Friday, February 26, 2016

52 Ancestors – A family heirloom—a special baby quilt (77-2016)

I was pregnant with my oldest son Chris in 1983. As all expectant parents do during a pregnancy, we were preparing a room for the baby. The room was directly across the hall from our bedroom and was perfect except for one thing—it had a big, ugly gray circuit breaker box on the wall. The breaker box was the first thing you saw when you walked into the room and somehow I had to cover it. It just so happened at the time that my co-worker Peggy Brouse was giving lunchtime quilting lessons to three other co-workers. In my mind, the breaker box could be covered by a wall hanging so I told them I had the perfect project if they were interested. I guess they thought it was a good idea and that became their next project.

We didn’t know the sex of the baby so when thinking about how I wanted to decorate the room, I decided to cover all bases and went with a pink, blue, green, and yellow color scheme which I shared with the quilters. They huddled together, came up with a plan, and got to work.

Anita Bieler, Evelyn Ferro, Peggy Brouse, and Ruth Buys
I worked with a wonderful group of people and that December, the entire department held a baby shower for me. The four quilters had finished their project by then and presented it to my husband and me that day. They were very proud of the work they had done, as they should have been. They took my color scheme to heart and created a beautiful piece of art that will always be cherished. Each quilter took one color and quilted an individual block. When all four blocks were finished, they worked together to sew the blocks to the top and back panels. When presenting the baby quilt to me, they included a card that contained the following details: 
"There are 46 different fabrics in the quilt. Approximately 320 separate strips of fabric were hand sewn to form the blocks. The back of the binding is machine sewn, and that’s the only machine sewing on the quilt. It took over 200 hours of stitching to complete. Each person signed the block that they stitched."
- Peggy Brouse, Anita Bieler, Ruth Buys, and Evelyn Ferro.

In August 1984, Peggy borrowed the quilt and entered it in the handicrafts competition at the Prince William County Fair in Manassas, Virginia. The baby quilt took third place!

The baby quilt remained on the wall for years, probably eight or so. Chris eventually moved into a larger bedroom when his brother Kevin was born and he took over that room. Kevin doesn’t remember the quilt hanging in his room. He remembers a picture of an elephant hanging on his wall instead (I don’t) so at some point the quilt came down and was replaced with something more suitable for a little boy vs. a baby.

I consider this baby quilt to be a family heirloom—something I hope will be passed down many generations in our family—so I keep it tucked away in a safe place until it’s time for the next generation. I hope they will treasure it as much as I do.

Friday, February 19, 2016

52 Ancestors – Erastus C. Smith (76-2016)

Erastus C. Smith, son of John Thompson Smith and Jane Gordon, was born October 11, 1842 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He was the second child of six—Electra Burnette Smith, Erastus C. Smith, Eunice Alvira Smith, Martha Jane Smith, Minerva Smith, and John Milton Smith. Erastus also had four half-siblings from his mother’s first marriage to John McIlwain—Margaret McIlwain, James Xenophon McIlwain, Eva McIlwain, and John S. McIlwain. He was sometimes called Ras. My husband descends from his brother John Milton Smith.

By 1848, the family had moved to Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania where Erastus was exposed to the local political world. His father John, a local innkeeper, was elected a town councilman on May 3, 1848. According to the book From 1816—1916: History of Apollo Pennsylvania—The Year of a Hundred Years by Thomas James Henry, M.D., the “voters were commanded to meet at the house of John Smith and elect a burgess and five councilmen.” The book further stated that “For many years the election was regularly held at the home of J. T. Smith and Mrs. Smith always served a turkey dinner to the board.” By the spring of 1850, John was serving on the first board of school directors.

It was in Apollo that Erastus learned the reality of life and death at an early age. He was just seven years old when his one year old sister Minerva contracted cholera and died on May 17, 1850. Minerva was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Later that year on November 7, 1850, the census enumerator recorded the family in Apollo. The family home was valued at $2000. Erastus’ 20 year old half-sister Margaret McIlwain and 14 year old half-brother John McIlwain lived in the home with the family. T. J. Henry noted in his book that during the 1850s, Erastus played the tenor drums in a martial band which performed on drill days such as the 4th of July.

1880 Soundex Card for Erastus and his family
Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania
On July 5, 1860, Erastus and his family still lived in Apollo. His father John had a personal estate valued at $500 and the value of his inn, located on the corner of North and Canal Streets, was unchanged since 1850 at $2000. Seventeen year old Erastus was a laborer, most likely working in the inn.

The Civil War began in 1861 and on September 1, 1862, Erastus mustered into Company E of the 139th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment as a private in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Perhaps wanting to make sure his spiritual life was in order before entering the war, Erastus joined the First Presbyterian Church in Apollo. The church register shows that Erastus was admitted to the church by “Escamination” on October 10, 1862. Erastus had served a little over a year when on May 3, 1863 he was wounded in the Battle of Salem Heights in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. While still serving during the Civil War, Erastus lost his father John who died on March 11, 1864. His father was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. I wonder if Erastus was allowed to go home to mourn with his family. Or when he even learned of the death of his father. The following year on May 18, 1865, Erastus was promoted to full corporal. He mustered out of service on June 21, 1865 at Washington, DC. According to his discharge papers, Erastus was five feet seven inches in height. He had a light complexion, gray eyes, and sandy hair.

