Friday, August 18, 2017

Zania Vernell Tarkenton

On April 7, 2017, I blogged about my father-in-law’s first wife, Vernell. At the time, we knew very little about her so I could only go so far in researching this mystery woman. We had a clue of what her maiden name was but with no way to confirm it I wasn’t ready to spend a lot of time in what could be a wasted effort. But I recently had a breakthrough when out of the blue my husband asked if I had found any more information on Vernell. I told him no, I was stuck until I could confirm her last name. He then walked into the bedroom and came back with a divorce decree he’d brought home at some point and put in a drawer instead of sharing with me. Turns out, the clue from Earl’s Navy address book was a good one—Vernell’s last name was in fact Tarkenton.

Now that I knew her last name, I searched on Alice Tarkenton hoping to find Vernell and her mother Alice together in the 1940 census. While I have yet to find a census record, I did find a 1940 Los Angeles County California voter registration record listing Alice Tarkenton as living on Clinton Street, the same street as the Alice Tarkenton in Earl’s address book. It was a different street number but good enough for me to confirm the connection.

Alice and Lonnie Tarkenton in a 1940 California Voter Registration record

A little more research and I found Vernell’s father and three more husbands. There’s still work to do on Vernell, but for now, this is what I know about her.

Zannia Vernell Tarkenton, daughter of Lonnie Warren Tarkenton and Alice W. Barnum, was born in Petersburg, Texas on March 25, 1929. Vernell had at least one sister, Avelyn Irene Tarkenton, born in Los Angeles, California on October 18, 1935. She went by Vernell and would have been my husband’s step-mother.

I believe this is her sister, Avelyn
Sometime during the first year of her life, her family moved to Los Angeles, California. On April 11, 1930, the census enumerator recorded the Tarkenton family living on Rosemont Avenue in Los Angeles. Vernell was enumerated as Zinnia B. Tarkenton. Her 29-year-old father, born in Oklahoma, worked as an engineer for a construction company. Her 34-year-old mother was born in San Francisco, California. Her maternal grandfather was born in New York and her maternal grandmother in Germany.

As mentioned above, I’m still looking for the Tarkenton family in the 1940 census records.

It appears that Vernell was married four times. Her first husband was my father-in-law Earl Lloyd Murphy, son of Charles Homer Murphy and Dessie Church. Vernell and Earl were married on December 4, 1948, one day after Earl was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy at the U.S. Naval Station in San Diego, California. Earl had served on the U.S.S. Comstock before being stationed in San Diego. The wedding took place at the Wedding Manor located at 3201 W. Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. Glen Hampton of 2122 Clinton Street in Los Angeles was a witness. He was most likely a neighbor of Vernell’s who lived at 2126 Clinton Street. Albert S. Mason, a Presbyterian Minister performed the ceremony. Earl was recorded as being 22 years old with a birthdate of August 8, 1926. He was actually born in 1928, not 1926, so would have been 20 years old, not 22. It was the first marriage for Earl as well. Vernell was 19 years old and a secretary. The marriage certificate notes that Vernell’s father was born in Lubbock, Texas but all other records for him show he was born in Oklahoma.

Vernell Tarkenton and Earl Murphy marriage license*

Vernell Tarkenton and Earl Murphy marriage license*

We don’t know for sure where Vernell and Earl headed after they were married but a Veterans Administration Certificate of Eligibility and Entitlement form dated December 22, 1948 lists Earl’s address as Box 438 in Littleton, Wetzel County, West Virginia, which was home for him. When Earl enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Enlisted Reserve Corps on February 15, 1949, he gave an address of 3010 West Street in Weirton, Hancock County, West Virginia. And then at some point in 1949, Earl took a job as a steel inspector with the Carnegie Illinois Steel Corporation at the McDonald Plant in Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio. We also don’t know the circumstances but just over a year after they were married, Earl filed a petition for divorce on February 25, 1950 against Vernell in the Court of Common Pleas of Trumbull County on the grounds of extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty. I found a small news clipping in my in-law’s documents documenting the filing (newspaper and date unknown):
New divorce actions were filed by Earl Murphy, 220 Belmont NW, against Vernell Murphy and by Kathleen Marx, Warren, against Fred Marx. Both charge extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty. The Murphys were married in December, 1948, and the Marx’s in January, 1949.
A legal notice ran in the Western Reserve Democrat in Warren on March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, and April 6, 1950. The divorce decree was signed by Judge G. H. Birrell in Warren on August 26, 1950. The decree stated that Earl “had been a resident of the State of Ohio for longer than one (1) year last past and of the County of Trumbull for at least thirty (30) days immediately preceding the filing of same.” The decree further stated that Vernell “has been guilty of gross neglect of duty as alleged in said petition and that plaintiff is entitled to a divorce as prayed for.” The Court also ordered that Vernell “be restored to her maiden name of Vernell Z. Tarkenton.” I found another news clipping that documented the divorce (newspaper and date unknown):
Gross neglect of duty served as the grounds for a decree of divorce granted to Earl Murphy, 220 Belmont NW, from Vernell Murphy.
Earl made four $25 payments to his attorney, Albert W. Marowitz of Warren, Ohio. The first payment was made on February 24, 1950; the second on March 11, 1950; the third on March 25, 1950; and the final payment was made on August 16, 1950.

