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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

52 Ancestors - ADVENTURE: The Jollett Boy

One wild story of adventure has been passed down through the family. Not the Huckleberry Finn kind of adventure of exploring up and down the Mississippi encountering con men, slave traders and other interesting characters. Not the Jim Hawkins kind of adventure searching for buried treasure. Certainly not Ahab’s adventure seeking revenge on a great white whale.

It is a story of Indian capture and escape. It was recorded in a letter written by Rosetta Meadows Eppard, granddaughter of John Wesley Jollett, my 2X great-grandfather’s brother. The original was scanned and sent to me by a distant cousin Jan Hensley in 2007. My transcription preserves the peculiarities of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.
Just the first page of 4

December 15, 1964

I am writing the true Story of the Jollett Boy the Indians stold Back in the days whin the Indians would be passing through this country thay would steal Boys and girls If thay could. So one day the Jollett Boy my mother would tell us about she always called him Grand Pa’s little Boy he was cutting down Bushes back of the house up on a Hill I don’t know the age of the boy probley any whare from 10 to 13 years old. Any way the Indians taken him he couldn’t help him self do nothing but go and whin thay got to there Indian home and stayed a few days they wint on a nother hunting trip and taken him with them and they would make him cary there wild game thay killed on his Back until the skin would come off but he had to go every time thay wint. Thay lived off of there wild game I don’t know what thay killed and eat but they didn’t cook it but half done. But the Boy learned to eat that way. So one day they were going such a long trip they thought he couldn’t make it and thay left him with 2 old Indians he was then 21 years old he was with them a long time. Then the 2 old Indians got to whispring so the Boy thought that were fixing to kill him so one of them sed to the Boy he had grown up and was a man then and they called him young man. And one of the old Indians sed young man would you like to see your old Father and mother but he didn’t say nothing and thay asking him again the same thing. Then he broke down crying. Thin thay sed we not going to Kill you we are going to let you go home he ses I don’t know how to get home we will tell you how to get home. You go out here Back of the house and get on that little Branch and wait it until it emptes in the creak then you travel fast as you can in the creak and don’t get out no more then you can help. Thin if you should hear them coming get under a Brush pile or log pile the Boy sed if that catch me they will kill me the 2 old Indians sed thay will Kill no to thay all ways Kill the old Indians and we will soon die any way so thay fixed him something to eat on his way and he left for home and he traveld fast as he could for a bout 3 days then he heard them coming hollering there head offs like the Indians holler but he had traveld in the water all he could and he was clost to a Brush and log pile and he crawled back under the log and brush pile the high water had washed and it wasn’t long until thay were on top of it hollering and they would run down the creak thin up the creak back down all over the Brush and log pile until thay give up and wint back thin whin the Boy didn’t hear no more of them he wint on until he got to his old home. It was all most dark whin he got thare and he nocked on the door of his home and his old mother came to the door he sed I am awful tired I have walked a long ways – could I come in and stay all night she sed yes indeed I never turn down strangers that wants to stay all night so they wint in she fixed him something to eat and while he was eating his mother set down at the table and she was looking at him she sed to her Husband old man that was what she called him. This young man looks like our Boy the Indians stold he has a scar in his forhead just like our Boy had then he couldn’t keep from crying any longer he ses I am your Boy the Indians stold. What a rejoycing time for him to get Back home a gain and see his old mother and father and for thim to see there son again back home. The story reminds me of the story in the Bible of the Prodal son.
                                                From  Grandma Eppard

Let’s consider the players in this story:
“Grandma Eppard” was Rosetta Meadows Eppard, the daughter of Matilda Jollett and Thomas Wesley Meadows. They lived in the Jollett Hollow community along Naked Creek bordering Rockingham and Page counties in Virginia. The community derived its name from the Jollett family who were early settlers. Rosetta was 81 when she wrote the letter.
Tally Walter Eppard and Rosetta Meadows Eppard
their children Ralph and Ethel
photo courtesy Jan Hensley
Rosetta says that her MOTHER, Matilda Jollett Meadows, told her the story. Matilda says the “Jollett Boy” was “Grandpa’s little boy.”

