Friday, September 21, 2018

Mary Athya’s 1940s autograph book

Mary Margaret Athya
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “unusual source.”

One of the items we found in my mother-in-law Mary Athya Murphy’s belongings after she died was an autograph book. Now one wouldn’t necessarily think of an autograph book as a genealogy source, but I did in fact learn a few things about Mary in this unusual source.

The first thing I learned has to do with the spelling of Mary’s first name. From what I can tell, in early 1944 Mary’s family moved from Armstrong or Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania to Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio. Prior to the move, all school and church papers recorded the spelling of her first name as “Mary.” After the move to Warren, Mary was enrolled in Warren G. Harding High School and it appears they (or someone) added an “e” to her name which was then spelled “Marye.” Her name was spelled “Marye” all through high school, including in yearbooks, her graduation card, and diploma when she graduated in 1949. I thought maybe it was a typo that just kept going, but Mary herself spelled her name “Marye” when she wrote her name in the front of the autograph book on June 21, 1944. I found this interesting because in the 27 years I knew her, she always spelled her name “Mary” with no “e.” But for some reason in the 1940s, the “e” was added, and she carried that through her high school years. By the time she married my father-in-law Earl Murphy in January 1951, she was back to spelling her name “Mary.”

Mary's autograph book

Warren G. Harding High School graduation card
The second thing I learned was where her family lived in Warren. In addition to her name, Mary wrote her address in the front of the autograph book—1019 Prier Place NE, Warren, Ohio. I knew she lived in Warren but didn’t know where.

Mary wrote her name and address in the front of the
autograph book

And since Mary wrote the date in the front of her autograph book, the third thing I learned was when Mary and her family lived in the house on Prier Place—June 1944. She was born in 1929 so would have been 15 years old at the time.

That’s really all the genealogical information provided from this source. Nothing earth-shattering, but when you’re putting a timeline of someone’s life together, every piece of information helps. You never know when that piece might be a missing link!

The rest is just interesting and fun to read. Thanks to a stack of senior photos and her Harding yearbook, I’m able to put a face to some of the inscriptions. The first entry was by Helen Astrosky (with photo added from the yearbook) on December 7, 1944.

Dec. 7, 1944 / Dear Mary / When you get married and live upstairs /
Don't come down to borrow my chairs. / Your classmate, Helen Astrosky

Mary must have liked someone named Johnny in 1948 – two people referenced him.

May 3, 1945 / Dear Marye / The only little sayings are stale so I'll just
wish you the best of luck and joy forever. / A "pal" always, /
Kathy Totinos / P.S. remember me through Johnny.

May 1948 / Dear Mary, / Now I lay me down to sleep / With my ford parked out
in the street. / If it should start before I wake. / I pray the Lord put on the brake! /
The one and only (a hem) Mary / Look at Johnny and think of me Ha-Ha.

I wonder if this is the famous Johnny?

5/3/48 / Dear Marye: / Upon this page I write my name / And when you think
of me, don't have a pain. / You fried "always" Johnnie

Friend Anne Larson signed her name with “Your summer school friend.” Does that mean Mary
attended summer school in 1944?

June 21, 1944 / Dear Mary, When you get married and have twins, /
Don't come to my house to borrow safety pins. / Your summer school
friend, Anne Larson

Louise Kensy was a teacher who taught typing and shorthand.

May 2, 1948 / To Marye, / Edward Bok once wisely said, / "Make you the world
a bit more beautiful and better because you have been
in it." May your life bring you fulfillment of this goal. / Louise Kensy

Dear Mary, / As long as the vine grows around the stump, /
You will always be my darling sugar lump. / Alice
"Cupcake" (48)

May 3rd, 1948 / Dear Mary, / I wish you luck, / I wish you joy. / I wish your first
a baby boy. / And when his hair begins to curl, I wish you then a back girl. /
And when her hair is straight a pins, / I wish you then a set of twins. /
Always, Betty Antonelli

May 3, 1948 / Best wishes always from me to you. / Your clothing
classmate / Betty Del Oecchin

June 21, 1944 / Warren, Ohio / Dear Mary, / Hearts are such funny t hings, /
I guess you know that to, / But with heaven & earth inside of mine. /
I still have room for you. / Your pal, Delores Vanpel /
P.S. Don't make love in the corn patch because the corn has ears.

Warren / 6/12/44 / Dear Marye, / Can't write / Too dumb /
Inspiration won't come. / No pencil / Strange pen / Best of luck / Amen /
Doris McGrath

April 2, 1948 / Dear Mary, / They strolled side by side / Down the moonlite
country lane / Soon they reached the gate / He lifted up the latch / She did not
speak a word / For indeed she knew not how / For he was just a
farmer's boy / And she a jersey cow / Always, /
Authey (Ginger) Griffith
Dear Mary / What a Life / Without a Wife / And me with 10 kids. /
Your loving friend, / Mark Adams

Orange grow in Calif. / Apples grow there too / but it take a place like
Warren / to grow a peach like you. / from Roger Angonelli /
Dec. 13, 1944

5/3/48 / Dear Marye, / I wish I were a bunny, / All white and full of fluff. /
I'd jump upon your dresser / And be your powder puff. / Love as
Always / Janie Strommer / P.S. I bet all the fools in town will
turn this page upside down / Janie

And finally one with a secret message.

July 15, 1950 / Dear Mary / UR 2 sweet / 2 / 4 get / The best
of luck always / Mary Louise

Friday, September 14, 2018

Joshua Holland

Joshua Holland
(photo from C. R. Balentine)
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “closest to your birthday.”

For no particular reason, I decided to write about Joshua Holland, a collateral ancestor whose birthday is the day after mine, although in different centuries. I visited his grave in South Carolina about 13 years ago. At the time, I didn’t know who he was and wondered if we had a connection. As it turns out, we did.

Joshua Holland, son of Moses Holland and Grace King, was born on August 14, 1818, in Anderson, Anderson County, South Carolina. Joshua had many siblings. His father was first married to Mary E. Barton and they had six children—Chesley D. Holland, Frances E. Holland, Thomas Holland, John Holland, James Holland, and Ellender Holland. Mary died in 1812 when their youngest child Ellender was 14. Moses took a second bride about 1813 when he married Grace King. Moses and Grace had six children as well—Moses King Holland, Aaron Berry Holland, Caleb B. Holland, Joshua Holland, Eleb M. Holland, and Tabitha Holland. Joshua’s father Moses was 59 years old when Joshua was born.

Joshua is my half 4th great grand uncle, with our nearest common relative being his father, Reverend Moses Holland. Rev. Holland was founder of the Saluda Baptist Association and many churches in Anderson County, including Big Creek Baptist Church in Williamston where he was pastor for 41 years. Rev. Holland, a Revolutionary War patriot, served as a drummer with the Charlotte Militia in Virginia and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis in 1781.

Joshua was just 11 years old when his father died on September 8, 1829 at the age of 70 in Williamston, Anderson County, South Carolina.

At the age of 18, Joshua served as a private in Picken’s Company, Goodwyn’s South Carolina Mounted Militia in the Second Seminole War (AKA Florida War). According to Wikipedia, this war is regarded as “the longest and most costly of the Indian conflicts of the United States.” Fifty years later, the Intelligencer of Anderson published an article stating that the “Company was mustered into service on the 10th of February, A.D., 1836.” The article further stated that “… This Company saw arduous service in the campaign which followed its enlistment …”. At the time the article was published (February 11, 1886), Joshua was one of nine men out of 75 who survived.

Joshua Holland
(photo from C. R. Balentine)
Joshua married Rebecca Ann Trussell, daughter of Rhodam Amos Trussell and Elizabeth McFee, in Anderson County on August 25, 1840. I’ll note that I haven’t confirmed the marriage date so please don’t take that information as gospel. Joshua and Rebecca had three children together—William M. Holland, Mary Frances Elizabeth Holland, and a daughter they named Willie Holland. Their oldest child, William, was born in Anderson in 1841. About 1846, Joshua joined Neals Creek Baptist Church in Anderson. He would worship there the rest of his life.

