Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sentimental Sunday

My great-grandfather Walter Davis died 31 Oct 1934.

My grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis died 1 Nov 1990.

Photo for the church directory -
this is how I remember her

My 3X great-grandfather Leonard Davis Jr died 3 Nov 1836. He was Walter Davis’s grandfather whom he never met.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Photo Friday - High Flyers

Velma Davis, Leta LeVow, Thelma Hockman
(I wonder who the children are in the back.)

It was October 1924. Velma labeled this photo of herself and her college roommates "High Flyers." What did that mean? 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

52 Ancestors - SHOCK: At the Hands of Person Unknown

I have traced my family tree long enough that very little shocks me – not finding a horse thief who changed his name, not the numerous moonshiners and adulterers, not a distant cousin who stole his uncle’s money, not even a distant cousin who killed his grandmother.

However, there is one discovery that shocks me to this very day even though I found it 6 years ago: this death record.

Single and age 31, Irene Manspeaker gave birth to a baby boy in June 1939. Yet a day later, the baby was dead. The cause? “Violence at the hands of some person or persons unknown.” Manner of injury: contusion and strangulation.

The informant on the death certificate was R. E. Manspeaker, Irene’s father Raymond Ellis Manspeaker. Although the name of the baby’s father was entered as “Do not know,” it is not clear whether Irene did not know who the father was or simply had not informed her father.

Who would kill a day-old baby? 

Evidence – or the lack thereof – pointed to Irene herself. And why not? She was single. She was there. Means, motive and opportunity – three terms batted around freely in every detective show I’ve ever watched – Irene certainly had them all.

The case went to trial. Irene’s lawyer argued that while she may have had motive and opportunity, she did not have the means. She had just delivered the baby. She was too weak and frail.

The jury agreed. On November 15, 1939, Irene was acquitted.

from Bluefield Daily Telegraph 16 Nov 1939

(Irene was a niece of my maternal grandfather’s cousin Anna Davis Manspeaker's husband George Ernest Manspeaker.)


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, October 24, 2021

Sentimental Sunday


Lucy Walker Jollett Marsh died 25 Oct 1870 in Greene County, Virginia. She was daughter of my 4X great-grandparents James Jollett and Nancy Walker.

Artubine Joseph Jollett died 27 Oct 1862 in Page County, Virginia. He was son of 2X great-grandfather’s brother John Wesley Jollett and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Smith.


My great-grandmother Susan “Sudie” Eppard Rucker was born 29 Oct 1875.




© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 22, 2021

52 Ancestors - SPORTS: The Bookie

In March 2020, when COVID-19 was just taking hold here in Virginia, I received an email from the most recent owner of my grandparents’ house in Portsmouth. She was installing new insulation in the attic and discovered several boxes of STUFF that belonged to my parents and grandparents. One of the most confusing “treasures” is this order book.

Order Book

It is about 6” wide and 14” long with a soft cover. The pages are arranged with columns that probably allow for entries of debits and credits. However, the entries look nothing like what a storekeeper or other businessman might record. Flanking a mysterious series of numbers are on the left a date including day of the week and on the right a name.

I believe this is the record book of a Bookie. Soooo, who was the Bookie in the family?

Steve and Catherine 1936
I know of one for sure – Steve Barany, husband of my grandaunt Catherine Walsh Barany. However, this book probably was not his. For one thing, Steve and Cat divorced. When she moved in with her sister, it is not likely she brought Steve’s belongings with her. For another thing, most of the items in the attic were from my mother’s side of the family, not from my father’s side except for a few books and souvenirs of his college life.

There is nothing familiar in the handwriting to help eliminate someone or point to another. However, some of the names entered in the book point directly to my father’s father, Granddaddy Slade. There are MANY listings for Morrison, the same surname of Granddaddy’s mother Mary Morrison Slade. I searched several of the other names on Ancestry for clues connecting them to my grandfather. Many names came up as possible neighbors or at least people in the close geographical area.


My dad's parents: Julia and Fred Slade Sr

Could my sweet granddaddy have been taking illegal gambling bets on boxing matches, horseracing, baseball games, football games, cock fights and who knows what else?

Frankly, yes. He had been in prison for tax evasion and moonshining, so illegal gambling probably fit right into his wheelhouse. 

