Sunday, December 28, 2014

Changing families for the Do-Over

Thomas McEntee started the Genealogy Do-Over.  I was instantly in, planing to do the Yeakley side of the family until today. I know it needs work and it is missing sources. I was pretty excited.

Today while waiting for the Do-Over to start, I read through the posts on Facebook and the blog. I thought I'd do something proactive.

I pulled the 1920, 1930, and 1940 Census for my dad's family. My uncle recently passed away and there is a family gathering next week. I wanted to take something with me to share about my uncle. I printed the blank forms and started to fill in the data, translating the codes for employment. I found some things I didn't know or didn't take the time to understand. I was pretty happy until I realized that on two of the census reports, my great grandmother's birthplace was listed as Virginia. That can't be right since she was born in Tennessee. Or was she?

My mom did genealogy for 30 years, tramping through graveyards and traveling from courthouse to libraries. I never questioned her research, she has a lot of documentation. She did cite sources. However, I found nothing on the birthplace for my great grandmother. Is it wrong?

I need a do-over. If I can miss something so different in a census report, something I have looked at multiple times, how much more information have I missed assuming the answers were right. I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sheldon Livesay - Someday an ancestor but right now, please help him feed the hungry in Eastern Tennessee

Someday Sheldon will be an ancestor. Our grandfathers were brothers. They lived in Sneedville, Tennessee where they eked out a living farming land along the Clinch River. The beauty of the area is breathtaking. Unfortunately, this portion of Appalachia is one of the most depressed areas in our country. While we support all the other causes around the world, this little area is overlooked. Children are hungry here. 

Along comes Sheldon Livesay, who says that God called him to involve himself in helping the poor where he lives. It has became much bigger and from there it became Of One Accord Ministry. With a small staff and wonderful volunteers, they are making a difference. 

My cousin Patty and I, traveled there in 2013 to see where our family came from and to meet Sheldon. It was a remarkable trip where we learned more about our family history but what we came away with was an appreciation for how fortunate we are. Sheldon and the people in the area run an outreach program that not only shares the message of God's love, they make a real difference in the lives of the people in their area. 
Patty at Amis Mill Eatery where Sheldon took us to eat. The mill was part of our family history. 

News report about "Of One Accord Ministry". This is the story Sheldon told us at lunch that day. 

Older "Of One Accord Ministry" video but does show all the ways they make a difference. 

At Christmas, when we fill red buckets for the Salvation Army and donate for the food drives in our area, please think about sharing a little with Sheldon and "Of One Accord Ministries".  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Howard Farris Rhea 1919-2014

My uncle died this week and I am sad on many levels. He was a big part of my life growing up and the last living member of my father's family. As a family history fanatic, it is a big loss because he had information he took with him. As an uncle, he was always very good to me and I have fantastic memories. As a member of the human race, his loss will be felt by many. 

Howard Farris Rhea was born in 1919. He was 95 years old when he passed away. He leaves a wife of 67 years, a daughter and two sons. He had another daughter and son who left us too early. 

He was a successful attorney who, like his brothers, was a workaholic. He was a good provider and his kids benefited from his labors. He was a good husband, son, brother, and so much more. 

The photo was taken at Christmas 1962 at my grandparent's home in Billings, Montana. Standing are: Uncle Ralph and Aunt Bernice, Uncle Howard and Aunt Anne, and my dad Ernest and my mom Ruby. The front row is my cousin Gary (who passed away as a youngster at age 14), my cousin Patty, Me, my Grandpa William, my brother Marlin, my cousin Stuart, my granny Mellie, and the most adorable cousin Billy. This picture makes me smile because we had a lot of fun that year. 

Uncle Howard will now be reduced to dates. His birth date, marriage date, census dates and death date. All of those are important but the dates don't define who he was. Uncle Howard died on November 17, 2014 but he lives on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him. So, let me show you a little about him. 

Top, at age 93 and as a baby. Below that is the three boys as kids. The bottom is camping with our family in Sequoia, middle, Howard with Aunt Anne (not sure if they were dating or married), and on the right, paying chess with my dad. There are tons of other pictures showing him in various stages in his life all of which will be posted on and other sites so he will continue to live in memory.

Today, as we get ready for Thanksgiving, I will be celebrating his life and all of the family, living or already gone because when we gather together to ask the Lord's blessing, we know we have already been blessed.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Farris Girls, Three Letters from 1905 - 1932

The Farris Girls are my grandmother and her sister
Mellie is my grandmother and Bertie is her sister. In 1905, my grandmother was 25 and Bertie would have been 18. Both of the Farris Girls were living with other families as hired help. Their step-mother was the original evil one as depicted in the movie Cinderella (probably based on my grandma's step-mother) but that's a different story. I have copied the letters here.
None of the spelling or grammar has been corrected. I do have the original letters in my possession. The Gene in the letter is their brother who also lived in Missouri and would have been 20.