But who was Grandpa? First of all, we must consider that “Jollett boy” can be interpreted in two ways: either his last name was Jollett OR he was simply a boy FROM Jollett Hollow. Furthermore, “Grandpa’s little boy” could have been his own son or even a term of endearment for a grandson. Extending that endearment further, “Grandpa” could have taken a liking to some child in the neighborhood who was precocious and adorable or maybe did chores for him earning him the designation as “Grandpa’s little boy.”

But back to the question of Grandpa’s identity. If Matilda meant her own grandfather, then that was either Fielding Jollett OR Manson Smith. If Matilda meant Rosetta’s grandfather, then that was either John Wesley Jollett OR Mitchell Meadows.

Mitchell Meadows can be eliminated. He was killed during the Civil War. His children were born in the 1850s, so even if any of them had been kidnapped at age 10, they could not have been gone long enough for Mitchell to have forgotten what they looked like in his lifetime.

John Wesley Jollett had 3 sons: Artubine, John, and Charles. John and Charles can certainly be ruled out because they were enumerated in every census. There is a cemetery marker for Artubine showing he died in 1862 at the age of 9. I considered that maybe that is when he disappeared and the Jolletts simply THOUGHT he died. But surely they would have removed the marker on his return. Thus John Jollett can be ruled out as well.

Like John Jollett, Manson Smith’s sons were all present and accounted for at census time. I suppose it is possible one of the sons disappeared and then returned between census years. If so, surely they would have lived long enough to be enumerated eventually. There does not seem to be any NEW Smiths or Jolletts to attach to these families.

Looking at Matilda’s grandfather Fielding Jollett, though, there is one unusual tick mark in the 1830 and 1840 census records for males for whom I cannot account.

1830 Rockingham Co Virginia
Age 5 – 9
Emanuel and ?
Age 30-39
Fielding Jollett
Under 5
Margaret, Lydia
Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett

The wife in the 1830 census was Fielding’s second wife, Mary Ann Armentrout. His first wife was Ann Stoutemire. They had two known children, Emanuel and Margaret. A second male between the ages of 5 and 9 suggests maybe they had a third child. Ann died in 1828, possibly in child birth. In 1840, an unknown male in the household between the ages of 10 and 14 was about the right age to have been kidnapped according to Matilda’s story as retold by Rosetta. Fielding and Mary Ann both lived long enough for a child to return years later unrecognizable except for a scar.

1840 Page Co Virginia
Under 5
James Franklin
John Wesley, Henry
Under 5
Margaret, Lydia
Mary Ann

But there are two problems with this theory. First of all, surely the returning son would have been enumerated in a census eventually. I have found no other Jollett men unaccounted for. Secondly and most importantly, had my 2X great-grandfather James Franklin Jollett had a brother who had been kidnapped by Indians, surely this is a story that my grandaunts and grandparents would have told. It is too good a story for the best storytellers in our family to have kept a secret.

The mystery of “the Jollett boy” remains just 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. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

52 Ancestors - CONTEXT: Reading Between the Lines

Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
A young Mary Theresa

My dad did not have the easiest of childhoods. As a little boy, he lived in the home of his grandmother, Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. Probably his father’s run-ins with the law over his moonshine enterprise accounted for the financial instability that necessitated the multi-generational living arrangements there on Charleston Avenue in Portsmouth, Virginia.
The Walsh home on Charleston Avenue about 1920
A maiden aunt lived there too as did an alcoholic uncle whose VERY important job in the shipyard could not wait for his hangovers to subside. It was Mary Theresa’s job to sober him up and get him to work. According to my dad, it was not a good environment, but Mary Theresa was a stabilizing force who took care of everyone.

