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Archive for the ‘Photographs’ Category

Photographed by Gene Amore, 1966. Original: slide; Digital scan held by Wendy Littrell

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With the brand new year, I will try to keep this blog updated a bit more often. Today marks the beginning of a new column – if not daily – then weekly or monthly – called “On This Day.” I will list some genealogical facts – births, deaths, anniversaries – of those in my family history file.  I wanted to start yesterday – so for argument’s sake – we’ll just pretend it’s January 2nd.

On This Day – January 2nd – in 1940 my brother was born.  He weighed over 10 lbs according to the story my mom told me. She went into labor on New Year’s Eve 1939 and told me she was delirious due to the pain. When she realized he’d been born, she thought he was a New Year’s baby – then realized she’d been out of it for 2 days.

Mom had turned 18 a little over 3 months before Jim was born.  Doesn’t she look so young? 

Due to my dad’s military service (and being stationed in Japan twice in the 1950s), my brother learned to fly an airplane, became interested in photography, participated in the Explorer Scouts overseas, and graduated from an American School in Japan.  He later became very active in the Overseas Brats and attended several reunions.  My brother became a member of the Eagles and played “Santa Claus” for children at Christmas Events.  He loved to dress up for Halloween and on one ocassion, dressed as a vampire and had a “coffin” built for an Eagles Halloween party.  He scared many people that night when they would all check to see if that was a “real” person in the coffin and at the right time, he would raise up and scare them!

My brother was 21 by the time I was born and had been married 9 months.  As I got older, he was more than just an older brother to me.  He became somewhat of a father figure – as my dad and I rarely saw each other due to the physical geographical distance between us.  My brother was the one who took me to my first rock concert – to make sure nothing happened to me.  He was my “date” for one of my school dances.  He chaperoned my first boy-girl party (and got so bored he ended up spending the rest of the evening talking with my mom upstairs in the living room).  He was thrilled when he got to hold my kids.  He would call me “Sis”.  He made me laugh.  He and his wife blessed me with another nephew.  Then 10 years ago, after an undiscovered illness, he became very sick.  It was discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. After the first chemo treatment, he faded very fast.  I got to see him the week before he passed away and can only hope that he knew I was there. 

I especially miss my brother on holidays and birthdays – still waiting for that phone call and hear him say “Hi Sis!”

January 2nd for me will always mean Jim’s birthday.

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The center of our home was – and always has been – the kitchen.  The above pictures (photographer: Gene Amore, held privately by Wendy Littrell) show the eat-in kitchen of the house I grew up in.  This was where smaller, family birthdays were celebrated; where the holiday meal preparations were done; where my dad marked the heights of me and my niece and nephew on the recessed door; where we’d sit at the table while talking on the telephone; and where I’d spend my meal times.

Dad and Mom preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner

The kitchen was the place I could find my mom if she wasn’t at her sewing machine or out in her flower beds.  She liked to cook and bake.  She taught me how to cook in this kitchen.  

Mom by the stove

On one side the kitchen was accessed by an open doorway that led into the formal dining area and on the other side it led into the living area – a recessed wooden door could close it off. 

This was not the kitchen my mom used for the last 32 years of her life but it was the kitchen I’ll always think of when remembering childhood meals and ocassions.

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When my dad got orders for Japan in the early ’50s, he went ahead of the rest of the family.  Mom had to get from Ohio to the Pacific Coast in order to sail to Japan. 

The photo at left was taken when my mom, brother and sister were leaving my Uncle’s home in Michigan headed west.  They drove 450 miles in one day and got to Fargo, North Dakota about 6:15 p.m.  In a postcard to her folks, Mom said they stayed at a cabin for the night – the cost: $4.  They traveled through Montana and went to Oregon in order to visit my great-grandmother for a short time.hughgaffey naval ship  Then north to Seattle to Fort Lawton where they had to wait a few days before sailing to Japan on June 9, 1953. 

The trip, aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey, would take 12 days – although by crossing the international date line, they lost a day.  While on board, my sister tap danced in a Variety show and my brother – when not seasick – made friends.  The ship carried 2400 troops – all on their way to Yokohama. 

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trainMy parents were in Japan for two tours and while there, they drove the Nash that had been transported via ship with them.  Sometimes they jim school busrode a train like the one pictured (left) and my siblings rode a bus (right) back and forth to school or on field trips.

While on their 2nd tour in Japan, my parents and brother all learned to fly courtesy of the Tachikawa Aero Club.  They even “starred” in a short film promoting the Aero Club Family Plan.  Back in the States and after I came along, my parents still flew every once in awhile.  Here’s a picture of my Dad in ’72 getting ready to fly.dad by plane

My parents had some very interesting adventures in the air and on land.  I feel very blessed that not only do I have stories and pictures, but memories of when I accompanied them on some of their adventures!

Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera - Travel.

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Since this post was published, I’ve located more information – see below for the update!

A wealthy man and a postmaster
An argument over a ditch
A revolver came out and several shots fired
Some of them never hit
A shed to hide
A suicide

The story of the attempted murder of John James Johnson by Coleman Hawkins in a nutshell.  Just who were these men?  Were they more than just neighbors?

John James Johnson
John J. Johnson, oldest son and third child of Jacob and Ann (Shields) Johnson, was born on October 8, 1821 in Byrd Township, Brown County, Ohio.  He moved with his parents and siblings to Rush County, Indiana by 1840 and married Dolly Mullis on March 4, 1848 in Union Township of that county.  Dolly was the sister of Amanda Mullis, wife of John’s brother, James Wilson Johnson. 

The couple were enumerated in the 1850 US Census living in Marion Twp in Rush County with their one year old daughter, Ann M. Johnson.  John, 27, listed his occupation as a Farmer.  They aren’t easily found in the 1860 Census but they had moved to Stoney Creek, Madison County, Indiana by 1870.  Two children are living with them – Rosa, age 12, and John, age 7.  Dolly’s siblings, Sophia (age 55) and Thomas (age 42) are also residing in their household.  By 1880 Rosa had married and was widowed.  She and her son, Edward Milburn, age 3, were living with John and Dolly as well as brother, John. 

Elizabeth Blazer
Elizabeth was born to John and Mary Ann (Nelson) Blazer in the mid-1840s.  She was enumerated with her parents on the 1850 Census living in Fall Creek, Madison County, Indiana.  For a long time she was “missing”.  She would have been more than 20 in the 1860 Census and probably married, yet the name of her husband was unknown.  Unbeknownst to me – I had found her in the 1870 and 1880 Censuses – I just didn’t know it yet!

Coleman Hawkins
This man was born about 1832 in Virginia.  I only knew about him through newspaper articles and biographical data from “The History of Madison County”.  He is living in Stoney Creek Twp, Madison County, Ohio in the 1870 Census.  His residence was adjacent to the John James Johnson family.  He had a wife and eight children.  In the 1880 Census, Mr. Hawkins and his family are living in the same spot.  Seven of the older children are still living there along with two that had been born since the 1870 Census.  Coleman Hawkins would not see another census.

The Incident
Historical sketches and reminiscences of Madison county, Indiana (John L. Forkner, Byron H. Dyson; Publisher: Forkner; 1897; pages 965-968) recounts that Coleman Hawkins, a very wealthy man, had been a resident of Stoney Creek township for a number of years and lived close to the postmaster, John J. Johnson.  The Midland Railway – near Johnson’s Crossing, was in the vicinity of their homes.  Hawkins and Johnson had maintained a good relationship for many years until 1888.  At that time a ditch had been constructed that ran through the neighborhood.  On December 5, 1888 Johnson took a mail pouch to the train and saw Mr. Hawkins there.  Once the train had left the station, Hawkins inquired whether his neighbor could stop the construction of the ditch.  Apparently similar conversations had occurred prior for Johnson told him that he’d already answered that question.  Hawkins obviously wasn’t happy with that answer and pulled a revolver on Johnson, who turned and walked away – possibly not believing that the other man would really fire at him.  Yet Coleman Hawkins did just that.  

“. . .  the shot taking effect in the back just left of the spinal column and below the shoulder blade. Johnson ran into the stationhouse and closed the door after him. As he shut the door another pistol shot was fired, the ball just passing the door. Hawkins then rushed to the window, about six feet from the door, broke out a pane of glass, and fired four or five additional shots, two of which took effect in Mr. Johnson’s body, one on the left side of the face and the other in the forearm. One shot passed through the stove pipe in the room and another through the ceiling. Johnson now opened the door and ran out past Hawkins into a field that led to his residence. Hawkins, having emptied the chambers of the revolver, drew a second one and resumed pursuit of his victim. He fired four additional shots, one of which lodged in Johnson’s right shoulder. Four bullet holes were found in his coat in different places where his body had escaped injury. Johnson ran until his strength was fast failing, when he turned upon his pursuer and clinched him, forcing him to the earth.”

At that time Rosa Johnson, John’s daughter, ran toward the two farmers after she had heard the gunshots.  Without thought to her own safety, she wrangled the gun out of the hands of Coleman Hawkins.  Another neighborhood resident had heard the commotion and came to the two men.  Both men agreed to let each other go.

