Thursday, June 13, 2019

If Only I Had Rachel's Diary

I have so many questions for my Second Great Grandmother Rachel Jane (Simmons) McGrath about her family. I have often dreamed of finding a diary written by her. I'm sure many of my questions would be answered. If I found a diary written in her own handwriting, I would be so overcome with emotion I'm not sure what I would do. But I would start reading it immediately! I wouldn't be able to put that diary down until I'd read every single page.

She would surely write about the death of her father, Lebius Simmons, when she was about 11 years old. If not written on the date of his death that was somewhere between 1851 & 1854, there would likely be something written about it in later years. She surely remembered that day for the rest of her life. I'm sure there were times when he was especially on her mind, like when her children were born. And when she buried two of them. If she had a diary, I feel that her father's death would certainly be mentioned somewhere in it.

Like their father, I don't know the death date or location of Rachel's younger sister Louisa, who died by the age of 14. I would hope that Rachel would remember her younger sister at some point later in life and write about her. Another sister, Mary Rosilla, died in her twenty's, possibly in childbirth. I would hope to learn about all of these deaths that surely had a lasting effect on Rachel. If she had a diary, she would most likely have written something about these events.

A diary would have made a nice personal wedding gift. It would be fabulous to read about her wedding day! She married John McGrath when she was 17. The year was 1858, but the location and exact date still elude me after 28 years of searching. If she had a diary, that's something that would very likely be mentioned, maybe more than once. It would be so interesting to read about the ways they celebrated their anniversaries. Her youngest sister, Ruth, married in 1868 in the same county where Rachel was living at the time. I'm sure she would have had something to say about Ruth's wedding. Also, anything about her little brother William could be mentioned in her diary. I know nothing about his adult life.  If she had written a diary, the joyous occasions would certainly be something she wrote about.

Rachel's mother, Ruth, remarried when Rachel was 13. I would hope that Rachel would write in her diary about her relationship with her step-father and four half-siblings. She was married by the time the second of those four half-siblings came along. Mother Ruth died with the birth of the last one.  I'd love to read that the two families saw each other often before her mother's death in 1863. 

It would be so nice if Rachel would mention the cemeteries where all of her loved ones were buried, and someday I would be glad to visit them. And if there were no markers I would love to be able to place some. 

To read about my Great Grandpa as a young boy would be so much fun. To read Rachel's point of view about the fire, or the wolf pups or run-away horses incidents I found in old newspapers would be fantastic. To read about the places they lived in Illinois and Nebraska and what Rachel loved about each one would be wonderful. To learn what life was like for Rachel, and how she dealt with her losses and her final months of suffering, and what made her happy...

Oh, if only I had Rachel's diary.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Friday's Faces from the Past - George Negley's children

A few old photos in the collection of my Great Grandma Sadie McGrath were labeled, and other photos are identifiable because of the same people in the photo. Of the three photos here only one had names written on, but I'm positive they are all the same children. 

George Oscar Negley, a brother of Sadie, was married to Lena Fisher in 1906. Together they had nine children, three of them preceeded both parents in death. 

In this picture are Cleo (1904-1927), George D (1908-1992), and Sarah (1911-1987) Negley. Between Cleo and George D there was Mary who died at less than a year old. Guessing Sarah's age at about 2, this photo was taken about 1913. 

Here the children are with their Aunt Alice, George's sister. From left to right are Sarah, George D, Rodney (1912-1999), Cleo in the back and Alice is holding Weston (1915-1992). Guessing that Weston is just about a year old, this photo was likely taken in 1916.

Again, this is Cleo to Weston, all a little older, maybe another year later. After Weston, three more children were born, Harriet Alice (1917-1991) and Albert (1920-1924) and Elmer (1927-2001). Albert died after eating some green currants. 

George, Lena and their family homesteaded in Benkelman, Nebraska. George Oscar Negley died May 15, 1955 only a few weeks after the removal of part of a leg. Lena had died in February of that year.