Daddy’s aunt Helen Killeen Parker (and my grandaunt) saved a couple letters that Mary Theresa wrote during visits with her youngest two daughters who lived near Washington D.C. I suppose we all expect mothers to care for their children when they are sick, are relieved when a marriage is a happy one, and are generally just gentle and kind. The letters reveal Mary Theresa to have been exactly that. Still, there is just something about the tidbits of news she shared and the words she chose that make me see her more clearly.

 A Loving Mother
The warmth of the greeting to “My Dear Helen” is matched by the complimentary closing: “fond love to all, Mother” and “fondest love to all from Mother.”

Mary Theresa’s visit in 1937 may have been prompted by the illness of her youngest daughter Theresa, affectionately known as “Tate.” Apparently Helen shared her mother’s worry as well, judging by the apology in the opening of the letter: “I know you are anxious about Tate and I should have written at once. Well She is better, no more pain nor cough and insists on doing everything around here herself.” I sense Mary Theresa may have been amused by Tate’s recovery: “I think Tate will be alright now. Of course she thinks my coming cured her.”

Tate was the baby of the family and according to family lore she was Mary Theresa’s “pet.” But Mary Theresa wanted to be fair to all her children. Her 1936 visit was a long one – three weeks. Apparently she stayed part of the time with Tate and part of the time with Katherine (“Kat”). “I think now that I have seen how both girls are I will terminate my visit. Really I have been mighty happy for nearly three weeks. Steve & Kat didn’t want me to leave them but I had spent more time with them so I wanted to even up my trip by staying a few more days with Jim & Tate.  “even up my trip” – LOVE that!
Steve and Katherine Barany, Jim and Tate Crewes https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Mary Theresa's two youngest daughters and their husbands
Steve and Kat Barany
Jim and Tate Crewes
Committed to Family and Church
Daddy always described Mary Theresa as a strong woman who kept the family chaos under control. I see her sense of commitment to family in the letters. When she visited Tate and Kat, she did not take the grandchildren with her. One time, she left my father and his brother, “Sonny” and “Buddy,” with their older cousin Evelyn, known to family as “Ebby.”  “I don’t like leaving the children too long but I had a nice letter from Ebby this morning and they are behaving real good.”

It is obvious she was a proud grandmother who did not hesitate to boast about my dad’s accomplishments as a 9-year old: “Helen, am sending you the letter I got from Sonny don’t you think it is good, all the news he put in it. Keep it for me.” Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see that letter. Unfortunately, it did not get saved with this one from 1937.
Leo Slade and Fred Slade about 1937 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Leo "Buddy" and Fred "Sonny"
probably about 1937
Often we see our children’s good behavior and successes as validation of our parenting. Mary Theresa certainly did not have it easy taking care of multiple families under one roof, but somehow she kept everything going. She was the one who made sure my dad and his brother went to school and to church. She also saw to it that they served the church as altar boys.

The church was obviously important to her. In one letter, she expressed regret at not being able to visit with the Rosemunds longer: “They wanted me to stay with them longer but I wouldn’t be able to get to Church.”

In the same letter she rattled off a laundry list of activities for the day including seeing “The Prisoner of Shark Island” at the movie theater. Afterwards they visited a Catholic church and the 5&10. Wow –  could the day get any better? Why, yes, it could and it did. She took a long nap at the Rosemunds and afterwards they enjoyed dinner at 8:00. In a self-deprecating way, she said, “Some class.

Compassion for Others 
The way Mary Theresa spoke of the people she met during her visits makes me smile. As she wrote about the Rosemunds, she said, “I declare Helen they are awful nice.” The words “I declare” make me think she must have been especially touched by them. She also wrote with warmth about Mrs. Williams, an employee at Tate’s husband’s place of work, who was such a good seamstress, and Reta Greely, Tate’s good friend who “can drive real good” and took them all around Quantico and Washington D.C.
Mary Theresa Walsh and Kat Barany in DC https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Mary Theresa and Kat in Washington D.C.
1936 or 1937
(photos obviously taken on the same day are captioned differently)
Inquiring about folks at home might be just a polite thing to do, but Mary Theresa did more than that. Apparently Helen’s mother-in-law suffered from frequent headaches. (I wonder if they were sinus headaches or even migraines.) “Well I hope Mrs. Parker is getting stronger and not suffering with her headaches. Tell her to get ready to come back with me next time I am coming. I know she would love this place. . . .  I think it is beautiful around here.” The implied invitation and desire to share her good times speaks volumes about the kind of person Mary Theresa was.  

