Friday, November 15, 2019

Thomas Drayton Poore

The Poore Family—Thomas Drayton Poore, wife
Nancy Louise (Martin) Poore, daughter
Beulah C. Poore, older son Edron Poore, and
younger son Cary Evans Poore.
Photo shared by Jennifer Williams Colton.
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “poor man.”

Last weekend, I looked in the family tree to see if I had anyone with the name Poor and found Beulah C. Poore. I did a little research and then remembered the theme was poor “man,” not woman. Before I changed course, I found a newspaper article about her father, Thomas Drayton Poore that piqued my interest so decided to keep it in the family. I’m glad I did! Thomas had an interesting story to tell.

Thomas Drayton Poore, son of Samuel Evans Poore and Mary Ann Bennett, was born on February 8, 1862 in the White Plains community of Anderson County, South Carolina. There were 13 children born to this family—Sarah Frances Poore, Mary Elizabeth Poore, Savilla Ann Poore, William Lander Poore, Thomas Drayton Poore, Hugh Dean Poore, Julia Elvenia Poore, Anna Dean Poore, John W. Poore, Ruth Della Poore, George Bennett Poore, Ada D. Poore, and Ida Venie Poore.

Thomas’ connection to me is a distant one in my Holland line—father-in-law of 2nd cousin 2x removed. The connection goes through my 2nd great grandfather’s (Leroy Thomas Holland) brother, Elijah Major Holland. Elijah had a daughter named Matilda Armathine Holland > Matilda’s son was James Furman Geer > James’ wife was Beulah C. Poore > Beulah’s father was Thomas Drayton Poore. We have no common relative.

On August 25, 1870, eight-year-old Thomas and his family lived in the Williamston Township of Anderson County, South Carolina. His father had real estate valued at $300 and a personal estate of $160. Thomas’ mother was keeping house. His three oldest sisters—Sarah, Mary, and Saville—were working on the farm. There was a 12-year-old black male named Elijah Owen working on the farm.

On June 22, 1880, Thomas and his family were still living in Williamston. His father was a farmer and his mother keeping house. Thomas had not attended school during that census year and was unable to read or write, along with his parents, and most of his siblings.

Thomas married Nancy Louise Martin, daughter of Jacob Calloway Martin and Margaret Louisa Ritchey on November 16, 1882. The ceremony was held at the Martin family home in Williamston and was performed by the Rev. G. M. Rogers. Thomas and Nancy had nine children—Beulah Corine Poore, Edron Gary Poore, Cary Evans Poore, Ida Dean Poore, Lula D. Poore, Furman George Poore, Thomas Kieffer Poore, Zora May Poore, and Mary Sam Poore. Thomas and Nancy lived with her parents near Williamston “for a number of years.”

The Poore family suffered a loss on April 12, 1895 when daughter Lula was born and died. Lula was laid to rest in the White Plains Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson County, South Carolina.

Thomas and Nancy moved to Westminster in 1900, which is where the census enumerator found them on June 12, 1900. The enumerator did not list an occupation for either of them. Nancy was however, enumerated as having had eight children, seven of which were living. Thomas and Nancy had been married for 17 years at this point. Beulah, Ida, and Furman were attending school. Both Edron and Cary were attending school but were also working as farm laborers. Thomas, Nancy, Beulah, Edron, Cary, and Ida were all able to read and write. While Furman was attending school at age five, he was just learning to read and write. They became active in their community and the Westminster Baptist Church. Thomas served as a Deacon for many years.

On January 15, 1908, a joyous occasion occurred when daughter Beulah married Furman Geer, a “popular driver of the Ligon hose wagon of the fire department.”

Thomas, a farmer and real estate dealer, was well known and respected in his community. On April 11, 1908, suffering from a throat condition, he started to lose his voice. By December 18, he was unable to talk at all, not even a whisper. Thomas “had been a public speaker, and for many years had been accustomed to sing in the church, his tones being unusually strong and clear.” The doctors, unable to help Thomas, told him his voice loss was due to “a case of nervous indigestion that had been troubling him for a long time.” Thomas’ voice loss would last for three years.

By April 26, 1910, Thomas and his family had moved to the town of Westminster in the Tugaloo Township of Oconee County, South Carolina. There were five children still living at home—Ida, Furman, Thomas, Zora, and Mary. Thomas was a farmer on the home farm. Furman was a salesman in a general merchandise store.

Thomas did not let his voice loss stop him from attending church. He was a “member and officer” at the “Baptist church in Westminster.” On February 7, 1911, a Baptist missionary named Rev. S. E. Stephens, assisted by Rev. F. G. Lavender, was holding a lengthy revival service. During a prayer service, Thomas “wrote on a slip of paper a request that prayer be offered for him that God would give him grace to bear his affliction.” Prayers were offered “that it might be God’s will to restore to him his voice,” … “but if it was not for the glory of God that it be removed that their brother might be given grace to bear it to God’s glory and praise.” After the prayer service ended, the congregation of 400 people sang a hymn. To his surprise, Thomas found that he was able to sing, loud and clear, and he ran to the front of the church. He asked the congregation to sing two songs, “Nearer, My God, to Thee” and “Praise God, from Whom All Blessing Flow” and he loudly joined in the hymns.

