Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Year in Review

My goal for 2019 was to blog twice a week throughout the year. I committed to Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. My second blog of the week would be Sepia Saturday. The good news is I completed the 52 Ancestors challenge. The bad news is I fell short – 5 months-worth – with Sepia Saturday. I had been a devoted participant since November 2011. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that most of my photos and stories have been used already. While I have been known to repeat a story, I don’t like it, so there were many weeks that I just did not even bother trying to join in the fun. But I miss that connection, and I consider my poor participation as my biggest failure in a long time.

Let’s look back using my favorite categories:

Top 5 Blog Posts
(all are from the 52 Ancestors series)

Top 5 Genealogy-Related Activities
  1. As a volunteer for Find-a-Grave, I receive an alert when someone requests a photo of a tombstone in a nearby cemetery. If the stone is in a family plot or if there are other related stones, I take photos of them to post as well. I created several memorials.
  2. Assisting women with their applications to DAR continues to be important to me. I assist with establishing their lineage to a patriot of the Revolutionary War. Our chapter is happy to welcome 5 new members this year. If I hadn’t had blinders on, we could have had 6, but that member will get her national number in January 2020.
  3. I volunteer for one of the indexing projects for DAR. However, I confess that I did not spend as much time on this project as in years past.
  4. When invited by the District 1 Director to serve as the Volunteer Genealogist, I accepted knowing full well it would not require much of my time. And it hasn’t.
  5. Participating in the A-Z April Challenge has helped me catalog family heirlooms so that my daughters will know the stories and value of the STUFF they will inherit one day.

Top 5 Discoveries
  1. The Mathias family has long wondered why their grandfather Russ Kohne was raised by his grandfather Peter Kohne. What became of Russ’s father Lemuel? Just recently, newspapers coming online told the story: Lemuel murdered his neighbor over a boundary line dispute.
  2. Information provided in a memorial on Find-a-Grave proved that the Sarah Herndon buried in Iowa is NOT the Sarah Herndon married to Ezekiel Herndon, my 3X great-grandparents. The date and place of death appearing on countless trees on Ancestry are WRONG.
  3. On a whim, I searched my name in GenealogyBank and found an article about my VERY brief participation in Little Theater. The article revived a memory long forgotten.
  4. I knew my paternal grandfather had done some moonshining in his younger years but I had no clue as to the extent until I found several articles about the trials and convictions.
  5. Just by accident I discovered a fascinating story about the death of a distant cousin’s husband. The news articles are inconclusive about whether he was forcibly pushed or fell from the train during a robbery. The story of the accused, however, is the stuff movies are made of.

Top 5 Best Money Spent
  1. Ancestry
  2. Fold3
  3. GenealogyBank
  4. Newspaper Archive
  5. DAR dues

As I look ahead to 2020, I have set some goals:
  • Continue the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge
  • Get back on track with Sepia Saturday
  • Energize my enthusiasm for genealogy and blogging by joining Amy Johnson Crow’s Generations CafĂ© Circle
  • Commit to viewing more webinars and Facebook Live with Lisa Lisson
  • Stop talking about going to the Library of Virginia and county courthouses and DO IT

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

52 Ancestors - FUTURE and YOU

NOTE: I have combined the last 2 themes of the year into one. Why not?

Spending so much time researching my ancestors and wondering what they were like has made me wonder what people will remember about me after I’m gone. What will they say?

“Dalla was the best. She always played whatever I wanted to play. Sometimes I would be a Super Hero and she would be a witch with a magic wand.”

“We liked to play hide and seek and ‘Boo’ each other.”

“She had cool toys at her house. If I got tired of something, she’d go buy more. She probably had as many toys as I did.”

“She was so talented. She took an old child’s table and chairs and painted them just for me. I still have them. Maybe one day my kids will play with it.”

“Oh yeah. And she painted our moms’ rocking chairs from when they were little. I still have mine. Do you?”

“Remember how Mom would pluck our head with her finger when we didn’t behave?

“Yeah, and remember that time we were fighting and she banged our heads together?”

“Oh, and remember when we went to Italy, she made us go see all those museums? I don’t remember a thing that I saw.”

