Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sentimental Sunday

One of my favorite photos is this one: 4 generations.

Standing in back: my sister Mary Jollette, my grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis
Sitting: my mother Mary Eleanor Davis Slade, ME
Standing in front: daughters Zoe Mathias Matthews, Jordan Mathias Kiser

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, moms of moms, and those missing their moms.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Lacuta

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a young man named Lewis Powell which made me wonder if I have a Lewis Powell in my family tree. No, I don’t. However, I have inherited quite a few photos of a pretty girl named Lacuta Powell. She was the centerpiece of a mini-mystery I helped solve nearly 10 years ago.

In May 2012, the latest edition of the Greene County Historical Society newsletter arrived. On the back page are several photos with a request for information on the people featured.

One photo grabbed my attention immediately because I have the same one tucked away in a box of photos that have been passed down through the family.

The lovely girl in that beautiful lace blouse was identified in the GCHS magazine as Agnes Stephens Utz. Hmm. Definitely a familiar face. Definitely UNfamiliar name.

I checked the back of my photo where I had penciled in the name given to me by my distant cousin Vessie Jollette Steppe. The name:  Lacuta Powell.

In fact, I have a number of photos of Lacuta Powell. Lacuta as a baby:

Mrs. Sarah Powell
daughters Rosalie and Lacuta

 Older Lacuta:

A host of Powells – Lacuta is there with her mother and 2 sisters and who knows who else.

But of course, that’s Lacuta Powell IF Cousin Vessie was correct. To my knowledge, Lacuta is not family, so I’m not sure why our family has her pictures. Then again, we have no Agnes Utz in the family either. I sent a quick email to the GCHS to let them know their mystery had developed another layer.

Curiosity sent me to the census records. I guessed at Lacuta’s age based on Vessie’s birth date. It turns out Lacuta’s family lived smack-dab in the middle of my Colemans, Sullivans, Clifts, and Davises. It makes sense that Vessie would remember the face of a childhood playmate. 

Even though the census records confirmed Vessie’s claim there was a girl named Lacuta, census records don’t identify people in photographs. Vessie could have been mistaken – she was in her 90s when she identified the photo. For the time being I put ol’ Lacuta / Agnes out of my mind and returned to my other research. I was flipping through my copy of Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People when the name of one of my distant cousins caught my eye. Guess whose name was right beneath it. Yep, Lacuta Powell.


Lacuta is on the front row, third from the right
scanned from Shenandoah: A History of Our Town...

One look at that dark hair and serious expression told me that the photo in question had to be that of Lacuta Powell, not Agnes Utz. The resemblance was unmistakable.

Now I’m wondering how the person who donated the box of photos to the GCHS came to have this photo too. Maybe she’s not related to Lacuta Powell either. 

Be a pal and visit my pals at Sepia Saturday. (Did you see what I did there with that little homophone?)


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Photo Friday - Who?

I wonder who these folks could be. 

The picture is in the scrapbook of my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. I used to think the woman was my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, but she doesn’t look like the woman in other photos. 

But if it is Mary Theresa, could the man be her son Matthew Killeen with his only child Alma? 

Inquiring minds want to know.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

52 Ancestors - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: Scam!

Did Maidie Macella Vernon ever regret her decision to give up her teaching job in Virginia to move to Ohio?

Maidie was the oldest daughter of my 2X great-grandmother’s sister Victoria Shiflett Vernon. At 22, Maidie was still single and working as a teacher in Greene County, Virginia. By 1910, she was a crew manager of canvassers for a furniture company in Richland, Ohio. She had been married less than a year to Reinhold Merschel, a naturalized citizen who emigrated from Germany in 1892. He was the manager at a furniture factory.

Marriage Record
Reinhold Merschel and Maidie Vernon
26 May 1909

It seems that Reinhold had a little side job going. He and Ernest W. Toadvine went into business together, but it was NOT a legitimate business. It was a SCAM. They sent agents to call on women convincing them to sign contracts agreeing to pay 50 cents every week to enter a drawing. The prize was their choice of a piece of furniture out of the Union Furniture Company catalogue. 

A nice piece of furniture for 50 cents?? As they say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”

Obviously, there was never a drawing and no one won a piece of furniture. 

How long the money-making scheme went on is not clear, but eventually the two men were caught. Their story was covered in newspapers throughout the country.


Sandusky Star Journal
18 Feb 1916

Fort Wayne Sentinal
6 Oct 1916

In 1917, Reinhold Merschel and Ernest Toadvine were charged with mail fraud and sent to the US Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. Toadvine was released a year later in 1918, Merschel 2 years later in 1919. Evidently, he had a larger role in their business venture.