Letter from Bertie to Mellie. Postage stamped on envelope, Russelville, MO - June 25, 1905 - 8 am.
Letter and envelope to faded and fragile to scan
Miss Mellie Farris.
Dear sister
I will try to write you a few lines this evening as I have nothing to do. You must forgive me for not writing sooner but I dont think you would be mad if you know how much work I have to do. I will try to give you a list of what I done this week. I made me a blue lawn dress for the fourth washed and ironed done the housework picked awful big patch of raspberries every other day. besides I have went to meetings the last three nights at the Christian Church went to Sunday school this morning and to meeting at the Baptist church. Mrs and Mr Short are camellights or Christians. I dont think they like for me to go to any other church but I am going to any church I want to. Mrs. Short is always talking about religion, She said she believed the Christian church was nearer right than any other. I told her yes everybody thought their own church was the best. She has been trying to get me to join. The preacher has been here two nights and two days he give me a good talk this morning. I dont think it is any better than some others.
When are you and Mollie coming down. I can meet you at the depot any time you get ready to come. You must come for I want to see you both. Cant you both got to Olean with me for the fourth. You can get on at Enon. Me and Daisy Musick are going on the train together. I have me a blue lawn dress to wear trimmed in lace insertion a new corset and corset cover embroidery and insertion and trimmed in blue ribbon a new underskirt to tom in embroidery white ribbon for my hair neck and waist 2 new handkerchiefs am going to get me some white gloves and some slippers. You and Mollie mus be sure and go with us. Daisy is an awful pretty girl. She is as good as can be. We are big chums. She just lives a few steps away from here.
i got a letter from Gene did you. He said he was going to write to you. he said he wanted to come to the fourth. It would be nice if we could all go together. Write and tell me if you can go. There is not going to be any here. Papa was here to see me Thursday. he done the only bragging on me I ever heard him do. He said I was always good when I was at home and minded him well. I was awful glad to see him. I got letters from Maggie and Beulah. Well I must close and tell you the rest when I see you.
Write soon.
From your loving sister B

Letter from Mellie to Bertie. Postmarked stamped on envelope, Van Buren, Arkansas (registered letter) April 6, 1912
Mrs. Bertie Enloe
Bagnell, Mo
Van Buren Ark
March 6, 1912
Dear Sister Bertie
How are you. I am well. I read your card you wrote to Maude Allard. Would not give Maude the money to send for you. So Maude said I don't think she wants him to, you know how they are. Do you sill want to come down here if I was not here. I would not come. I may go to Cal next week. Write and tell us if you still want to come. If I were you, I would not say another word to Maude about coming nor mother either. They think they are smart but don't say anything. Me and Gene will try to send for you after awhile if I don't go off sometimes. I just think I wont stay in this town.
I may come back to Mo after strawberrie time. I have been working for a woman here, worked eight weeks but I am through now. I am going to send you two dollars and want you to get on the train and go down to Enloes and stay till you can hear from me again or you can go to uncle Enoch and stay. Aunt wrote to me and told me she would give me two dollars a week and you need not be afraid to go the Enloes for he told me you are welcome any time you wanted to come. If they have someone it no difference you can go there and you go say I wrote to you two letters you never got. I sent you a valentine and a letter and you never said anything about it and ask why I did not answer your letter.
Gene and Delia and my self are going to move this week. Be sure and write to me as soon as you receive this. I will send envelope and stamp and tell us all about it. Don't stay any longer if you are in trouble. You wont get any better and I would go if I was aiming to soon. Do just as you please about coming here but mother is not able to do nothing but if you had the money to come or was here you could make a living this summer.
I will close. Write soon, kiss Jewell for me. Your sister, Mellie

Mellie with Ralph 1918
Bertie with Eugene 1911

Letter from Mellie to Bertie, Postmarked December 22, 1932 
Wm Rhea, RR2, Billings, Mont
Mrs. Bertie Rasmusson
Metzger, Oregon
Dear Sister Bertie and family
After a long time I will write you a few lines. Well here it is Xmas again how time flies why dont you write. I was sure I wrote after I was up there in June but now I am not so sure. It is almost as easy for me to take a trip to Portland as to write a letter and you know how hard it is to take a trip. How are you all by now. We have colds so much flu here now. The weather has been very cold but is warmer now. What are you all doing by now. Wm still works be we cant sell anything we raised. Have so many squash here just shriveling. I have been render lard today. We killed a hog have three more to kill, they are sure cheap. I am getting about a dozen eggs a day. They are thirty cents per dozen now.
How is times there? Now we had quite a political change in (unknown). Did Eugene vote? How is all the children. Now is Soren still planning to go to Alaska? Have you heard from Genes, what are you planning for Xmas? Guess we will stay at home may go to the show or to church. We have a nice car and plenty to eat and a warm fire for which I am thankful. With you could be with us Xmas. I am sending you a dollar buy something you want. Wish I had more to send but we still have to put our middleboard up and the floors are not all down. Well I must close. Hope to hear from you all soon. Love and best wishes for a merry Xmas.
Your sister,
Mellie Rhea

PS there is a dime for the three little folks.

Mellie and Bertie, Billings, Montana 1950's

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Sherman set The WABAC Machine to 1884"

As a child, my favorite cartoon was Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Actually, it still is. 

