Saturday, June 27, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Check Us Out

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt reminded me of so many of the 1920s era photos in my collection. Skirts in check fabric. Big sweaters. Bows and ties. One of my favorites is this one.
Pals at Harrisonburg Teachers College 1924
Harrisonburg Teachers College 1924
(now James Madison University)
The photo from my grandaunt Velma Davis’s college scrapbook was captioned “Pals.” Since these girls do not appear often in the scrapbook, I believe they were each other’s pals more than Velma’s. Most likely they all lived in the same dorm, Wellington Hall.

I knew nothing about the Pals, so I decided to study Velma’s yearbook to see what I could learn. By carefully inspecting facial features, how they parted their hair, whether they had straight or curly hair, I THINK I have them identified.
Yearbook photos 1926
What do you think?

Jean (actually “Eugenia” – she must have hated that name) was from Bowling Green, Virginia. She was quite active in school serving as both secretary and president of the Page Literary Society and vice-president of the Racquet Tennis Club. She was a member of the Cotillion Club, Choral Club, Grammar Grade Club, Athletic Association, and YWCA. The quote assigned to her was “Could I love less I would be happier.” The Class Prophecy predicted Jean would “enter a domestic life with a lawyer-husband who’s proud of his wife.” And that is exactly what happened. She married Bernard Mahon, a lawyer. In the 1940 census, they had 2 children and a live-in maid. At her death in 1992, she was the owner of an inn in Bowling Green.

Frances was from Luray, Virginia. Unlike Jean, Frances was a member of only the YWCA. Her quote was “He that hath patience may compass anything.” (What? Is that supposed to be “accomplish”? I guess someone had no patience for proofreading.) Frances married William Shenk who managed a kennel, according to the 1930 census. When Frances died in 1985 in Lynchburg, Virginia, she was a retired school teacher.

Gwen was the most difficult to identify, but when I noticed she was from Bowling Green, I was encouraged. Sure enough, she and Jean grew up together as neighbors. While in college, Gwen was as busy as her pal Jean. Gwen was in the Page Literary Society, High School Club, French Circle, Grammar Grade Club, Choral Club, Athletic Association, and YWCA. Her quote was “She hath a pleasant word and a smile for everyone.” Gwen married Clem Jordan, a machinist. She died in 1995 in New Port Richey, Florida.

Jessie was from Bentonville in Warren County, Virginia. She enjoyed some of the same activities as her pals: Choral Club, Alpha Literary Society, Grammar Grade Club, Athletic Association, and YWCA. Her quote was “Ready in heart and ready in hand.” Those must have been the qualities that attracted her husband William Cullers, a Baptist preacher. Jessie worked as a teacher but not during the 1930 or 1940 census. She died in Richmond, Virginia, in 1971.

Check out my pals at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

52 Ancestors - MIDDLE: House Divided

My poor 3X great-grandmother Helena Eppard – she was truly caught in the middle. It was 1860 and war was declared between the North and South. As residents of Rockingham County, Virginia, the Eppards sided with the Confederacy declaring the right to secede from the Union.

Helena’s two sons, Thomas and George, both served in Company L, 97 Virginia Militia under Col. Mann Spitler. Thomas rose to the rank of Sergeant while George remained a private, probably because he was unable to fight after breaking his leg in 1863.

While no doubt Helena worried about her sons, she probably was equally concerned about “the enemy,” some of them anyway. Across the line in Tennessee, Helena’s brothers and nephews donned the blue uniforms of the Union. 

Being caught in the middle was not unique to the Eppards. In neighboring Greene County, Thomas Frazier, nephew of my 3X great-grandmother Nancy Frazier Shiflett, was himself torn about the issues that had divided the nation. He wrote a short book called The Olive Branch in which he explained how he had wished to side with the Union because he opposed slavery but did not want to fight and kill his friends and neighbors. As a result, he ran. After he was caught and imprisoned as a deserter, he managed to escape. A rather long excerpt is available on the Shiflet Family Website. It is quite a lively story.

When I studied the Civil War in American History in high school, I thought the Mason-Dixon Line marked a true division in politics. I thought the entire North was anti-slavery and the entire South was pro-slavery. But no. Within Virginia and within families, sentiments were frequently in conflict.

House divided.

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, June 20, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Not a Shaggy Dog Story

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

I was surprised to find a perfect match for this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a man wearing his dog.
Burlington Cab Company 1956
Julia Slade and friends
The photo was taken at my grandparents’ home and taxi cab yard in 1956. That is my granny leaning on one of the cabs. I suspect the man holding the dog was a driver, but I do not know for sure. Maybe they were just friends of the family. 