My guess is that Vernell, still a teenager when she married Earl, wasn’t happy living in Ohio and headed back home to California, thus not performing her wifely duties.

I haven’t found a record to document it yet but another researcher noted that Vernell married Floyd Charles Trosen (date unknown). Vernell and Floyd had a son they named Steven Charles Trosen on August 23, 1953 in Los Angeles. Steven passed away on July 12, 2002 and was buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Riverside County, California.

Vernell’s father died on January 12, 1959 in Los Angeles. He was buried at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Gardena, Los Angeles.

The next marriage I find for Vernell was to Elvis Earl Bailey, a man she married in Clark, Nevada on February 10, 1962.

Her fourth marriage was to William B. Johnson in Douglas County, California on February 24, 1968. This marriage was short-lived though—they divorced in Los Angeles just two months later—April 1968 in Los Angeles.

Vernell’s mother died on May 13, 1968. Although Alice had been married several times, she was buried with Vernell’s father Lonnie at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Gardena, Los Angeles.
Vernell died in Los Angeles on June 25, 1970. The location of her burial is unknown to me.

* “California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 August 2017), Earl Lloyd Murphy and Zannia Vernell Tarkenton, 04 Dec 1948; citing Los Angeles, California, United States, county courthouses, California; FHL microfilm 2,116,154.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Memorial Funeral Service for George D. Athya

George Durie Athya
My husband’s grandfather, George Durie Athya, passed away 53 years ago this month—on August 30, 1964. While going through a box of family papers this week, I came across these words spoken by Rev. W. Ralph Lufkin of Westminster Presbyterian Church at George’s funeral service held at Bethany Chapel and Mortuary in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Memorial Funeral Service for 
George D. Athya

September 2, 1964

The Call to Worship
The Reading of the Memorial Words
The Scripture Readings
The Prayer
The Committal Service
The Benediction

The Memorial Words
To worship God we have come together in this place and through our worship we express our thanksgivings to God for his abundant grace and the generosity of His love. As we surrender into the gracious care of God our loved one we remember how God surrendered His Son that we might have life and through His Gift we possess the certain hope of life eternal.

We come in memorial service for George D. Athya who in his usual quiet way has slipped from this world into the glorious presence of Almighty God to take up his residence in that house not made with hands but eternal in the heavens. Released from sickness that plagued him and afflicted him with pain, set free from the frailty of human flesh, to move into the boundless joy of the spirit and to know the wonder of the saintly visions of that brave new world with God as seen by the Apostle John:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, and they shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. Behold, I make all things new. 
Westminster United Presbyterian Church
One Scripture verse has been much in my mind the last three days for it seemed to belong to the quiet simple, Scottish ways of George Athya’s Christian faith, and it is this: “I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

For George Athya kept the house of God as one who knew that its appearance spoke of his own love for the Owner of the house, and wax upon a floor and polish on the door was to him a quiet symphony of praise to God.

The straight rows of chairs, which we will long remember, were as a measuring stick in his life, and the string by which he lined the rows as the plumb line in the hand of the prophet Amos. For here we felt the straightness of life and the depth of faith which he felt for God.

Found among his clippings on a battered piece of paper were these words: “Argument will die if we remain silent and let it die.” It is said: “the dog barks but the caravan passes on.”

So quietly he did his work—sometimes amid the storms—and in his own effective way finished his task and now his caravan passes on to the eternal city of God.

George Athya was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1892. He served with the Scotch Highlanders in the British military service and later, as a young man, came to this country. George and Bertha Athya were married in 1924. They lived in Apollo, Pennsylvania for a number of years where later I was to serve as a pastor, then moved to Warren, Ohio and in 1953 came to Phoenix where their home has been ever since.

Four children were born to this union, three of whom have come from afar to be with their mother at this time.

While in Phoenix George and Bertha have served as custodians of God’s Church, first at First Presbyterian and in recent years at Westminster. The hours of quiet service, the unnumbered tasks, the quick response to need, the ready wit and good humor, the patient hand, the doing of the right and the Christian fellowship worked into the life of George Athya that quiet presence of God and ever readiness for His will.

As I visited him in the hospital after returning to Phoenix—and how grateful I am for that one brief visit—I found him alert and responsive, still able to share his Scotch humor, still full of quiet life and no fear in his face.

So I was not surprised that this verse of Scripture was found written out in his hand and left among his treasures:

I sought the Lord and he heard me
and delivered me from all my fears.