“I wonder how many times she watched ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and the Jesse Stone movies. And those stupid Hallmark Christmas movies.”

"The Christmas Eve dinner parties - now those were great. She always made them fun with a different theme every year. Remember when we all had to wear Christmas pajamas? And how about the Grinch year and the 1960s theme. Good times."

“I remember whenever I called her and asked what she was doing, she would say, ‘Oh just working on a little genealogy.’ Did she ever finish?”

“Or she’d say she’s working on a blog. Did you ever read her blog?”

“Well, I do like the family genealogy books she made. Maybe one day I’ll get around to reading them.”

“Oh no! Who will be our Registrar now?”
“Oh no! Who is going to do the newsletter now?”


Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 13, 2019

52 Ancestors - TRADITION: Coming and Going

Someone once said that traditions are the stories that families write together. I have been thinking about traditions a lot lately, maybe because of this week’s theme in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. But also I can feel our family changing which means the traditions we have enjoyed so much over the years must change as well.

When I was a child, I could not wait for Christmas day. I was a good child – surely Santa would reward me with lots of toys. And he did – he never failed. Yet I hardly had a chance to enjoy my new dolls and board games because we had to get to my grandparents’ house for lunch and open presents there. Then we were off to visit my parents’ friends and my cousins. More presents. More food wherever we went. It was exhausting. It took years to get out of that tradition.

When my mother took over preparing the Christmas feast, she decided it made more sense to gather on Christmas Eve. Indeed, Christmas day was much more relaxing not just for her but for all of us. When she passed the baton to me in 1997, I continued the tradition of gathering the family on Christmas Eve for a big dinner.

In 2003, the idea of a Christmas pajama party popped into my head, and thus started a tradition that has continued with lots of enthusiasm. Each year, I present a different theme. Sometimes we get all dolled up for parties like the Black & White Party, Las Vegas Night and the Red Carpet. 

Guests walked the Red Carpet
and answered, "WHO are you wearing?"

Other times we have had fun dressing crazy for Ugly Sweater, Red Neck Shindig, Christmas in Whoville, and the 1960s.

Table decorations help carry out the theme as does a signature cocktail.
Grinch Christmas trees, Grinch cookie favors,
and the Grinch color scheme 
Tie-Dye Shooters
perfect pairing with the 1960s theme
Can't have a redneck party without antlers and burlap!

It is a lot of work, but I enjoy it. However, I cannot see my daughters continuing this tradition when it’s their turn.

In fact, they are creating a new tradition. They have outgrown the need to exchange gifts with cousins. Instead, they do a bottle swap. Each person brings a bottle of wine or a craft beer for a “Chinese Gift Exchange.” I love that they enjoy each other’s company enough to find a new tradition that works for them.
Beer or wine, which will it be?

Jordan reading a clue
One tradition that has been the hallmark of our immediate family is attaching clues to our presents to one another instead of signing our names. It started years ago with my mother, weary from signing “Love Momma and Daddy” on countless gift tags. A red, white, and blue skirt and sweater set was signed “From the Patriots.” We thought it was hilarious, and we wanted to do it again. And again. Eventually the clues became more sophisticated. A box of underwear was signed “From Chapmans Seat Covers Company.”  Get it? 

Wendy reading a clue
As everyone quickly caught on to those “obvious” clues, the next level of difficulty required recipients to make logical connections. Consider a gift signed “FBI.” Hmm. FBI--> Undercover agents--> Ah ha – UNDERWEAR!

Oh, but even that is WAY too simple by our standards today. Can you guess what was in the box from these clues?  I’ll start you off with some easy ones:
  1. From Helen speaks
  2. From the Nazis
  3. From the quotable Judy Carne
  4. From Sitting out a year
 I’ll give you a minute to think.

Time’s up.  Here are the answers:
  1. Wawa gift card (reference to Helen Keller’s first spoken words when she finally associated water with fingerspelling – you had to see the movie “The Miracle Worker” to appreciate this clue.)
  2. Brown shirt (reference to the uniforms worn by the paramilitary organization)
  3. Socks (are you old enough to remember “Sock it to me – Sock it to me”?)
  4. Red shirt
This tradition did not make it into one daughter’s family. Why? One practical reason is that she married a man with daughters from a previous marriage. There is no need to impose our tradition on them. Another reason is lack of time.

