Saturday, March 28, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Wish You Were Here

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

Last week I started on a story based on a postcard to answer this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt. The card was from a resort in Pennsylvania. There is little information about the resort, so I plowed forth on a story about the sender. Frankly, it was a bit of a snooze-fest, but I was committed.

Then Thursday afternoon I received a mysterious email from the new owner of my grandparents’ house in Cradock letting me know she had found 5 boxes of STUFF belonging to my parents and grandparents. “I’m coming over right now!” There are canceled checks from the 1930s, life insurance policies purchased by my great-grandparents, my parents’ college notebooks and tests complete with a signed Honor Code, and letters. LOTS of letters.

And these postcards.
Postcard of Hershey Park 1948
Hershey Park, Hershey PA
Postcard Atlantic City 1948
Atlantic City, NJ
(love the humor in the lazy way to send a postcard message)

They were from my mother’s BFF Betsy Ward. The dates got me to thinking. June 14 and 15, 1948. As I suspected, on June 12, 1948, Betsy married John Lumsden, a dental student at the Medical College of Virginia.

Admittedly, these postcards are quite handsome. So artistic. So of the time. But the BACKS of the cards – now that’s where they get interesting.
Postcard Hershey Park 1948

Back of Hershey Park card
We arrived here tonight in time for everything to be closed even the Zoo! But we did see the amusement park. Made out fine at the Statler. Had a nice room. We may leave for Atlantic City tomorrow but it all depends how this place is.
Betsy & Johnny

Postcard Atlantic City 1948
Back of Atlantic City card
Mary E,
Weather is sad so no swimming. Walked the boardwalk but hitting the spots tonight when I look 21 [Betsy was 19]. We are both fine but hungry so must go eat. See you Friday. Hope you are holding out okay. Johnny’s in the shower (cold water)
Love “Us”

The gem is the Hershey Park card with the added message at the top: Wish you were here!

I bet Johnny loved that!

I don’t know about you, but I did not send out any postcards while on my honeymoon.

The weather is fine at Sepia Saturday. Wish you were there!

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

52 Ancestors - NEARLY FORGOTTEN: My Grandfather's Brother

When I opened up the Davis family bible that my cousin sent me, this slip of paper made me gasp:

Someone carefully wrote out in pencil the names and birth dates of my great-grandparents Walter and Mary Frances “Mollie” Davis and their children, some of them anyway. The last 2 are not listed for some odd reason.

What took me by surprise was not the missing children nor the misspelling of "Violetta" but the addition of Elsworth O. Davis, a child I had never heard of.

My grandfather Orvin Davis had spoken of his precious baby sister Josy who died when she was just 2 years old. Her picture was always on my grandparents’ mantel in their living room.
Josy and Orvin 1902 or 1903
Josy Davis and Orvin Davis
probably 1903
I knew about a brother Kenneth because he shares a tombstone with Josy in the Coverstone Cemetery in Shenandoah, Virginia.
at Coverstone Cemetery
Shenandoah, Page Co, VA
But Elsworth? Nope. Not even a tombstone for him. As important as family was to my grandaunts Violetta and Velma, they never spoke of Elsworth. Maybe it was because he was the first child and none of the other children ever knew him since he died before they were even born.

Mary Frances made sure her children sat for professional portraits.
Millard, Orvin, Josy about 1902
Millard, Orvin, Josy
Portraits of Violetta and Velma on opalotype
Violetta and Velma
portraits on opalotype
Unfortunately, Kenneth did not live long enough for that. He was just 12 days old when he died of jaundice. However, Elsworth lived 18 months (27 Mar 1892 - 28 Sep 1893).

But maybe he sat for a portrait. Could this unidentified cutie be little Elsworth? 
Unidentified baby in Mary Frances Jollett Davis's album

I certainly hope so.

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.”

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Bikes, Boats, and Freedom

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt captures a moment many of us have experienced – the simple pleasure of pedaling away on a bicycle to some place new with wind in our hair. Some would say there is no better place to bike than on a boardwalk at the beach.

