Wednesday, April 29, 2020

52 Ancestors - WILL: Beyond the Will

“Where there’s a will, there’s a genealogist.” I love that! It is so true.

As the Registrar for my chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), my job is to help prospective members prove their blood line leading to a patriot, someone who aided in obtaining independence for America. When birth and death records do not exist, I look for a will because they are the perfect source to prove a parent and child connection – that is, WHEN they actually name the children. Ones that simply direct that property be “equally divided among my children” are essentially useless.

What a let-down when I found the will for Johan George Eppard (23 Apr 1780 - 1869). He was my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather, in other words MY 4X great-grandfather. His will of March 1866 mentions only 3 of his 11 children by name.

Map of the Naked Creek area
The Epard/Eppard names give an idea of where George's land was
George Eppard began his will by describing the metes and bounds of land to be divided. The Eppards lived along Naked Creek which formed the border between Rockingham and Page counties in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

Here is what he said next:

The said boundary of land I will to my son Wesley Epard by his paying to my estate the sum of $20.00 per acre in four equal payments. The first payment to be made in 60 days from the date of admitting this my will to record and the balance in three equal annual payments from said day. Second:  The residue of my land should I not dispose of the same before my death I wish to be sold at public sale by my executor, hereinafter named, on such terms and time as they may think most advisable. Third:  The proceeds of the above sales together with all the rest of my effects, after all of my just debts and funeral expenses are paid I wish to be equally divided among all my children. The children of my two Sons, John and James, who are dead:  I wish to receive respectively the shares that would have come to their fathers had they been living that is, the children of John Epard to receive one moiety and the children of James Epard one moiety. Fourthly:  I constitute and appoint my friend John C. Walker my executor. In testimony whereof I the said George Epard have to this my last Will and Testament signed and subscribed my name this day of March in the year of our Lord 1866.

Signed, acknowledged and published by George Epard
George (x) Epard.  X His Mark

As a descendant of one of the UNnamed children, I would be disappointed if I were relying on this will to help me get into the DAR. Fortunately there was a lawsuit.

It seems that John C. Walker, executor of George Eppard’s estate, was deemed unsuitable due to his own financial woes, so the Eppard heirs took him to court to have him removed.

Chancery Cause 1870-068 Rockingham County, VA
To the County Court of Rockingham

The Bill of complaint of Andrew Eppard, William Eppard, Reuben Eppard, Westley Eppard, Jos Samuels Jr, Zac Taylor, William Merica & Isaac Gooden of Rockingham County, respectfully represent that in the year 1869 George Eppard departed this life leaving the foregoing complainants his devises and distributes. That he made a will & appointed John C. Walker his Executor who at the August Court 1869 he qualified as such and paid bond with S. P. H. Miller as his surety. That said Walker sold the personal property and that the same amounts to between $600 & $700.
Chancery Cause 1870-068 Rockingham County, VA
That since that time the said Walker and the said Miller have both failed and their personal effects have been sold by the Sherriff & that they are insolvent and if said Walker collects said money Complainants have no security for its faithful application. Complainants have confidence in the integrity of said Walker but feel & charge that he is not now, embarrassed as he is, a proper person to have charge of the estate and that letters of Admin to him ought to be revoked.

They prevailed.
Chancery Cause 1870-068 Rockingham County, VA
John C. Walker & S. P. H. Miller   }

This day the Plaintiffs presented their Bill in Court praying an Injunction. Isaac Gooden one of the plaintiffs having given bond in the penalty of $25 an injunction is awarded the plaintiffs to restrain the said John C. Walker from collecting and all the Creditors from paying to him any of the money due said Walker as adm of George Eppard deceased 

The real value of this document, however, is in the naming of the children. My ancestor is William. The daughters’ names were disguised by the names of their husbands as was typical of the times. It required a little more research to find them.
  • Joseph Samuels Jr – Permelia Eppard
  • Zachary Taylor – Nancy Eppard
  • William Merica – Mary Eppard
  • Isaac Gooden – Elizabeth Eppard

So, who was this John C. Walker that George Eppard entrusted to carry out his last wishes? Ironically, Walker himself was a lawyer. His wife was Mary Miller, perhaps a sister to S. P. H. Miller.

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, April 25, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Art I

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt made me think of the many hours I spent at the library when I was a student at Madison College (now James Madison University – GO DUKES!). My mother also graduated from Madison, so it is likely we sat in the same time-worn chairs at large tables that look like they came right out of a medieval mead hall.
Library at JMU 1949
image from the yearbook

When the most recent owner of my grandparents’ house contacted me about the family treasures she
Items found in Gillis Rd attic
Just one box of stuff found in my grandparents' attic
uncovered in the attic, I was surprised at the college class notes and assignments my mother had saved, in particular the ones from Art I. She was preparing to become an elementary school teacher, so apparently an understanding of the principles of art was a requirement.