My husband remarked the other day that when we were dating, what surprised him most about my family’s Christmas was how organized we were. On Christmas morning at his house, wrapping paper just flew as all 8 children madly unwrapped their gifts at the same time. My family took turns. Starting with the youngest and progressing to the oldest, each person got the spotlight while opening gifts. Plus we all enjoyed trying to guess what was in the box based on the clever clues.

Our younger daughter switched it up one Christmas starting a new tradition. She inventoried the packages under the tree and wrote everyone’s name on as many slips of paper as there were gifts for that person. The person who opened a gift drew the name of the next to open. Her reasoning was that way, it wasn’t obvious who got the most gifts. I suspect she always felt sorry for her dad who always received the fewest gifts.

See the shopping bag?
Cocktail shaker was one of many little gifts.
When my sister and I became adults and were on our own, our mother continued being Santa. Our little Christmas stockings were replaced with a big shopping bag. Shopping bag gifts were not necessarily small nor necessarily cheap. The bag would be filled with any variety of goodies from hand lotion to earrings to slippers to kitchen gadgets to underwear to frying pans. Many years we got underwear AND a frying pan.

After our parents passed away, my sister and I decided to continue the Shopping Bag tradition because that was truly our most anticipated gift to open on Christmas morning. What would be in that bag? Some flavored coffee? New gardening gloves? Vintage pillow cases? A bell jar? Maybe underwear and a frying pan.

Changes in our family mean we must adjust our traditions. We can’t all be together in the same room at the same time anymore. A firefighter in the family sometimes works on the holidays. A new wife has a family she wants to see on Christmas morning too. My grandbaboo needs to be at HER house with HER new toys, not hopping from house to house collecting gifts.

This year my sister and I are cutting back on exchanging gifts with husbands and each other’s children. But following the family dinner on Christmas Eve she and I will be exchanging shopping bags filled with odds and ends colorfully wrapped, each with a clue guaranteed to send us into fits of laughter.

Surely we will be reminded of other Christmases with our parents, of the year we sat around talking with a Boston accent, of the year we learned so much about Hitler and the Nazis thanks to the clues, of the year we all bowed to the master of clue-writing and clue-solving, and so many other memories that together are our family’s story.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

52 Ancestors - CRAFT: Retro Candles

The creativity gene is strong on my mother’s side of the family. When it came to sewing, no one was more skilled than my mother. There was not a broken-down piece of furniture that could defeat her effort to restore it.

Suffice it to say that she excelled at the BIG projects that most people will not tackle. LITTLE craft projects were not her thing, but she did produce a few seasonal crafts. In the 1960s, she was a genius when she thought to make Easter egg candles using a real egg shell.
1960s Papier mache rabbit - ooh that bow
Easter Egg candles nested in foil and Easter grass
One Christmas ice candles were all the rage. Using a quart-size milk carton, she filled it with crushed ice and then poured in some melted red wax. When it hardened, she poured off the melted ice and peeled away the carton. Voila – beautiful candle ready for display on a slab of green Styrofoam with a sprig of holly.
Christmas 1964 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Christmas 1964
My favorite photo of me and my sister
That was a humdinger of creativity in the 1960s, but hardly Pinterest-worthy today.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 25, 2019

52 Ancestors - THIEF: True Confession

One of the thrills of being the family historian is finding a bona fide horse thief in the family.

William Boyd aka William Jollett  https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
William Boyd
aka William Jollett
My family’s Black Sheep is William H. Jollett, my 2x great-grandfather’s nephew. William admitted to stealing a horse.

Staunton Spectator
Sep 6, 1868
He served his time.

After he was released from prison, something terrible happened that set him on the run. He changed his name to William Boyd and led a quiet and relatively uneventful life after that. It’s a long story. Read about it HERE.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

52 Ancestors - SOLDIER: Mystery Man

Unknowns in album of Helen Killeen Parker World War I era https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Of all my photos of unidentified people, this is probably my favorite. It came to me in a box of photos belonging to my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. Since many of the other photos were of her mother and her mother’s sisters and their families, I assume this one is as well. But who is it?