Joshua’s mother died in Anderson in September 1850. In November 1850, Joshua and his family were living in Laurens, Laurens County, South Carolina. He was a farmer with real estate valued at $3,600. I don’t know what took him to Laurens, a community just over 40 miles from Anderson. His son William was 14 years old. The slave schedule for 1850 shows that Joshua had seven slaves—three adult females (ages 25, 50, and 18), two adult males (ages 30 and 20), one 12-year-old male, and a 4-year-old female. Joshua’s daughter Mary was born about 1853.

On June 1, 1860, Joshua had 50 acres of improved land and 650 acres of unimproved land all with an estimated value of $7,000. He reported the value of his farming implements and machinery at $40. He had 1 horse, 1 mule, 2 milk cows, 3 cows, 2 sheep, and 5 pigs valued at $260. His farm produced 20 bushels of wheat, 300 bushels of Indian corn, 30 bushels of oats, 6 bales of ginned cotton, 10 bushels of Irish potatoes, 40 bushels of sweet potatoes, 2 gallons of wine, 1 ton of hay, 100 pounds of butter, 8 pounds of beeswax, and 100 pounds of honey. The census enumerator recorded the Holland family on June 7, 1860 listing Joshua, his wife Rebecca, son William, and daughter Mary living in Anderson County. Joshua had a personal estate valued at $300.

Joshua’s son William was “among the first to volunteer in the service of his country” when the Civil War began in 1861 according to William’s tombstone at Neals Creek Baptist Church Cemetery. The stone further notes that he “fought through the Battle of Manassas after which he was taken with typhoid fever and died, near Fairfax Courthouse Virginia.” The battle took place in Manassas, Prince William County, Virginia on July 21, 1861. William died on October 1, 1861, at the age of 20. On either March 10 or March 19, 1863 (some of the muster rolls say the 10th and some the 19th), Joshua enlisted as a private in Company G of the South Carolina 1st Light Artillery Regiment at Walhalla Oconee County, South Carolina for a period of three years. He remained on the muster rolls through at least December 1864. Joshua must have been able to go home at some point as his third child, daughter Willie, was born in 1864.

On March 24, 1866, Joshua made an agreement with a woman named Harriet Vandiver to take her son John to work on his plantation. The agreement stated “... That the said John agrees to nurse, make fires, or anything me or my agent may tell him to do.” Joshua agreed to give John board and clothing. John would not be able to leave the premises without permission from Joshua or his agent. The agreement was good for one year beginning January 1, 1866 and ending January 1, 1867. If Joshua didn’t hold up his end of the agreement, John could hold a lien on the entire crop raised on the planation that year until he was paid his full due. If John didn’t hold up his end of the agreement, Joshua could hold a lien on John’s portion of the crop.

On July 5, 1870, Joshua, Rebecca, and daughters Mary and Willie lived in the Broadway Township of Anderson County. As a farmer, he had real estate valued at $900 and a personal estate valued at $365. Rebecca and Mary were both keeping house. In early August 1874, Joshua was among the citizens of Broadway who met at Neals Creek Church to organize a tax union. During the meeting, they adopted a constitution, elected officers, and set the committees with Joshua being named to the Executive Committee. They agreed to meet by way of a picnic at the church on his birthday, August 14.

On June 29, 1880, Joshua, Rebecca, and Willie lived in the Broadway Township of Anderson County, South Carolina. Joshua was a farmer; Rebecca stayed home keeping house. Joshua was known as a “weather prophet” in 1887. On March 24, 1887, The Intelligencer reported the following:
The predictions made by Eureka’s weather prophet, Mr. Joshua Holland, so far this year, have all proved true. Of course, we do not know anything about the basis of his predictions, but we were informed some days ago by a very intelligent gentleman of the city of Anderson that Mr. H. was a close observer of certain signs and days, and especially “Badger’s Day,” which had something to do with the winter and spring.
Tombstone at Neals Creek Baptist
Church Cemetery, Anderson, South Carolina
In mid-April 1896, Joshua came down with a case bronchitis. The Intelligencer reported that he was “very sick at the present … afflicted with bronchitis, and is attended by Dr. J. C. Harris.” After a month’s illness, Joshua died on March 10, 1896. He was buried at Neals Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson. The Intelligencer reported his death on March 18, 1896:
Death of Mr. Joshua Holland. It becomes our duty this week to chronicle the death of a good citizen of Anderson County. We refer to the death of Mr. Joshua Holland, which occurred at his home in Broadway Township on the morning of the 10th inst. Mr. Holland was seventy eight years of age last August. He was born and raised in Anderson County excepting a few years he lived in Laurens County. Fifty eight years ago he was marred to Miss Rebecca Trussell who, together with two daughters, survive him. Mr. and Mrs. Holland had eaten Christmas dinner together even since they have been married except two. Mr. Holland went to the Florida war when only eighteen years of age. He also served in the war of succession, fighting for the Confederate cause. He had been a member of Neal’s Creek Baptist Church for fifty years preceding his death, and a deacon of the same for twenty-five years. He was a good and upright citizen, a kind neighbor, a devoted and a faithful Christian. He was loved by all who knew him. Mr. Holland had been sick about one month, and his death was not unexpected by those around him. His remains were interred in the Neal’s Creek churchyard the day following his death. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. M. McGee who preached from the 14th chapter of John, 2nd and 3rd verses. Mr. Holland said on his death bed that he was ready to die, which should be a great consolation to his loved ones. He has passed over the river, and is now resting beneath the shade of the beautiful trees. The family have many sympathizers in their bereavement. -- E. F. 


  • “Broadaway Tax Union,” The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, August 6, 1874.
  • Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution.
  • “Moses Holland, Manley McClure to Join Anderson HOF in October,” Anderson Observer, August 16, 2014;
  • U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedules, Laurens, South Carolina, 1850.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Laurens, Laurens County, South Carolina, 1850.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Regiment 4, Anderson, South Carolina, 1860.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Non-Population Schedule, Agriculture, Regiment 4, Anderson, South Carolina, 1860.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Broadway, Anderson, South Carolina, 1870, 1880.
  • “Fifty Years Ago,” The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, February 11, 1886.
  • “South Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), Anderson courthouse (acting subassistant commissioner–Anderson district) > Roll 46, Labor contracts, series A, no A-H35, 1866 > image 739 of 743; citing NARA microfilm publication M1910 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  • “Eureka Items,” The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, March 24, 1887.
  • "United States Index to Indian Wars Pension Files, 1892-1926," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 March 2018), Joshua Holland, 1896; citing Pension, South Carolina, NARA microfilm publication T318 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 821,615.
  • “Eureka Items,” The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, March 11, 1896.
  • “Death of Mr. Joshua Holland,” The Intelligencer, March 18, 1896.
  • Company G, 1st South Carolina Artillery muster rolls.
  • Will of Moses Holland.

Friday, September 7, 2018

I think it will work out real well, the job that is ...

Earl Murphy, ca. 1988 (this photo was
used in the company newsletter)
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “work,” so I thought I would share the story of my father-in-law Earl Murphy’s move from West Virginia to Virginia and a little of what the family went through during the transition.

In 1963, my husband Charlie and his family lived in the coal mining town of Monongah, Marion County, West Virginia. His Dad, Earl, worked for Monongah Municipal Water Works there in town. He had previously worked at the Mountaineer Coal Company in Fairmont, Marion County, West Virginia. Sometime before August, Earl left the water works company and headed to Rockville, Montgomery County, Maryland where his brother lived. The rest of the family (my mother-in-law Mary and their three children—Colleen, Charles, and infant Patrick) stayed behind in West Virginia with the plan that once Earl got settled and saved enough money, they would follow him there. By August, Earl got a job with the Washington Gas Light Company at their new Ravensworth Station in Springfield, Fairfax County, Virginia. He moved out of his brother’s home into a rented room in Springfield to be closer to work. According to the publication Entering the Big Leagues: Chapter II, 1960–1969 by the gas company, Washington Gas Light had opened a new “underground liquid propane storage cavern in the Ravensworth area of Fairfax County, Virginia” in 1962. Charlie remembers Earl telling him stories about how the cavern was built, although I’ll note that Earl wasn’t working at Washington Gas Light during construction of the cavern, so this is being told third hand—and that’s all I’ll say about that. Earl told Charlie they started out with a three-foot hole which they dug by hand. Once the cavern was big enough, they dismantled bulldozers, or some type of digging vehicles, placed them in the cavern, and then put them back together. When the job was completed, they left the vehicles in the cavern.

