Friday, July 31, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Room 61

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt with its focus on hotels seems to be tailor-made for someone who once served as the family travel agent: Moi. Why my parents entrusted a teenager to find a hotel for the family vacation is anyone’s guess. Maybe they did not like the responsibility or just did not care where we stayed. Or maybe they noticed my penchant for planning and organizing, and therefore encouraged it.
Quality Courts Motel
Directory 1965
In the 1960s hotel and motel chains were in their infancy. Booking a room in advance was not even necessary, not where we traveled anyway. There was no Expedia, no Kayak, no Priceline, and no Trip Advisor to assist in planning. Instead we relied on motel directories that were free for the taking in member motel lobbies. Our annual trips to visit family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia called for a stay at the beautiful Belle Meade in Harrisonburg. As a result, it was easy to obtain the latest directory for the Quality Courts motels.

The directory was arranged by state, and then by city. Every summer I studied the directory, comparing the motels in the city where we might be traveling. The top requirements were a pool and restaurant on site. As for price, $10-$12 a night was the limit. However, when we went to Washington D.C., we probably paid at least $13 to stay at the Governor House Inn in Falls Church. (Northern Virginia IS pricey!)

Governor House Inn
still has the trademark white wrought iron columns
and fence

Mary, Wendy, Mary Jollette Slade at Governor House Inn  Falls Church, VA 1960s
Momma Mary Eleanor, Wendy, Mary Jollette
at the Governor House Inn in Falls Church, Virginia
1960s (1967 or 1968 probably)

Summers often called for a visit to Charlottesville, at least for an overnight stay at the lovely Mt. Vernon Inn positioned on a hill overlooking the intersection of US 250 and US 29. Today Best Buy and World Market claim that spot, but in the 1960s, we enjoyed the panoramic view from the heart-shaped pool.
Wendy and Mary Jollette Slade, Mt. Vernon Inn Charlottesville, VA  1965
Mary Jollette and Wendy at the Mt. Vernon Inn
Charlottesville, Virginia August 1965

Like the Mt. Vernon, many motels in the Quality Courts chain attracted travelers by showcasing their pools in front along the main road. Belle Meade in Harrisonburg was a notable exception. Instead of a pool, there was a fountain in front of the entrance adding an elegant touch to the already beautiful colonial façade.

Belle Meade Motel Harrisonburg, VA postcard
Postcard of Belle Meade Motel Harrisonburg, VA
(no copyright restrictions)
The pool was behind the motel, and what a beautiful pool it was. A long promenade of columns lined one side of the pool offering some shade. Pots of flowers and a plentiful supply of redwood loungers were signs of the quality in this Quality Courts motel.
Mary and Wendy Slade Pool at Belle Meade Motel Harrisonburg, VA Aug 1965
Mother and Daughter at the Belle Meade August 1965

Mary Jollette and Fred Slade at the Belle Meade Motel
Daddy and Mary Jollette  at the Belle Meade

The Belle Meade used to have a sign advertising “60 air conditioned rooms.” So imagine our confusion the time we were given a key to Room 61. As we drove our car around to the back, to the far end of the left wing, we had some good laughs as we tried to make sense of it. Was this a punishment? Would the room fall off in the night? Would we be transported to some other universe? Did the room even exist? Just one more reason to love the Belle Meade.

Hottle Bottles
One of my fondest memories about Belle Meade was the Hottle Bottle service. Every morning my dad called Room Service and ordered coffee and chocolate milk. Usually donuts or some other pastry arrived on the tray too. From a kid’s perspective, that glass Hottle Bottle seemed pretty darn special.

The most special feature at the Belle Meade though was the Rib and Sirloin Room downstairs in the restaurant. Real table cloths and cloth napkins. Black leather booths. Candlelight. And RED velvet wallpaper. That was the ultimate in classy restaurant décor in the 1960s. The Rib and Sirloin Room was THE spot for a special occasion. 

