. When anyone saw that my middle name began with the letter “Z,” they would react in shock and disbelief that there could be any sensible name starting with “Z.” “What is your name? Zebra? Zipper?” Fits of laughter would follow.

It is “Zoe.” It has become a rather popular name in recent years, but it was just unheard of in my little corner of the world in the 1950s-60s. Surprisingly, on the scale of “weird and unusual” my name doesn’t even come close when compared to some of the names my 2X great-grandparents Mitchell and Martha Willson Davis bestowed upon their 15 children.

Zedekiah. Zephaniah. Zibiah Saloma. And those are just the ones that fit the Sepia Saturday theme. There is also Jerusha and Amaziah.

How did Mitchell and Martha come up with these names? Nowhere in my research do these names show up in the family lineage, so they clearly were not honoring a relative or ancestor. There were no Baby Name books in the 1850s-70s. Or were there? Maybe THIS was their Baby Name book:

Bible belonging to Mitchell and Martha
possibly a wedding gift

This Bible was published in 1846, the same year that Mitchell and Martha married. In it they recorded the usual family stats: births, deaths, and marriages. It is probably not a coincidence that many of the children's names had biblical origins:

Zedekiah – last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon

Zephaniah – ninth of the Twelve Minor Prophets who urged the corrupt and disobedient people of Judah to obey God (Yahweh) so that MAYBE He would forgive them

Zibiah – wife of King Ahaziah and mother of Joash who became a just king of Judah thus her being credited for bringing up her son in the fear of the Lord

And about those other names that don’t start with “Z”:

Saloma – beautiful daughter of Herod II who danced at the birthday celebration of her stepfather Herod Antipas and demanded the head of John the Baptist and got it!!

(I don’t know, but if Mitchell and Martha were trying to imbue their daughter with some kind of biblical virtue, these two names, Zibiah and Saloma, seem to cancel each other out.)

Jerusha – wife of King Uzziah of Judah and mother of Jotham; the name itself comes from the Hebrew meaning “possession” or “inheritance”

Josiah – the 16th king of Judah considered righteous and credited by scholars for religious reforms and for compiling Hebrew scriptures; he is also one of the kings mentioned in the patrilineage of Jesus according to the Book of Matthew

Amaziah – another king of Judah who was considered a just king but not whole-heartedly since he did not remove local shrines and failed to centralize worship

Some births in the Davis Bible

I wonder what happened that most of the other children received more mundane names like Walter, Ida, and Minnie. Surely it isn’t that Mitchell and Martha gave up on the Bible or lost their faith as these and the other ordinary names are sandwiched between the lofty ones.

More births in the Davis Bible

Perhaps the names of noble figures were meant to inspire their children to greatness. Whatever the reason, these biblical names suggest Mitchell and Martha were at least somewhat devout Christians who were well-versed in their Bible. After all, they did not slip up and name any of them Jezebel or Abimelech.

Zip, Zoom or Zigzag over to Sepia Saturday for more “Z” stories from some zealous zanies.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Photo Friday - Mrs. Coldorn


On the back: "Mrs. Coldorn"

 I have no clue who this could be.

This is a cabinet card that was obviously trimmed haphazardly to fit into an album, I suppose.

Who were the Coldorns to my Davis family that they would have her portrait? There are no Coldorns in our family tree.

I conducted a BROAD search – no first name, no date, no state of residence. There were plenty of Coldorn families in North Carolina and West Virginia, and others as far away as Oklahoma and Minnesota. When I narrowed my search to Virginia, the spelling became Coldron, Coldiron, and Colder.

Honestly, I can’t even guess at a possible date of birth for this woman because I cannot tell if she was fairly young or just plain old in this picture.

~ Sigh ~


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

52 Ancestors - UNUSUAL SOURCE: Check the Historical Society

When it comes to the “UNUSUAL” in genealogy research, the best place to find it is in a historical society. More often than not, it will be the lucky recipient of family papers, photo albums, and scrapbooks that people don’t know what to do with when a family member dies.

