Monday, March 24, 2014

52 Ancestors #12: Three Hammon sisters born in March

If you have 15 children, there will obviously be several born in the same month.  Of the fifteen children born to my great-grandparents Levi Byram and Martha Jane Belnap Hammon, three girls were born in March.

Lettie, Robena and Ethel Hammon

Lettie (or Letty) Matilda Hammon was born on 13 March 1883 in South Hooper Utah.  She was the 8th child born to Levi and Martha.  Two of her previous siblings had died as infants and a third sister passed away just a month before she was born.  A brother died just two weeks later. So when Lettie grew up with only three older siblings.

Six years and two additional children later, Betsy Robena Hammon was born on 25 March 1889, also in South Hooper Utah.  She went by the name Robena and was known to my mom as Aunt "Bean".   Then an additional seven years and two more children (one of whom died as an infant) happened before Ethel Hammon was born on 16 March 1896 in nearby Roy Utah.

I can only give dates and facts here as I don't have my family history books with me.  But I'll come back later and fill in some details.

Lettie Matilda Hammon 

Lettie lived most of her life in Roy Utah.  She married Jesse Stoker on 10 July 1900 when she was only 17.  They had eleven children.  After Jesse's death in 1942, Lettie married twice more before she passed away on 24 September 1975 at the age of 92.

Betsy Robena also spent her life in the Weber County, Utah area. She married Lance (Lancelot) Greenwell on 14 November 1906, also at the age of 17. They were the parents of 7 children.  Robena died just a few days after her sister Lettie, on 2 October 1975 in Roy, Utah.  She was 86.  I wonder if there was a close connection between these two women.  Robena wrote a book about her grandparents that is a tremendous resource for our family (and is at home!).

Ethel Hammon McEntire
on her 50th wedding anniversary

Ethel stayed close to home, too, and lived in Roy or Ogden her entire life.  She married Horace McEntire on 19 December 1917 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  They had also had a large family of 6 or 7 children.  Ethel died on 17 May 1987 in Ogden Utah.

The family often got together for picnics and reunions.  I have a couple of group pictures that I enjoy. The first one is probably from the early 1900s, maybe 1908-1910 as my grandfather is the little boy on the left and he was born in 1898.

Levi Byram and Martha Jane Belnap Hammon and family
Front row: Martha, Levi, Polly
Middle row: Glenn, Jane, Lettie, Frank
Back row: Amasa, Rhoda, Robena, Ethel

 Here is a picture from the 1940s which I love as it shows my grandfather as a man with his siblings.

The three men are Amasa, Glenn (my grandfather) and Frank Hammon.  The sisters are Robena, Janie, Ethel, Lettie, and Rhoda.  I am so grateful that my family has recorded these times together so I can look back and know there was love and joy in the times they had.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

52 Ancestors #11: Walter Allen Brooks

This is the week that technology failed me!  I am at our "winter" home without all my family pictures and my usual scanner.  My attempts to get the scanner here to work have taken me through the hidden worlds of IP addresses, wlan connections, etc.  All to no avail.  So with the able, but low tech, help of my cousin Mariruth and her trusty iPad, I will tell you about my beloved uncle:

Walter Allen Brooks

My father's brother, Walter, was born on March 29, 1924.  They always loved how that was exactly 5 years and 5 days before my father was born.  Walter is the son of Walter Caswell Brooks and Ruth Autry who I wrote about just a few weeks ago here.  Walter was born in Russellville, Pope, Arkansas.  Though the son of a farmer, his family also prized education.  His parents were older (Ruth was 32 and Walter C 50) and naturally so were his playmates.  Ruth home-schooled him so he could start second grade at age 6.  He continued on this accelerated path, graduating from Russellville High as valedictorian at age 17.

World War II was on but Walter was deferred to attend college at Arkansas Tech.  Through a specialized Army training program, he did his medical training in three years, graduating in 1946 from the University of Arkansas medical school.  The following year another important event occurred with his marriage to Marilyn Rose Gulley of Quanah Texas on July 12, 1947.  Walter then served in the Army and was stationed in Arabia, bringing him many mementos.

This photo is his medical school graduation pose.

After returning to civilian life, Walter did a residency in surgery and then opened a practice in Marilyn's hometown of Quanah in 1955.  Walter was very active in both the medical and civic communities and was a well-known presence in both Quanah and the Texas medical association.  But I'm sure he would agree that his greatest accomplishment was his two daughters, Rebecca Ann and Mariruth. Walter loved family and always seemed happy and full of life to me.  In fact, he seemed larger than life.  I knew my father looked up to him as a mentor and friend.  I loved to visit Quanah and travel in the truck with my uncle.  He was in the car as we drove to my wedding and gave me the greatest smile and hug.  

