Thursday, May 31, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Legacy

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

View looking toward Main Street
Velma wrote with a white pen but some of her writings
have faded too much to read.

James Madison University
Madison College
Harrisonburg Normal School
Harrisonburg Teachers College

By any name it is a special place because so many women in my family are alums:  my two great-aunts Violetta Davis Ryan and Velma Davis Woodring, my mother Mary Eleanor Davis Slade, and me.  My cousin Glenn Davis and husband Barry were among the first men to attend after Madison officially became co-ed (there were male students prior but no dorms for them).

These pictures are from Velma’s scrapbook devoted to her college life in 1924-25.In the weeks ahead, I will share more of her memories of her roommate, dorm friends, trips, and classes.  

The caption "On Our Way Where?" captures the excitement of being a college girl in the 20s.  Velma is the girl on the far right. The girl next to her is her roomie Leta LaVou. Don't you love that name?  It sounds like a fictional character or a star of the silent screen. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Newlyweds

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

Not sure of the date, but most of the
photos in the album are from
Ocean View, Virginia

From the scrapbook of my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker comes this photo which she titled “The Newlyweds.”  I don’t know them.  But that is some hair on that bride!

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Birthday Parties

Sentimental Sunday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that encourages family historians to create a post discussing a sentimental story or memory about an ancestor, or maybe even a family tradition.

Evelyn Cantor is cut off on the left.
I can't remember the tall older girl but I
think she was Evelyn's cousin. 
Next is Sharon Asbury -- I always loved
her long blond hair.  Me.  Patty Ray Allison.
Cousin Leo Slade.  Neighbor Sonny Foltz cut off.

Organdy and polka dotted swiss dresses with crinolines

Patent leather shoes
Back: Vickie Reeves, Evelyn Cantor, Unknown, Sharon Asbury, my head,
Patty Ray Allison, her sister Vickie cut off.
Front:  Leo Slade, Sonny Foltz, Peggy Taylor, Katherine Cummings
Background:  Aunt Charlotte Butler Slade (now Shea) and Momma

Evelyn Cantor and me
Uncle Leo in the background
I see my name on the cake
but we had cupcakes on our plates.
What a great party!

        Cake and Punch  

No bouncing houses

No laser tag, bumper bowling, or rock wall climbing adventure

Just neighborhood kids in the yard

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sepia Saturday: On the Street Where You Live

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt features a busy marketplace complete with cows, hotel, shoppers, and the Waterford coffee and tea van, perhaps a forerunner of food trucks and kiosks.  The community where I grew up in the 50s and 60s was once equally vibrant while today it struggles to revitalize itself.

Photo by Laura Purvis
Cradock is a historic neighborhood built in 1918 to house shipyard workers during World War I since the neighboring city of Portsmouth, Virginia was not equipped to handle the large numbers of workers moving in.  It is significant because it was the first government-funded community in the US.  Cradock was designed as a fully self-contained pedestrian neighborhood of 35 blocks surrounding a shopping district close enough for most residents to walk to stores, to school, to church, to a library and post office, and to recreation areas.  The same theories used in planning Cradock are being used today, but now it’s called “new urbanism.”

Cradock was named for Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock whose fleet was sunk by the Germans in 1914. The street layout is based on an anchor with Gillis Road (where I lived) forming the stock and the main thoroughfare Afton Parkway forming the shank.  The curved part is created by Alden and Dahlgren Avenues.  Many of the roads were named for naval heroes.

Inspired by Howard over at Postcards Then and Now I’ve put together some before and after shots of the commercial district of Cradock.  Let’s go shopping in Cradock then and now.

     1. At the corner of Gillis and Afton was Reds, a bit of a forerunner of convenience stores where you could get lunch as well as buy light bulbs, cleaning supplies, toys, and candy.  I was scared of this store because greasy boys smoking cigarettes were always hanging around.  However, I had to be brave and go in because Reds carried the best selection of Barbie doll clothes. 



Today it is a pawn shop. Next door was a hardware store, and I see by the Gliddens paint sign that it still is.  At the opposite corner was a bakery and later a florist.  I don’t know what is there now.

2. Across the street was a dry cleaners (although it was some other business in this older photo). It later housed a talented upholsterer who did some work for us.
Now, the stores are home to a real estate management company and some other office.
     3.    Moving on up Afton Parkway the road becomes “one way” around a circle. 