Earl on the right, working at the Washington Gas Light Company

Earl missed his family and wrote the following letter to Mary on August 4. In the letter, he discusses finances and told Mary it was up to her to take care of selling the house and other belongings to raise money to move everyone to Virginia:
Hi Everybody, Thought it was about time I wrote you all a letter. To lazy I guess. How are you all? The last time I came up here it wasn’t to bad being away for the first couple of weeks, but this time I am lost. I miss you all very much and wish you were here with me. I just don’t know what to do with myself from the time I come home from work until I go to bed. 
Well I found a room here just outside of Springfield. It is 9 miles from where I work. It will take about 20 minutes to get there so it is much better than driving 38 miles from Rockville and back. The room is not what I would like, but will do for a while. 
This job I think I will like real well. I worked Thursday and Friday with the weekend off. This week I work day, next week afternoon, and the next week midnight. Being low man will give me shift work for awhile. This new storage field is out in the woods and is still under const. The first test run will be sometime in Nov. I think it will work out real well, the job that is. We can talk about this some other time. 
Mary, with the $360 a month I will be getting for the next 3 months is going to hurt us very much. I don’t know just what we can do but I do know I want you and the kids here with me as soon as possible. School starts the first of Sept and I would like you all here by then or no later than the 15th of Sept. I don’t know how we can work this but we have to do something. I am going to need at least $140 to $150 to rent a house and get until turned on. Once we get moved up here, maybe you could go to work for a while until we can get going again. We will live in one of these places, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Annandale, or Springfield, and it will have to be wherever the rent is best.  
I want you to get rid of the house if you can. If you could get $500 to $800 and have someone to take over payments or give it back to Jane or if you can get enough to pay the bank where we got the siding. That will almost have to be paid. Next see if you can sell the little car $85 or $100. Parts to fix it will be $8 to $10. Sell all 4 of my guns. All the houses here have stoves and refrig. So, if you can they can be sold. The $5000 ins policy I have had for the pasts 10 years or so, cash it in for what it is worth. I have a $10,000 policy on me here at work. Now see all the loan co. we owe money to and see if we can miss one or two payments, that will help very much. I just have to get you and the kids here with me this time, because I don’t plan on living in W. Va. Any longer. There is work here for anybody that is not afraid of work and if that is what I have to do to have a roof over our head and feed us than that is what is going to be done. Honey please get busy doing these things I asked as soon as possible. I would like to come home, but it would cost about $75 which I don’t have. My first pay will be about the 23rd and that will be for a one week period and then I will get paid every Friday from then on. I don’t like the thought of coming home to see you all, because the way I feel right now, it would be damn hard to leave again. Tell Colleen and Charles I miss them very much, but for them to be good until I come home. How is Pat? Has he grown any? Well honey, I have run out for tonight, so will write you later. Let me know what you do. Do as much as you can as soon as possible. Don’t look for me for at least 3 weeks. Love to all of you and write soon.
My address here is Route 5, Box 392, Alexandria, Va. 
Love, Earl 
Honey, I forgot, but if you could sell the tent that will also help. Love
Earl wrote a second letter to Mary on August 7:
Dear Mary and all, Have not heard from you, but there may be a letter at Glenn’s. Have not been up since last Sunday. I was going to write last night, but I worked 16 hours, from 7:30 to 11:00 last night. My schedule for next week is 11:00 to 7:00 then I go on 7:00 to 3:00 PM. I don’t think I will mind working shifts. They are only for a week at a time. 
How are all of you by now? Fine I hope. I still miss you all. Since your [sic] not here to fix me a birthday cake tomorrow, you can fix it for me when I can get home. Will that be alright? I really don’t have much to tell you, so this won’t be much of a letter. I don’t know when I will get home to see you and the kids. I hope it can be real soon.  
Honey, have you did [sic] anything yet about the car, house, ins. Policy etc.? You are going to have to do all of it by yourself since I’m not there to help you. I can’t do anything about a house until I have some money to do it with. I do want you here as soon as we can do it. I would like to get Charles and Colleen started to school up here, so they wouldn’t have to start later in the year and then be behind. I think these schools may be better than what we have there. I’m sorry I don’t have any money to send you, but one of these days I will. Do you have any to get good with? 
Colleen, why don’t you set down and write me a nice long letter and tell me what you and Charlie and Patrick are doing. OK. You be real good until I can get home to see you.
Charles, are you keeping out of trouble? Has mommy had to spank you lately and you behave, because your suppose to be the man of the house since I am gone. Give your mother a big hug and kiss for me. 
Well honey I can’t think of anything more to say at this time so will c lose for now. Write real soon and let me know how things are coming along. Almost forgot about Patrick. Has he been OK. 
Love to all, Earl
We have one more letter written by Earl on August 12. In several paragraphs of this letter, he writes about drama with some people, supposedly friends, back in West Virginia. At one point, he tells Mary she has nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. Because he mentions name, I’ll leave those paragraphs out since I don’t know what was going on.
Hi Honey, I was up to see Glenn Sat and got your letter along with Colleen’s and Charles. It was real nice to hear from you. Have not received any down here yet.
I’m sorry you can’t start the doodle bug, but maybe it is for the best until I get some rod bearings in it. 
… … … 
I got Colleen’s and Charles letters. It was nice to hear from then to. Do you know I got up on my birthday, came to work and didn’t know I had one until the 9th. Forgot all about it. I have been looking at the ad’s on houses and apts., but not much I can do at present. Hope we can soon. I started on the 11:00 to 7:00 shift tonight. It is now 6:00 AM so wanted to mail this on my way to my room. The people I am staying with went on vac this week so I have the house all to myself. Honey, I miss you all very much. If I can I will try to be home this weekend. I hope. The job is going just fine. I like the work and I even feel better. I am down to 156 pounds. Do a lot of walking. 
Have you talked to Jane yet? You had better write me more often and let me know what you are doing. School isn’t far off.. 
Hi Son, I’m glad you have a tank truck and airplane. I miss you to very much. I’ll be home to see you before to long. You take care of everything for me and be good. Write me another letter. A long one. Dad 
Hi Colleen, Yes Pat’s birthday is mine. Does he look better with a haircut? You will have to get your mother to cut Charles’ hair also. Were the cakes you made out of the biscuits good? What all are you throwing away? I still love you to. Be good. I will see you soon and write me. Love Dad 
Well Honey, I think I will stop for now. The man will be in to relieve me in about 15 min. This place is away out in the woods and is very lonely here at night. I miss you and love you very much. Write soon. All my love, Earl
Earl's letters from 1963

Earl and Mary were finally able to move the family to Pimmit Hills, Fairfax County, Virginia about March or April 1964. Pimmit Hills is about 13 miles from Springfield and I’m sure traffic was much better then than it is today.

Washington Gas Light flag
Things worked out for Earl at Washington Gas Light where he spent the remainder of his career. The shift work continued until he retired. His hours rotated between day shift with two off days, afternoon shift with two off days, then midnight shift followed by a week off. Earl liked shift work because it allowed him to take the family on camping trips and to visit family without having to use vacation. He had perfect attendance from 1981 – 1986 and was recognized for six consecutive years of no avoidable accidents resulting in personal injury in December 1986.

Earl hated the union, paying his dues because he had to, but wanting no parts of it. When the union went on strike, he went to the beach and told them to call him when it was over. I’ll note that Earl’s father-in-law George Athya had been a union organizer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which caused friction when he was dating Mary.