As a volunteer with the Greene County Historical Society in Stanardsville, Virginia, I have completed several indexing projects that could be beneficial to many researchers who trace their lineage to early families in Greene County.

For example, the Early Family scrapbooks contain greeting cards, newspaper clippings, funeral memorial cards, school and church programs collected by Mrs. Early for over 50 years. She saved any tidbit related to her family, her extended family, her distant family, friends, and neighbors. While my line and hers do not intersect, I found several news articles that mentioned my relatives. One article even had a photo that gave me my first look at the woman who had been explicitly denied any inheritance from her husband’s father, my great-grandmother’s brother. She looked like a sweet lady, hardly the gold-digging shrew depicted in the will. One interesting newspaper article Mrs. Early saved told me the story about Seal, a dog that “attended” the University of Virginia. I recalled my dad telling about Seal but did not remember the significance until I read the story.

The Price-Hill Daybooks are a record of the general store’s daily sales. Every page lists the names of customers, what they purchased, the cost of each item, and how they paid offering clues to the daily life of the citizens and their economics. Probably learning that someone bought Lyons Kathairon which supposedly cured baldness or they were in need of more Mexican Mustang Liniment is a bit like peering into someone’s bedroom, but the purchases tell a story. There are also genealogical clues to be found in the day books. For example, one entry shows Thomas Gordon as “guardian of Frances Gordon.” Some customers sent their “boy” or their “girl” to pick up an order. Since there are entries including “son” and “daughter,” I believe these designations indicate a servant.  

Inside cover

The Hamm Daybooks are 15 years of records kept by the local tailor Joseph H. Hamm from 1856-1871. What an amazing social history revealing who was having a coat repaired, who was ordering clothes for a wedding, who needed a frock, and even who needed new underwear! The selected fabrics and trims hint at the customer’s personal economics and social status. 

While none of my Jolletts seemed to have been Mr. Hamm’s customers, a distant cousin George Sampson was. In March of 1863, he paid $1.00 to have a jeans coat cut. 

Page from the Hamm Daybooks
31 March 1863

My 3X great-grandfather’s brother Thomas Marshall paid Hamm $1.50 to make him a black velvet hat. Since the records cover the time of the Civil War, it is enlightening to read what work Hamm provided for Union soldiers in Virginia.

My 2X great-grandfather and his son Burton Lewis
registered to vote in 1902 

The Voter Registration Books in Greene County are full of genealogical details that go far beyond the date someone registered. A date of birth will be more accurate than one found in a census record or death certificate even because the information was supplied by the person himself, not an informant. Transfers in and out of a precinct are noted, usually along with the date. Occupations are listed as are removals from the rolls due to death. Sometimes the registrar added notes such as the father’s name, a nickname, or “brother of” to distinguish voters with similar names. I must admit, I was a bit surprised to learn my great-great grandfather James Franklin Jollett was 66 years old when he finally registered to vote. What took him so long? He might have been a bit slow, but his granddaughter Blanche Jollett Gentry and his granddaughter-in-law Mary Neville Peluso Jollett were among the first women to register when suffrage was at long last granted in 1920.

White Women - Husckstep Precinct of Monroe District
Blanche Gentry was 30 years old.

White Women - Husckstep Precinct of Monroe District
Mary Neville Peluso Jollett was 24

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 15, 2021

On This Day

My great-grandaunt Velma Hilda Davis Woodring was born 15 February 1908.


Portrait of Velma about age 2 or 3
on opalotype (glass)

My favorite photo of Velma
She was about 16
Not sure of the year - 1950s??

Some of my favorite stories about Velma:

To Mercersburg and Beyond

What's In Your Trunk?

Violetta and Velma

Girls Gone Silly

Doppelganger for Velma

Vikings and Snowflakes


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.