Older photos from

The park in the middle was where every summer Holy Angels Catholic Church held its annual bazaar.  We went every night.  We could play Bingo, enjoy ponies and carnival rides, play carnival games and win cheap prizes (my favorite was picking a plastic duck out of the “pond” to see if I was a winner – yeah, I’m easily entertained).  And cotton candy!  Cotton candy EVERY. DAY.  This park remains although not quite as lush as it used to be, but it still sees plenty of action with fall festival and other “Come Home to Cradock” activities.


     4. This part of the shopping strip gives a good view of the “new urbanism” concept with apartments above the stores.  On the right was Highs Ice Cream.  Five cents a dip when I was a kid.  On the far left corner was Moys.  They ran both a Chinese laundry and take-out restaurant.  We used to get their chow mein quite often.  A variety of businesses have come and gone over the years including appliance stores, antique shops, thrift stores, and beauty parlors.

5.       Here’s the bank where I had my little savings account and Christmas club.  Now it is the latest of a series of restaurants that have tried to make it there. The empty lot was once Overtons Supermarket.  We did most of our grocery shopping at Colonial Store on the highway, but if we needed something right away, Momma sent me to Overtons.

6.      Going to the Afton Theater was everybody’s Saturday activity.  The ladies’ restroom had a vestibule with a picture window where you could continue watching the movie while your friend was occupied.  Sometimes we hid in the bathroom after the movie so we could sneak back in and watch it again for free.  There have been several failed attempts to raise funds to refurbish the place for 2nd run movies or little theater.  Right now it’s a gutted disaster.  Next door was a drug store with the best selection of penny candy.

7.      Down from the Afton, the shop on the corner was a fabric store where Momma was a frequent customer since she made most of our clothes.  At one time it was run by her high school friend Bertie Winn Campbell.  It is now just a variety store or junk shop.

     8. Chapman’s market was a meat market. My grandmother sometimes helped out since the Chapmans were old family friends. 

Now look at that stretch of Afton Parkway. So depressing.

9.        The Gazebo (bandstand) has always been the heart of “downtown Cradock.”  It was originally on Prospect Parkway but was moved to its current location in Afton Park in the circle to be a focal point for community activities.

Photo by Laura Purvis
Whether in times of prosperity or poverty, the bandstand will probably always be important in the hearts of Cradock citizens as a reminder of the Cradock that once was and the hope of what Cradock could be again. 

To see what else is happening in the neighborhood, head over to Sepia Saturday.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Summer in Shenandoah

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

As a child visiting my cousins in Shenandoah, Virginia was second only to Christmas on the anticipation scale.  My maternal grandparents Lucille Rucker and Orvin Davis returned to their ancestral roots as often as they could, and they would take me with them. 

You know how they say, “Getting there is half the fun.”  Well, it wasn’t.

Today with the Interstate highway, we can make the trip in 3.5 hours.  Back then it was a 5-hour drive, the majority of it on a 2-lane rolling highway, up one hill and down the next, up and down, up and down.  It could have been delightful watching the geography change from flatlands to piedmont to mountains and valley if it hadn’t been for those darn oil trucks.  When they were full, they couldn’t handle the posted speed limit.  Granddaddy was forced to inch toward the opposite lane to get a peek around the truck before bravely entering the game of Chicken.  It was easiest on the downhill run when we could see if anything was coming, and if it was, whether we had plenty of time to make it around the oil truck back to the safety of the right lane.

All that with no air conditioning.  And no portable DVD player.  The most fun you could hope for was a rousing game of Twenty Questions.   It was that or count cows.

The reward for the white-knuckle ride was the scheduled stop at Zion Crossroads for a bathroom break.  And a treat.  I always got a Nutty Buddy.

from Google Images
Love those things still.

Then we resumed the ride across the mountain.  Not just up and down.  Round and around. Curve after curve.  At Swift Run Gap we were at the top of the mountain with our destination just 30 minutes away. 

I could hardly wait for Granddaddy to pull that big grey Buick into the little dirt driveway on North Third Street so I could see my cousins, Bobbie and Glenn. 

Glenn on Granddaddy's Buick

They were three and four years older than me but we always found plenty to do.  We picked blackberries in some nearby woods.  It’s a good thing Glenn didn’t tell me until years later about the snakes back there.  And they had a nanny goat.  How many people have cousins with a pet goat?  Cool, eh? 

