Tuesday, February 26, 2019

52 Ancestors - AT THE COURTHOUSE: A Riches to Rags Story

The “surprising” story of the lawsuit between John Wesley Jollett, minister, and his neighbor Monteller Utz caused several readers to observe that surely there was more to the story. Utz had charged Jollett with selling him a worthless horse, yet Jollett prevailed in the case. While I found nothing reported in the local newspapers of the day to explain the outcome, the digital collections of the Library of Virginia offer up plenty of chancery causes involving Monteller Utz, both as Plaintiff and as Defendant, always on the losing end.

Monteller was the beloved son of the wealthy Fountain Utz (pronounced FON TAIN). According to the 1860 census, the elder Utz owned real estate valued at $8420 and personal property valued at almost $31,000. In today’s money, Utz was practically a millionaire. The 30-year old Monteller himself was worth $500 in real estate and $575 in personal property. Very few neighbors - if any - were keeping up with the Utzes. 

On the Courthouse Steps

Yet, in 1873 this happened.
From Chancery Cause Page County, VA
And in 1876.
From Chancery Cause Page County, VA
Then in 1877.
From Chancery Cause Page County, VA
Monteller’s troubles began long before John W. Jollett sold him that horse in 1867. Fountain Utz died in 1861 leaving lifetime rights to his wife, Frances Brown, and thereafter to his son Monteller, also named as executor. But in 1864 Monteller borrowed $1000 from Daniel Dovel who shortly thereafter died leaving the job of collecting on the debt to his executors. Oh, they tried. They finally went to court, but Monteller failed to appear, which in the legal world is viewed as an admission of guilt. His response was that he did not know he needed a lawyer, and that since the debt from 1864 was based on Confederate script, surely the Court would have to figure out how to handle it and let him know. Tsk Tsk, Monteller. That’s not how it works.

In case after case, Monteller Utz’s claim “I didn’t know I needed a lawyer” led to further trouble and mounting debt until finally
M Utz has been declared a lunatic
Official statement by the Court 1873 

Taken Thither

On July 24, 1878, this news article appeared in the Shenandoah Herald.
Monteller Utz in the news 1878 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
from the Shenandoah Herald 24 July 1878
Woodstock, Virginia
The same article appeared in newspapers in Tennessee, Minnesota, South Carolina, Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, and in at least seven newspapers across Kansas. It must have been viewed as a cautionary tale.

Five years later, Monteller Utz was admitted to the Western State Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia, now known simply as Western State Hospital. His admission papers indicate that the cause of his problem was financial troubles. No surprise there! At the age of about 52, Monteller Utz died June 28, 1885. The cause of death was marasmus, or severe malnutrition. He is buried in the Western State cemetery. 

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.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sepia Saturday: Partners in Crime

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a pretty snappy bar well-stocked with spirits, seltzer bottles, and a variety of cocktail glasses. It looks like the kind of place where many of my family - both living and dead - would have spent a pleasant hour or four.

You might say that my family has had a long love affair with alcohol, both legal and illegal. According to family legend, my father’s maternal grandfather John Fleming Walsh was a descendant of the Walsh family that produced some brand of Irish whiskey. However, I cannot find any connection. During the Civil War my great-great grandfather James Franklin Jollett produced spirits and paid taxes on it. At the tail end of Prohibition, my paternal grandfather Fred and his younger brother Lester got themselves into trouble over it.

Yes, trouble. BIG trouble.

Lester was arrested for bootlegging in 1929, but in 1930 he was cleared after claiming to have been just an innocent passenger in the car when arresting officers raided the still near Blackwater Swamp in Southampton County. But how innocent could he have been? Lester bore a purple scar on his face, the unfortunate result of an encounter with an exploding still.

Brothers Busted!

Lester might have gotten by with it once, but in 1936 he was not so lucky. He and big brother Fred were among the 23 arrested for bootlegging. It was front page news. Headlines and lead paragraphs were peppered with descriptions of the “rum ring” and “bootleg syndicate” as well as claims of a “liquor conspiracy.”

The indictment charged the 23 with operating distilleries in North Carolina, possession and transportation of liquor to Virginia going back at least to 1933.
from Virginian Pilot 9 Jun 1936
Of the 23, only 12 including Fred and Lester went to trial. Six were not apprehended. One pleaded “nolo contendere” (accepting conviction but not pleading guilty). Four pleaded guilty and turned State’s evidence.

