Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday Photo: Laura Sullivan

My great-grandmother’s sister Laura Etta Jollett Sullivan died 30 July 1947.

I love that Laura had a calling card in her single days.
Now I wonder if my great-grandmother had one too.

Laura and Will Sullivan on their 50th anniversary


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

52 Ancestors - HEALTH: Death by Epaulus

Ague. Dropsy. Consumption. Apoplexy. Biliousness. Child Bed Disease. Teething. Grippe. Whooping Cough. If you lived in the days before modern medicine, you could die from any one of these conditions. They are among the causes of death found in mortality schedules and death registers, many of which include the names of my ancestors.

1870 Mortality Schedule Page Co, VA

I found my 3X great-grandmother Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett in the 1870 Mortality Schedule for Page County, Virginia. She was 75 when she died from “Epaulus.”

Try as I might, I have been unable to find this word in a dictionary or in a list of historic medical terms. However, I found a word that appears to be pronounced the same: EPULIS. If this was Mary Ann’s disease, we can conclude the census taker did not know the correct spelling.


Epulis is basically a tumor in the gums. There are different kinds, none of which are very pleasant to read about, so I’m leaving it at “tumor.” Epulis can result from loss of teeth, trauma, or any kind of irritation in the mouth that allows bacteria to enter.


Congenital epulis (epulides in the plural) can grow so large as to obstruct breathing and impede eating. That sounds pretty awful.

Just as bad, and probably more likely in Mary Ann’s case, is that a tumor or lesion that bleeds or produces pus is a sure sign of infection. Any bacteria from the mouth which can travel through the blood can lead to other diseases like cardiovascular disease.


There was another condition with many syllables that maybe Mary Ann’s husband Fielding Jollett mispronounced resulting in the census taker recording “Epaulus”: Erysipelas. This was a TERRIBLE skin rash caused by hemolytic streptococcus bacteria which is associated with a number of diseases including strep throat, ear infections, tonsillitis, and meningitis. It can cause toxic shock syndrome and the death of skin tissue.

Erysipelas caused affected areas of the skin to turn bright red and to swell. Usually lesions formed on the face, scalp, hands, and legs. They were hot to the touch and the patient would be feverish. In Mary Ann’s day, erysipelas epidemics caused severe and often fatal infections. Today penicillin usually takes care of it.


Another term for “erysipelas” was St. Anthony’s Fire. If Mary Ann died from erysipelas, “St. Anthony’s Fire” would have been easier to pronounce AND to spell!




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.

On This Day - The Colemans

Back: Mattie and Johnny
Front: Jack Coleman holding Russell, Virginia,
Emma Jollett Coleman holding Reba

Andrew Jackson “Jack” Coleman, husband of Emma Jollett, was born on this day, 29 July 1858.

Thirty-eight years later, his twins were born on his birthday: Russell and Reba. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Light Up

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features Marlene Dietrich in a cigarette ad. As a child, I clearly remember the Surgeon General announcing that cancer was directly related to smoking, and I took his warning seriously. Although my parents and all my parents’ friends smoked, I was never tempted, not even in college when girls in my dorm experimented. I suppose it was while my mother was a student at Shenandoah College in Dayton, Virginia, that she and her friends decided it was time to do the adult thing and start smoking.

Momma, Christine Westbrook, and Betsy Ward about 1947
with cigarettes in hand

During summer break, Momma and her roomies wrote back and forth, sometimes weekly. Most of the letters are filled with gossip about who was dating whom, descriptions of weddings and parties they had attended, and playful anger about not getting letters from “that poot Mimi” or Joan or Paul or or or. Often they were planning to get together at Virginia Beach for a “gab fest,” to “sop a few beers” as they said, and of course, to smoke.

As I read the letters, I began to wonder what made people choose one brand over another, so I looked for cigarette ads from about 1948.

In one letter, Peggy Compher added in closing that she had switched from Luckies to Herbert Tareyton.

Luckies I knew, as that had been my uncle’s brand. “Lucky Strike” in 1948 claimed to be the first choice among tobacco men and independent experts. The slogan for as long as I can remember had always been “L. S. M. F. T. - Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.”


Boy, that brought back a memory. In high school, the other kids used to say, “L. S. M. F. T. Loose Straps Mean Floppy T - - - - - -.” (I hate that word – I hope you can figure it out.)


So Peggy gave up that fine tobacco for Herbert Tareyton. This brand featured a cork-tip that prevented the cigarette from sticking to the smoker’s lips. Who knew that was an issue? The Herbert Tareyton slogan “There’s something about them you’ll like” strikes me as ambiguous. I’m sure the “mad men” who developed the campaign meant that the many fine qualities would suit everyone, but I keep thinking the second half of the slogan could have been “but we can’t quite put our finger on what that something is.”