The color wheel, shapes, perspective, balance – basic topics like these are reflected in the papers she deemed worthy of keeping. Surely every elementary school teacher must know these things in order to incorporate art into their curriculum. I get it.

But fashion tricks to enhance the figure or disguise flaws? Home decorating? I do not see how that was relevant to the students who would soon be helping 9-year-olds to construct a Jamestown fort out of popsicle sticks.

Yet in my mother’s little works of art, I see the woman she became. When she was not planning lessons and grading papers, she knitted and sewed. She loved it and was good at it. She smocked. She quilted. She made slipcovers and drapes. Most of our clothes were sewn right there in our dining room. Momma followed the instructions provided in Simplicity, McCalls, and Butterick patterns, but she also was good at combining the sleeve from one and the collar from another to create her own look.  

Art I assignment
Painting by Mary Eleanor Davis 1948
Assignment in Art I

In one assignment, students were to select a fashion style from a much earlier period and adapt it to modern times. Momma adapted a medieval dress for the modern woman. 

She explained:

Explanation of fashion adaptation 
From the 10th-13th century dress, I took the sleeves and fitted bodice. In the adaptation, it is a set-in piece of material rather than a regular belt. 

Didn’t she do a good job? Yet the professor gave her a “C.” A “C”! Just an average job? I want to see the “A” student’s project. No grade inflation in that class!

One assignment that amuses me is about home decorating. I cannot tell whether it was about furnishing a room, about the use of main and accent colors, or what. When my sister and I looked at this drawing, our jaws dropped.
Painting by Mary Eleanor Davis 1948
Assignment in Art I
Green walls and maroon rug – that is exactly the scheme she used when she redid the living room in 2000. 
It seems every picture of the living room was taken at Christmas with presents everywhere
making it hard to SEE my point

This is actually my sister's living room in 2010.
She inherited the rugs and the valances that
were in our parents' house.
Momma made the valance.

Did she subconsciously channel that assignment from 50 years before? It must have been her crystal ball.

All week members of Sepia Saturday have been studying their photos for the best ones to highlight.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

52 Ancestors - LAND: Lot 8 Section T

Who has not dreamed of finding buried treasure? Maybe a bag of gold buried in the garden. A diamond broach behind a panel in an old cupboard. A bundle of letters and mouse-chewed papers in a hidden compartment of an attic.

That last scenario is mine.
Davis home in Cradock
The "secret attic" is in the part of the house
that extends in the front
(my grandparents' bedroom)
The current owner of my grandparents’ house is installing new insulation in the attic where she discovered the “secret attic.” Thanks to this blog, she found me. No gold though. And no fancy jewelry. But there are a few good things like baby clothes that had been worn either by my sister or me, one baby shoe that was probably our mother’s, a college yearbook, and LOTS of letters from our mother’s high school and college friends.

There are also a lot of papers that most people would have thrown away 70 years ago when the house was built - papers like store receipts, canceled checks, and property tax receipts. But the family historian in me says, “Thanks Grandma! Thanks Granddaddy!” Each mouse-chewed piece of paper is a treasure.
Davis property tax 1941
Receipt for tax payment 1941
Before World War II brought my grandparents to Portsmouth where Granddaddy worked in the shipyard, they lived in Shenandoah, Virginia. I am intrigued by the property tax receipts from the Page County treasurer.  
My grandfather paid $16.03 in 1939
which included a head tax, personal property and
real estate taxes on Lot 8 Section T
I want to know more about Lot 8 Section T. Maybe it was their house on Sixth Street or possibly their store at the corner of Sixth and Pennsylvania Avenue.
snipped from Google Maps
House on 6th Street built by my grandfather and great-grandfather and Davis store on the corner
This is my mother's childhood home. 
The house in the middle faces Pennsylvania Ave. 
My grandfather paid $14.92 in 1941
Lot 8 Section T
I remember seeing an index for Page County deeds at the Library of Virginia umpteen years ago. I thought I made a copy but apparently I did not. However, in looking through my files, I found an important deed that possibly sheds light on these property tax receipts.

