Friday, November 24, 2017

Joseph Briscoe Davison

This blog post is another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Joseph Briscoe Davison, son of Joseph Davison and Susan Capers Briscoe, was born March 9, 1877 in Greene County, Georgia. He was one of seven children—Mary Daisy Davison, Joseph Briscoe Davison, Sarah Elizabeth Davison, Ralph C. Davison, Evelyn Capers Davison, and two infant children (sex unknown). Joseph is my 3rd cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are my 5th great-grandparents–Robert L. Hobbs Sr. and Mary Marion Caldwell who were married in 1776 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He went by Joe.

On June 14, 1880, Joseph and his family lived in the 138th District of Greene County, Georgia. His father was the postmaster; his mother was a housekeeper. There were three servants living in the home with them-Eliza Bearer (age 22, cook), Henry Towns (age 30, laborer), and Jordon Raiden (age 60, laborer).

Joseph learned about death early in life when his older sister Daisy contracted dysentery in the spring of 1887. She died at the age of 12 in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia on May 4, 1887. Just eight days after Daisy’s death, Joseph’s father, who also suffered from dysentery, died on May 12, 1887 in Woodville at the age of 45. Both Daisy and Joseph’s father were buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Sometime before 1900, Joseph moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was listed in the 1900 New Orleans, Louisiana, City Directory—living at 1507 Prytania Street and employed as a clerk. Just before his 23rd birthday, Joseph married Julia M. Young, daughter of James L. Young and Alice J. Gorham, in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia on February 20, 1900. The Atlanta Constitution published an article on February 19, 1900 detailing the upcoming ceremony:
One of the prettiest weddings of the season will be that of Miss Julia Young, of Woodville, and Mr. Joseph B. Davison, of New Orleans, which will occur at the Baptist church in Woodville on the 20th instant at 6 o’clock in the evening. Dr. B. F. Riley, of the State university, will officiate, and Mrs. J. V. McWhorter will play the wedding march. The church will be beautifully decorated in moss, palms, ferns, smilax and lilies of the valley. The bridemaids will be: Miss Clyde Young, maid of honor, sister to the bride; Miss Bessie Davison, Miss Maggie Davison and Miss Pope Maxwell. The groom’s attendants will be Mr. Emmett Lunceford, of Monroe, best man; Mr. C. M. Young, of Athens; Mr. Will Sanford, of Crawfordville, and Mr. S. W. Durham, of Woodville. Mr. John Durham, Mr. John McWhorter and Mr. J. C. Davison will act as ushers. The flowers girls are little Miss Russell Davison, Ellener Davison, Ruby Wilson and Kathleen Armstrong. The bride’s gown will be of white satin duchess trimmed in pearls and applique. She will carry white carnations. The bridemaids will wear organdle dresses and will carry lilies and maidenhair ferns. The bride’s long vail will be confined by a diamond sunburst, gift of the groom. Miss Young is a very handsome and charming young woman and has been the recipient of many attentions since her debut. Mr. Davison is connected with the Illinois Central railroad at New Orleans. Immediately after the marriage the bride and groom will leave for New Orleans, their future home.

Together, Joseph and Julia had two children—Joseph Briscoe Davison Jr. and Roy Benson Davison.

On June 13, 1900, Joseph and Julia were in fact living on Duffosat Street in the Orleans Parish of New Orleans. Joseph was a clerk for the railroad. The year 1900 was huge for Joseph and Julia with three major events taking place in their lives. They got married, Julia moved to New Orleans, and then she must have gotten pregnant within a month of their wedding as she gave birth to their first child, Joseph Jr., in Louisiana on December 16, 1900.

On May 16, 1901, 14 years after the death of his father, Joseph’s mother married Dr. Peyton Wade Douglas in Greene County, Georgia.

Joseph and Julia’s stay in New Orleans was short-lived. By 1905, they moved to Atlanta where they lived at 298 Central Avenue. Joseph was a clerk for Bell Telephone Company. By 1907, they moved to 30 Augusta Avenue in Atlanta and were still living there in 1908 when Roy was born on May 15. Joseph was now working as a traveling salesman.

On April 22, 1910, Joseph, Julia, and Joseph Jr. still lived in the Augusta Avenue house. The census enumerator spelled their last name “Davidson.” Joseph and Julia had been married for 10 years. Julia was enumerated as the mother of two children, both of which were living. Joseph was a traveling salesman for wholesale grocers. He was paying a mortgage on the house they lived in.