Witnesses Paint an Ugly Picture

One of the key witnesses for the Government was Preston Sawyer. He told the jury that his partners included Fred Slade, Lester Slade, Lloyd Sundiez, and Millard Warren. In describing this “syndicate,” Sawyer said that they had formed the group to prevent price-cutting in the bootleg business. They were headquartered in several places in Portsmouth including a gasoline station and a couple houses.

from Virginian Pilot 9 Jun 1936
Several witnesses confirmed that the liquor was bought at $5-$7 per 5-gallon jug and then sold at $9. An occasional retail sale sometimes brought in a higher amount.

Another important witness was George Roundtree who was then serving time in the Atlanta penitentiary for bootlegging. He testified that he had to quit the business because the “Portsmouth syndicate” (aka Fred, Lester, and Millard Warren) had threatened to put him in jail unless he purchased from them. 
from Virginian Pilot 10 Jun 1936

Good grief, Granddaddy!

Case Goes to the Jury

The judge set 4 of the 12 free. The jury was left to decide the fate of the remaining 8, including Fred and Lester. On June 13, 1936, the headline read “Jury Hangs.”  The judge ordered a mistrial with instructions to try the case again. If the case actually went to trial, it must have been ho-hum news because there is no follow-up in newspapers available online.

HOWEVER, a week later my granddaddy and his “partner in crime” Millard Warren were sentenced to 18 months in the Atlanta federal prison for violation of the internal revenue laws on untaxed liquor. Alumni of the Atlanta penitentiary include Al Capone and other Mafia figures, fraudsters Carlo Ponzi and Frank Abagnale (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me If You Can), and actor Woody Harrelson’s father who murdered a federal judge. Yep, Granddaddy was in fine company.

Does He Look Like a Criminal to You?

Fred Slade Sr and Wendy 1952 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Fred Slade Sr and his beagles https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Julia and Fred Slade https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

I have tried to make sense of all this, this other side of the sweet man I called Granddaddy. The man I knew was a generous and kind gentleman. He was always in a good mood, ever cheerful and positive. He carted my granny and her sisters to the grocery store without complaint. Part of me looks at the times - the Depression. It is easy to blame the economic struggles he must have faced, but really, that is no excuse. I just have to accept that sometimes good people do bad things.

It’s Sepia Saturday! Cheers!

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

52 Ancestors - FAMILY PORTRAIT: The Whole Fam Damily

To the children and grandchildren of my 2X great-grandfather James Franklin Jollett, the Jollett Reunion was the most important event of the year. Not even the announcement that the war was over could divert attention away from preparations for the family gathering. The ever-anticipated annual event was held at the home of James Franklin and his second wife Eliza Jane near Harriston in Augusta County, Virginia, just outside the town limits.

Photos from the reunions suggest there were several traditions: a photo of James Franklin with his eight adult children, one with him and his children along with their spouses, a 4-generation photo, and finally a photo of everyone who attended that day.

Tradition 1 - James Franklin and Children

Jollett Reunion 1916 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Believed to be the first Reunion 1916
Standing: Burton Lewis, Victoria Breeden, Sally Clift,
Mary Frances Davis, Leanna Knight, Laura Sullivan, Emma Coleman
Seated: Eliza Jane, James Franklin, Ulysses
1921 or 1923 Jollett Reunion https://jollettetc.blogspot
1921 or 1923 Reunion
Standing: Ulysses Jollett, Laura Sullivan, Leanna Knight,
Mary Frances Davis, Sally Clift, Vic Breeden
Seated: Emma Coleman, James Franklin Jollett and wife Eliza Jane

Probably 1929 Jollett Reunion https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Probably 1929 - James Franklin's last reunion
Seated: James Franklin and Eliza Jane
Standing: Emma, Laura, Mary Frances,
Sally, Vic, Ulysses

Tradition 2 - James Franklin, Children, and Spouses

Jollett Reunion 1919 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Reunion 1919
Standing: Decatur and Vic Breeden, Jack and Emma Coleman,
Sally Clift, Laura Sullivan, James Franklin Jollett,
Mary Frances Davis, Eliza Jane Jollett, Walter Davis
Seated: Will Sullivan, Ulysses and Sadie Jollett

Jollett Reunion 1923 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Reunion 1921 or 1923
Standing: Laura Sullivan, Sadie and Ulysses Jollett, Leanna Knight, 
Mary Frances and Walter Davis, Sally Clift, Vic and Decatur 
Breeden, James Ira Sullivan (adopted)
Seated: Will Sullivan, Jack and Emma Coleman, James Franklin 
and Eliza Jane Jollett