George asked me one day how often we should worship God. And, as at many other times, when he answered his own question, it was out of the Good Book … and this verse too was among those he loved and penciled in his own way:

Seven times a day do I praise thee
because of thy righteous judgments.

Now it has been the righteous judgment of God to call his servant to his eternal home and as we sorrow we too would worship God and give praise to Him as we celebrate his joyful entrance into his Father’s house, where there are many mansions, that there he may ever be with the Lord and await our coming.

George is survived by his wife Bertha, three sons, John, James and Howard all of Warren, Ohio and Mary, a daughter, now living in Falls Church, Virginia, and nine grandchildren.

“Blessed are they who die in the Lord and their works do follow them, yea henceforth saith the spirit, and they shall rest from their labors and their works do follow them.”

The Scriptures
A portion of the 43rd Chapter of Isaiah
Psalm 121
Portions of Psalms 90 and 46
The 23rd Psalm
Micah 6:8
Selections from Romans Chapter 8; I Corinthians 15; II Corinthians 4 and 5
The Gospel of John Chapter 14, selected verses


George’s ashes were scattered in the Scattering Rose Garden (section 48) at Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery in Phoenix.

Shortly after George’s death, my husband’s grandmother Bertha moved back to the east coast and lived the remainder of her life with family members. After she left Arizona, Westminster Presbyterian Church ran the following in their church program:

Mrs. Athya To Return East With Her Daughter
On Friday noon Mrs. Bertha Athya returned east with her daughter Mary and grandson Patrick. Two sons who were here with their mother following the death of their father returned last week driving the Athya car. Mrs. Athya will be with the members of her family in Falls Church, Virginia and her three sons (John, James and Howard) who live in Warren, Ohio. Mary (Mrs. Earl Murphy) lives in Falls Church.

As Mrs. Athya leaves us we would recognize the faithfulness of Mr. and Mrs. Athya in the work and worship of our congregation and their faithfulness in the office of custodian of our church buildings. Untold hours of work and the doing of many, many tasks unknown to most of us have kept our church sparkling clean and very attractive during the years of their service. Always at the call of everyone and always willing to do everything makes their leaving a real vacancy in our midst.

The Session in its meeting on Thursday night felt there should be opportunity for everyone to share in a farewell purse which will be mailed to Mrs. Athya when gathered together. No matter how small the gift we hope everyone will wish to share in this. Someone will be at the door as you leave with a plate into which you may place your gift. If you wish to bring it next Sunday there will be opportunity at that time also. An announcement will be made this morning by a member of the Session regarding this opportunity to express the appreciation of our congregation.

Westminster Needs a New Custodian
With the death of Mr. George Athya and Mrs. Athya’s decision to go east to be with her children and their families, Westminster is in need of a custodian. If there is someone in the membership of the church who would be interested in this work we would like to give first consideration to our own. If you are interested please call the church office, CR 4-2122 or Mr. William Keegan, AM 6-8645.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Noel Willis Grant

Noel Willis Grant
North Georgia Agricultural College
(ca. 1902) 
Noel Willis Grant, son of William Daniel Grant and Samantha Jane Holland, was born on January 17, 1878 in Clarkesville, Habersham County, Georgia. He was the 10th child of 12—John W. Grant, Asa Preston Grant, Thomas Lee Grant, Charles E. Grant, Joseph Henry Grant, Savannah J. Grant, Sarah Etta Grant, Starling S. Grant, James Rusk Grant, Noel Willis Grant, Judson Speer Grant, and Mamie Lillian Grant. Noel would be my 1st cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are John Holland and Elizabeth H. Majors.

I’m told by another researcher that Samantha had 15 children but only 12 lived. I haven’t found evidence to support that myself but am sharing that piece of information anyway. There is a stone at Old Clarkesville Cemetery where Samantha and William are buried that’s marked “Children of W. D. & S. J. Grant” so it’s certainly a possibility that there were other children.

Noel never knew his brother Starling who died in 1876 at the age of two, before Noel was born. Starling was buried in the Old Clarkesville Cemetery in Clarkesville.

On June 1, 1880, Noel and his family lived in Clarkesville. His father was a blacksmith and his mother was keeping house.

On June 14, 1900, Noel and his family lived in Clarkesville. His mother was enumerated as Jane, he as Noah, and his brother Judson as Judge. At age 22, Noel was a school teacher. Find A Grave Memorial# 57280238 for Noel’s brother Joseph notes that he “in early life taught school as a means of furthering his own education.” Perhaps Noel was doing the same thing.

Noel attended North Georgia Agricultural College in Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. In 1902, Noel was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity and the Inter-Society Committee. He participated in the military organization at the school as well and was Battalion Adjutant in the 4th U.S. Infantry, Cadet Battalion, Company A that year.

