Friday, September 15, 2017

Sarah Elizabeth Davison

Davison family plot at Bairdstown Cemetery
“We’re related to many of the people buried here although I don’t know how” is what Daddy once told me as we walked through Bairdstown Cemetery, a small well-kept cemetery located in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Bairdstown Cemetery is the final resting place of my paternal grandparents, several family members, and many Lankford’s in my tree but not in our immediate family. I remember looking at all the stones when we visited, wondering who these people were and how we were connected. Several years ago, I thought it would be interesting to connect the dots. This blog post is about one of those connections.

Sarah Elizabeth Davison, daughter of Joseph Davison and Susan C. Briscoe, was born on October 16, 1882 in Georgia (possibly Greene County where her parents lived in 1880). She was the third child of five—Mary Daisy Davison, Joseph Briscoe Davison, Sarah Elizabeth Davison, Ralph C. Davison, and Evelyn C. Davison. She went by Bessie. A relationship calculator tells me that she and I are 3rd cousins, 3x removed with our nearest common relatives being my 5th great-grandparents Robert L. Hobbs Sr. (1754–1845) and Mary Marion Caldwell (1759–1853).

When Bessie was four years old, her older sister Daisy died on May 4, 1887 of dysentery in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. The Atlanta Constitution reported her death that same day:
Death of Miss Daisie Davison. Woodville, Ga., May 4.—[Special—Colonel and Mrs. James Davison lost their elder daughter, Miss Daisy, aged about thirteen years this morning, at 4 o’clock, with dysentery. The funeral services will take place at their residence tomorrow at 9 o’clock, conducted by Rev. M. W. Arnold, of Harwood, Ga., after which her remains will be taken to Bairdstown, Ga., for interment.
Just eight days after Daisy’s death, Bessie’s father, who also suffered from dysentery, died on May 12, 1887 in Woodville. The Atlanta Constitution reported his death on May 14:
Death of Colonel Davison. Woodville, Ga., May 13.—[Special.]—Colo. Joseph Davison, our efficient railroad and express agent and post master, breathed his last at his residence yesterday at 12 o’clock, after a short and serious attack of dysentery. He was in his forty-seventh year, and was one of the best citizens and highly respected by all who knew him.
Bairdstown Church
Both Daisy and Joseph were buried at Bairdstown Cemetery.

Happier times came 13 years later when on February 20, 1900, Bessie was one of four bridesmaids in her brother Joseph’s wedding to Julia Young which took place in Woodville. The wedding was deemed “One of the prettiest weddings of the season …” by The Atlanta Constitution. The bridesmaids wore organdy dresses and carried lilies and maidenhair ferns. On June 5, 1900, Bessie, her mother, brother Ralph, and sister Evelyn were still living in Woodville. There was a 21-year-old female school teacher named Hattie H. Thomas living in the home with them. Bessie, Ralph, and Evelyn were all attending school. Her mother’s occupation was listed as “Capitalist.” On May 16, 1901, 14 years after the death of her father, Bessie’s mother married Peyton W. Douglas in Greene County. After the wedding, the family apparently moved to Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. In 1907, they lived at 562 Washington Street in Atlanta. Bessie was a music teacher. On September 3, 1908, Bessie attended the wedding of her cousin Dr. Thomas Callahan Davison to Laura Rutledge where she played Mendelssohn’s wedding march during the ceremony. Bessie wore a white point de esprit evergreen silk dress that day.

On April 19, 1910, Bessie was still living at the Washington Street house in Atlanta with her mother Susan, stepfather Peyton, and sister Evelyn. Susan and Peyton had been married for seven years, the second marriage for both. Peyton, a retired physician, was 69 years old. Susan, age 55, was retired as well. Bessie and Evelyn were both enumerated as music teachers.