Mr. Sherman and Peabody

What does this have to do with the Rhea/Farris family history? Quite a lot really. 

On the Worldwide Genealogy site, there was a post titled Rear View Mirror. It caught my attention so I had to go see what it was about. Basically, it referred to a post on History Today titled Mirror Year: How old are you really?  OK, even more interesting, what is a mirror year? 

According to the articles, a mirror year is as far back into the past as you are old. For example, I am 65. If I take my birth year (1949) and subtract my age, the WABAC Machine sends me to 1884. We tend to define modern from our birth year but the past holds surprising information that impacts who you are today. 

For instance: September 21, 1884 - My great grandfather was murdered by John Brewer. My grandpa was 2-years-old and my great grandmother was expecting the 8th child. That event changed the family dynamics. What if John Carter Rhea had survived the gunshot? We will never know but it shaped our family and who we are today. 

Harry Truman (the 33rd President) was born in Missouri on May 8, 1884. He was the sitting president when I was born. Although I don't remember him (my memory of president begins with Eisenhower) Truman had a big impact with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. He changed the world forever. His actions also plunged us into the Cold War and all those years we ducked and covered expecting to be vaporized by Russian bombs. Watch this cheerful public service film made for the schools of New York. 

Other 1884 events that are a part of my life. 

May 19, 1884 - the premiere of the Ringling Brothers Circus

May 31, 1884 - "Flaked cereal" patented by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg

July 4, 1884 - Statue of Liberty presented to the United States in Paris, France and on August 5th, the cornerstone for the statue was laid on Bedloe's Island in New York City. 

December 1884 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published in England. 

As far back as 1884 seems to me, there were many things that happened that are so much a part of our lives, it seems inconceivable that they weren't always there. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Abijah Rhea, Abijah Ray

My great grandfather's brother was Abijah Rhea. It is difficult finding information for him. He was born in 1836 in Hancock County, Tennessee. He was a Confederate soldier in the 29th Tennessee Infantry. On January 9, 1862, he was captured by the Union army at the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky.

This is where the water gets a little murky.

On the "Selected Records of the War Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War 1861-1865". he is listed as Abijah Ray. One has to guess that his name was listed phonetically and not as it was spelled at the time. It has the right infantry division and the right county. The time frame is correct.

However, if you search the records, there is another Abijah Ray. Without careful consideration, it is easy to confuse the two although they are related.

The Reverend Joseph Rhea was born in 1788, the son of John Elijah Rhea Sr. Joseph had a son named James Northcross Rhea born in 1816. His son is the "Other" Abijah born in 1864.

The Reverend Joseph Rhea had six siblings.

John Elijah Rhea Jr. born in 1803, married Lucy Jones and they had 11 children. My great grandfather, John Carter Rhea, was born in 1842. He married Martha Jane McCollum and they had nine children. My grandfather, William Ogden Rhea, was born in 1882. He married Mellie Farris and moved to Montana where my father was born.

The other sibling that figures into this is:

Martha Pricilla Rhea born in 1790 was also a sibling of the Reverend Joseph Rhea. She married John McCollom. They had a son in 1820 named James Northcross McColloam. The reason James Northcross McColloam figures into this mix is because he married Mary Polly Gray and they had three children. One of them, Martha Jane McCollum, married, John Carter Rhea. They were kissing cousins.

There is a pattern here. It is meant to confuse future family history researchers. Both of the siblings named their children with the same name, born 4 years apart. The McCollum's also spelled their name any way they wanted. So with two Abijah's, two James Northcross' and the McCollum's spelling, getting this right was an issue.

Thanks to Kaye for contacting me and the the rest of the Ray clan for inviting us in. With their help, I finally get all of this!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

23andMe and Ancesty DNA, trying to track down relationships

I have now done the and 23andMe DNA. I had hoped it would be more helpful but has yet to meet my expectations. With that being said, it did spur me on to check for a name. Faye, a new"family" member at 23andMe, contacted me to see how we're related.

She sent me a list of family names. The only one I could find was a Collins.

Ida Belle Tyler, my 1st cousin, 2x removed, (meaning, she was the daughter of my great grandmother's sister), married Landon Haynes Collins and had one child, Robert Jesse Collins. Given the relationships, Robert is my 2nd cousin, 1x removed. None of them live in the places Faye mentioned but it didn't stop me from doing a little more research.

Landon's father was Bailey Collins, 1868 - 1897. He is related to me by marriage so that throws off the DNA as far as the Collins goes. However, doing a little more research, I discovered that Bailey Collins married Melissa Rhea. The name was familiar so I did a little more digging.

Melissa Rhea is the daughter of Samuel Rhea. Samuel Rhea is my 1st cousin, 3x removed. I had to figure this one out step by step.

John Elijah Rhea Sr married Febra Northcross. They had 7 children.

Joseph Rhea is the 1st child. He is the father of Samuel who is the father of Melissa who married Bailey Collins.  

Martha Pricilla Rhea is the 3rd child. She is my 3rd great grandmother and married John McCollom. Their son is James Northcross McCollom.