North Georgia Agricultural College (ca. 1903)

The highlight of his college career was when he represented the school in an oratorical contest held in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia on April 25, 1902. Students came from five local colleges who were members of the Association—Mercer University, Emory College, Technological School, University of Georgia, and the North Georgia Military College. On April 23, 1902, The Constitution deemed the event “one of the biggest events of the year in Atlanta.” The next day, The Constitution reported that North Georgia Agricultural College had “great hopes” in Noel representing the college to victory:
… “The North Georgia Agricultural college has won third place for three consecutive years. The students consider that this record is becoming monotonous and they believe they have picked a leader this year, who will relieve the monotony by forging ahead of the bunch into first place. The boys from the state university are centering great hopes in their leader. They feel satisfied that the other institutions will have to score a very fine record to get ahead of the university.” …
Noel Willis Grant (ca. 1903)
Noel didn’t let them down and took first place in the contest that year. His victory was reported, along with his photo, on the front page of The Atlanta Constitution on April 26, 1902:
“Noel W. Grant, of Clarkesville, Wins Oratorical Prize for North Georgia. … North Georgia won the first place in the fifth annual contest of the Georgia State Oratorical Association last night. Noel W. Grant, of Clarkesville, the representative of the North Georgia Agricultural college, Dahlonega, in a forceful and well-delivered address entitled “The Righting of a Wrong,” broke Mercer’s long list of victories and wrested from the Macon university the prestige of being the leading college of the state in matters oratorical. …” 
“… ‘The Righting of a Wrong,’ the winning speech delivered by Noel W. Grant, of north Georgia, is a discussion of the suffrage question in the south and is a strong plea for the disenfranchisement of the ignorant negro vote. The speech was clear and logical in every paragraph and made a great impression upon the audience. Mr. Grant’s style of delivery is original and very forceful. In contrast to the former contests there were few to question the decision of the judges.’ …”
In 1903, Noel was again a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, the Kappa Chapter. He was an editor of the college yearbook and Captain in the 4th U.S. Infantry, Cadet Battalion, Company A. Noel graduated that year, one of seven members of the class. The yearbook had “Legator” noted beside his name. The Free Dictionary defines legator as “a person who gives a legacy or makes a bequest.” I assume this stems from Noel’s first place in the oratorical contest, something which the college took great pride in as noted in the March 24, 1902 article published by The Constitution:
… “Every year the ‘oratorical contest’ is becoming more and more the chief event of the year with the college men of Georgia. The men of the different colleges meet each other on athletic fields, but only in this contest is it possible for the five leading institutions of the state to have representation at the same time or for their students to be present in large numbers.
While all the colleges of the state recognize the importance of athletics, the students of the different institutions also recognize the fact that the people of the state think more of one victory in this contest than they do of a thousand victories on the gridiron or the diamond. The time has passed when the students of any Georgia college can excuse failure in this contest on the ground that ‘we do not take much interest in things of that sort.’” …
Following Noel’s graduation from North Georgia Agricultural College, he was commissioned as assistant paymaster, Lieutenant in the United States Navy on October 15, 1903. Noel’s first cruise was from 1904 to 1905 aboard the U.S.S. Amphitrite, a station ship based at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. He was an assistant paymaster with the rank of ensign. By 1906, Noel was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade) and then stationed at the Navy yard in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. During 1907 and 1908, Noel was stationed at the Navy pay office in New York where he was responsible for “settling accounts.” By 1909, Noel was ordered to report to the U.S.S. Des Moines. According to Wikipedia, “Between 15 April 1910 and 23 January 1911, Des Moines cruised the coast of Africa, gathering information about commercial and political conditions, and called at the Canaries, Lisbon, Cadiz, and Gibraltar. Between March and November 1911 she returned to her Atlantic and West Indian duty, and on 6 December 1911 was placed in reserve for repairs at Boston.” Noel was enumerated onboard the Des Moines in 1910, still a Lieutenant working as an assistant paymaster. He apparently remained on the Des Moines until it was placed in reserve. In 1911, Noel was recorded on a U.S. Navy Registry as a midshipman aboard the Des Moines.

U.S.S. Amphirtrite, a cropped photograph of the USS Amphitrite at the Boston Navy Yard,
photo transferred from Zurel Darrillian (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons;

Noel spent 1912 and 1913 at the Navy yard in New York. At some point during this part of his career, he was promoted to Captain, continuing his work as paymaster.

Noel’s brother Charles died in Wheatland County, Montana on June 24, 1913. It’s believed he was buried at Langston Cemetery in Harlowtown, Montana. The Grant family suffered another loss the following year when Noel’s mother died of “an attack of acute indigestion” on October 4, 1914. She was buried at the Old Clarkesville City Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were held up until Noel, who was stationed on the U.S.S. Delaware at Vera Cruz, Mexico, could be notified. Unfortunately, he was unable to leave the ship to attend his mother’s funeral. While still on tour, Noel’s 40-year-old brother, James of Toccoa, shot himself in the chest on June 17, 1917. On June 21, 1917, the Toccoa Record reported that James had been drinking earlier and upon being brought home by friends, reportedly insisted on shooting his gun once “just to scare his wife.” He shot the gun outside, his friends left, and then he went inside the house and went into the bedroom. James returned to the living room, put the gun to his chest, and pulled the trigger. He died two hours later, leaving five children behind. As if that wasn’t enough tragedy for the family, eight days later Noel’s father William died in Clarkesville on June 25. Both James and William were buried at Old Clarkesville City Cemetery. It’s unknown whether Noel made it home for either funeral.

