Thursday, July 30, 2020

52 Ancestors - LARGE: Living Large in Beldor

My great-grandfather Walter Davis
You’ve probably heard the saying “A son is a son till he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter the rest of her life.” That is probably why I have more photos of Mary Frances Jollett Davis’s side of the family than I do of Walter Davis’s family. I have spent so much time on the Jolletts that I feel as if I actually knew her sisters and brothers.

I cannot say the same for Walter and his 14 brothers and sisters. They are just faceless names.

But that is beginning to change. The Virginia Legislature recently approved unlocking records on FamilySearch to remote users enabling me to find new information about my Davis line in Rockingham County. One name that makes a frequent appearance in land records is that of Walter’s older brother Amaziah Nathaniel (20 Feb 1858 – 22 Feb 1934).
Road into Beldor not far off the Skyline Drive
Stomping grounds of my Davis family
The sheer number of deeds makes Nathaniel appear to be a real mover and shaker, a wheeler and dealer, a man living large in the Beldor community in the eastern portion of Rockingham County, Virginia. One of the earliest deeds was dated December 1892. Nathaniel and Annie Long had been married about 13 years when the land that originally belonged to his grandmother’s brother Frederick Wyant was offered for sale by the heirs of a subsequent owner, Mary Gilmer.

The Frederick Wyant tract contained 123 acres. That was a good size plot of land for a farm at that time. Nathaniel paid $1000. I have read many a deed in my years of research and rarely have I come across that high a purchase price.

Rockingham County
Deed book 45 p 203
This Deed made this 15th day of December, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two (1892) between William H. Hickle and Ella F his wife, Thomas A. Sellers, Oscar D. Sellers & Virginia Sellers his wife, parties of the first part and Amaziah Nathaniel Davis party of the second part, all of the County of Rockingham and State of Virginia,
Witnesseth, that the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of one thousand Dollars current money of the United States cash to them in hand paid by the party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have granted, bargained, sold and conveyed, and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell and convey with general warranty of title unto the said Amaziah Nathaniel Davis, his heirs and assigns a certain tract, piece or parcel of land, and the appurtenances thereto belonging and is known as being a part of the “Old Frederick Wyant Tract of land” situate lying and being in the eastern part of said County, in the Blue Ridge, on the Simmons Gap Road, and is bounded as follows, Beginning at a Marked Chesnut by the side of the Simmons Gap road, thence S 70° E 164 2/10 poles to a Hickory in the line of the lands claimed by Franklin Davis, thence with his line S 26° W 32 poles to three Chesnuts one cut down, John Wyant’s corner and with the bearing of his land (under date of ~ ) as called for by his papers N 75° W 130 poles to a Locust stake on bank of Creek, corner to Dower lot of widow of Peter Wyant dec’d [Frances Wyant Davis, grandmother of Nathaniel Davis], and thence up the several courses of the South West branch of the Hawkesbill (said creek) to a stump, formerly a Sycamore thence S 7° W (by said John Wyant’s Survey) 166 poles to a White Pine in Lawson’s line, thence West 28.32 poles to a stake, thence N 17 1/2° E 257.12 poles to a Boxed Pine, thence N 8° E 56 poles to a marked pine, thence N 70° E 45 poles to the Beginning, embracing all the lands included in said boundary, supposed to contain 123 acres, be the same more or less. It is further covenanted and provided that the widow Elizabeth Wyant (Frederick Wyant’s widow) is entitled to the same privileges in this conveyance as are in the deed made by her and others to Mary M. Gilmger on the 10th day of November 1877. To have and to hold the said tract, piece or parcel of land and the appurtenances as aforesaid, to him the said Amaziah Nathaniel Davis his heirs and assigns forever,
Witness the following signatures

It’s a good thing Nathaniel bought that land. It saved him a couple times as we will see in the coming weeks of "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks."

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, July 25, 2020

Sepia Saturday: What the Heck

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

Let me say right here and now: I will be surprised AND disappointed if I am the only HomoSepian with NO photos of ancestors riding in a sidecar. Our noble leader is determined to test my creativity in meeting this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge.

