Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sepia Saturday: 4 X 4

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

I am a day late and dollar short for this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge which is to post something to do with the number FOUR. Life got in the way, so I offer this lame post which is just four photos of four people. No story. Saving it for another day.

My grandaunt Violetta Davis 2nd 
from the left -
College friends about 1922

This photo was taken at one of the gates into the State Normal School at Harrisonburg, Virginia (now James Madison University – Go DUKES!).  The smart suits and hats suggest that Violetta and her friends were heading into town or to church. It was a RULE that students must be dressed up when walking to town. 

June 1925
Grandaunt Velma Davis,
friends Thelma Hockman,
Leta LeVow, and Unknown

This photo was taken outside one of the buildings on campus at the Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University – Go DUKES!), probably before everyone left for the summer. I wish I could identify the 4th girl. Velma roomed with Thelma and Leta. Likely the other girl was a good friend from the dorm.

What a happy group of girls. I surely wish I knew who they were. Probably they were friends of my grandaunt Helen Killeen. The picture was captioned "Easter 1918."

The Allen girls and Moi 1961 in our dress-ups
left to right: Anne, Mary, Peggy, ME

The Allen girls lived next door to me. We grew up together along with all the other kids on Frailey Place. Dress ups. Jump rope. Hopscotch. Mother May I. Red Light Green Light. Hide and Seek. Paper dolls. Picnics. I wish I had photos of the other kids too. Today we are all now Facebook friends. 

Please visit Sepia Saturday to see how the better-prepared bloggers stepped up to the challenge.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sentimental Sunday - Hail the Irish

As I like to do during the month of March, my posts will shine the light on my Irish ancestors. While Feb 28 is not March, it is nevertheless the first day of the week, so I might as well jump in with it.

This tiny photo (about 1.5" x .5") was glued into the crease of a scrapbook passed along to me from my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. I cannot determine the who or the when. The woman does not look much like the young version of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. 

Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh

But who else could it be? 

Woman and child

I tried to convince myself that maybe this was Mary Theresa as a baby in the arms of her mother Bridget Gorman Sheehan, but the clothes do not say “1870.” Do they?

Maybe it is Mary Theresa after all, holding Helen who was born in 1903. Or possibly Mary Theresa holding Aunt Lil born in 1894.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Photo Friday - Heinz Rice Flakes


I have no idea who this man was driving a car that advertised Heinz Rice Flakes.

Pictures available online of Rice Flakes suggest they could have been a forerunner of Rice Krispies. "Snap, Crackle, and Pop!" probably was a more effective slogan than "Cereal with a vegetable effect." No plastic prizes in that box, that's for sure.  


The cereal dates back to the 1920s, so possibly this gentleman was a salesman who brought this happy, healthy breakfast item to my grandparents’ store in Shenandoah, Virginia.

The roofline of the vehicle suggests it might have been a delivery truck much like this 1930s metalcraft toy truck.

1930s era toy truck
as seen on eBay, Etsy, and Pinterest


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

52 Ancestors - POWER: Councilman Harry W. Escue

Mattie Coleman Escue
(1882 - 1978)

There was a time when everyone in Shenandoah, Virginia knew my grandfather’s cousin, “Miss Mattie Escue.” It’s a small-town thing. She was a school teacher and EVERYONE – whether from a small town or a big city – can recall a particular teacher from their past. In Shenandoah, it was Miss Mattie.

I do not know if Mattie’s husband Harry W. Escue enjoyed the same kind of “fame,” but he was well-liked enough to serve several terms on the town council. Admittedly, his was hardly the powerful position of a governor or president, but in a small town, the council was indeed the seat of power where big decisions affecting the lives of the town’s citizens were made. Here are some of the ordinances written while Harry Escue was a councilman:

1912: That fire crackers and other explosives be exploded only between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Christmas and New Year’s days, under penalty of $1.00 fine and costs.

1913: That the Eagle Hotel management be notified by the Sergeant not to pump sewage into the gutter before ten o’clock at night. However, any sewage that is run through the terra cotta pipe may be pumped at any time.

1914: That notices be posted that a fine of $1.00 shall be imposed upon any person riding on sidewalks either on roller skates, bicycles, or wagons.