I have tried to make sense of the numbers, but knowing nothing about figuring the odds and placing bets prevents me from presenting anything intelligent here. This is what I see:

  • The left page is almost always marked “Day” while the right page is marked “Night.”
  • The wide column contains 3 sets of numbers, mostly 3-digit but some 2-digit numbers. In every instance the 3rd number is the difference when you subtract the 1st number from the 2nd number.
  • The last number is always 4 digits. The round numbers suggest maybe they represent money, dollars and cents without a decimal point.

Another point of interest is that the entries are in blocks of roughly a week with each day carefully dated. It occurred to me that maybe the last number is the payout; however, every person has a number in the column. If the last number was a payout, there were no losers. That seems illogical. The last number must mean something else.

I don’t know why, but I decided to divide the 3rd number by the last number. In every weekly group, the “answer” within that week is almost the same. For example, 111 divided by 2220 is .05, as is 154 divided by 3080, and 93 divided by 1860. Does that mean the payout was .05 percent? Was Granddaddy’s fee .05%? See – I’m not a gambler, much less a Bookie.

Suddenly I noticed a pattern in the Day and Night entries. Looking across the corresponding day from day to night, I noticed that the second number during the day became the first number at night. The night’s second number became the next day’s first number. And so the pattern repeated through the week.

Repeating pattern of numbers in the Day and Night sides of the book

 So just what am I looking at?


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.

52 Ancestors - CHANGES: Oh the Things He Saw

One of the features I included in my coffee table book about the Jolletts was a list of inventions that an ancestor saw in his or her lifetime. Here is the list for my 2X great-grandfather James Franklin Jollett.


Steel plow


Rabies vaccine and box camera




Coca Cola


Vulcanized rubber


Railroad telegraph


Artificial fertilizer and transatlantic steamship service


Ballpoint pen and revolving door


Ether-based anesthesia


Coin operated telephone




Motion picture camera




Braille typewriter, horseless carriage


Double-tube tire


Hershey’s chocolate bar


Elias Howe sewing machine




Safety pin and hydraulic turbine


Diesel engine and cotton candy


Levi Straus bibless overalls


Paper clip


Singer sewing machine


Hamburger sandwich


Passenger elevator


Electric typewriter


Steel processing


Battery powered hearing aid


Shoe sole sewing machine, Mason jar, and undersea telegraph cable


Airplane and hand-cranked victrola


First commercial oil well in PA


Ice cream cone and comic books


Linoleum and repeating rifle


Juke box, postcards, and Yellow Pages


Ironclad ship (Monitor)


Animated cartoons


Revolving machine gun


Henry Ford’s Model T


Player piano


Neon lamp and Bakelite plastic


Pullman sleeping car for trains




Ice machine


Edison’s Kinetophone for talking movies, zipper, and assembly line


Dynamite and transatlantic cable


Kool Aid


All metal bicycle and time zones




Donut cutter and wood pulp as a source for paper


Electrocardiogram, rotary dial, and shortwave radio


Barbed wire




First Bell telephone and Edison’s wireless telegraph


Cotton swab


Cash register and Edison’s incandescent electric lamp




Eastman roll of film


Penicillin, bubble gum, and the iron lung


Electric clothes iron


Antibiotics and car radio


Fountain pen, Louisville Slugger, first roller coaster in America


Nylon and dry ice

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.

Photo Friday - Snow

Velma Davis October 1925

Snow on the campus of Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University - GO DUKES!) in October 1925! Velma is all dressed up but no boots.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sentimental Sunday


George Sampson died 17 Oct 1881 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was the husband of Drada Jollett, my 3X great-grandfather’s sister.

Findagrave Mem #131982121
Coffman Cemetery, Ronceverte, WV
George Sampson
Born July 24, 1796
Died Oct 17, 1881

John Wesley Jollett died in Page County, Virginia, 18 Oct 1916. He was my 2X great-grandfather’s brother.

John Wesley Jollett and wife Sarah Elizabeth
photo courtesy Jan Hensley

Millard Davis, my grandfather’s older brother, was born 19 Oct 1894 in Shenandoah, Virginia.

Orvin and Millard

On 19 Oct 1846, my 2X great-grandfather’s older sister Lydia Jollett married George Breeden.


On 19 Oct 1859, my 2X great-grandfather’s oldest brother Emanuel Jollett died in Page County, Virginia of typhoid fever.


My great-grandparents Joseph Calhoun Rucker and Sudie Eppard married on 21 Oct 1896 in Hagerstown, Maryland.

On 22 Oct 1904, Wilson Suite was born. He married my grandfather’s cousin Alda Clift.