Here is what I know: Helen’s mother, my great grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, immigrated to New York from Ireland in the late 1880s. Her sisters did as well. I know for sure that a brother Denis remained in Ireland. One brother, John Sheehan, might have immigrated to New York but I am not sure.

There are many photos of women who resemble Mary Theresa, but the few photos that are labeled are of children who would be Helen’s cousins. Photos of adults are not labeled, so I cannot tell for sure who is who.

As a result, I can identify NO ONE in this photo.

One problem I am having is determining age in the photo. Is this a set of parents with a son and daughter? Parents with a son and granddaughter?  Could it even be a 4-generation photo? The woman resembles Mary Theresa somewhat in body type, but if the photo is from the 19-teens, Mary Theresa and sisters would have been younger looking and probably thinner.  

Another problem is determining the place the photo was taken. Since I have seen none of these people in other photos, I considered maybe this was the family left behind in Ireland. However, the architecture of the house does not fit with what homes looked like in Ireland, or at least in photos I have seen. Could this house have been in New York? Massachusetts? Maybe it was taken in Portsmouth, Virginia where Mary Theresa moved following the death in 1905 of her first husband, John Joseph Killeen.

The soldier’s uniform might answer that question, in part, at least. The coat resembles this one identified online as a US army enlisted man’s tunic from 1912. Later uniforms also had buttons on the collar. I looked at World War I uniforms for other countries and am satisfied that this is an American soldier. I can rule out Mary Theresa’s brother and family in Ireland as candidates.

But who should be ruled IN? That is the million dollar question!

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

52 Ancestors - POOR MAN: Caring for the Poor

Frazier Mountain School
photo courtesy John and Janet Thompson
Frazier descendants

Frazier Mountain was the stomping grounds of my 3X great-grandmother Nancy Frazier Shiflett and her many aunts, uncles and cousins. However, this photo of the Frazier Mountain School is not THAT old, more likely from the very early 1900s.

That is when the settlement movement made its way to the mountains of Virginia. The aim of settlement schools was to provide education for children in rural and mountain areas that were often not served by the county, usually for economic and logistical reasons. Churches often filled the gap building a school, a church, a clothing bureau, and sometimes even a hospital.

Frederick Neve Comes to Virginia
Frederick William Neve

Frederick William Neve was an Episcopal minister born and educated at Oxford in England who was asked to come to Virginia in 1888. He was based in the town of Ivy in Albemarle County, but he was drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains just twenty-five miles away. He found someone to take him into those mysterious communities – Shifflett’s Hollow, Bacon Hallow, Mutton Hollow, Blackwell Hollow, and Simmons Gap – places that inspired stories of moonshine operations, backwoods justice and suspicion towards strangers.

There were probably 175 people living there, but reportedly only two of them could read and write. Neve inquired about the mountain community and learned that no school or church existed within miles of the area known as “Frazier Mountain” to the locals but previously as “Lost Mountain.” Neve actually liked that name because he reasoned that without religion and education, the people were indeed “lost.” (Today it is known as “Loft Mountain.”)

Ambitious Project
Neve bought some property straddling Greene and Albemarle counties where he could build a mission school. One of the families offered the use of two empty cabins – one for a school and the other to house a teacher. In advertising for a teacher, Neve provided full disclosure about the isolation and lack of amenities. He expected men to apply but instead 15 women came forward. Angelina Fitzhugh was selected and became the first of many women and men who taught the mountain families at the mission schools.

Ruin of Pocosan Mission
at the end of a fire road in Shenandoah National Park
For quite some time, Neve and others like him were thwarted in their effort to help the mountain families. People were pessimistic and thought it was a waste of time trying to cure sinful behaviors like drinking and licentiousness among people that they viewed as not only ignorant but also primitive and untamed. Even when they viewed outsiders suspiciously, the mountain families saw the missions as a glimpse into another world that offered opportunities for their children.

Neve continued to draw followers and missionaries. Together they built mission schools and churches about every 10 miles throughout seven Virginia counties. Costs were sometimes double the cost of a building in a more convenient location. Transportation was still mostly by horse and wagon. There were no paved roads, and even the dirt roads were little more than paths winding through woods into the hollows.

