Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A to Z April Challenge: G is for Gilbert


“We need to get together more often and not at a funeral.” How many times have you and a cousin said that? Funerals are much like a family reunion. You can learn a lot about a family just by looking at who showed up. Using my grandparents’ guest books and sympathy cards, I’ll be exploring “Who came to the funeral?


is for Gilbert Stepp. The absence of a signature in the Guest Book at my grandfather’s funeral October 1963 tells me the Stepps probably didn’t attend. However, they sent what must have been a beautiful arrangement of fuchsia gladiolas, white mums, and lavender pompoms.
Flower card from Gilbert Stepp and family October 1963  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com






Gilbert was married to my grandfather’s first cousin, Vessie Jollett.

Gilbert was born in Shenandoah, Virginia in 1895, and was one of ten children born to Andrew and Lavinia Stepp. But what was his name? I always knew him as “Gilbert A. Steppe” with an “e” on the end. His tombstone has an “e” but his brother who attended the funeral signed the book “Paul J. Stepp,” no “e.” And what about that middle name? Supposedly “A” stood for Arburne. However, his draft registration clearly says “Orvin.” He even signed his name “Gilbert Orvin.” And Steppe with an "e"!

Gilbert Stepp WWI draft registration  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Gilbert registered for the draft in 1917, but he requested not to serve based on having crops that needed tending and siblings who depended on him.  Apparently that didn’t work.  He enlisted in November 1917 and was released two years later in 1919.

Gilbert’s father had been a bridge carpenter at one time and later a farmer. Gilbert no doubt learned some wood-working from his father.  Some of the Stepp boys became successful carpenters and contractors.

Gilbert and Vessie married in 1922. Their only son Jollette was born the following year. According to the 1930 census, Gilbert was putting those carpentry skills to use for the steam railroad, one of the major employers in Shenandoah. They owned their home on Fourth Avenue.
Gilbert, Jollette, and Vessie Stepp  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Gilbert, Jollette, Vessie



When World War II came knocking, many of my distant relatives left Shenandoah to find work with the government, some going to the shipyard in Norfolk, some going to Baltimore, and some to Washington D. C.  Gilbert and family moved to Dahlgren in Northern Virginia where he worked as a carpenter for the Naval Proving Grounds, known today as the Naval Surface Weapons Center.

He and Vessie spent the rest of their lives in Dahlgren, but both came back to Shenandoah to be buried among most of their family in the Coverstone Cemetery.

Gilbert Steppe tombstone at Coverstone Cemetery, Shenandoah, Page, VA  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Gilbert A. Steppe's tombstone
Coverstone Cemetery, Shenandoah, VA
















Gee, can’t get enough?  Then gallop over to A to Z April Challenge for a glimpse at more glorious grins and giggles.


© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

33 comments:

  1. Your research must take ages...
    funny how spelling of a name can vary so withing a family.... linked to education levels or desire to detach do you think?

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    1. I used to think the varied spelling resulted from lack of education and relying on someone else to record what they heard. But this was the 1900s, fairly modern times, and people went to school. The Arburne/Orvin thing really baffles me much more than the spelling of Stepp/Steppe.

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  2. So many names have been altered after landing here on "the boat". My family's included.

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    1. That's true -- for many reasons, not just to Americanize.

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  3. I find it interesting that you are able to use the family thread to do the A to Z challenge. Pretty cool!

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    1. A to Z is very liberating that way.

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  4. What an amazing theme for AtoZ. To find those connections to your family is amazing! I wish I knew more about my relatives on my dad's side. I'll be checking back often.
    http://www.door2lore.com/power-of-story-blog/

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    1. Thanks Sue! I like A to Z because I don't have to worry about chronology or ALL the facts -- just some brief sketches.

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  5. I always wonder about the different spellings. I was the informant for my mother's death certificate and even though I provided her mother's last name as Fitzgerald, it came back with no Z (Fitgerald). I was going to try to have it corrected but then decided it would be more fun for some descendant 100 years from now to try to figure out what happened to the Z.

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    1. Well, Debi, I didn't realize you had that cruel streak in you. LOL

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    2. I'm not sure it is a cruel streak or just plain laziness. :-)

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  6. I wonder if the brother had change his own name because it was difficult to spell with adding the "e", confusing people. Our last name could be spelled "on" or "en". We are always having to spell it and I heard from hubby that some of his dad's brothers just adopted the "en" because of the hassle.

    betty

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    1. I wonder if the additional "e" was an old spelling from many generations back. I can understand just giving up and going with the popular flow.

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  7. I wish we had know Gilbert. Remember when we visited Vessie and we ate lunch in her beautiful dining room with those walls of built in china cabinets that were designed and made by Gilbert? Why did we take a picture? He was an amazing carpenter. Vessie and her family will always be favorites. =)

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    1. He died in our lifetime, so we might have known him and didn't know it. And yes, why didn't we take pictures? That was stupid. It was pre-cell phone, I guess, but it certainly wasn't pre-camera.

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  8. Very cool to investigate all that. I know looking back in our family history, that sometimes it's difficult to find exact names. My father's ten sisters all had nicknames that were nothing like their given names. And go back one more generation and there were people who couldn't write their names.

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    1. One of the problems is not knowing how to search. If people bought property, bought something at an estate sale, sold anything, sued or got sued, there's a paper trail. Even if they couldn't write, someone else could, so spelling varied according to who did the recording.

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  9. I wonder if the 'A' middle initial shown on the military marker may have been in error. Veteran Affairs receive those requests from Funeral Homes and we all know how that can get mixed up. Neat that Mary commented on Gilbert and Vessie's china cabinets.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal
    AtoZ 2015 Challenge
    Minion for AJ's wHooligans

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    1. The A could be an error, but somewhere "Arburn" became a middle name. I can hear a similarity between that and Orvin, but really - shouldn't someone have corrected somebody?

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  10. It's the little family tidbits that add a lot to the story of a person's life.

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    1. Thanks. And thank-you for the visit.

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  12. I like the name Arburne. I have been writing children stories and some of the names I use are very old names because they are so cool. Good post.

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    1. Then you should certainly hold onto "Arburne" and use it sometime.

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  13. Gosh who would have thought guest books and sympathy cards would provide so much? I guess if I thought about it, it makes sense, but it just never occurred to me. It makes me wonder what happened to those of my grandparents and even great grandparents. I am really enjoying this series.

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    1. It didn't me either until the 11th hour.

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  14. Great photo of the 3 of them :)

    It's interesting how surnames seem to change and evolve over time - e.g. when immigrants change their names to more "English-sounding" names to try to fit in, etc. I find it pretty sad, but I guess it's just the way things have been in the past.

    Not sure about that dropping of the 'e' off the end of Stepp though!

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    1. I don't know what's up with that "e" either. They lived in a time when spelling had been standardized, so I do wonder why the census would have it one way, a document another way, and people within the same family used different spellings.

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  15. What a fascinating theme to have chosen for the A to Z Challenge, and what an indefatigable researcher you must be! I love the accompanying images--they bring the personal to the facts and remind us of the real people who lived their very real lives without ever considering that someone might take the time to remember them this way..

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    1. What a nice compliment, thank-you. It certainly is easier for me when I do have photos. I knew Vessie -- sweetest lady ever. But I don't remember meeting Gilbert unfortunately.

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  16. A lot of effort must have gone into this. Nice read.

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    1. Not exhaustive, really, and I'm sure these people deserve more attention -- just not enough time.

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