What should have been the end of the violence – was not.  Apparently Hawkins was either still enraged or looking toward the future of being tried for attempted murder, that he entered a barn on his farm and shot himself.  His wife and son, Rufus, had tried to follow him when they saw him go toward the barn but they didn’t reach him in time.

The ditch that seemed to lay at the center of the quarrel had been awarded by the court so that Johnson could drain his land.  He had requested Hawkins give him an outlet for three to four years but had been refused.  So Johnson had turned to the court and the court had forced the construction of the ditch through Hawkins’ land.

It was also discovered that the pistols that Hawkins had used to fire upon Johnson and to commit suicide had been purchased the day prior to the incident at the railway station.

The conclusion of the story read,  “The remains of Coleman Hawkins were interred in the Anderson cemetery, over which was erected a handsome granite shaft that can be plainly seen from the Alexandria road as the traveler turns to the right after passing out of the iron bridge crossing White river.  The widow of Coleman Hawkins yet resides on the old farm, and has earned for herself the reputation of being one of the best farm managers in the county, having carefully preserved the fortune left her by her husband.”

George Hawkins
The son of Coleman Hawkins born about 1860 ended up marrying the niece of John J. and Dolly (Mullis) Johnson on July 30, 1881.  Olive Belle Johnson was born in August 1865 to James Wilson and Amanda (Mullis) Johnson.  The couple had three children – Urmine, Vesta and Lucy.  It is believed that George died between 1884 and 1887 since Olive married again.

John Lafayette Johnson and Katie Blazer
My maternal great-grandparents resided in and married in Madison County, Indiana.  Katie’s father, Franklin Blazer, had died when she was a small girl.  I found her uncles, John and George Blazer but her aunts – Mary Jane and Elizabeth still remained elusive.  Or were they? 

I re-read a letter my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson (son of John and Katie), had sent to my cousin’s mother.

glen_letter

“My uncle on my mother side Uncle Cole Hawkins shot Uncle John Johnson and then killed himself.  My mother was a young girl at the time this happened and she worked for Aunt Lib Hawkins and Uncle Cole.  Uncle John Johnson did not die from being shot but he carried the bullet in his body until he died several years later.”

Somehow Coleman Hawkins and his wife, “Lib” (Elizabeth), were related to my grandfather through his mother.  Could Elizabeth Hawkins be Franklin Blazer’s sister, Elizabeth?  I didn’t have enough documentation to say for sure but I was going on the assumption that she was.  I couldn’t find any other relationship other than through the Johnson side and the marriage of my grandfather’s aunt to the Hawkins’ son, George.

I had spent some time earlier in my research to dig up information on the children of Coleman and Elizabeth in case I could verify any other relationships.

Mary Jane Blazer
Then I ran across a listing in the 1870 US Census for an “MJ Webb” living next door to Franklin’s brother’s family.  “MJ” and her husband, Marion, were enumerated with four children.  The only reason this jumped out at me is because in the George and Amanda Blazer household is “Jas Webb, blacksmith”.  Going back to the Historical sketches and reminiscences of Madison county, Indiana, I located an entry about Jasper Webb as a blacksmith.  The Blazer family obviously had close ties with the Webb family.  Could “MJ” Webb actually be Mary Jane Blazer?  The 1880 Census for the Webb family lists Marion Webb, age 40, living with his wife, Mary J. Webb, age 38, and children, Tena, Rufus, Lydia, Wilson, and Horace.  By the 1900 Census, Mary J. Webb is widowed and lists herself as a mother of 6 children – all living.  Living with her is her son, Horace, and daughter, Maud.  Mary J. Webb is also found in the 1910 Census and living with her is her daughter, Maud, with husband and small daughter.  The last census she is found is the 1920 Census living with her widowed son, Rufus.  The Indiana Room at the Anderson Public Library shows that Mary J. Webb’s obituary was published in the June 7, 1929 edition of the local newspaper.

Tena Stanley
I’ve had a photograph in my possession for quite sometime of Elizabeth Hawkins and Tena Stanley.  Trying to figure out how Tena Stanley fit into my family tree, I’d contacted the Indiana Room for Tena’s obituary.  They emailed me four news accounts.  I went back over each one.  The one published in the Anderson Herald on April 8, 1942 listed her survivors as one brother, Horace Webb, and a sister, Maud Peterson. BINGO! 

tena_stanley

That was more documentation that Tena Stanley had once been Tena Webb.  And with the picture I had of Tena and Elizabeth – that led me to believe that Tena and Elizabeth were related – which it appeared that Elizabeth was Tena’s aunt – sister of Tena’s mother, Mary Jane Blazer Webb.  

tenastanley_elizabethhawkins

So the tangled family tree looks like this:
Katie J. Blazer: My maternal great-grandmother’s uncle by marriage, Coleman Hawkins, who was married to her father’s sister, Elizabeth Blazer, shot her husband’s (John Lafayette Johnson) uncle, John James Johnson.  My great-grandfather’s aunt, Olive Belle Johnson, married Coleman and Elizabeth’s son, George HawkinsTena Webb married for the last time to Nelson Stanley, and was the niece of Elizabeth Blazer Hawkins and Franklin Blazer and first cousin to my great-grandmother, Katie J. Blazer.