Interestingly enough, despite being incarcerated, Reinhold registered for the draft. His occupation? Prisoner. The flip side of his card indicated that the first joint of his right thumb was crippled.

After his release in 1919, Reinhold returned to Toledo, Ohio, but it seems Maidie did not welcome him with open arms. The 1920 census shows him as a roomer across town from Maidie and daughter Ottielie. The City Directory that same year lists Maidie as a widow of Reinhold. However, he was not dead. He was very much alive and working as a salesman.

They eventually patched things up, apparently, because the City Directories from at least 1923 on list the couple together. But things were about to change once again.

The 1930 census shows Maidie claimed she was divorced. The 1932 City Directory shows her as the widow of Reinhold Merschel. Whether he was really dead this time is not known.

Toledo, Ohio City Directory

I can’t help wondering how much Maidie knew about her husband’s business venture. On their marriage record, she claimed her occupation was “soliciter,” and then in the 1910 census she worked as the crew manager of canvassers. Whether she was a willing participant in the scheme or merely another victim, she was not punished in the legal system.

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.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sentimental Sunday

This was a big week in the Jollett family

May 2, 1944 – My great-grandaunt Victoria Jollett Breeden passed away at the age of 66.

Victoria Breeden

May 3, 1934 – My great-granduncle Burton Lewis Jollett passed away at the age of 73.

Burton Lewis Jollett
photo courtesy Ben Marks

May 5, 2019 – My sweet aunt Cerretha Comer Davis passed away at the age of 89.

"Scoop" Comer Davis
at home of Violetta Davis Ryan
Maybe an Easter Sunday

May 7, 1895 – My great-grandaunt Edith Kite Davis was born.

Millard Davis
Edith Kite Davis

May 7, 1905 – My grandfather’s cousin Alda Beatrice Clift Suite was born.

Alda Clift

May 8, 1956 – My grandfather’s cousin Fleta Florence Jollett Sullivan died at the age of 71.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Photo Friday - Hit the Road

This is my favorite “who could it be” photo. Suitcase in hand. Where to?

The topography intrigues me. Portsmouth, Virginia is much too flat for that stairway to upper ground. Is the place New York? Salem, Massachusetts? Or some place I have not identified in any other photo?

Who could they be?


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

52 Ancestors - FAVORITE PLACE: Home

I have wonderful memories from childhood playing with all the kids on Frailey Place from sun up to sun down, of traveling across the state with my grandparents to visit my cousins, of riding along with my granddaddy as he conducted his taxi business or combing my granny’s hair as she called drivers on the radio to pick up a fare. Each place has a claim to be my “favorite.”

But really, my FAVORITE place is right here in my home. It’s cliché, I admit. Genealogy and family history are my thing, and in my home, I am surrounded by all that is near and dear.


While many other people enjoy a “Man Cave” or a “She Shed” or a “Diva Den,” my office is my “Gene Cave.” The “Family” wall is a gallery of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and one great-great. I added my husband’s family as well. My great-grandmother’s treadle Singer sewing machine serves as a table. 

One of two built-in shelves

Shelves are filled with notebooks, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and photos, all of which provide inspiration as well as research material.


Ball Jars that belonged to my great-grandmother
Mary Frances Jollett Davis

Every room in my house contains something that connects me to family. In the kitchen are Ball jars, Jewel Tea mixing bowls, and Pyrex casserole dishes that keep alive memories of delicious meals at my grandmother’s house.


The family room has two tables built by my husband’s father, one of which is made from trees from the family farm. There are little reminders too of my great-grandparents’ daily lives: a rusted cow bell and a wooden butter mold.

Butter mold

Table made by my husband's
father and grandfather.

Lamp and doilies from grandaunt Velma;
bed and table from grandaunt Violetta

Bedrooms hold old beds, old quilts, old lamps, and old dressers handed down from old family members. 

Middle shelf - candle holders 
and a candy dish
Bottom shelf - hat pin holder, my
jar of permanent rods, and my
grandfather's glasses

A knick-knack shelf  in a guest room displays my grandfather’s glasses, my grandmother’s candle holders, and even a jar of rods from the Toni home permanents my mother gave me as a child.

The china press in the dining room and corner cabinet in the living room are both family heirlooms working overtime like mini-museums of glassware, silver, and china passed on to me from the Davis, Slade, Rucker, Jollett, Killeen, and Parker families.

Whenever I watch HGTV and some buyer is disappointed that a house looks “too grandma,” I look around at my stuff and think, “Yep, this is a grandma house, all right.” However, to me it is the pinnacle of warmth and comfort, not like the soulless grey remodels with generic Wayfair decor where the only signs of life might be a single gallery wall of black and white headshots. 

Give me “grandma” any day.

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.