While I had never heard of HERBERT Tareyton, I clearly remember its variation Tareyton and the ads from the 1960s: “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.” Print ads featured people from all walks of life with a black smudge under one eye. Celebrities like Martha Stewart and Lyle Wagoner were pictured in the ads too. But the grammar! “Us” rather than “We” drove grammarians like my mother crazy. However, the campaign worked: there was nobody who hadn’t heard of Tareyton.


My mother was a Pall Mall girl. I don’t know if she smoked anything different before I came along, but until she gave up smoking (was it in the 80s? 90s? I can’t remember) there was always the iconic red cigarette package lying around somewhere. Pall Mall promoted itself as being a LONG cigarette, the length contributing to a better mix of air and smoke ensuring more pleasure and better taste. I do not know all the various ways Pall Mall advertised itself, but this one ad in which the Ritz Carlton claimed to prefer Pall Mall probably spoke to my mother. She was always drawn to the better things in life.

Jeanne Bailey, Momma’s college friend from Connecticut, started her smoking career with Life cigarettes. In 1948, it was the new thing offering a non-mentholated millecel filter, the latest “ultra high filtration” that would surely alleviate any health concerns cigarettes might pose. Here is what Jeanne had to say about Life in October of 1948:

I bought a pack of “Life” cigarettes yesterday. They aren’t bad. If they live up to their advertisement they’ll be okay. “Not too short, not too long, not too thin, just right.” You’d look a long time to find anything that good I think.


In March of 1949, Jeanne was done smoking, for a while at least:


News Flash  - I gave up smoking for Lent – just to test my will power – it’s really testing it!! Right now, I’m dying for a smoke but I’m too stubborn to change my resolve. I chew gum instead. I think I have three hunks in my mouth now.


Oh Jeanne, you are so funny.

Please visit my smokin’ hot friends at Sepia Saturday.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Photo Friday - Swimmer

Here is another unidentified photo perfect for this hot July summer.

The photo belonged to my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan, so I assume it is of a friend, possibly at the Blue Hole at Naked Creek in Rockingham and Page counties. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

52 Ancestors - FASHION: Over and Under

In the world of fashion, fur never goes out of style. Of course, attitudes about wearing animal skin swing from year to year and from person to person. Historically, fur was a practical reality, both convenient and warm. More recently the wearing of fur has been viewed as barbaric and cruel. “Fur” sure, it is not a neutral topic.

But those who appreciate fur wear it proudly for its warmth, its beauty, and its prestige. Nothing says “luxury” like a fur, 

whether it’s a full coat

Grandaunt and Granduncle - Herbert and Helen Killen Parker 
Grand Canyon 1927

Grandaunt Lillie Killeen 1931

A jacket or stole

Helen Killeen Parker at the bank 

A collar or cuff

Grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker
and Friends 1940s

Mary Neville Peluso Jollett and
Lewis Lloyd Jollett
(my maternal grandfather's cousin)

A hat

Grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis
and her sister-in-law
Janice Foltz Rucker

Or a mink, fox or ermine complete with head and feet dangling around one’s neck.

Grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan about 1936

Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh
before 1939

When my mother was in college, she and her roommates were not in the position to purchase fur. Besides, they were preoccupied with other matters, mainly boys and parties and their hair. A couple of letters from her roomies Peggy and Jeanne alerted me to something that was new among the co-eds: girdles. The latex girdle was introduced in 1940, but production ceased during World War II since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and invasion of Japan cut off supplies of latex. In 1946 the Playtex company was launched along with “the Living Girdle.”

Playtex girdle ad 1940s

In the summer of 1948, Peggy wrote to my mother:

Are you wearing a pla-tex panty girdle? Only $3.95. Pla-tex girdles slim you. (Announcement on the raiator, nice, huh?

In January of 1949, Jeanne wrote about her experience with the girdle:

I wish you could see me getting into the new girdle I bought, or rather see me squirming into it. I bought it on sale so it can't be exchanged. It's size 25 (my waist measurement) but tight --oh brother! It took me twenty minutes to get it on and fifteen to get it off. It's fine once it's over my hips --but on those hips. My hips are actually black and blue from tugging it on. I probably never would have gotten it on but I had had a couple of short ones with my girl friend right before I tried it on so I had a little artificial energy to help me. I have it stretching over a chair back now.
Now that I have told you the interesting history of "the girdle and my hips" I'll let you rest in peace.
Love, Jeanne

What a funny story. But I wonder if looking 5-lbs thinner in a girdle was negated by wearing a fur that added 10 lbs to the figure.