In August 1988, Earl reached a milestone at the gas company and was welcomed into the Quarter Century Club after celebrating 25 years of service. Earl retired as a controlman in 1990 at the age of 61 after 27 years of service. At the time of his retirement, Earl received $1,773.94 per month until he reached the age of 62. At 62, the payment was reduced to $1,037.94 per month. That would eventually be reduced to $949.05 per month. Earl and Mary were very conservative with their finances so were able to live comfortably, enjoying 23 years of retirement before he passed away in 2013.

Earl on the right


  1. “Entering the Big Leagues: Chapter II, 1960–1969,” Washington Gas Light;
  2. Fiftieth Annual Dinner program, Quarter Century Club of The Washington Gas Light Company, Fairfax, Virginia, April 21, 1990.
  3. Personal papers of Earl Murphy.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Vintage school books

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “back to school.”

The earliest books I remember reading from are the “Dick and Jane” series, popular books “used to teach children to read from the 1930s through to the 1990s in the United States” according to Wikipedia. In the late 1930s, children in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia were learning to read from the “Fact and Story Readers: Primer” by Henry Suzzallo, George E. Freeland, Katherine L. McLaughlin, and Ada M. Skinner. This book told stories about Bob and his big dog Tag, and Betty and her little kitten Tibby. The Primer was apparently the second book in a series of 10. The original copyright for the book was 1930; however, in 1932, there was a second copyright for the “State Contract Edition,” which is the version I have a copy of. My copy is in good condition for its age. It has a hardback cover with some fraying around the edges. Almost every page contains cute illustrations of Bob, Tag, Betty, Tibby, their family, friends, and other animals. The inside pages have minor tears here and there. All pages are browned and slightly stained from age and perhaps water. The cool thing about this book is that is was assigned to Clark Lankford, my uncle. Clark was born in 1932 so fast-forward a few years and the timeframe for his learning to read would be about right.

My uncle Clark Lankford 

A second book on my bookcase is “The Story of Our Republic: A History for Beginners” by Irving P. Foote, Ph.D. This book taught the children in Woodville about American history. The original copyright is 1932 by the World Book Company. It was illustrated by Leon D’Emo, E. D. Weldon, and Others (yes, it says Others) and has lots of elaborate illustrations and map drawings.

The book had been assigned to four students—Craddock Durham, Annette Huff, my daddy Sam T. Lankford, and my aunt Lucile Lankford. Daddy’s family lived in Woodville in 1940 according to census records so that places them in the correct location. Daddy and Aunt Lucile would have been teenagers.

One of the four students, or perhaps several of them, must have been bored with American history and often doodled and drew in the book. I’ve detailed the doodles below. The first one made me laugh out loud!

Page 3: Someone wrote “Look on Page 152.” When I turned to page 152, they had written “You’re a fool for looking.” Glasses had also been drawn on King George III’s face.

Page 3
Page 152

Pages 16–17: This is a review page for students and it looks like someone wrote the answers on both pages.

Page 93: Several doodles of three dimensional boxes were drawn.

Page 121: The words “turn to 222” are written. When I turned to page 222, I found the words “Well How do you do?”

Page 121
Page 222

Page 183: Glasses were drawn on Lafayette's face and a spider on his forehead.

Page 183

Page 246: Glasses and a mustache were drawn on Andrew Jackson’s face.

Page 246

Page 258: Glasses and a mustache were drawn on John C. Calhoun’s face.

Page 258

Page 314: Glasses and a mustache were drawn on Henry Clay’s face.

Page 314

Page 324: Glasses were drawn on Jefferson Davis’ face, but not up to the usual standards. They didn’t color them in like they had on the other faces.

Page 324

There are lots of check marks throughout the book and other markings on faces but the ones above are the most notable. The book has a hardback cover with lots of fraying. The spine is in poor shape. All pages are browned and slightly stained from age and perhaps water, the same as the Primer above.

My Aunt Lucile Lankford Epps purchased both books at a book sale somewhere in Greene County many years ago and gave them to my Daddy, who in turn gave them to me.

My aunt Lucile Lankford and Daddy, Sam Lankford

The inside cover has a sticker on it that clearly reads, “DO NOT DEFACE.” I wonder who the guilty party was and if they ever thought that someone would be looking at their doodles in 2018. I told my youngest son about some of the doodles and his response was “good to know things haven’t changed.”

I've had these two books for several years and never looked inside other than to look at the student names. If not for the 52 Ancestors "back to school" theme, I would have missed out on all the fun!


  • Dick and Jane;
  • Henry Suzzallo, George E. Freeland, Katherine L. McLaughlin, and Ada M. Skinner, Fact and Story Readers: Primer, 1932. 
  • Irving P. Foote, Ph.D., The Story of Our Republic: A History for Beginners, 1932.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Inventories of the Thomas P. Janes Sr. farm

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “non-population.”

This week’s blog post is a follow-up to my post from last week where I shared a “family legend” and along with that the story of my 2nd great-grandfather Thomas P. Janes Sr. Because the 52 Ancestors theme this week was “non-population,” I decided to save the details of those census schedules for this week. We all know what a census record is but some reading this may not know what the non-population schedules are. The non-population schedule complimented the census record and provided information that was “used to identify and quantify resources and needs” according to the Family Search Wiki describing a non-population schedule. The Wiki further notes that “Agriculture, mortality, and social statistics schedules are available for the census years of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. Manufacturing schedules are available for 1820, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. They are arranged by state, then by county, and then by political subdivision (township, city, etc.).”

On October 22, 1850, the Greene County, Georgia agricultural schedule shows that Thomas owned 600 acres of improved land and 600 acres of unimproved land, all of which had a cash value of $8,400. His farming tools and machinery were valued at $500. Thomas owned 10 horses, 4 asses or mules, 12 milch cows, 4 working oxen, 28 other cattle, 50 sheep, and 150 pigs, all valued at $1,660. His farm produced 22 bushel of wheat, 5 bushels of rye, 1,250 bushels of oats, and 400 pounds of rice. Page two of the schedule is too hard to read so I won’t include those details here.

By July 25, 1860, Thomas had purchased more land, now owning 1,000 acres of improved land and 650 acres of unimproved land. The cash value of his farm was now valued at $22,000; the value of his farming tools and machinery had doubled, now at $1,000. The farm included a large inventory of livestock—17 horses, 18 asses and mules, 20 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 18 other cattle, 60 sheep, and 200 swine, all valued at $1,825. In addition to livestock, the farm produced 800 bushels of wheat, 60 bushels of rye, 4,000 bushels of Indian corn, 2 bushels of oats, 140 bales of cotton at 400 pounds each, and 160 pounds of wool. Thomas managed his farm with 80 slaves.

When looking at the 1860 Slave Schedule, I scrolled through to see where my 3rd great-grandfather, James Meriweather Lankford, lived in comparison to the Janes plantation. I found him enumerated four pages earlier, along with three slaves—two males and a 26-year-old female. The word “murder” is written in column 8 on the female slave line. This reminded me of the story I found in the book How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant. Bryant’s book tells the story of slave Becky and the death of her three children in James Lankford’s well. Becky was the female enumerated in this 1860 slave schedule. If you’d like to read her story, you’ll find those pages of the book via Google Books. This link should take you to page 35 where the text begins just below the middle of the page. Look for “The next term brought another case of murder before the court. James Lankford and his family lived near Penfield in northern Greene County. …” The story ends on page 38. As you read it, you’ll see that it doesn’t speak well for my 3rd great-grandfather.