1917: All users of electric lights who own their meters shall pay 10 cents per kilowatt with a minimum of $2.00 per month for business and $1.50 per month for private residence.

1934: Repealed an ordinance from 1897 that regulated the speed of locomotives through town.

1935: Set license rate on slot machines at $25 per annum.

Yes, important issues.

Harry Escue and son
probably Emile

What else is there to know about Harry W. Escue? First of all, the “W” stands for “Waltzingham.” Where in the world did that name come from? Often children will carry their mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name; however, I have yet to find this name in Harry’s lineage. Admittedly, I have not tried that hard.

What I do know, though, is that Harry Waltzingham Escue was born to Lilburn Henry Escue and Lutie Belle Brown on 4 October 1871 in Albemarle County, Virginia. 

Lilburn was a veteran of the Civil War and earned a living as a carpenter. He and Lutie Belle married in 1868 and had three children: Mary, Harry, and Loula. 

By 1880, Lilburn was out of the family picture. Lutie and children were living with a woman known as Mary Beadles. Meanwhile, Lilburn had moved back home with his parents as had 5 siblings ranging in age from 24 to 45. All of them claimed to be single.

For the rest of his days, Lilburn was enumerated in census records as living with a sister. He died 17 February 1923. His death certificate shows his body was found on a lot in Charlottesville where he had frozen to death.

As for Lutie Belle, she made her home with her children. In 1900, she was a dressmaker living in Shenandoah with her daughter Lula Belle Wade and family. In 1910 Lutie Belle was with Harry.

Harry had married Sallie Florence Drummond in 1893. They had 4 children: Lula Florence, Clement Willard, Emile Clarence, and Emet who died in infancy. Sallie’s untimely death in 1906 might have prompted Lutie Belle to move in with Harry to care for the children.

Harry remained a widower for 16 years. In 1922 he married Mattie Coleman, daughter of Jack Coleman and Emma Jollett Coleman. At the age of 40, Mattie became a stepmother to adult children.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
23 Jan 1939

Harry worked all his adult life for the Norfolk & Western railroad. The town of Shenandoah was a major hub along the route between Hagerstown, Maryland and Roanoke, Virginia. In 1939, Harry was awarded a Diamond insignia for 50-years of service.

Harry died a year later in 1940. Mattie outlived him by 38 years.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
11 Jan 1940


the Escues
Coverstone Cemetery in Shenandoah, VA

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.” 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 22, 2021

On This Day

My great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis died on this day in 1950.


Mary Frances Jollett Davis
10 Jan 1870 - 22 Feb 1950



© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Sepia Saturday: The Baby Name Book

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of the man with a ZOOM lens shows we have reached the letter “Z.” As a child, I hated for anyone at school to see any kind of “official” paper like a report card or notice from the principal that might have my middle initial on it: Z. When anyone saw that my middle name began with the letter “Z,” they would react in shock and disbelief that there could be any sensible name starting with “Z.” “What is your name? Zebra? Zipper?” Fits of laughter would follow.

It is “Zoe.” It has become a rather popular name in recent years, but it was just unheard of in my little corner of the world in the 1950s-60s. Surprisingly, on the scale of “weird and unusual” my name doesn’t even come close when compared to some of the names my 2X great-grandparents Mitchell and Martha Willson Davis bestowed upon their 15 children.

Zedekiah. Zephaniah. Zibiah Saloma. And those are just the ones that fit the Sepia Saturday theme. There is also Jerusha and Amaziah.

How did Mitchell and Martha come up with these names? Nowhere in my research do these names show up in the family lineage, so they clearly were not honoring a relative or ancestor. There were no Baby Name books in the 1850s-70s. Or were there? Maybe THIS was their Baby Name book:

Bible belonging to Mitchell and Martha
possibly a wedding gift

This Bible was published in 1846, the same year that Mitchell and Martha married. In it they recorded the usual family stats: births, deaths, and marriages. It is probably not a coincidence that many of the children's names had biblical origins:

Zedekiah – last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon

Zephaniah – ninth of the Twelve Minor Prophets who urged the corrupt and disobedient people of Judah to obey God (Yahweh) so that MAYBE He would forgive them

Zibiah – wife of King Ahaziah and mother of Joash who became a just king of Judah thus her being credited for bringing up her son in the fear of the Lord

And about those other names that don’t start with “Z”:

Saloma – beautiful daughter of Herod II who danced at the birthday celebration of her stepfather Herod Antipas and demanded the head of John the Baptist and got it!!