Rib and Sirloin Room, Belle Meade Motel Harrisonburg, Virginia
Rib and Sirloin Room
Belle Meade
Even though the grilled steaks were the best to be had in the Shenandoah Valley at that time, I always ordered a shrimp cocktail. For dessert, my choice was the chocolate parfait served in a real parfait glass: layers of ice cream, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream with a cherry on top. My parents ordered the Crème de Menthe parfait, and sometimes they allowed me to sneak a taste. Mmm ~ I looked forward to the day that I could order one of those.

Like so many grand hotels and fine motels, the Belle Meade has slipped dramatically from its position as a desirable place to stay. In fact, it is not even listed on the Visit Harrisonburg “Places to Stay” page. Nevertheless, the Belle Meade enjoys “icon status” as a landmark along Route 11 and I-81. Its deteriorating state has not clouded people’s memories of what it once was.

It is time to check in at the Sepia Saturday Hotel.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Monday, July 27, 2015

52 Ancestors: Up to the Challenge

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.

This week the theme is an ancestor who is a challenge to research.  While I have managed to break down several brick walls, my 4X great grandmother Nancy WALKER JOLLETT continues to mock me as hard as she beckons.

The obvious problem is that she lived in a time when women’s names seldom appeared on public documents. She was born PROBABLY about 1765 PROBABLY in Culpeper County, Virginia based on a marriage record in that county dated 22 March 1787.   

Apparently she was the FEMALE age 60-69 in the 1830 Orange County, Virginia census along with her husband James Jollett age 50-60. In the next census the oldest female in the household was 40-50, so it is safe to assume that Nancy likely died before 1840.

Finding Nancy’s parents and siblings should be easier than it is. The Orange County Road Orders of 1796 lists three Walkers who shared responsibility with James “Jolly” and others for the upkeep of a road: Sanders Walker, Benjamin Walker, and Thomas Walker. If the tendency for people to marry their neighbors holds true, then these Walkers are surely related to my Nancy. But how? Brothers? Uncle? Father?

I pinned my sleuthing hopes on Sanders since his name is so unusual. Surprisingly, it turns out not to be so unusual after all. Whether the Sanders Walker of Orange County became the Sanders who married and moved to Barren, Kentucky or the one who became a Baptist minister in Georgia is unclear, but the fact remains that so far, no connection to Nancy has been revealed.

Family trees posted on Ancestry are no help. The ones naming Nancy Walker who married James Jollett merely jumped on a bad bandwagon assigning parents who could not possibly be Nancy’s parents. The George Walker that many Walker researchers claim was her father would have been a toddler when she was born.  Nancy’s supposed “mother” Rachel Donelson Caffery was born when Nancy was already 9. Yeah, right. Do people not look at their own research before posting such obvious errors?

Trees for Benjamin and Thomas are no better. Despite one serious Walker researcher’s efforts to distinguish between the prominent DOCTOR Thomas Walker and the plantation owner Thomas “Thundering Tom” Walker, over-zealous subscribers to Ancestry have continued to assign the same wife to both men and children to the wrong family. MY Nancy does not appear on any of the trees. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.

It has crossed my mind that maybe the difficulty of researching Nancy Walker is that “Walker” might not have been Nancy’s maiden name. Perhaps she had been married before and widowed. Until I find some confirmation on that, I will continue to pursue her on the assumption that she was indeed a WALKER.

Strategy to learn the names of Nancy’s parents
  1. Look for wills of all Walker men in Culpeper and Orange counties
  2. Look for will of Nancy Walker Jollett in Greene and Orange counties
  3. Look for land records in which Jollett and Walker are named together
  4. Create a chart of all possible fathers with the surname Walker in Culpeper County

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sepia Saturday: The Butcher of Shenandoah

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo is of a handsome display of hanging meat and the proud butchers who were responsible. If my great-great grandfather Frank Rucker and his son Robert E. Rucker ever posed for such a picture, I have nothing to prove it. However, between the two of them, they butchered for the citizens of Shenandoah in Page County, Virginia for 70 years.