In 1944, my grandaunt Lillie Killeen joined some friends for a day at Virginia Beach. Biking the boardwalk was on their agenda.
Friends of Lillie Killeen June 1944
Love the bathing suit and sandals!
Lillie Killeen June 1944 Virginia Beach
Lillie Killeen and beau 1944

Lillie Killeen and friends June 1944 Virginia Beach
I wonder why Lillie's boyfriend showed up in a tie.
I wish I knew the names of her friends. The woman was probably a coworker, a nurse for Dr. Vernon Brooks. Lillie was his bookkeeper.
At the office of Dr. Brooks
From top to bottom:
Unknown, Lillie, Unknown.
The woman on the bottom step looks
like the woman at the beach.
The man NOT dressed for the beach was Lillie’s long-time boyfriend. She eventually broke it off with him because, according to her, he drank too much. Lillie never married.

It seems fitting that Lillie is pictured here with the bicycle which years earlier had become a symbol for women’s independence. Think about it. For years women depended on men for transportation, but a bicycle gave women freedom. A bicycle did not require a chaperone.

Fifty years before this photo was taken, the bicycle changed women’s lives. Bicycling and the women’s movement became intertwined. Many suffragettes pedaled their way from town to town gathering support for women’s rights and eventually the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony once said that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton noted that “the bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect, self-reliance.”

In a time when women were expected to marry and raise a passel of children, Lillie stood apart. If anyone pitied her, she was quick to point out that she was the lucky one. She didn’t have to come home and cook dinner for a man. She could take off for the weekend on the spur of the moment without having to see to anyone else’s needs.

Lillie especially enjoyed her overnight trips aboard the “Baltimore Boat.” Old Bay Line offered overnight service between Norfolk and Baltimore.  
The City of Norfolk, part of the Old Bay Line fleet
known as "the Baltimore Boat"
On many Fridays, Lillie dined and danced her way to the big city. Hers was a fun and carefree life that her sisters could not know because of their obligations to husbands and children.

Lillie and others like her just might have a bicycle to thank for such freedom and independence.  

Pedal on over to Sepia Saturday for more old photos and stories.  

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 20, 2020

52 Ancestors - POPULAR: Trending COVID-19

I just finished filling out the 2020 Federal Census. What a disappointment for future generations who might eagerly await its release in 72 years. My however-many-great grandchildren will learn only my name, address, birth date, race, and the fact that I am mortgage-free. YAWN.

Fortunately – or not – family historians and bloggers are filling the void. One blogger suggested we all write about what life is like during the coronavirus pandemic. Great idea!

Long before the coronavirus hit our shores, the first sign that this THING was serious was that grocery stores quickly ran out of toilet paper. Then hand-sanitizer. Then bread. Then antiseptic wipes. My younger daughter sent a picture of her grocery store shelves – all Ramen Noodles were gone EXCEPT the shrimp-flavored ones. Her sister commented, “Oh, I’ll never survive a real apocalypse.”

We have always been BULK-shoppers anyway, so running low on toilet paper is not an issue at our house. We did run out of bread and after checking 3 grocery stories nearby, we were unable to buy any. However, slowly the grocery store feels like it is returning to normal.  

Here is our NEW NORMAL:

Nothing has made me feel older than our daughters’ concern for our safety. The one who lives nearby has offered to pick up our prescriptions. Oh my! They remind us that we are in “the cone of concern” – AKA “Senior Citizens” – the ones most likely to die from the flu or coronavirus. Others share that same concern. Walmart, Target, and other stores are designating their first hour on certain days for “Seniors” only shopping. I guess that means anyone over 60. However, that number fluctuates. Target targets those 55 and over. HRMPH.

This is the catch-phrase of the year. The goal is to “flatten the curve” (another popular phrase) by reducing the chance of spreading germs by coughing or sneezing near each other. The “curve” is a projection of how many people will contract the virus. “Flatten the curve” means to slow the virus' spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time. We have stopped shaking hands. We don’t hug because germs can be on our clothes. At first, we were to stay 3’ apart, but now it is 6’.