While various relatives ran general stores, none of them delivered in a sidecar, so I had to think of another angle. The best I can offer is people beSIDE a CAR

So how about a child sitting on the fender of a car?
John Holland 1920
My father's cousin
John Holland 1920
son of Mae Killeen and Clifton Holland
Or a child propped up against the wheel? (Really – what were they thinking? Was a car the best prop they could come up with?)
Unknown baby 1920
Unknown baby
in album of Lillie Killeen
Or children sitting on the running board?
Gang 1920 - album of Helen Killeen Parker
Helen Killeen captioned this picture "The Gang 1920"
The ages possibly fit the 3 youngest in the family -
my grandmother Julia, Catherine, Tate
but who would be the 4th???
The woman probably standing outside the car
could be Mrs. Ollice, a friend of the family.

I hear sidecars have made a comeback in parts of the world. The only sidecar I am interested in is this kind:

Hang on for a wild ride over at Sepia Saturday. (I know everyone will put me to shame!)
© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

52 Ancestors - OLD COUNTRY: From Palatinate to Virginia

I sometimes look at today’s farms in Rockingham County, Virginia and wonder why early immigrants would come here. It’s mountainous. It’s rocky. The soil has a lot of clay. It looks like too much work to overcome for farming. Yet come they did when agents and advertising in colonial Pennsylvania lured German immigrants to Virginia where similar land was much cheaper.
View of Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive

In 1751 a representative of the Armentrout family made a trip to the valley of Virginia to check out the claims. He was so impressed with the limestone outcroppings that he entered into a provisional contract to purchase. He then returned to Pennsylvania with glowing reports that Virginia looked just like the home they left in Germany.

That story came back to me a couple years ago during our river cruise along the Danube River from Budapest through the Wachau Valley to Vilshofen, Germany. As I admired the scenery, I couldn’t help thinking, “Yep, these mountains really do look just like the ones in Virginia.” They are low mountains, lush with green trees. They are in sharp contrast to the tall stony, snow-capped Rocky Mountains of America and the Alps of Europe.
View during excursion on Danube River Cruise 2017
Virginia is indeed beautiful, so I understand why the German immigrants wanted to settle here. But why did they leave Germany in the first place?

Germans had been immigrating to American colonies since the earliest days. War and plundering of the lower and middle classes alike went on for years and years. Add religious persecution, and it is easy to see why my ancestors would have traded one set of hardships for the unknown. Could it be any worse? While their arrival was decades after William Penn had drawn Germans to his colony with the promise of religious freedom, it seems likely that was still a strong motivation.

Present-day map of Nassau - red marker shows
location of Irmtraut
The Armentrouts were Protestants of the Reformed Faith and were called Palatines, as they were residents of the Palatinate, a small state in the Holy Roman Empire along the Rhine. Today that area is the State of Nassau, Germany. There is even a small farming village by the name of Irmtraut straddling National Route 54. Most certainly my ancestors must have lived at least close by. The first mention of Irmtraut was in 879 when the Germunden Monastery was established.

The name “Irmtraut” means “Friend of the Valkyries” suggesting that members of the family served their liege lords in military service. It is likely, but not proven, that the Armentrouts who arrived in America descended from this old German family.

Once the Armentrouts made their decision to pick up sticks and relocate to America, they would have gathered only the possessions they could carry and traveled down the Rhine to Rotterdam to board the Samuel. The ship made one stop in Deal, England to load supplies and water. On 26 August 1739, 340 passengers arrived at the port of Philadelphia. Disembarking the next day were my ancestors: a widow Anna Elizabeth Ermantraudt (age 40) and her 7 children – Johannes, Anna Elizabeth, Johan Phillip, Johan Friederich, Christopher (or Christople), Johan Heinrich, and Johan George. All males 16 and older were required to sign an Oath of Allegiance to England
Signatures of the oldest sons and possibly uncle
Johannes Ermantraudt
Johan Phillip Ermantraudt
Johan Friederich Ermantraudt
Peter Hain 
NOTE: Ermantraudt is the spelling used most often for members born before 1800. The Anglicized spelling is used for those born after. Even then, there are variations.

So where was Anna Elizabeth’s husband? It is not clear whether he died during the voyage or in Europe. A passenger named Peter Hain accompanied the Armentrouts on the trip. It is believed he was Anna Elizabeth’s brother who perhaps had returned to the Palatinate to escort his sister and family. If they wanted or needed an escort, it is very likely that Anna Elizabeth’s husband had died before the trip even began.