(I don’t know, but if Mitchell and Martha were trying to imbue their daughter with some kind of biblical virtue, these two names, Zibiah and Saloma, seem to cancel each other out.)

Jerusha – wife of King Uzziah of Judah and mother of Jotham; the name itself comes from the Hebrew meaning “possession” or “inheritance”

Josiah – the 16th king of Judah considered righteous and credited by scholars for religious reforms and for compiling Hebrew scriptures; he is also one of the kings mentioned in the patrilineage of Jesus according to the Book of Matthew

Amaziah – another king of Judah who was considered a just king but not whole-heartedly since he did not remove local shrines and failed to centralize worship

Some births in the Davis Bible

I wonder what happened that most of the other children received more mundane names like Walter, Ida, and Minnie. Surely it isn’t that Mitchell and Martha gave up on the Bible or lost their faith as these and the other ordinary names are sandwiched between the lofty ones.

More births in the Davis Bible

Perhaps the names of noble figures were meant to inspire their children to greatness. Whatever the reason, these biblical names suggest Mitchell and Martha were at least somewhat devout Christians who were well-versed in their Bible. After all, they did not slip up and name any of them Jezebel or Abimelech.

Zip, Zoom or Zigzag over to Sepia Saturday for more “Z” stories from some zealous zanies.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Photo Friday - Mrs. Coldorn


On the back: "Mrs. Coldorn"

 I have no clue who this could be.

This is a cabinet card that was obviously trimmed haphazardly to fit into an album, I suppose.

Who were the Coldorns to my Davis family that they would have her portrait? There are no Coldorns in our family tree.

I conducted a BROAD search – no first name, no date, no state of residence. There were plenty of Coldorn families in North Carolina and West Virginia, and others as far away as Oklahoma and Minnesota. When I narrowed my search to Virginia, the spelling became Coldron, Coldiron, and Colder.

Honestly, I can’t even guess at a possible date of birth for this woman because I cannot tell if she was fairly young or just plain old in this picture.

~ Sigh ~


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

52 Ancestors - UNUSUAL SOURCE: Check the Historical Society

When it comes to the “UNUSUAL” in genealogy research, the best place to find it is in a historical society. More often than not, it will be the lucky recipient of family papers, photo albums, and scrapbooks that people don’t know what to do with when a family member dies.

As a volunteer with the Greene County Historical Society in Stanardsville, Virginia, I have completed several indexing projects that could be beneficial to many researchers who trace their lineage to early families in Greene County.

For example, the Early Family scrapbooks contain greeting cards, newspaper clippings, funeral memorial cards, school and church programs collected by Mrs. Early for over 50 years. She saved any tidbit related to her family, her extended family, her distant family, friends, and neighbors. While my line and hers do not intersect, I found several news articles that mentioned my relatives. One article even had a photo that gave me my first look at the woman who had been explicitly denied any inheritance from her husband’s father, my great-grandmother’s brother. She looked like a sweet lady, hardly the gold-digging shrew depicted in the will. One interesting newspaper article Mrs. Early saved told me the story about Seal, a dog that “attended” the University of Virginia. I recalled my dad telling about Seal but did not remember the significance until I read the story.

The Price-Hill Daybooks are a record of the general store’s daily sales. Every page lists the names of customers, what they purchased, the cost of each item, and how they paid offering clues to the daily life of the citizens and their economics. Probably learning that someone bought Lyons Kathairon which supposedly cured baldness or they were in need of more Mexican Mustang Liniment is a bit like peering into someone’s bedroom, but the purchases tell a story. There are also genealogical clues to be found in the day books. For example, one entry shows Thomas Gordon as “guardian of Frances Gordon.” Some customers sent their “boy” or their “girl” to pick up an order. Since there are entries including “son” and “daughter,” I believe these designations indicate a servant.  

Inside cover

The Hamm Daybooks are 15 years of records kept by the local tailor Joseph H. Hamm from 1856-1871. What an amazing social history revealing who was having a coat repaired, who was ordering clothes for a wedding, who needed a frock, and even who needed new underwear! The selected fabrics and trims hint at the customer’s personal economics and social status. 