Happy in Her Life
Probably the one attribute that stands out in both letters is her satisfaction with her life. Her letters exude gratitude for every little kindness shown her and pleasure with each outing whether it was taking a walk or drive or seeing another movie (“It’s just grand every night a different picture.”). Her positive view was very much like my dad’s approach to life. He too was always optimistic in business, even the risky ventures. He too was cheerful and positive – most of the time, anyway – and grateful for all the blessings of his life. I think Daddy and Mary Theresa must have been very much alike.

My dad loved his grandmother. He spoke of her always with admiration and fondness. Oddly, he called her Mary Theresa, never Granny or Grandmother. Maybe he just wanted to be sure we didn’t forget her name.

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, October 2, 2019

52 Ancestors - HARVEST: A Farmer Among Farmers

In my early days of researching my family, I did not bother with the non-population schedules. I thought, OK, he was a farmer, big deal. But once I took a GOOD look, a REALLLLY good look, I understood the value of reading those fuzzy columns. Of course, I had to get a blank form so that I could read the questions in order to understand the answers. Fortunately for us all, the census forms are available at National Archives and Records Administration (archives.gov).

Richard Hosier (1815-1899) https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Richard Hosier (1816-1899 Nansemond Co, VA)
photo courtesy Jake Dog on Find-a-grave
A study of the 1880 non-population schedule for agriculture gave me a better understanding of Richard Hosier, a 3X great-grandfather on my father’s side. Although he lived in Nansemond County, Virginia, he farmed in the Sycamore community of neighboring Norfolk County. Apparently, Sycamore no longer exists, but if I COULD find it on a map, I bet it would be very close by.

The first set of questions are about TENURE, that is, whether he was the owner or a renter. Richard indicated he rented not for pay but for a share of the products. Now I wonder whether he ever owned his own farm or if he always worked for someone else. At age 65, he was considered “old.” Today, such an arrangement might be considered a “retirement” job or a hobby, but I do not know about 1880. There was no Social Security check to fall back on. If the children were not taking care of him, Richard needed to provide for the family somehow.

Answers to the questions about the acreage and value of the farm indicate that Richard worked on a mid-size farm comparable to those of most of his neighbors. His had 60 acres tilled while the largest farm had 175 tilled acres and the smallest 5. Richard’s farm was valued at $3000; the largest was valued at $15,000 and the smallest at $100. Like Richard’s farm, most were valued between $2000 and $6000.
Portion of the 1880 non-population schedule for agriculture
Richard Hosier is the first in the list
None of the farmers in Richard’s neighborhood boasted large numbers of livestock. Practically all of them had at least one milk cow; a few reported owning one or two sheep and swine. Only two made butter and cheese to sell. However, when it came to chickens, Richard owned among the largest number - 20. Only one other farmer sold more eggs than Richard.

Richard was the largest producer of Indian corn having reaped 300 bushels off 30 acres. He was on par with his neighbors in acres and bushels of Irish potatoes but did not bother with sweet potatoes as most had done. Failure to keep up with the Joneses – or in this case, the Mackeys, Bruces, Carrolls and Carneys – probably explains why the total market value of his produce was so low ($1000) that only one farmer reported a lower amount, and that was the one with the 5-acre farm.

A brief mention in the newspaper in 1888 shows that clearly Richard grew other vegetables besides potatoes.
from The Norfolk Virginian (Virginian Pilot)
24 Apr 1888
Good eating at the Hosier house!

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.