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, July 18, 2021

On This Day - Mary Theresa

6 Jan 1869 - 18 July 1939

My father’s maternal grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh passed away on this day 18 July 1939. Daddy was 11. She was a major influence in his life and he missed her. In his later years, he was STILL talking about what a wonderful person she was. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sepia Saturday: What the What?

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

I thought this week’s Sepia Saturday photo would surely be my undoing. How could I respond to this ridiculous group of men with ukuleles, most sporting fake beards or fake sideburns?

I did not think I had anything as silly as this until I remembered a small batch of Polaroids passed down to me from my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. The photos from her youth in the 1920s show that fun-loving side of her. In the 1960s she apparently had not lost that sense of fun.

Aunt Helen in the red striped dress
See the garage door is open? See the tools?
I see the red card table in the bottom right corner - now mine!

Helen hosted a party in her garage. Garage?? Hardly the venue one expects for a party. But what kind of party was this? Some people are dressed fairly nicely in skirts or dresses while others are in shorts.

What the heck is going on here? 

I used my magnifying glass to determine that these five women had clothespins clipped to their pants. I don’t know what that game was, but it has the markings of a game played at a wedding shower or baby shower although there are no decorations and no apparent guest of honor.

The same good sports with the clothespins were then dressed up like busty women. Women dressed up like women? These costumes look like the way men dress up as women.

Crowd-sourcing the photos in a Facebook group drew lots of viewers who knew this person or that. Finally one of the women who is actually in the picture solved the puzzle: it was a gathering of workers from Shop 31 at the shipyard in 1966. At least three of the women were clerk-typists, so maybe all of them were. She did not remember everyone’s names, nor did she remember this particular party but agreed it looked like fun.

One thing is for sure, Helen’s guests certainly give the ukulele lawyers a run for their money.

Please make your way to Sepia Saturday to see what silliness the others have found.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Photo Friday - An Old Beau?

This photo belonged to my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan. This handsome man is not identified. Who could he have been? An old flame?


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

52 Ancestors - TRANSPORTATION: John Jollitt Comes to Virginia

Who was John Jollitt? He might be my first Jollett ancestor to settle in Virginia, but I do not know for sure.

One thing I know for sure is that he was not a wealthy man. Had he been a gentleman, a man of means, he could have paid his own way from England to the colonies, about 6 pounds for a one-way ticket, which equates in buying power to about $1423.16 today. Instead, he signed a contract, an indenture, to work up to seven years for a Virginia planter in exchange for his passage.


from wikimedia commons

Indentured servitude had been a common practice in England for many years. In fact, children were often indentured to a craftsman to learn a trade as a cooper, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, a printer, a shipbuilder, a tailor, etc. For the master, it meant cheap labor in exchange for food, lodging, a few clothes, and maybe something more substantial once the contract was satisfied.

In many ways, timing was everything for John Jollitt. England’s economy was depressed leaving both skilled and unskilled workers unable to find jobs. Virginia, then only 30 years old, had already developed a thriving tobacco business. There was lots of land and a need for lots of workers. Tobacco farming was hard work that wore many people down long before “retirement age,” not that there was such a thing then.

At first the Virginia Company paid the passage for indentured servants to come and work company land or to rent out to planters. Then they asked themselves why pay at all? Why not let the planters themselves pay for their own indentured servants? The result was the Headright System. Tracts of land called “headrights” were offered to planters and other citizens willing to pay the transportation costs of an indentured laborer. In Virginia, anyone who had been in the colony since May 1616 was offered 100 acres of land (two headrights of 50 acres each); all others willing to pay the passage were granted one headright of 50 acres.

Anyone with enough money could accumulate headrights by providing the funds for the poor to travel to Virginia. Even if the indentured servant did not survive the trip, the landowner could still receive a headright.

Merchants and mariners also benefited from the headright system. They started recruiting prospective indentured servants, bargained their indenture terms with them, and then sold the contracts to Virginia planters. Merchants accumulated headrights that could be used to acquire land. Some even offered small tracts of land to skilled workers willing to work as an indentured servant. 


So in late summer or early fall of 1636, John Jollitt boarded the Tristram and Jane, a merchant ship headed for Virginia to take on tobacco that was ready for market.