John Elijah Rhea Jr. is the 4th child. He is my 2nd great grandfather. He married Lucy Anderson and their son, John Carter Rhea married Martha Jane McCollom, the daughter of the above mentioned James Northcross McCollom.

This is where I stop because I just can't think about it anymore.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Meet Mellie Farris

Mellie Farris is my grandmother. She was a spitfire in a small body and no one messed with her. She was loving but ruled with an iron hand. This photo is probably around 1914 when she married my grandfather.

My dad, uncle, and Granny taken about 1942 in their home in Billings, Montana. 
The Granny I remember with the smile that brightened a room. 

Mellie Farris was the oldest child of Oliver Valentine Farris and Matilda Jane Pitchford. She was born in Eldon, Missouri on January 20, 1883. We have no documentation on her birth nor do we know if Mellie is her only name. On one family tree, they have her name as Mellicene but no documentation to back it up. 

Her childhood was less than ideal and I will cover that later. In the end, she created a life that suited her and I think she was quite content. To me, she was just Granny and a major part of my life. 

Changing the blog name

This started as Yeakley/Rhea, my parent's names. Then I changed it to Rhea/McCollum to add my grandpa's family. Now I see that it was wrong to begin with. I have a new blog called Yeakley/Jones which is my mom's parents. I see now it would have been more accurate to have started this one as Rhea/Farris for my grandparents. So on March 1, 2014, it will include my grandmother's Farris family too.

Genealogy is hard enough without confusing the families. Fortunately, I did the Yeakley/Jones right to start with. This blog is a hodge-podge of different families. In the beginning, I also did my husband's biological family but eventually created a website and blog for him. I switched to my great grandparents in 2013 for the Family History Writing Challenge. I have just completed the 2014 challenge and am satisfied that I now have the bones to write the story of Martha Jane McCollum.

Now that the Challenge is over, I am heading towards the Farris side of the family. I am also working on the Yeakley's on a different blog. I've spent a very long time on the Rhea's and am satisfied with what I have although I know it will never be completely done.

The Farris family, like the Yeakley's have been ignored while researching the Rhea's. On Ancestry, I have all the facts but none of the details that make them real people. It will be an interesting adventure.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 28 - Recap

Last year when I did this challenge, I wrote whatever came to mind. I wrote some things well, others were just lists.

This year, I tried to put it all in order to see if I had enough to write a short story to share with family. I have about 24000 words so I looked it up. I have too many words for a short story and too little for a novel. However, with technology, novelettes are back in favor. When Jane was living, many stories were serialized and the word count would fall between those of a story and a novel. Novelettes were very popular.

Then I went back and looked at the different days. Some have dialog and others are just stating facts. All that will need to be redone but I have something to work with. The next it creative non-fiction or have I crossed enough lines to have to consider it historical fiction? While I would like to think of it as creative non-fiction, I already know the answer.

My goal for next year is to move on to another family line. It's time to look at Farris/Pitchford, my grandmother's side of the family. I have a second cousin making a trip to England this year to the Pitchford Castle. She will come back with lots of information to share. I also know a little bit about the Farris side and there are some interesting characters there.

The Rhea/McCollum story will continue to grow as little pieces pop up. Each new piece challenges what I thought I knew and that's what makes family history exciting.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Join me on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge - April 2014

While I finish the Family History Writing Challenge, I am getting ready for the Blogging from A - Z Challenge. If you haven't tried this one, click on the link and check it out. There is still time to sign up.

Last year I did California Destinations, picking a place for each letter of the alphabet. This year, I am attempting to do family history on the other side of the family. Since I am in the embryo stage of detailed research for the Yeakley/Jones family, this is proving to be difficult. I am writing about my aunts and uncles so we have some sort of record other than basic facts but filling in the other days is harder. To make it worse, I am also doing 52 ancestors in 52 weeks for the same family. I might have bitten off more than I can chew.

I am looking forward to the challenge. Not only does it stretch my skills as a blogger, I am looking forward to meeting new bloggers I haven't yet discovered. You should give it a try.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 23 - Jim comes home

Jane quietly closed the door behind her. It the darkened room, Polly was asleep on the daybed in the front room. It had been a rough year for Polly who was not the robust person she’d once been.

She was 61-yrs-old now and time had taken its toll.  The year was 1886 and Polly lived with her youngest daughter Sarah and husband, Henry Depew. She was no longer working and spent most of her time resting. She’d used up much of her strength and energy comforting Jane when John Carter was murdered in 1884. Jane was 8-months pregnant with Lillie on the day that John Brewer shot John Carter. 

Jane tiptoed into the kitchen to find Sarah sitting at the kitchen table, pen in hand. Pausing in her writing, she looked up and answered the question she saw in Jane’s eyes. “Yes, I’m writing to Caroline. I imagine she’ll be shocked. I wonder if she and Robert will make the trip all the way from Oklahoma.” 

Jane looked skeptical. “That’s a long way to go with all those kids and Robert may not be able to leave his job for that long. The lumber business is volatile as it is.” 

“Still,” Carolyn said, “I’m going to let her know. This is the biggest news in years. Do you want to tell Mom?”

