Sunday, March 30, 2014

52 Ancestors: #13 - Tabatha JOLLETT

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Tabatha JOLLETT.  So many questions.  So little information.

When I discovered Tabatha many years ago, I just laughed.  I thought Tabatha was a name made up by the writers of “Bewitched.”  I had no idea that this name was fairly common in the early 1800s.

As best I can tell, Tabatha was the fifth daughter of James and Nancy Walker Jollett.  Apparently she was born in Orange County, Virginia, sometime between 1797 and 1800.  Her name appears only twice in census records.  In 1850, she was living in Greene  County in the household of Elizabeth King.  A young girl named Frances Jollett was likely Tabatha’s daughter.

1850 Greene County, Virginia Census
Tabatha Jollett age 50 could not read or write

In 1860, the Greene County census taker must have been lazy as names are listed with initials only. “T” Jollett and “FEA” Jollett were in their own home. 

1860 Greene County, Virginia Census
Tabatha age 63 valued her personal property at $40.  She still could not read or write.

And that’s it for Tabatha, as far as I know.  Frances, on the other hand, in 1870 was listed as “cousin” in the household of Thomas and Columbia Marsh and Thomas’s mother-in-law Elizabeth King.  That means Tabatha must have been Elizabeth’s unmarried sister OR the widow of an unknown brother. 

Since there is no “Three Generations” possibility for this family, I present a To Do list:

1.       Search for a death record for Tabatha Jollett.
2.       Search for any records for Frances Jollett, in particular birth and death.
3.       Look for Tabatha’s name on any deeds.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sepia Saturday: The Flood of 1936

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicting a flood forced me to take a second look at a small stack of ho-hum photos marked “Flood of 1936.”  They were among the many photos passed down to me from my grandaunts Violetta Davis Ryan and Velma Davis Woodring. 

I say “ho-hum” because had the photos not been labeled, they would have passed as mere pictures of rocks and logs in the Shenandoah River.  However, in fact, the pictures are practically historic.  The Flood of 1936 ranks #7 among the top 10 worst floods in Virginia.

Shenandoah River 1936 Flood
Shenandoah River 1936
In 1936, snow followed by thaw followed by more snow left the ground too saturated to handle the torrential rains of March 17 and 18.

My aunts and grandparents were only affected by the flooding of the Shenandoah River although similar devastation was felt in Culpeper with the flooding of the Rapidan River, in Fredericksburg with the Rappahannock River, in Richmond with the James River, and Washington DC and neighboring cities along the Potomac River.

I imagine work was disrupted for quite awhile.  The town of Shenandoah was without electricity as the substation was flooded.

Substation on Shenandoah River 1936 Flood
Flooded substation on Shenandoah River 1936
photo from Library of Congress
no known restrictions

Some roads and bridges were washed away, and others were blocked by mudslides.  Trains stopped running because the tracks and railroad trestles were unstable if not totally destroyed.  This alone must have created an economic crisis since Shenandoah was a major hub for the Norfolk & Western Railway Company where quite a few of my relatives worked.  Needless to say, schools closed and plants shut down for days.

Shenandoah River 1936

Shenandoah River Flood of 1936
Shenandoah River 1936

While the town itself was flood-prone due to its location along the Shenandoah River, I don’t believe my grandparents or other relatives lost their homes.  The town is very hilly, and everyone that I know of lived on higher ground.  However, there were reports of many families abandoning their homes and moving up to where the Skyline Drive is today. 

Article accessed 25 Mar 2014
Richmond Times Dispatch 30 Mar 1936

Some lives were lost when cars were swept away in the flood and when boats capsized.  But probably the most tragic loss occurred days after the rains stopped.  Flood waters created a pool in the yard of a Mrs. Mary Lam.  While she was busy inside the house, her four children ages 3-9 all drowned.

The winter of 1935-1936 was much like the winter we’ve been experiencing in 2013-2014:  extended periods of low temperatures and lots of snow followed by some mild temperatures and then more snow.

I hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

Ford the river to Sepia Saturday

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Baby at the Bush

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.