In July 1870, the enumerator noted that Thomas’ farm included the following livestock: 10 horses, 6 asses and mules, 11 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 40 other cattle, 20 sheep, and 20 swine. His livestock was valued at $3500—less livestock than in 1860 but the value was higher. In addition to livestock, the farm produced 350 bushels of spring wheat, 750 bushels of rye, 40 bales of cotton, 80 pounds of wool, 15 bushels of peas and beans, 50 bushels of Irish potatoes, and 200 bushels of sweet potatoes. The only dairy product produced was butter at 500 pounds. The fields were full of hay at 25 tons. I was surprised to see he farmed bees which produced 50 pounds of honey. Thomas slaughtered (or sold to slaughter) $500 worth of animals. The estimated value of all farm production, including betterments and addition to stock, was $6,650.

On June 21, 1880, the farm covered 275 acres of improved land—200 acres tilled; 75 acres permanent meadows, pastures, orchards, or vineyards; and 1,000 acres of wooded land—all valued at $15,000. His tools and machinery were valued at $150 and his livestock $800. Thomas told the census enumerator that he had spent $100 in 1879 to build or repair fences, $200 on fertilizers, and $700 on farm labor. He estimated the value of all farm production for 1879 was $2,280. The farm had four acres of mown grass lands in 1879 in which they harvested four tons of hay. Thomas owned considerably less livestock in 1880 than he did in 1860 with the inventory including 5 horses, 2 mules or asses, 4 working oxen, 8 milch cows, 6 “other” (not sure what that would be), and 50 sheep. Thomas reported that during 1879, 6 calves and 22 lambs dropped, he sold 1 cow and slaughtered 2, and 5 cows either died, strayed or were stolen and not recovered. They made 500 pounds of butter in 1879. Three sheep died of disease and 80 pounds of fleece was produced from 34 sheared sheep. The farm had 30 swine and 30 chickens which produced 200 dozen eggs in 1879. Thomas also reported that during 1879, the farm produced 150 bushels of barley (can’t read the acreage it was planted on), 250 bushels of Indian corn on 50 acres, 600 bushels of oats on 50 acres, and 100 bushels of wheat on 10 acres, and 100 gallons of molasses on 2 acres. The last section of the form is hard to read so I’ll only note what is readable. The farm produced 50 bushels of potatoes, 100 bushels of apples, and 300 bushels of peaches from 200 trees on 2 acres. Thomas’ farm was in production year-round.

These schedules are a treasure trove of information and help me to understand the size and scope of Redcliffe Farm, the plantation Thomas owned and operated in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia.


  • Non-Population Schedules, FamilySearch;
  • U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedule, Greene County, Georgia, Agriculture, 1860, 1870.
  • U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedule, District 147, Greene County, Georgia, Agriculture, 1880.
  • U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedule, Greene County, Georgia, Slave, 1860.
  • Bryant, Jonathan M., How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885, UNC Press Books, July 1, 2014.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Thomas P. Janes Sr., Georgia's First Commissioner of Agriculture

Thomas P. Janes Sr.
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “family legend.”

The family legend that comes to mind for me concerns the identity of my paternal grandfather Carroll Harvey Lankford’s father. I’ve told the story before but will tell it again here since that’s the theme and sets the stage for this blog post. The legend goes that about December 1886 or January 1887, my great-grandmother, Alice Beman Lankford, was allegedly raped by Thomas P. Janes Jr., the son of Thomas P. Janes Sr., a successful farmer, physician, and Georgia’s first Commissioner of Agriculture. Alice would have been a teenager, about 15 years old at the time. Unfortunate for her, but a blessing for my family as none of us would be here today if this hadn’t happened, she became pregnant and gave birth to my grandpa in September 1887. Grandpa was given the last name of Lankford, Alice’s maiden name. That right there tells me something happened. He was allegedly disowned by his family and run out of town, I assume because he disgraced the family. I could see that happening. As mentioned above, his father was wealthy and well established in Greene County, Georgia (I’ll go into more detail below) and his grandfather was Absalom Janes, who at the time of his death had an estate valued at close to one million dollars. The book A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians, Volume 5 by Lucian Lamar Knight describes Absalom as “… the wealthiest planter in middle Georgia and a man of great intelligence.” The book How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant notes “… The cotton boom made many in Greene County wealthy, and a few men grew enormously rich. Planters Absalom Janes and Dr. Thomas N. Poullain were reputedly two of Georgia’s first three cotton millionaires. …” This was a prominent family in Georgia in the late 1880s.

My great-grandmother
Alice Beman Lankford
Daddy often told the story that two school teachers, Annie Mae Durham and Leana Mae Moody of Woodville, Greene County, Georgia, pulled him and his older sister aside to share this story with them. I estimate Daddy would have been about 12 or 13 years old at the time. Now fast forward to the year 2017 when I learn that my cousin took a DNA test and got a direct hit on the Janes line. Of course, I had to see for myself, so I ordered my own test kit from When the results were posted, there it was—the proof I’d been looking for. To date, of the 14 DNA Circles that have developed for me, one is a direct link to Absalom Janes and a second circle is a direct link to his wife Martha Cordelia Callaway. For those of you that don’t know what a DNA Circle is, describes it as:
“A DNA Circle is a group of individuals who all have the same ancestor in their family trees and where each member shares DNA with at least one other individual in the circle. These circles are created directly from your DNA and your family tree in a five-step process.”
My grandparents Floria and Carroll Lankford
and their eight children 

We’ll never know exactly what happened to Alice—she took that information to her grave, as did other family members that supported her at the time. But I do feel that the DNA link at least solves part of this family legend.

I’ve not researched Thomas Jr. yet but have done extensive research on his father Thomas Sr., my 2nd great-grandfather, so will tell his story here today. This, however, should not be considered a complete bio as I didn’t include everything I found on him.

Thomas P. Janes Sr., son of Absalom Madison Janes Sr. and Martha Cordelia Callaway, was born on September 11, 1823 in Crawfordville, Georgia. At the time, Crawfordville was part of Greene County. Two years later, Taliaferro County was formed using that part of Greene County, as well as parts of Wilkes, Hancock, Oglethorpe, and Warren counties. There were at least 11 children in his family, possibly 13—Palemon Lawrence Janes, Cornelia Marion Janes, Thomas Montgomery Pike Janes, Nancy Winifred Janes, Mary Elizabeth Janes, Anna Milledge Janes, Martha Eugenia Janes, Felix William Janes, Susan Helen Janes, Cordelia Frances Janes, and Absalom Madison Janes Jr. The book “Cemeteries of Greene County, Georgia” by E. H. Armor” lists two unnamed sons buried in the Absalom Janes family cemetery. Thomas is my paternal 2nd great-grandfather.

For the most part, Thomas’ name is listed as Thomas P. Janes in news articles and records. On one occasion, I found his middle name written as “Pike” on a manila folder of Civil War correspondence. On another occasion, it’s written as “Thomas Montgomery Pike Janes” on bible records in a Daughters of the American Revolution listing. It’s also possible the “P” could also stand for Palemon—he named one son Thomas P. Janes Jr. and you often see his middle name written as Palemon. He also had a brother named Palemon.

Thomas descends from a prominent Greene County, Georgia family. According to the book “History of Greene County, Georgia, 1786–1886,” Thomas’ father Absalom Janes was one of “… Georgia’s first three millionaires ….” making his money in cotton. The historical marker that stands just outside the Janes Family Cemetery notes that Absalom was “One of the founders of Mercer University and a trustee 1833–47, treasurer of the Georgia Baptist Convention 1836–45, member of Bethesda Church 1828–38, of Penfield Church 1839–47.” The book “The Janes Family. A Genealogy and Brief History of the Descendants of William Janes: The Emigrant Ancestor of 1637” written by Rev. Frederic Janes in 1868 notes that Absalom represented “the people of Taliaferro county, as a senator to the state legislature …”, a position for which “he was several times elected …” An article in The Sunny South on February 17, 1883 described Absalom as being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Thomas’ grandfather William Janes is noted as being “one of Georgia’s largest planters” on a Crawfordville Baptist Church Georgia historical marker.