Walter Allen died peacefully on 20 April 1997 in Quanah.  It was unexpected but I remember that he just took a nap and didn't wake up.  He is buried there with his wife, Marilyn, who passed in 2011.  We miss his twinkling blue eyes and big smile.

Walter's baby pictures are filled with family.  I have a letter his father wrote him in 1929 telling him to be a good boy.  Though his father died when he was only 17, I'm sure he would agree that his namesake did just that. I will try to put some of these up next week after my tech support son comes to visit.  But here's a last look at a beautiful baby who grew up to serve so many in a special part of Texas.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

52 Ancestors #10: James Nelson Hackett

We are ten weeks into the challenge from Amy Johnson Crow to blog about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  This is make and break for me - it's starting to seem tiring but I learn something every week so I plan to press on.  I usually try to post on Sunday night but it was busy with a run to the airport yesterday so I'm taking this gorgeous Monday morning to write about my husband's great-grandfather:

James Nelson Hackett

Known as Jamie to family and Jim to friends, he was born on 1 March 1878 in Smethport, McKean, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of four children born to George Hackett and Ormanda Burt.  Jamie spent his entire life in McKean county and made his living as a farmer with a fertilizer sales business on the side. He was not a big man.  His World War I draft registration card describes Jamie as being 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and of medium build.with black hair and brown eyes.

It is fun to read various reports of James Hackett in the McKean County Miner, the local paper.  Here is the notice of his wedding to Doris Laura Drake.

This wedding date continued for the next two generations as their daughter Gladys married Nelson Palmer on the same date in 1928 and her daughter, Dianne married Alan Wetjen on this day in 1960.  It was warm weather for all of them!

James and Doris had two surviving children, Leo and Gladys.  Gladys is my husband's grandmother. Two daughters, Opal and Pearl, died as infants.  Jamie was a life long Methodist and involved in the community as a charter member of the Grange. He was physically active, even climbing a tree at age 75 to shake the hickory nuts. (His son-in-law, Nelson, was too nervous to do it himself!)

 After Doris died in 1958, James lived another 11 years on his own.  Eventually he would spend the winters in Butler PA with his daughter Gladys because she worried that he would live on oatmeal (which he loved but he would never wash the dish afterwards!).  His last days were spent in a "rest home" in Smethport where he died on 8 April 1969.  Both James and Doris are buried in Smethport's Rose Hill Cemetery.

Even though James stayed in the same area his entire life, his posterity has traveled far and wide, from Africa to Tahiti, and points between.  I wonder if he would have liked to travel too.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

52 Ancestors #9: Whittleseys Born in March - But Maybe Not Related!

As I was searching for Norton ancestors born in March, I was happy to find not one but two Whittlesey siblings with March birthdays.  According to the records I have, my husband is related to the Connecticut Whittleseys.  This is a distinguished family with a lot of research ready for me to include.

Here's what I know:
Phil's grandfather, William Wellington Norton, is the son of Asahel Wellington Norton and Martha Sampson. Martha was born in Elmira, New York to Joseph and Azuba Sampson.

Here's what I thought was true:
Azuba Sampson was born Azuba Shipman Whittlesey in the year 1827 in New York.  It is the two siblings of this Azuba who were born in March; Susan in 1824 and Elias 1828.  And that's where things fell apart.

As I looked at details of Azuba Shipman Whittlesey's life I saw links to a baptism record in Saybrook, Connecticut in 4 July 1819.  This was followed by a marriage record, also in Saybrook Connecticut, to a James Hildreth on 1 August 1837.  But my Azuba Sampson would only have been 10.

What to think?!?  Obviously there are two Azubas.  From census records of Azuba Sampson (who is sometimes called Zuba or even Aguba), 1827 is repeatedly the birth year.  Also, the same records consistently indicate she was born in New York.  However, she does show the middle initial W and has parents born in New York.  In fact,  the 1850 census lists a 10 year old named William Whittlesy (different spelling).

I am now fairly sure that our Azuba is NOT the Azuba Shipman Whittlesey we have so long thought to be ours.  So no birthday posting about her siblings and LOTS more research to do.

But I don't want to leave this Norton  birthday week without a shout out to the incomparable

Emily Grace Norton

Artist, humanitarian, and world traveler - Happy 24th Birthday this March!