Neve’s most ambitious mission project was the co-ed Blue Ridge Industrial School. It was the vision of his missionary Rev. George Mayo who realized he could not be effective unless he lived among the mountain people. He saw that since most young people were likely to remain in a rural area, a school that provided practical training for farm life and related occupations would be the best chance mountain children would have to improve their condition. The school operated a demonstration farm, dairy, sawmill, orchards, kitchens, workshops. It even operated a cannery for a number of years. The school initially offered an elementary education but soon grew adding more advanced education. BRIS was the first accredited high school in Greene County.

Historic Gibson Chapel at Blue Ridge School
wikimedia commons
Between 1890 and 1912, Frederick Neve started twenty-eight missions, ten of them in Greene County alone, and sixteen schools. He is remembered today as the founder of the mountain mission movement of the Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1888-1948.

Today all of the mission schools have closed except for the Blue Ridge school which is still going strong as a college-prep boarding school for boys.

Alvic, Philis. Weavers of the Southern Highlands. Lexington, KY: U of Kentucky, 2003. University Press of Kentucky. Web. 25 Nov. 2015. <https://books.google.com/books?id=G6geBgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+highland+weavers&source=gbs_navlinks_s>.

Campbell, Olive D. Southern Highland Schools Maintained by Denominational and Independent Agencies. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1921. 30 July 2009. Web. 25 Nov. 2015. <https://books.google.com/books?id=c4p6V571x2QC&dq=frazier+mountain+school+virginia&source=gbs_navlinks_s>.

Chretien, Kay Collins. “A History of Faith Mission Home.” Shiflett Family Genealogy Website.

Covey, David D. Greene County, Virginia: A Brief History. Google Books. The History Press, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <https://books.google.com/books?id=kkzjkVKswewC&dq=neve%2Band%2Bblue%2Bridge%2Bschools&source=gbs_navlinks_s>.

"A Guide to the Frederick W. Neve Papers, 1854-1981 (bulk 1900-1940) Neve, Frederick W., Papers 10505." Virginia Heritage: Guides to Manuscripts and Archival Collections in Virginia. Virtual Library of Virginia, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2015. <http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=uva-sc%2Fviu03549.xml>.

James, Phil. “Secrets of the Blue Ridge: George Mayo & the Blue Ridge Industrial Schools.” Crozet Gazette. 8 Sep 2017.   https://www.crozetgazette.com/2017/09/08/secrets-of-the-blue-ridge-george-mayo-the-blue-ridge-industrial-school/

“Settlement School.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

Shifflett, Larry. "County Place Names." Shiflett Family Genealogy. <http://www.klein-shiflett.com/shifletfamily/PS/alpnames.html>.

Swenson, Ben. “Far Pocosan or Pocosin Mission.” Abandoned Country. 7 Jan 2013. http://www.abandonedcountry.com/2013/01/07/far-pocosan-wild-with-moonshine-whiskey/

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

52 Ancestors - RICH MAN: Richard Bruce

After struggling to find a “rich” ancestor, I gave up and decided to write about one named Richard. The irony is that he might actually have been “rich” after all.

My 5X great-grandfather Richard Bruce was born to George Bruce and Elizabeth Quinn in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1754. He was surely old enough to have served in the militia during the Revolutionary War, but I have found no evidence of that on Fold3. However, his brothers served and received pensions. 

Richard must have come from a family of some means. His grandfather Darby Quinn left a will. Had he been a poor man, there likely would have been no will or estate to probate. Darby Quinn left a 400 acre estate to his son Richard Quinn. In addition, he stipulated that his personal estate be divided equally between his son Richard and daughter Elizabeth Bruce.

