Friday, August 26, 2016

Sepia Portrait Pinback Button of Edith McCrum Smith

Pinback button of Edith McCrum Smith
One of the items we found in my mother-in-law’s (Mary (Athya) Murphy) possessions after she passed away was this sepia portrait pinback button. The image on the button is Mary’s aunt, Edith McCrum Smith. Edith, the daughter of John Milton Smith and Amanda Larimer (Horne) Smith, was born in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on March 4, 1888. She died from typhoid fever at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh on October 24, 1906. At some point in her young life, she went blind as a result of the measles. You can see that Edith’s eyes are closed in the photo.

The same size as a quarter, the pinback button is in good condition, although it has a tiny white dot on the front bottom right edge. You can clearly see the patina, as well as a small amount of rust, on the back of the button. The pin mechanism on the back is still in working order.

Back of pinback button
The history of this button is unknown to me but assumed to have belonged to Edith’s mother Amanda. It may have been worn by Amanda during the mourning period after Edith passed away. The pinback button was most likely passed to Edith’s sister, Bertha Edna Smith, after Amanda passed away in 1943. Bertha was Edith’s only surviving sister. There was a third sister, Helen Margaret Smith, who died in 1913. Of the three daughters born to John and Amanda Smith, Bertha was the only one to survive into adulthood so it makes sense that she would have the pinback button which then passed to her daughter, Mary (Athya) Murphy, in 1979. It came into our possession in 2007.

Assuming all of the above to be true, the pinback button could be as old as 110 years since Edith died in 1906.

Left: Edith Smith
Right: Amanda (Horne) Smith

Left: Bertha Smith
Right: Mary Athya

Friday, August 19, 2016

Daddy’s crewel embroidery picture

On one of my trips home to Atlanta in the mid-1980s, Daddy (Sam Lankford) had a piece of crewel embroidery artwork laying across the back of his living room chair. To my surprise, Daddy was the artist. Mama later told me that she taught Daddy how to do crewel years ago. It was something he could do to relax at night. The embroidery was a primitive house scene with lots of flowers, trees, and grass. His work was very intricate. Daddy said he started with a pattern but embellished the scene with additional details of his own.

The following summer, the artwork was still laying across the back of the chair. I remember telling him at that time “if you aren’t going to do anything with that, you can always send it to me.” He just shrugged his shoulders and that was the end of it … until the next year when out of the blue, a large brown envelope showed up in my mailbox. I knew what it was before I opened it. The only thing in the envelope was the artwork. I looked for a note thinking Daddy might have written one but I guess he assumed I would know it was from him and didn’t bother to write one.

Now I had do something with it. I couldn’t just lay it across a chair like Daddy did since I gave him a hard time about that so I took it to a professional framer to have it framed. I remember she pointed out a couple of frayed spots on the material and asked if I wanted to repair them before she framed it. I told her no—that was the way he sent it to me and that was the way it was going to stay. We picked out a dark wooden frame and she put a raised backing underneath the material. I regret not putting the artwork behind glass though. Over the years, a couple of stains appeared on the material. I tried to clean them, but didn’t like what it did to the material so I gave up, fearing I would ruin it.

In August 1989, I entered the framed piece in the senior division at the Prince William County Fair in Manassas, Virginia. To my surprise, not only did it win first place, but it also took Best of Show. I remember he was so excited when I called him to tell him the news. The prize was a check for about $5—maybe a little more, maybe a little less. After the fair ended, I mailed the check and ribbon to Daddy. He held onto the ribbon for years but gave it back to me several years ago since I have the artwork and it’s something I’ll always treasure.

Sam Lankford, the artist (ca. 1985)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Elgin pocket watch

One of my husband Charlie’s prized possessions is a pocket watch given to him in 1994 by his uncle, Ralph Junior Murphy. The watch, manufactured by Elgin, once belonged to Charlie’s grandfather, Charles Homer Murphy. We don’t find a marking denoting that its gold, although it is gold in color. There may be a marking on the inside back cover but we’re both afraid to open the back so I guess we’ll never know. Both the front and back covers have an ornate engraved vine design. At some point, uncle Ralph had the initials “RM” engraved on the front cover. The watch has a serial number engraved on the inside of the front cover, which, if I have researched correctly, means the watch was made in 1905. The chain is a silver tone snake link with a plastic monkey and nut attached at the end of the chain.

Uncle Ralph wrote a note to Charlie to document the history of the watch:
“Charles, I have had this watch since 1935 when Mom gave it to me. Dad gave it to her, I don’t know when. I thought it best to give it to you. Sincerely, Ralph.”
Here's a picture of the actual note:

Charlie was named for both his grandfather and uncle Ralph so it makes sense that the watch would be passed to him. “Mom” would have been Charlie’s grandmother, Dessie (Church) Murphy.

Left: Dessie (Church) Murphy
Center: Charles Homer Murphy
Right: Ralph Junior Murphy

The watch still works.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

David Athya's 1915 death announcement

Special thanks to The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, Scotland for sending me this 1915 news article that ran in the Evening Times Roll of Honour announcing the death of Private David Athya, my husband’s great-uncle.