1960 - Bobbie and me with one of the Dachshunds,
either Punky or Chunky -- I can't remember

We wondered about the strange old man across the street who always sat on his porch well-hidden by an overgrown vine.  He was probably just staying cool, but we thought it was creepy.  Rumor has it he really was a Peeping Tom. 
1960 - I bet that creepy man was sitting on the porch behind that vine.
But what a view from Bobbie and Glenn's house!

Part of the fun of visiting was getting to play with the 6 Jenkins girls across the street and with different toys.  Bobbie had good paper dolls.  One day Bobbie must have been bored with her selection, so we walked downtown to buy some more.  Coming home just before dark, we encountered bats.  We didn’t have bats in the city, and I had seen enough vampire movies to know bats were nothing to mess with.  Bobbie suggested we cover our heads with our new paper dolls and crawl home because bats could get in our hair.  She knew a girl who had to have her head shaved when that happened.  (Really???  I totally believed it then.  I don’t think I believe it today.)  So crawl we did.  Up one hill and down the next.   When we finally made it to safety back at Bobbie’s house on the top of the hill, my aunt and Grandma were laughing at us.  They had watched the whole spectacle from the porch. 

I’m not one who wishes to relive times in my life, but summer in Shenandoah comes close.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: What the ?

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

What is going on here?

This photo taken at Ocean View in Virginia is from the photo album of my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker.  While there is no date, most of the photos are from 1918-20. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mystery Monday: Agnes or Lacuta?

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

Just call me Jane Rizzoli (or Maura Isles, if you prefer).  Or if you're older, call me Jessica Fletcher. I think I’ve helped solve a mystery.

This week 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 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, we have a number of photos of Lacuta Powell.  Lacuta as a baby:

Sarah Long Powell
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 has 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.  Maybe Vessie was mistaken. 

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.

Scanned from Shenandoah: 
A History of Our Town And Its People
Lacuta is seated on the front row, third from the end.
One look at that dark hair and serious expression told me that the photo in question has to be that of Lacuta Powell, not Agnes Utz.  The resemblance is 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. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

And the award goes to ...

M.J. Joachim of Lots of Crochet Stitches surprised me with the Beautiful Blogger Award.  We “met” during the A to Z April Challenge.  She doesn’t do family history and I don’t crochet, but for some strange reason we have taken an interest in each other’s blogs.  Her clear and precise tutorials complete with photos make her blog a must for handcrafters. And for non-crafters, her blog is just a colorful delight, quite a departure for us family historians who dwell in a mostly black and white or sepia world. 

I’ve been around the blogging block enough to have seen lots of awards:  One Beautiful Blog, Stylish Blogger, Kreative Blogger, Versatile Blogger, etc.  I know the concept:  Someone nominates you.  You thank them with a link back to their blog.  You tell random stuff about yourself.  You nominate others.  They link back to you. The point is to increase traffic by attracting people to your blog who might not have found you otherwise.
It is a genius networking idea. 

I’ve never received a blog award before, so I hadn’t really considered how I felt about them until now.  Quite honestly, I’m not worried about the traffic to my blog.  I know it has a very narrow appeal.  Since I’m not trying to make money with it, a small audience is fine. 

Then what if you don’t really want to participate?  I hate to insult a loyal follower who thought enough of my blog to nominate me.  How can you say, “Thanks but no thanks” without seeming ungrateful?  I don’t want to give the impression that I think I’m too busy to be bothered.  That’s not it.  I’m not even sure what it is.  I think I’m scared to nominate others.  Let’s just say it’s reward enough when people leave a comment.

So here is my compromise:  for this one time I’m accepting the award, but after that this blog will be Award Free.  I’m following the rule that I must share 7 random things about myself:

1.       I’m not a chocolate person – I prefer Skittles, red licorice, and Starburst.

2.       I play handbells at my church. 

3.       I support Virginia wine, the Napa Valley of the east.

4.       I can tie a maraschino cherry stem into a knot using only my tongue and teeth.

5.       I don’t like to wear maroon clothes.

6.       I enjoy stories of intrigue, primarily by Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, and David Baldacci.

7.       I HATE when people won’t walk 10 steps to put a grocery cart in the cart return.  I routinely gather carts that are taking up perfectly close parking spots, but I cheer myself up by imagining that I am ramming the culprits in the ankles with a grocery cart.