For a time the Armentrouts lived with George and Veronica Hain until they could get settled and purchase their own land. George was Peter’s older brother. George had immigrated years earlier as part of the English project for settling German Protestants from the refugee camps around London to the Scoharie area of the New York Colony. There the Germans were put to work for the English Navy. Dissatisfied with conditions, many of the Germans left and moved into what is now Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Present-day Wernersville, PA
The oval shows approximately where the Armentrouts lived.
The Hains Church was located on land donated by George Hain.
Probably the Armentrouts were of some means. In less than 10 years, they managed to acquire over 500 acres of some of the best land in present-day Berks County. Yet, they gave it up to move once again to the valley of Virginia.

Armentrout, Russell S. Armentrout Family History 1739-1978

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, July 18, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Monument Avenue

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

Last week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featured a postcard of Broad Street in Richmond, the capital of my state, Virginia. It was from the early 20th century, probably about the same time that my great-grandparents and their friends made a trip to Richmond.

A couple very old photos in the album belonging to my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker fascinated me. I can date the photos to before 1918 because that is the year my great-grandfather John Fleming Walsh died.  
Possibly John Fleming Walsh
and Mary Theresa Walsh

My first thought was that they must have toured the beautiful Monument Avenue which has long offered a scenic drive through the city. Dotted every few blocks are monuments, most dedicated to the leaders of the Civil War. The one exception is a statue erected to honor Arthur Ashe, Richmond native tennis star.

George Washington Statue
Richmond, VA
When I saw this photo, I first thought it was of General Robert E. Lee, but the position of the horse did not match. It is actually the George Washington statue which is not even on Monument Avenue. Instead it stands outside the state capitol and marks the terminus of Grace Street.

Only 3 monuments were in place on Monument Avenue when the Walshes and friends made the trip. The neighborhood had only recently begun to come alive with grand residential architecture and gardens. No wonder they took so few photos. They probably were not very impressed.

Foreground - J.E.B. Stuart Monument (green-looking)
Robert E. Lee Monument (black-looking)
Way in the distance a column - Jefferson Davis Memorial
Today, few will be impressed with Monument Avenue. Few will remember the annual Monument Avenue 10K race or the spring time event, “Easter on Parade” when locals strolled the avenue in beautiful hats and other finery. In response to changing attitudes and standards, the statues were removed in early July 2020.

Stroll along the avenue to Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sepia Saturday: PiggyBack

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

Two weeks ago I was too busy with a family wedding and out-of-town guests to participate in Sepia Saturday. However, the prompt is too amusing to ignore. Here is a photo that is not exactly a match but close enough.
Mac and Skeeter at Lucas's house 1925
Mac and Skeeter 1925
from scrapbook of Velma Davis Woodring
They are identified in my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring’s college scrapbook as Mac and Skeeter. Those names mean nothing to me. The house belonged to the Lucas family. The year was 1925.

I posted the photo in a Facebook group inhabited by folks who live or lived in Shenandoah, Virginia, Velma’s home before college graduation. The conversation that followed was quite funny, if not informative.

Better late than never. I guess.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sepia Saturday: What Are You Advertising?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a charming ad that juxtaposes a diving woman and apples. If we did not notice that the box label is promoting the Diving Girl Brand of California Apples, we might be here all day scratching our head.

I have to wonder what the “Mad Men” who created advertising for the General Baking Company were thinking about when they created this ink-blotter advertisement:
Ink-blotter ad for Bond Bread
Ad found in boxes of stuff in my grandparents' attic
A loaf of bread and a Navy fighter? What – “Our fighters are wholesome”? “Our bread is the bomb”?

Oh, I see - the FINEST plane and the FINEST bread. OK, well, that's cute. 