While none of my Jolletts seemed to have been Mr. Hamm’s customers, a distant cousin George Sampson was. In March of 1863, he paid $1.00 to have a jeans coat cut. 

Page from the Hamm Daybooks
31 March 1863

My 3X great-grandfather’s brother Thomas Marshall paid Hamm $1.50 to make him a black velvet hat. Since the records cover the time of the Civil War, it is enlightening to read what work Hamm provided for Union soldiers in Virginia.

My 2X great-grandfather and his son Burton Lewis
registered to vote in 1902 

The Voter Registration Books in Greene County are full of genealogical details that go far beyond the date someone registered. A date of birth will be more accurate than one found in a census record or death certificate even because the information was supplied by the person himself, not an informant. Transfers in and out of a precinct are noted, usually along with the date. Occupations are listed as are removals from the rolls due to death. Sometimes the registrar added notes such as the father’s name, a nickname, or “brother of” to distinguish voters with similar names. I must admit, I was a bit surprised to learn my great-great grandfather James Franklin Jollett was 66 years old when he finally registered to vote. What took him so long? He might have been a bit slow, but his granddaughter Blanche Jollett Gentry and his granddaughter-in-law Mary Neville Peluso Jollett were among the first women to register when suffrage was at long last granted in 1920.

White Women - Husckstep Precinct of Monroe District
Blanche Gentry was 30 years old.

White Women - Husckstep Precinct of Monroe District
Mary Neville Peluso Jollett was 24

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 is52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 15, 2021

On This Day

My great-grandaunt Velma Hilda Davis Woodring was born 15 February 1908.


Portrait of Velma about age 2 or 3
on opalotype (glass)

My favorite photo of Velma
She was about 16
Not sure of the year - 1950s??

Some of my favorite stories about Velma:

To Mercersburg and Beyond

What's In Your Trunk?

Violetta and Velma

Girls Gone Silly

Doppelganger for Velma

Vikings and Snowflakes


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Sepia Saturday: YWCA at Shenandoah College

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

This week on Sepia Saturday we are highlighting the letter “Y.” Even though the Village People did not popularize any song called “YWCA,” the young women’s side of this Christian association was alive and well on American college campuses from very early on in the 1900s. Even state institutions that remained strictly non-denominational strived to encourage students to lead lives of the highest standards and moral character.

Thus, it was no surprise to find that my mother was a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association during her two years at Shenandoah College and Conservatory in Dayton, Virginia.

Mary Eleanor "Duny" Davis
on the left; maybe her
roommate on the right
Shenandoah College
Student Handbook

According to the Student Handbook, the YM and YWCAs served to “promote the welfare of the students in their social and spiritual life.” The officers and cabinets arranged Vesper Service every Sunday evening and weekly chapel programs. They also coordinated the Annual Religious Emphasis Week, the highlight of which was hosting an outstanding speaker who remained on campus throughout the week, ever ready to meet with interested students.


Somehow, I doubt my mother took advantage of such opportunities. Reprimands from the Student Government Association show she was hardly the exemplary student the YWCA had in mind. (Read about her bad behavior HERE.)

The social life promoted by the Y was more her speed. In February 1948, the Y hosted a “Queen of Hearts” Party as part of “Leap Week” allowing the girls to invite the boys. It WAS Leap Year, after all. There was a Bingo with pies and cakes for prizes. 
Student newspaper - The Arrowhead

Guess who one of the winners was – go ahead. Guess.

My mother.


A bingo (not you Bingo - burp) party was sponsored by the student "Y" Thursday evening. "Tootie" called the numbers like a veteran. The prizes were delicious pies - and a great big coconut cake.

“Duny” Davis won the big cake. That was a cake wasn’t it “Duny”? It disappeared so fast (into tummies) once it got inside the girls’ dorm that a quick glimpse was all anyone had of the cake.

I wonder if "Duny" carried that luck with her to Madison College the next two years. For sure, her reputation followed her! ;-)

There will be no yawning over the yarns yielded by yuppies, youngsters, yokels, and yodelers over yonder at Sepia Saturday.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Photo Friday: The Corvins


Mrs. Corvin and William Booker Corvin
and unknown woman

This photo is identified only as “Mrs. Corvin and William Booker Corvin.” The other woman? It’s anybody’s guess. It is just one in an assortment of photos dated between 1917 and 1921 that came to me through my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. The supposed date of the photo plus the similarity to other photos makes me think that these are friends of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh or even friends of Helen. But who were they?