One of the first responses was to encourage people to work from home. Not all businesses can operate that way. Restaurants have closed their dining room; some now offer take-out. Fast food chains are keeping their drive-through open. Everyone is being encouraged to support such businesses in order to keep them away from bankruptcy.

Even libraries are offering curb-side pick-up.

Michael’s has also jumped on the curb-side bandwagon. I wonder if they are tossing a handful of glitter into every bag to make it feel like old times.

Department stores are closing temporarily.

Keeping 6’ away from others sounds easy enough. But when we go to the store, other people do not always do their part. I had to pick up a package at J.C. Penney the other day. When I got in line, I stood a good 3’ or more behind the lady in front of me. However, the next customer was right on my heels. The same thing happened to my sister at Michael’s. She tried to move up away from the person behind her, but THAT customer moved up with her just like on any other ordinary day.

Here is a great idea from Wegman’s to promote social distancing:

Now, if only people will look down and take heed!

Don’t you just love how staying home now has a fancy name that rings of policy and procedure? Yes, just stay home. I’m a homebody anyway, so this feels no different from my usual routine. However, I do feel obligated to DO SOMETHING. I am currently trying to finish a Shutterfly book about our Rhine River cruise from May 2019. (I’m also struggling to keep up with my blog challenge!! Can’t you tell?)

Barry must be super-bored. He is at this minute cleaning out the file cabinet and shredding old tax returns and receipts from major purchases. “Look, Honey. In 1977 you made $12,012 and I made $12,150.”

“Oh look. In 1971 you earned $538 at Shoneys.” Yes, that was my summer job when I earned just enough money to pay for summer school at college in 1972 so I could be with Mr. Shredder.

Depending on which memes pop up on Facebook, we are encouraged to wash our hands for 20 seconds. Apparently singing “Happy Birthday” TWICE or reciting the Lord’s Prayer ONCE will have us covered and virus-free.

Hand-sanitizer is essential. Recipes for making your own when stores are depleted like NOW are readily available online. It is easy to make, but have I? No.

Hands are not the only thing getting a good washing. Stores are doing their part by wiping down whatever people come in contact with - the conveyer belt, credit card machine, counters. My hairdresser’s shop has always wiped off chairs and the shampoo station between customers, but now they are doing it with antiseptic wipes.

If such hygienic practices continue beyond the pandemic (another favorite word of the year), that will be a good thing for everyone.

Schools have closed. Likely students will have no spring sports, no prom and no graduation ceremony. School districts have lessons prepared online for students and/or parents to download, but here in Chesapeake, the lessons are rather generic and there is no incentive to complete them. In fact, there is talk of just passing students onto the next grade without completing their classes or meeting the state requirement of attendance. How does that make sense with something like math? Right now, I am glad not to have this worry or the disappointment that goes with missing the activities that make school fun.  

Educators and those in related industry are posting every FREE educational source available so that parents can keep their kids’ brains functioning. Internet companies are offering free service to qualifying families without access so that those kids can also keep up with schoolwork and such.

And speaking of the poor, I have wondered about the kids who depend on school lunches so that they get at least one meal a day. Fortunately, the schools here are still providing bag lunches to anyone under the age of 18. Parent and child must both show up to receive a meal.

My DAR chapter cancelled the annual luncheon even before “large crowd” was defined. States ordered cancellation of events that involved 500 people.  Then the number was 250. Then 50. Now it is 10. It could be our chapter will be cancelling future meetings as well. This might force us all to become more tech-savvy. Society leaders are learning how to use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, and other platforms to hold virtual meetings. Unfortunately, much of the technology will be over the heads of our more senior members, some of whom do not even do email.

Even my church has gone to streaming services. In fact, the entire United Methodist Church has stopped in-person services for the foreseeable future. Sadly, some weddings are being postponed. My nephew is supposed to get married in July. I surely hope it happens.

If there is an upside to the coronavirus, it is that we are being made aware of other ways to entertain ourselves. On Facebook people are sharing 10, 12, 15, 20, 100 museums that we can tour ONLINE. Likewise, there are aquariums to visit ONLINE. State parks to visit ONLINE. Gyms offering workout routines live ONLINE.

