Sunday, November 9, 2014

52 Ancestors #21: Selah Stedman, military man (and a picture of our Veteran's Day baby!)

Changing focus this week in preparation for Veteran's Day, I am impressed by how many members of our family have served in the United States armed services.  Both my parents, Jean Hammon and Robert Brooks, and Phil's father, Clint Norton, served during the 1940s and 50s.  But our family fought for this country before it was even a country!

It seems that for Phil he has Revolutionary War ancestors on both his mother's and father's side.  I haven't even had the time to comb through my family for this kind of information though I know my cousin, Virginia, joined the DAR through one of my mother's ancestors.  In this post, I will focus on the man I have the most Revolutionary information about:

Selah Stedman

Selah is Phil's 4th great-grandfather.  His son, Eli Stedman, had a daughter named Sarah or Sally. She married the first Asahel Norton sometime before 1828.  It is through the 9th of their 12 children, Asahel Wellington, that we are descended.

Selah was born in Connecticut in 1762. He served in the war for 3 years from 1777 to 1780. There are many pages of muster rolls containing his service record and I haven't had a chance to go through them all.  Here's a copy of one from August 1777, where he is listed as "Zealous" Stedman.  His enlistment is for 3 years and it began in May of that year.  He is a Private in Captain Samuel Barker's Company of the Connecticut Regiment of Foot. Remember he is only about 15 years old at this time!

By 1779 he was still a Private but was now serving in Major Eli Levenworth's Company in the 6th Battalion Connecticut Forces.  His pay is meager, approximately 2 pounds per month.  There is also a subsistence amount of 3 pounds.  I'm not sure what that means.  There are many of these cards in Fold3, a website devoted to military records.  I followed them month by month and he was a very regular soldier. Amazing dedication for a young man, now only 17 years old.

There is an extensive pension file from 1832, available on  For reasons I can't quite figure out, his original application for a pension was returned and he had to offer additional testimony.  Here is a copy of the affidavit sworn on 27 September 1832 which I will try to transcribe.


State of New York
County of Livingston.  On this twenty seventh day of September 1832 personally appeared before the county courts of Livingston County aforesaid Selah Stedman a resident of the town of Livonia in the county of Livingston.  Aforesaid aged seventy years who first being duly sown according to Law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the provision made by the act of Congress passed at the 7th June 1832 - That he enlisted in the army of the United States on the 7th day of May in the year 1777 and served in the Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Jonathan Meigs in a Brigade commanded by General Person after Connecticut ___?___ in a company commanded by Captain Samuel Backer - Enlisted for three years and served until the 27th day of April 1780 on which day he was discharged - That he resided at the time he enlisted as aforesaid in the town of Wolingsford, County of New Haven and State of Connecticut - was born in the year 1762 - - That in the year 1777 was at Peckskill in the state of new York and in an alarm marched with his regiment into New Jersey as far as Quibble Town and joined the army with General Washington at the time of the Battle of Scotch Plains.  After the battle marched back to Peckskill and from there to White Plains to watch the enemy and convoy(?) the refugees and cow boys(?). Went into Winter Quarters at Fishkill and had the small pox - had a furlough and went home and in the month of March 1778 joined the army at Robinson ____?___ two miles below West Point on the east side of the North River where the Brigade remained the forefront of the summer then marched to White Plains and there stayed (p 1 ends)
until time to go into Winter Quarters and for that purpose marched into the state of Connecticut and then continued until the spring of 1779 - and marched back to the  Robinson Fords(?) near the North River at which place the regiment continued during the summer of 1779 until time to repair to Winter Quarters and for that purpose marched to Morristown in New Jersey and there continued until the spring of 1780 and from there marched to a town called West??? in New Jersey and was discharged by Col. Meigs on the day above named (to wit) the 27 day of April 1780, discharge lost.
I hereby relinquish every claim whatever to a pension or an annuity except the present and declare that my name is not on the Pension Roll of any agency in any state.
                                           (Signed by Selah  Stedman)
Sworn and subscribed the day and year aforesaid.
And the said court do hereby declare their opinion that the aforenamed applicant was a revolutionary soldier and served as he states.

