Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sentimental Sunday


This week marks several important events:

30 May 1865 – My great-grandmother’s sister Laura Jollett Sullivan was born in Greene County, Virginia.

31 May 1978 – My grandmother’s sister Margaret Killeen Sprott died in Norfolk, Virginia.

31 May 1888 – Minnie Coleman was born, daughter of my great-grandmother’s sister Emma Jollett Coleman.

 1 June 1845 – My 3X great-grandfather Leonard Davis Jr. died in Rockingham County, Virginia.

3 June 1930 – My 2X great-grandfather James Franklin Jollett died in Augusta County, Virginia.

5 June 1905 – Alda Clift was born, daughter of my great-grandmother’s sister Sallie Jollett Clift.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Death by Fire

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo shows a family rescuing what remained of their household belongings following a fire. Interviews with survivors of housefires always say the same thing: “We lost everything, but at least we’re alive. We can rebuild.” I hope that if such tragedy comes my way, I can be that positive. Several distant relatives experienced the horror of devastating fires.

For several years I have searched without success for the story of a fire that took the lives of two little children, Vernon and Daisey Clift.

George and Sallie Jollett Clift
Vernon and Daisey

Vernon and Daisey were the first children born to George and Sallie Jollett Clift, my great-grandmother’s sister. Whether the house caught on fire or the children were playing near an open fire is not known. However, their little tombstones tell a bit of the story.

Son of
Geo. T. and Sallie
Died Mar. 30, 1897
Aged 5 yrs 0 mos and 15 days
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

Dau of
Geo. T. and Sallie
Died Apr. 8, 1897
Aged 3 yrs 6 mos and 8 days
Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not
for to such is the kingdom of heaven.

Some years later, a similar tragedy struck the Jollett family again. Macile Sullivan, granddaughter of my great-grandmother’s brother Burton Lewis Jollett, was just a little over a year old when she got too close to an open flame. Her clothes caught fire and she suffered extensive burns. Was it from a fireplace in the house? Was there a burn pile outside where her parents John and Fleta Sullivan burned trash and brush? Apparently, her death did not make the newspaper either.

On the back of the death certificate.
I don't understand the request for eye drops.

In 1959 a son-in-law of my great-grandmother’s sister Leanna Jollett Knight died from pneumonia brought on due to 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Ben Shifflett had tried to put out a brush fire when his clothes caught fire.

Ben and Bertha Knight 

This was a real downer, wasn’t it! Let’s hope my friends at Sepia Saturday will have amusing stories of moving households and people with mattresses on their head.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Photo Friday - One Who Served

With Memorial Day coming up, I thought shining the light on a relative who served our country would be appropriate.

Andrew and Minerva
World War I
photo courtesy John Thompson

This is a distant cousin, Andrew Frazier and his wife Minerva. Andrew was the son of Caroline Frazier and John W. L. Shiflett.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

52 Ancestors - AT THE CEMETERY: Community of Saints

I always thought “cemetery” and “graveyard” were synonymous until I learned what it is that distinguishes one from the other. All graveyards are cemeteries, but not all cemeteries are graveyards. A graveyard is a burial ground within a churchyard. A cemetery is a public or private burial ground located anywhere else.

So, if a church owns and maintains a burial ground away from the church itself, is your loved one in a graveyard or a cemetery? I’m not sure, but I am going with “cemetery.” 

Most of my Irish Catholic relatives on my father’s side are buried at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Portsmouth, just a mile or so away from St. Paul’s Catholic Church where they had been faithful members.

Aunt Lillie Killeen 
Visiting her father's grave Sep 1973
All Saints Cemetery, Portsmouth, VA

Walsh and Killeen relatives at All Saints Cemetery

On my mother’s side are the Shenandoah Valley Methodists. The Jollett sisters and their families were members of the Evangelical United Brethren Church before it merged with the Methodist denomination in 1964. Their final resting place is Coverstone Cemetery right down the road from the EUB Church. Even though the cemetery is right next to St Peter’s Lutheran Church, my grandparents always referred to it as the EUB Cemetery, but I am not sure that it actually belonged to the church.

Coverstone Cemetery next to St. Luke's Lutheran Church

My maternal grandparents
Orvin and Lucille Rucker Davis

Just some of my family at Coverstone

While my grandmother is at Coverstone, her family, on the other hand, are at rest in the Fields Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery just down the road from the church they attended.

Rucker Family plot
Stones for my grandmother's brothers Ray and Willie, her brother Everett and his wife Ollie, 
and parents Joe and Sudie Rucker

Also my grandmother's grandparents George and Segourney Shiflett Eppard are in the same cemetery.

There is something comforting about being among a “community of saints” whether in a church graveyard or church cemetery.


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.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Photo Friday - Boy Oh boy

Are these boys cute or what? I have no idea who they are, but my grandmother saved this picture and now I have it. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

52 Ancestors - COUSIN BAIT: Uncle Joe

Like a fisherman who selects the right bait to attract the right fish, family history bloggers try to attract the attention of those who are searching our families too by blogging, maintaining an online family tree, posting memorials on Findagrave, and even sharing old photos on Instagram and Pinterest.

While my blog is small with a small readership, I have connected OR RE-connected with cousins who willingly share information and photos. Just last week, my sister sent a photo I had posted on my “Photo Friday” series to our second cousin Joel to see if it was of his mother. He returned the favor with a baby picture of his grandfather, my grandmother’s baby brother.

Joseph Calhoun Rucker Jr
3 Apr 1911 - 21 Mar 1975

I had never seen this photo before. I knew Uncle Joe Rucker only as a grown man whose cheek was always full of chewing tobacco. 

