Saturday, September 26, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Group Activities

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo focusing on GROUPS prompted me to think about the various groups that I have been a part of – Girl Scouts, clubs in high school, service organizations as an adult. In looking for photos of my relatives and ancestors who enjoyed similar memberships, I remembered a picture of my father-in-law Ervin with his high school graduation class.

Senior Class Mathias High School, Mathias West Virginia
Ervin Mathias is 3rd from left 

Having graduated in a class of about 250, I have to wonder what it was like to attend such a small school. Was there any glory in being valedictorian when there wasn’t much competition? Was there any shame in being last? Did they have a football team? A band? Cheerleaders? 

Ervin’s yearbook informed me that indeed Mathias High School in Mathias, West Virginia offered several extra-curricular activities. He was on the basketball team. Likely the team was much like the one in the movie “Hoosiers” in which the school was so small that all the boys were on the team.

10 names but 11 students 
I wonder which boy was not on the staff.

Ervin was also on the yearbook staff. As typist, he had a very important job. I might be wrong, but it appears each book was created per person. While duplicating machines were available in 1937, were they available to students in Hardy County, West Virginia? I do not know. The yearbook is clearly not professionally produced. In fact, the senior photos look like they were cut out and glued in place.

A page from the yearbook

The yearbook is a crude little production, but its very existence is a testimony to those qualities that cannot be measured with test scores.

Please join the group over at Sepia Saturday for more old photos, stories, and group fun.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

52 Ancestors: SHOULD BE A MOVIE: My Colorful Ancestor

Without a doubt, the life of William H. Jollett would play well on the silver screen. Several years ago I wrote a 4-part series about this Confederate soldier and horse thief who went on to commit some unspeakable crime which led him to create a new identity as William Preston Boyd.

William Jollett
(1847 Page Co VA - 1924 Monroe Co WV)

Please enjoy reading the Man on the Run series about William Jollett, the nephew of my 2X great-grandfather.

Man on the Run

The Getaway

The Letters

Annie Found

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, September 19, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Transcendere Montes

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

I don’t know why this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompted me to think of this one:

Velma Davis October 1926

Clearly it does not show a billy on a fire. Heck, it’s not even a campfire. My grandaunt Velma Davis had probably pulled over on the side of the road and poured a little water or lemonade from a thermos.

Velma seated
others unknown but in another photo
the woman looks like her friend Olive Williams

I do not know the occasion, but she was not alone. 

Woody and Velma
Oct 1926
It was October 1926 and Velma and Woody Woodring had recently become engaged. Perhaps it was just a Sunday drive with friends looking to enjoy the fall color on the route from Rockingham County, Virginia to Greene County. Today tourists come from miles around for “leaf peeping” along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. However, in 1926, the park did not exist.

Today one of the main entrances to the Skyline Drive is at Swift Run Gap. Anyone entering the park will see the little pyramid that features so prominently in many of Velma’s photos from that day. 

Velma on the right
Oct 1926

Woody Oct 1926

It had been along the road at Swift Run Gap only since 1921. It was erected by the Colonial Dames of Virginia to commemorate the 205th anniversary of Governor Alexander Spotswood’s expedition into the valley.

As the royal governor in the early 1700s, Spotswood received a lot of pressure from “back home” in jolly ol’ England to expand westward. In September 1716, he gathered some prominent citizens and embarked on a journey across the interior of Virginia and on across the Blue Ridge Mountains. In celebration of their amazing expedition, Spotswood gave each officer a stickpin made of gold in the shape of a horseshoe. The pin was inscribed in Latin: “Sic jurat transcendere montes” which means “Thus he swears to cross the mountains.” In time, they became known as “the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe.” There is no such organization, so the name must have been a little joke.

At one time, the pyramid enjoyed prominence along Route 33. Even when the park was under construction, the pyramid sat in a triangle plot complete with rustic posts and small plants. 

From National Park Service - in public domain

1946 from

In 1969, the pyramid and other markers were moved across the road. Grass and gravel.