Amazon has made thousands of books available FREE through Audible.

Ancestry has opened its Library edition free through the local library ONLINE.

In many ways the pandemic is bringing out the best in people. (Scammers aside, that is.) Here are 2 good thoughts to leave you with:

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.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

52 Ancestors - LUCK: St Paddy Cards

In March the expression “Luck of the Irish” has special meaning for my family. My great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh was an Irish matriarch, the much loved maternal grandmother of my father. She came from Limerick, Ireland in 1886.
Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh
Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh
1869 Ireland -1939 Portsmouth, VA
Judging by the St. Patrick’s Day cards glued carefully into her scrapbook, Mary Theresa was proud of her Irish heritage.

from her daughter Catherine

from her sister Delia Sheehan Christian

My favorite cards came from my great-grandmother’s niece Myra Sheehan, daughter of Mary Theresa’s brother Denis. This family remained in Limerick unlike the rest of Daniel and Bridget Sheehan’s children who all immigrated to New York in the 1880s and early 1890s.

The cards still have real Irish shamrocks encased in plastic.

Read about the GOOD LUCK Myra’s cards brought me 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.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Put Up Your Dukes

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo with hands on knees reminded me immediately of this group photo taken in October 1924 when my grandaunt Velma Davis was a freshman at Harrisonburg Teachers College, now known as James Madison University.
Students of Harrisonburg Teachers College 1924 Massanutten Hike
Massanutten Hike 1924
students of Harrisonburg Teachers College

I wrote about the hike for Sepia Saturday in 2013.

What surprised me most about the hike was that the girls were accompanied by the college president, Samuel Page Duke. He was just 36 years old when he was named the second president of the college and probably about 40 in this photo.
Samuel P. Duke 1924
Samuel Page Duke (1885-1955)
Duke was a visionary. He figured out how to grow the campus and build buildings. He found money when there was none. When the 1924 enrollment far exceeded the school’s ability to house the incoming class, he convinced a developer to build some apartments with the promise that the school would rent them.
Wellington Hall Harrisonburg Teachers College 1924
Wellington Hall 1924
my grandaunt Velma's dorm

Duke also made sure there were plenty of gymnasiums, a swimming pool, and fields for sports. Under his leadership the school grew from 400 students and buildings valued at $500,000 to over 1300 students with buildings and equipment valued at over $2.5 million.

No one thinks about that. What most people remember about President Duke are these 2 things:
  • When the state colleges started growing and offering more than training for teachers, they wanted a new name. Samuel Duke used his influence to push for the name “Madison College” in honor of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. In 1975 the school became a university and adopted the name “James Madison University.”
  • JMU is probably the only school whose athletic teams are named after the school president. Men first enrolled at Madison College as regular session students following World War II. The first men’s basketball team was formed in 1947. The players struck a deal with President Duke: if he would provide them with towels and equipment, they would name their team for him. That is how we became the Dukes. 

As for “Duke Dog,” our mascot, that took some creative thinking. After all, there is little about a “duke” that inspires team spirit. The director of public affairs suggested the English bulldog, the stereotypical pet for British royalty, such as a “duke.” Thus Duke Dog was born.

The first mascot costume was basic.
The Duke Dog mascot in 1973
Now the mascot is all fancy and cuddly in his crown and royal robe.
Duke Dog as he looks today
courtesy JMU The Breeze
The statue looks more ferocious.
from Pinterest

At our lake house, we had fun decorating the basement bar as a tribute to our Alma Mater.

I like to think President Duke would approve.

Get up and hike on over to Sepia Saturday to see what the group is up to.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 6, 2020

52 Ancestors - STRONG WOMAN: Martha Davis

In my book, any woman who could birth and rear 15 children without sticking her head in the oven is a STRONG woman. Well-done, Martha Willson Davis!
Martha Ann Willson Davis
Martha Ann Willson Davis
Martha was my 2X great-grandmother. She was born in 1833 in Rockbridge County, Virginia and died in 1905 in Rockingham County at the age of 75. That was really OLD back then.