USS Delaware (BB-28) - NH 88519.jpg, by J. Giletta (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons;

Noel’s tour on the U.S.S. Delaware ended on October 30, 1917 and he headed back to the States. From October 31, 1917 to March 30, 1918, he was supply officer of the 4th Naval District in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. From April 24, 1918, he was supply officer for the 2nd Naval District in Newport, Rhode Island. Beginning April 24, 1918, he was back on duty in the 4th Naval District at Philadelphia in connection with fitting out the U.S.S. Idaho on which he would spend the rest of 1918 and part of 1919 on board working as a supply officer. During this time, his official residence was 63 E. Adams Street in Chicago, Illinois. At some point in 1919, Noel was on duty in New York, New York, the 3rd Naval District. He now held the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Noel ended the year 1919 by taking a bride when he married Rose R. Koch in Denver, Denver County, Colorado on December 8, 1919. While I don’t know who Rose’s parents were, the 1930 census record tells us that her father’s birthplace was Alsace-Lorraine (an “Imperial Territory of the German Empire” from 1871 – 1918 according to Wikipedia) and her mother’s birthplace Germany. Rose herself was born in England. A naturalized citizen, she immigrated to America in 1893. At the time of their marriage, Noel was 41 years of age and Rose was 33. They never had children.

By January 24, 1920, Noel was back on board the U.S.S. Idaho which was stationed in San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California. His official residence was 1044 East 5th Street in Brooklyn, New York. He was now a cost inspector.

The next two years brought sorrow and a health issue to the Grant family. Noel’s sister Mamie died in Atlanta of a ruptured appendix on December 17, 1921. She was buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta. His sister Savannah died in Clarkesville on April 8, 1922 following gall stone removal and abscess of the gall bladder. She was buried in Cornelia, Georgia. At some point in 1922, Noel spent time at the Naval Hospital in New York receiving treatment of some sort. Noel’s brother Thomas, a steel worker, died in Atlanta on December 30, 1924. He was buried at Crest Lawn Cemetery in Atlanta.

On June 1, 1925, Noel and Rose lived at 10 Westminster Road in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. Later in the year, he headed west to the Navy yard at Mare Island, California, home of the U.S.S. Langley, a Naval aircraft carrier. Noel, commander of the supply corps, spent 1925 through 1928 on the Langley. He was promoted to Captain in 1928. His home base during 1927 and 1928 was 961 East Avenue in San Diego, California according to the city directory.

USS Langley with aircraft on deck (1927), photo by Department of Defense, Department of the Navy.
Naval Photographic Center (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons; 

Noel’s brother Judson died in Georgia on September 19, 1929. He was buried at Level Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Cornelia, Habersham County, Georgia. Judson practiced law and was a judge in Morgan County, Georgia.

Back on the east coast, the census enumerator visited Noel and Rose on April 11, 1930. They lived in apartment E at 50 Clark Street in Brooklyn. Noel was enumerated as a Naval Officer with the U.S. Navy. A 26-year-old black woman named Maud Nisbitt lived with them, working as a maid/servant. That same year, he was on duty at the Navy purchasing and distribution office there in New York. During 1930 and 1931, Noel served as a supply officer on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) landing planes on 6 June 1935,
photo by U.S. Navy (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons; 

Noel’s brother Joseph, an attorney, died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on January 6, 1931. He was buried at Rose Hill Burial Park in Oklahoma City.

Noel’s duty on the U.S.S. Saratoga ended at some point in 1931. The next stop in his military career was Washington, DC where he was an instructor at the Army Industrial College during 1931 and part of 1932. The last assignment for Noel was the Navy yard at Charleston, South Carolina during the latter part of 1932 and part of 1933. Sometime during either 1933 or 1934, Noel retired as Captain of the supply corps following a distinguished 31-year career with the U.S. Navy. He and his wife Rose returned to Rabun County, Georgia and made their home on Route 2 in Clayton.

In September 1935, Noel and Rose visited Habersham County where they rented a room at the Mountain View Hotel. While there, Noel died the morning of September 13, 1935. A simple funeral service was conducted by Rev. J. B. Smith at the Methodist church in Clarkesville the following afternoon. Following the service, his flag-draped casket was carried by life-long friends to the Grant family plot at Old Clarkesville Cemetery where he was buried beside his parents. Noel was survived by his wife, his sister Sarah, and his brother Asa. Noel was a Mason. It’s believed that Noel’s father William, a blacksmith, built the iron fence that surrounds the Grant family graves at Old Clarkesville Cemetery.