I like dogs. I don’t want a dog. I don’t want to walk them. I don’t want to vacuum up their hair. I don’t want to follow along behind them with a plastic bag and a scoop. I don’t want to have to bother with boarding them so that I can leave town. But I do like dogs. Other people’s dogs.
Wendy about 1952
Me and a dog probably 1952
This is one of my favorite pictures. That’s me with a dog. I don’t know whose dog it was or where this picture was taken. I like this picture so much that it is one of the few of me in a frame. I’m not even sure why I like it. Maybe it’s that vintage bottle or the way I was strapped into the seat with a towel or blanket or possibly a cloth diaper. Maybe it’s those little fists. Oh, maybe it’s the dog!

Apparently, dogs like me.
Fred Slade and the Moores' dog
Granddaddy Slade
and George Moore's dog
Here is my paternal grandfather with his brother-in-law’s dog. When our family visited my dad’s Aunt Margaret and Uncle George Moore, the dog watched over me while I napped. No one could get near me until I woke up. Good dog!

My grandparents used to laugh telling a story about me and their neighborhood dogs. We lived in Burlington, North Carolina a short while when Daddy was helping out with his parents’ taxi business. I would gather all the dogs on the steps to our house to play school. Even after we moved back to Virginia, the dogs showed up faithfully, at least for a while until they got the hint. (Hmm, I wonder if the dog on that man's shoulders was one of my students.)

See – I really do LIKE dogs, but this is the only dog I need.

Planter - need a plant AND a new spot in the yard

For some good ol’ shaggy dog stories, visit Sepia Saturday.
© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

52 Ancestors - UNEXPECTED: The Caricature

I never expected to be contacted about family treasure hidden away in an attic for 70 years, but that is what happened. In the early days of Covid-19, before the stay-at-home order, I received an email from someone identified as “Green.” An email with the subject “Secret attic” contained only these photos, no words:

Mary Eleanor Davis college application

Paper with OODavis

Davis receipt from Hockman 1937

How did someone get a copy of my mother’s college application and my grandfather’s receipt for purchases from J. P. Hockman, a businessman in Shenandoah, Virginia? And where was this “secret attic”?

A flurry of emails let me know that Ms. Green is the current owner of my grandparents’ home they built in Portsmouth back in 1950. During the installation of new insulation in the attic, she spied a little door at the far end of the attic over the front bedroom. Inside she found boxes and boxes of STUFF. My family's STUFF.

I have already written about some of the finds

But probably my favorite find is this caricature.

Caricature of Mary Eleanor Davis 1947

When my sister and I opened the 10" x 13" manila envelope and saw this picture, we knew immediately it was of our mother. That big smile. Those dimples. Those prominent eyes. Even that hairstyle. Usually her hair was parted on the side, but in a few photos her hair was parted in the middle.
Mary Eleanor Davis and unknown 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis and unknown admirer 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis 1946 or 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis
The writing on the drawing provides as many answers as it provokes questions. At the bottom is Momma’s nickname “Duny” in the same brush and style as what appears to be the artist’s signature. Unfortunately, I cannot make out the letters. None of my guesses have succeeded in producing a successful search for more information.

The caricature is dated 11 July 1947, so that would have been the summer between my mother’s freshman and sophomore year at Shenandoah College and Conservatory. She was 18.

In the upper left corner written in pen is “Cavalier Beach Club Virginia Beach,” making me think maybe the drawing was done there. The Cavalier hosted dances throughout the summer featuring big bands like Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Xavier Cugat, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. Maybe the artist was there as well.

Then there is the puzzling message: Congratulations, Boyd R*. What was she being congratulated for? And who was Boyd? More importantly, what was his last name? Rockway? Rockman? Rackway? Rackman? Apparently, none of these. The closest potential match is “Boyd Richman” or “Boyd Rickman” but that second letter is definitely not an “i.”

Thinking perhaps I had misread the first name, I tried “Bryl” but no luck with that either.

I give up. For now, I am content to enjoy this playful rendering of my mother’s best features.  