Monday, February 24, 2014

52 Ancestors: #8 Sharon Gay Hammon

My Aunt Sharon was born on 3 February 1930.  As you can see from the date, she was born during hard times as the nation began the Great Depression.  Sharon was the second child of Daniel Glenn Hammon and Virginia Slater.  She was my mother's younger sister by 5 years.  The Hammons lived in Mohland Utah where Glenn, as he was known, worked in the coal mines.  A younger brother, Donald, joined the family a year later.

Tragically, Virginia died when Sharon was only 3.  My mother, Jean Hammon Brooks, clearly remembers coming home from school and finding the door locked.  She could see her mother collapsed on the floor.  Sharon was with her and this loss had a great effect on the family.  The children were scattered for a time to various relatives; something that would recur from time to time, even after Daniel Glenn remarried in 1935. This picture of the three siblings is probably from the mid-1940s.

Sharon grew up mostly in the Roy, Utah area.  She was a beauty with big green eyes and blond hair.  She was very outgoing and attracted a lot of attention.  She was also anxious to get out of the house which now had 4 additional children from the second marriage.  Sharon married Adrian (Bud ) Draayer in the Salt Lake Temple on 27 May 1948.  She had just graduated from high school.

Five years later, Sharon and Bud had four young children, three boys and a girl. Sharon also took care of other children, so the demands on her time and health were heavy.  She grew increasingly unhappy in her marriage. At the age of 31, she learned to drive and got a job.  Eventually she left her marriage and moved to California.  Her children remained with their dad.  

Sharon and Monte

Lynn, Connie and Vaughan Draayer

Sharon loved California and especially enjoyed the Bay area and all the excitement of the 1960s. She married three more times: to David Lyons in 1961, to Jerry David Bell in 1963, and to Bruce Battles in 1971.  None of these marriages lasted, but her marriage to Jerry Bell did produce another daughter,  Virginia Lee Bell..  Virginia and her half-brother Vaughan had green eyes and were left-handed, like their mother. The others, Monte, Connie and Lynn, were blue eyed and right handed.

Sharon and Virginia

After many moves, including a time in the Philippines, Sharon retired to Arizona. Though she had a difficult relationship with her children, they knew she loved them. Sadly, her four oldest children died within 5 years in the early 2000s.  Sharon died of heart failure on 10 November 2007.  She is buried in Warrenton, VA near the home of her youngest daughter.

Her daughter, Virginia, describes her mom as a paradox: she loved to eat but hated to cook; she was very generous but not good at managing money, she loved clothes but had no style.  If she didn't like you, you knew it.  She was a great story-teller, and would make things up on a whim  I certainly never knew what to believe. I did know that if you admired something of hers she was determined to give it to you!

These are Virginia's words:

When she died and I had to put a tombstone on her plot, I had no idea what to do. One night I had a dream about the Little Prince and his rose. The story is about a difficult relationship with a thorny and vain flower on the little prince's planet and how he travels the universe only to discover that that relationship meant a great deal to him because it was difficult. When I woke up I knew what I had to do:
I ordered a rose granite tombstone from Vermont, with roses etched into the stone including her name and dates, plus an epithet from the Little Prince: "A flower that was unique in all the world"
and she was

Sharon had planted a rose bush for each of her 4 deceased children.  There are rose bushes at her gravesite, and a Rose of Sharon planted behind the tombstone.  She was truly an unforgettable woman with a childlike wonder and enthusiasm for life through all her days.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

52 Ancestors: #7 Ruth Autry and Walter Caswell Brooks

Moving on to my father's side of the family I found a husband-wife February birthday duo.  And it's my own grandparents!

Walter Caswell Brooks

Walter Caswell Brooks was born on the 15th of February 1874 in Pope County, Arkansas. His parents, William Brooks and Rebecca Malinda Cooper, came from Stanly County, North Carolina to farm in Arkansas. They had 7 children, two boys.  Walter was their fifth child.  I don't know as much about my grandfather as I should.  I do know he was a farmer, farming the William Brooks estate in the Holla Bend bottoms near Russellville, Arkansas.  He met my grandmother through his sister, Alta Brooks, who was teaching in Nashville, Arkansas.    He married Ruth Autry on 2 December 1922 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The marriage was performed by Ruth's father, the Reverend Allen Hill Autry.  I have a copy of the service which I will transcribe at some point.