This must have worked because Selah and then his widow did receive a pension.  It will be fun to re-read Revolutionary War history and look for these places. I'm not sure I got all the town's correct but they should be identifiable in the records of his regiment.

The good news is we know that Selah survived the war, even surviving smallpox!  By 1783, Selah - now only 21 - was married to Mary Hall.  At some point, following a common migration route, they moved to upstate New York,  The History of Livingston County shows that in 1813 he and Mary were founding members of the First Presbyterian Church of Livonia, New York church.  And that is where he lived until his death on 30 August 1844 at the age of 71.

I love that Selah lived near New Haven Ct where both Jessi and I went to school.  Also that his name comes from the biblical term - Selah  - used 71 times in the book of Psalms.  The meaning is uncertain but it appears to be a direction to musicians to "strike up".  And what a musical family Selah helped found!

I will let Selah - a man who served as a young boy and saw General Washington -sign this record for himself -

On a much lighter note, I want to close with happy birthday greetings to our own Eve G Norton Hanna, born on 11/11 and who did her (sometimes militant) service with the Veteran's Administration.  When you're with Eve, it's always a party!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

52 Ancestors #20: Dianne Kay Palmer Wetjen

Happy Birthday Dianne!

Dianne Kay Palmer was born to Gladys Hackett and Nelson Palmer on the 21st of October 1940.  The story is that they expected a boy and were going to name him Paul (after Nelson's brother-in-law, Paul Mohney).  But judging from the adorable baby book that Gladys compiled they were more than happy with their bright eyed baby girl.  Dianne was also greeted by sibling, Doris, who had waited 11 years to be a big sister.

Dianne grew up in Butler Pennsylvania where her father taught school.  He also had the best camera around, taking pictures for the school and many at home.  He frequently captured her with her mother:

Nelson also took stunning pictures of Silver Lake and the Mohney's vacation home in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey.

Dianne graduated from Butler High School in 1958 and began her studies at the State University of Pennsylvania, Indiana where her mother had also been a student.  She remembers that she had wanted to be a doctor but that was not an option for women in those days. Choosing between secretary, nurse and teacher, she started in education.  But she was really looking for her MRS degree.  And she found just the man for it!  Theta Chi fraternity was going caroling in the snowy town. Dianne didn't want to go but she accompanied her roommate.  The group was led by Alan Wetjen.  She remembers he had a red wool jacket with frat pin made with rubies and pearls and gold.  Dianne has always loved jewelry!!  They were walking and singing when things got slippery and he held her hand to keep her from falling.  When she got home, she told her roommate she was going to marry him.  She was the first girl in her class pinned at the Coronation Ball ceremony in January.1959.  Al came down over Christmas and met her family.  They married at the end of her sophomore year in 1960 on her parent's anniversary of August 21.  From the looks of her high school graduation photo it's no surprise that Al was glad to lend a helping hand!

Dianne finished her education at Alleghany College in Meadville, PA where Alan was teaching. They also spend their first 4 summers in Tallahassee where both completed Master's degrees.  Alan's degrees are in Math and Dianne's are in Reading.  After building a lovely home, Alan decided he didn't like where he was teaching and they moved to Long Island New York where both found teaching positions.  This was their home base for many years.

After 10 years of marriage, they were ready to add to their family.  Son Eric was born in 1969.  Dianne said he was "fun enough for her" and enjoyed watching him grow as she continued her work as a reading specialist.

Dianne and Alan retired in 1994 to Marco Island Florida.  Of course, being retired didn't keep her from being busy!  Dianne has helped found two charter schools, ran two large clubs, and worked to add a wing to the local library!  She was recognized for all she does in the local paper and, of course, it included a pictures of one of her lovely cats.

She is still a force in the community.  Dianne also has a flair for fashion and I love looking through her photos to see what the popular hairstyles were throughout the decades!!  Of course, I can't leave you without a sneak peak at the lovely man she married!

Alan Wetjen with his trademark smile!