Frank Rucker 1870 Rockingham County Census
from 1870 Rockingham County, Virginia Federal Census
In 1870, Frank Rucker was enumerated in the Rockingham County census as a Shoemaker. That same year William Milnes, Jr., one of the principal landowners and developers of the young town of Shenandoah in neighboring Page County, convinced Frank to open a meat shop. That is why in 1880 he was listed in the census as a “Butcherer.” I suppose it was a logical progression.

Frank Rucker 1880 Rockingham County Census
from 1880 Rockingham County, Virginia Federal Census

When Frank died in November of 1890, Robert may or may not have stepped in right away to fill his father’s shoes.

                                          However, by 1900 when this photo was taken, the Rucker Meat Shop was a thriving business.

Rucker Meat Shop Shenandoah, Virginia
Side view of Rucker Meat Shop in the early 1900s
from Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People

When the store building was torn down in 1920, Robert moved the shop to his home on Third Street. “Uncle Bob” was often seen in his bloody apron with knife in hand. My maternal grandmother often recalled how he used to swing that knife and chase kids around the yard just to scare them. He thought it was funny.
Robert E. Rucker (1863-1951)
"Uncle Bob" Rucker in his trademark bloody apron
Maybe the people in town thought so too. In Bob’s obituary he is remembered fondly as “cheerful and lovable.”

from the obituary of Robert E. Rucker

However, this description is nothing like the memories of at least two members of the “Remember Shenandoah” group on Facebook. One woman wrote that she was always afraid to walk past his house on her way to visit her grandparents because she always saw him with a big knife and a bloody apron. Another reported that her family’s dog was found dead behind the meat shop and that Bob Rucker “never denied” killing it. Hmm ~

I like to think “lovable” Uncle Bob would not have killed a dog. Let’s hope he limited himself to cows and pigs.

I’m sorry if I butchered this story. You might find choice cuts and prime photos at Sepia Saturday.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Friends Side by Side

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a group of unsmiling students is similar to quite a few old photos in my collection. Amidst the pictures of family portraits and school photos are two newspaper clippings that alone are nothing out of the ordinary, but paired tell a story of friendship.

My father was a proud graduate of the University of Virginia as were some of his best friends. They were members of the Portsmouth Cavalier Club of UVA, which was most likely just a social group, maybe even an alumni group. Apparently they hosted dances at the popular Suburban Country Club in Portsmouth.

Suburban Country Club, Portsmouth, Virginia
Suburban Country Club in Portsmouth, Virginia
In the photo accompanying a brief announcement of one such upcoming dance, Daddy was standing between two friends, Jimmy Stewart (not the actor) and Jimmy Boggs. Jimmy Stewart held a higher position on the friend chain, I suppose, as he was selected to be my godfather. The three couples were good friends for a long time.  As a child, I often played with the Boggs’ son Mark and the Stewarts’ daughter Melissa.

Portsmouth Cavalier Club of UVA 1950
My dad Fred Slade is on the top row, next to last.
Flanking him are Jimmy Stewart and Jimmy Boggs

In fact, Melissa was somewhat of a “best friend” probably because I saw her so often, not just when our parents got together for an evening of cards. She and I attended the same kindergarten: Newton’s Nursery and Kindergarten. Here we are standing side by side posing for our graduation photo. (I find it amusing that Daddy and I both were standing on the back row with our best friend standing to our right.)

Newton Nursery and Kindergarten graduation 1957
Melissa and I are standing on the back row.
I'm third from the end; Melissa is to my right, 4th from the end.