So what happened to John James Johnson?  He lived four more years after being shot by Coleman Hawkins, dying from heart disease in an instant. 

UPDATE: Not only did Olive B. Johnson marry into the Hawkins family, but so did her cousin, John Marshall Johnson, son of John James Johnson - the man Coleman Hawkins shot!  Marshall – as he was known – married Hawkins’ daughter, Rosa Jane.  There was probably quite a bit of tension in the Marshall and Rosa Johnson household after the shooting incident – yet the couple, who married on December 17, 1881, remained married until Marshall’s death in 1921.  Their union produced seven children – Walter, Roy, Grover, Alta, James Leroy, Georgia and Arris. 

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(Continued from The Box)

After I had opened the box, unwrapped the tissue paper to find my mom’s baby sister’s bonnet and removed the tissue paper, I saw a calendar at the bottom of the box.

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Carefully I lifted out the Calendar from 1927 and slowly flipped the pages.  When I found the month of June, there were notes on the page in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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June 9: Baby born – 10 a.m. hospital – 3# 4 – Lois Evelyn

June 13: 2#s 5

June 16: I came home – left baby

June 25: Fabitis

Week of June 26: Baby gaining back

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July 9: 3-4 1/2

July 15: I came home

July 16: Baby home – 3# 6

July 23: 3# 12 1/2

July 30: Same

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August 1: 3# 12 1/2 oz

August 6: 4 – 3

August 13:  4 – 7

August 20: 4 – 12 1/2

August 27: 4 – 7

August 30: 4 – 5

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September 3: 4 – 7

September 10: 4 – 8

September 12: cow’s milk

September 15: 4 – 13

September 17: 4 – 7

September 19: 4 – 5

September 22: SMA, 4 – 4

September 28: Back to hospital at 9 pm

September 30: Died at 5 pm

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October 2: We buried our dear baby 3 months, 3 weeks

October 18: At Hospital

October 20:  Operated for appendicitis & perineal op

October 22: Real ill

Lois_Evelyn_Johnson_1985155_1393

Lois Evelyn Johnson’s Death Certificate

Birth: June 9, 1927
Death: Sept 30, 1927 at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio
Normal residence was in Fairfield (now part of Fairborn), Greene County, Ohio
Female, White, Single
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
Age at Death: 3 months, 4 days (this is incorrect just based on dates)
Father: Glenn (spelling incorrect) Johnson, born Anderson, Indiana
Mother: Vesta Wilt, born Noblesville, Indiana
Informant: Glen R. Johnson, Fairfield, Ohio
Death occurred at 6 pm
Cause of Death: 7 mo. premature birth; summer diarrhea, malnutrition
Place of Burial: Fairfield Cemetery, Oct 3rd 1927

It appears – based on calendar notes – that my grandmother was very vigilant about checking Lois’ weight and even changing what type of nutrition she was receiving.  Lois probably started out being breast-fed and then when she failed to gain enough, was switched to cow’s milk.  She did appear to gain some weight but then started to taper off again.  My grandmother then switched her to SMA Formula but that didn’t seem to help.  I believe the X’s at certain dates of Lois’ life probably indicated either the beginning of diarrhea or a dr. appointment. 

Talking to my mom a year ago, I discovered that Lois had been able to go home from the hospital.  I was always under the impression that she had to remain there.  Mom had told me that her baby sister had been put next to a heat source in order to keep her body temperature up. 

Lois Evelyn didn’t remain at Fairfield Cemetery.  Years later a family had lost their children in a fire (or some other calamity) and a call went out through the community for burial plots or money to help bury the children.  My grandparents gave up their plots and decided to remove their baby daughter to the cemetery they had chosen would be their final resting place.  Mom had told me several times the gruesome tale of how my grandmother had wanted to see her baby daughter one more time after she was disinterred and asked that her casket be opened.  Apparently she was pretty well preserved until the air touched her remains.  Lois was then interred – permanently – at Glen Haven Memorial Gardens in New Carlisle, Ohio.  Almost 40 years after she died, her parents joined her in eternal rest (in 1984 and 1985).  Now, though unfortunate, most of the family is together – lying close together in a very peaceful setting: Lois’ oldest brother and her next to oldest sister (my mother).  My aunt, the oldest daughter, is buried several miles away in the community’s Catholic cemetery.