52 Ancestors #19: Doris Drake and James Hackett

It seems likely that I will never have 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks as I had hoped for this year.  But I always believe that something is better than nothing so here's another post!

James Sends Greetings to Doris

Doris and James on their wedding day

I wrote about James Nelson Hackett previously here.  I even included a copy of the newspaper wedding announcement to Doris Laura Drake.  So I was thrilled when our aunt Dianne Palmer Wetjen showed me a postcard she had from James to Doris written in 1899, less than 2 years before their wedding.

Here is the address side:

One cent for a postcard that traveled from Westline Pennsylvania to East Sharon (see the handwritten note far left referencing McKean which is the likely final destination) Pennsylvania that must have passed through Wellsville, New York.  Though the card is dated 21 December, it is postmarked 22 December and was in Wellsville December 23.  I wonder when it reached Doris?  No street address needed at least!

This is my transcription of the note:

                                                                                                   Dec. 21 1899

Miss Doris L Drake
                                                           Dear Friend:-
I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am still among the land of living & won't be to Smethport before Xmas or rather Saturday. So you can't look for me as soon as you did expect but I will be there in time to have a fine sleighride providing that the weather is suitable for us.
I send my regards to all.  I am the same as ever.

I find it so sweet that he would reassure her that he was coming and even give her something to look forward to.  It appears that he attempted to cross out the word Xmas to tell her it wouldn't be until Saturday.  Christmas was on a Monday that year so I'm wondering if he was coming later in the holiday week.  He was only about 30 miles away from his hometown of Smethport. I wonder what he was doing in Westline at the time.

Here is a map of the locations including Olean where they were married in August of 1901.

Thanks Dianne for keeping this amazing artifact from 115 years ago!  It makes me think there was a love story here that I wish we knew more about.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

52 Ancestors #18: Luther Norton, the missing link

I have continued my climb up the Norton side of the family tree.  I thought this would lead to a long trail of Asahels as I mentioned in my post about Asahel Wellington Norton.  So I was excited to prepare for my trip to the Allen County Public Library last month.  In doing so, I reviewed some research I had done last summer in Livingston County.  There were letters at the historian's office from a David Kendall Martin written in 1979.  He seemed to have an interest in and knowledge of the Norton family.  But could I find him after 35 years?

Amazingly enough a Google search turned up his name on a genealogy website with an email address.  There was no date but it was worth a try.  I sent an email on Friday and had an answer the next day!  He sent me information adding 5 generations to the family and introducing me to

Luther Norton

Rosemary Norton at the grave of her 4th great-grandfather
Luther Norton
Luther was a name that was familiar to me from census records and I had assumed it was an uncle of Asahel, father of Asahel Wellington.  But instead it is his father.  In essence, Luther is the father, brother and son of an Asahel Norton!  No wonder I was confused.

So here is how it looks:
Asahel Norton
Luther Norton
Asahel Norton
Asahel Wellington Norton
William Wellington Norton

I was able to trace the first Asahel back to John Norton, born 1634 in Bedfordshire, England.  This John emigrated to the colonies and died in Connecticut in 1704.  It was exciting to finally "cross the pond".

Luther was born in Saratoga, New York where his family (including uncles) had moved from Connecticut sometimes between 1770 and 1776, as the Revolutionary War was starting.  When the English came to  Saratoga under General  Burgoyne, his uncle fought and died serving the crown.  But Luther's father, Asahel, seemed to have stayed out of the combat.  This Asahel died in New York around 1790.

Luther can then be traced to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where he settled on land that was being "colonized" by a group from Connecticut.  This group was originally formed with his grandfather, Samuel, as a founding member.  But the Pennsylvanians were not too happy to think that Connecticut was encroaching on its territory.  When the war ended, the Norton family was driven off its land and moved to Livingston County, New York.  There they remained until Asahel Wellington left the state for work in the 1890s.