It is interesting to note that Walter was 48 years old when he married.  He must have thought he was going to be a bachelor for life.  I'm sure there were many adjustments to family life, as his first son, Walter Allen Brooks was born less than 2 years later in early 1924.  My father, Robert Autry Brooks, came along five years after that.  Walter was killed in an automobile accident on 30 May 1941 when the car went out of control on a bend coming down Crow Mountain.  My father was only 12 years old.  I can see the resemblance, especially in the eyes.

Ruth Autry

This picture, from around 1916, is how my grandmother must have looked when Walter met her. Wow, what a beauty! Ruth Autry was born 8 February 1892 in Booneville, Logan, Arkansas.  I wrote about her mother, Mary Esther Nifong, here  in week #3.  She attended Ouachita Baptist College in Arkadelphia, graduating in 1911 with a degree in art.  Ruth was an accomplished painter; you can see some of her work in my blogpost here.  I have several of her paintings in my home that were painted during her time at college. She was the first in her family to attend college and returned to Nashville where she taught school.  She even taught her younger brothers, Dan and Paul, before becoming principal of the primary school there.

After her marriage, she was a leader in the Russellville community, organizing a book club and active in the Baptist church.  Her two sons, Walter A and Robert A, were born there.  My father, Robert, tells stories of his mother sewing clothes (I have her Singer treadle machine with her papers still in the drawers), churning butter (I have the churn and the ladle) and cooking.  She was a fabulous cook.  Here is what my father said about the family meals:

She did not consider herself a major cook, but did an excellent job of it.  She also canned a lot because the depression was on, and fruit and other food was available locally.  There was only my brother, 5 years older, and me so we had to help.  I recall canning a bushel of peaches every summer. She also canned pickles and pears and some vegetables and various jams and jellies. These were all canned in glass quart fruit jars, or smaller, and were stored on shelves in the basement. In the winter, half a pig was brought up from the farm and she made sausage and other other things. I remember my brother, Walter Allen, and I having a huge pan of sausage, rolling up elongated portions and squeezing them down in cloth bags that she made from old feed sacks.  We rather liked that because our hands got greasy. Every project took about a week.  We raised and ate lots of chicken which were raised in the back lot.  We chopped the head off on a stump and when it stopped flopping around, dipped it in boiling water and pulled the feathers off.  A messy job! Mother would clean it, burn the little feathers off (I forgot their name!), dress it and fry it. Or if it was a hen, she baked it with dressing.
The other thing I remember is having to help her clean up dishes, especially as a teen ager when she taught school. I whined and complained about it. One day, she ran me out of the kitchen. Then, I felt very guilty! I hope I did better after that! She was very clean and it was harder to achieve that then. She was very religious. Sunday dinner was a major meal and delicious. It was fixed after church. We did nothing else on Sunday, except for the Sunday night services which included a young people's meeting.
These are probably my most discrete memories. After all, food was important during the depression and money was scarce. I have often thought that I have more money now and the food is much more expensive, but I don't eat as well as when I had Mother's home cooking and home made food.
After her husband died, Ruth went back to work as a teacher.  My father describes her as one of the smartest people he ever knew.  She could think quickly and was an analytic thinker.  He also says, "This made her very stubborn, since she was seldom wrong."  I think that's how my kids would describe me!
By the time I knew my grandmother, she was suffering from Parkinson's Disease.  She had a helper at the house, Miss Maggie, whom I loved.  But Nanya, as we called her, was a bit daunting.  She didn't like that I was left-handed and would try to get me to color with my right hand.  I did love her big house which you can see in my post here.  It had great hiding places and  a secret passageway to a play room that I remember. The magnolia trees in the neighborhood were amazing.  
As Nanya deteriorated, she needed more care and moved to a nursing home in Quanah Texas where Walter Allen lived with his family.  My last visit was with her there. She could still sing the French anthem, La Marseilles.  I remember answering the phone on Christmas morning 1975 when my uncle called to say she had passed.  My father cried harder than I have ever seen him.  She was buried in Russellville Arkansas during that break from my freshman year at college.  I am grateful that my father and my great-aunt Esther have written so much about her.  I feel I know a lot about her as I walk through my house and see her beautiful paintings.  These two pictures are from when she graduated high school and when she taught elementary school.  I love the subtle smile and the luxurious hair.