Joe had a reputation for being rather wild and crazy, maybe gruff. As a kid, I thought he was funny, but maybe he wasn’t. His wife Janice was the total opposite – quiet, sweet, welcoming, just the nicest person. Our family always wondered how she put up with him.

Joe Rucker and Janice Rucker, my grandparents Lucille Rucker Davis and Orvin Davis,
Del Palmer (family friend) and my sister Mary Jollette in front
1962 Virginia Beach, Virginia

But I must say, Joe certainly was a pretty baby.

I thank Cousin Joel for sharing the sweet side of his grandfather, my granduncle.

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.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Negative Selfie

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

One interpretation of this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge is shadows. I am always amused seeing the person behind the camera cast across the foreground of a photo. Identifying who it was that left his or her mark often becomes a game.

Although I don't know who these people are in the photo, the shadow photographer looks like my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. I have seen that hairdo in many photos of  her.

Here is Helen herself, but the photographer is a mysterious blob.

Is that the same mysterious blob who took this photo of Mae, Helen’s sister, Mae’s husband Cliff Holland, and Helen?

Mae and Cliff Holland, Helen Killeen

Mae and Cliff’s son John – a.k.a. “The Boss” – cast a long shadow as did others enjoying a fine time in Ocean View.

This photo from a group of similar photos belonging to my grandaunt Helen is her friends, likely waiting to board a canal boat for a little cruise.


Moving on to my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring’s photos, this one is easy. My grandmother on the 
Fleta and Ben Jr
Lucille and Orvin Jr
right is holding her baby Orvin Jr. The other woman is Fleta, the wife of my grandfather’s cousin Ben Davis,  holding her baby Ben Jr. Because I have a companion photo of the proud papas holding their new sons, I know the shadows are Ben on the left and my grandfather on the right. The hat is unmistakable.  


The shadows in the last 2 belong to Velma. She documented her first year in college with lots of photos of her dormmates and friends.


Velma's roommate
Leta LaVow

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt there are some great stories and photos to enjoy at Sepia Saturday. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Photo Friday - Little Pudge

What a cutie patootie. Sure wish I knew who she was. My only clue is that the photo came to me through my mother’s family.

Oh, and look – it’s stamped 1934. I have never seen a photo dated on the front like this.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

52 Ancestors - MOTHERS DAY: The Many Loves of Mary Eleanor

Growing up, I was well aware that my mother had been one of the beautiful and popular girls at school, both high school and college. Not until I started going through letters saved between 1946 and 1950 did I realize just HOW popular!

Letters my mother saved

The stacks of letters reveal there had been more boyfriends than I had ever heard about. Bruce. Pete. George. Bob. Graham. Of course, I want to know more although, quite frankly, I have been reluctant to open the letters for fear of learning something I don’t want to know!

Nevertheless, with one eye closed, I began opening envelopes. Since Graham always included his last name in the return address, I decided to start with him. The letters begin in the summer of 1947 following Momma’s first year at Shenandoah College where Graham must have been a student as well. Graham’s letters are “hot and heavy” professions of love blah blah blah. He called her “Pretty Face,” “Dream Girl,” “Sweet,” and “Booby” (Booby?? What the heck?). He signed off, “Loving you every minute” and – my favorite – “Loving you like a fiend.”

Then in 1949 the letters are just friendly. He addressed her by her nickname “Duny” and signed off, “As B/4 Graham.” The “break up” must have occurred in 1948. I’m guessing Momma did not save all the letters because there are none from him that year.

Here is what I learned:

My mother must have been a poor pen pal because Graham always seemed surprised when she wrote back quickly and relieved when she finally responded. One time he even praised her for getting better at letter-writing.

During the summer of 1947 Graham was desperately looking for work. Unable to find anything, he described himself as being “like a lost ball in high weeds.” Eventually he took a job for a company in Ontario.

Graham liked to party. Sometimes he didn’t get home until the wee hours. There were days he drank beer all afternoon.

My favorite insight into Graham’s personality is this: he called his car “the sex machine.”

Back of a postcard Graham sent from Gettysburg
on his way to Canada

Letter from Graham while in Canada

In another incident involving “the sex machine,” Graham’s personality shines through as he described the night he hit a dog: 

from one of the letters summer 1947

Graham was not returning to Shenandoah but had applied to North Carolina State and to the University of North Carolina. He was quite anxious to hear whether he would be accepted at either. While he joked that he might flunk out the first semester, he must have been smarter than he thought because he was accepted at BOTH schools.

Apparently, he chose to go to NC State with his best friend but later regretted that decision and enrolled at UNC. In the last letter that Momma saved, Graham described himself as being “a square peg in a round hole” at NC State and wished he had been at UNC Chapel Hill all along.

Wondering what became of Graham after that, I headed to Ancestry and searched “Graham Wilson.” Up popped the UNC yearbook with this picture:

Graham Wilson
UNC Chapel Hill 1950
A.B. degree in Economics

Back in January, I posted photos of my mother with a man yet to be identified.

Graham Wilson and "Pretty Face"


The man was Graham Wilson. I wonder if that’s the “sex machine” in the background.

Here is Graham again in a photo previously unidentified: 

"Duny" and Graham

Elizabeth Hardison
Meredith College 1948
Graham found another pretty face to woo and marry: Elizabeth Hardison, a graduate of Meredith College with a degree in biology. They had two daughters. Graham and Elizabeth had been married 53 years when he died in 2004.

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.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sentimental Sunday

One of my favorite photos is this one: 4 generations.

Standing in back: my sister Mary Jollette, my grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis
Sitting: my mother Mary Eleanor Davis Slade, ME
Standing in front: daughters Zoe Mathias Matthews, Jordan Mathias Kiser

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, moms of moms, and those missing their moms.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.