Tradition 3 - Four Generations

4 Gen Jollett Reunion 1923 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Reunion 1921 or 1923
Standing: Minnie Coleman Maiden
Seated: Emma Coleman, James Franklin Jollett, Virginia Maiden

4 Gen Jollett Reunion 1925 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Reunion 1925
Standing: My grandfather Orvin Davis
Seated: Mary Frances Davis holding Orvin Jr,
James Franklin Jollett

Tradition 4 - The Whole Fam Damily 

Reunion 1921 or 1923 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
1921 or 1923 Reunion - this is the photo in the blog header

This is the Family Portrait that hangs in my “gene cave,” the photo that inspired my mother to start her search for the Jollett family, which in turn inspired me to take up the cause as well.
Jollett Family Portrait https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
The Jolletts
Standing: Mary Frances Davis, Sally Clift, Vic Breeden, Leanna Knight
Seated: Emma Coleman, Ulysses Jollett, Laura Sullivan

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.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Sepia Saturday: On a Pedestal

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the window of a French beauty salon. Despite the many possibilities suggested by fashionable dress, hairstyles, signs, curling irons, and reflections, what speaks to me today is the ever practical pedestal. Among my many family photos are pedestals and make-shift pedestals.

Bunnies Helen Killeen Parker https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
It must have been around Easter when my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker plopped some bunnies on a pedestal.

No pedestal handy? A barrel will do for Aunt Helen’s Bull Terrier.

Poodles posing on a pedestal is no surprise. Almost every photo of my mystery New York family includes at least one poodle. This one was taken in 1917 when John Jr. (surname unknown) was born.
Poodles of New York City 1917 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Mystery family of New York City 1917 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Probably the grandfather of John Jr. in the scale
and Cutey, the dog 1917
(Cloth-covered poodle pedestal is at the far right)
Velma Davis and friends at the Lucas house about 1925 Harrisonburg, VA  https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

It’s not a pedestal, but the Lucas family’s flower urn allowed the college crowd to rise to new heights in 1925.

A brick pillar served as a pedestal for my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan.

Violetta Davis Ryan https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Hop up on your pedestal to peer through the windows of Sepia Saturday. There is so much to see and read.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

52 Ancestors - LOVE: Dearest Darling Sweetheart

As I study my ancestors, I often wonder what drew couples together. Was it LOVE or was it just a matter of convenience? I have very little evidence of fairytale romance in my family tree, not that there was none, just no proof. One exception is my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker and Uncle Herbert. Three love letters, an anniversary card, a birthday card, and a valentine all attest to their romance that spanned roughly 35 years. Had Herbert not died at the young age of 59, undoubtedly that love affair would have gone on much longer.

Clues in one love letter suggest their courtship began sometime in 1924, but they did not marry until November 3, 1927 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Portsmouth, Virginia. I wonder if they honeymooned at the Grand Canyon. That fur coat would have come in handy in November.
Herbert and Helen Parker at the Grand Canyon 1927 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Herbert and Helen at the Grand Canyon


As an officer for the railroad, Herbert did some traveling. In January 1926, he wrote to Helen on hotel stationery. The typical greeting “Dearest Helen” is followed with a little humor before expressing how much he missed her.

Letter from Herbert Parker to Helen Killeen Jan 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Dearest Helen,

Have only a few minutes to write this in, and to make matters worse, I left my pen in my bag at the station, and am now trying to write with a pen point that George Washington used to sign the Declaration of Independence with.

. . . . 
Letter from Herbert Parker to Helen Killeen Jan 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Well, darling, tell me what to say - you know, I don’t talk much but am a “boy” of action. It is raining a little here, which together with this “bug” makes a rather dismal sight.

I cannot begin to tell you dear how much I appreciated your coming down to the train with me this A.M. but you know how much don’t you?

Good night Sweetheart
Yours till forever
Envelope to letter from Herb to Helen Jan 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Envelope 1926
Herb mailed the letter to the office where Helen worked. I wonder why. So she would get the letter early in the day? Was her mother a snoopy nose?


One day while at work at Seaboard Supply (plumbing), Helen typed a letter to Herbert on company letterhead.
Letter from Helen Killeen to Herbert Parker July 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Herbert darling don’t be peeved with me for writing this on the typewriter. I tried to write it with the pen, but I just can’t. I am too nervous so please forgive me.

There isn’t any news here, and I must get back to work, so will have to sign off. Herbert please take good care, and remember that I love you.
P.S. I don’t think I could have done any work today if I didn’t get your letter. All day yesterday, I was looking for it, and it was the last thing I thought about went [sic] I went to bed. I knew I would get it today.