Bessie and Evelyn were often written about in the social columns. On July 14, 1910, The Atlanta Constitution wrote:
Miss Davison Entertains. Miss Evelyn Davison entertained most delightfully at a matinee party Tuesday afternoon in honor of Miss Lucille Howell, of Valdosta; Miss Mary McGuffey, of Jackson, and Miss Bessie Davison.
Then on August 18, 1910, The Atlanta Constitution wrote:
Misses Bessie and Evelyn Davison entertained Monday evening complimentary to their guest, Miss Prudence Brooks, of Lexington, twenty guests entertained. 
And on August 21, 1910, The Atlanta Constitution wrote about a party held at the Washington Street house:
Misses Davison’s Party. An enjoyable event of the past week was the heart dice party given by Misses Bessie and Evelyn Davison at their home on Washington street to their guest, Miss Prudence Brooks, of Lexington. The house was beautifully decorated with ferns and golden glow. The first prize was won by Miss Ethel Adams, the consolation prize by Mr. James Lewis. After the game, delightful refreshments were served. Special music was rendered by Misses Morganstern, Fillingim, and Davison. Miss Bessie Davison received the guests wearing a lavender satin gown trimmed in medallions of silver and pearls. Miss Evelyn Davison assisted in receiving the guests and wore a cream messaline satin gown trimmed in ribbons and lace. Miss Brooks was attractive in a white satin trimmed in chiffon roses and pearls. Invited to meet the guest of honor were Misses Fannie Lee and Madge Ledbetter, Miss Bernie Legg, Misses Teresa T’Lene Thrower, Miss Ethel Adams, Miss Mamie Bowie, Miss Agnes Pearson, Misses Sophie, Teresa and Tillie Morganstern, Miss Irene Hartzog, Miss Carrie Edmondson, Miss Hattie Wise, Miss Eva Land, Miss Susie Wells, and Mrs. Guy Selman of Douglasville, Mr. Louis Brady, Dr. Walker Durham, Mr. Jake Morganstern, Mr. Edward Morganstern, Mr. Fonville McWhorter, Mr. Neil Edmondson, Mr. James Suddeth, Mr. Penn Dugham, and Dr. Jamie Salman.
On January 24, 1912, Bessie was her sister’s maid of honor when she married Ben Hill Cocroft in Fulton County, Georgia. The Atlanta Constitution reported the event on January 25, 1912:
Davison-Cocroft. An interesting wedding of yesterday afternoon was that of Miss Evelyn Capers Davison and Mr. Ben Hill Cocroft, of Thomasville, which took place at the home of the bride’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Peyton Wade Douglas, at 3 o’clock. The home was prettily decorated with palms, ferns, pink roses and pink carnations. Miss Ellen Davison, of Cox college, played the wedding music, accompanied by Mrs. L. H. Fitzpatrick on the violin. Before the entrance of the bridal party Mrs. C. C. Cocroft, of Thomasville, sang “Because God Made Thee Mine,” and during the ceremony the “Angels Serenade” was softly played. Miss Bessie Davison was her sister’s maid of honor and Miss Nell Cocroft, of Thomasville, was the only bridesmaid. Mr. J. B. Bruden, of Mt. Vernon, was Mr. Cocroft’s best man and Mr. S. M. Bowden, of Macon, was groomsman. Little Misses Dorothy Launceford and Frances Wynne were flower girls. Dr. G. A. Nunnally, of Rome, uncle of the bride, was the officiating minister. The bride was becomingly gowned in a traveling suit of dark blue cloth with hat to match and carried a shower bouquet of bride roses and valley lilies. The maid of honor wore white crepe de chine and carried pink roses. The bridesmaid wore pink crepe de chine and carried white roses. The bride’s mother wore a gray satin gown with touches of heliotrope and wore a corsage bouquet of Parma violets. Mrs. C. C. Cocroft, of Thomasville, wore a gown of black velvet. Among the out-of-town guests were Dr. and Mrs. G. A. Nunnally, of Rome; Col. W. J. Nunnally of Rome; Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Cocroft, Miss Mary Cocroft, of Thomasville; Mr. J. D. Bruden, of Macon; Mr. and Mrs. E. P. Roane, of Monroe, and Mr. S. M. Bowden, of Macon. Mr. and Mrs. Cocroft left for a trip to Florida, and after February 4 will be at home in Thomasville, Ga.
Bessie’s 36-year-old brother Joseph died on October 15, 1913. He was buried in the family plot at Bairdstown Cemetery. His 36-year-old wife Julia (Young) Davison died less than two years later in Oglethorpe County on July 22, 1915. She was buried beside her husband at Bairdstown Cemetery.