What a merchant ship in the 17th century
would have looked like

The Tristram and Jane probably was typical of merchant ships of the 17th century. They were broad and high, rather top-heavy making them unsafe and difficult to maneuver. Most of the space was dedicated to cargo both coming and going, so comfort for crew and passengers was not part of the plan.

Food consisted of salted beef that had sat curing in brine for 2 months (!), ship biscuits (“hard tack”), peas, and beer. Historians have concluded that much of the sea-sickness was due not to the waves but to the food.


from wikimedia commons


Daniel Hopkinson was the merchant who chartered the Tristram and Jane commanded by shipmaster Joseph Blowe. Hopkinson put together a joint venture with 6 other men who contributed funds and/or goods which included Sack – a kind of strong light-colored Spanish wine, candy oyle – a syrup, strong waters – in other words alcoholic beverages, stockings, waistcoats, quince marmalade, powdered sugar and loaf sugar, raisins, fish, cheese, and more. What wasn’t consumed during the voyage was sold to the colonists. The partners were paid at the end of the voyage with a proportionate share of the profit in tobacco. Hopkinson’s account of this particular trip shows that the ship returned to England carrying 99 hogshead of tobacco, roughly 31,800 pounds.


English measurements from wikimedia commons


John Jollitt was passenger #46 of 74 men AND women who, looking for a better life in the New World, likewise had signed up to be an indentured servant.

Jollitt was turned over to Nathaniel Floyd who paid for 2 passengers, Jollitt and Richard Carter. He paid with 1100 pounds of tobacco. If Jollitt was 23 years of age or older, he probably was required to serve only 4 years. If he were younger – and chances are he was – he would have been required to serve all 7 years.

Somewhat surprisingly Nathaniel Floyd himself had arrived in Virginia in 1623 at the age of 24 as an indentured servant. Not many poor immigrants were able to rise above the lowest rung of society to become a gentleman farmer with the means to pay someone’s transportation fees. By November 1637, Floyd had patented 850 acres in Isle of Wight County including the headrights of Jollitt and Carter.



Once Jollitt satisfied his contract, Floyd was required to pay Jollitt’s “freedom dues,” which might have included 25 acres of land, a year’s worth of corn, some clothes, a cow, a few tools and a musket or other arms.

What became of John Jollitt once he was freed is still a mystery. I have hopes that he found land along the Northern Neck of Virginia and that descendants worked their way up into Orange County where my confirmed Jolletts lived, but I have found no such connection.

It is possible that John Jollitt stayed in Isle of Wight County where soon there were multiple families carrying the surname Jolliff and Jolly. They may very well be his descendants. 


Hiden, Martha W., ed. Accompts of the Tristram and Jane. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 62, No. 4 (Oct., 1954), pp. 424-447. VA Historical Society.

“Indentured Servants in Colonial Virginia.” Encyclopedia Virginia 

“Isle of Wight County Deeds and Other Records.” Abstracts of Virginia Land Records. Ancestry.

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.

On This Day - Sudie

Mary Susan Eppard Rucker
29 Oct 1875 - 14 July 1958

My maternal grandmother’s mother Mary Susan “Sudie” Eppard Rucker died on 14 July 1958.

Rucker house
I was in elementary school when she died, so my memory of her is rather faded. She had a beautiful Craftsman-style house on Fourth Street in Shenandoah, Virginia. In the parlor, the old stereoscope which she kept on a table kept me occupied quite a long time. My cousin recalls how Grandma Rucker always got mad at us when we played on the steps outside. We jumped back and forth from one side of the steps to the other – daredevils, that we were.

Sudie Rucker loved St Petersburg, Florida, for some unknown reason. She always brought back souvenirs – usually little ashtrays or other trinkets made of shells.

Sudie loved lemon drops. One time when Grandma gave her mother a box of chocolate candy, Sudie was not one bit polite. “Take it back. I only like lemon drops.” It became a family joke. Ironically enough, Grandma often had a bowl of lemon drops by her chair in her later years. Like mother – like daughter.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Cat in the Hat

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo inspired any number of interpretations. However, I just could not resist the urge to be silly. No story, really, just photos of my grandaunt Catherine Walsh Barany – aka “Cat” – in a hat.

Cat in the middle

My great-grandmother Mary Theresa
and grandaunt Cat 
Ohh Cat fur!

My fav - Cat in THE Hat

Hats off to my fellow bloggers at Sepia Saturday!

PS - Thanks to Mr. Mike's comment from 2 Sepias ago, I updated my post because now I know "Where in the World" my grandaunt Lillie Killeen and her friend were.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Photo Friday - John F. Coleman

John Franklin Coleman
9 July 1883 - 2 August 1949

My grandfather’s cousin John Franklin Coleman was born 9 July 1883 in Shenandoah, Page County, Virginia. He was son of my great-grandmother’s sister Emma Jollett and her husband Andrew Jackson “Jack” Coleman.