Mary Eleanor Davis 1929 Shenandoah, Virginia
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade
6 Jan 1929 - 3 Oct 2005

This is a photo of my mother probably in the summer of 1929 taken in front of her grandparents’ home on Sixth Street in Shenandoah, Virginia.

I don’t know what kind of bush this is, but it was the focal point of numerous snapshots throughout the years.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

52 Ancestors: #12 - Elizabeth JOLLETT King

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

James and Nancy Jollett were on a roll with those daughters.  Number 4 was Elizabeth Jollett, born about 1796 in Orange County, Virginia.  The little bit of her life that remains on record can be found in 3 census records, a listing in a marriage register, and a death record.

On May 20, 1822, James signed permission for young Elizabeth to marry Reuben King. Her brother Simeon served as witness and bondsman.

Now Reuben is an enigma.  As unlikely as it sounds, the name “Reuben King” was as popular as John Smith.  A search for the name finds a large number of Civil War records for ol’ Reuben, but it is highly unlikely that they could be THIS Reuben’s records.   He would have been much too old to serve. 

In 1810 there is a Reuben King listed as head of household in Rockingham County.  A marriage record dated 1809 in Rockingham for the union of Reuben to Anna Sipe suggests this is the family.  But that marriage predates the 1822 marriage of Reuben and Elizabeth.  

OK, Elizabeth could be a second wife.  A much younger second wife.  It happened all the time when a widower needed someone to step in and care for his children.

However, there is no evidence that Reuben was widowed or that Elizabeth became stepmother to the large number of children in the King family of 1820.  

In 1830, back in Orange County where Elizabeth’s parents lived, the ages and gender of James’s household suggest there could be a son-in-law and grandchildren there.  But the numbers do not match the 1820 Reuben King family.  Perhaps that family was old enough to be on their own and he was starting over with Elizabeth.  Or this is an entirely different Reuben King.

Sometime after 1830, I believe Reuben King dropped out of the picture either by desertion or death.  In the 1840 Greene County, Virginia census, the ages and gender of the 5 members of the household fit James Jollett (70-80), Elizabeth King and her sister (females 40-50), and their respective daughters (20-30).   No Reuben King in the state of Virginia.

In 1850, Elizabeth King was head of household in Greene County, probably in the house she grew up in, maybe taking over when her father passed away.  Living with her were her daughter Columbia, future son-in-law Thomas Marsh, and a sister and niece.

In 1860, the 76 year old Elizabeth, who could neither read nor write, was living in the household of Thomas Marsh, husband to her daughter Columbia.  Elizabeth now had one grandson whose name appears first as “E T.” 

By 1870, Thomas had moved the family to Rockingham County.  Elizabeth was still with him, Columbia, and the grandson “Elliott.”  Also in the household is someone named Susan Jolliffe.  Even if that is a miss-hearing and misspelling of Jollett, I don’t know who it is.

In 1878, Elizabeth’s death was reported by Frances Jollett who is listed as her granddaughter.  I believe Frances was actually a niece, not a granddaughter since Thomas and Columbia had no other children besides Elliott. 

THREE Generations:

Elizabeth JOLLETT (Abt 1796 Orange County, Virginia – 20 Aug 1878 Rockingham County, Virginia) & Reuben KING 20 May 1822 Orange County, Virginia
1. Columbia Ann KING (1825 – Aft 1902) & Thomas J. MARSH (1816 Orange County, Virginia - 18 May 1898 McGaheysville, Virginia ) 7 Feb 1852 Greene County, Virginia
  • Elliott MARSH (29 Mar 1860 Greene County, Virginia – Before 1900)

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: Theme Reveal

In a few days the A to Z April Challenge will begin. 

This morning I discovered that TODAY, March 21, is supposed to be our big “Theme Reveal” day.  Theme Reveal?  Did we do that before? 

Because I dragged my feet in signing up, I’m already behind and the challenge hasn’t even begun. 

Theme.  Theme.  Actually I do have one:  In-laws and Out-laws. 

I’m dedicated to maintaining my focus on family history.  The first year I did just random stuff about my various family lines.  Last year I blogged about unusual names from my database of ancestors. 