Atlanta City Directory, 1913

Bessie lived at the Washington Street house in Atlanta and remained a music teacher until at least 1919. By January 8, 1920, she was living with a widowed woman named Mrs. S. F. Luidler in the Rochelle District of Wilcox County, Georgia and still teaching music.

Thanks to the Miami, Dade County, Florida city directories, I’m able to track Bessie through a good part of the next two decades. In 1924, she was listed twice—once at 256 NE 20th Terrace and then at 227 NE 3rd Street. The second listing on 3rd Street noted that she worked in real estate. Her sister Evelyn and her husband Ben lived at the 20th Terrace address. She may have worked for the Cocroft Realty Company located at 416 First National Bank Building which I assume belonged to her sister and brother-in-law. Bessie was working for a real estate company located at 806 Professional Building in Miami in 1926. She lived at 1770 NE 4th Avenue in 1927 and still lived there in 1928 and 1929. It appears that her sister and brother-in-law Ben lived there as well. Both Bessie and Ben were still working real estate.

On April 21, 1930, Bessie and her mother were living with Evelyn and Ben at 1770 NE 4th Avenue in Miami. At age 46, Bessie was not working, nor was her mother or sister. Ben was still a real estate realtor. They pretty much stayed on NE 4th Avenue until at least 1939. Bessie’s mother Susan died in Miami on November 23, 1937. Bessie and Evelyn took her body home to be buried in the family plot at Bairdstown Cemetery.

I can’t find Bessie in the 1940 census but the 1941 Miami city directory shows that she had ventured out on her own and lived at 1779 NE 2nd Court, apartment 18. Evelyn and Ben were still living in the NE 4th Avenue home. By 1942, Bessie had moved to 334 NE 26th Street but not for long. She died in Miami on February 11, 1942. Her body was returned home to Georgia and buried in the family plot at Bairdstown Cemetery. Her stone was inscribed with the words “The Lord Bless Thee and Give Thee Peace.” Bessie never married.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Florence G. Smith

Florence G. Smith, daughter of Erastus Smith and Jane Anderson, was born in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on December 2, 1876. She was the third child of four—Elsie Augusta Smith, Mary Jane Smith, Florence G. Smith, and Barton Richard Smith. Florence would be my husband’s 1st cousin 2x removed. Their nearest common relatives are his 2nd great grandparents, John Thompson Smith and Jane Gordon.

Florence lost her status as the baby of the family on September 7, 1879 when her brother Barton was born in Apollo on September 7, 1879.

On June 21, 1880, the Smith family lived in Apollo. Her father was a house painter and her mother a housekeeper. Florence was just nine years old when her 43-year-old father Erastus, a veteran of the Civil War, died in Apollo on April 13, 1886. He was buried at Apollo Cemetery there in Apollo.

On June 11, 1900, Florence lived in the Apollo home of John and Effie Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton was a hardware merchant in the area. A servant for the family, Florence most likely tended to their two young children—Ester (age 6) and Martha (age 3).