Thomas was just four years old when he lost his paternal grandparents. Both his grandfather William Janes IV and grandmother Selah Gresham Janes died in 1827. They were buried in Taliaferro County, Georgia on what is believed to be the old Janes family plantation. His two-year-old sister Anna died on July 24, 1832, a one-year-old sister Martha died on July 28, 1834, an unnamed 10-day-old brother died on July 18, 1835, and his 20-year-old brother Palemon died on September 12, 1838. These siblings were buried at the Absalom Janes Family Cemetery on Randolph Church Road in Greene County.

Absalom Janes family cemetery

Daddy standing beside the Absalom Janes historical marker at the family cemetery

In 1839, Absalom moved his family to Penfield, Greene County, Georgia and enrolled 16-year-old Thomas at Mercer University, named for the Rev. Jesse Mercer, a “prominent Baptist pastor, philanthropist, and publisher” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. When Mercer died in September 1841, “his body was brought to Penfield to the home of Absalom Janes” and then buried at Penfield Cemetery. His grave is located near my Lankford ancestor graves.

In 1842, Thomas received his A.B. from Columbian College (now part of The George Washington University) in Washington, DC. The year ended with his marriage on December 20, 1842 in Baldwin County, Georgia to Emily Eliza Fish, daughter of Vines Fish and Sarah Harvard. Thomas and Emily had 14 children together—Emma C. Janes, Mary Frances Janes, Thomas P. Janes Jr., Lillian H. Janes, William Felix Janes, Charles P. Janes, Edward H. Janes, Sarah Margie Janes, Lilla E. Janes, David Arthur Janes, James Madison Janes, Walter Lee Janes, Absalom E. Janes, and John Henry Janes.

Thomas received an A.B. from Columbian College in 1842 (Washington, DC)

Thomas Janes-Emily Fish marriage certificate, 1842

In July 1845, Thomas’ six-and-a-half-month-old brother Absalom died. A year later, his mother Martha died in Greene County at the age of 44 on July 1, 1846. Both were buried in the family cemetery. In 1846, Thomas was a medical student at the University of the City of New York. He earned his M.D. from there in 1847. That same year, Thomas’ sister Nancy, lost her second child during the pregnancy and died herself shortly afterwards on June 18. She was only 21 years old. They buried Nancy at Woodville Cemetery in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. Nancy was married to Robert Ligon McWhorter, a member of another prominent family in Greene County. That fall, Thomas’ father Absalom died in Penfield on September 25, 1847. Absalom was buried with his wife and children in the family cemetery. Absalom left Thomas the following in his will:
“To son Thomas P. Jones, I have already given to him negroes:  Lucy valued at $500; Caroline valued at $350; Turner valued at $600; Tolomans valued at $600; Nance valued at $500; Harty valued at $100; Lize valued at $300; Adaline valued at $300, plus household furniture and tract of land where he now lives in Greene County called the Burch Place valued at $2,300.”
Thomas was a medical student at the University of the City of New York in 1846, graduating with a degree in Medicine in 1847. In 1848, Thomas attended the College of New Jersey, at Princeton. Page 9 of the 1848–49 catalogue listed him as Thomas P. Janes, a.m. Col. Columb. ad eundem.

On October 22, 1850, Thomas and his family lived in District 163 of Greene County, Georgia. At age 26, Thomas was a physician with real estate valued at $8400. Thomas and Emily had three children—Emma (age 3), Fannie (age 2), and Poleman (age 6 months). Thomas was the owner of 35 slaves—17 males and 18 females according to the U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedule that year. On April 5, 1853, Thomas’ 17-year-old brother Felix died suddenly in Penfield. At the time, he was a freshman at Mercer University. Felix was buried at the family cemetery. About 1855, Thomas gave up his medical practice and turned to farming full time.

In the 10 years since the 1850 federal census was taken, Thomas’ wealth had grown considerably. On July 24, 1860, he and his family lived in Penfield. He was a farmer with real estate valued at $22,000. Thomas and Emily’s family had also grown since the 1850 census, now with eight children—Emma C. Janes (age 13), Fannie C. Janes (age 11), Thomas P. Janes Jr. (age 10), Felix W. Janes (age 7), Charlie P. Janes (age 6), Eddie H. Janes (age 4), Margie Janes (age 2), and Lilla Janes (2 months). The non-population schedule goes into great detail about the livestock, agriculture, and slaves Thomas had on his farm, but I’ll save that for next week since that’s the theme for the 52 Ancestors week 34 post.

The Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, tearing the country apart. Many men from Greene County left home to fight but Thomas remained at Redcliffe Farm, his home in Penfield. In an effort to raise a Calvary regiment for the state of Georgia, Thomas sent a letter to Governor Joseph Emerson Brown on October 20, 1861. In the letter, Thomas stated that he had remained at home to take care of his farm and other county business and spent his time studying cavalry tactics. He proposed setting up a state regiment of cavalry to be ready for service the following spring and requested the authority to do so. Thomas sent a second letter to Governor Brown on February 15 stating that he had received authority from the C.S.A. war department to raise a Calvary regiment to serve three years or the length of the war. Thomas read in the papers that the President had requested 12 regiments from Georgia and felt that any regiment organized should be done with the consent of the state executive so was asking for his consent and authority to be of service to his state by helping to raise one. The governor had previously stated that many Calvary companies had offered their service, so Thomas requested if the Governor gave his consent, that he send a list of those companies to facilitate organizing a regiment. Thomas received permission to raise a regiment from the Secretary of War on February 22, however, he still wanted consent from the Governor so sent another letter on February 27, 1862 stating that since the proclamation, he had done nothing towards raising his regiment and would hold off until the request for 12 regiments was responded to. Thomas mustered into the 16th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division of the Georgia Militia as an assistant surgeon on July 26, 1862. He would serve less than a year, however, resigning his commission on June 1, 1863 via a letter to Adjutant General Henry C. Wayne after the office of Assistant Surgeon in the State Militia was done away with. He felt his position was “null and void” at that point.

June 1, 1863 resignation letter

He had not given up on raising a regiment though. On April 9, 1864, the Southern Confederacy ran the following article:
Companies of Cavalry Wanted for the War—I have been authorized by the Secretary of War to raise a regiment of cavalry for the Confederate States service for three years or for the war, which he has promised to arm. I propose to receive companies to be mustered into service, to be combined with companies now being raised by Col. W. J. Lawton to constitute a regiment. Immediate correspondence is respectfully invited. T.P. Janes, Penfield, Georgia. Mar15-1m. – T. P. Janes
The 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia in Greene County noted that Thomas was 40 years, 4 months of age, a physician, and farmer born in Georgia. Thomas had been exempted by Surgeon Certificate. The 1865 State of Georgia, Greene County tax assessment noted that Thomas was a physician in Penfield. His tax assessment included a carriage, watch, and a piano. The 1866 U.S. IRS tax assessment list recorded him as a physician living in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. On October 27, 1871, The Times-Argus of Selma, Alabama reported that on June 8, 1869, “Mr. H. M. Burns, of the Greensboro Herald, writes, June 8th, 1869: ‘Last week we visited the farm of our enterprising friend, Dr. Thomas P. Janes, which lies on Fishing Creek, some seven or eight miles north of Greensboro, to see what can be done by trying on our old lands in middle Georgia. We had previously heard much said of Dr. Janes’ success in growing the different kinds of grass, and expected to find something more than usual in our country, but were totally unprepared to see red clover, herds grass, orchard grass, blue grass, and timothy grown to such perfection in Greene county as not to be surpassed by the best farms in Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania.” In July 7, 1869, the Southern Watchman reported that Thomas was successfully growing clover and various kinds of grass on old lands of Middle Georgia—land that had been in cultivation for the last 30 years, and without manure.

On July 20, 1870, Thomas and Emily were still living in Penfield. In the 10 years since the 1860 census, the value of his real estate had doubled. Still farming, his real estate was now valued at $45,000, up from $22,000. Thomas’ personal estate was valued at $5,000. His wife Emily was keeping house. Of the 11 children living in the home, three had grown to adulthood—Emma (age 23), Fannie (age 21), and Poleman (Thomas Jr., age 20). Poleman was a farm laborer. They had three teenagers in the home—William (age 27 and in school), Charlie (age 16 and a farm laborer), and Eddie (age 14 and a farm laborer). The other five children were Margie (age 12), Arthur (age 9), James (age 7), Walter (age 6), and John (age 3). There was a 39-year-old man named William Fish living next door. I assume he has a connection to Emily’s family, but I don’t know how yet.