Tragedy struck the Davison family in the fall of 1913 with the premature death of Joseph on October 15, 1913, most likely in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I don’t know the circumstances of his death but I imagine it must have been unexpected as he was only 36 years old at the time. Joseph was buried in the family plot at Bairdstown Cemetery. The Atlanta Constitution published an “In Memoriam” for Joe on October 19, 1913:
In the death of Joe Davidson, [sic] the ranks of the salesmen who work out of Atlanta have suffered a loss which can never be fully filled. Mr. Davidson was one of the best representatives of that splendid class of men who today form the backbone of business, the salesmen. He represented the Frank E. Block company of this city for many years and his territory comprised the Southern road to Macon and the Georgia road from Crawfordsville south.
Mr. Davidson’s death took place last Tuesday night and he was buried at Bairdstown, Ga., on Thursday morning. Paul S. Pause represented his firm at the burial.
He was a member of U.C.T. Atlanta Council 18, and is sincerely mourned by his fellow members. While not a strictly religious man in the narrow sense of the term, Mr. Davidson was one of the best men it has ever been the writer’s pleasure to meet, and if all those who came in daily contact with him, will take his life as an example of how to live and keep it ever before them, he will have left a mark on his community which will work for good as long as mankind retains a memory.
Mr. Davidson is survived by his wife and two young children.
Joseph Jr. was 12 years old; Roy was 5 years old.

According to Wikipedia, U.C.T. was a society of traveling salesmen. “The Order of United Commercial Travelers was formed on January 16, 1888 by six men in a meeting at the Neil House in Columbus, Ohio to provide a society for traveling salesmen, or commercial travelers.”

It’s sad to note that his wife Julia also died prematurely at home on July 22, 1915. She was the same age as Joseph when he died—age 36.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hidden house treasures

I’ve written about family treasures in the past but tonight I’m writing about someone else’s treasures—things we found in our house that belonged to previous owners.

Earlier tonight, we watched the CBS News and one of the stories was about a third-grade classroom at a 100-year-old school in Manhattan where the students were digging for treasures in the class closet (Students dig up treasures buried under 100-year-old school in NYC). They interviewed several of the students and you could hear the excitement in their voice as they talked about the treasures they were finding. It reminded me of the treasures we found buried in my house three and a half years ago when we did a major remodel. I remember on several occasions we felt the same type of excitement.

It started early in the remodel—the construction crew tore down the drywall on the top level of the house, leaving a gap at the base of the floor. Before they tore the walls completely down, my oldest son headed upstairs and started digging in the gap to see what he could find. The photo below shows some of the items he found after a couple of digs.

On another occasion, the crew found a copy of a January 1969 issue of Playboy magazine. That caused a lot of excitement amongst the crew so my husband gave them the magazine. Our two adult boys sure were mad at their Dad when they found out. He didn’t even ask them if they wanted it!

Then on another day, the crew found this stash of beer cans buried in the walls. The crew were all local and had grown up in the neighborhood. One of them said he used to hang out at this house with the boys that previously lived here and he may have even hidden some of the beer cans in the wall.

We lived in the house during the construction so when I got home from work every day, I’d check the house over to see what they had done that day. On one occasion, I found an Eveready battery and an empty box of candy cigarettes standing on the window seal at the top of the stairs. Having grown up watching the Flintstones, I got a chuckle out of the candy box.

Once they removed the drywall from the stairway, I noticed a huge stash of chewing gum wrappers stuffed in one step. At the time, I wondered why would some kid stuff empty gum wrappers in the walls. But then I wondered, why not!

I believe most of the items found up until this point were all from the family that lived in the house immediately before us. As far as we can remember, there were three boys in that family and they most likely had bedrooms upstairs so they were probably who had placed the hidden treasures.

Once the construction moved downstairs, we learned about another family that had lived in the house during the 1950s and 1960s—the Prathers. They had a little boy named Jackson. These are some of his school papers.

He went by Jack

This one is dated January 21, 1958

Jackson must have liked Superman. Here’s a Clark Kent trading card dated 1965.

They were God-loving people.

And they either attended, or knew someone who attended, the dedication of the St. Louis Arch on May 25, 1968.

The last item we found was this juice glass, still in perfect condition. It was sitting on a shelf underneath the stairwell where we have a huge storage area. It now sits on top of my family history bookcase as a reminder that others were here before us.

None of these treasures are of any value but, like the students in the CBS News story, I found it exciting and fun to find them and they are all a part of the history of our house.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Samuel Terrell Lankford, a U.S. Navy Veteran

In celebration of Veterans Day, today’s post is about a veteran in the Lankford family—Samuel Terrell Lankford—my Daddy.