Additional References:

  • "Oratorical Contest to Occur Here on April 25," The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, March 24, 1902.
  • "North Georgia Boys Will Make Great Showing in Atlanta Friday Night," The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, April 23, 1902.
  • "Record Breaking House Will Greet College Orators at Grand Friday," The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, April 24, 1902.
  • "Noel W. Grant, of Clarkesville, Wins Oratorical Prize for North Georgia," The Atlanta Constitution, April 26, 1902.
  • "Short Items of Local Interest," The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, August 22, 1903.
  • "Naval Assistant Paymasters," The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, October 16, 1903.
  • "Fight on Crum by Southerners," The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, November 11, 1903.
  • North Georgia Agricultural College Souvenir yearbook, 1902, 1903.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Harry Thomas Shepler

Harry Thomas Shepler, son of Lewis Hamland Shepler Jr. and Keziah Chambers Horne, was born in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on December 18, 1910. He was the 5th child of 7—Bryon Reeves Shepler, Elizabeth Horne Shepler, Josephine Marie Shepler, Louise Margaret Shepler, Harry Thomas Shepler, Harold Lewis Shepler, and Howard Moses Shepler. Harry would have been my husband’s 1st cousin 2x removed. Their nearest common relatives are Moses Horne and his wife Elizabeth Larimer.

Harry's twin brother
Harold Shepler
(ca. 1929)
At just over a month old, baby Harry came down with catarrhal pneumonia, also known as bronchopneumonia. He was seen by a doctor on January 23 and 24 but died in Apollo at 3:30 a.m. on January 25, 1911. According to Harry’s death certificate (his father was the informant), he was buried at Apollo Cemetery on January 26. I submitted a request for a photo of Harry’s tombstone through Find-A-Grave but unfortunately, the person who attempted to fulfill my request discovered that the cemetery has no record of Harry’s burial.

Harry was a twin—his brother Harold shared the same birthday—December 18, 1910. Were they identical or fraternal twins? I don't know but I found a photo of Harold in the 1929 Vandergrift High School yearbook which gives us an idea of what Harry might have looked like had he lived.

Harry's death certificate

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ollie Von Brooks

Ollie Von Brooks, son of William Henry Brooks and Florence Lee Lankford, was born on February 19, 1896 in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. He was the oldest child of 13—Ollie Von Brooks, Leila M. Brooks, Waver Brooks, Benjamin Franklin Brooks, Weldon J. Brooks, Calvin Brooks, Jessie James Brooks, Baby Boy Brooks, Nancy Annie Elizabeth Brooks, Evie M. Brooks, Ruby F. Brooks, Alvin Thomas Brooks, and Nettie Lou Brooks. He would be my 2nd cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

On June 4, 1900, Ollie, his parents, and two-year-old sister Leila lived in a rental home in the 232nd District of Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The census enumerator recorded his name as Olivon. His parents had been married for five years. His father was a farm laborer and neither of his parents could read or write.

On April 22, 1910, Ollie’s growing family lived in a rented farm on Lexington Road in Woodstock, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Five more children had joined the family for a total of seven children. Ollie’s 78-year-old widowed grandmother Nancy Lankford was living in the home. With this many people in the home now, his mother, sister Leila, brother Waver, and Ollie himself were all having to work on the home farm so were enumerated with the occupation of laborer on a home farm. Although Ollie, Leila, Waver, and Frank were attending school, none of them could read or write. His grandmother was the only person in the home able to read.

About April 1911, Ollie’s mother gave birth to a baby boy. According to Ollie’s sister Nettie, the baby never cried so their parents did not name the baby, probably expecting it to die. He lived three months and four days. On July 14, 1911, the Oglethorpe Echo ran the following news item:
The grim reaper visited the Salem neighborhood twice toward the close of last week and left sorrowing friends and grief-stricken relatives. Taken were infants, one a child of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Adkins and the other of Mr. and Mrs. William Brooks.
World War I broke out when Ollie was 17 years old (July 28, 1914). For the first two years, the United States stayed out of the war. On January 5, 1917, Ollie registered for the World War I draft in Oglethorpe County. At the time, he lived in Rayle, Wilkes County, Georgia, was single, and a self-employed farmer on land owned by Frate Sim in Stephens, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Ollie was of medium height and build, had blue eyes, and brown hair.