The children in these photos are my Grandma's first cousins, they were all older than her. She was born the same year as Harriet Alice, 1917. Benkelman was over 200 miles from Eldorado, probably a three hour ride in those early years. By 1930, George & Lena moved their family to Eldorado near his parents and siblings. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Grandpa's National Honor

Starting in about 1918, a national campaign to eradicate barberry bushes began and went on for many years. This is one of only a couple of Nebraska newspaper articles that I found about it. The article says that school children gladly cooperated with experts in the campaign. My Grandpa Kenneth Menke and four of his siblings were the only ones mentioned in this article from 1933 to receive certificates. At the time Grandpa was 16 years old, the oldest of his siblings listed here and Clarence was the youngest at 7. 

If I understand correctly, all they had to do was locate the bushes and let the state do the eradicating. I had never heard about this or even about "Rust Busters" before finding this article. I wish I knew what happened to Grandpa's certificate. 

Beatrice Daily Sun, June 23, 1933

Irene, Kenneth, Robert, Larna and Clarence Menke, children of Mr and Mrs Albert Menke of the DeWitt vicinity, have been made life members of the National Rust Busters club. 
Membership in the organization is limited to those school children who have located common barberry bushes in the campaign for the eradication of the pest. The common barberry bush - not the Japanese variety - plays an important part in the life cycle of the spore that causes black stem wheat rust. The cycle cannot be completed without the barberry bush, so the state and federal departments of agriculture have concentrated their attack on the eradication of the plant, which allows the rust spores to spread and cause thousands of dollars loss to wheat growers throughout the country. 
County Superintendent J W Miller reports that the school teachers and children gladly cooperated with state and federal experts in the campaign, as did his own office. 
The Menke children received a handsome certificate for meritorious service in the eradication work, signed by Governor Charles W Bryan.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Three Spann Graves

On the side of a hill behind someone's house is the Spann Cemetery, not to be confused with the Spann HILL Cemetery, both in rural Wayne County, Kentucky. I've heard this cemetery has been cleaned up and fenced. It was terribly overgrown when I was there twenty-three years ago. The tombstones for Benjamin Franklin Spann and his wife Mary "Hiley" Ann Decker are all lying down there. Their daughter Allie Lucinda Spann is my Great Grandma.

Fortunately for me these fell with the inscription side up.  It baffles me why there are two tombstones for Hiley Ann, but they are inscribed exactly the same, just with a different style letters. I have video of these which shows how near they are to each other. I did not try to flip them to see if something else was inscribed on the other side. Ben had a second wife who might also be buried in this cemetery, and I just wonder if somehow one of Hiley's stones was supposed to be for her. 

Ben and Hiley had 10 children. Their daughter Polly Spann is buried in the same cemetery. The others lie in other parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Nebraska. One daughter's grave is unknown to me yet. 

OCT  --  1827
DEC 15, 1901

SEPT 26, 1838
JULY 1, 1884

Wife of
Benjamin Spann
Sept. 26, 1936
July 1, 1884

Ben's parents are Hartwell "Jack" and Mary Spann. Hiley Ann's parents are Abner & Nancy Deckor. I don't know the location of their graves. Mary Spann died before 1879, likely in Williamson County, Tennessee. The other three would likely be somewhere in Wayne County, Kentucky.  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Relocated Grave of Polly Parmley

The daughter of Revolutionar War Soldier John Adair Jr and his wife Mary, Mary "Polly" Adair was more likely born about 1795 than the 1799 date on her tombstone. Her marriage to David Bell occurred in 1812 when she would have been about 17 which seems more realistic. David & Polly Bell had 4 children, John Silas, Barbara, William Beaver and Elizabeth. David died in 1818 and the next year, Mary was married to Garner Parmley who is buried beside her. 

A cemetery listing that was created in 1978 gives her death date as 1875. She was originally buried in the Twyford Cemetery #1.  Her grave was relocated before the creation of the Wolf Creek Dam in 1952. She was moved to a cemetery originally called New Bethel Cemetery, now called Parnell Methodist Church Cemetery. I would guess her tombstone has been placed sometime in the past 50 years or so. Her  I visited her grave in 1996 and got this poor photo with the sun behind it. It was amazing to be standing at the grave of my Fourth Great Grandmother.

I've never found a record of a grave for Polly's parents, John and Mary Adair, but it may not have been marked when graves were relocated for the dam. David & Polly's daughter Barbara is buried in Bearwallow Cemetery in Adair county. William Beaver's grave is unknown to me. Elizabeth is also buried in the Parnell Methodist Church Cemetery. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bells in the Stringer Cemetery

In what seemed like just a field, was the very small Stringer Cemetery in Wayne County, Kentucky. It had not been mowed in a very long time when we were there in July of 1996. Martha Bell's parents, John Silas and Rutha (Simpson) Bell are resting there.