On March 30, 1907, Florence’s sister Elsie lost her one-year battle with pulmonary tuberculosis in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. According to Elsie’s death certificate, she was buried at Apollo Cemetery but she has a tombstone at Prospect Cemetery in Apollo. Elsie was just 37 years old and left one known son behind—Harry Anderson Wible. Less than a year later, Florence’s sister Mary died of heart disease in Apollo on January 12, 1908. The “Apollo Sentinel” reported her death on January 17, 1908:
Death of Mary Jane Smith—after a lingering illness Miss Mary Jane Smith died at the home of her mother, Mrs. J. R. Smith, on North Sixth Street, on Sunday, January 12th 1908, aged 33 years, 9 months and 8 days. The deceased was a Presbyterian by faith and was well liked by all who knew her. She is survived by a mother and a brother, Bart Smith, and a sister, Florence Smith. Funeral services were held Wednesday. Interment was made at the Prospect cemetery.
Two of the Smith children were gone now but it didn’t end there. In September 1909, Florence herself contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. She was attended by prominent Apollo physician Dr. T. J. Henry but succumbed to the disease on December 7. Florence was buried at Prospect Cemetery in Apollo. The “Apollo Sentinel” reported her death on December 10, 1909:
Florence Smith, daughter of Mrs. Jane Smith, died at her home on North Sixth Street on Tuesday, December 7th, aged 33 years. Death was caused by tuberculosis. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church. Funeral services were held at her late home Thursday afternoon. Rev. Leon Stewart preached the funeral services. Interment in the Prospect Cemetery.
Florence Smith's death certificate

Her death was also reported by “The Pittsburgh Press” on December 11:
Miss Florence G. Smith, only daughter of Mrs. Jane Smith of Apollo, Pa., was buried from the home of her mother Thursday. She was born in 1876 and was a member of the Presbyterian church. One brother, Barton Smith and the mother survive. The deceased father, Erastus C. Smith served throughout the Civil war and was a member of the 139th regiment Co. E.
Christmas was filled with sorrow that year.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Eliza Ann Holland

Eliza Ann Holland, daughter of Leroy Thomas Holland and Amanda Elizabeth Scott, was born on September 13, 1856 in South Carolina, most likely Anderson County. She was the oldest child of 11—Eliza Ann Holland, Marion Scott Holland, John Newton Holland, Thomas N. Holland, William Harrison Holland, John Louis Holland, Brown Lee Holland, Maggie Idora Holland, Elijah Jeffers Holland, Andrew Turner Holland, and William Charles Holland. She would be my great grand aunt.

Eliza's father, Leroy Thomas Holland
When Eliza was just three years old, a baby brother named John Newton Holland was born and died on May 3, 1860. They buried baby John at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson. On June 2, 1860, Eliza, her parents, and one-year old brother Marion lived in Regiment 4 of Anderson County. Her father was a day laborer with a personal estate valued at $150. Their world was turned upside down the following year when the American Civil War started on April 12, 1861. Within two weeks, Eliza’s father had enlisted as a private in Company L of the Second South Carolina Rifles, Jenkins Brigade, C.S.A. Not long after Eliza’s father left home, a fourth child (Thomas) joined the family on July 8, 1861 leaving Amanda with three small children to take care of alone. Eliza’s father survived the war through the end and was with General Robert E. Lee when he surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Leroy made his way back home to Anderson and within three years, Eliza had two new brothers, Harrison and John Louis. Sadly, John Louis died at the age of six months on June 26, 1868. He too was buried at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson. Her brother Brown was born in 1869.

On July 8, 1870, Eliza and her family lived in Broadway, Anderson County, South Carolina. Her father was a farm laborer and her mother was keeping house. Eliza finally had a sister in 1871 when Maggie was born. As was the case with her two brothers, Maggie died on March 1, 1872 at the age of seven months. She was buried at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery with her brothers. This family suffered another loss when their fourth child Thomas died on October 22, 1873 at the age of 12. He was buried at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson. And then the unimaginable happened when Eliza’s 38-year-old mother died on December 18, 1877. She was buried at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson with the four children who died before her. Eliza was 20 years old when she lost her mother. Now the woman of the house, I assume Eliza took care of her six surviving brothers, including the youngest at less than three months old, while her father worked the farm. Eliza only had this responsibility for a short period though as less than two years later, her father married Cindarilla Darliska Amanda Hall, daughter of Aaron Hall and Clementine Ann Norris, in Anderson on August 3, 1879.

