Sunday, September 30, 2012

Census Sunday: Uncle Buck

Richard Slade was the baby of the Slade family.  He was always known as “Buck.”  So whenever I refer to “Uncle Buck,” I can’t help laughing and thinking about John Candy.

Remember him?  He starred in the title role of the movie, “Uncle Buck.” 

In 1940 Buck was a young husband and father, only 26.  He and his wife Rosa Lee Lofton Slade (24) were renting on Middle Street in downtown Portsmouth, Virginia.  Today a parking garage and pedestrian mall have replaced the house or apartment that he rented for $10 a month. 

Buck had a 7th grade education and was working as a carpenter’s helper in the shipyard under the WPA.  He worked only 30 weeks in 1939, earning a pitiful $360.  Rosa Lee was listed as keeping house.  Their daughter “Little Rosie” was just 3 years old.  And can you believe it – she is still known in the family as “Little Rosie.”

Click to enlarge

Daddy used to tell a funny story about his dad and uncles.  The Slade boys were serious about hunting.  In fact, Granddaddy used to keep a kennel full of Beagles at his taxi cab business in Burlington, North Carolina.  One fine hunting day, Lee, Lester, Buck, and Granddaddy were out on a hunt.  Buck started complaining of chest pains.  Fearing he was having a heart attack, the Slade brothers walked him out of the woods to the main highway.  And as any good brother would do, they flagged down a Trailways bus and asked the driver to drop him off at the hospital.

And yeah, he did have a heart attack!

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sepia Saturday: First Love

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features boys with their cleats.  What would football be without cheerleaders? 

Are you ready?  Let’s go!   

1 – 2 – 3 – 4
3 – 2 – 1 – 4
WHO for?
WHAT for?
WHO ya gonna yell for?

That was one of the cheers my mother used to perform in her high school days.  She even showed me how:  Snap your fingers with every number and twist your feet and body left and right as you work your way to the floor counting 1-2-3-4, and then twist yourself back up on the 3-2-1-4, snapping all the way.  Now jump and yell for your team!  Cradock High, of course.

During her senior year 1945-46, Momma was co-captain of the Cradock High School cheerleaders. And just like in the plot of an old sentimental movie, she was dating the ultimate guy with cleats: the captain of the football team, Richard Edward “Dickie” Blanks, Jr. 

Dickie Blanks and Mary Eleanor Davis
in front of Cradock High School 1945

Dickie was sooooooooo good-looking.  And popular.  He was  elected King of the May Court, Senior class president, and president of the Hi-Y.  He starred in the school play and helped edit the yearbook.  In sports, he did it all.  He ran track, played basketball serving as captain of the team, as well as captain of both his baseball and football teams.  No wonder the class voted him “Most Athletic” and “Best All Around.”

Momma and Dickie were very popular as individuals but more so as a couple.  The Senior Class “Last Will & Testament” bequeathed Dickie and Mary Eleanor’s ability at going steady to a couple of underclassmen who apparently needed some inspiration.

After high school, Dickie packed his cleats and headed to Davidson College in North Carolina, a school known for selecting students with academic promise and good character.  While there, Dickie donned the red and black jersey and contributed to many Wildcat wins in football.  

The local paper was proud of the number of Virginia boys playing
for Davidson College.  Dickie is #20 on the back row.
I suspect Momma is the one who circled his head.

And Momma continued her cheering efforts at Shenandoah College.  

It appears the two kept in touch for awhile in their college days, but they did not live up to the Senior Class Prophecy which pictured Dickie as an All-American center for the Cleveland Rams, sitting on a mink-covered sofa with his beautiful wife Mary Eleanor. 

Nope, didn’t happen.

Put on your cleats and make tracks over to Sepia Saturday to see how others interpreted this week’s theme.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Lester and Mary Watson Slade

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers which asks bloggers to create a post including an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors; it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor.