Alda and Wilson Suite 1934
at a Jollett Reunion


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Photo Friday - On Our Way

Velma captioned this photo "On Our Way Where?"

I love this photo - It is the epitome of the joy and excitement of a new phase of life. In this case, it is young women entering college for the first time - they look ready to take on the world.

I don't know the first 2, but the last 3 from left to right are Thelma Hockman, Leta LeVow, and my grandaunt Velma Davis. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sentimental Sunday


My grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker died 11 Oct 1980.

Helen Parker 1957

My grandaunt Catherine Walsh Barany was born 12 Oct 1909.

Cat at home in DC

My great-grandfather Stephen Slade died 14 Oct 1928.

My great-grandfather John Fleming Walsh died 15 Oct 1918.

The only known photo of John F. Walsh
(these 2 chips are about 1")

My grandfather Orvin Davis died 16 Oct 1963.

Granddaddy and me 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Photo Friday - Leta

 My grandaunt Velma Davis's college roommate, Leta LeVow, in October 1924.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

52 Ancestors - PRESERVATION: Stay or Go?

I like to think that my grandparents and grandaunts were preservationists, but maybe they just forgot to throw stuff away.

Stuff retrieved from my grandparents' attic

Did they really intend to save old textbooks, store receipts, property tax receipts, automobile payment records, and old letters? Hardly the stuff that made eBay famous. Did they think this stuff was inherently interesting or did they just forget they had it? Ironically enough, each worthless scrap of paper has inspired a story here on Jollett Etc. In doing so, a bit of history, some insight into my ancestors’ lives, a window into how things were back when have been preserved forever, whether it was my relatives’ intention or not.

The Jolletts were always rather sentimental, so I understand keeping SOME things like the beautiful pine corner cupboard, James Franklin Jollett’s fireside chair from his youth, a Victorian parlor lamp, and fine silver. Every room of my house has SOMETHING handed down from someone. Admittedly, many people feel burdened by family heirlooms. Too much obligation and fear of guilt. But I believe in LIVING with those heirlooms, not shoving them into an attic. I use my great-grandmother’s Ball jars for canisters, a milk can as a corral for mops and brooms, a feed scoop to hold remotes, and my great-grandmother’s fireplace grate as an outdoor planter.

I used to be a purist when it came to preserving family heirlooms but not anymore. I could have sanded and stained my childhood rocker for my first grandchild, but I decided to paint it instead. When tastes and standards change to favor natural wood, let HER strip the paint off like I have done to countless washstands and tables.

Before and After

A few months ago, I decided to paint a round pedestal table with three carved legs that my grandmother once had in her living room. Now it is a bedside table painted to coordinate with a new color scheme. It is not a GREAT table – in fact, it’s a little crooked – but it has a story. It is the table that held my grandmother’s little Christmas tree.

Before and After

This past week my husband and I decided that it was finally a good time to clean out the garage. It was easy deciding to get rid of 20 cans of paint, some rusted yard ornaments, wine festival glasses, an old crockpot, dry-rotted volleyball net, and broken lawn chairs. But what about those old trunks? And my childhood bicycle? Trunks – no problem – no sentimental value so off to the thrift store they went. But my bicycle? Nope. Can’t do it.

My bike - Rollfast from about 1960

The question of what to do with it was answered in a serendipitous moment when my daughter sent this photo of Miss A on her little bike. My comment was: It’s time for a new bike.

Miss A - 2021

New bike! That’s it – I’ll fix up my bike. New tires. New seat. That should do it. Or so I thought.

I took my bike to a shop that specializes in bike repair and restoration. From the reactions of the owner and his employee, you would have thought I had brought in a priceless relic from the pyramids. They were jealous that I still have my first (and only, actually) bike, and they were impressed at the condition given its age. While I had intended to purchase tires and a seat, they highly recommended an overhaul to remove old grease in order for the bike to “go back into service,” as they put it. 

A couple years ago when I wrote a story about learning to ride, I also thought out loud about what to do with this bike taking up space in the garage. I had considered using it as yard art allowing vines to grow on it. I’m glad I passed on that idea. Now in a couple weeks, my grandgirl will have a bigger bike to ride, one with a history and a story going back to her great-great grandfather who bought it and helped her grandmother learn to ride. 

I’ve come to realize that if something has a story, it is hard to let it go. Now what to do about this old croquet set missing two balls and half the wickets. . . .

Now and Before

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.