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, June 13, 2020

Sepia Saturday: They Were First

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt depicting SPORT in the foreground and BUILDING in the background is well-matched with this photo from 1924.
Harrisonburg Teachers College 1924
from Velma Davis's scrapbook 1924
Field Day activities at Harrisonburg Teachers College
This was how James Madison University (GO DUKES!) looked when my grandaunt Velma Davis was a student. Beyond the open field was Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Fourteen years before then, though, the campus was simply two buildings and a lot of acreage. Yet the Normal School offered a full campus life beyond the classroom. Clubs and athletics were popular. Tennis, in particular, had so much interest that two clubs were formed: Racquet Club and Pinquet Club.
Harrisonburg Teachers College Racquet Club 1912
Racquet Club 1912
from School Ma'am yearbook Ancestry
Pinquet Tennis Club 1911
Pinquet Tennis Club 1911
from School Ma'am yearbook Ancestry
The rivalry between the two clubs began with the school’s first tennis tournament held in 1910. It was a doubles match in which Willye White and Amelia Brooke of Pinquet defeated Frances Mackey and Eva Massey of Racquet. The prize was a silver loving cup which the winning club kept until the next year.
Normal School Tennis tournament 1910
1910 - Frances Mackey, Eva Massey, Willye White, Amelia Brooke
from Madison College: The First Fifty Years 1908-1958
by Raymond C. Dingledine, Jr.
These women are not in my family tree, but the little bits of information about them available online indicate they were talented, smart, and serious women.

from School Ma'am 1911 Ancestry
(7 May 1889 – 20 Feb 1980)
Member of the first graduating class, 1911
Amelia’s mother was the matron (aka “Dorm Mother”) on campus. Mrs. Brooke and Amelia also took care of any student who became ill.
Amelia never married. She worked for the government first in the Department of the Interior, then US Treasury, and finally with the IRS where she retired.
President Pinquet Tennis Club
Captain Basketball Team
Charter member of the Lanier Literary Society and the first President
Chairman of Social Committee for YWCA
Business manager for the yearbook

from School Ma'am 1912 Ancestry 
(23 Jul 1895 – 22 Feb 1944)
Willye studied to become a kindergarten teacher, but it appears she never worked. Her mother ran a boarding house in Boykins, Southampton County, VA. Maybe Willye helped her. Willye married sometime around 1925 but was left a widow when her husband died from injuries in an explosion while engineering a train. In 1940, she married Hinton Smith, a boarder in Willye’s mother’s boarding house.
Basketball team
Pinquet Tennis Club
Glee Club
Lee Literary Society

from School Ma'am 1913 Ancestry 
(19 Sep 1893 – 8 Nov 1981)
From at least 1915-1922 Frances was on the faculty of the Harrisonburg Teachers College teaching Manual Arts. She left to pursue further education. In 1933, she married Thurston Huffman and continued teaching, probably in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
Tip Top Basketball Team 1910
Captain of the Sophomore Basketball Team in 1911, Junior team in 1912
Vice-President Racquet Tennis Club 1912
Executive Committee German Club 1911 (dance society, not foreign language)
Secretary of the Lanier Literary Society in the Third Term
Glee Club
Vice-President of the Art Club 1913
Art Editor for the yearbook 1913

from School Ma'am 1912 Ancestry
(13 Oct 1892 – 31 Aug 1970)
Eva was a lifelong educator in the public-school system in Clarke County, Virginia. She never married.
Associate Editor for the yearbook 1910
Secretary and Treasurer of the Racquet Tennis Club 1910
Charter Member of the Lanier Society, Secretary 1911
Secretary YWCA

These four were among the first students, the ones who shaped the traditions at my alma mater. The two literary societies these women helped start, Lee and Lanier, enhanced their education by presenting programs of biographical studies, debates, essays, readings, and special music. While the literary societies were abandoned long ago, the colors selected by the two societies gave us our school colors: GOLD from Lee’s gray and gold, and PURPLE from Lanier’s violet and white (the violet became purple because it was an easier color to obtain in pennants, sports uniforms, etc.).

My alma mater has come a long way from its simple beginnings as a 2-building campus. That empty field beside the hospital? See it today.
Rockingham Memorial Hospital grew and remodeled many times
but notice the original portico remained.
Instead of a field, there is Burruss Hall (academic building), parking lot,
AND a street!
JMU purchased the hospital building when RMH moved to its new site.
Be a good sport and see what other bloggers have come up with at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

52 Ancestors - HANDED DOWN: Two Bibles

From the time I became interested in my mother’s family history, I heard there was a family Bible SOMEWHERE. No one seemed to know who had it. Maybe it was written in German. If so, then that would be from my 3X great-grandfather Fielding Jollett and his wife Mary Ann Armentrout. She was among the first generation born in the Shenandoah Valley to German immigrants. I began to imagine all the questions that could be answered if only I could find that Bible. However, none of the Jollett descendants seemed to know anything about it. I began to think maybe a Jollett Bible just did not exist. 

Many years later, my cousin Glenn passed away. As his widow Fran went through some of his things, she decided to return family memorabilia. Glenn had been in possession of 2 old Bibles. Fran sent them to my aunt. When I asked to borrow them, she said I could just have them. Woohoo!
2 Davis Bibles
Davis Bibles
Mitchell Davis's Bible on the left
Walter Davis's Bible on the right
It turns out they are not written in German at all. And they are not from the Jollett side of the family. They are Davis Bibles.