On June 1, 1880, Leroy and his family still lived in Broadway but Eliza wasn’t with the family. I have yet been able to find her during but believe she was also living in Broadway. I just don’t know where. Three days before her birthday in 1883, Eliza died in Anderson County on September 10 following a short illness. The Intelligencer in Anderson reported her death on September 27:
Miss Eliza A. Holland, eldest daughter of Mr. E. M. Holland, of Broadaway [sic] township, died on the 10th inst., after an illness of several weeks, aged about 28 years. Her remains were interred in the Neal’s Creek Churchyard on the day following her death. Rev. W. H. King conducting the funeral services.
The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, September 27, 1883

On October 4, The Intelligencer published a correction on September 27 after inaccurately reporting the name of her father:
On announcing the death of Miss Eliza A. Holland last week, we erred in stating that she was a daughter of Mr. E. M. Holland. She was a daughter of Mr. L. T. Holland.
The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, October 4, 1883

Eliza was buried at Neal’s Creek Church Cemetery. I’ve made one visit to that cemetery and took photos of every Holland stone there. I don’t have a photo of her stone so either she doesn’t have one or I missed it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Grady Ernest Arthur

Photo by P. Moon
Grady Ernest Arthur, son of Seaborn Arthur and Mary Eugenia “Jennie” Ruark, was born on February 25, 1895 in Greene County, Georgia. He was the sixth child of seven—Wade Hamilton Arthur, Clarence R. Arthur, Lorry M. Arthur, Nora Lee Arthur, Joel T. Arthur, Grady Ernest Arthur, and Gladys M. Arthur. Grady is the husband of my 2nd cousin 3x removed, Iona Lankford. We have no common relative.

On June 5, 1900, Grady and his family lived in Greshamville, Greene County, Georgia. His parents, who had been married for 22 years, had seven children, all of which were living. Grady’s father was a farmer. His brothers Wade and Clarence were both helping their father on the farm while Lorry and Lenora were both going to school. At age five, Grady apparently hadn’t started going to school yet. Grady’s father Seaborn died on January 31, 1906. He was buried at Watkinsville Cemetery in Watkinsville, Oconee County, Georgia.

On April 15, 1910, Grady, his widowed mother, brother Joel, and sister Gladys lived in the Fairplay District of Morgan County, Georgia. No one in the home worked. Grady’s brother Clarence and his family lived next door. Clarence earned his living as a cotton farmer.

The year 1915 didn’t start out well for Grady. The “Madisonian” reported on January 29, 1915 that Grady was “suffering from a case of mumps.” By February 12, “The Madisonian” reported that Grady had recovered. The year ended on a high note though with Grady taking a bride—he married Arvie M. Doster, daughter of William Thomas Doster and Nancy Elizabeth (last name unknown) on November 6 in Morgan County, Georgia. The “Madisonian” reported the marriage on November 12:
Married, last Sunday morning at 10 o’clock on the public highway near the Stallings old home, across Hard-Labor Creek, in the middle of the road, Miss Arrie Doster to Mr. Grady Arthur. The ceremony was performed by Judge Squire James W. Curtis, of Rutledge. To the contracting parties, May the Lord bless and abundantly pardon.
By the end of the month, Grady and Arvie had “moved to their new home south of Madison” according to the “Madisonian” on November 26. They welcomed their only child, a son they named Ernest G. Arthur, on May 5, 1916.

Grady registered for the World War I draft in Morgan County on June 5, 1917. He noted that he was a farmer, working for C. F. McDonald near Bostwick. Grady claimed exemption from the draft, most likely because he had a wife and child. Grady was of medium height, slender, had grey eyes, and dark hair.