At age 18, Daddy registered for service in the U.S. Navy in Greene County, Georgia. At the time, he worked in the packing department for the Union Manufacturing Company, a hosiery mill in Union Point there in Greene County. He left home and headed to Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia where he was inducted on September 19, 1944. He was sent to boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes located near North Chicago, in Lake County, Illinois. On October 5, 1944, Daddy sent his mother a postcard from Great Lakes that reads:
Dearest all 
I haven’t got any stationary to write you today will try and write tomorrow. I’m doing just fine. Will be home before long. We had co. pictures made today will send one home as soon as I get them. Write me often as possible.
Love Sam

On November 19, 1944, Daddy wrote his aunt and uncle, Prince and Mary Burnette, to let them know he was coming home:
Dear Aunt and Uncle Prince
I hope this finds you all doing just fine. I’m just fine myself. I’m really tired though and I have to stand guard duty four hours from 12:00 midnight until 4:00 a.m. I know just about how I’m going to feel tomorrow. That’s one thing I don’t like about the Navy you have to stand guard about twice every week.
Well it won’t be long before I will be home. If nothing happens I probably be home about 5:00 p.m. Fri Dec. 1th. I’m not exactly sure about the time yet.
I’m going to find out and let Mama and them know though. I want everybody at home when I arrive if possible.
I have some pictures made. If you come out house while I’m there I’ll give you one.
I have to blackmail you some way to get you out home these last ones are pretty good. Well I’ll close now and sleep an hour or so. Write me before I leave.
Love Sam

My guess is that Daddy was allowed to go home for a visit after boot camp graduation. This was his first time being away from home and family so I’m sure he was excited.

After boot camp, Daddy served at the Naval Air Technical Training Command (NATTC) in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee which, according to Wikipedia, provided “initial and advanced technical training to various aviation operations, aviation maintenance and aviation support specialities coded under Navy enlisted aviation ratings and Marine Corps enlisted aviation Military Occupational Specialities.” Further training came at the Advanced Base Aviation Training Unit (ABATU) in Lido Beach, Long Island, Suffolk County, New York. From Long Island, he was transferred to USNABPD San Bruno, San Mateo County, California, and then finally served on the U.S.S. Laffey (DD 724).

This photo was taken during boot camp, ca. 1944

Photo taken in Memphis, Tennessee

The U.S. navy destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724) underway in 1964;
photo by U.S. Navy [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years, Daddy often spoke of his time in the Navy but he only mentioned time spent in Long Island and on the Laffey. He apparently met a young woman in Long Island and has mentioned her a few times. He was a cook on the ship. Daddy was a good cook so I’m sure the sailors were happy. Now I’m wondering—did he already know how to cook before he joined the Navy, or did the Navy teach him how to cook. I’ll have to remember to ask that question next spring. Daddy never mentioned any of the training he received while in the Navy so that information was a surprise to me.

World War II ended on September 2, 1945 and as far as I know, he never saw battle.

On January 17, 1946, Daddy was authorized for a change in duty by the Commander Destroyers, Pacific Fleet (ComDesPac). He appears on a muster roll for the Laffey on February 1, 1946. On March 16, 1946, he was authorized to transfer to a separation center for discharge. He again appeared on a muster roll for the Laffey on April 1, 1946. After serving the U.S. Navy for 1 year, 6 months, and 16 days, Daddy received an honorable discharge in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida on April 4, 1946. His rank at the time of discharge was Seaman First Class, SV-6, USNR. He received an USNR Honorable Discharge Button, Honorable Service Lapel Button, and an Honorable Discharge Emblem. Single at time of discharge, Daddy returned home to Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, receiving a travel allowance of $17.75 and an initial mustering out pay of $100. He returned to work at Union Manufacturing before moving to Atlanta in 1947.

Thank you, Daddy, for your service!

Sam Lankford and Millard Lowry

Friday, November 3, 2017

John Thompson Smith

Smith-McIlwain headstone, Riverview Cemetery,
Apollo, Pennsylvania
John Thompson Smith, parents unknown, was born in St. Clairsville, Belmont County, Ohio on November 7, 1810. He was my husband’s 2nd great grandfather. Their nearest common relative is John Milton Smith.