Without some wealth, Richard could not have become the educated man he was. He earned the respect of his family and neighbors. In fact, he was asked to seek the aid of Thomas Jefferson in settling a military claim: 

Albemarle 12th Dec 1791
Having repeatedly experienced favors of this kind from you it emboldens me still to intrude further on your goodness. David Owings & David Wood have got some military claim sent on by the Assembly to Congress to have them settled. And they have wrote to Mr. Madison to lay them separately before Congress. And as I was in some measure the instigation of their not being paid as you will see by the papers therefore beg you to be so good as to try to get them settled when they come to hand [not sure that’s what it says] and write me word their fate.
I am Sir your most obt [obedient] servant
Richd Bruce

Richard might have been a lawyer. In 1794, Richard’s brother William and his wife Ann Nancy, who were residing in North Carolina, appointed him to be their attorney to sell 300 acres of land in Albemarle County, Virginia [Deed Book 1, p. 34].

The many deeds and documents showing Richard Bruce as a grantor, grantee, or merely a witness suggest Richard was probably among the richest of my ancestors.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

52 Ancestors - TRICK OR TREAT: Those Pesky Ruckers

One of the TREATs of blogging is connecting with distant cousins and potential cousins. This past week I received two emails from Rucker descendants looking for more information. That was just the kick in the pants I needed to get back on my Rucker research.

DAR marker for Angus Rucker
photo courtesy Brian Gallagher
Rucker-Hoffman Cemetery, Madison Co, VA
Some time ago I was TRICKed into thinking my oldest known-for-sure Rucker ancestor was a descendant of Revolutionary War patriot Captain Angus Rucker of Madison County, Virginia. I had been advised by a well-respected Rucker researcher and then-president of the Rucker Family Society to prove that John Frank Rucker was son of Angus. Conventional wisdom was that he was son of Jarvis Rucker, not Angus.

It did not take long to discover that John Frank’s children named some of their own children “Angus.” Surely they were honoring their grandfather Angus Rucker. So it seemed a done-deal that John Frank was son of Angus. Even Daughters of the American Revolution agree; several women have joined this lineage society as direct descendants of Angus Rucker through his son John Frank.

I was lulled into thinking my known great-great-grandfather Frank Rucker was son of John Frank. I mean, after all, look at the name – Frank.

But not so fast.

John Frank Rucker died intestate in 1839. An abstract appears in the Rockingham County Guardian Bonds book: 15 July 1839, Parent, John F. Rucker; Orphans, Onslow, Angeline, and Eliza; Guardian Jared Powell, Bond was $2,000, bondsmen, John Cook and Honorias Powell. 

A daughter Sarah Jane had married James Frazier the year before and thus was out of the house and not in need of a guardian. It made sense to me that Frank likewise was of legal age and not in need of a guardian. I have lived with that thought several years.

Try as I might to ignore the numerous documents that refer to John Frank’s “four orphans,” now I am pretty sure Frank was not son of John Frank. The nail in that coffin was delivered by a chancery cause of 1857 in which Asa Baugher, administrator of the estate of Onslow Rucker, represented his wife Eliza Rucker and her sister Angeline Rucker Roach in a suit against their guardian Jared Powell. While details of the land dispute and proper accounting of how Jared Powell carried out his duties as guardian are interesting to ME, the clincher is this one sentence:
From Chancery Cause Rockingham Co, VA 1857
Adm Onslow Rucker vs Jared Powell

The heirs at law of Onslow Rucker are Mary Rucker, his mother, Jane Frazier wife of James Frazier, Angeline Roach wife of Mickleberry Roach, & Eliza Baugher wife of this complainant.

Frank Rucker was very much alive in 1857, so had he been an heir of Onslow Rucker, he would have been listed in that sentence.

At this point I cannot connect Frank to ANY Rucker male. I have my doubts about whether Frank connects to Jarvis, which is the standard view. Jarvis was from Culpeper County and died in neighboring Madison County. If the death certificate of my great-grandfather Joseph Calhoun Rucker can be believed, his father Frank was born in Amherst County.

Amherst County research will be something new for me. But maybe determining Frank’s parents will turn out to be a TREAT. After all, there were only 10 Rucker families listed in the 1830 census for Amherst County, and only 2 of them had a son born about 1824. Let the search begin again.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

52 Ancestors - TRANSPORTATION: Streetcar Envy

I am jealous of the public transportation system everywhere in Europe. Getting from here to there is so easy and so inexpensive whether by bus, train, or subway. Here in Virginia, heavy traffic on city streets and interstates makes for a white-knuckle ride at any time of the day. Our local leaders are finally offering one solution to ease the crowded roads: light rail. However, there are so few routes to places anyone wants to go that everyone wonders if it was even worth the expense.
The Tide
wikimedia commons
Public transportation used to be better. When I was a teenager, I could hop on the bus right in front of our house. For 25 cents I could go downtown to shop at any number of department stores, go to movies at three different theaters, and grab lunch at Woolworth’s lunch counter. If that was not enough, for 10 cents more I could take the green tunnel bus to neighboring Norfolk for another world of shopping.