Grady, Arvie, and Ernest were living at 430 Main Street in Madison, Morgan County, Georgia on January 9, 1920. Grady was a farmer. A month later, Grady lost his wife Arvie when she unexpectedly passed away at home in Madison following a brief illness. She was just 24 years old. Arvie was buried at Watkinsville Cemetery in Watkinsville. The “Madisonian” reported her death on February 13:
Death of Mrs. Arthur—Mrs. Grady Arthur died at her home in Madison Wednesday morning, after a brief illness. She was a daughter of Rev. and Mrs. W. T. Doster, of Drexel. She leaves a husband and one child, father, mother and several brothers and sisters to mourn her untimely death. The funeral was held yesterday, and the body of Mrs. Arthur carried to Watkinsville for interment. The “Madisonian” extends sympathies to the bereaved ones in this hour of deepest distress.
Arvie’s church remembered her in the “Madisonian” on February 20:
Baptist Church Notes (from Church Bulletin, Feb. 15) Mrs. Grady Arthur was buried at Watkinsville last Thursday afternoon, the funeral service being conducted by the pastor. To the husband and other relatives, the pastor and our membership give Christian sympathy.
Grady took a second bride on December 28, 1923 when he married Iona Lankford, daughter of William A. Lankford and Mollie Finch. Grady was 10 years older than 18-year old Iona. Grady and Iona welcomed a daughter they named Frances on August 5, 1925. During the mid-1920s, Grady turned to the food industry for work. In September 1924, he set up a meat market on First Street in Madison with a man named Bob Jackson. In 1927, he set up space with the Jago Supply Company on First Street selling groceries and fresh meats. In 1929, he was a meat cutter in the meat market of Harold Higginbotham’s store.

On April 10, 1930, Grady, Iona, and daughter Frances lived at 117 Plum Street in Madison, Morgan County, Georgia. Grady was enumerated as a salesman in a meat shop. In December 1930, he and his family moved “to the Jackins farm on the Greensboro highway, where he will farm the coming year, and also continue to furnish meats for his regular customers” according to the “Madisonian” on December 12. A tragic event occurred on November 24, 1932 when Grady’s brother Clarence apparently didn’t check for traffic before stepping into the road to cross the street. A car was coming and was unable to avoid hitting him. Clarence was taken to the hospital in Athens with two broken legs, a “couple of severe gashes across the skull, and other minor injuries.” He died several hours later without ever regaining consciousness. It was Thanksgiving Day. During happier times in September 1934, Grady and his family were making “rocking chair memories” (as my Mama likes to say), spending September 2 in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia. They were probably celebrating the Labor Day holiday weekend and while there, Iona and Ernest “had the pleasure of going up for a ride in an airplane” according to the “Madisonian” on September 7.

Arthur family plot at Watkinsville Cemetery
Photo by P. Moon
On May 17, 1940, Grady and Iona lived in the Martins district of Morgan County, Georgia. Grady was a farmer on his own farm. His mother, sister Gladys, and niece Katherine lived next door. Grady’s 24-year-old son Ernest was still living at home—but not for long. On June 18, 1941, Ernest married Annie Ruth Burch, daughter of Mattie Burch—a happy time for the Arthur family. The end of the decade brought sad times for the Arthur family however. Grady’s mother died at home in Madison on March 28, 1949. They held her funeral the next day with burial at Watkinsville Cemetery in Watkinsville. By July 28, 1949, Grady found himself in a Madison hospital. Five days later, Grady died at home in Morgan County on August 2, 1949 following an illness of several months. His funeral service was held the next day at Hemperley’s Chapel with the Rev. J. R. Keene officiating. “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere” and “The Old Rugged Cross” were sung at the service. Grady was buried at the Watkinsville City Cemetery. He was a member of Sandy Creek Baptist Church and was 54 years old at the time of his death.

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 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8KL-QJP : 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
program
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; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUss_Amphitrite_BM2.jpg.















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; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUSS_Delaware_(BB-28)_-_NH_88519.jpg.


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;
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUSS_Langley_43-1193M.jpg. 

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; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUSS_Saratoga.jpg. 

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 Ancestry.com


RMS Olympic during her sea trial, Wikimedia Commons;
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOlympic_sea_trials.jpg,
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.