Word spread through town and, in fact, the country, about his sudden voice restoration. Thomas’ story was reported in at least Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, California, Kentucky, Mississippi, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. Fearing people wouldn’t believe what had happened was true, on April 2, 1911, Thomas submitted a written statement, or an “affidavit,” testifying to the events that had taken place. He wasn’t the only person to submit an affidavit. His physician, Burt Mitchell, M.D., did as well. Dr. Mitchell was well aware of Thomas’ health issues (an attack of neuralgia and the nervous indigestion) and his voice loss. Dr. Mitchell knew of the prayers offered and the voice restoration and determined that it was due to Thomas’ faith in God. Rev. Lavender, the pastor of the church, also submitted an affidavit testifying “that he was present at the service when Mr. Thomas Drayton Poore’s power of speech was returned to him; that the return followed four especial prayers offered in behalf of Mr. Poore.” Rev. Lavender felt that Thomas’ “return of voice was a direct answer to these prayers.” It was truly a miracle.

Thomas' story made the front page news in many cities  throughout the United States

In August 1911, Thomas went back to Anderson and was expected to visit White Plains Baptist Church where he would most likely talk about his experience. The Anderson Daily Mail wrote about him on August 4, 1911:
… In speaking about his health today, Mr. Poore says that he has grown stronger and heartier every day since his voice was restored. At no time since last February has he felt his voice weaken, and to-day he talks better than he did before his voice left him nearly four years ago. Mr. Poore has received a hundred or more letters from people from all sections of the United States inquiring about the miracle and asking him to vouch for the newspaper accounts. One magazine in California has published a detailed account of the restoration of his voice in answer to prayer.
Mr. Poore is 47 years of age, and is pleasantly remembered in Anderson County where he has a host of friends. He was kept busy today shaking hands with former acquaintances and receiving their congratulations. He is a man of means, having acquired considerable property, and has now retired from active business.
Family papers that were in the possession of Louise Poore Williams revealed Thomas’ thoughts on the matter, in his own words as published in the Tribune on February 7, 1914:
Three Years Ago (written by T. D. Poore), Westminster, S.C., February 7, 1914.
Mr. Editor of Tribune and Readers of Same: 
Three years ago today, in our meeting in the Baptist church, God saw fit to give my voice back to me, after special prayer was made on my behalf, and I began to sing and to talk and to give God the praise for the blessings that I have received. And I am still praising him today. 
The protracted services three years started on January 31, at night, with our then pastor, Rev. F. G. Lavender assisted by Rev. S. E. Stephens, doing the preaching. Bro. Stephens is a great preacher and has great faith of God. He is now doing a great work in China, of which I am glad. In the meeting three years ago many were drawn closer to God. Twenty-seven were added to the church by baptism. 
Today I think of the many changes that has come to us in the three years just gone—I say short, for it seems so short. Some have moved from us into other fields. Bro. Lavender, our pastor at that time, is among the number, and we hear he is doing great work. And some have stopped attending services with us that were with us then. And some have gone to their reward. Bro. C. E. O. Mitchell, who was superintendent of our Sabbath school at that time, is in this number. He enjoyed greatly being in this meeting and rejoiced when he saw me so blessed. He often spoke of this glad day, which was a great day with many. 
The day I speak of was the day before my birthday, and we were all so over-joyed that we forgot all about my birthday. So, tomorrow is my birthday, which brings me to 52. Here I stop and study for a moment. What is my greatest desire? Here it is: To see the old saved now, before they are called away. Sad, sad, to be old and in sin, and Jesus saying, Come and be saved. Lost man, won’t you come and be saved? Will you?
To honor their mother, Mary Ann Bennett Poore, the Poore family held their first family reunion at the home of Venie Poore Atkins in Sandy Springs, South Carolina in May 1914. It took all morning for the approximately 100 guests to arrive, including all but two of her children, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The family enjoyed a large dinner and speeches by both Thomas and S. B. Sullivan.

On January 2, 1920, Thomas and his family lived on North Maine Street in Westminster. Mary was the only child left at home. Thomas was a manager on a general farm.

By April 9, 1930, Thomas, Nancy, and Mary had moved to Simpson Street in Westminster. The census enumerator noted that Thomas was 20 and Nancy 15 when they first married. Thomas was a farmer and Mary a saleslady in a dry goods store.

On November 16, 1932, family and friends gathered at the Poore home to celebrate Thomas and Nancy’s golden anniversary—50 years of marriage. The home was decorated in a gold theme of fall flowers. A buffet dinner was served that “with a few changes was a duplicate of the one served at the wedding 50 years ago.” After dinner, guests enjoyed two wedding cakes—one an “immense heart-shaped wedding cake in three tiers, elaborately decorated and tapped with a miniature bride and groom” and a second cake “containing the traditional bridal emblems.” Guests received “small cards bearing the dates in gold and tied with gold ribbon.”

Thomas Drayton Poore and his wife Nancy Louise Martin Poore
on their 50th wedding anniversary. The Greenville News
ran a story about their anniversary celebration which included
this photo on November 27, 1932.
(Photo shared by Jennifer Williams Colton.)

Thomas’ son Kieffer died on January 26, 1934. The Louise Poore Williams family papers revealed that Kieffer “was a Baptist minister until his health began to fail him. When driving through Kewanee, Mississippi, he ran into the back of a wagon pulled by horses. Kieffer was killed instantly when the tongue of the wagon penetrated his car.” He was buried at Shorts Baptist Cemetery in Sumter County, Alabama. Another son, Furman, died on March 13, 1935. He was buried at East View Cemetery in Westminster, Oconee County, South Carolina.

By April 25, 1940, Thomas had moved once again, this time to Wins Street in Westminster. All of the children had now left home. Thomas and Nancy were enumerated as having an elementary school education with the highest-grade completed by Thomas being the sixth grade and Nancy the fifth grade. At the age of 78, Thomas was working a full 40-hour week on the farm.