Monday, February 10, 2014

52 Ancestors: #6 Alvah Palmer and a legacy of more February birthdays

After last week's post on the Nortons, it didn't occur to me that I could find another father/son combination born in the same month. But Alvah and Hiram Palmer celebrate their birthdays only one week apart.  In addition, Hiram's birthday falls on February 16, which is also W.W. and Clint Norton's birthday!  That means February 16 is probably the most important single date in our family's history!  I can't believe the coincidence that we would have three grandfathers in our direct line born on the same date.

Let's start with Alvah Palmer, my husband's 3rd great-grandfather .  He was born on 9 February 1796 in Shelburne, Vermont.  We have records of both his birth and his 1816 marriage in Vermont.

The story is that he took his honeymoon trip with new bride, Harriet Hurd, to the wilds of western New York. They were probably escaping the infamous "Summer That Never Was" where frost was killing the crops as late as June.  They settled in the beautiful valley along the Genesee River near a place called Portageville.  Alvah built a sawmill at the Middle Falls in what is now Letchworth State Park.   He also built a cabin there where the Glenn Iris Inn now stands.  The following story has been told through the generations. This is a version from page 181 of A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemmison, first published in 1824. (book is available on Google Books).

In November, 1822, Capt. Stephen Rolph and Mr. Alva Palmer drove a deer into Genesee river, a short distance above the middle falls, where the banks were so steep and the current so impetuous, that it could not regain the shore, and consequently was precipitated over the falls, one hundred and ten feet, into the gulph below. The hunters ran along the bank below the falls, to watch the fate of the animal, expecting it would be dashed in pieces. But to their great astonishment it came up alive, and by swimming across a small eddy, reached the bank almost under the falls; and as it stood in that situation, Capt. Rolph, who was on the top of the bank, shot it. This being done, the next thing to be considered was, how to get their prize. The rock being perpendicular, upwards of one hundred feet, would not admit of their climbing down to it, and there was no way, apparently, for them to get at it, short of going down the river two miles, to the lower falls, and then by creeping between the water and the precipice, they might possibly reach their game. This process would be too tedious. At length Mr. Palmer proposed to Capt. Rolph and Mr. Heman Merwin, who had joined them, that if they would make a windlas and fasten it to a couple of saplings that stood near, and then procure some ropes, he would be let down and get the deer. The apparatus was prepared; the rope was tied round Palmer's body, and he was let down. On arriving at the bottom he unloosed himself, fastened the rope round the deer, which they drew up, and then threw down the rope, in which he fastened himself, and was drawn up, without having sustained any injury. From the top to the bottom of the rock, where he was let down, was exactly one hundred and twenty feet.

Alvah sold his sawmill in the 1820s but continued to live in New York. He died in Hume, Allegany, New York on 30 May 1860. The mortality census lists his age as 66 which would mean he was actually born in 1794. There is some evidence for that year but more research is needed. There are records of land transactions and other dealings in the area.  We are lucky that Alvah is a popular subject for genealogy research due to his importance as an early settler of the Genesee Valley. He also had 8 children who lived to adulthood so his descendants are numerous!

Alvah's 4th son and 7th child, Hiram Palmer, was born somewhere in this area of upstate western New York. It is usually listed as Wyoming County, and assumed to be Middle Falls, near Portageville.  The day of course was February 16; the year 1832.   Hiram married Philena Lydia Palmiter on 17 September 1853 in Portageville. I have plenty of work to do on Hiram and his life. He had 3 sons; the first was born in Michigan in 1856. I have no idea what they were doing that far west. But he must have returned to be near his father as his second son, our ancestor Walter Truman Palmer, was born in Hume New York.

Eventually, the family migrated to Pennsylvania, as both Hiram and Philena died and are buried in Shinglehouse, Potter, Pennsylvania. Hiram lived to be 90 years old, passing on 26 September 1922. Longevity seems to be a family trait as his grandson, Nelson Pattison Palmer, also lived into his 90s.  I am excited to find out more about this family and happy that we get to spend so much time in this beautiful area of New York at the family cottage on Silver Lake. 

I can't leave this line without pointing out another amazing coincidence. Alvah's mother is Chloe Chittenden and he named a daughter Chloe. This Chloe was born in 1830 on . . .  16 February. The name Chloe is also important to me because of my beautiful granddaughter, Chloe Rose Cox. Her name has meaning in so many ways. But to me it means love.


News Flash:

I learned from our first cousin, Eric Wetjen, that the February 16 birthdays have continued to another generation.  His son, Tyler Alan Wetjen, was born on that date and is celebrating his 4th birthday today!
Tyler is the 4th great-grandson of Alvah Palmer.  We're so glad that this handsome young man has continued the tradition!