I have found 3 William B. Corvins: one born about 1906 in Massachusetts, one born about 1924 in Wytheville, Virginia, and the other born about 1922 in Bristol, Virginia. Unfortunately, the Massachusetts “B” stands for Benjamin; the Wytheville “B” stands for Buford. “Booker” is the middle name for the lad from Bristol, Virginia.

Since Helen was only 19 when William Booker was born, I looked for his parents. They were Leonidas Roy “Orin” Corvin and Louissia Elizabeth Cline. How would they have known Mary Theresa or Helen? They lived at opposite ends of the state. Actually, the other woman in the photo resembles neither Mary Theresa nor Helen, so how did one of them come to have this photo?

“Orin” was employed by the Norfolk & Western Railroad, based in Roanoke. Helen’s husband Herbert Parker worked for the railroad too and often traveled to Roanoke. I hesitate to say, “Ah ha! That’s it – they must have been friends” because Herbert would have been working as a clerk at the Army Ordnance Depot at the time William Booker was being carted around in an infant pouch sling.

A mystery yet to be resolved.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

On This Day

My maternal grandfather's parents married 11 February 1890 in Greene County, Virginia.

Mary Frances Jollett Davis
10 Jan 1870 - 22 Feb 1950

Walter Beriah Sylvester Davis
12 Sep 1867 - 31 Oct 1934

The last anniversary Mary Frances and Walter Davis celebrated together was their 44th. What is the traditional gift to mark 44 years of togetherness? In the US there is no specified gift although one website offers "GROCERIES" - WHAT? Not very romantic. Spain and Italy suggest Turquoise while Russia and France say Topaz.

The hubster and I are coming up on 48 - still no traditional gift. Germany, Russia and France suggest a gift of Amethyst - yeah, I'll take that. Spain and Italy think Feldspar would be appropriate. A "MODERN" gift includes "Optical Goods." What's that? New bifocals? 

What do you give someone on their 131st anniversary?


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

52 Ancestors - VALENTINE: To Mother

My dad’s favorite grandmother was Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. Judging by all the greeting cards glued into a scrapbook, she must have been a sentimental woman.


Two of Mary Theresa's scrapbooks
Not in the best of shape 

Among the many Valentine’s Day cards is this one from her daughter Catherine, known to family and friends as “Cat.”

Mary Theresa was obviously close to her youngest two daughters, Cat and “Tate” (Teresa), both of whom lived in Washington DC. 

Mary Theresa and Cat
either 1936 or 1937
(similar photos show both dates
so they must not have
remembered when)

The three traveled back and forth visiting one another. This particular letter covers several topics that more easily could have been handled by a telephone call – confusion over travel plans and the return of a dress.

Thursday Nite

Dearest Mom:

Guess you think I have deserted you but I have been quite busy for the past few days and just didn’t get a chance to write you.

Tate was over last night and she was reading your letter and she said you told her you were coming up on the 10th. Then I


Page 2 is on the right; page 3 on the left

realized that you were probably looking for us to come down but I didn’t know because you didn’t tell me when you were coming up. Did you mean in your letter that if we came down last week that you would have come back with us? I didn’t plan on coming until I knew definitely that you were coming because I didn’t want to make a trip down and

then you say you would have to wait a couple of weeks longer. Mom if you will just drop me a note and let me know when you can come we will come and get you and you know it will be perfectly alright to bring the kids if you think they won’t worry you too much. Let me know please.

Mom, I took back the dress and they gave me my money back. I

The "kids" are my dad and 
his brother

didn’t know just why you didn’t keep it so I thought I would wait until you were here then we could get another one.

Did both the kids pass? I surely hope so.

Well Mom I will be looking for a note from you telling us just when to come for you so let me know.

Until then I will say so long.

All my love




Mary Theresa died a month later.

I suppose it was a sign of the times that they wrote letters instead of making a phone call. And what a gift that Mary Theresa kept the cards and letters – at least some of them anyway – as a testimony to their loving relationship.

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.”


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.