My great-uncle Lester and great-aunt Mary Watson Slade are buried in the Olive Branch Cemetery in Portsmouth, Virginia.

from Findagrave
photo by Steve Poole


Husband & Father 
Lester C.
May 30, 1905
July 20, 1978

Wife & Mother 
Mary W.
Sept. 23, 1906
July 6, 1975

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Census Sunday: Lester Slade

Lester Slade was my paternal grandfather’s younger brother.  In the 1940 census, he and his family were living on Jolliff Road in what is now the Western Branch borough of Chesapeake.  But in 1940 it was part of Norfolk County.  I’m sure that area was considered “way out in the sticks” back then because the Jolliff area has been developed only since the late 1980s / early 1990s.

Click to enlarge

In 1940 Lester (34) and his wife Mary Watson Slade (33) were the parents of three children: Lester Jr. (10), Louis (8), and Shirley (3).  Lester was working as a pipe insulator for the naval shipyard.  He worked 40 hours the last week of March 1940, and earned $1500 working the full year in 1939.  That equates to about $24,724 today.  Mary was keeping house and tending to Shirley while the boys were in school. Lester had completed only seven years of school and Mary, three years of high school.  Their boys were right on target according to modern standards with Lester Jr. having completed four years and Louis two.

The Slades were renting their house on Jolliff Road for $15 a month, the same amount they had paid to Mary’s parents when they were living with them on Maple Avenue in Portsmouth in 1930. 

from Google Maps
This house was owned by Mary's parents, the Watsons
Maple Avenue, Portsmouth, Virginia 

Growing up, we did not see the Slade side of the family very often, even though Lester’s family lived fairly close.  So I have no personal memory of Lester and Mary. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sepia Saturday: A Jollett by any other name

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

The obvious topic for this week’s Sepia Saturday should be the movie theater, but since I’ve done that already, I have no choice but to look for inspiration in the movie being shown in the prompt, “The Ex-Convict.”

The world of the family historian is usually rather dull and pedestrian.  It means sifting through census records, studying handwriting and fiddling with magnifying glasses to discern the name of a missing ancestor. It means posting inquiries on surname boards and county forums in hopes of connecting with a distant cousin who wants to share information.  It means creating a family chart with 7 generations only to have your husband/daughter/cousin/BFF say, “Wow that’s a lot of work. What time does the game come on?”

If it weren’t for the few criminals in my family tree, I’d have nothing to look forward to as a family historian. 

Actually, most of my ancestors' crimes are not THAT shocking:  a couple of guys perpetrating fraud and some Confederate deserters.  I have a wife abuser and one murderer – maybe it was manslaughter. 

But my favorite criminal actually served some serious time.  Yes, in jail.  The joint.  The clink.  The pokey.  The slammer.  The hoosegow.  The Big House. 

And the crime?  He was a horse thief.

In the nineteenth century, a horse was more than just transportation; it was a means to making a living.  Even more than that, it was essential to survival when one needed to escape from harm.  Horse theft was a serious crime that led to the hanging tree out west.  But here in Virginia, William H. Jollett (my great-grandfather’s nephew, my first cousin three times removed) got to spend about four years of a five-year sentence in Richmond’s “Greybar Hotel.”  

1870 Richmond Census
Click to enlarge

Horse thieves were considered to be no good, dirty, rotten scoundrels. And by all accounts, William H. Jollett was just that.  He reportedly ate soap in order to get sick enough for ol’ Doc Shuller to approve his early release from prison so that he could recuperate at the home of his father’s half-brother in Rockingham County, Virginia.

From there William Jollett’s life really went to hell. He got a young girl “in a family way” and then took off on his sister’s black mare.  From that moment William H. Jollett ceased to exist.  He is nowhere to be found in census records, death records, or land dealings.  

But a year later in 1876 a Giles County, Virginia, girl named Hattie Echols married one William P. Boyd, a man who did not exist before then.

William and Hattie Echols Boyd
photo courtesy of Tim Rugenstein via Dexter Boyd

Boyd researchers have some strong evidence that their ancestor William Preston Boyd was the notorious William Henry Jollett, a man on the run for committing some unknown act more horrific than stealing a horse and getting a girl pregnant, a man whose questionable and shameful past was revealed only to two who succeeded in taking the truth to their graves.