Thomas’ son Edron died on March 21, 1942. He was buried at Westminster Memorial Park in Westminster. Thomas’ wife Nancy died at home in Williamston on March 15, 1944. The doctor’s handwriting on Nancy’s death certificate is very hard to read but I’m able to decipher two of the five lines listed as cause of death. One was arteriosclerosis, a “thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity of the walls of arteries” according to Wikipedia. The other was myocardial degeneration, which means she had heart issues. Nancy was buried at East View Cemetery in Westminster, Oconee County, South Carolina on March 17. Revs. H. M. Fallaw and N. J. Stansell officiated. The family barely had time to recover from Nancy’s death when Thomas’ daughter Beulah died of chronic nephritis on May 12, 1945 at the age of 61. She was buried the next day at East View Cemetery in Westminster. And less than one year later, Thomas died at his home in Westminster at the age of 84 on April 18, 1946 of a cerebral hemorrhage due to hypertension. He was survived by one son and three daughters; two brothers and two sisters; 19 grandchildren and one great grandchild. His funeral was held on April 21 at the home of Rev. W. S. Crommer, who performed the service. Rev. Crommer was assisted by Revs. H. M. Fowler and W. M. Major. Thomas was buried at East View Cemetery in Westminster. I’ll note that Thomas’ death certificate records his death date as Thursday, April 18, however, the newspapers recorded his death date as Friday, April 19, the same date you’ll find on his tombstone.

Partial view of Thomas' death certificate showing the dates

An interesting piece of information from the Louise Poore Williams family papers revealed that “Thomas Drayton Poore dreamed that the undertaker would part his hair on the wrong side. This dream seemed to bother him and he conveyed this concern to Mary Sam Poore and Ida Dean Poore Moore Bottoms. When the daughters first viewed the body of their father, they realized that the dream had become true as their father had said it would.”

Photo by Robert Barbi, Find A Grave member 46889958

I’d like to thank Jennifer Williams Colton for sharing photos and family papers with me. They definitely helped to tell Thomas’ story.


  • “Answer Prayer—The Power of Speech Was Restored to a Man at Westminster, S.C.—Dumb for Three Years,” The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, April 11, 1911.
  • “Comes to Oconee for Bride,” Keowee Courier, Pickens, South Carolina, January 22, 1908.
  • “Dumb Man Cured as Friends Pray: Remarkable Case of Restored Speech Reported,” The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Indiana, April 12, 1911.
  • “Dumb Man Sings Doxology,” The Tampa Tribune, Tampa, Florida, April 16, 1911. 
  • “Dumb Two Years He Now Sings Doxology,” The Bristol Evening News, Bristol, Tennessee, April 14, 1911.
  • “Mr. T. D. Poore Visits in Anderson,” Anderson Daily Mail, August 4, 1911.
  • “Mrs. T. D. Poore,” The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, March 16, 1944 and March 17, 1944.
  • “Prayer Restores His Voice,” Thinks Man Long Dumb,” The Washington Times, Washington, District of Columbia, April 9, 1911.
  • “Prayers Answered and Man Recovers Voice,” The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colorado, April 11, 1911.
  • “Restored by Prayer,” Jackson Daily News, Jackson, Mississippi, April 9, 1911.
  • “Reunion of the Poore Family,” Keowee Courier, Pickens, South Carolina, May 20, 1914.
  • “Speech Restored by Prayer,” The Opp Messenger, Opp, Alabama, April 14, 1911.
  • “Thomas D. Poore,” The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, April 20, 1946.
  • “Thomas D. Poore,” The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, April 21, 1946.
  • “Voice is Restored as Friends Pray, The Bedford Daily Mail, Bedford, Indiana, May 20, 1911.
  • “Voice is Restored as Friends Pray,” Escanaba Morning Press, Escanaba, Michigan, May 23, 1911.
  • “Voice is Restored as Friends Pray,” Hopkinsville Kentuckian, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, July 4, 1911.
  • “Voice is Restored as Friends Pray,” Journal Gazette, Mattoon, Illinois, June 21, 1911.
  • “Voice is Restored as Friends Pray,” The Donaldsonville Chief, Donaldsonville, Louisiana, June 3, 1911.
  • “Voice is Restored as Friends Pray,” The Sheboygan Press, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, May 18, 1911.
  • “Voice Recovered After Prayers Are Offered,” Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, April 9, 1911.
  • Arteriosclerosis;
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 10 November 2019), memorial page for Thomas Drayton Poore (8 Feb 1862–19 Apr 1946), Find A Grave Memorial no. 66269557, citing East View Cemetery, Westminster, Oconee County, South Carolina, USA; maintained by Jennifer Williams Colton (contributor 47309836).
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 10 November 2019), memorial page for Edron G. Poore (1886–1942), Find A Grave Memorial no. 121546481, citing Westminster Memorial Park, Westminster, Oconee County, South Carolina, USA; maintained by Dora Brown (contributor 47895331).
  • Personal Poore family papers that were in the possession of Louise Poore Williams.
  • Savilla A. Hiott obituary, The Greenville News, Greenville, SC, May 20, 1937.
  • Shorts Baptist Cemetery, Sumter County, AL, by Sarah Mozingo, June, 1998;
  • Standard Certificate of Death no. 09735, State of South Carolina, Thomas Drayton Poore.
  • Standard Certificate of Death no. 09911, State of South Carolina, Edron Gary Poore.
  • Standard Certificate of Death no. 12778, State of South Carolina, Mrs. J. F. Geer.
  • The Coffeyville Daily Journal, Coffeyville, Kansas, April 18, 1911.
  • The Democratic Advocate, Westminster, Maryland, April 14, 1911.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Tugaloo, Oconee, South Carolina, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Westminster, Oconee, South Carolina, 1920, 1930, 1940.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Williamston, Anderson, South Carolina, 1870, 1880.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Williamston, Anderson, South Carolina, 1900.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Boot camp graduation, Company 1845, U.S. Navy

Two years ago, I blogged about my Daddy, Samuel Terrell Lankford—a U.S. Navy veteran. Tonight, I have an update to that post I want to share since tomorrow is Veterans Day.