I have quite a few photos of family friends, so I think it will fun – for ME at least – to study the various people who touched the lives of my ancestors.  Neighbors who came and went; coworkers; friends from church.  Anyone who played a part in shaping the lives of my forebears. 

I foresee some stumbling blocks and will need to be creative, I’m sure.  Q and X are always problematic, and no doubt will be true to form as I launch into “In-laws and Out-laws.”

See you in April!

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sepia Saturday: At Mr. Jefferson's University

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a statue of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and definitely one of the greatest.  I’ve always felt particularly “close” to Jefferson, partly because my Jollett ancestors were contemporaries and near neighbors, and partly because my dad was a product of Mr. Jefferson’s university, THE University of Virginia (Wahoos are very particular about putting the accent on “THE”). 

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade Charlottesville, VA 1952
Momma  heading to work
at the Bursar's Office

Daddy was a student when he and Momma married and moved into a little white trailer on Copeley Hill where many married students lived.  Since his primary goal was to finish school, Daddy worked occasionally, but Momma was the one bringing in a steady income as a typist in the Bursar’s Office on the college campus.

They used to laugh about driving a “tall car.”  I suppose it must have been like a Model A or other gangster mobile still operable in 1951.  Whatever it was, it had poor brakes and had to be tied to a tree to keep it from slipping into gear and driving itself down the hill.

Wendy Slade and Orvin Davis 1952 Charlottesville, VA
Granddaddy Orvin Davis and precious wonder 1952
plus the famous tree that held the car

My job was simply to bring sunshine into everyone’s lives and keep young parents on their toes.

Wendy Slade at Davis house Portsmouth, VA 1952 or 1953

Like the time I toddled into the bedroom and asked Momma, “Who’s that man in the kitchen?”  Poor Momma, probably only 24 years old.  She was petrified.  She found a baseball bat or club or something and inched her way to the empty kitchen.   Did I make this man up?  Or was there really a stranger in the house?  Momma never knew for sure, but since there were often “hobos” riding the rails through Charlottesville, she believed he was real.

Wendy Slade, Orvin Davis, Fred Slade Sr Copeley Hill, Charlottesville, VA 1952
2 doting granddaddies Orvin Davis and Fred Slade, Sr.
Momma and Daddy are on the steps to our trailer.
Or like the time I told Momma there was a kitty cat under the bed.  Momma did not like animals in the house, particularly cats.  She looked and looked but found no cat. 

Or like the Sunday morning Momma and Daddy awoke to find me gone.  They finally spied me in my nightgown, a hat, and gloves on the community swingset.  So happy.  And I even thought of gloves!

Or like the numerous times they had to set the table for 4 to accommodate my imaginary friend, Bobby Cox.  (No, not the coach of the Atlanta Braves – he hadn’t been invented yet.)  They always wondered if Bobby Cox was a boy or girl.  I don’t know either.  I have no memory of any of this, just their repeated stories amidst laughter.

When Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, he wanted this institution to be free of church influence, to be funded by the general public so less wealthy people could attend, and to offer a full curriculum not offered at other universities.  I don’t think Toddler Psychology was among the choices.

Well, don’t just stand there like a statue, make your way over to Sepia Saturday for more stories. 

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Boy With Cow

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.

Boy with cow in photo album of Herbert Webb Parker probably early 1900s

This photo is pasted in an album that belonged to my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker’s husband Herbert.  Therefore, I suspect this picture could be from his childhood, but I have no information about who this is or where or when the photo was taken. 

The quality of the photo has certainly diminished over time, especially with all that paste behind it, giving the appearance of a fake background.  However, because of the cow and chickens, I’m certain this was a real place that meant something to someone at some time.

Would you date this photo early 1900s? 

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors: #11 - Sallie JOLLETT Sampson

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

For many years Sarah “Sallie” Jollett Sampson has presented one of my biggest challenges.  She and her husband William were one of at least 4 sets of William and Sarah Sampsons living in Greene County, Virginia at the same time.  Two of the pairs can be eliminated fairly easily because of their age or because they moved out of state.  But then there were two.  The use of maiden names would be helpful, but in this case the “other” Sarah was Sarah Sampson Sampson, so it is difficult to know for sure if the name on a document was the maiden name or married name.  And to make matters even more confusing, THIS Sarah Sampson who married William Sampson was daughter of another William Sampson.  See why this family makes me crazy?