“I guess someone has to tell her,” Martha replied. “There’s no time like the present” and with that, Jane headed back to the front room.  She walked over to the daybed and touched her mother on her shoulder.

“Mama,” she whispered. Polly opened her eyes and smiled at her.  “Mama, he’s home,” she said softly.  Polly looked confused. “Who’s home?” she asked. 

“Daddy’s home.”

The kids were excited when they heard their grandfather had come home. Jane wasn't quite sure how she felt. He had been gone a very long time and hadn't been much of a father. Her younger sisters, now parents themselves, did not remember him so they were excited too. She had decided to take a wait and see attitude.

Polly, who had gotten older and bitter as time had gone by, was flat out angry. In fact, she had divorced him some years back. Now, she was living with Sarah and Jim wanted to live there too. That made her even angrier. Jane didn't have room and Caroline had moved. Jim didn't care. This was his family and he was staying. The rumor he had another family in California didn't seem to bother him at all.

Jane wanted the kids to know their grandfather. They had grown up without a father as she had and it was important that they at least knew him. He had wonderful stories to tell from giant trees to earthquakes. He was almost larger than life.

Jim was 35 when he left for California. There are just some people who are drawn to the lure of riches beyond belief and Jim was one of them. He loaded up the horse with supplies he purchased at the Station and without looking behind him, left his family.

He was flooded with relief. Finally, he was moving on. He loved his wife and children but they were stumbling blocks to the life he had planned. He never meant to stay at the station. He was very much like his father. He had heard the stories of how his father had come to the Station for supplies and somehow stayed even though it wasn’t his plan. Now, he was picking up the gauntlet and doing what he father didn’t. It was strange that his dad had disappeared when he was five and sometimes he wondered where he had gone. He was never found and 30 years later, it was still a mystery. No one goes out to chop wood and disappears, especially when he was with John Jr. and Andrew. Both of them were evasive about the disappearance but it was a long, long time ago.

Like many of the gold hunter, Jim headed for New Orleans. Making his way overland, he arrived in New Orleans and boarded a ship that would take him through Panama and arrive in San Francisco. By 1867, he was living in Salmon, California. (Forks of Salmon was originally a settlement in the now defunct Klamath County California.)

Jim didn’t find gold but he did find a lifestyle that suited him. He built a home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the little town of Trinidad, 18 miles from the largest Redwood forest. By 1870, he had purchased land in Dow’s Prairie and was farming. It was very different from Tennessee. Back home, Jane was married and had three children. Caroline and Sarah had steady beaus who they would also marry. Polly had retired and spent much of her time just waiting for Jim to come home.

In 1855, he was registered to vote as a California resident and he owned 168 acres. He listed the value at $915.00. He grew hay and had farm animals. There is no record that he had a 2nd family and the census does not bare it out but there was the rumor. His name changed several times. He was McCollom and McColloam.

In 1886, Jim came home two years after John Carter died.

Jim moved in with Sarah when he returned to Sneedville. He regaled his grandchildren with tales of bigger than life trees and earthquakes. He talked about the ocean and the storms that blew in. It was a life they could not comprehend and thought he was making it up. He seemed happy to be home even when he learned that Polly had divorced him and wanted nothing to do with him. She was already living with Sarah and it made it uncomfortable.

Polly died in 1886, two years after Jim came home. The girls felt lost without their mother who had been the major part of their lives. Sarah and her husband continued to let Jim stay with them after Polly’s death. Henry Depew would tell Jim every morning when he went out to the fields that he needed to be gone when he got home. Every evening when he returned, Jim would be sitting next to the stove whittling something. It never changed and he said it every day until 1896 when Jim passed away. Jim was buried next to Polly.

Jane made peace with her father. She was not spiteful and had a loving heart. By the time Jim came home, she had lost her husband and his presence was good for the kids.

In 1886 when Jim came home, Mary Leoni was 18. Laura was 16. Floyd was 13. Luvena was 11. Della was 9. Victor was 6. William was 4 and Lillie was 2. Missing John as much as she did, the arrival of the children’s grandfather helped fill the void. With his experience out West, he kept the kids entertained.

Caroline had Ida who was 11. James was 8. Launa was 7. The twins, Victor E and Ollie were 6. Bonnie was 4. William R was 2. Charles was born the year Jim came home.
Edger was born 3 years after he came home. Bessie was born 7 years after he came home and was 3 when he died. He didn’t see these children. They had moved to Virginia and only met them at Polly’s funeral.

Sarah’s children were:

William Lafayette 13
James N (named after his grandfather) 12
Mary 8
Alice 7
Kenneth 6
Ida 3
Mack 1
Effie, Levy, Leonard, and Carl were born after Jim came back. All of them got to spend time with their grandfather too since he lived with them. It must have been pretty crowded.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 21 - Lillie Bower Rhea

Lillie Bower Rhea and William Nelson Snodgrass

It is never good to assume you know something. Lillie's birth and death dates are taken from the census and find a grave. Find a grave only shows years on the site. There is a photo of the headstone but it only shows years. I have a month, day, and year, brought back by my mom when she copied family Bibles. Then I checked for new hints and found a Social Security Death Index with totally different dates. Who's right? I am not using Social Security. It says that Lillie Snodgrass died in August 1976, 24 years after the date on the headstone. The headstone identifies her as Lillie Rhea Snodgrass. Social Security does not show a middle or maiden name and could be someone else. 