My sister Jennifer visited the Georgia Department of Agriculture
building where this picture of Thomas hangs. She took a photo
of the picture that day.
Thomas was named the first Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Georgia by the Governor on August 26, 1874. The Atlanta Constitution reported that there were 16 applicants that had been recommended by 300 Georgia citizens. The Constitution reported that Thomas “appeared to be ‘worthy and well recommended.’” They further reported that Thomas “has taken a very active and zealous part in the interests and usefulness of the state agricultural society. Since 1846 he has served it as vice-president or on its executive committee. He has been well known for a number of years as the energetic and able president of the ‘Greene county agricultural and mechanical association,’ and otherwise at all times and in many ways as popularly identified in the honorable standing and solid advancement of the great command interests of agriculture throughout the state and country, being fully alive to its wants, capable and experienced in all maters thereto appertaining. The faithful discharge of his public duties is a marked assurance that his appointment is meritorious and appropriate; that it will give general satisfaction to the planting community of the state and fulfill the designs of the agricultural act of the last general assembly. He is represented, moreover, as a very expert, hard-fisted, practical and successful farmer and planter, in fact, has devoted his life to successful farming; not confining himself to corn and cotton, but growing clover and the grasses, so as to be ‘known and read of all men.’”

Thomas made it his mission to educate the farmers of Georgia. The book Georgia: Her Resources and Possibilities published by the Georgia Department of Agriculture in 1895 noted that “… Within the first two years [of his commission] a large amount of valuable information on labor and various features of farm economy, stock raising, the cultivation of grasses, forage and other crops upon which the farmers of Georgia had not been well informed, were collected and published for the information of the agriculturists of the State. …” His first publication was “Sheep Husbandry in Georgia,” followed by the “Hand Book of Georgia (1876).”  The book Georgia: Her Resources and Possibilities notes that this publication was “designed to supply the people of Georgia with correct information of their own State, its conditions, resources, and institutions, and to furnish immigrants, actual and prospective, with accurate and reliable information on subjects connected with Georgia, which would be of interest to them.” Other publications included the “Manual on the Hog (1877),” the “Farmers’ Scientific Manual (1878),” the “Manual of Georgia: For Use of Immigrants and Capitalists (1878),” and “Georgia from the Immigrant Settlers’ Standpoint (1879).” If you google Thomas, you’ll see that you can buy reproductions of his publications today. Thomas also made sure that Georgia farmers knew everything they needed to know about fertilizers, so they could buy a quality product at a good market value.

On January 13, 1875, the North-East Georgian published the news that Thomas had promised to contribute to their columns. In one column, he requested that Georgians submit samples of agricultural and horticultural productions to be exhibited at the Great Fair of the Georgia State Agricultural Society in Macon, Georgia for one week beginning October 18, 1875. This included soil and plant samples, fertilizer, and machinery. On October 17, 1876, The Atlanta Constitution declared Thomas as the “champion turnip grower of the state.” The Daily Constitution in Atlanta published a story on April 17, 1877 in which Thomas “… advises young men to marry good, clever, Georgia girls, settle on a farm and try to raise sheep.” In 1877, worried about food shortages due to a war in Europe (perhaps the Russo-Turkish War), Thomas encouraged the farmers in Georgia to increase their crops and to “take care of the pigs.” The Athens Weekly Georgian published an article on May 3, 1877 in which Thomas offered the following advice: “… In view of the war in Europe, and the probable scarcity and high prices of breadstuffs and low price of cotton which will prevail, I again respectfully advise that you will, by every means in your power, increase the area planted in provision crops. I suggest checking your fields of cotton with corn in rows fifteen to twenty feet apart, one hill at every intersection. With fair sessions, this will very largely increase the product of corn, without a corresponding decrease of the cotton. I further suggest the planting of the stubble fields in peas so soon as the wheat and oats shall have been harvested. Pay special attention to the raising every pound of pork possible. Take care of the pigs. These suggestions are not designed to alarm or to create a sensation. A word to the wise is sufficient. A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”

To conduct the business of the State Commissioner of Agriculture, Thomas needed to spend a lot of time in Atlanta. In 1878, the Atlanta City Directory noted that he lived at the Markham House, a large hotel that opened in Atlanta in November 1875.

Markham House, Wikipedia, public domain
Thomas was a member of the National Agricultural Congress, holding the office of vice president in 1878 and elected to president in 1879. The congress met semi-annually and so Thomas was often required to travel to places such as Washington DC, New York, Tennessee, and Connecticut.

Thomas was known as a scientific farmer. One example of how he used science to help perform his work as the commissioner was when he sought the help of John T. Duncan, a judge in Laurens County, Georgia who “established the county’s first weather station on April 1, 1878” according to a blogpost by Scott Thompson. On June 4, 1878, The Dublin Post published the following article:
WEATHER REPORT—As recorded by Hon. J. T. Duncan—State Commissioner of Agriculture T. P. Janes, has furnished Judge Duncan with a thermometer and rain gauge, and requested him to act as “observer” for this section. He records in a book prepared for the purpose the temperature at 7 a.m., at 2 p.m., and at 9 p.m., each day from which the daily average is obtained. At the end of the month the monthly average is made out. The rainfall and motions of the wind are also carefully recorded. Monthly reports are forwarded to the Commissioner to be utilized in the solution of the great problems of meteorology. The Judge commenced his observations the 1st of April last. Below are given results for June: Lowest mean temperature 14th 67 1/2 degrees, Highest mean temperature 20th 84 1/4 degrees, Mean temperature for the month 77 1/4 degrees, Total rainfall 4.65 inches.
Thomas raised eyebrows in the summer of 1878 when on June 15, The Atlanta Constitution reported that he had “flooded” the state with letters to citizens attempting to manufacture “an expression of popular opinion in his favor,” and that he “used an amount of stationary, postage and printing for this purpose.” It was noted by the Constitution that it “involved a direct breach of public trust”…  “if it had been paid out of the public fund appropriated for the use of the agricultural bureau.” He requested that citizens write the “… Governor A. H. Colquitt, giving, in any manner you may deem proper, an expression of your views, and the views of your neighbors generally, on the question of my re-appointment.” He also requested that they send him a copy of the letters. Thomas’ term as Commissioner of Agriculture was due to expire in August so he was attempting to put himself in good favor with the public. It was felt that it was the governor’s job to name his successor and he was out of place promoting himself.

