Friday, April 10, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Anyone Need a Water Main Cap?

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



This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt sent me scrambling for a story of my coal mining ancestors. But despite so many collaterals living in West Virginia, my coal mining cupboard was bare. They were farmers, just plain everyday farmers. My Shenandoah Valley miners were no prize either; they mined iron ore. 

Thelma and Attie Hockman, Velma and Mary Frances Davis  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Velma titled this "Us and Our Mothers"
Standing: Thelma and Velma
Seated: Attie Hockman and Mary Frances Davis
Fortunately my grandparents and great-grandparents in Shenandoah, Virginia had a coal connection in their neighbor next door, the Hockmans. The Davises and Hockmans were compatible on a number of levels. First of all, the children were all roughly the same age. Jake and Attie Hockman’s daughter Thelma was one of my grandaunt Velma’s best friends. In fact Thelma has been featured in a number of stories on this blog. Secondly, the two families supported each other’s businesses.

The Hockmans started the Home Fuel and Supply Co, Inc. in 1918. Jake was president and Attie was one of the directors for the company dealing in both building supplies and coal.

In 1927 the Shenandoah Magazine ran a series of brief sketches about the businessmen in Shenandoah.  High praise and significant column-inches were given to J. P. Hockman whose business philosophy was to provide “proven material that must stand the test of time and wear.”

Wysong and Hockman  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Jacob "Jake" Hockman on the right
scanned from Shenandoah:
A History of Our Town and Its People
The Hockmans started small but as the magazine noted, Jake “spared no effort to make it a progressive and successful business, and, in so doing, he has gained the confidence and approval of those who have known him.” He expanded his building to include a warehouse, lumber house, lumber yard, and coal yard. Its location with the railroad on one side and highway on the other made it easy to meet the growing demands for materials such as cement, plaster, lime, paint, varnish, and, of course, lumber and coal.

Probably one of Jake’s best customers was my great grandfather Walter Davis. He was a carpenter and house builder who built not only his own home on Sixth Street next door to the Hockmans, but also many of the houses in Shenandoah, quite a few of them right there on Sixth Street. 

Hockman and Davis homes Sixth Street, Shenandoah, Virginia
Hockman's house on the left
Davis house on the right
Homes built by Walter Davis Sixth Street, Shenandoah, VA http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
More Davis-built homes across the street;
the one on the right was where my mother grew up
Some time ago on one of our many trips to visit family in Shenandoah, we went to the site of what we were told was “Walter’s lumberyard.” There was no building, just remnants of one mostly hidden by overgrown weeds. We all grabbed a souvenir. I took a water main cap. My sister wanted the cupola, but our parents feared it would be full of bugs. 

Water main cap http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Now after reading about Jake Hockman, I have begun rethinking this lumberyard of Walter’s. So far there is no evidence that he ever owned a lumberyard. However, the description of the location of Hockman’s building sounds much like where we were that day when we thought we were grabbing a piece of the Davis heritage. ~Sigh~ Maybe it’s Hockman heritage.

Whether you’re looking for coal, horses, carts, or just a good story, place your order now at Sepia Saturday.


© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved

23 comments:

  1. They always say, "location, location, location." Between the railroad and the highway? What a perfect place to establish a business. Good for him!

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  2. Your water main cap is probably from what was commonly known as "Walter's lumberyard" though it rested on Hockman property. He was a carpenter, after all, building houses. He'd need a place to store his lumber & the Davises & Hockman's, being such good friends, I can imagine Walter being offered a spot to store his lumber. Your cap may not be Davis heritage in a strictly legal sense, but if Walter kept his lumber there, it's still a Davis heritage in a real-life sense!

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    1. As it turns out, you are right on the money. I confirmed with my aunt that this property was definitely the Hockmans' and that my great-grandfather bought all his materials there.

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  3. Family stories take on a life of their own, sometimes to people's great disappointment, but I think it's just as interesting trying to work out what was true and what wasn't.

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    1. Yes, and it's ok. I don't mind that the property wasn't Walter's. I'm glad to find the truth, no matter what it is.

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  4. It sounds like the lumberyard could have just been where Walter got his lumber.

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    1. Yep, that's it. I checked with my aunt but got confirmation AFTER I posted this story.

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  5. Your water main cap is a treasure. We have the same problem with family stories and once you start down the genealogy trail you can see why. The Killeen's I research are listed as Kliens, Kleens, Killians etc.,etc - the handwriting on the census data is misread. I also think my relatives lied to the census people. My grandmother was over 20 years older than her second husband, but she's reported as various ages on different census - all intended to match her age better with her boy-toy hubby (I think). Pure speculation on my part.

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    1. We can't think about grandmothers having boy toys -- that's too creepy even when it's true.

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  6. Family friends add so much to family history. My maternal grandparents also lived in a house built by a carpenter who lived across the street. The three bedroom, one bath, two story house cost $7500 in 1936. Now next to my fireplace I keep kindling in a wooden keg that once held the nails used to build their home.

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    1. A keg of nails is really a keeper. I hope before my aunt sells the homeplace that there will be something we can all snag from that house that Walter built.

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  7. I love the way you know so much about your relatives' neighbours' lives. I'm always surprised at how houses in the States don't seem to have fences at all, and wonder how people keep their children and dogs from wandering away, or are they simply not allowed outside?

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    1. Actually speaking of neighbours just reminded me of a comment in my mother's life book about the coalman who lived across the road from her parents, and I might even add a further ps. to my blog about him☺

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    2. I've never thought about fences like that. Growing up, we had a fence around the back yard but some of my neighbors had none. Today there are many neighborhoods that expressly forbid fences - I think it's a matter of aesthetics in those cases. My neighborhood allows beautiful fences but not chain-link.

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  8. All things considered, it is not a bad thing that your family were not directly involved in coal mining!

    @Jo, I remember on my visit to Australia, hearing the same comment! The back yards are fenced, just not the front.

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    1. I agree -- coal mining was dangerous.

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  9. Family stories are interesting if they turn out to be true and interesting if they don't and you find out what really happened. There are quite a lot of those women with ages that stay the same or even go down decade after decade.

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    1. I don't mind when a story turns out to be false. It's the search for the truth that interests me.

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  10. Well if they were neighbours I’d say that was close enough to be Walter’s lumberyard. Gail had described it so well.

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    1. When I think about how I consider stores that I frequent to be "my store," it makes sense that the Hockmans' lumberyard was in some sense "Walter's lumberyard."

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  11. I love that you took the water main cap. And even better is that you still have it!

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    1. I guess I should have said it was tossed aside, not really capping an active water main.

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