It would be absolutely criminal to miss what’s showing over at Sepia Saturday.  

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: At the wheel

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.

My uncle Orvin Davis, Jr. loved to drive, even at age 3, it seems. 

Shenandoah, Virginia
September 1928

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Lee Slade

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers which asks bloggers to create a post including an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors; it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor.

My great-uncle Lee Slade is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Burlington, North Carolina.  His wife Ruth is there also.

photo by Jason and Mitzi

Lee Wycliff Slade
Pvt US Army
World War I
May 5, 1896 – Aug 18, 1970

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Census Sunday: Lee Slade

Lee Wycliff Slade was my paternal grandfather’s oldest brother.  With a simple name like “Lee,” he should be easy to track in the census.  However, Ancestry and FamilySearch both indexed him as “Levi” in 1940.   

Yeah, I can see why.  But at least it’s an improvement over “Cra” from 1910. 

Lee and his wife Lillian Ruth Garrison had five children, all of whom were living at home in Burlington, Alamance County, North Carolina in 1940. Although they had owned a home on South Mebane Street in 1930, they were renting on Pine Street for $14 a month in 1940. 

I wonder if they experienced some sort of financial crisis.  It was Depression years, after all.  But Lee was still a delivery truck driver for a wholesale produce company as he had been in 1930.  In fact, he had worked the entire year and earned $1170 in 1939, roughly $19,285 today.  He worked 48 hours the last week of March 1940. So he doesn’t appear to have been out of work.

Click to enlarge

Living with them was Ruth’s brother, Albert Garrison, as he had been in 1930.  However, there were other Garrisons living with them in 1930, too.  Listed as “boarders,” they probably paid some rent.  But by 1940 they had all moved on, taking with them any potential for extra income for the Slades.  

Lee (census says 40 but should say 42 or 43) and Ruth (38) had completed only five years of schooling. Their children didn’t seem to be faring much better judging by their ages and years of education completed:  Lillian, age 15, completed 6 years; Buddy (Wallace), age 13, and Mary Lois, age 11, had each completed 4 years; Gene, age 9, and Robert, age 7, had each completed 1 year. 

My family didn’t see the “Carolina Slades” very often.  But I do remember the afternoon that Lee and Ruth came for lunch.  Ruth offered a prayer in which, among other things, she gave thanks to the wonderful hands that prepared such a delightful and delicious meal.  With that my mother got the giggles.  What was on the lunch menu for the day left my memory long ago, but I know Momma was not a confident cook, so the meal was probably simple and seemingly unworthy of Ruth’s high praise.  

Giggling at the wrong time is a definite family trait that has been passed down.

Christmas 1952 in Burlington, NC
Momma, Me (the cute one), Mary Lois Slade (Lee and Ruth's daughter),
Beverly Slade (my dad's sister), and Freddie Slade (Lee and Ruth's
grandson, son of Wallace and Helen)

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Who's minding the store?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a busy store.  One of my earliest blog posts was about the store owned by my great-grandfather Walter Davis.  Since I had been blogging for less than a month and only about a dozen people saw it the first time, it’s safe to assume that this “new and improved” version of that blog post will be “new” to the Sepia Saturday gang and other readers. 

I always knew that my great-grandfather Walter Beriah Sylvester Davis owned a grocery store at the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Shenandoah, Virginia.  Since summer visits to my cousins in Shenandoah always included a pilgrimage to “the store” like some religious shrine, it is no wonder that growing up I always thought it was THE store. The ONLY store.

Plus, I had studied some history.  It was the Depression.  Weren’t people poor and out of work? 

The Davis Store as it looked in the 1920s-30s

So I was surprised to read in Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People that in the early 1900s Shenandoah was experiencing an economic boom and businesses flourished.  There were several hotels, lots of restaurants, hat shops, clothing stores, bakeries, meat markets, bowling alley and skating rink, dance halls, an opera house, furniture stores, jewelers, a business school, bicycle shop, saloons, not to mention multiples of hardware stores and general stores. 