Memories from kindergarten have long faded except for one: the day I broke my nose. Melissa and I were holding hands and running in a circle, fast, faster, faster still. Then without warning she let go. I went flying face first onto the linoleum floor. The next thing I knew, one of the teachers picked me up and rushed to the bathroom. She held me over the trough sink and did what she could to clean me up but was obviously losing the battle as blood just seemed to pour.

I don’t know if my mother was called away early from Cradock Elementary School where she was teaching or if she came after school, but I remember the look on her face. I must have been a frightening sight. We went to the doctor for a diagnosis and instructions. Yep, broken.

Nightly seemingly forever, my mother applied HOT, I mean really HOT, towels soaked in some kind of salt solution. My precious little face was black and blue and swollen. Not a day went by without multiples of people staring and asking, “What happened to YOU?” Today I’d probably respond, “You should see the other guy” but when I was 5, I was totally humiliated and just wanted to stay home, not even go to school to play with my best buddy Melissa.

Yeah, I was probably scarred for life.

Please visit the smiling group of bloggers at Sepia Saturday.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: The Wonders of Voter Registration Books

Tuesday’s Tip is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers encouraging bloggers to share a research tip or trick that worked for them.

I believe if I know something, everyone else has known it forever. That’s why I never share a tip – I think I don’t have one.  But maybe today I do.
Cover of a Voter Registration
book in Greene County, VA

Voter Registration records are probably one of the most underused sources for family historians. If you’re like me, you think, “So my ancestor registered to vote – big deal.” These records never interested me until I started indexing a collection of Voter Registration books owned by the Historical Society in Greene County, Virginia.

Reading these dry and boring lists has shown me just how useful the Voter Registration books can be:
  1. A date of birth might be more accurate than one given in a census record since it is coming from the person himself, not an informant.
  2. A person’s occupation might be listed (it is for most of the voters in Greene County, anyway), and that occupation could be different from one given in a census especially if the person changed jobs.
  3. A person’s voting precinct gives a more specific location of where he lived. I always knew that a particular ancestor lived in Greene County, but now I see he lived in a community known as Sullivan.
  4. In some years the registrar gave even more precise information on location like “6 mi. west of Monroe” or “2 mi. northeast of Stanardsville.”
  5. Transfers into and out of a precinct are noted, usually including a date. Such information can help a researcher track an ancestor who has moved within a county or to a new county or even another state. 
    A page from a Voter Registration book
    noting residence and transfer information
  6. The register also indicates how long the voter had been a resident.
  7. If a voter was removed from the rolls due to death, it is noted.  However, so far in Greene County that information is not helpful because the registrars did not include a date of death or even the date of when they inserted the correction. Perhaps registrars in other counties and states did things differently, so it might be worth a look.
  8. In Greene County, at least one of the registrars added little genealogical notations such as a father’s name, a nickname, or “brother of” to distinguish voters with similar names. In Greene, the surnames Shifflett and Morris dominate the rolls, so these little additions can be quite helpful for researchers.
    A page showing the registrar's additions 
  9. The voting precinct is a reflection of your ancestor’s friends and neighbors. It offers a glimpse into their social world – who the ministers were, the teachers, the retail merchants, the millers, the post masters, the carpenters, the miners, the doctors, the iron workers, the dress makers, the florist, the blacksmith, the machinists, the silk weavers, the railroaders, the lawyers, the store clerks, the farmers.

I encourage you to check with your county of interest to see if Voter Registration books are available and where they are kept. These dusty old ledgers just might help you flesh out an ancestor’s story.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

52 Ancestors: Another Patriot

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.

It is timely and appropriate this week as Americans are enjoying 4th of July picnics and fireworks that we celebrate those patriots in our family who fought for this country’s independence. Most of the patriots in my family that I have already written about survived long enough to apply for pensions. However, there is at least one exception:  George Hinkle.

George Henckel/Hinkle was my 6X great-grandfather. He was born August 30, 1727 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, son of Johann Gerhard Anthony Henckel and Anna Catherine. About 1752 or 1753 he married Barbara Rowland.  Together they had a large family.