Rutha Bell's inscription is very hard to make out in this photo. It was hard enough in person. I had my video camera when we were there and on the video I am saying that "I think that says Ru something a Bell April something April 1907". Rutha died April 11, 1907. I wonder what it looks like now. 

Also on the video I show the grave for Elizabeth Stringer, a daughter of John Silas and Rutha. I remember seeing a grave for Emily Bell with no dates which could be another daughter, but I don't have that on video. Ursula Reynolds, another daughter, is buried there and likely a daughter named Sophronia Bell, but I didn't see graves for either of them. John Silas and Rutha had two sons - Ira Garner Bell, buried in the Simpson Cemetery, also in Wayne County and Elisha Bell, who is buried in Rusk, Texas in the State Hospital (Asylum) Cemetery.

Ruth was one of 12 children born to Reuben Simpson & Martha Merritt. I don't know the location of her parents graves, but they would also be in Wayne County.

John Silas Bell's grave inscription was also barely legible. He died in 1878, It was incredible to me that I could find it at all. You can just barely see that the inscription "John S Bell". 

I remember reading somewhere that marked graves were moved to higher ground before the Wolf Creek Dam was built on the Cumberland River in 1952. John's father David Bell died in 1818. His grave marker, if there ever was one, was likely not found and no record of one exists. 

On this trip to Wayne County, I also visited John Silas' mother's grave which I'll post next. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Bells in the Giltner Cemetery

Quiety resting in the Giltner Cemetery are several members of the Bell family. In January, I wrote about my maternal Grandparents grave in the Aurora Cemetery and then followed my Grandma's ancestoral line as far as the graves I have visited. Just a few miles southwest of Aurora is the Giltner Cemetery on the east edge of the small town of Giltner. It's a good sized cemetery with all natural grass, once lined with cedar trees on the north side, there are no trees left there. The grave of my Great Grandparents, Cicero and Allie Bell is sinking.

Father                      Mother
CICERO                      ALLIE L
June 29, 1869              May 19, 1871
Apr 4, 1944                  JAN 19, 1959

Cicero and Allie were both gone before I was born so I have no memories of them. Both orginally from Kentucky, they moved several times before bringing their combined family to Nebraska. There is no mention of it on the grave, but both Cicero and Allie had lost a previous spouse. The blended family of seven boys remained close throughout their lives. 

Allie had one son from her first marriage, Bill Vickrey, who is buried in Fairbury, Nebraska. Her parents are buried in Wayne County, Kentucky. Allie had one brother living in Illinois who died just 3 months after her death. Another brother and seven sisters died before her and are buried in Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois. Allie also had two half-sisters who were 20 and 21 years younger than her. 

Cicero had four children from his first marriage to Mittie Ramsey. Two infants died and are buried in Flint, Texas along with their mother. The family had only lived in Texas a few years. Cicero and the two oldest boys, Frank and Oren, moved back to Kentucky and the boys grew up with Allie as their step-mom. Frank is also buried in the Giltner Cemetery. Oren is buried in Oklahoma. At the time of Cicero's death he knew seven grandsons and eight granddaughters. Two grandsons and another granddaughter were born in the following few years. 

The four sons Cicero and Allie had together all died in Hamilton County and are buried within 30 miles of each other. Ben, the oldest, is also in Giltner, Virgil, the youngest, lies in Phillips, and Ed and my Grandpa Stan, are in Aurora.

I know I was at this cemetery in the 1980's or even earlier, but I was surprised when I learned from the book "Historical Sketches of Giltner," that Cicero's mother was buried there. Until I saw that I assumed she had never left Kentucky. It was probably 1995 when I first visited Martha's grave and aside from getting chipped up by the lawnmower, it's in good shape and not sinking much. It sits right next to Cicero and Allie's grave.

Martha Bell's daughter, Laura Alcorn, is buried in the Westlawn Cemetery, here in Grand Island. John, the middle son of Martha, is buried in Russellville, Kentucky. I have been to Martha's parents grave in Wayne County, Kentucky, which I'll post next.