I thought the neighbors surrounding the Sampsons would help me place Sallie in the right family.  Or maybe marriage between cousins would be the deciding factor.  But no.  In 1850, Sallie’s nephew John Marsh (son of Peter and Lucy Walker Jollett Marsh) was living in the household of the wheelwright William & Sarah Sampson.  I thought Ah –ha – that must be MY Sallie.  But then there’s the miller William & Sarah Sampson living next door to Sallie’s nephew Madison Marsh (son of Peter and Lucy Walker Jollett Marsh).  Then in 1860, the wheelwright’s daughter Peachy was married to Sallie’s nephew Hiram Marsh (again, son of Peter and Lucy), the miller’s son George was married to Sallie’s niece Amanda Melvina Marsh (daughter of Peter and Lucy), and the miller’s widow “S Sampson” was living two doors down from Sallie’s sister Tabatha.  What a neighborhood!

When I learned that a marriage record for Smith Sampson named Sallie JOLLETT as his mother, I finally had my first real clue to Sallie’s line.  But which set of siblings did Smith Sampson go with?

Today, I believe I have the two Sampson couples clearly defined. 

MY family is likely Sarah/Sallie who married William the miller and had the larger family most completely named in 1850:  Nancy, Cinthia, William, Virenda, Mary, Martha.  Smith was already married and on his own. 

The other family was Wiliam the wheelwright with the smaller family:  Bluford Marshall, Maria, Franklin, Peachy, and Virginia.

This is why I believe so.  Looking at the earlier census records when only the head of household was named and everyone else was simply a member of a category, the only room for Smith Sampson was in the larger family:

1830 Orange Co, VA
MY Sampsons
The other ones

Age 5-9
George, William J.
Age 10-14
Smith, and one unknown
Age 15-19
Bluford Marshall
Age 30-39
Age 40-49


Under 5
Eliza, Virenda
Age 10-14
Nancy, Cinthia
Age 15-19
one unknown
Virginia, Peachy
Age 30-39

See – there’s no room for Smith in the other family.

The second support might be a little less convincing.  In 1883, Franklin Sampson married Sallie’s niece Clarissa Ann Sampson Rodenbarger in Indiana.  On the marriage record, the widow Clarissa Ann named her parents as John Sampson and Clarissa JOLLETT.  Franklin named his parents as William Sampson and Sarah SAMPSON.  Is it not reasonable to assume that maiden names would have been listed in both cases on the same document?              


Sarah “Sallie” JOLLETT (1794 in Orange Co, Virginia – June 1863 Greene Co, Virginia) was the third known daughter of James and Nancy Walker Jollett.  She married William SAMPSON (Apr 1788 - 4 Sep 1853 Greene Co, Virginia)   8 Jan 1809 in Orange Co, Virginia 

1. Smith SAMPSON (1814 in Madison, Virginia - 15 Jul 1889 in Rockingham Co, Virginia) & m1) Sarah MICHAEL (26 May 1811 – 13 May 1844 Rockingham County, Virginia)  7 Jan 1840 in Rockingham Co, Virginia ; & m2) Elizabeth HAYNES (Abt 1826 – Abt 1881 Rockingham County, Virginia) 16 May 1844 ; & m3) Emma J. SIPE (1851 – 12 Jan 1885 Rockingham County, Virginia) 24 Feb 1881 Rockingham Co, VA.

**There is some confusion as to which children were born to Sarah and which to Elizabeth.  It is safe to assume there were no children with Emma.  Since Smith married Elizabeth three days after Sarah died, it is possible he had children with Elizabeth even before he was widowed.  Therefore, I am simply listing the known children chronologically.