Company 1845, U.S. Navy, United States Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois
(October 19, 1944 - click to enlarge)

Daddy passed away this past August and while I was home for his funeral, my brother gave me a picture I’d never seen before from Daddy’s Naval Training Center boot camp graduation in October 1944. When Michael handed the picture to me, it was rolled up tightly. When unrolled, you could see it has several cracks in it. Daddy is in the front row, 10th person from the left. Luckily, the crack that covers his body missed his face. He’s the only person I can identify in the picture.

Close-up of Samuel Terrell Lankford (center)

According to the Recruit Training Command web page, there were more than one million Sailors trained at Great Lakes between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945. Daddy was one of them.

The picture shows that this was Company 1845, United States Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. You can see a sign in the background that reads 21st Regiment. I don’t know if that relates to this Company or just to the ship photos behind the sailors. The picture was taken on October 19, 1944 so Daddy would have been 18 years old at the time.

Daddy would go on to serve as a cook on the U.S.S. Laffey.

Thank you again, Daddy, for your service!


Friday, November 8, 2019

William Owen Cheney Sr.

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “rich man.”

This blog post is another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

William Owen Cheney Sr., son of John Cheney and Catherine “Katie” Evans Owen, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia on September 30, 1809. The Cheney family was a large one. William’s father had eight children by his first wife, Rachel Benson, and eight children by his second wife, Catherine Owen. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, several of the children did not survive infancy. The children from John’s first marriage were Aquilla Cheney, Thomas Benson Cheney, Julia Cheney, Richard Cheney, Margaret Cheney, John Cheney, Samuel Cheney, and Joseph Cheney. The children from John’s second marriage were Drucilla Echols Cheney, Sarah Harris Cheney, William Owen Cheney, Elizabeth Evans Cheney, Harriet Holcomb Cheney, Melissa Baldwin Cheney, Rhoda Ann Cheney, and Marian Catherine Jane Cheney.

William’s connection to me is very distant—we have no common relative, however, there is a connection. William is the great grandfather of husband of 2nd cousin 3x removed. The connection runs through my 4th great grandfather, Charles L. Lankford. Charles’ son was Robert Chester Lankford > Robert’s son was William Mell Lankford > William’s daughter was Pauline Lankford > Pauline’s husband was Harold A. English > Harold’s father was Patrick M. English > Patrick’s mother was Martha Sarah Cheney > Martha’s father was William Owen Cheney.

William’s father served in Captain Levin Winder’s company in the First Maryland Regiment during the Revolutionary War.

William married Mary Elizabeth Callaway, daughter of Rev. Enoch Callaway and Martha Patsy Reeves, in Wilkes County, Georgia on November 4, 1829. Together they had at least 13 children—Enoch Reeves Cheney, Martha Sarah Cheney, Almarine Catherine Cheney, William Owen Cheney Jr., John Franklin Cheney, Mary Elizabeth Cheney, Rhoda Ann Cheney, Reuben (or Robert) Sumpter Cheney, Thomas Butler Cheney, Felicia Melanie Cheney, Melissa Lurine Cheney, Howell Cheney, and Patrick Mell Cheney. There may have also been a son named Joseph Benson Cheney. Two of his children became ministers—John and Reuben. His son William Jr. became a physician/surgeon.
William’s father died at the age of 72 in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia on October 19, 1837. John was buried at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield.

Marriage license for William O. Cheney and Elizabeth Callaway

William moved from Wilkes to Greene County in December 1839. He remained there the rest of his life.

On October 31, 1850, William, his wife, children, and mother lived in District 161 of Greene County, Georgia. William was a farmer with real estate valued at $5,000. He owned 30 slaves, many of them children. Four years later, William’s mother died at his Greene County home on May 14, 1854. Catherine, a native of Virginia, was 73 years old at the time of her death. She was buried at Penfield Cemetery with his father. William was the administrator of her estate later that year. All of her perishable property, including horses, hogs, plantation tools, corn, fodder, oats, cotton seed, among other things, were sold at her late residence in Greene County, along with a total of 760 acres of land.
On June 2, 1860, William and his family lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. At this point, there were only four children remaining in the home—Mary, Rhoda, Reuben, and Patrick. There was a 33-year-old seamstress named Emily Moore living in the home with the family. William was a farmer with real estate valued at $4,750 and a personal estate valued at $18,000. William was managing the farm with the help of 20 slaves, eight of which were children.

On June 3, 1870, William, Elizabeth, and Patrick lived in Penfield. Unlike years past, the census enumerator didn’t record any real or personal estate for William. Instead, he recorded real estate valued at $1,600 and a personal estate of $800 for Elizabeth. William was a farmer, Elizabeth keeping house, and their son Patrick was a farm laborer.

William died of liver and heart disease in Georgia on Sunday, August 6, 1871. He was buried at Bairdstown Baptist Church Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. His will, probated in Greene County on January 28, 1871, left his whole estate and personal belongings to his wife Elizabeth, 150 acres of land as the homestead, and 800 acres of land. William willed that his son Patrick Mell Cheney remain with his mother until he reached majority. William also willed that Patrick’s board, clothing, and education should be paid for by the estate, and that he receive one good horse, bridle, saddle, one bed and bedstead, furniture, and $50 worth of household and kitchen furniture. Should Elizabeth die before Patrick was educated, then he would receive the homestead and 250 acres of land. William appointed his son Enoch as the executor of the will. When Elizabeth died, their son Enoch was to receive 50 acres of land. The remainder of his land was to be sold and the proceeds would be equally divided between sons John and Robert, and his sons-in-law William H. McWhorter and John S. Wheatly. William’s household and kitchen furniture were to be shared between his sons Enoch, William Jr., John, Robert, and Patrick Cheney, and his son-in-law Stephen English.