The next requirement is to nominate others.  I nominate YOU.  Let me know if you want the award and I’ll gladly nominate you immediately.  I know of several bloggers looking to increase traffic and make a little income, so I fully expect some blogger-friends to take me up on the offer. 

In the meantime, I so appreciate the gesture, the mark of a true friend.  And I appreciate all who visit and take the time to comment. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Join the Group

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt, although actually a wedding party, reminded me of churchgoers.  The very faithful church-going Methodists in my family have left behind some reminders of how important the church was in their everyday lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

My second great-grand uncle John Wesley Jollett was a Methodist minister in Jollett Hollow located in Page County, Virginia. 

About 1914
Back row: John Wesley and Sarah Elizabeth Smith Jollett
This is probably a family picture with children and grandchildren.
Photo courtesy of Georgia Hunter, granddaughter of Catherine Meadows
(little blond girl in middy blouse)
(Click on image to enlarge)
John Jollett was married to Sarah Elizabeth Smith, granddaughter of Reverend William Smith.   A farmer, storekeeper and post master, John Jollett was also the second Methodist minister in the Naked Creek community, taking over when the first minister died in 1846. While Reverend Smith built a chapel on the south branch of Naked Creek, John Jollett built one in the hollow. Years later in 1884 John and Elizabeth gave land to build the new church which is still being used today.

Jollett United Methodist Church
(Click on image to enlarge)
The community itself and the church were named to acknowledge the influence of the Jollett families that originally settled there.

Meanwhile during that same time period my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis was active in the United Brethren Church in nearby Shenandoah.  (It later merged with the Methodist Church in the 1960s to form the United Methodist Church.)  She even had her own hymnal.  Her sister Laura Jollett and husband William J. Sullivan are listed among the earliest members having joined in 1893. 

The Gleaners outside the UB Church
1- Sallie Jollett Clift
2 - Mary Frances Jollett Davis
(Click on image to enlarge)
The Gleaners was a women’s mission society.  In the Methodist Church, this group became the United Methodist Women.

Sometime between 1913 and 1915, Reverend Ferguson posed front and center with the Men of the United Brethren Church.  (Today this group is known as United Methodist Men.)  I can claim at least 10 of them as mine.

Men of the United Brethren Church
Shenandoah, Virginia
(Click on image to enlarge)
1 – William J. Sullivan (husband of my great-grand aunt Laura Jollett Sullivan)

2 – Decatur Breeden  (husband of my great-grand aunt Victoria Jollett Breeden) 

3 – Ulysses Jollett (my great-grand uncle) 

4 – Orvin Davis (my maternal grandfather)

5 – Clyde Strole (husband of my 1st cousin 2X removed Pearl Sullivan Strole)

6 – Mitchell Morris (my 1st cousin 2X removed married to another 1st cousin 2X removed Reba Coleman Morris) 

7 – Jim Breeden (father of Decatur and Wesley Breeden, son of Lydia Jollett and George Breeden, and my 1st cousin 3X removed)

8 – Harry Escue (at the time of this photo not yet the husband of my 1st cousin 2X removed Mattie Coleman Escue) 

9 – Wesley Breeden (brother to Decatur Breeden and husband of my 1st cousin 2X removed Minnie Sullivan Breeden)

10 – Walter Davis (my great-grandfather married to Mary Frances Jollett Davis)  

Granddaddy is the first man on the left, second row from the bottom
(they're standing on the first step)
(Click on image to enlarge)
Then fast-forward about 40-50 years to the Cradock United Methodist Men in Portsmouth, Virginia.  There’s my grandfather again, still a faithful servant and volunteer in the men’s group of the church.

Picture taken before 1963
Grandma and Granddaddy Davis are in the second row.
They are the 3rd and 4th from the right.
Grandma is wearing a dark dress with short sleeves.
Granddaddy is to the right of her.
(Click on image to enlarge)

Members of the Cradock church loved a church dinner.  I don’t know what the occasion was, but there was a good crowd at this church dinner held in the old fellowship hall affectionately known as the “Green Building,” not because it was eco-friendly but because the exterior shingles were actually painted green.

For my family service to the community and an enriched social life are what Church is all about.

Grab your hat and join the group over at Sepia Saturday. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.