Erastus married Jane Rachel Anderson, daughter of Samuel Anderson and Mary Mawheny, on March 24, 1869 in Apollo. Together they had four children—Elsie Augusta Smith, Mary Jane Smith, Florence G. Smith, and Richard Barton Smith.

On June 24, 1870, Erastus, Jane, and their daughter Elsie lived in the Kellys Station subdivision of Apollo. Erastus, 25 years old, was painting houses. His father-in-law Samuel Anderson lived in the home with Erastus and his family.

Erastus was suspended from the First Presbyterian Church in Apollo on March 21, 1872.

Erastus’ mother Jane died on March 11, 1877. She was buried in the family plot at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo.

On June 21, 1880, Erastus, Jane, and his four children continued to live in Apollo. Erastus was a house painter.

Erastus’ life was cut short at the age of 43 when he died from erysipelas in Apollo on April 13, 1886. According to About Health,* “Erysipelas is a superficial infection of the skin, which typically involves the lymphatic system. Erysipelas is also known as St. Anthony’s Fire, an accurate description of the intensity of this rash. Erysipelas was a feared disease in pre-antibiotic days.” Erastus was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. His youngest son Richard was just seven years old having celebrated his birthday the day before—the same age as Erastus when his little sister Minerva died. Sometimes life repeats itself.

* Erysipelas—St. Anthony’s Fire, About Health;

Friday, February 12, 2016

52 Ancestors – Maudie Burnette (75-2016)

Maudie Burnette
Maudie Burnette, daughter of Thomas Terrell Burnette and Elizabeth Jones, was born November 23, 1905 in Monroe, Walton County, Georgia. She was the 8th (or 9th) child of 13—Luther Terrell Burnette, Eva Drucilla Burnette, Floria Mae Burnette, Jesse Burnette, twin to Jesse, Willie Loyd Burnette, Prince Albert Burnette, Claudia Burnette (twin), Maudie Burnette (twin), Henry T. Burnette, Eleanor Estelle Burnette, Samuel A. Burnette, and Julia Virginia Burnette. She was a fraternal twin to Claudia. I say Maudie is the 8th or 9th child because don’t know who was born first—Maudie or Claudia.

My Daddy remembers hearing that his grandmother had two sets of twins and that supposedly one set died by age one. I found Jessie (age one, born January 1899 in Georgia) in the 1900 Walton County, Georgia census record. He was the only child I had never heard of so I’ve assumed he’s one of the twins that died as infants.

1900 Walton County, Georgia census record

About 1908, Maudie attended a Jones family reunion in Between, Walton County with her family.

They took advantage of a photographer being available and also took an individual family photo. Maudie is one of the toddlers sitting on their father’s lap.

Thomas Terrell Burnette family, ca. 1908
On April 28, 1910, Maudie’s family lived in Greshamville, Greene County, Georgia. Her father was a farmer. This census record shows that her mother had 10 children, 8 of which were living. This leads me to believe the twin story is true. Maudie was enumerated Maud.

On February 13, 1920, the Burnette family lived in the Walkers District of Greene County. Maudie’s father was a farmer on a general farm. Her mother was enumerated as Lizzie. There were 10 children living in the home. Maudie’s grandfather, Samuel Pride Burnette, age 78 and widowed, lived with the family. Maudie’s uncle and aunt, Luther and Etta Belle Burnette, lived next door. Maudie was able to read and write, although the record notes that she had not attended school since September 1, 1919. The census enumerator recorded her occupation as a laborer on a home farm. I guess at 15 you worked on the farm instead of going to school back then.

Maudie married Wyvis Lord, son of William Matthew Lord and Mattie Vickery, about 1926 in Georgia. Together they had three children—William Thomas Lord, Mary Helen Lord, and Geraldine Lord. William was most likely named after his paternal grandfather.

Maudie’s grandfather, Samuel Burnette—the one that lived with her family in 1920—died in Monroe, Walton County, Georgia on September 2, 1926. He was buried beside his wife and Maudie’s grandmother (Millicent Virginia Overton Burnette) at Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Loganville, Walton County, Georgia.

Maudie’s first child, a son they named William, was born on August 25, 1929 in Georgia. Its’ possible William was born in Barrow County, Georgia since that’s where the census enumerator found the family on April 15, 1930—in the Jones District. Wyvis’ parents, along with his siblings Paul, Glenn, Robert, and Darice, lived next door. Wyvis was a farmer on a general farm. The census record notes that Maudie was 23 and Wyvis 19 when they married.