So we start. Lillie Bower Rhea was born in November 1884. That's what the 1900 Census shows. She never knew her father who was killed before she was born. 

Lillie married William Nelson Snodgrass in 1914. We don't know how he got to Tennessee because his family is all in Virginia. Lillie, like William and Victor, married late at age 30 and I know she was still living at home.

Even after she married, they lived in the valley until the 1930 census shows them in Virginia, Nelson's family home. I am left to wonder if she stayed in Sneedville until Jane died in 1926, just to be there for her mother.  

In the letters Jane wrote to my grandparents, she mentions Lilly and Nelson. 

 Oct. 10 - 1919
Lillie says come out and help her quilt some evening and she will help next evening. She is quilting 2 and wants to quilt 3 more. 

Lillies baby Ross, is a fine looking boy. He favors my Wm a good deal. is a large boy of his age. Lillies health some better the past 6 months. 

Nelson Snodgrass is sending a check for the rents, which is 5 dollars and 44 cts. Him and Lillie still lives where Floyd did live when you was here. 

Lillie and Nelson had three children, a girl and two boys. Ross, who is mentioned in the letter, Esther and Kyle. 

Lillie died in 1952 at the age of 68. Nelson died in 1959 at the age of 90. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 20 - William Ogden Rhea (my grandpa)

Finally, an easy one. Well not really so easy. I knew my grandpa as a grandpa and not a person. I was 12 when he died.

William Ogden Rhea was born in Rural Hill, Tennessee on September 15, 1882. He was the 8th child of Martha Jane McCollum and John Carter Rhea. He was two years old when his father was murdered.

My grandpa was tall and never slouched. He was ramrod straight. He smelled like something I couldn't identify but he chewed tobacco all his life. I didn't figure that out until I was much older but I love the smell of chewing tobacco.

He was quiet and let Granny run his life. I will get to her later. He married late like all his brothers. I don't know where he met my grandma but have to believe that it was in Oklahoma. Laura had moved there and he must have gone to visit. My grandmother bounced all around Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas which leads me to believe Oklahoma is the likely spot.

He was devoted to his mother like the rest of his siblings. We didn't hear that from him but in a letter written to Victor after Jane died.

He married Mellie Farris on Oct 24, 1914. I don't know if they lived in Tennessee for a short time or if they stayed in Missouri where they were married. Granny apparently knew Jane or had a least met her. They moved to Montana in 1917. The bought land next to the Yellowstone River and started a farm. Ralph was born in 1915 before they moved. Howard was born in Billing, Montana in 1919 and my dad, Ernie, in 1921.

They farmed next to the river. It was a great place for the boys who talked about the fun times they had there. It seems to me that they were little more delinquent than they should have been and some of their stories would have gotten me a paddling. They all talked about their dog "Ring" and the horse that hated them.

Mellie, Howard, Ralph, Ernest (my dad), and William

They were still living on the river when Grandpa found employment. He was walking to town along the railroad tracks when a train came by. The engineer hollered out, "Hey Slim, you lookin' for a job?" Grandpa said he was and he worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, retiring as foreman for 1947. The nickname "Slim" stuck.

My grandparents spent a lot of time traveling but not necessarily together. My grandmother would arrive at the Depot in downtown Los Angeles once a year and stay for several weeks before getting back on the train and heading to San Francisco to visit my uncle and his family. The depot holds lots of happy memories for me.

My grandpa had tuberculous and spent his winters in Mesa, Arizona. He had a tiny one room apartment in a park. I remember the smell of lard and chewing tobacco. We would go to Arizona and visit with him there. When my parents married, Grandpa and Granny came to visit. This photo, taken in 1947, shows Grandpa and my dad at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

Christmas 1961, Billings, Montana. The entire family. Grandpa died seven months later on July 1, 1962 at the age of 79.
In case you're wondering, I am wearing a white blouse, sitting next to Grandpa. Granny is on the end, next to the adorable Billy, my cousin. If I start naming the rest if the family, I will get sidetracked and do all their stories too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 19 - Victor Edwin Rhea

Victor Edwin Rhea is easier to write about. My cousin, Patty, and I had to good fortune to meet Sheldon Livesay and his wife, Linda, last year when we made a trip to Tennessee to find our “roots”. Sheldon manages “Of One Accord Ministry”, an outreach that feeds and ministers to those in need. It’s a great program and we were blessed to have the chance to see it in action. Sheldon is our 2nd cousin and Victor’s grandson.

Sheldon and Linda

Not only did Sheldon share the work he does, he took the time to show us where the family lived and all the places they would have been. It was a great experience. We were disappointed to find the Home Place gone but the foundation was still there. He showed us Victor’s home but the forest is reclaiming it too. We saw the river and the land they farmed. Sheldon also unearthed a treasure trove of photo's that Victor's daughter Jewelle had saved. It was a fantastic find and added so much to the research. 