Markers across from Swift Run Gap entrance
to Skyline Drive

Nevertheless, this little pyramid is near and dear to my heart because the Shenandoah Valley is the center of my genealogical world. As a kid, I went with my grandparents to visit my cousins in Shenandoah every summer. I always looked for that marker, although I didn’t know its significance. To me it merely signaled that we had finished climbing UP the mountain, and we’d be going DOWN the other side.  (I bet Governor Spotswood thought the same thing!) Almost there!

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy more stories and old photos at Sepia Saturday.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

52 Ancestors - ON THE MAP: Jollett Stomping Grounds

Whether I am doing my own family research or tracing the lineage of a woman applying for membership in DAR, I cannot help noticing the names of places people were from. It seems more often than not towns were named after people who settled there.

Here in Virginia, the names of early settlers are still attached to communities in the Shenandoah Valley: Rileyville, Comertown, Mayland, Cubbage Hollow, Lucas Hollow, Shiflett Hollow, Buracker Hollow, Jewell Hollow, Hensley Hollow, Simmers Hollow, Eaton Hollow, Weaver Hollow, Wise Hollow, and – wait for it – Jollett Hollow.

A gazetteer for Page County, Virginia contains descriptions of the area that came to be known as “Jollett” or “Jolletts”: “a community and extinct post office in Shenandoah Iron Works District centered at the confluence of the West and East Branches of Naked Creek where they form the main (North?) branch of that creek.”

So how did the area get the name “Jollett Hollow”?

My 3X great-grandfather Fielding Jollett was the first of the Jolletts to settle in the narrow valley that later became “Jollett Hollow.” He married Anne Stoutemire 7 December 1822 in Rockingham County, just across the mountain from his birthplace in Greene County. Two years later, he purchased 2 acres that bordered land owned presumably by his in-laws.

Rockingham County Deed Book B p 176

He amassed more land over time. In 1859 he deeded 200 acres to his son James Franklin Jollett (my 2X great-grandfather) and 37 acres to his other son John Wesley Jollett. Both were farmers like their father. The enterprising John Wesley also was a preacher and owner of a general store.

A book published in 1952 called A Short History of Page County claims that there was no post office at Jollett, but records of the Post Office Department prove otherwise. In 1888, an application was filed to locate a post office in Shenandoah Iron Works District “7 miles east of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River on the north bank of Naked Creek 3 miles east of Furnace and 10 miles south of Marksville.” John Wesley Jollett applied to be the post master and operated the post office out of his store.

from US Appointments of Postmasters 1832-1971

The best explanation for how the community got its name can thus be traced to the decision to locate a post office in Reverend Jollett’s store.

Jollett’s Post Office was just one of the things bearing my ancestors’ name. There was the Jollett School or Jollett’s Schoolhouse, the Jollett Chapel, a Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Jollett Cemetery, all on land provided by John Wesley Jollett.

The 1885 Lake Atlas of Shenandoah Iron Works District shows 2 schools near the “M E Church.” I have no explanation for that and furthermore have no idea which one was the Jollett School. The schools are long gone but the church and the cemetery are still in use.

Jollett Methodist Church 
as it looks today

The land that John Wesley gave for the use of the church was from a tract he purchased from his wife’s family in 1866. The land was once owned by Sarah Elizabeth’s great-grandfather, Revolutionary War veteran Jacob Smith and his wife Winna (Winifred). Upon their deaths, the land was inherited by their youngest son, Gabriel. With $100 down and a promise of 3 more cash payments of $200 each, John Wesley purchased what appears to be connecting properties, one about 180 acres and another about 214. The description of the property boundary going along a “high hill” matches the lay of the land of the cemetery.