My parents often spoke of taking the ferry to Norfolk in the days before construction of the tunnel in 1952 made the ferry obsolete. About the same time, bus service was introduced putting cab companies and streetcars out of business.

I have only a vague recollection from my teen years of remnants of the streetcar system along High Street and Crawford Street in downtown Portsmouth. But many folks in the Portsmouth Facebook group have clear memories of where the tracks ran in various neighborhoods. They shared stories and pictures, some of which are included in this post.
View from the Professional Building - High Street downtown Portsmouth
 Streetcars in the News
from Virginian Pilot 10 Jul 1917
Annie Brown in her uniform
Badge no. 5110 on her straw hat 

The local newspaper, The Virginian Pilot, sometimes prints stories of happenings 100 years ago. One such story was about a streetcar strike in 1917. When men were needed to go to war, the Virginia Railway and Power Company hired women to serve as streetcar conductors. The men refused to train the women, and eventually the company decided to put that plan on hold.

Another story from 1897 falls under the “too much information” category. Apparently, there was a great deal of concern about people spitting on the floor of the streetcars, prompting the City Attorney to give the go ahead to the City Council to enact an ordinance prohibiting such a nuisance. Conflicts with the Health Department suggest such an ordinance might not come to fruition.

Headline in the Norfolk Virginian
13 May 1917

The Beach Route
As a young boy, my dad used to ride the streetcar to the beach in Ocean View. I never could picture how that was possible because today it requires traveling through a tunnel, over numerous bridges, and on the interstate. Thanks to memories of folks on Facebook I understand the route: first, they would have taken the ferry to Norfolk.

Postcard of the ferry terminals 1940s in Portsmouth 
1950s ferry between Norfolk and Portsmouth
From there they would have walked a short distance and through the Selden Arcade to the Monticello Hotel on City Hall Avenue. 
Streetcar stop in front of the Monticello Hotel 
That was the stop for the Ocean View streetcar which ran down the middle of Granby Street to Ocean View. People on Facebook remember it being a wild ride full of bumps and sways due to the uneven ground. 
Ocean View streetcar
Ocean View station 1930s
Granby Street in Norfolk
Granby Street TODAY - grass medians cover the old tracks
Streetcars in Cradock - Who Knew?
Growing up in the Cradock community of Portsmouth, I NEVER EVER heard that there used to be streetcars in our neighborhood. But it is true. The folks in the Portsmouth Facebook group posted copies of old mimeographed newsletters containing photos of the Cradock streetcar. The tracks once ran down the middle of Afton Parkway from Paradise Creek to downtown. 
Streetcar on Afton Parkway, corner of Decatur Steet
Photo courtesy of Bob Cutchins 
This is the same spot today - corner of Afton and Decatur.
Like Granby Street, grass medians now exist where once there were streetcar tracks.

Someone in the group recalled a favorite prank pulled off by the boys of Cradock. When the streetcar reached its destination, in order to make the return trip, the conductor had to change the connecting rod to the overhead electric power from one end of the car to the other. He also had to reverse the position of the backs of the seats to face the front of the car. During this down time, the boys of Cradock would grease the rails with old oil confiscated from local gas stations. When the conductor pushed the lever to go, the wheels would spin. 

One Last Story
My sister recalls one interesting story about our dad’s experience with the streetcar. When he was in school, his basketball team rode the streetcar to South Norfolk to play in the gym. His team had 7 to 9 players but only 5 pairs of tennis shoes between them. They took turns wearing the shoes. Yes, little to do with the streetcar, but how many chances will I get to share this crazy story? 

How ironic that some forms of transportation made obsolete by progress might be one solution to the problems that progress created. 

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.