William’s tombstone at Bairdstown Cemetery reads:
Sacred to the memory of Wm. O. Cheney, Sen.
Born, Sept 30th, 1809
Died, August 6th, 1871
By the grace of God I am what I am
Two things strike me about the grave—the “Sen.” after his name on the stone and the Southern Cross of Honor marker at the head of his grave. I thought the “Sen.” meant that William was a senator but I don’t find him listed anywhere as a state or U.S. senator. I also don’t find that he served during the Civil War. I do find a military record for his son, William O. Cheney Jr., who was a surgeon with the 7th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry (State Guards). I’ll keep an eye out for a record that documents his service, if he in fact did serve.

William's grave (2012)

Southern Cross of Honor Marker at the head of William's grave

William’s marker is also showing its age. Until this past August, it had been seven years since I last visited Bairdstown Cemetery. When I do visit, I always walk the cemetery with my camera and on both occasions, snapped a photo of William’s grave. When you compare the photos, you’ll notice considerable damage has taken place since my last visit.

William's grave (August 2019)

William's grave (August 2019)
By all accounts, William was a rich man. It appears he was very comfortable financially with a large plantation and plenty of land and he was surrounded by his large family, which is worth more than money can buy.


  • Administrator’s Sale, The Temperance Banner, Penfield, Georgia, December 23, 1854.
  • Austin, Jeannette Holland, The Georgians: Genealogies of Pioneer Settlers, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1984.
  • Cheney, William O., U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861–1865.
  • Executor’s Sale, The Temperance Banner, Penfield, Georgia, September 09, 1854.
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 02 November 2019), memorial page for William Owen Cheney, Sr. (30 Sep 1809–6 Aug 1871), Find A Grave Memorial no. 24039548, citing Bairdstown Cemetery, Oglethorpe County, Georgia, USA ; maintained by Alice Wolfe Allen (contributor 47160492).
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 03 November 2019), memorial page for John Cheney (30 Aug 1765–19 Oct 1837), Find A Grave Memorial no. 73550153, citing Penfield Cemetery, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Don Sharp (contributor 48167782).
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 03 November 2019), memorial page for Catherine Evans Owen Cheney (3 Jan 1781–14 May 1854), Find A Grave Memorial no. 14469345, citing Penfield Cemetery, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Mz Fish (contributor 46622368).
  • Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828–1978 for William O. Chaney.
  • Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828–1978.
  • Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742–1992.
  • Lasher, George William, The Ministerial Directory of the Baptist Churches in the United States of America, Ministerial Directory Company, 1899.
  • Last Will and Testament, William O. Cheney, Sr.
  • McCall, Howard H., Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers in Georgia, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2010.
  • Obituary, Catherine E. Cheney, The Temperance Banner, Penfield, Georgia, May 27, 1854.
  • Orrell, R. L., Descendants of Richard Cheney of Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
  • U.S. Federal Census, District 161, Greene County, Georgia, 1850.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Penfield, Militia District 141, Greene County, Georgia, 1870.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedule, Greene County, Georgia, 1850.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Woodville, Greene County, Georgia, 1860.
  • William O. Cheney, Sr. Death, Herald-Journal, Greene County, Georgia, date unknown.
  • William Owen Cheney photo from Brown, Tomlin, Hearn, Fambrough tree, stewartbrown71,, August 15, 2009.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Memories of trick or treating

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “trick or treat.”

I hate Halloween. Well, that’s pretty harsh, but I really don’t like Halloween. That being said, I do have a few fond memories of All Hallows’ Eve and going trick or treating with my sisters and brother.

Of course, there was always the build up to Halloween—a party at school, carving a pumpkin, and watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. If you missed Charlie Brown, that was your loss. You only got one chance since that was long before VCRs, DVDs, and cable TV. Then we had to figure out what our costume would be. There were no store-bought costumes for us, other than maybe a mask. We’d go through old clothes and pick out something to wear, usually ending up as a hobo. My brother Michael remembers being a ghost one year. That probably meant throwing an old sheet over his head after Mama cut eyes out so he could see. When Halloween finally arrived, we’d all grab a Big Apple sack for our candy haul and off we’d go. Now mind you, it wasn’t just an ordinary paper sack. It was a Big Apple sack, from the local grocery store that Mama shopped at. She made that clear to me when I asked her what she remembered about Halloween. We used Big Apple sacks for many things, including as luggage when we went to Florida. Michael said we each had our own, LoL.

Early on, Mama walked with us. As we got older, we walked the neighborhood by ourselves. Mama remembers it was always wet on Halloween, either from rain or dew on the grass. We hit the neighborhood streets before dark, dragging our Big Apple sacks on the ground as we walked. Inevitably, the sack bottoms got wet and ripped open. Whoever walked behind that person got the benefit of the now bottomless sack. We all remember that happening to Michael one year. He cried all the way home after he realized he lost his candy. Mama made us split our candy with him that night. He used a pillowcase the next year!

Once we got home, all five of us dumped our candy out on the table to pick out what we liked. We traded candy to get our favorites until everybody was happy. We had enough candy to last for days—or so we thought. What I learned just a few years ago was that every day after we left for school, Mama took a handful of candy out of each sack and threw it away so we didn’t eat so much candy. My sister Vanessa must have known Mama was doing that because she told me she hid her candy in the closet so Mama wouldn’t find hers.