. . . the said above named parties of the first part have this day sold & do hereby grant & convey unto the said John W. Jollett, a certain tract or parcel of land of which Gabriel Smith died possessed, lying & being on North Naked Creek in the County of Page & State of Virginia & adjoining & bounded by the lands of Reuben Epard, Montella Utz, & John Weaver, containing by estimation One hundred and eighty acres more or less & bounded as follows to wit, Beginning at a large white pine tree, standing on a South hill side, corner to Reuben Epard, Thence with his lines N. 2 ¾ E. 31 2/10 poles to a pile of rock near a __ tree standing near the mansion house thence N. 21_ E. 23 6/10 poles to an oak planted thence N. 60 W. 54 [?] poles to a black oak tree standing in a hollow near a drain, thence N. 20º E. [17? 18?] 19 poles to the gum saplings, corner to said Epard and in Montello Utz’s line thence with his lines N. 30º E. 60 poles, to a double dogwood standing on a hill thence N. 48 ½, E. 46 poles to a gum tree standing at the base of a hill and near the creek, thence N. 37º E. 74 poles to the large black oak, thence S. 79 E. 166 poles to two large black oak trees, one fallen, and on the top of a high hill, corner to __ Epard, Montello Utz, and John Weaver, thence with Weaver’s line S. 27 ½ W. 126 poles to two blown down trees and a white oak standing, corner to Reuben Epard, thence with his line S. 58 ½ W. 196 poles to the beginning, containing two hundred and fourteen acres more or less.  

The drive up the "high hill" - steeper than it looks
(See the cemetery just above the white barn.)

Closer view of the cemetery

In the recent past, Jollett Hollow developed a reputation for being a rather unsavory and unsafe place to go. Moonshine. Drugs. Supposedly strangers could be shot for just driving by. I don’t know if any of that is true. It seems that a bad reputation follows all places known as “the holler.”  It is still a beautiful drive and the view from the cemetery is breathtaking. Who wouldn’t want to be buried there? 
Jollett Cemetery

The Jolletts can’t claim any great inventions or discoveries, but they got their name on the map just the same.

 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.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

52 Ancestors - BACK TO SCHOOL: Reflections

Photo taken in front of Cradock Junior High but I do not know why.
Mary Allen went to the Catholic School. My sister is too little.
But I seem dressed and ready for something. 
Back to School orientation??


When I was growing up, the arrival of August meant that summer was winding down. Our thoughts turned to back-to-school shopping. In elementary school, I always got a lunch box, book bag, and a new pair of saddle oxfords. 

from Pinterest

In junior high and high school, I looked for new loafers - loved my Kiltie Weejuns -  and a cute pair of Trotters or “baby doll” shoes. 

Kiltie Weejuns

Baby Dolls and T-straps

Gone were the days of needing a lunch box – not cool. We carried a stack of books and notebooks in our arms to and from school every day. Only nerds put their books in a book bag. 

During the last week of August, we checked the mailbox every day for the letter from school. As soon as it arrived, we stayed on the phone calling our friends to see who was in our homeroom. Were we in the same English, math, and history classes? Was gym before or after lunch? Did we get the HARD teacher or a new one no one had ever heard of?


My children’s “back to school” experience was certainly different from mine.

1986 Waiting for the bus
Jonathan Whitehurst (seeing his big sister off but he looks
ready for preschool once he finds his shoes), my daughter
Jordan, neighbor Linwood, and Laura Whitehurst
Jordan and Laura were starting kindergarten.
For my girls, back-to-school meant shopping for clothes too, but they also needed a backpack. That’s not all. In elementary school, they hopped on the bus carrying a bag full of supplies requested by the teacher: markers, crayons, pencils, soap, tape, glue, and always a box of tissues.


Jordan 2nd grade, Nicole LeBoard 1st grade, Zoe kindergarten


My grandkids need backpacks too. However, where they live, those backpacks must be clear. Security. Shopping for new clothes means just looking for the next size up in school uniforms. Shoe shopping is the challenge because shoes must be plain. White tennis shoes, no design - not easy to find.

First Day pictures are a relatively new tradition. Like so many moms and grandmoms on Facebook and Instagram, my daughters took pictures of their kids with a sign or with fingers signaling their grade.

Easton in preschool (grade 0, I guess)
Emily grade 5

Ainsley in preschool

My granddaughter’s preschool requires that each child have 3 masks.

My grandson’s preschool class is currently quarantined at home after a child tested positive for Covid-19.