Hmm - wonder where that nickname came from and WHY?
I wonder what made her too nervous to use a pen.



- those terms of endearment and expressions of longing for one another followed Herbert and Helen even after they had been an old married couple for decades. Herbert was traveling as an auditor for the railroad just days before their 27th anniversary. He did not forget though! An anniversary card was mailed in plenty of time to arrive on November 3rd.
Herbert dated the card, but had he been thinking, he could have used the same card EVERY year. Numbers 1-50 are printed on a little card that spins into the round opening.


Since this week’s theme was selected to coincide with Valentine’s Day, I will close with the Valentine Herbert selected for his dearest Helen in 1953. The message builds and builds from the quarter page, to the half page, and finally to the page opened in full.

Wishing you all a love like that!

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.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sepia Saturday: The Terrible Five

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt offers many ways to interpret it, but my eye keeps going to that white tent, I suppose because it makes me think of the tents my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker may have camped out in in her glory days. I have written about her camping trip before HERE

Helen Killeen's camping trip Northwest River https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

I thought it was a darn good story, impossible to improve upon, until I found a poem that recounted the events of that very trip, which I wrote about HERE
Helen Killeen's camping trip Northwest River https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

The end of the poem combines a bit of teasing and an inside joke, but reading between the lines reveals the fondness for a group of friends.

So I tell you dear friends, if you want to die
Just go on a Camping trip, with the “Terrible Five.”

It occurs to me that in every group of friends there seems to be that one person or that little core that holds everyone together. They’re the fun ones. They’re the trouble makers that make even trouble fun. In Helen’s crowd around 1918-1921, they were known as “The Terrible Five.”  Not a single one of the five is my family - that I know of, anyway. But I can’t stop wondering about them. I guarantee no one in my family cares, but I just need to know who they were. It’s a curiosity thing. A genealogy thing. I can’t help myself.

After studying photo after photo, I think I figured out 3 of the 5. The first guy on the left is Pete. 

Pete and Agnes Ocean View, VA https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
But Pete who? “Pete” isn’t always a diminutive of “Peter.” I knew a man named Albert Clifford who was known as “Pete.”

The guy on the far right is Mitz Ollice. The photo with Lucille Fritzinger was taken probably not long before they married.
Mitz Ollice and Lucille Fritzinger at Ocean View https://jollettetc.blogspot.com 

I could find no other pictures with people identified to match the dark-haired fellows. That light-haired guy in the middle appears in lots of pictures though. One photo turns out to be the perfect gift for this curious family historian.

There he is with a gun.
Canal boat ride Helen Killeen Parker https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Helen's friends Jerry, Gertie, John, Pickles and ??
on a canal boat ride
What does that say? Rayell? Rayill? Roy ice? I knew it would be a longshot, but I searched Ancestry for Rayell, Rayill, and even Roy born about 1900 living in Portsmouth, Virginia. Nothing.

Closeup of the patch on the sweater

I noticed the patch on Whatshisname’s sweater and zoomed in. CRC. That meant nothing to me, but I Googled that too. CRC. CCR. Nothing.

On a whim and really just giving in to frustration, I went back to Ancestry and searched for “Roy Ice” born about 1900 living in Portsmouth. And what do you know - there he was! ROYCE! Chester Royce Crawford, to be exact. CRC! (I bet those crazy friends of Helen’s dubbed him “Roy ice.”)

In stalking Royce Crawford through Ancestry, FamilySearch, and online newspapers, I learned an INTERESTING thing, a SAD thing, and a FUNNY thing.

INTERESTING - Not only did Royce work for the railroad, just like Helen’s husband Herbert, but also he rented a room from Herbert’s parents, the same house where Helen and Herbert lived in the downstairs apartment. Now that’s a friendship!

SAD - Royce never married. He died much too young at the age of 58. Ironically, Royce was predicted to be the second of Helen's friends to marry. 
Helen's predictions of ideal husbands https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Royce was 2nd from the right
and predicted to be the second to marry
FUNNY - When Royce was 10 years old, his fifth grade class at Berkley Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia presented a Christmas program consisting MAINLY of original poems, stories, skits, and songs. Royce’s contribution was a recitation of “The Mischievous Stocking.” I suspect his was an original piece. He seems like the mischievous type!
Gerie, Unknown, and Royce Crawford at Ocean View https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Look out - here comes Royce!
Please visit my friends at Sepia Saturday where you can pitch a tent, but just don’t pitch a fit.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.