Some people went over and beyond to make Halloween special for the neighborhood children. I remember one year going to the house of a girl I went to school with. Her father was a butcher and he set up a horror butcher shop in their basement for the children to walk through. It had different stations set up with bowls or buckets of chicken parts and no telling what else for the children to stick their hands in to feel whatever was in it. It’s gross when I think about it now but I remember we liked it then. Mama said we all washed our hands before we left the basement, thank goodness! My sister Bonita remembers going to a house not far from our house. The family that lived there decorated the inside of their house and let the children walk through to see the decorations. When you walked out of the back door, they had a table filled with hot dogs for everyone to eat. Bonita remembers another house or two that gave out money with the candy.

Colleen and Charlie

My husband remembers that they left the house with an empty pillowcase right after dinner. When the pillowcase was full, they came home, emptied it, and headed back out. He said they did that several times before the night ended. Once they finished trick or treating, his Mom spread the candy out on the floor to pick out anything that was open and tossed it out. As a teenager, they still went out and walked and walked and walked the neighborhood, again coming home with pillowcases full of candy. And yes, his Mom still spread the candy out on the living room floor and went through it. He said they weren’t supposed to eat any candy until they got home and let his parents look through it and sample it first to make sure it was good. As expected though, Charlie said they ate plenty of candy before they got home.

Unlike today, we stayed out for hours and we didn’t have to worry about crazy people doing crazy things to children. Today, children still go trick or treating, but many go to parties or a local mall to trick or treat instead, making their own rocking chair memories.

Thanks to my Mama, Bonita, Jennifer, Michael, Vanessa, and Charlie for sharing their memories with me.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A boy and his bicycle

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “transportation.”

Transportation comes in many forms, but for a child, they’re limited. For most children, a bike would be the most common form of transportation. It would get you to your friend’s house, to the local store, and even help you earn a little money. My husband remembers using his bike to deliver newspapers. He also remembers having a bike that he customized by extending the front forks that held the wheel on, making the bike look like a chopper. The boy in this picture did something similar but instead of extending it outward, he extended it upward.

Unfortunately, we don’t know who this boy is. This photo is part of the slide collection that once belonged to my husband Charlie’s uncle, Ralph Murphy. Charlie’s aunt, Jean Murphy, gave him the slide collection, which consists of 15 boxes of slides (thousands), in 2007. The photos were taken by Uncle Ralph and span the years 1947 to 1984. Many are scenic shots from their travels across the United States, some are family members, and others friends and co-workers. I converted the majority of the slides to digital several years ago. We’re able to identify many of the people in the photos, but not in this case. Our best guess is that this boy lived in West Virginia, probably Nutter Fort, in the 1960s. If you recognize him, I’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to see more photos from Uncle Ralph’s collection, click on the links below.

The beauty of nature

Ruth Miller

Share your photos and make a difference

Water sports at Tygart Lake

Nutter Fort, West Virginia Soap Box Derby

Warner’s Skyline Drive-In Theater

Palace Furniture Company and Pepsi-Cola—a colorful combination

Vintage Christmas photos

52 Ancestors – no. 40: Anna B. Church – (week 24) (Anna (Church) and Everett Evans photos only)

Friday, October 18, 2019

James Athya

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “adventure.”

I don't have a picture of James but this
picture of his parents, Margaret Shaw Athya
and Robert Durie Athya, will give you
and idea of what he looked like.
James Athya, son of Robert Durie Athya and Margaret Shaw, was born in Bellshill, Scotland about 1920. He was the oldest child of three—James Athya, Margaret Shaw Athya, and Robert Durie Athya Jr. James would be my husband’s 1st cousin 1x removed. Their nearest common relatives are James Athya and Jemima Durie, his paternal grandparents and my husband’s maternal great-grandparents.

Following the Scottish naming pattern of the first son being named after his father’s father, James was named for his paternal grandfather, James Athya. Sadly, baby James would never know his grandfather who died in 1913.

James was one year old when his sister Margaret was born in 1921 and four years old when Robert Jr. was born in 1924. When James was just six years old, his mother was stricken with encephalitis lethargica (also known as “sleeping sickness”) and died on August 9, 1926 at Connolly Hospital in Motherwell, a town in Lanarkshire, Scotland. According to Wikipedia, “Between 1915 and 1926, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica spread around the world. Nearly five million people were affected, a third of whom died in the acute stages. Many of those who survived never returned to their pre-existing ‘aliveness.’” His mother’s burial location is unknown to me, but I would assume she was buried somewhere in Bellshill or perhaps taken to Inverness-shire where she was born. The Dalziel Parish, County of Lanark death registry recorded her age as 37 years. Now James’ father Robert was left to raise three young children alone. Both of his parents were gone so he would get no help there.

Ellis Island in 1905, A. Coeffler [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons;
In 1930, Robert made the decision to travel to America where his brother George Athya and sister Margaret (Maggie) Athya Close were already living. On June 6, the family boarded the S.S. Translyvania in Glasgow, Scotland, and James was off on his first big adventure. They left his aunt Lizzie Athya Anderson behind in Rutherglen. My guess is that aunt Lizzie had been a mother figure to James after the death of his mother. The final destination for the Athya family was West Apollo, Pennsylvania where George Athya lived. The ship manifest contained some of James’ physical characteristics noting that he was of average height, had a fair complexion and hair, and blue eyes. He had no marks of identification on his body. James was in good health, both physically and mentally, which probably helped him on the journey to America. Traveling as third-class passengers would have been anything but an adventure. They arrived in Ellis Island in New York on June 15 as reported in the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York on June 16.