Ollie on the "Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for
Military Duty, 1917–1918" from

RMS Olympic during her sea trial, Wikimedia Commons;,
public domain, 1911.
Despite the efforts of President Woodrow Wilson to stay out of the war, America declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. On July 23, 1918, Ollie was inducted into the U.S. Army as a private at Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia and sent to Camp Gordon located near Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia. According to GEORGIAINFO, Camp Gordon was “one of 16 temporary training camps, the largest in the southern states and the focus of Atlanta’s wartime patriotic spirit.” He served with the 24th Company, 6th Battalion, 157 Depot Brigade, the 3rd Infantry Regiment, and with Company M, 9th Infantry, Replacement and Training Battalion (I hope I got those right!) before being sent overseas to France, travelling aboard the RMS Olympic from Hoboken, New Jersey on September 9, 1918. I was surprised to discover that Ollie was joined on the trip by my great-uncle Luther T. Burnett. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if they were aware of the family connection. Ollie and Luther were connected by marriage—they had no common relative.

Passenger list for the RMS Olympic showing Ollie Brooks and Luther Burnett, Sept. 9, 1918
(portions deleted)

Relationship calculator showing the connection between Ollie and Luther

Many soldiers became sick with influenza and pneumonia during World War I, with Ollie being one of them. He contracted pneumonia while on the RMS Olympic and was taken to the military hospital upon arrival in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England where he died on September 30, 1918. The U.S. Army notified his father William H. Brooks, who also lived in Rayle. Ollie was buried in grave YIII at Magdalen Hill Cemetery in Hampshire on October 2 with a burial service performed by B. G. McGuigan. The war ended just over a month later, on November 11, 1918.

Register of Burials, Magdalen Hill Cemetery,
Winchester, Hampshire, England
(portions deleted)

The following year, Ollie was remembered during Arbor Day ceremonies in Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The Oglethorpe Echo ran a news article on November 28, 1919:
Memorials read at Arbor Day ceremonies at Meson Academy last Friday morning at 11 o’clock: Read by Lona McRee—OLLIE VAN BROOKS. Aged 22: born Feb 19th, 1896 son of Florence Langford and Mr. William H Brooks. Died of pneumonia in Winchester, England September 30, 1918.
USS Princess Matoika (ID-2290) under way  in 1919,
U.S. Navy - U.S. Naval Historical
Center Photo #: NH 43123, public domain.
On April 16, 1920, Ollie’s body was exhumed by H.O. order. His body was later placed on board the ship U.S.A.T. Princess Matoika which departed from Southampton, England on May 11, 1920. According to Wikipedia the Matoika also carried “the bodies of 10 female nurses and over 400 soldiers who died while on duty in France during the war.” The ship arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey on May 23, 1920. I haven’t found a record that shows how Ollie’s body was transported back to Georgia but I assume it was by train.

Passenger list for the U.S.A.T. Princess Matoika carrying Ollie's body home to America

Ollie’s body was reinterred at Salem Baptist Church Cemetery in Lexington on June 27, 1920. The Oglethorpe Echo ran a news article on July 2:
The remains of Ollie Brooks arrived home from across the sea and was buried at Salem Church last Sunday. Funeral services were conducted by Rev Coile.

Ollie never married.

Regarding Ollie’s birthdate, when filling out his World War I draft registration card, Ollie listed his date of birth as January 19th, 1895. However, both his tombstone and the November 28, 1919 Oglethorpe Echo news article record the date as February 19, 1896. I have not yet found a birth record.

Additional references:

  • Ollie Von Brooks photo from Find A Grave Memorial# 31365786, added by Lynn Ballard Cunningham, March 28, 2015.
  • Carol R. Byerly, PhD, “The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919,” Public Health Rep. 2010; 125(Suppl 3): 82–91.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Baby Girl Lankford

Baby Girl Lankford, daughter of Cornelius Lankford and Betty Cross Reid, was “born dead” in Tempe Hospital in Tempe, Maricopa County, Arizona on November 26, 1949. Baby Girl Lankford was a victim of RH disease. Her death certificate listed the disease or condition directly leading to death as monstrosity, caused by her mother being Rh negative and her father Rh positive. Wait, what? I had never seen monstrosity listed as a cause of death and it shook me. I can’t imagine how it made her parents feel when they were handed a copy of the death certificate. A time in their life that should have been filled with great joy was instead labeled a monstrosity! Baby Girl Lankford, part of the Curtis Caldwell Lankford/Nancy A. E. McCarthy line, was buried at Tempe Cemetery on November 28. Curtis Lankford was the brother of my 3rd great grandfather, James Meriweather Lankford, so she would have been my 4th cousin, 1x removed.

Partial death certificate for Baby Girl Lankford (ca. 1949)

This was the first time I had seen a Lankford in my family tree living in Arizona so of course I had to find out what took them there. Cornelius, originally born in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina at some point in the 1940s where he must have met Betty, born in Charlotte. Betty’s mother was Bessie Mae Cross Reid, also born in North Carolina. Bessie divorced Betty’s father Fred Olin Reid and married Daniel Thomas Selvage on May 1, 1948 in Mecklenburg County. Bessie and Daniel apparently moved to Arizona after they married. If you dig deep enough, you find that Daniel previously had ties in Arizona. Bessie was living in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona on February 12, 1949 when Cornelius and Betty were married so that tells me that Cornelius and Betty were either visiting her mother in Arizona or had moved there. Betty died in Charlotte on January 27, 1999 so apparently didn’t stay in Arizona.