EBay has another ink-blotter ad for Bond Bread that features a different kind of plane. It draws a comparison based on LEADING:
Image from eBay

The Bond bread ink-blotter ad is one of three ink-blotter ads found in the STUFF retrieved after being hidden away for 70 years in my grandparents’ attic. The other 2 are for local businesses in the town of Shenandoah, Virginia where my mother grew up.
Owen Strickler insurance ad
Owen Strickler was a friend of the family.
Oh look - there's an ink smudge at the top!
Ink blotter ad for Higgs Garage
Higgs needed a grammarian
who knew how to use an apostrophe!
I was not familiar with ink-blotter ads until I did a little research for this post. Ballpoint pens did not hit the market until after World War II. Before then the fountain pen was the most popular writing tool, but it dripped ink and the ink smeared. Ink blotters were the solution. It was a small card of soft, absorbent paper. In 1885 Charles Murch patented a way to adhere printable paper to blotting paper which led to this widely-used advertising novelty.

By the way, a Bond Bread-Grumman Fighter ink-blotter is selling on eBay for $15 and is not in nearly the pristine condition as mine.

Dive in to more fun stories and old photos at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

52 Ancestors - NEWSWORTHY: One-Sixteenth

When historians look back on 2020, no doubt attention will be given to the global pandemic of Covid-19. Of equal if not more interest will be the racial tensions that escalated following the death of George Floyd at the hands AND KNEE of Minneapolis police. In my lifetime racial tension has been a fact of life. I was a teenager when public schools were mandated to integrate. That was about 50 years after a dirty little secret about race and public education revealed itself.

From Harrisonburg Daily News Record
25 Jan 1915

In 1910 the State of Virginia passed an act prohibiting children with one-sixteenth negro blood to enroll in public school. Five years later, Miss Price, the teacher at the Rocky Bar mission school in Rockingham County, put that law to the test. With only the word of neighborhood gossips as proof, Miss Price reported to the Rev. J. R. Ellis, who was in charge of the mission schools in the eastern part of the county, that several children of William Shifflett needed to be expelled because of their questionable heritage. The word back in the holler was that William was the great-grandson of Nancy Shifflett and a man named Bradley, ostensibly a “negro.”

Kicking those little children out of school caused quite a stir. The case was finally brought to the School Board when the Shifflett family petitioned the Board to have the children readmitted. The family argued that they married as white, attended white churches, went to white schools, and that, in fact, Bradley was actually Mexican. In their corner was lawyer Charles Hammer who could explain the mathematics of genealogy. As he pointed out, even if Bradley were half-black, the blood of William Shifflett’s children would have been only one-thirty-second black therefore making the children eligible to attend white schools.

From Harrisonburg Daily News Record
25 Jan 1915

No one seemed to want to take the blame for what turned out to be an unpopular decision about the Shifflett children. Miss Price said it was Rev. Ellis’s authority to expel the children. He said Miss Price did it. School Board members claimed ignorance of the situation until the petition was presented to them. To everyone’s credit, it did not take the School Board long to reverse the teacher’s order and welcome the children back to school.

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, July 8, 2020

52 Ancestors - MULTIPLE: Written in Stone

Adam Kohne family
Adam Kohne family
Back row: Joseph, Sarah, William
Front: Charles, Floyd, Adam and Caroline, Hattie, Birdie
(judging by the assumed ages of Hattie and Birdie,
the picture was taken likely 1901 before the last child was born)
I recently hosted a bridal tea for my nephew’s fiancĂ©. Among the many conversations at the party was the subject of BABIES. It was NOT a baby shower, but babies were on everyone’s mind, partly due to my OTHER nephew’s wife who has recently announced they are expecting. The lively chatter revealed that the bride’s mother is a twin. One of the bridesmaids is a twin. While not news to me, others were surprised to learn my husband is a twin.

The big question of the day was, “Is it true twins skip a generation?” Oh, if only that were true, my grandchildren would be twins. But alas NO. We didn’t have twins. My girls did not have twins. My husband’s twin sister did not have twins, nor did her children. If twins skip a generation, the rule was broken in our immediate family.

I recall my mother-in-law saying that twins and even triplets run in the family. THE family. Did she mean the Mathias family or her side of the family, the Kohnes? I went looking, starting with the Kohnes. Sure enough, in no time I found a set of triplets.

Leonard, Billie, and Jack were born 19 Feb 1923 to Floyd Kohne and wife Mary Emswiler.  Floyd was an older brother to Hattie Kohne, my mother-in-law’s mother, thus making Floyd my mother-in-law’s uncle and the triplets her cousins.