Pennsylvania Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia Index George Hinkle
A card on file with the Pennsylvania Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia Index indicates George served the colony. However, a search for service records on Fold3 produced nothing. Supposedly George died not long after attending the wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. This battle was fought between the American army under General George Washington and the British army under General Sir William Howe in September 1777. A decisive victory for the British resulted in heavy losses for the Americans forcing them to retreat. Whether George himself had been wounded or whether he had contracted a disease is not known at this time.

But it is not service in the war that George Hinkle is known for. There’s a mill – an inn – a bridge – and a town. According to Historical Papers and Addresses of the Lancaster County Historical Society, “George Hinkle should be regarded and remembered as a great public benefactor. . . .” For years he operated a mill and an inn on his land lying on both sides of the Conestoga Creek not far from Ephrata in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The road passing through there was the one followed by travelers and Conestoga wagons traveling from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Often the creek was difficult to cross, sometimes even dangerous due to ice in winter and heavy rain in summer. Drownings were common. Travelers were often delayed for days and weeks at a time.

Map of Hinkletown, PA
The bright pink arrow marks the intersection of Route 322
and the Martindale Rd where the Hinkle mill was located
until recent years when it was torn down to widen Rt. 322
Even though bad conditions were good for the inn business, George unselfishly erected a bridge of wood and stone on his own property at his own expense. Although it is not known when he started or finished the project – best estimates indicate as early as 1760 – according to Deed Book P in the Recorder’s Office in Lancaster, it was March 26, 1772 that he conveyed the bridge to the county of Lancaster. The county commissioners decided to compensate George Hinkle for both the bridge and the land, so grateful were they for the “convenience and usefulness of the bridge.”

And the town? It is Hinkletown, an unincorporated town not far from Ephrata and Lancaster. George Hinkle is considered the founder.

George Hinkle died March 13, 1778 at the age of 51. He is buried in the Bergstrasse Cemetery in Ephrata.
George Hinkle tombstone Ephrata, Pennsylvania
photo by KMcCrea

In Memory of
George Hinkle
Who Departed this Life
March 13th 1778
Aged 51 years
My Life is done my Glass is run
Here I ly under Ground
Surrounded in clay until the day
I hear the Trumpet sound.

Battle of Brandywine. Wikipedia. Web. 29, June 2015.

Lancaster County Historical Society (PA).  Historical Papers and Addresses of the Lancaster County Historical Society. Vols 23-24. Harvard University: 1918. Google Books. Web. 1 July, 2015.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Ask Your Mother

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a field book drawing of a Spot Snapper. As such, the drawing is more scientific than artistic, focusing on particular identifying markings that distinguish one fish from another.

Behold this field drawing titled “Dad” executed in pencil on low-grade typing paper. This drawing was recently discovered almost completely hidden beneath napkins and salt shakers stuffed in a drawer of an old buffet. That explains the deteriorating condition of the drawing; nevertheless, we are grateful to have the field agent's personal autograph, increasing the value of this crude drawing considerably.

Pencil drawing of Barry by Zoe

Note the markings that distinguish this Dad from others in the species:
  • Not all Dads have a moustache, but it was a popular trend particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, thus dating this fine field drawing. 
  • Standing with hands either in pockets or behind the back is the typical casual pose of many Dads.
  • The glasses suggest poor eyesight. This Dad appears to be a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery.
  • The belly line indicates the paunch resulting from poor diet and one too many beers.
  • The thick hair helps distinguish this Dad from Homer Simpson.
  • This field drawing is exceptional in capturing the sound of the Dad:  “Ask Your Mother.” Whether you are at the mall, at the ball field, at an amusement park, or even at church, you can hear the call of the Dad when he is trying to avoid taking responsibility for a decision.

Please visit the field agents at Sepia Saturday to see what fish tales they have to offer. You don’t need to ask your mother.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.