The Davis Store as it looked in the 1980s
from Shenandoah: A History
of Our Town and Its People
In the 1920s-30s, Davis Groceries was just one of many family-run stores with names like Propes, Sullivan, Emerson, Foltz, Booton, and Morris.  

No matter which store shoppers went to, they probably all looked much like the Davis store:  shelves with neatly displayed canned goods, sacks of grain, boxes of cigars, and a coke machine dotted around a central wood or coal burning stove.

That's my grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis behind the counter.

Judging by the receipts in Walter Davis’s accounts book, he carried many staple items like coffee (38¢), sugar (45¢), bread (24¢), peanut butter (25¢), butter (25¢), soap (08¢), salt (09¢), lard (40¢), soap powder (05¢), matches (02¢), oatmeal (10¢), and potatoes (40¢ ).  

But a shopper could also count on Mr. Davis for other items like thread (05¢), oil (18¢), chicken feed, and cigarettes (15¢).

This scale from the store must’ve been used for weighing fresh fruits and vegetables, and bulk items like coffee and sugar. 

Even though Shenandoah was a boom town, shopping for everyday items wasn’t easy for everyone. Among the memorabilia that my family preserved for 80 years is a small stack of receipts paper-clipped together.  Dated from 1924-28, the receipts are all from one family.  They bought on credit and paid down a little here and there with cash.  Occasionally the bill was paid by hauling goods. 

Some people left diamond rings at the store in exchange for goods.  Sadly, the owners never came back for them.  After my grandmother died, my mother had a ring made from the mismatched stones. 

When I wear this ring, I wonder whose worried hands reluctantly pawned a prized possession as barter for food at my great-grandfather's store. 

You might want to head over to Sepia Saturday to see what the other bloggers have in store.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

DAR - Off to a good start

Big smile.  Big wave.  Big “Hey!”  That’s how Pam greeted Mary Jollette and me at our preliminary meeting with the DAR.  I knew from the git-go Fort Nelson would be the right chapter for us.

First of all, Pam took us on a tour of the clubhouse and explained some of the history of the chapter and character of the current members. 

  • Fort Nelson is one of the oldest chapters in the DAR.
  • The house was a GIFT from the husband of one of the charter members who served as  Regent for over 20 years.  He was tired of the women meeting in his living room, so he built them a house.  Hmm, somebody had some money!
  • The sofa is from the Revolutionary War period.

from Google Images
This sofa is SIMILAR to the one in the clubhouse,
but the unadorned arms are square, not curvy.
It is upholstered in blue velvet.

  • Many of the furnishings are antique, some given as gifts to the Chapter.
  • In the corner cabinet is an OLD blue and white platter featuring three sparrows.  It was thought to have been used to serve George Washington when he was surveying the Dismal Swamp, but research proved the platter was created after that time.  Nevertheless, it is of the period.
  • They are trying to get rid of some old mule-ear ladderback chairs by selling them for a donation of $100.  

from Google Images
Fort Nelson's chairs are
in better shape.

  • Interesting artifacts include old maps and cannonballs retrieved from Fort Nelson which had been built to protect the harbor in colonial times.
  • The house enjoyed a makeover recently.  The walls are a lovely yellow.  The kitchen cabinets are painted white.  The walls of the bathroom are papered in a yellow and blue toile with bead board salvaged from the ceiling of an old building in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Dusty dry-rotting valances have been replaced with Plantation Shutters.  New oriental rugs were purchased from a catalog online.  Nice, southern colonial vibe.
  • The members get along well, unlike some chapters with snooty, snippy, catty in-fighting.  Glad to hear that!

We sat down at the dining room table to go over our lineage.  Pam was impressed with our organization.  (Aw shucks ~ thanks, Pam!) She projects based on what we know and have verified so far that we could be approved and IN by the December meeting.  OMG – that’s pretty fast.  Pam LOVES the footwork.  She gave us the form to start filling out so that SHE can get started.  SHE will actually help us fill in what we don’t know for sure.  Pam has helped find “supplements” for members of the chapter.  Supplements are one’s “other” patriots.  We will join as descendants of Leonard Davis, but there are more patriots in our family too.  As Pam said, “If Sarah’s husband’s father was a patriot, it’s likely her father was too.” 