Victor was the 7th child of John and Jane. He was born July 13, 1880. 

Victor was the son closest to Jane. Her letters to my grandparents were all about what Victor was doing. My grandmother wrote to him and told him after Jane died, that anything she had should go to him as "he has been faithful to his mother". 

Victor married Cornie Hutson when he was 35-years-old in 1915. She was 24. They had three daughters. I think it was to offset the seven boys Floyd had. 

Jewelle Leona Rhea was born in 1917 and passed away in 2002. Opal Olive Rhea was born in 1920 and died in 2002. Mossie Rhea, Sheldon's mother, came along 5 years later in 1925 and died in 1992. 

Cornie, Victor, Mossie, Opal, and Jewelle

Victor and Cornie's home

Victor's farm was not far from his childhood home. He and Cornie lived there until they were much older and then moved to Rogersville to live with Jewelle. 

Victor passed away in April 1973 and Cornie joined him in July of the same year. He outlived all his siblings and was 92 when he died. 

Cornie and Victor Rhea

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 18 - Fidello Florence Rhea

Fidello (Della) Florence Rhea was born on August 11, 1847. Of all the children, she was probably closest to her mother. In the letters we have between Jane and my grandparents, Della is mentioned a lot.

She had a hard life in spite of her brothers and sisters close by. She married Mack Henry Hatfield in March of 1893 at the age of 16. They had 10 children. Roy was the oldest.
Roy Hatfield and Maud Conrad in front. Floyd and Eliza in the back. 

I don’t think that Roy had been discharged from the service when the photo was taken but his homecoming would not be as hoped. During the war, he had been part of the group that had been attacked with Mustard Gas. I don’t pretend to know anything about it other than, many times, it was fatal. That was not so with Roy. He survived the attack but soon after returning home, he was sent to the US National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The diagnosis there was arthritis.  We know that he was back in Sneedville in October 1919 because Jane writes:
“Roy and Sam still running trucks.”
Sam was Roy’s younger brother and both of them worked for the mining company. I haven’t spent much time with Della’s family other than to document the notes my mom made when she went to Sneedville, Tennessee in 1982. She talked to family and had a chance to look at some old family bibles. There are many missing details but what struck me about the family was the amount of tragedy is a small space of time. The Hatfield’s upset me. Roy Hatfield died in 1938 at the age of 43 by committing suicide. One has to imagine that the war had something to do with his state of mind and health.

How sad for the family so I thought I’d look at the rest of the kids.

Jessie Hatfield is hard to find. We have a birth year for her but no death date.

George Dewey Hatfield is the next in line. He had moved from Tennessee to Indiana and died at the age of 69.

Sidney Hatfield is next. We only have the year of his birth but no other information is available. However, the notes we have say that he committed suicide.

John Hatfield lived to age 82 in Indiana.

The next sister was Carrie Hatfield. There is not much information for her either.

Next comes Sam Hatfield who Martha mentions in her letters. We have no death date for him either. Again, there are more notes that say he had cancer and committed suicide.

Edna Hatfield lived to the age of 92. According to the note left on Find A Grave, her granddaughter posts a glowing report of how wonderful her grandmother was. That was nice to see. 

Grant Hatfield also moved to Indiana and lived to be 72.

Ray Hatfield, age unknown died of lung cancer.

Luke Hatfield had also captured my attention because Jane said he “Favored my Wm a great deal.” William was my grandfather. Unfortunately, Luke died in 1937 at the age of 18 in a car accident.

We have Roy, Sidney, and Sam who committed suicide. Ray died of lung cancer and Luke died in a car accident.

Della Hatfield was her mother’s child. She was also a strong woman who had the ability to rise above whatever life threw at her. However, the saddest part of all is when Mack Henry Hatfield was 81, he also  committed suicide. We don't know why but maybe he just couldn't deal with the death of his 5 sons. 

So much heartbreak but Della hung on for another 15 years and died at the age of 83. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 17 - Washington Floyd Rhea

One way to carry on the family name is to have seven boys. Washington Floyd Rhea and Eliza Manerva Seals did just that. It is a pleasure to report that the youngest son, Robert is still living and despite Alzheimer's, is still at home with his wife. June takes good care of him and their two daughter help as well. June shares bits and pieces of what she remembers of the past. It is always a treat to hear from her.

Washington Floyd Rhea, called Floyd, was born on January 2, 1873 in Sneedville, Tennessee. Jane and John already had Andrew, Laura and Leona when Floyd came along. Two more sisters came after him. Della and Luvena were just babies and not much fun to play with.

Floyd was seven when Andrew died and he missed him a lot. He was at that age when sisters were just icky girls. He followed Andrew around and tried to do everything he did. Victor was born just months before Andrew died and Floyd vowed he would be the best big brother ever.

The Rhea boys grew up without their father. I know they were close to their mother and as adults, worked to make her life better. Even my grandfather, who moved far away, lived at the Home Place until he married. Floyd and Victor never left Sneedville and were very much a part of Jane’s life.

Floyd was 30 when he married 17 year old, Eliza Manerva Seals. The Seals were also a large family living in Sneedville and there were lots of Rhea/Seals marriages.