  • William Jackson SAMPSON (26 Jun 1836 in Rockingham County, Virginia - 21 Jan 1913 in McGaheysville, Rockingham Co, Virginia) & Mary Ann LEAP (20 Feb 1841 Rockingham Co, Virginia - 15 Oct 1923 Rockingham Co, Virginia) 1859 Rockingham Co, Virginia
  • Mitchell Adam SAMPSON (12 Jan 1840 Rockingham Co., Virginia - 18 Jul 1910 Madison Co., Virginia) & Mary Catherine MAY  (9 Mar 1844 Rockingham Co, Virginia - 22 Jul 1915 Madison Co., Virginia)  27 Nov 1867
  • Henry Michael SAMPSON (23 Sep 1841 Rockingham Co, Virginia - 18 Jul 1910 Madison County, Virginia) & Sarah Ellen MICHAEL (5 Nov 1846 Rockingham Co, Virginia - 22 Jan 1917 Rockingham Co, Virginia) 10 Jan 1865 Rockingham Co, Virginia
  • Margaret SAMPSON (1845 Rockingham Co, Virginia - About 1880) & m1) Y. C. AMMON ; & m2) Archibald  SIPE (4 Aug 1839 Rockingham Co, Virginia - 14 Jun 1921 North Dakota)  21 Jul 1869 Rockingham Co, Virginia
  • Jacob H. SAMPSON (1847 Rockingham Co, Virginia - ) & Margaret SIPE 30 Dec 1874 in Rockingham Co, Virginia
2. Nancy SAMPSON ( 1818 Madison Co, Virginia - Before 1880 )

  • Mary SAMPSON (1837 - )

3. Cinthia SAMPSON ( 1822 Madison Co, Virgina  - Before 1864 Greene Co, Virginia)

4. William Joseph SAMPSON ( 24 Jun 1824 Madison Co,  Virginia -  30 Dec 1902 Greene Co, Virginia) & Catherine ANDERSON (1809 Madison Co, Virginia - )  18 Jun 1854 Madison Co, Virginia

  • Gibbon A. SAMPSON (19 Jun 1854 in Greene Co, Virginia - 16 Aug 1924) & Mary Susan WOODSON  (Nov 1853 – 8 Feb 1931 Greene Co, Virginia)  23 Dec 1875  Greene Co, Virginia,
5. Eliza Jane SAMPSON (1825 Orange Co, Virginia - Sep 1896 Greene Co, Virginia) & James W. SOUTHARD (1817 Orange Co, Virginia - ) 1839 Madison, Virginia

  • Elizabeth Arenna SOUTHARD (1841 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Louisa M. SOUTHARD (1842 Greene Co, Virginia – 1884) & Benjamin OLIVER (1838 Virginia - )27 May 1866 Greene Co, Virginia
  • William H. SOUTHARD (1843 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Eliza Jane SOUTHARD (1846 Greene Co, Virginia  - ) & James Wade SNOW (1838 - 8 Jan 1914 Greene Co, Virginia)  30 Dec 1869 Greene Co, Virginia
  • Peachy F. SOUTHARD (13 Oct 1853 - Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • James A. G. SOUTHARD (1860 Greene Co, Virginia - )
6. George W. SAMPSON (1828 Orange County - ) & m1) Amanda Melvina MARSH (1831 Orange Co, Virginia – Before 1878) 28 Jan 1848 Greene Co, Virginia ; m2) Sarah L. BREEDEN (23 Mar 1853 - ) 14 Dec 1878 Greene Co, Virginia

**Children with Amanda Melvina:

  • John A. SAMPSON (1848 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • George Lewis SAMPSON (1850 Greene Co, Virginia – After 1920) & m1) Laura Cordelia DELPH (Dec 1857 Madison Co, Virginia - ) 26 Sep 1872 Madison Co, Virginia ; & m2) Mary S. JUEL (1865 Greene Co, Virginia - ) 7 Sep 1886 Page Co, Virginia ; & m3) Mary E. BAUGHER (1878 Rockingham Co, Virginia - ) 11 Dec 1896 Rockingham Co, Virginia
  • M. F. SAMPSON (1851 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Elizabeth Virginia SAMPSON (1853 Greene Co, Virginia - ) & Andrew Jackson SNOW (1848 Green Co, Virginia - ) about 1870
  • U. D. SAMPSON (1854 -  )
  • Eugenia SAMPSON (1857 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • A. L. SAMPSON (1857 - )
  • Francis M. SAMPSON (1859 Greene Co, Virginia - ) & Lucretia MARSH (1849 - )
  • Richard E. SAMPSON (1861 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Daniel B. SAMPSON (1863 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Robert B. SAMPSON (1866 Greene Co, Virginia – 24 Aug 1938 Rockingham County, Virginia)& m1) Annie KNIGHTING ( - Before 1910) 28 Dec 1886 Rockingham County, Virginia; & m2) Daisy WILLIAMS (16 Dec 1883 – 18 Jan 1968) 21 May 1914 Rockingham County, Virginia
  • Henry SAMPSON (1866 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • James A. SAMPSON (Jul 1873 Greene Co, Virginia – 1937) & Virginia Belle JENKINS (10 Jul 1874 – 29 Oct 1945 Charlottesville, Virginia) 15 Jun 1893 Page County, Virginia
**Child with Sarah BREEDEN:

  • Thomas W. SAMPSON (14 Oct 1886 Page Co, Virginia – 1962 Page Co, Virginia) & Lula Frances BREEDEN PURDHAM (1872 Page Co, Virginia - ) 24 Sep 1908 Page Co, Virginia
7. Virenda E. SAMPSON (1829 Madison County, Virginia - ) & Albert W. SOUTHARD  (1825 - )  1 Mar 1849 Greene Co, Virginia

  • Josephine E. SOUTHARD (1854 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Annie M. SOUTHARD (1857 in Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Alberta SOUTHARD  (1859 Greene Co, Virginia - ) & Sylvester L. BROWN (1867 Shenandoah Co, Virginia  - 1919 Page Co, Virginia ) 23 Apr 1890 Page Co, Virginia
  • Lucy SOUTHARD (1871 Greene Co, Virginia - ) & Nat JARRELL 23 Feb 1896 Greene Co, Virginia
  • Jane Lee SOUTHARD  (1862 Greene Co, Virginia - )
  • Benjamin Franklin SOUTHARD  (1866 Greene Co, Virginia - 17 Jun 1952 Gordonsville, Orange, Virginia) &  Luttie CLATTERBUCK 15 Sep 1887 Greene Co, Virginia
8. Mary SAMPSON ( 1832 Orange Co, Virginia - )

9. Martha  A. SAMPSON (1833 Orange County, Virginia – After 1880 Madison County, Virginia) & William S. DELPH (1832 Madison County, Virginia – Before 1880 Madison County, Virginia) 23 Dec 1853 Greene Co, Virginia

  • Sarah DELPH (1856 Madison County, Virginia)
  • Laura Cordelia DELPH (Dec 1857 Madison County, Virginia - ) & George Lewis SAMPSON (1850 Greene County, Virginia – After 1920) 26 Sep 1872 Madison County, Virginia
  • Marcellus DELPH (1858 Madison County, Virginia - )
  • Fanny DELPH (1861 Madison County, Virginia - )
  • Harriett Hattie DELPH (1866 Madison County, Virginia - )
  • William DELPH (1869 Madison County, Virginia - )

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sepia Saturday: College Freshman

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt highlights beautiful architectural elements such as domes and arches.  When my grandaunts Violetta and Velma Davis attended Harrisonburg Teachers College in the early 1920s, the signature Bluestone and Roman/Greek revival architecture had been the hallmark of the school for ten years. 

Maury and Jackson Halls, Harrisonburg Teachers College, 1920s
These were the first two buildings, built in 1909 as they looked in the 1920s.
Maury (center) was the first academics and administrative building.
Jackson Hall (right) was the first dorm and dining hall.

Arch between Harrison and Jackson Hall, Harrisonburg Teachers College early 1920s.
A pass-through arch connecting Harrison Hall and Jackson.
The opposite arch leads to Ashby Hall.

Twenty-five years later the 6 buildings Violetta and Velma knew had grown to 13, with the arches and columns providing architectural coherence. 

Violetta and Velma made great alumnae assuring that my mother would attend their alma mater too, which had been renamed Madison College. (Today it is known as James Madison University.  Go Dukes!)