Mitchell and Martha Davis Bible from 1846
Mitchell and Martha Davis's Bible
Publication information

 This is clearly the older of the two Bibles. The publication information on a torn page indicates the Bible was printed in 1846. Perhaps the Bible was a wedding gift for my 2X great-grandparents Mitchell Davis and Martha Ann Willson who settled in Beldor, Rockingham County, Virginia following their marriage in 1846.

The condition is best described as POOR. Pages are crumpled and stained with mildew. 

But here is a sweet find: a dried flower. 

Dried flower in Davis Bible
Dried flower in the Davis Bible
Was it a wedding keepsake?
I wonder if it could be a flower Martha carried or wore in what appears to be a wedding portrait (IF indeed this is Mitchell and Martha – identities are not confirmed).
Possibly Mitchell Davis and Martha Ann Willson
Is this Mitchell and Martha?
Family Bibles are usually good sources for women seeking to join a lineage society like Daughters of the American Revolution because they confirm family relationships and dates. This Bible did not have the “built-in” pages to record births, marriages, and deaths, so someone sewed loose-leaf paper into the binding.
Pages sewn into the Bible
Old threads and loose leaf paper
The important dates all relate to Mitchell and Martha’s children, their births, their marriages, and their deaths. When I saw the page listing the deaths of members of the Davis family, I thought, “YES – my ticket to DAR” because there they were: 2 entries for Leonard Davis, who were Mitchell’s father and grandfather. Surely this would help prove my lineage to Revolutionary War soldier Leonard Davis of Albemarle County. Or so I thought.
Deaths in the Mitchell Davis Bible
include Leonard Sr and Jr,
Leonard Jr's wife Frances,
Mitchell and Martha
Unfortunately, the Davis Bible did not secure my membership. The DAR genealogist pointed out that even though the pages are old and the handwriting looks of the time, there is nothing to say that one Leonard was Mitchell’s father, or that one Leonard was father of the other Leonard. I would have to find something else to connect the genealogical dots.

Still I find this Bible fascinating. Written on the inside covers are notes one does not typically associate with a Bible. There are no references to favorite books, chapters, verses. Instead there are mathematical calculations and lists. Mitchell was a carpenter by trade. Was he estimating the costs of a building project, creating a bill perhaps? Did he have no scrap paper?

Inside cover of Mitchell Davis Bible
Chimney, Floors, Roof, Doors, Windows,
Mantle, Stairway

Math calculation:
26 times 2 is 52
52 divided by 3 is 17 1/3

Walter Davis Bible
Walter Davis Bible
printed before 1890
This Bible displays features of a high-quality publication. The cover is ornate tooled leather. A colorful map and gallery of illustrations of Biblical stories are printed on slick paper. The all-important fill-in-the-blank family records are included. There is even a page for family members to sign their names to the Temperance Pledge. (What does it say that no one signed?)
Page of the Walter Davis Bible 
Otherwise the condition is equally poor, and the back cover is missing.

I know this Bible belonged to my great-grandparents Walter Davis and Mary Frances Jollett because the dates begin with them. Their children are included. 
Births in the Walter Davis Bible

Marriages in Walter Davis Bible

Mary Frances also added pertinent dates about her parents, one grandfather, brothers and sisters, all neatly penned on loose leaf paper stapled onto the Temperance Pledge.
Stapled page of information about Mary Frances Jollett's family
Mary Frances included her parents' dates of birth
and death; her grandfather's date of death,
dates of death for her father and siblings
Scraps of paper in the Walter Davis Bible
Scraps of paper found in the Bible
The Walter Davis Bible, like that of his parents, includes some odd bits of ephemera: slice of cardboard with the name and address of one of Walter’s sisters, a scrap of paper containing incomplete addresses and phone numbers with mathematical calculations on the back. It appears someone was figuring out how old someone was at death – I recognize the dates. There is a transcription of births and deaths of the Davis children; apparently someone wanted a copy but failed to take it with them. Loose-leaf papers were inserted with “new information” as someone married or died.

While the Bibles do not answer all my questions, it is gratifying to be able to insert an exact date of birth or death in place of a broad estimate of “before 1830,” “circa 1800,” “after 1880,” and so on and so on. What I appreciate most about this Bible is that this is where Mary Frances saved the newspaper clippings of her sister’s obituaries.

Newspaper clippings of obituaries in the Walter Davis Bible
Collection of obituaries

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.