Walter Davis deed 1896

From Page County Deed Book 38, pp 147-148
This Deed made the 12th day of May in the year Eighteen hundred and ninety-six between J. G. H. Miller and S. P. Miller his wife, of the first part of Rockingham County, Virginia, and Walter B. Davis of the second part, of Page County, Virginia, Witnesseth that in consideration of sixty-five dollars cash in hand paid, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the said J. G. H. Miller and S. P. Miller, his wife, doth grant, with general warranty of title unto the said Walter B. Davis, his heirs and assigns forever, all of a certain lot or parcel of land situate in the town of Shenandoah, County of Page, State of Virginia, designated and descried as follows to wit: Lot No. 7 in Block No. 6 of Millers Addition in the town of Shenandoah in the County of Page, State of Va, fronting fifty-feet on East side of 3rd Street and running back 130 feet to an alley, between lines

Walter Davis deed 1896

perpendicular to sd 3rd Street, together with all appurtenances to the said lot or parcel of land belonging, to have and to hold said lot or parcel of land with the appurtenances aforesaid, unto the said Walter B. Davis, his heirs and assigns forever.
Witness the following signatures and seals.
J. G. H. Miller {seal}
Sallie P. Miller {seal}

State of Virginia
County of Rockingham
I, W. K. Jennings, Notary Public in and for the County and State aforesaid, certify that J. G. H. Miller and Sallie P. Miller whose names are signed to the writing above having date on the 12th day of May 1896 have acknowledged the same before me in the County and State aforesaid. Given under my hand this 13th day of May 1896.
W. K. Jennings N.P.

Page County to wit:
The forgoing Deed was received in the Clerk’s Office of Page County Court, Augt 2nd 1897 and entered to record.
A Broaddus C.C.

My great-grandfather purchased a lot on “3rd Street” – that is where my cousins lived as children. Whenever we visited them, my grandfather would point to the big white house next door and say, “That is the house I grew up in.” I guessed Lot 7 then must be where Walter Davis built the family home.
Davis and Sullivan cousins on N 3rd St Shenandoah, VA
My granddaddy Orvin with his sisters and cousins
the Davis house on N. 3rd near Williams Ave. Shenandoah, VA

snipped from Google Maps
How the house looks today

Could “Lot 7, Block 6” and “Lot 8, Section T” be neighboring properties? Maybe Granddaddy owned the lot where my cousins’ house was eventually built. 
snipped from Google Maps
My grandfather's boyhood home and my cousins' house as they look today

For answers I turned to the friendly folks in the “Remember Shenandoah Back When” group on Facebook to see if there is a map of how the town was laid out “back when.” Right away one person said there is a map on the wall in the town office. Before I could find a phone number or email address, a woman who works there responded also. She reported that “Section T” is Sixth Street.

What’s more, she included a link to the Page County Geographic Information Systems website. There you can search by owner, by address, by street, and by several other designations as well. 

Block map showing Lot 8 Section T
from Page County GIS
When I searched “Sixth Street,” up came a map with every lot numbered. I clicked on #8, and there it was: my grandparents’ house, my mother’s childhood home. Photos of the front and side and a description of the building’s interior and exterior provided more information than I could have hoped for.
View of the house my mother grew up in
414 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
from Page County GIS
Side view of the house my mother grew up in
414 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
from Page County GIS
As I was on a roll, I went ahead and searched Third Street for my granddaddy’s boyhood home. It turns out that “Lot 7, Block 6” is a VACANT lot. It was vacant when Walter Davis bought it in 1896 and it is still vacant today. I suppose he just wanted more land between his house and whoever might build on Lot 6.
Block map N Third St, Shenandoah, VA
Lots 8 and 7 - Granddaddy's boyhood home
Lots 6 and 5 - my cousins' childhood home
As I clicked on lot after lot, I saw a pattern. EVERYONE bought 2 lots. No wonder. Each parcel was only .16 acres.

It appears then that Walter Davis built the house on Lot 8, not Lot 7. My cousins’ house is on Lot 6 with Lot 5 as their BIG side yard we played in. They had a nanny goat that kept it mowed for us. 
Bobbie Davis and Wendy 1960 Shenandoah, VA
A view of Lot 5
My cousin Bobbie and moi 1960
and either Punky or Chunky - I couldn't tell those dogs apart
See how much there is to learn from mouse-chewed paper!

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, April 18, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Flower Power

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

Look at all those flower-print dresses in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt.

This photo of my great-grandmother and her sisters taken at one of the Jollett reunions is certainly a good match.
Jollett Sisters 1939
Jollett Sisters 1939
Laura Sullivan, Victoria Breeden, Sallie Clift, Mary Fances Davis,
Emma Coleman seated
And this one too.
Jollett Sisters 1934 at the latest
Jollett Sisters 1934 at the latest
Vic, Sallie, Mary Frances, Leanna, Laura, Emma
(hard to see the print but it's there!)
One hold-out though was Emma Jollett Coleman, the oldest sister. According to family legend, she followed the Dunkard faith and always dressed in dark clothing.