I don’t know if Thomas’ letter campaign had anything to do with it, but the Governor appointed him for a second term beginning September 1878. Thomas had just completed the first year of the term when in mid-September 1879, rumors surfaced of a possible resignation from his commission. It seems Thomas’ office was being investigated for mis-management. Before the month ended, Thomas did in fact resign, delivering the following letter to Georgia’s Governor:
To His Excellency Alfred H. Colquitt, Governor of Georgia: I have been reliably informed that the opposition to the department of agriculture, and the demand for its abolition, which has found expression in various forms, is, to a large extent, based upon personal opposition to myself, and believing, as I do, that such opposition will not only impair my usefulness as the head of the department, but seriously endanger its existence; believing, too, that the abolition of the department at this time would be a calamity to the farmers of Georgia and the best interests of the state, I am not willing, even seemingly, to be an obstacle to the advancement of these interests. Notwithstanding my convictions that I have faithfully discharged my duties to the best of my skill and ability, in a work so new, without example or precedent, errors of judgment and mistakes in the exercise of a very wide discretion may have been committed. In view of these facts, I have concluded that it is my duty to resign my position. I therefore respectfully tender my resignation; absolutely and unqualifiedly, of the office of commissioner of agriculture, to take effect at such time as you may signify your acceptance of the same. – Thomas P. Janes
The Governor accepted his resignation and appointed a successor. Thomas’ resignation was widely reported across many states. Some thought that while he may have been guilty of bad management, his “devotion to the bureau” outweighed those missteps. The Daily Constitution noted on September 30, 1879 that “… Dr. Janes will return to his plantation in Greene, where he will doubtless enjoy quiet and tranquility. His entire official term has been one consistent and unremitting fight and struggle. He has had to defend his department at every session of the legislature and at the session of the convention.” The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Louisiana noted on October 26, 1879 that in the five years since Georgia established the Department of Agriculture, “Dr. Janes and those who have aided and supported him, the State Chemist and State Geologist and intelligent and public-spirited farmers in different parts of the State, have done more for agriculture in that State, and more for the best interests of the State, than has been done by any of the political parties, if not all or any of the legislative bodies, for half a century. We believe the best informed farmers and citizens of Georgia will agree that this statement is strictly correct. The statement that the Department of Agriculture has benefited that State to the amount of a million dollars a year for five years with prospects of increasing benefits yearly, would be placing too low an estimate on the real value of that department. Every Southern State would do well to make liberal appropriations to have Commissioner Janes’s pamphlets and books extensively circulated amongst its farmers. The information they contain is invaluable. …”

After leaving the Department of Agriculture, Thomas settled back into farming and his medicine. On June 26, 1880, the census enumerator found him and his family living in Skull Shoals, Greene County, Georgia. At age 56, he was enumerated as was a farmer and physician. His wife, age 55, enumerated as Emma, was keeping house with the help of her daughter Maggie. Sons Eddie and Arthur were farmers; sons Jim, Walter, and John Henry were laborers, all presumably helping their father on the family farm. Five black servants, enumerated as laborers, were living in the home—Barron George (40), Perry (35), Emerline (30), Lizzie Williams (20), and Elis Tucker (50). A 15-year-old black male named John Tucker , also a farmer, lived in the home.

An article published in The Atlanta Constitution on May 12, 1883 (republished from the Oglethorpe Echo) connects Thomas to my Lankford family. The article reads “A few weeks ago while Mr. J. C. Lankford was plowing along down on Dr. Janes’s home place he plowed up the frame of some person who had been buried there in the past. It was lying due east and west and was in its natural form. The contents were gathered up and carried to Dr. Janes for examination and he pronounced it to be an Indian child between 8 and 12 years old.” James C. Lankford was my 2nd great-grandfather, father of Alice Beman Lankford, my great-grandmother and a key subject of the family legend. This article shows that the Janes and Lankford families were in close proximity to each other.

In 1884, Thomas was selected as an alternate presidential elector (the United States Electoral College is a body of electors established by the United States Constitution) to Col. J. A. Billups for the democratic party in the 8th district. Both men supported the Grover Cleveland ticket, who in November won the election. According to Wikipedia, this was the “first election of a Democrat as President of the United States since the Civil War.” That same year, Governor Henry McDaniel appointed Thomas as one of the state commissioners to the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition held in New Orleans.

Yes, I know Thomas was a Southern plantation and slave owner in the mid-1800s, but I was still horrified to read an article published in the Banner-Watchman on July 1, 1884. The article was an interview of Thomas as the ex-Commissioner of the Agriculture where he talked about cotton, crops, farming, etc. One of the questions was “What about our negro labor?” Here’s his response:
It is getting worse and worse every year. The younger generation are all at school, the women won’t work, and so a very small pro rata of the race are bread-winners. The white children are kept at work, while the negroes are being educated at the expense of the white tax-payers. In my whole observation I do not know a single educated negro who will work in the field, and this race is fit for nothing else. But they are about as good as the average white labor of the North, for which you must pay $20 or $30 per month. When all the blacks are educated we will have to take the sun ourselves, for they won’t work.
The next question was “What do you think will be the future of the negro? Do you fear a war of races?” His response was:
Oh, no; there is no danger of that. When the blacks fail to bear their part of the labor they will have to emigrate, and will be colonized to themselves. I anticipate no trouble, as the whites will always govern this country and be in the ascendency. The negro will accept his fate without a struggle.
It is NOT a proud moment for me to know my ancestor spoke these words.

Sometime before March 1885, Thomas apparently attempted to regain his position as State Commissioner of Agriculture, however, that was not meant to be when Thomas died suddenly on March 10, 1885. Field hands found him lying unconscious in the field of his Greene County home, Redcliffe Farm. They sent for a doctor, but he died before the doctor arrived. His death was widely reported:
Dr. Janes’ Death. A Rumor That He May Have Committed Suicide, The Atlanta Constitution, March 12, 1885. A Greenesboro special to the Augusta Chronicle says: Dr. Thomas P. Janes died at his residence, about seven miles from Greenesboro, this evening. About 12 o’clock the hands working on his farm found him lying in the field in an unconscious condition. They removed him to his home, but he died before medical assistance could reach him. The report is that he died from an overdose of morphine, but whether administered with an intent to kill himself is not known. Dr. Janes has been suffering for some time from nervous affection, brought on by financial anxiety, and it is thought that he took the morphine to ease his nerves. Dr. Janes was formerly a very wealthy man, but has been very unfortunate, and in a few years has lost much money, although his property is still estimated as being worth from $25,000 to $30,000. He was at one time commissioner of agriculture of Georgia, and was a man who has done much to advance the farming interests of the state. He was a kind and afiable gentleman, and a man of large experience. His death will be felt in the county and will cause much regret. 
A correspondent of The Constitution, from the same place furnishes the following: It is rumored that Dr. Janes’s suicide was the result of depression because of financial embarrassment and the fact that he had lost all hope of obtaining the appointment of commissioner of the agricultural department of the government, for which office he had made application. The friends of Dr. Janes in this city do not believe that he committed suicide, and are satisfied that Dr. Janes had no cause for such an act.
The same story was reported by the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky on March 12, 1885 and by the Dunkirk Evening Observer in Dunkirk, New York on March 13, 1885. The Wilkes-Barre News in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania reported the following on March 13, 1885:
An Office Seeker’s Suicide. Greensboro, Ga., March 12.—The death of Dr. Thomas P. Janes, late Georgia commissioner of agriculture, is now alleged to have been suicide, resorted to because of depression at the fact that he stood no chance of securing the federal commissionership of agriculture, for which position he was an applicant.
And the Baltimore Sun in Baltimore, Maryland reported the following on March 17, 1885:
Dr. Thomas P. Janes, ex-commissioner of agriculture, of Georgia, died last week.
Thomas was laid to rest in the Janes Family Cemetery on Redcliffe Farm. I visited the cemetery with my husband, Daddy, aunt Lucile (Lankford) Epps, and uncle Ralph Epps almost 20 years ago. I remember it seemed like we were riding in the middle of nowhere when Daddy said, “stop the car, it’s in these woods somewhere.” We got out of the car and made our way through the woods until we finally came upon the graves. I took these photos that day.

 I brought a large rock from the wooded area that sits in my garden today.

The rock from the Janes property is in the center of this photo

Family members filed a probate application for Thomas on May 18, 1885. In the application, his wife Eliza, sons Arthur, Edward, James, and Charles, and daughter Margie certified that on March 8, 1885 (two days before Thomas’ death), he requested that they bear witness to him making a verbal will. They said he felt his end was near and he might not have the opportunity to submit the will properly. He left his entire estate to his wife Eliza. His son Arthur was appointed Guardian ad litem for Thomas’ minor son, John Henry Janes.

The book How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant notes that after Thomas’ death, “… His sons soon failed financially and drifted away, leaving the farm to tenants. The Janes family then faded into obscurity.”

You'll find a photo of the ruins of Thomas' house in Greene County on the Vanishing Georgia pages of the Georgia Archives web site. Here's a link to the photo.

If you drive into Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia, you’ll find a State of Georgia Historical Marker near the Greene County Courthouse honoring Thomas as the First Commissioner of Agriculture.


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