T.S.S. Transylvania.
This file is from flickr. Author is unknown
[CC BY 2.0 (]

Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, June 16, 1930

Their stay in America was to be permanent. Once in New York, they had to travel over 350 miles to Apollo. By 1935, James and his family had moved to Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio where James’ aunt Maggie lived with her family. Steubenville is located about 70 miles west of Apollo.

In 1939, James set out on another adventure. While still living in Steubenville, he headed south seeking a good time at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana. He never made it though and his adventure ended up being a 10 day stay in an Alabama jail instead. James and another young man named Jesse Williams were apparently riding the blinds on a west bound Louisville and Nashville (L&N) freight and passenger train in Bay Minette, a city in Mobile County, Alabama. They were caught and arrested as vagrants by deputies Ben Kucera and J. B. Pruitt. J. M. Franklin, the justice of the peace, sentenced them to 10 days in jail. I didn’t know what riding the blinds meant so had to look it up. Debra Devi, author of Language of the Blues: Riding the Blinds, described “riding the blinds” as “the dangerous hobo practice of riding between cars on a moving freight train, so as to be out of sight of the train crew or police. On a passenger train, this spot was the walkway between the cars. ... Hobos also rode in the spaces between the baggage or mail cars near the coal tender.” James would have done better for himself if he had just paid for a ticket to New Orleans. James’ convict record noted that he was charged with the crime of vagrancy for evading railroad fare. His sentence began on February 24, 1939 for a term of 30 days. He was received on March 4 in good condition. His teeth were good and he weighed 117 pounds.

Convict record for James Athya

On April 3, 1940, James was living at the Union Mission in Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia. Union Mission, a service organization that ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of the needy that opened in 1911 and is still in operation today. In addition to living at the Mission, James worked as a bailer in the industrial department there for an income of $400 (per year). He was enumerated as Jimmy Athya, born in Ohio, which we know is not true. At 20 years of age, the highest grade he’d completed was his first year in high school.

We don't have proof but the family story is that James died in a car accident in Florida about 1941. Family members heard he went through the roof of the car which makes them think it was a convertible. He was working for a carnival at the time, another adventure I’d love to have more information about. I have yet to find a death record for James and note that the estimated date is based on a letter I received from my husband’s uncle John T. Athya in March 2001. For someone whose life was cut short at the young age of 21, James had more adventures than some people see in a lifetime.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Camp Fire Girls memorabilia

Mary's spiral notebook
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “context.”

One of the items we found in my mother-in-law’s (Mary Athya Murphy) belongings after she passed away was a spiral composition book. Inside the book, she had written about birds, trees, flags, and famous women. There were also several items tucked inside the pages of the book. I wanted to know more about this book and it’s contents so decided to do some research to understand the context of what I found inside. After all, she’d kept the book for 65 years so it must have had special meaning to her.

On the first page, Mary wrote “Camp Fire Note-book” in her distinct, neat handwriting. Below that she also wrote … “Make a book of a (sic) least 8 pages, telling about birds, flowers, trees, & other things of nature.” So right off the bat, you know she must have been a Camp Fire Girl. According to Wikipedia, the Camp Fire Girls dates back to 1910 and “was created as the sister organization to the Boy Scouts of America. The organization changed its name in 1975 to Camp Fire Boys and Girls when membership eligibility was expanded to include boys. In 2001, the name Camp Fire USA was adopted, and in 2012 it became Camp Fire.”

Introduction page to Mary's Camp Fire Girls book

Mary kept three membership cards that show she was a Camp Fire Girl in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania from November 1940 to November 1943. Her group leader, or guardian, was Mrs. Jess (Jane) Jackson for the first and second years. Jane had a daughter named Jessie Jane Jackson who was the same age as Mary according to the Register of Baptisms for the First Presbyterian Church in Apollo. The guardian in Mary’s third year was Irene Owens.

Membership card, year 1 (Nov. 1940 to Nov. 1941)

Membership card envelope, year 1

Membership card, year 2 (Nov. 1941 to Nov. 1942)

Membership card envelope, year 2

Mary achieved the rank of Trail Seeker in May 1941. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Trail Seeker rank is “the first of four ranks attained by Camp Fire Girls.” The other three ranks were listed on the membership card as Wood Gatherer, Fire Maker, and Torch Bearer. Achieving the four ranks was important enough to the Camp Fire Girls that it was often reported in the local newspapers. Hiking was also important to the Camp Fire Girls. In a statement by James A. McCafferty, President of the Potomac Area Council of the Camp Fire Girls during 1967 Senate Hearings on the Nationwide System of Trails, it was noted “in our program blue birds, which are our youngest girls, do much hiking. When they ‘fly up’ to be Camp Fire Girls their first rank is that of trail seeker. Simply stated, it tells each girl to ‘go on a nature hike. Tell about three interesting things in nature you saw, where seen, and some interesting facts about them.’ This is a challenge to girls 9, 10, and 11 years old. We think it important to have hiking trails not only for today’s girls but for the many millions of young people whether or not they belong to a national youth organization.” I’m sure the Camp Fire Girl leaders felt the same way in the early 1940s.

Membership card, year 3 (Nov. 1942 to Nov. 1943) - front and back

Membership card, year 3 (Nov. 1942 to Nov. 1943) - inside pages
The next three pages of the book was dedicated to birds. Mary wrote a description of what a bird is, followed by descriptions of a “Crow” and a “Jay.” She included a photo of the Blue Jay.

Two pages were dedicated to trees and include dried Maple and Sumac leaves. On another page, she wrote “from a rambler rose (young), it bares a red rose.” Pressed between the pages of the book she put a stem of leaves from the rose plant.