Official word has been received by Mrs. J. Athya, 8 Garngad Road, Glasgow, that her son, Private David Athya, 2nd Battalion H.L.I., was killed in action in France on May 10. Deceased enlisted when the war broke out. Previous to that he was employed in Messrs Stewart and Lloyds. Other sons are in the firing line.
Although just a short paragraph, the article is full of details—his mother was alive, her address, the military unit David served in, where and when he died, where he worked, and confirmation that his two brothers served during World War I (which we knew but you need to prove). According to Wikipedia, Stewarts and Lloyds was a steel tube manufacturer.

Article/photo credit: Evening Times Roll of Honour and The Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Scotland

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Family Treasures Project

On December 30, 2014, I set a genealogy goal to document our family treasures—worried that if something happened to me, they would end up in the trash, given away, or sold at a yard sale for a quarter. I started the project but only worked on it for a week—too busy working on the 52 Ancestors project. So, I’ve decided to take a break from 52 Ancestors and get serious about family treasures instead.

I wondered if I should call these items heirlooms vs. family treasures so of course googled both to see what the difference was. Historic New England has a nice website with a section about family treasures which they describe as “… any object that holds meaning for a particular family. Objects can remind people of proud, happy, or meaningful experiences. They can tell stories of important family events, or remind us of people who came before us. For a child, a family treasure can be a toy that was a gift from someone special. The toy reminds them of the giver.” Merriam-Webster describes an heirloom as “a valuable object that is owned by a family for many years and passed from one generation to another.” After reading both descriptions, I believe family treasure best describes what I want to document.

With each item, I plan to provide a description and any information that I have about it, as well as photos of the item and people connected to it. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, August 5, 2016

52 Ancestors – William Ellis Burnett (100-2016)

William Ellis Burnett
William Ellis Burnett, son of John W. Burnett and Martha Ursula Hanson, was born on August 2, 1908 in Marion County, Alabama. He was the sixth child of eight—Samuel Stephen Burnett, Julia Virginia Burnett, Herbert Newton Burnett, Amy Leona Burnett, Jasper Pettye Burnett, William Ellis Burnett, Charles Noel Burnett, and Leonard Dixon Burnett. He went by Ellis.

On April 21, 1910, little Ellis lived with his family in Civil District 2 of Lawrence County, Tennessee. He was 1 and 7/12ths years old according to the census enumerator. His parents had been married for 12 years. Ellis’ mother was recorded as the mother of six children, all of which were living. There were two Hanson families living in the neighborhood and I’m sure it’s possible they were related through his mother, Martha Hanson. The census enumerator’s handwriting is hard to read but it looks like they lived on Lexington Road.

Before Ellis’ 8th birthday, his life changed forever on November 28, 1916 when his father William died suddenly at the age of 48. He had just returned from the fields in Liberty Grove, Lawrence County, Tennessee and complained of stomach sickness. It may have been a heart attack however. William was buried at St. Truitt Cemetery in Liberty Grove the next day. William’s death left Ellis’ 36-year-old mother a widow who now had to raise eight children alone.

John William Burnett family -- Ellis is sitting on his
father's lap
On January 9, 1920, 11-year-old Ellis lived with his widowed mother and siblings in Civil District 2 of Lawrence County, Tennessee. It appears to be a different neighborhood than in 1910, however, they are still surrounded by other Hanson families. His mother was a manager on a farm with his oldest brother Samuel helping out as a laborer on his “mother’s farm.”

Ellis’ brother Herbert died of malaria on September 9, 1929 at the age of 26 in Lawrence County. He was buried at St. Truitt Cemetery in Liberty Grove.

On April 10, 1930, the family still lived in Civil District 2 of Lawrence County. Again, they were surrounded by Hanson families, although different ones than in 1920. At age 21, Ellis was a laborer on a farm. The census enumerator actually classified him as an “unpaid worker, member of the family.” Virginia, his oldest sister, lived next door with her husband, Hobert Plunkett, and their two children.

Ellis died suddenly on July 14, 1936 from appendicitis at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence, Lauderdale County, Alabama. It’s believed his appendix ruptured. At the time of his death, Ellis lived in Loretta, Lawrence County, Tennessee where he was a farmer. He was just under 28 years old. Ellis was buried at Saint Truitt Cemetery in Lawrence County. He never married.

When I look at the picture of Ellis above, I see my Daddy—Sam Lankford. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two of them. What do you think—does anyone else out there think they look alike? I always find it interesting to see the family resemblances in collateral lines. Daddy’s grandfather, Thomas Terrell Burnette, and Ellis’ father, John William Burnett, were brothers so Daddy and Ellis would be first cousins, once removed.

Ellis on the left, Daddy (Sam Lankford) on the right

This blog entry completes 100 ancestors! I never thought I’d make it that far. Unfortunately, I now need to take a break from the series as I’ve been neglecting other projects. The most important project on my list is to organize all of the family photos—a monumental but important project. I’ll still fit in time to blog though—maybe it’s time to get back to documenting our family treasures. Wish me luck!