Medical technology has come such a long way since 1927.  If Lois Evelyn had been born within the last 10-15 years, she would probably be well cared for and received the right nutrition.  Her gastric distress was probably due to her prematurity and she may have been placed on a feeding tube or receive IV nutrients. 

My grandmother spoke of Lois Evelyn often.  She never stopped mourning her last born child.  She had shown me one picture of the little one lying on a blanket.  I’ve not seen that photo again.  The picture I do have, I will not post.  It is her final picture – in her casket at her funeral.  A banner reading “Our Baby” is draped above her on the lid.  She was very, very tiny.  And for all these years, she’s been an angel.

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Rest in Peace, Lois Evelyn

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Back in May when my sister and I were going through our Mom’s things, I found the box (above) in an old footlocker.  There isn’t a footlocker, crate, or box that can keep me out when I think there might be a treasure inside.  So I opened the box.

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Inside there was something wrapped in tissue paper.  And I glimpsed something pink as well.  Obviously it was something very fragile or old that needed to be kept insulated somehow.  So then I unwrapped the treasure.

P9100722It was a very small bonnet.  I exclaimed to those who were around me that I bet it had been Mom’s baby sister’s.  Would there be more clues beneath the tissue paper in the bottom of the box?

 

P9100723Yes!  A calendar!  And not just any calendar.  It was from 1927.  The year my grandparents’ youngest daughter, Lois Evelyn, was born – and died.

As I carefully perused the calendar, I saw my grandmother’s handwritten notes on different dates.  What unfolded was truly heartbreaking.

To Be Continued in The Calendar

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A New Leaf

One reason posts have been few & far between lately is because we were expecting a new little leaf on our family tree!  Time to be a Nana for the 4th time!  The little guy made his entrance early in the week and my daughter did pretty good!  This was her first child and our fourth grandson!  I would like to introduce Orion to you!

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And the really neat part . . .  He was born on my late mother’s birthday!  Do you think his Great-Grammy would have been pleased?

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I think Sheri started this with Simply Brilliant Idea on her blog, The Educated Genealogist and then Randy is listing the idea as this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun at Genea-Musings. Sheri had mentioned a few days ago on Facebook that only a couple other people had made their Trading Cards. I commented that I would soon. Well – here it is! I use this picture for my Google identity.

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Thanks, Sheri and Randy!  Hope this is okay!

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Have you ever wondered why your grandmother kept a scrap of fabric or wrapping paper but threw out her school records?  Or why your parents saved your baby booties but not your bassinet card from the hospital?

As we research and scour high and low for records and documents, we’ve all come across possessions our ancestors and family have saved that makes us go “Hmm”.  These kept items are indicative of what they thought really mattered. 

Why keep a school report card?  They knew what grades they made in school.  And if the grades weren’t that good, why would they want anyone else to see it?  But the fabric came from a dress Grandma made for her daughter or niece.  The object would eventually be outgrown and either handed down or disposed of – perhaps never to be seen again.  However, there might be a photograph of the child wearing the dress so if you keep the piece of fabric with the photograph, you have a record of sorts.  That wrapping paper?  It came from a wedding gift from her parents.  Whatever it was wrapped in meant a lot to her, and she wanted to save the paper for posterity.  Your baby booties and not your bassinet card?  Your parents knew your name.  They knew how much you weighed and how long you were at birth.  They knew all that information.  But someday, try as they might, they wouldn’t remember how small your feet were.  The booties are a tangible reminder of that.

This holds true for us in the present.  What have you saved over the years?  A flower from your prom pressed in a book.  The program of the high school play you appeared in – even in a minor role.  The rock you found when you and your buddies hiked a trail deep in the forest.  The seashell along the beach at the location you spent your honeymoon.  Are they labeled as such?  When someone else looks at these objects do they know the significance?  Now is a good time to round up all those things and make sure they are documented – who, when, where, why, and what.

These objects might not be official records that tell us maiden names, dates of birth, death or marriage, or the full genealogy of our ancestors, but they do give us a glimpse into their minds.  These things tell us what really mattered to them.

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This picture (from my post, X Marks the Spot) shows a few items I found in a box my dad had kept and given to me. He gave both of these handkerchiefs to his mother – one he sent her when he was stationed in Iceland and the other he gave to her as a young boy. However, I would not have known that if he hadn’t told me or written it down.

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