However, she was just a child of 13 when she married Mitchell Davis who was roughly 13 years older. He was a carpenter and farmer in the Beldor area of Rockingham County, which today is just off the Skyline Drive.

The 15 children were born over the span of 30 years. Sadly, 3 of the oldest children died within weeks of each other in 1863. Zedekiah, the oldest, was just 15. Ann, the 2nd child, was 13. Jerusha, the 4th child, was 10.  I do not know the cause of death, but it had to have been something they had in common, something like cholera or typhoid fever, injuries from a house fire, or from some other horrible accident.

Regardless of the cause, it had to have been devastating to bury a third of the children living in 1863. It took a strong woman to keep going.

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.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Is She or Isn't She?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompted me to consider cabinet cards and group photos. One photo that I have NOT written about before is neither.
Possibly George Harvey Eppard and Segourney Shiflett
Possibly my 2X great-grandparents
courtesy of Jan Hensley
When I was given this picture (actually a picture of a picture), I was told the couple might POSSIBLY be my great-great-grandparents George Harvey Eppard and Segourney Shiflett.

My grandmother did not talk much about her grandmother, but I clearly remember when she said her grandmother’s name was Segourney. I laughed. I thought she made it up. Since then I have found plenty of women with that name. But I digress. Back to the story.

George Harvey Eppard was born 15 September 1839 in Page County, Virginia, son of William and Helena Foland Eppard. Segourney was born 8 December 1850 in Albemarle County, daughter of Isaac and Susan Jordan Shiflett. George and Segourney married 28 May 1870.

I am not totally convinced this photo is from the 1870s. The woman’s dress still sports signs of Civil War-era fashion, most notably the dropped shoulder seams. But they did not live in France. They were not wealthy people with a closet full of ball gowns in the latest style. Maybe she wore what she had, regardless of trend.

Segourney was identified in another photo of a photo. 
seated: Jenetta Dovel Shiflett and Susan Jordan Shiflett
photo courtesy Mary Garrett
The two older women were Segourney’s mother Susan Jordan Shiflett and Susan’s daughter-in-law Jenetta Dovel Shiflett, wife of Segourney’s older brother Philip Pendleton Shiflett. The tall girl in the middle SUPPOSEDLY is Segourney, according to the distant DISTANT cousin who sent it.

However, I have my doubts. Does she look like the girl in the first photo? Eh ~ I can see a possible resemblance but not enough to say for sure.

Some important dates will help determine the date of the photo:
  • I do not have a death date for Susan Jordan Shiflett but based on the census records, she died between 1870 and 1880.
  • Segourney was born in 1850. Jenetta was born in 1840. Jenetta looks much more than 10 years older than the girl identified as Segourney.

But if it is Segourney, then who are the other girls? The pose with all those little girl hands on the women’s shoulders is a strong suggestion that they are mother and daughters and granddaughters. Therefore, it does not seem likely that Segourney would be included in the photo.

If the picture were taken closer to 1880, then there should have been 6 young daughters. The oldest, Alpharetta, would have been 20, but the oldest “daughter” does not look that old. So probably the photo was taken earlier than that.

If the picture were taken in 1870, we are getting closer, but Jenetta had only 4 daughters then, not 5.  When the census taker came around that year, the youngest girl was only 2. Jenetta might have been pregnant with her next child.

So looking at Jenetta’s first 5 daughters, I had to wonder if the assumed ages would make sense for a time period between 1870 and 1875. I think it does. In 1873, the girls would line up like this:
  1. Alpharetta – 12
  2. Emaline/Mitta Lee – 9
  3. Jenetta – 7
  4. Ella – 5
  5. Alice – 2
These ages seem to fit the girls in the picture, although, quite honestly, I cannot tell which one is Ella and which is little Jenetta.

Therefore, yes, I do believe the tall girl has been misidentified. It is more likely she was Alpharetta, not Segourney who would have been a married girl by 1873 anyway.

I can still hold out hope that these two handsome people staring back at me are my 2X great-grandparents George and Segourney Eppard.

Joint the group at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.