In later years, Jane would write that Floyd had made molasses or had a fine crop of tobacco. She would share that Eliza was waiting for a letter from my grandparents.

Floyd died on February 3, 1929 at the age of 56. Although there is a death certificate, the cause of death is illegible. It must have been a hard year for everyone because Jane died a month later on March 22, 1929. In a letter my grandfather wrote to Victor, he mentions Jane’s passing but nothing was said about Floyd. We don’t have any other letters between the brothers. Eliza lived a long life, passing away on November 11, 1961 at the age of 75. 

Photo taken the same time as the top picture, this is Floyd's family. On the left is his mother, Jane. The oldest child is Robert and he is in both pictures. Floyd is holding Guy and Eliza is holding Homer. The picture is one that Sheldon Livesay, my second cousin,  found and shared with me.

Photo was taken in the mid 1980's when my parents went to Tennessee for the first time to meet the family. My dad is on the left, Hugh, and Howard, two of Floyd's children are on the right. This is the Home Place.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 16 - Luvena (Luvenia) Finetta Rhea

Luvenia is in the family picture. She is on the right side of Jane.

As robust as Andrew had been, Luvenia wasn’t. She was a sickly baby and a sickly toddler. By the time she reached school age, she was never well enough to go. Jane kept hoping she’d outgrow it but nothing changed.

In 1875, when Luvenia was born, there were no tests to find diseases of the heart. The only doctor around was Doc Campbell but he serviced Sneedville and the surrounding areas and was not up on the latest technology. He barely made it though each day with his services needed far and wide.

Dr. Campbell was aware of Luvenia’s illness and suspected a hole in the heart. He also knew that if a child made it past adolescence; they had a pretty good chance of living a longer life. He had explained all of this to John and Jane when Luvenia was about two. He suggested they take her to a specialist in Knoxville but money was tight and the trip was expensive. They decided to save up and take her when she was a little older but any spare money was spent when Andrew died. At 5-yrs-old, Luvenia was not strong enough to run and play with the other children but she seemed happy enough doing small projects where she excelled.
They put off the trip to Knoxville and started saving again.

When Luvenia was nine, John Carter was murdered. Of all the children, she felt it the most. Her father was her hero. He never let her tire herself out and carried her almost everywhere. Any kind of exertion left her breathless and it hurt him when she couldn’t catch her breath. She was his little princess.

Jane was aware of Luvenia’s suffering. She was pregnant, had four-yr-old Victor and two-year-old William, who were very active. Trying to keep the boys from getting into trouble and dealing with her husband’s death left little time for Luvenia. It wasn’t until her mother suggested teaching Luvenia embroidery that she found a solution that worked for her unhappy daughter.

Both John and Jane valued learning and could read and write so Luvenia was schooled at home. Her father had insisted that she have the same education as her siblings. Even though she didn’t attend school, she was a better reader than her brothers and sisters.

Needlework was considered a part of a girl’s education and Polly believed that it would be the perfect outlet for Luvenia. In the evening after leaving work, she made her way to her daughter’s house.
“Girls,” Polly shouted as she walked into the house, “Come see what I have.” Laura at 14 and Leoni, 16, were not interested in sewing. They had done enough and were quite frankly tired of it. “It’s not sewing” Polly told them, “It’s decoration.” Nothing she could say would make them pick up the colorful floss and a needle. Della, who was seven, looked decidedly interested. Luvenia approved of the colors but wasn’t quite sure what she was supposed to do with it.

“We are going to make a sampler”, Polly said.

“What’s a sampler?” Luvenia asked.

“It’s a way to show off what you can do with a needle. You can decorate your piece anyway you want. You can make the alphabet, create an animal, and write a saying. There are different stitches to learn.” Polly replied.

Della looked slightly less interested. “I don’t want to Grandma,” she said.

That’s fine,  Della, you don’t have too” said Polly.

“How about you Luvenia?” Polly inquired.

“What would I make?” she asked.

“I have a suggestion if you’ll let me,” Polly said. “I thought it might be nice if you made something for you to remember your papa. You could sew his name at the top with his birth date. We could find a nice verse in the Bible you and he liked. At the bottom, we could put the day he died and finish it with a fancy border. When it’s done, one of your brothers could make a nice frame and we could hang it on the wall.”
Luvenia’s eyes lighted up. “That’s a lovely idea, Grandma. I want to get started right away. I want to make something special for Papa. Show me how.”

Polly was pleased that the young girl had something special to do. That first night she showed her the basic stitches and helped her draw out the beginning pattern. As the weeks went by, Luvenia learned more and more until she was more than proficient. As promised, she finished the sampler in no time at all and Floyd built it a fine frame. It was hung in a place of honor in the parlor, soon to be joined by other equally impressive pieces.

Luvenia was born on December 19, 1875 and passed away on April 22, 1913 at the age of 37. She is buried in the Depew Family Cemetery next to her mother. She never married and left no legacy. She is one of the forgotten ones because no one lived after her to tell her story. Luvenia Finetta Rhea was my great aunt and her life matters to me.