Luther is buried in Livonia, Livingston, New York and I was recently able to visit.  It is a tiny cemetery right off county road 15.  Unfortunately, his gravestone is completely worn off - only a quote remains on the top, and even that was mostly illegible.  Buried next to him is his wife and a son, Luther A.  It was exciting to find the site but sad to realize that time had eroded so much history.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

52 Ancestors: #17 Capturing Four Generations

I've heard it said that we can only remember two generations back - our parents and our grandparents.  So it is always exciting when we can get four generations together and document it in a photo.  Of course, the youngest generation is usually an infant when the photo takes place.

So we were excited earlier this year to take a 4 generation of the Hammon-Brooks-Norton-Cox family.  I've uncovered another 4 generation photo here at Silver Lake New York just hanging on the refrigerator.  So to honor these events I am posting the three different 4-gen photos in my data base.  

Here's my newest discovery:



The very tiny man in the middle of this photo is James Nelson Hackett, affectionately known as Grandpa Hackett. I wrote about him here.  This picture was taken at Butler PA on Easter Sunday, April 1968 at the home of his daughter, Gladys Dorothy Hackett Palmer.  Grandpa Hackett died the next year in April of 1969.

Gladys is the small woman next to him and they are both standing in front of her very tall husband, Nelson Pattison Palmer.  To Nelson's right is his son-in-law, Clinton Edward Norton, and his daughter, Doris Jennie Palmer Norton.  Nelson and Gladys' youngest daughter, Dianne Kay Palmer Wetjen is on their left (and her husband Alan Wetjen is probably taking the photo).  

The three adorable children are Eve, Phillip Nelson and Chris Norton.  It's so cool that this time the youngest generation is old enough to remember their great-grandfather.  Here's how it looks in a chart:

                                                 James Nelson Hackett
                                                 Gladys Hackett Palmer
                                                 Doris Palmer Norton
                                                Eve, Phil & Chris Norton


Here is a picture from my side of the family (which I published previously here):


Here is the family tree tracing the women from left to right.

Rebecca Jane Spangler Nifong
Mary Esther Nifong Autry
Ruth Autry Brooks
Walter Allen Brooks (my father's brother)



And finally here is the newest four generation photo, taken this past Mother's Day 2014:

And in case you can't remember these faces I'll give the tree.

Jean Hammon & Robert Autry Brooks
Janet Esther Brooks (Norton)
Danielle Helen Norton Cox
Chloe Rose Cox

Thursday, June 26, 2014

52 Ancestors: #16 Doris Jennie Palmer Norton - Happy (Belated) Birthday!

Doris Jennie Palmer Norton

Doris mid-1930s
Silver Lake 2009

Doris Jennie Palmer was born on 17 June 1929 in Olean, New York while her parents were visiting her maternal grandparents, the Hacketts.  She was the first child of her parents, Nelson Pattison Palmer and Gladys Dorothy Hackett. Doris grew up in Butler, Pennsylvania where her father taught Physics at Butler High School.  Here is an excerpt from a biography she started about her early life.  I love the little details about sneaking out of church and finding her classes boring!

As I grew up, I learned to do my homework faithfully (being careful not to neglect my Physics homework), practice piano every day, and go to the Methodist Church on Sunday.  All of these tasks were reasonably pleasurable, but being a normal kid, I usually complained about homework and practicing. The Methodist church was easy to like because I had  fine girl friends and a really nice Sunday School teacher (the wife of our Pennsylvania Senator).  I admit that sometimes my girlfriends and I would sit in the balcony during church then sneak out and get a coke at the nearby drugstore. Actually, my experience at the Methodist church for 10 years while I was growing up was probably my reason for seeking churches in the cities where I lived when I left Butler.

Graduating from Butler High School expanded my ego because I was Valedictorian.  Later, I found out that college was full of valedictorians and most of them were a lot smarter than I was. My college of choice was the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, NY.  As a piano major I was required to practice 4 hours a day.  This was an experience in discipline; and my teacher was very encouraging. However, at the end of my first year, I decided to do a double major in piano and business administration so that I would have more job opportunities. Quite honestly, I didn't know how boring the business courses would be.  Then, I met The Boyfriend, Clint Norton, who liked all my courses better than I did so he helped me with my business administration homework. I learned that Clint was a theory /flute major but was interested in performing arts management as a career. Clint and I soon discovered that we liked each other well enough to get married, so I accelerated my studies and completed my BA in Piano and Business Administration in January and we got married in March.