Unfortunately, I have no record that tells me about John’s early years but at some point, he left St. Clairsville and moved to Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. About 1840, he married Jane Gordon, daughter of Matthew Gordon and Elizabeth [last name unknown]. I’ve recorded the location of their marriage as St. Clairsville, which is 100 miles from Apollo, but I can’t confirm that they were married there so if you’re researching this couple, you’ll need to find proof. Jane had previously been married to John McIlwain with whom she had four children—Margaret McIlwain, James Xenophon McIlwain, John S. McIlwain, and Eva McIlwain. According to Apollo’s Quasqui Centennial souvenir program published for its 125th anniversary, John McIlwain was one of the early settlers of the town of Warren, which eventually became part of the borough of Apollo. John (McIlwain) was a tavern owner in Apollo. After his death in 1837, Jane married John Thompson Smith. The book History of Apollo, PA. 1816 – 1916: The Year of a Hundred Years written by T. J. Henry (published in 1916 by The News-Record Publishing Company in Apollo) notes on page 23 … “After the death of John McIlwain, John T. Smith married his widow and they kept tavern for many years on the corner of Warren Avenue and First Street.” Henry also makes a reference to John “keeping tavern on the corner of North and Canal Streets” in Apollo but I haven’t figured out if it’s a different or the same tavern he mentioned on page 23 of his book.

John and Jane Smith had six children together—Electra Burnette Smith, Erastus C. Smith, Eunice Alvira Smith, Martha Jane Smith, Minerva Smith, and John Milton Smith. Electra was born in Armstrong County on February 11, 1841; Erastus was born in Allegheny County (possibly Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania on October 11, 1842; Eunice was born in Armstrong County on September 19, 1844; and Martha was born in Apollo on October 3, 1846. As the family grew, John and Jane became active in the Apollo community. Page 25 of Henry’s book notes “The voters were commanded to meet in the house of John Smith and elect a burgess and five councilmen. Robert McKissen and Wm. McCullough were appointed to publish and superintend the election, to be held May 3, 1848. At this election Robert McKissen was elected burgess and Wm. Nichols, Wm. Miller, George C. Bovard, John T. Smith, John Elwood and David Risher, town councilmen.”

From Apollo's anniversary celebration Quasqui Centennial program

Henry’s book also states “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.”

John’s youngest daughter Minerva was born in Apollo on May 21, 1849. Just before her first birthday, Minerva contracted cholera and died on May 17, 1850. She was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo.

John was one of six men elected to the first board of school directors in 1850. Late that same year, the census enumerator found him and his family still living in Apollo on November 7, 1850. The children ranged in age from nine to four. Two of Jane’s children from her first marriage lived in the home—Margaret McIlwain, age 20, and John McIlwain, age 14. There was also a 26-year-old male with the last name Chambers living in the home. I can’t read the census enumerator’s handwriting to tell what his first name was. John was an innkeeper with real estate valued at $2,000. Jane gave birth to their sixth and last child, John Milton Smith, in Apollo on February 27, 1851.

1850 Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania census for the John T. Smith family

John and his family were apparently members of the First Presbyterian Church in Apollo. The church baptismal record shows that James Xenophon McIlwain was baptized as an adult in April 1858, Electra Smith was baptized as an adult and Eunice, Martha, and John were baptized there as children on October 11, 1858.

First Presbyterian Church of Apollo baptism record listing
Eunice, Martha, and John Milton Smith

First Presbyterian Church in Apollo

On July 5, 1860, John and his family were still living in Apollo, running the inn. Both John and Jane were enumerated as an innkeeper. There had been no change to the value of their real estate, still recorded as $2,000. John had a personal estate valued at $500. Electra and Erastus were both enumerated as “labourer,” so perhaps they were both working at the inn as well, although Erastus was still attending school. The other three children were attending school.

1860 Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania census for the John T. Smith family

John was a postmaster for Apollo at one point, running the post office from his tavern. When Apollo celebrated its Quasqui Centennial from June 29 to July 4, 1941, John was included on page 24 of the souvenir program where it noted his part in Apollo’s first election. Page 41 of the program notes him as an Apollo “First”—the first tailor.

John died in Apollo on March 11, 1864. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Jane outlived both of her husbands so must have buried them side by side and then she was buried with them when she died in 1877. The tombstone is a marker for all three.

John’s will was held in bond by Alexander Gordon, James Guthrie, and William Miller in the sum of $1,500 on April 5, 1864. Alexander was the administrator of John’s goods, chattels, and credits.

John’s name carried on for several generations. His son John Milton Smith named one of his sons John Thompson Smith. John Milton Smith’s daughter, Bertha Smith Athya, named one of her sons John Thompson Athya.