These little boys never made it into a census. However, they have a marker and memorial on Find a Grave. The stone appears to memorialize a set of twins and older brother, yet death certificates show otherwise. 

Kohne Triplets tombstone memorial
Kohne Triplets
Woodmere Memorial Park, Huntington, WV

Leonard died the day he was born, 19 Feb 1923. The other two died weeks later in March. The cause of death was simply recorded as “premature.” 
Leonard Kohne 19 Feb 1923- 19 Feb 1923
Jack Kohne 19 Feb 1923- 21 Mar 1923
Billie Kohne 19 Feb 1923 - 21 Mar 1923
I was all set to conclude that the stone and inscription must have been provided many years later by a big-hearted and well-meaning descendant of the family who did not have access to accurate records until I had the bright idea that a birth of triplets surely would have been newsworthy. I was right.

from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 5 Jan 1923
Lo and behold, now even the accuracy of the death certificates is in question. If the boys were born on February 19, how did a news article about their birth appear in January? The article which was posted on Friday the 5th of January claims the triplets were born “last Wednesday.” Wednesday that week was January 3. Could “LAST Wednesday” refer to 27 December 1922? If so, then the tombstone would be correct since Leonard died the day he was born, ostensibly in 1922, and Jack and Billy lived longer, dying probably March 21, 1923 as recorded on the death certificates.

This seems like a logical explanation. What does not make sense, though, is how Floyd did not remember the date of birth for the triplets. And what was the delay in recording Leonard’s death?

Even when something is "written in stone," it isn’t necessarily “written in stone.”

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, July 1, 2020

52 Ancestors - SOLO: Piano Recitals

One of the fond memories my children and nephews likely will have of their grandmother is hearing her play carols on the piano on Christmas Eve. She did not use a book of popular songs or sheet music. She played by ear. If she knew a tune, she could play it.
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade Christmas 1993
Christmas Eve 1993
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade with Clay, Justin, Joel
Wendy and Zoe on the sofa
What a gift.

Yet what an irritation to me whenever I needed help reading the music I was supposed to practice for my upcoming piano lesson. Momma always claimed she did not read music well or that she had forgotten most of what she learned as a piano student.

If she didn’t really READ music, why were there a gazillion pieces of sheet music in a box retrieved from my grandparents’ attic after 70 years? Honestly, the stack of sheet music stood at least a foot deep. That is a lot of music.

Many of the pieces were popular tunes of the day by artists like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin - teenage heart-throb music of the 40s.

However, two of the pieces of music might have been songs my mother played as a beginning student under the tutelage of Priscilla Harman at the Harman School of Music in Shenandoah, Virginia. Maybe Mary Eleanor was given “Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party” copyright 1936 and “Whistle While You Work” 1937 in the year they were written or shortly after. At age 7 or 8, what little girl would not have wanted to play a song from Disney’s new movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

I had hoped to find that one or both had been a recital piece, but no such luck. In 1938, when she was just 9 years old, she and 3 other little girls performed a “piano quartal.” The piece was called “In the Procession” which was written for “one piano – eight hands.” That must have been interesting to watch, to say the least. (A reviewer on Amazon described the piece as a “show stopper” when she, her mother, and her sisters performed it as the finale of a recital in 1962.)
from Harrisonburg Daily News Record
30 Apr 1938

Finally, in 1939, at just 10 years old, little Mary Eleanor performed a solo called “Mirth and Gayety” by Carl Wilhelm Kern. The piece appears simple because it is primarily single notes played one at a time rather than big chords, but the 16th notes in 2:4-time, key changes, and fingering techniques like staccato make this piece quite a challenge.
Mary Eleanor Davis
age 10

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
15 Jun 1939
I do not think I ever played a piece quite like that one when I was a piano student under Mrs. Anne Shuler. My love-hate relationship with the piano has been shared before HERE. After that post appeared, Mrs. Shuler’s daughter Jan sent me pictures of the programs from our 1966 and 1967 recitals. Oh boy - “Lament” and Chopin's Prelude Opus 28 No. 4 – yes, I was wallowing in that teen phase of loving dreary and moody pieces.
1967 Recital
1966 Recital

Here is a little YouTube video of SOMEBODY playing my recital piece. I’m sure that’s exactly how it sounded when performed by me as a moody teenager.

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.