One page seems to be random and doesn’t really fit into the theme of the book—it contains four images that were cut out and then traced on the inside edge. On two of the images, she wrote “Bracelet” and “Initial.”


Seven pages were dedicated to flags from different countries, beginning with the United States. Mary cut the flag images out of a newspaper and taped them onto the pages. Each image contains narrative about that particular flag. Mary wrote the narrative verbatim for each flag.


The last page that Mary wrote on was titled “Famous Women” and included an image of Florence Nightingale, also cut out from a newspaper. The text isn’t a biography for the famous nurse although it does mention her birth, then goes on to spring flowers, trees, and blossoms. I don’t know if Mary wrote the text herself or if she copied it from somewhere but it appears to be unfinished. It reads:
On the 12th of May, the month of flowers, about a hundred years ago, a little English baby was born in a villa just outside the fair city of Florence. Spring had been busy sowing the fields with flowers, spreading a carpet of tender green beneath the gray olive trees, and decking with delicate budding leaves the vines. She scattered blossoms abroad with such a lavish hand that the old city of palaces, with its sun-baked roofs and narrow shadowy streets, now well deserved its name of the City of Flowers. New life was springing up everywhere and the little new life
Famous Women

In the back of the book, Mary taped two booklets. The first one was a Camp Fire Girls booklet titled “A Part for You … In Shaping Tomorrow.” In this booklet, you learn the origins of the program, what the age group is and how many girls constitute a group, what the national dues are, appropriate dress for special group occasions, and the many things a girl can do with a group and as an individual. The booklet describes the different groups within the program, for example Blue Bird and Horizon Club Girl. The program doesn’t end once you become a woman either. The booklet goes on to describe how you can be involved in a leadership position as a Camp Fire Guardian, Blue Bird Leader, or a Horizon Club Adviser, or in the Guardians Association at the local, district, or national level.

Camp Fire Girls booklet -- A Part for You ... In Shaping Tomorrow

The second booklet taped to the back of the book is titled “Equipment for the Camp Fire Girl” and was published by the Campfire Outfitting Company in New York, New York. This is where her mother, Bertha Athya, would have gone to buy all things related to the Camp Fire Girls—service costumes and accessories, ceremonial items, handbooks, honor beads, and jewelry. It also included books and forms for recording your honors, stencils (and their meaning) to be used in hand crafts, emblems, posters, books, and craft books. It has two pages dedicated to equipment for the Blue Birds, and then moves on to Camp Fire songs, games, fundraising items, and camping supplies.

Camp Fire Girls booklet -- Equipment for the Camp Fire Girl

Finally, Mary had three items that were mentioned in the booklets. The first item is a Camp Fire Girl’s Health Chart. Mary filled the chart out for the month of March 1942, placing X’s or slashes on each day she completed an item on the chart. The items listed on the chart are:
  1. Drank one or more glasses of water on arising
  2. Brushed teeth on arising
  3. Ate wholesome breakfast: fruit, milk or cocoa, some form of bread; if underweight, eggs or bacon and cooked cereal.
  4. Had regular bowel movement.
  5. Washed hands before eating and after going to toilet.
  6. Took cleansing bath.
  7. Did not eat between meals, except milk and fresh fruit. (Refreshments once a week at parties allowed.)
  8. Ate three regular, well-balanced meals.
  9. Drank at least two glasses of milk. Did not drink tea or coffee.
  10. Ate food slowly and chewed it thoroughly.
  11. Ate at least two vegetables—one cooked and one raw.
  12. Drank at least five glasses of water, including morning glass.
  13. Walked briskly. Engaged in some physical, recreative activity at least one hour a day—preferable out-of-doors.
  14. Rested on my back two times each day—5 to 15 minutes at a time.
  15. Tried to relieve eyestrain by working under proper conditions, proper lighting, proper distance and position of work or reading.
  16. Brushed teeth before retiring.
  17. Slept with open windows or out-of-doors.
  18. Slept at least 9 hours (if over 16, 8 hours).
  19. Did not gain or lose weight too rapidly.
  20. Washed hair at least every two weeks.

The back side of the chart provides “explanatory notes” such as:
2. Brushing the teeth property should not only clean them, but should massage and stimulate the gums, without injuring them. It is not so much what is on the brush which does good, as it is the brushing itself.
3. Breakfast is one of the most necessary meals of the day. The body is without food nearly eighteen hours if this is neglected. Cultivate the habit of using at least the equivalent of one glass of milk a day and eggs several times a week.
4. Bowel movement should take place during the early morning. 
6. Bath during the day to be a shower, tub or sponge, and always with warm water and soap.
Camp Fire Girl Health Chart

The second item is a leather patch. It appears that Mary used one of the Girl Scout stencils to paint the symbol onto the patch. According to the web page “Camp Fire Girls - Old Patches, Vintage Kids Clubs Online Museum,” this one is the Apprentice Symbol which represents “inspiration gained from Camp Fire.” The web page further states “The upper figure represents a feeling for beauty. The color is green.” Mary’s patch is in fact green.

Camp Fire Girl patch

The third item was probably one of the craft items Mary made and may have been a bracelet. It’s a wooden pendant with a short leather strap. She painted a camp fire on the front of the pendant.

Craft item. It has a camp fire painted on the front.

Mary Athya, ca. 1942
Mary would have been 11 years old when she joined the Camp Fire Girls. It’s been fun to take a look at this period of her life—to think about her going to the meetings, taking hikes, performing some type of service, etc. I wish I had known about this before she passed away. I would have loved to have her tell me stories about her three years as a Camp Fire Girl.