Johnny, as he was called, worked his entire adult life as an engineer with the railroad. In census records, he is always enumerated as “single,” but on Find A Grave, a daughter is listed.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 5, 2021

52 Ancestors - FREE: My Patriots

Independence Day always gets me thinking about my patriot ancestors. In 2015, my sister and I were able to join the Daughters of the American Revolution through William Jordan of Albemarle County, Virginia. He was a private in the Virginia Militia, and for a short while he was a sergeant. I wrote about his service HERE and HERE.

Just about this time last year, our Virtual District I Virginia meeting included a workshop on how to find our patriots. The presenter threw down a challenge: find at least 5 more patriots in our direct line and submit supplemental applications.

What does that mean? Everyone who joins DAR must prove her bloodline to just one patriot, male OR female, who helped achieve independence for America. After an applicant is verified, she may then submit “supplemental” applications for other direct line patriot ancestors. Finding those extra patriots does not make anyone a “super member” or afford any privileges. While claiming numerous patriots is a source of pride for the member herself, her research might help future applicants prove their own lineage.

Before the presentation, I had never been much interested in submitting supplementals. But I do love a challenge. I didn’t find 5. I found 7. Here they are:

Elizabeth Rennolds Rucker

Yes, a woman. A patriot was not necessarily a soldier. Female patriots were typically widows or single women who were head of a household, probably inherited from their father. DAR credits Elizabeth with Patriotic Service for supplying beef to the army. She was born in Essex County, Virginia about 1708. She married Thomas Rucker in 1726, and the two moved to Culpeper County. He died prior to the Revolutionary War, leaving Elizabeth to run the household, which is why her name is recorded as the donor of beef. She died in 1788.

Thomas Rucker

This is Elizabeth Rennolds Rucker’s son. Like his mother, Thomas supplied beef. He was born about 1739 and died in 1808.

Public Claims, Culpeper County (VA) Court Booklet 1, p 31
"Do" means "Ditto"

William Herndon

William Herndon (1764 – before 1847) married Mary Rucker (1763-1835), daughter of Thomas Rucker and granddaughter of Elizabeth Rennolds Rucker. I wrote about his service as a private in the Virginia Militia HERE. He had a rough time collecting a pension. 

Edward Herndon

Edward Herndon (1738 – 1831) is the father of William Herndon. Not only was he a soldier in the Culpeper Militia, but also he was credited with Patriotic Service for supplying beef. Edward was married to Mary Ann Gaines (1742-1829). They both died in Madison County, which was formed from Culpeper County in 1792.

James Gaines

James Gaines (1719-1786) is the father of Mary Ann Gaines and thus father-in-law of Edward Herndon and grandfather of William Herndon. He was too old to serve, but he was still a patriot who provided beef, hay, wheat, a gun, and transportation in a carriage. 

Culpeper Co Court Booklet 1, p 19

Culpeper Co Court Booklet 1, p 26

Culpeper Co Court Booklet 1, p 37

Leonard Davis

Leonard Davis was the patriot that my sister and I tried to join through, but we could not find appropriate documentation that would meet the DAR standards. Now that I have been my chapter’s registrar for several years, I have learned enough that I might be able to prove our lineage. He was just a teenager when he volunteered in the Virginia Militia. I wrote about his march to Jamestown and Hot Water HERE. An interesting side note is that his daughter-in-law Frances Wyant was the daughter of a Hessian soldier, Peter Wyant. Peter will never become a DAR patriot since he supported the other side, but he must have liked it in America. He bought land and settled in Albemarle County.

Peter Wyant's spring house Sep 2013
photo courtesy Jan Hensley

Samuel Hosier

So far, Samuel Hosier is the only patriot on my father’s side, and he is through Daddy's paternal grandmother. There are just too many problems in searching Daddy’s other lines, for now anyway. Samuel was born about 1755. He lived in both Nansemond County (now Suffolk) and Princess Anne County, Virginia, and he died before 1833. His application for a pension was rejected for failure to provide proof of service, but eventually his son or grandson was able to satisfy the War Board that Samuel had indeed been a private in the militia. Samuel’s heirs received bounty land. Samuel also paid the supply tax, so even without adequate proof of service, he still would have been deemed a patriot by the DAR.

So far I have submitted 2 supplemental applications, but I intend to send in others, a few at a time.  

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.