ALWAYS? Where did that story come from? Ever since I was a child, I pictured Emma as some old serious and gloomy person who was not much fun.

However, several photos of Emma in light-colored print dresses have altered my view.
Mary Frances, Jack, Emma 1929
Mary Frances Jollett Davis
Jack and Emma Jollett Coleman
Emma Jollett Coleman, James Franklin Jollett, Minnie Coleman Maiden, Virginia Maiden 1923
4 Generations 1923 Jollett Reunion
Emma Jollett Coleman, James Franklin Jollett
Minnie Coleman Maiden, Virginia Maiden
And Emma was smiling. Even in her dark dresses.

No one would ever accuse my grandmother of being “gloomy” due to how she dressed. In the 1960s she rocked the flowery moo-moo.
Orvin and Lucille Davis early 1960s
My grandparents Orvin and Lucille Davis
one of Grandma's MANY moo-moos
My mother and I also did our part to rock another trend of the decade: floral-print Villager a-line skirts with pin tuck blouses. Villager was pricey. Because Momma was such a skilled seamstress, we both could dress to impress in our floral pastel Villager knock-offs.
Mary Slade and Wendy Slade at Manassas
Mary Slade and moi at the Manassas Battlefield 1967
At our wedding in 1973, the hubster and I were right in style, but I thought my aunt was really a showstopper in a floral print gown. She was definitely bold and ahead of her time.
Beverly Anderson

At Sepia Saturday, everyone is dressed and ready to impress with delightful old photos and stories.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

52 Ancestors - AIR: Planes on Deck

I never knew my grandmother’s older brother Ray Rucker. But a box of photos he left behind when he took his own life in 1927 shows he lived an eventful 28 years.
Ray Rucker 1899-1927
Ray Ellsworth Rucker
Shenandoah, VA
He was a sailor for a time serving on the USS Colorado, a recently commissioned Maryland class super dreadnought, in other words a big-gun battleship. He must have been among the first crewmen.
USS Colorado with Corsair seaplanes
The ship carried Corsair float planes on catapult rails, two on the after deck and one on top of the gun turret.

Sea plane being catapulted off the ship

Sailor walking on the wings of the float plane
The Corsair float planes were used for reconnaissance and to adjust fire for the ship’s big guns

Among the photos Ray saved are these of bomber planes. They are just small professionally produced photo cards about 1.5” x 2”.

Unfortunately, Ray did not live to see the Colorado and the Corsair aircraft in their mission to find Amelia Earhart. Wouldn't that have been a story to tell!

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, April 11, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Granddaddy Bought a Car

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

Even though I have quite a few photos that are a better match to this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, I am going with this one.
Orvin and Lucille Davis 5 June 1940
Orvin and Lucille Davis
5 June 1940 Shenandoah, VA
It is a picture of my maternal grandparents Orvin and Lucille Davis sitting in their car on 5 June 1940.

I betcha anything that this is the same car Granddaddy purchased from Graves Motor Company in February that year.

And it was a NEW car too – a Chevrolet Master 85 KB.
from Google Images
Granddaddy traded in SOMETHING worth $200. He kicked in $50 in cash and financed the rest through GMAC.

The car cost $740!
That's hardly one car payment today.

The final cost  was $825.28.

For 18 months straight, Granddaddy recorded his monthly payment of $31.96 in a little coupon book. Remember those?

I have this strange collection of papers only because my grandparents did not bother to throw them away, instead leaving them in a box that they stuffed into an attic. The current owner of their house is installing new insulation. When she pushed open that little door under an eave, it must have been like opening King Tut’s tomb, but with the deflating result of Geraldo Rivera’s opening of Al Capone’s vault.

There is nothing of great value in those boxes, only personal tidbits that shed a light on my family’s life. For example, my grandparents apparently could not afford the top of the line or they were more practical. The KB version was at the low end of the Master series. It lacked running board moldings and had plain upholstery and slightly less standard equipment.

Just like today’s cars, there were some options. My reaction to some of them is “What?? That’s an OPTION?” Options like a Clock. Heater. Hood ornament (plastic). Radio antenna. Rear view mirror. Cigar lighter.

The sales receipt and finance contract do not indicate whether Granddaddy got any of the options. I’m pretty sure he would have wanted that cigar lighter though.
Cigar of Orvin Davis no later than 1963
Granddaddy's cigar
from no later than 1963
found in the attic
Hop in your car and drive on over to Sepia Saturday. Shotgun!

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.