According to Pam, the DAR is most strict about the first 3 generations: you, your parents, your grandparents.  Piece of cake!  I have all the proof there for sure.  Beyond them, I have quite a bit, but the least definite information for the 5th through 7th generations.  However, Pam reassures me that the clues are good ones and shouldn’t be difficult to verify.

Next time we’ll be given an interest survey.  Pam said we can serve on any number of committees or do nothing at all.  We can even be our own committee if we want to. 

So I’ve been making copies of birth certificates, death records, photos of tombstones, and census records and filling in the lineage worksheet.  

Not only has my handwriting gone to H-E-Double hockey sticks, but also I’ve put dates where places should be and one person’s information in another person’s slots.  I need white out!

I’ve decided MY committee will be to put the worksheet in PDF format fillable online. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday's Child: Cora V. Davis

Wednesday’s Child is one of the daily blogging prompts at Geneabloggers that features gravestones of children. 

from Findagrave
photo by Jan Hensley

Cora V.
Daughter of
J. P. & Elizabeth
June 20, 1891
July 12, 1892

Cora V. Davis was my first cousin twice removed, daughter of Josiah and Elizabeth Frances Powell Davis.  Cora lived a short time past her first birthday.  She is buried in Elk Run Cemetery in Elkton, Virginia along with her parents and other family members.

If I am reading the photo correctly, the tombstone is adorned with an ascending dove symbolizing that the soul has gone to heaven.  Holding an olive branch means that the soul has reached divine peace.

Behind Cora’s tombstone is that of her sister Mary F. who also died as an infant.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Everett and Ollie

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers which asks bloggers to create a post including an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors; it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor.

My great uncle George Everett and great aunt Ollie Coakley Rucker are buried in the Rucker family plot at the Methodist Church Cemetery in Shenandoah, Virginia.

Everett and Ollie are buried on the other side of the family marker
(upper right corner)

George E. Rucker
1897 - 1977

In Loving Memory

Ollie D. Rucker
1902 - 1985

In Loving Memory

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Census Sunday: Everett and Ollie Rucker

Finding my maternal grandmother’s oldest brother George Everett Rucker and his family in the 1940 census was not easy.  The Ruckers HAD to be in Washington, DC.  That much I knew.  I checked Ancestry but found nothing under George OR Everett Rucker, and nothing using all combinations for Rucher, Pucker, Ducker, and any other spelling that I thought might be how an indexer interpreted the name. 

I then went to FamilySearch using the same strategy.  Nothing.

I went back to Ancestry and searched for George and Ollie without a last name in Washington DC.  There they were:  George and Ollie RuckeS

So why didn’t FamilySearch give me that?  I then tried searching George and Ollie without a location. FamilySearch found George and Ollie RuckeR in District of Columbia.  It turns out FamilySearch doesn’t recognize Washington DC.  At least FamilySearch got the names right, and now I know how to look for someone living in the nation’s capital. 

So in 1940 Uncle Everett and his family were renting their home at 612 Morris Place for $45 a month, the same house in which they were living in 1935. 

from Google Maps
Based on the address on other houses, the Ruckers
must have lived in the last house, far right.

Everett was a mechanic, but I cannot decipher the handwriting naming the company he worked for.  He worked for the railway in 1930, but that doesn’t seem to be the word in the blank.  

Nevertheless, he was fully employed in 1939 earning $2600, which equates to roughly $42,548 today.  He worked 48 hours the last week of March 1940.

Everett (42) had completed a year of high school while his wife Ollie D. Coakley (38) had finished only 8 years.  Their sons George Jr. (16) and Jimmy (14) were attending school.  Ollie was busy caring for two younger daughters Norma (4) and Mary Ann (3).

Click to enlarge

I remember Everett and Ollie as being very quiet and kind people.  Never did I hear anyone call him "George."  Yet, in all the census records, that is how he is listed.  I wonder if his immediate family called him George while the rest of us said Everett, or if they were just being "correct" for the occasion.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.