Partial marriage certificate for Cornelius Lankford and Betty Cross Reid

Anyone who does genealogy knows how easy it is to get sidetracked when doing research. This is what happened to me when I sat down to do some research for another blog entry. I originally planned to research Joseph Jackson Lankford, grandfather of Cornelius Lankford. Instead, during one of my searches on, I found the death certificate for Baby Girl Lankford and the next thing you know, three hours had passed.

Although this happened years ago, after I finished writing this blog entry, I said a prayer for Baby Girl and her parents Cornelius and Betty.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

My AncestryDNA test didn’t disappoint

I’ve already posted my weekly blog entry but here I am posting another one. This one couldn’t wait until next week—I had exciting news to share! We’ve all seen the commercial about Kyle, the man who traded his lederhosen in for a kilt, right? Well, here’s my testimonial after taking my AncestryDNA test.

Earlier this year, my cousin took an AncestryDNA test. After her results came in, she shared her ethnicity on Facebook. Two months ago, her brother and sister-in-law visited and she and her sister-in-law spent time looking at the DNA matches she shared with other people. That was when they discovered a proof positive DNA match to the line that has been my family mystery and cause of a brick wall—Janes. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ve read the story Daddy has told me many times over the years about the birth of my grandpa, Carroll Harvey Lankford Sr. Just in case, I’ll tell it again.

Daddy was probably in the 7th grade when two teachers named Annie Mae Durham and Leana Mae Moody of Woodville, Greene County, Georgia, pulled him and his sister aside at school. The teachers told Daddy and my aunt the story that their grandmother, Alice Beman Lankford, had allegedly been raped by Thomas P. Janes Jr., the son of Thomas P. Janes Sr., a wealthy plantation owner in Greene County and Georgia’s first Commissioner of Agriculture. A pregnancy resulted and my grandpa was born in 1887. After the alleged rape, Thomas Jr.’s family allegedly disowned him and he was run out of town. They were told that Thomas Jr. was not charged with anything due to the wealth and prominence of his family. None of this could be proven though … until now.

I’ve been interested in having my DNA tested for a while but hadn’t. I felt it was another place for people to get your personal information so held back. But the match found from my cousin’s AncestryDNA test peaked my curiosity. I had to see for myself so I submitted my test in June. The results came in yesterday and didn’t disappoint. I got a “Shared Ancestor Hint” for a match to a couple in the Janes family who we share as common ancestors—my 4th great-grandfather William Janes and his wife Selah Gresham, my 4th great-grandmother. William and Selah Janes had a son named Absalom Madison Janes and a daughter named Mary Ann Frances Janes. My line travels through Absalom’s branch of the tree while the match connects through Mary Ann’s branch. Absalom had a son named Thomas P. Janes (Georgia’s first Commissioner of Agriculture), who had a son named Thomas P. Janes Jr., and the rest is history.

Shared Ancestor Hint from DNA connection

Absalom Janes moved his family to Penfield, Greene County, Georgia in 1839 where they settled in and became prominent members of the community. Thomas eventually sought higher education and once that was completed, made his home in Penfield as well which is where my 2nd great-grandfather James C. Lankford lived in 1872 when his daughter Alice Beman Lankford was born. I confirmed Thomas Janes Sr. knew James C. Lankford when I found an article in the Atlanta Constitution via the Oglethorpe Echo dated May 12, 1883 that stated “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.” That was significant to me because it meant they were in close enough proximity for Thomas Jr. and Alice to know each other.

Rape is horrible and I obviously have no way of knowing if that part of the story is true but I definitely feel that something happened and now I have DNA evidence that links my Lankford line to the Janes line. So, we’ll leave it at that.

My grandpa never thought he was as good as other people and never got over the fact that he was illegitimate. He lived with that shame his entire life. His own family didn’t help. The paper trail of information that would have been provided by family members proves that. Each piece of information (see table below) tells a different story, and for the most part, were not true or were incomplete.

I feel sad that grandpa had to live his life under these circumstances. I also have mixed feelings about what might have happened to my great-grandmother Alice. On one hand, she had to live with whatever it was that happened and my grandpa was forced to live a lie. On the other hand, my Lankford family wouldn’t exist if some part of this story weren’t true because my grandpa would never have been born which means none of us would have either!

So, it appears that Daddy was right. I can’t because he’s over 600 miles away from me, but I want to give my Daddy a hug right now and tell him about the DNA evidence face-to-face. There might just be some truth to the story his teachers told him all those years ago.

P.S., for several years, I’ve been gathering information on Thomas P. Janes Sr. on the chance that I was ever able to prove the connection. He left his mark in Georgia history and it’s been interesting to study him. I’ll share his story in a blog post soon.


DNA image photo credit: By brian0918™ (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.