The marriage was 11 March 1951 in Butler.  This wedding photo shows Clint Norton with his father William Wellington Norton.  Doris' maid of honor was Jeanne Moore.

Wedding of Clinton Norton and Doris Palmer

I love this story of their first apartment and the life of a newlywed.

April, 1,1951.  Here we are, Clint Norton and Doris Norton, who was yesterday Doris Palmer, now Mrs. Norton.  We are now on our way from Butler, PA to Rochester, NY.  Collectively, Doris and Clint have a cloudy youthfully optimistic view of their future together but they are young enough not to be worried about that far away sometimes ominous philosophy called “the future”.
             Being borderline penniless, we were on the look for a free lunch, as well as family nourishment, so we stopped in Smethport, PA, to see Aunt Virginia and Uncle Leo (my mother’s brother), for lunch. Then, we moved on to Perry, NY.  We found a free sleepover and dinner at the Hedwig Highway House where I had been a waitress during our summer at Silver Lake, NY. You might think that we had no plan.  Not true.  Both of us had found jobs in Rochester after graduation, before our wedding so we were on our way back to the city where we went to college, The University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music.  Clint’s job was Assistant Manager of the Riviera Movie Theatre.  My job was nebulously defined—something in the office of Taylor Instruments (maker of thermometers).  The “something” turned out to be deadly boring.  Clint wasn't exactly thrilled with movies and box office every night.  But then there was our cute little furnished apartment where we could relax—as long as we didn't stretch out too far.  The bathroom was neon pink so no nite-lite was needed; the bedroom was mostly taken up by the mattress.  The kitchen and living room were the same.  Next to the breakfast table was an old upright piano.  For lounging we sat on the back porch and talked to the neighbors’ whose back porches were connected to ours.  

The Nortons lived a peripatetic lifestyle.  Fortunately, Doris has compiled a list of where they lived and why.

5. Duxbury, MA 1951 summer theater
6. Hopewell, VA 1951 Dad music store; Mom teaches 3rd grade; Mom writes copy station WHAP
7. Olean, NY 1953 Dad at paper company; Eve born
8. Wichita Falls, TX 1956  Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra
9. Columbus OH 1957 Phil born; Dad managing Symphony
10. San Antonio 1959 Mom teaches K-6 music; Dad manages Symphony; Chris born
11. Baltimore, MD 1963 Dad manages Symphony; Mom teaches at Peabody Prep school for Music (piano)
12. San Antonio 1965 Mom teaches K-6 music; Dad sells Real Estate
13. Fredonia, NY 1966 Mom gets her Masters Degree in Organ from SUNY-Fredonia; Dad works at SUNY-Fredonia in Arts Management (Rockefeller Performing Arts Center)
14. Akron, OH 1970 Mom gets Ph.D. from Kent State; Mom teaches at University of Akron and Walsh College (Private college in Canton, OH); she also takes on some private piano students; Dad works managing the EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall
15.Austin, TX 1979 Mom was instructor in class piano at UT; p/t clerk at Foley's department store when she first got there;  Dad worked at UT Performing Arts Center and then retired to take on position at International Society of Performing Arts (ISPA) as Executive Director; Mom was the Administrative Director of ISPA and ran the conferences throughout the world. 
16. Nashville 2011 (December) Mom moves to Blakeford.

As you can see, Doris continued to add to her professional and academic credentials despite all the moves. She also added three children -Eve, Phillip and Christopher - who kept her busy with their own musical, athletic and scholastic pursuits. She and Clint were married for almost 57 years before his death in February 2008.  Here are some great family photos (though I am glad we have left the 70s behind us!)

Last week, Doris celebrated her 85th birthday!  She continues to play the piano several hours each day, takes a daily walk at the nearby mall and loves attending the movies.  She also keeps up on all the antics of her 8 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.  Happy Belated Birthday!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

52 Ancestors #15: Asahel Wellington Norton - What's In A Name?

In my return to genealogy research I am trying to be more methodical.  I am working my way up my husband's paternal line from father to father.  So I guess that it is fitting for my Father's Day post.