Gravestone of Mary Helen Lord at Shiloh
Church Cemetery
Maudie gave birth to a second child on August 10, 1932 in Georgia—a daughter they named Mary Helen Lord. I’m sure Maudie was happy to have a little girl to love but that wasn’t meant to be. At a time when a young family should have been having fun and working hard in the hot Georgia sun, little Mary came down with a case of whooping cough and passed away in Greene County, Georgia on July 3, 1933. She was just 11 months old. Mary was buried at Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. I can’t imagine the heartbreak Maudie went through that summer. Time passed and about 1937, Maudie gave birth to a third child in Georgia—another daughter they named Geraldine.

On February 6, 1940, Maudie’s father died in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia at the age of 71. He was buried at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Veazey, Greene County, Georgia. On April 22, 1940, Maudie, Wyvis, William, and Geraldine were living in Greensboro. Maudie was a housekeeper. The highest grade she had completed was 7th. Wyvis was a run packer in a textile mill.

The year 1955 ended tragically when Maudie’s 47 year old brother Henry died in Putnam County, Georgia on December 31. Henry was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia. A year later Maudie’s mother died in Greensboro on December 2, 1956. She was buried beside her husband at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Veazey. Her sister Eleanor died in Fulton County, Georgia on April 25, 1963. She was buried at Salem Baptist Church Cemetery in McDonough, Henry County, Georgia. Her sister Floria (and my grandmother) died in Greensboro on March 3, 1970. She was buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Maudie's twin sister, Claudia
Sadly, Maudie was forced to do what no parent ever wants to do—bury a child, and for her a second child. William, her 43 year old son died in Bishop, Oconee County, Georgia on November 22, 1972 following a ruptured intracerebral aneurysm. William was buried on November 24 at Almond Cemetery in Apalachee, Barrow County, Georgia. Two years later, her brother Willie died in Clarke County, Georgia on November 1, 1974. He was buried at New Hope United Methodist Church Cemetery in Between, Walton County, Georgia. The 1970s held a lot of heartbreak for Maudie when less than two years after losing her son, her husband Wyvis died in Greene County, Georgia on March 16, 1975. They lived in Greensboro at that time so he was buried at the Greensboro City Cemetery. And then she lost another brother, Luther, on November 17, 1977 when he died in Greensboro, Greene, Georgia. He was buried at Greenview Cemetery in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia. She lost more family in the 1980s—her brother Samuel on January 12, 1983 in Clarke County, Georgia. He was buried at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Veazey. And then her twin sister, Claudia, died in Union Point, Greene County, Georgia on October 8, 1988. She was buried at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Veazey. I wonder if they were close and how she was affected by the loss of her twin sister.

Maudie’s brother Prince died of a heart attack at the Minnie G. Boswell Hospital in Greensboro on May 15, 1993. He was 89 years old. Prince was buried at Greensboro City Cemetery. Her sister Eva died in McDuffie County, Georgia on April 1, 1995. She was buried at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Veazey. Her sister Julia was found dead in her East Point, Fulton County, Georgia home on August 16, 1999. The exact date of death is unknown, however, it was determined that she had been dead about three weeks. Julia, who was 84 years old, was cremated on August 19 at the Cremation Society of Georgia in Atlanta and no service was held.

Greensboro City Cemetery
At the age of 96, Maudie died in Watkinsville, Oconee County, Georgia on January 16, 2002. She was buried on January 18 at the Greensboro City Cemetery beside her husband Wyvis with the Rev. Colin Duncan officiating. Maudie was survived by her daughter Geraldine, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. She lived at the Family Life Enrichment Center of High Shoals in Watkinsville at the time of her death. Maudie was a homemaker her whole life and a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Union Point, Greene County, Georgia.

I never knew my great-aunt Maudie—if I met her, I don’t remember it. I wish I had more to share about her life than just the sad facts. She lived a long life and was the last of her large family to leave this Earth. I hope it was a good life.

Friday, February 5, 2016

52 Ancestors – John Thompson Athya (74-2016)

John Thompson Athya
We recently got the sad news that my husband’s uncle, John Thompson Athya, passed away on January 24. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and had been in a nursing home for several years. John was the oldest child of George Durie Athya and Bertha Edna Smith. At the age of 90, his death brought an end to that family. In addition to his parents, John was preceded in death by his brothers Howard George Athya and James Jem Athya, and his sister Mary Margaret Athya Murphy. Of course, they all had children so the Athya line lives on but it’s always sad to see a generation come to an end in a family.

We have many photos of John so instead of writing a timeline of his life at this time, I thought I would share some of the photos. My husband and I are now the caretakers of his grandmother’s photos and with John being the first born child in the family, he can be found in quite a few of the photos. And they are just adorable!

Rest in peace Uncle John.

All photos are of John unless noted otherwise.  
Left photo: John with his Uncle Benjamin Gordon Smith who helped raise him
Left photo: John (in glasses) with his brother Howard
Middle photo: John with his brother Howard and Great-aunt Electra Smith Jack of Apollo, PA

Left photo: John with his brother Howard and Grandmother Amanda Horne Smith
Left photo: John with his Grandmother Amanda Horne Smith
Left photo: John with his Mother Bertha Edna Smith Athya
Middle photo: Howard Athya with John Athya