Zooming with the preschool class

I wonder what memories “back to school” will conjure up for this generation in years to come.

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, September 5, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Speak Softly and Carry A ...

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

Big stick.

A man with a cane in the company of a woman in this week's Sepia Saturday prompt reminded me immediately of a photo of my 2X great-grandfather and his second wife. Old age had clearly set in for James Franklin Jollett and Eliza Jane. That was a serious walking stick.
James Franklin Jollett and Eliza Jane 1929
James Franklin Jollett and Eliza Jane
Jollett Reunion 1929
A few years before, he sported the typical cane with curved handle.
Jollett Reunion 1927
Jollett Reunion 1927
James Franklin Jollett with his children from youngest to oldest
Ulysses Jollett, Victoria Breeden, Sallie Clift, Mary Frances Davis,
Leanna Knight, Laura Sullivan, Emma Coleman, Burton Lewis Jollett

Look closely and you can see the same stylish version just inside the frame of James Franklin’s older brother John Wesley Jollett and his wife Sarah Elizabeth.
John Wesley Jollett and Sarah Elizabeth Smith
John Wesley Jollett and Sarah Elizabeth
courtesy Jan Hensley

But canes weren't just for men. In her declining years, James Franklin's oldest daughter Emma Jollett Coleman also relied on a cane. 
Jollett Reunion 1934
Jollett Reunion no later than 1934
The sisters from youngest to oldest
Victoria Breeden, Sallie Clift, Mary Frances Davis,
Leanna Knight, Laura Sullivan, Emma Coleman

See who else is raising CANE at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

52 Ancestors - LABOR: The Chauffeur

I do not know if my Irish granny’s family suffered the discrimination in New York City reflected in employment ads stating “No Irish Need Apply.” Like so many Irish immigrants, Mary Theresa Sheehan and her sisters arrived in the late 1880s claiming “domestic servant” as an occupation. The occupation column for Irish men typically read “laborer.” Being largely unskilled, the Irish took the most menial of jobs and crammed multiple families into apartments barely large enough for a single family. The Irish took those dangerous jobs nobody wanted to do; no wonder the police and fire departments were manned by large numbers of Irish.
New York 1918
Trip to New York 1918
The Irish were also the first to join the ranks as taxi drivers when Harry Allen started the New York Taxicab company in 1907 putting the horse-drawn hansom cab out of business. Several more cab companies opened business soon after.

The first drivers wore uniforms designed to look like those worn by West Point Cadets. Do you think these drivers look like West Point Cadets?
New York 1918
New York 1918
In the back seat are Lillie Killeen and SOMEBODY's baby "John Jr"
I don’t know. However, I do believe they are related to my great-grandmother, Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. These photos are from a visit to New York in 1918.

New York 1918
New York 1918
In the back seat are Lillie Killeen, possibly Mary Theresa Walsh,
the poodle known as Cutey, and "John Jr"
Possibly these men are her brother-in-law and nephew. Mary Theresa’s sister Elizabeth was married to Patrick Byrnes. He was consistently listed as a driver in both the federal and New York state censuses: 1900 truck driver; 1905 driver; 1910 driver for a brewery; 1915 driver; 1920 chauffeur; 1925 truck driver. In 1920 son Robert was a chauffeur and son Richard was an express driver.

In the early years of the taxi business, anyone could get a license and start driving that day. There was no background check.

In researching the job of a chauffeur, I found some interesting images of the early chauffeur’s license and badge.
from "The Evolution of the New York Driver's License" New York Times Archive

from "The Evolution of the New York Driver's License" New York Times Archive

The style of the badge evolved over time, but they were required until 1928.
1918 New York Chauffeur's badge
New York 1918
New York 1918
same baby "John Jr"

Some people have suggested that the uniform in this photo looks like one worn by a policeman or fireman. The man looks very much like the front seat passenger in the first two photos. 

New York 1921 Unknown man with "John Jr"
New York 1921
Unknown man with "John Jr"
Here he is again in 1921. Fireman? Policeman? Sea captain? Chauffeur? 

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.