The name Asahel appears to have entered the Norton family by the late 1700s through a man I believe was the father of an Asahel Norton born in 1806 in Pennsylvania.  This Asahel is my husband's 2nd great grandfather.  His son and namesake was born in 1845 as

Asahel Wellington Norton

In following the trail of Asahel W's life, it was interesting to see how many different ways the name Asahel was recorded.  Here's how it looked on a variety of documents:

                   1850 US Census - Asahel W, age 5
                   1855 NY Census - Asael W, age 9
                   1860 US Census - Wellington, age 15
                   1870 US Census - Norton, Wm A, age 24
                   1873 US Passport - Asa Wellington Norton though he signed the form A. Wellington Norton
                   1880 US Census -  A. W. Norton, age 35
                   1892 NY Census - Albert W. Norton, age 46
                   1900 US Census - A. W. Norton, age 55
                   1910 US Census - Wellington A Norton, age 64
                   1920 US Census - Asahel W Norton, age 74

Asahel died in 1927.  For years, the family only knew of him as A.W. and didn't know what those initials actually meant. But due to his association with the University of Rochester, we were able to get more details. Here is a snapshot of a listing from the University's directory:

I have never found a picture of any of these Asahels though I hope to do so someday.  I did find an interesting description of A. W. Norton in his 1873 passport application.  At the age of 28, Asahel W is described as being 5 feet 8 inches tall with a high forehead, brown eyes and a prominent nose.  His mouth as of medium size a regular tilt.  His chin was full on a square, rather angular face.  He had dark brown hair and  a rather dark complexion.  The most fascinating detail is that his right leg is about four inches shorter than his left.  I can't quite read it correctly but I believe the note is that his right leg is lame.  Still, Asahel went to Europe that summer, returning on 13 August aboard the S.S. California from Glasgow Scotland.  A few months later he married Martha Sampson, a young woman he met while boarding with her family as a teacher.

The name Asahel did not continue to the next generation.  But the middle name Wellington did - it was given to A. W.'s son, William Wellington, who I wrote about here.  I would conjecture that the name Wellington came from the very popular Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in the first half of the 1800s.  Now my job is to see how many generations back I can take the name.  Is it only 3 generations or are there more?!?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

52 Ancestors #14: Mary A Norton - and how I got caught down the wrong tree

After a long hiatus, it's hard to get started again with blogging.  I had meant to write every Sunday about someone with someone who was born that month.  I got caught up in needing pictures, more information, etc.  ENOUGH ALREADY.  I need to just write about what I have to write about.  So here's my problem this week.

Mary A Norton

born around 1838

All I really knew about Mary A Norton came from the 1850 census of Groveland, Livingston, New York where she is listed in the household of Asahel and Sally Norton.  The record shows Mary A, age 12, female, born in New York.  And there it stops.  All we know is that she was probably born in 1838 in New York, most likely as a child of these two adults.  Interestingly, there is another Mary A listed as the wife of Calvin Norton, Asahel's brother, living next door!

Of course, that didn't keep the shaky leaves from popping up on my Ancestry tree.  And I followed them right down to a Mary Ann Norton of Wilkes-Barre, PA.  For some reason, I thought these two were one and the same.  I think it was on of those late nights and I kept right-clicking, saving and moving on.  I found a husband for Mary Ann, children, a death date etc.  It was a gold mine. But all along I felt uneasy.  This Mary Norton was shown as being born in PA not NY.  Of course, I'd seen that kind of thing before and also knew that the boundary between the two states was often crossed by the Norton family (Asahel was born in PA for example).  

I even put all this information on Family Search thinking I had found a new family.  Fortunately someone caught the error and pointed out the differences.  Now I am spending my Sunday going back and unlinking all these people who should never have been connected in the first place.