Throughout my childhood, every visit to Harrisonburg to see the aunts included a ride through the campus.  Certainly it must have been part of my parents’ secret plot to brainwash me into following in the footsteps of my mother and grandaunts.  My dad would always say, “You’ll go there one day.”  It always sounded more like an order than a shared dream.  But that was ok.  It became my dream too.

I went through the motions of sending my SAT scores to several colleges, just in case Madison didn’t want me.   But as luck and the Davis women would have it, come September 1969, my parents proudly moved me to Madison College.  My high school friend Pat and I elected to room together – a little added security in having SOMEONE familiar close by.  Our dorm was a small dorm, all freshmen women.  There were no co-ed dorms then.

Johnston Hall, James Madison University
Johnston Hall

Johnston doesn’t possess the best example of the arches, but those staircases on the ends are handsome.  Those stairs were used mainly as emergency exits during fire drills, which were a test of our nerves.  They were always scheduled in the middle of the night.  When the resident assistant (aka “R A”) banged the bell with her hammer, we were to grab a raincoat and flashlight and quickly head for the exits.  Then we stood shivering in the cold until given the all-clear to return to our beds. 

Johnston Hall as it appeared 1969

That’s my room, third set of windows from the left on the top floor.  Each room had two bunkable twin beds, 2 desks and chairs, 2 dressers, 2 bookcases, 2 sizeable closets, and 1 sink.  There was a large shared bathroom with enclosed stalls and private showers.  While students who lived in suites dorms felt sorry for us, I liked this arrangement because we didn’t have to clean the bathroom.  Housekeeping did it. 

Pat’s and my room was painted a sickly pinky-brown.  That is, until the pipes froze.  Pat and I returned from class one afternoon to find her side of the room soaking wet with water running down the wall.  We reported the problem and soon we heard those much-awaited voices calling, “Man on the hall.”  That was the polite way for men to enter women’s dorms back then.  They assessed the situation and left.  Pat and I were on our own to deal with wet bedding.  And no heat.  We stayed in the room one night freezing to death.  The next night friends at the end of the hall pushed their beds together and the four of us piled in together. 
Johnston Hall 1969 when the pipes froze
Wendy and Pat loosened wet and damaged plaster
using broom handles.  

It was miserable.  Fortunately heat was restored quickly although new plaster and paint came much later.  The good news was the pinky-brown was replaced with a fresh sky blue.

Aside from that miserable incident, living in a freshman dorm was a great deal of fun.  We made friends quickly with the girls living around us.  There was a beauty queen, a girl legally blind, girls from New York and Pennsylvania and Maryland, Celeste Holm’s pen pal, and LOTS of phys ed majors.  When our friend Nancy made the field hockey team as a FRESHMAN, we saw it as a time to celebrate an amazing accomplishment and honor.  How?  We hung her underwear all over the place.

Nancy Burke 1969 Madison College (now James Madison University)
Nancy - one proud field hockey player!

She thought the pair taped to her wall was funny.

She didn’t think it was funny when she found her panties on poles around campus.  It’s a wonder she didn’t beat us all with a hockey stick.  (Granted, we would have deserved it.)

Judging by my photos from that first dorm experience, we must have been in one continuous silly contest. 

Pat Dumire and Eileen Dickey Madison College 1969
Pat and Eileen -- onesies and pigtails

Pat and Eileen both had “onesie” pjs.  Don’t ask me why.  I suppose they thought toddler-style pajamas added just the right amount of quirkiness to nightwear.

In moments of boredom, what could be more fun than letting a floor fan blow up your nightgown?

Pat Dumire, Nancy Burke, Eileen Dickey at Anthony Seeger campus school 1969
Pat, Nancy, and Eileen

Harrisonburg was not the vibrant college town it is today.  Saturdays were LONG with little to do.  We were glad for that playground across the street at the Anthony Seeger campus school (used for training elementary school teachers).

Nancy's head and Pat's feet

This was our idea of superior creativity.  Yeah boy, we were destined to be Madison’s shining stars, for sure. 

My husband and I try to be good alumni, but we couldn’t convince our own daughters to even LOOK at our alma mater.  I wonder if viewing all that beautiful Bluestone and Greek Revival architecture would have made a difference.

For more stories of architectural features, please visit Sepia Saturday.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.