Where did my Mary A go?  I'm not sure.  There is a 20 year old Mary A Norton listed in the 1860 census as a teacher - though not a child - with the John B Norton family of Hartford, Washington, New York.  This would date her birth year to 1840.  Is this an uncle?  Hartford is a long way east of Groveland, but it could be possible if she was seeking employment.

Another family history mystery to solve with a lot of erroneous information created by ME that still need to be cleaned up!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

52 Ancestors #13: Robert Autry Brooks

NOTE:  I started this post on 3/30 and then never got back to blogging.  So I want to get this out - two months after his birthday but in plenty of time for Father's Day!! I will add the pictures I was waiting for later!

I have an extra week in March to play with (though I'm very late posting this - it should have been Sunday, March 30!).  But I couldn't find someone in our ancestral history born in March that I wanted to include - after doing three women last week, I was a bit drained!  So I picked my favorite male ancestor in the world: my dad.  Fortunately he only has a birthdate and his story is still being written.  Again I am missing all my pictures and information at home but here's what I have:

Robert Autry Brooks

My father was born in Russellville, Pope, Arkansas on April 3, 1929.  He was the youngest of two boys born to Ruth Autry and Walter Caswell Brooks.  I have written about his parents here, and about his brother here.  My father tells wonderful stories about growing up as a little boy in this small farming town on the Arkansas river.  There was always a lot of work to do on the farm and around the house.  He had chickens to feed, cows to milk and butter to churn. He went to the local elementary school where his mother and aunt taught. Here he describes some of his favorite childhood memories:

I have lots of childhood memories so to select the "best" is hardly possible. I think the most distinctive ones would be the trips out of town into the mountains and lakes of the Ozarks. When I was young and my father was alive, we would travel north of Russellville into the mountains and up to a farm that my family owned part of on the Illinois Bayou (that is the name of a river coming down west of Russellville). We would stop and have a picnic or visit with some other farmers. In later years, such as teen age years, the memory would be of Boy Scout camp at Camp Caudle. The camp was about 20 miles above Russellville, also on Illinois Bayou. It had been donated and the scout master, a wonderful teacher from Ark Tech named Mr Turrentine, had gotten rock cabins and activity center built. Every stay there was a great pleasure. 

                     This is Robert as a toddler with his older brother Walter and a neighbor (we think). 

After high school, Robert attended Arkansas Tech in Russellville Arkansas and then transferred to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to complete his degree in Chemistry. Following the example of his uncle, Daniel Hill Autry, and his brother, he then applied to Arkansas medical school in Little Rock.  This is his story of an unlikely turn of events. In fact he called it one of the "craziest things" that happened to him.

The most unlikely thing that happened to me is probably the transfer from Arkansas Medical School to Harvard Medical School. And that was all related to a friend named Peter H'Doubler who was an outstanding student at University of Arkansas. He came there to play football and then ended up being Phi Beta Kappa at third year and president of the Sigma Nu fraternity where I got to know him, and in general, a BMOC.
I entered Arkansas Med School at the last minute because they had trouble filling the freshman class with qualified students. I guess no one wanted to be a doctor. Peter had gone to Harvard Med School which was still competitive. After 1-2 years, he was visiting his girl friend, later his wife Evelyn, in Arkansas. He told me I should transfer. Harvard Med School was used to taking additional students for the third year from the many two year med schools, which were just then expanding. I thought it unlikely but he told me to just apply, which I did. And I was accepted which surprised me. I laughed later when I got a note from Harvard Med School after they had accepted my transfer, asking me to send my med school transcript. So I figured they were hard up for students!

And such an unlikely event has made all the difference.  My father went on to intern in Salt Lake City UT where he met my mother, Jean Hammon.  Then they moved to Galveston TX where both my brother and I were born.  After starting in practice in Lincoln, NE, they settled in Phoenix AZ in 1968 where they live to this day.

Here are pictures of my folks at their lovely Sagewood residence.  Their story is still being told as they celebrate having a great-grandchild and continue to share their stories by email on a weekly basis.  I can't wait to add more as time permits.

It seems fitting that I could only find pictures of the two of them on my laptop.  They celebrated 58 years of marriage on January 19 2014.  An amazing couple who are examples to us all.

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.