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Martha – Vesta – Mary – Wendy

For this week’s 52 Ancestors post, I decided to focus on the similarities between myself, my mom (Mary), my maternal grandmother (Vesta), and my great-grandmother (Martha).

Becoming a Mother: All of us were 20 years old or younger when we had our first child. Martha Jane Stern and Vesta Christena Wilt both gave birth to their first child – sons – when they were 19 1/2 years old. My mother was a little more than 18 when she had my brother. I had just turned 20 when I had my first child – a girl.

wilt1Martha and Joseph Wilt with sons Clarence, John and Jesse

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Vesta with son Glen Jr.

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 Mary with first child, Jim

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 Wendy and daughter, Shannon

Number of Children: Martha had six children – four boys and two girls. She was also a stepmother to her second husband’s two children (who were also her niece and nephew). Vesta gave birth to four children – one son and three daughters. The youngest, my aunt Lois Evelyn, died at six weeks of age due to being born when my grandmother was only seven months along. My mother had one son and two daughters but she also miscarried a baby boy. I gave birth to three daughters and one son.

Marriage: Martha married for the first time at the age of 18 years and three months. My grandmother married my grandfather when she was 18 years and 7 months. My mom married her first husband at the age of 17 years and 7 months. I married for the first time at 18 years and 24 days. We were all very, very young!

Marriage Duration: Martha and my great-grandfather, Joseph N. Wilt, were married for about 18 years before he left and they were divorced. Her second marriage, to her sister’s widower (W.F. Clawson) lasted a little over 13 years before he died. My grandparents were married for 67 years with a very, very short term rocky part at one point when my grandmother chose to go stay with relatives for a number of months while deciding what to do about her marriage. My mother and her first husband were married a very short time before separating. They eventually divorced just before their two year anniversary. She and my dad were married almost a week shy of 30 years before they were divorced.  I was married seven years before separating and another 10 months before the divorce was final. I have now been married going on 27 years.

Interests: All of us have found hobbies that kept us interested – some of them out of necessity. Sewing, needlework, embroidery were done not only on an as needed basis but as a way to keep hands busy. My mother and I shared a love of theatre – it was only in my mom’s last few years that I learned that she performed in her school’s theatre production just as I had when I was in high school!

Names: As Mary and Martha were fairly common names, Vesta and Wendy weren’t as common. Within my family, there are about three of us with the name of Wendy. I am the oldest. The only other Vesta in my family is on my grandfather’s side – one of his cousins.

Ages at Death: Of course I can’t speak for myself (thank goodness!). Martha was 84 years and 4 months when she passed away from congestive heart failure, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes in 1956. My grandmother was 85 years and 8 months when she died in January 1984 due to heart failure. My mom died on May 1, 2009 of respiratory failure (lung cancer) at the age of 87 years and 7 months. They were all in their 80s when they died.

Residence: We all did not live most of our lives in the same place we were born. Martha was born in Hamilton county, Indiana but spent most of her life living in Leaburg, Oregon. My grandmother was also born in Hamilton county but considered her home the Fairborn and Dayton area of Ohio. My mother was born in Anderson, Indiana but spent most of her life in Greene county, Ohio. I was born in Greene county but have lived most of my life in the Dallas area.

Siblings: None of us were “only” children. We had siblings. Martha was one of eight. My grandmother was one of six. My mom had an older brother and sister – just like me.

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 Four of six siblings: Clifford, Vesta, Nellie and Clarence

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 Siblings: Genevieve, Glen Jr. and Mary

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 Me and my sister and brother

Becoming a Grandmother: Martha became a grandmother for the first time at the age of almost 46. She was the oldest of us. When my mom gave birth to my brother, my grandmother was almost 42 years old. When my nephew was born, my mom was almost 44 years old. When my first grandson was born, I was 39 years old.

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 Vesta and oldest grandson

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 Mary with her second grandchild

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 The day my first grandson was born

Although there are many ways in which we had very different lives, it means quite a bit to find the similarities.

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! The theme for this week is “Same” – same name, most like you, etc.

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franklin blazer grave

(Photo of gravestone by Gaye Dillon taken on 23 July 2009)

A year ago I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Franklin Blazer in Week 1 of the 2014 Edition of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Up until today, the cause of his death was a mystery. He died on August 25, 1869 so I thought he may have died due to injuries sustained in the Civil War or perhaps he was killed in a farming accident or died of some disease. I was so very wrong.

What could only be termed a tragedy is what befell poor Franklin. He and Malissa Goul had been married at least ten years and possibly upward to 14 years. Their children, two boys and three girls, ranged in age from 2 years to 9 years old. In fact the oldest son, John F., was a month from turning ten – not yet a teenager and definitely not ready to be the “man of the house” at such a young age. Malissa’s son from a previous relationship, James Oakland Goul, was about fourteen.

Thanks to a post on Genea-Musings by fellow geneablogger Randy Seaver, I learned about a new free search tool call Genealogy Gophers. It searches for names in texts of Google books. I plugged in the name of Franklin Blazer and the first result that popped up listed not only Franklin Blazer but Malissa Goul. I knew I had found the correct person. I clicked on the snippet and lo and behold it was an entire book that included tons of information on those with the surname of Blazer and everything within the soundex of B-426 written by John Allison Blazer from Hendersonville, Tennessee. There isn’t a date on it except for the filmed date of 2000.

The information concerning Franklin reports that he was married to Malissa Goul and listed her birth and death dates and they lived in Pendleton, Indiana. It listed their children – four correctly: John, Philip Wesley, Kate and Rachel but listed Martha Ann erroneously as Matthew. Of course when I saw that, I thought perhaps there was another son that I hadn’t heard of but then realized that Martha had been left out. (She is also listed further in the book – still as Matthew – with a child named Chase – so I knew that the name had been mangled). But then I saw something I didn’t know: Franklin died “when struck by lightning in his home.”

I can’t even imagine what the rest of the family went through after that. Did Malissa and any of the children witness this? Did they try to revive their husband and father after he had fallen dead? Was a physician summoned quickly? The weather must have been pretty fierce. It was still tornado season so I wondered if they were also terrified of what else Mother Nature had in store for them.

Franklin had just turned 33 years old. He would never be able to enjoy a life of watching his children grow up and get married. His wife, my second great-grandmother – would never celebrate another wedding anniversary. She remained a widow the rest of her life. Martha, Katie and Rachel all married without their father giving them away. John and Wesley grew into men quickly in order to take on what their father had once done. Twenty-six years after his father’s tragic death, John died of self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As I think about my great-grandmother, Katie, who lost her father when she was almost five years old, I wonder if she had been a “daddy’s girl” and missed him terribly the rest of her life. Or was she so young that she barely remembered him? Did losing Franklin at such a young age change Malissa – her outlook on life, personality, or how she handled sorrow from then on?

His tombstone stands in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Indiana. It reads:

FRANKLIN
son of
J & M BLAZER
DIED
AUG 25 1869
AGED
33 Y. 2 M & 23 D.

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I have three pictures of my Johnson ancestors with mules – two of them in particular. I can’t say for certain these two mules were used to plow the fields.  The first photo (above) wasn’t easy to scan – it is in a frame, and I don’t want to take it out in fear of damaging it. The only way I could digitize the picture was to take a digital photo of it. The “bubble” glass isn’t conducive to that (and without the flash the photo wouldn’t have come out at all). This is my maternal great-grandfather, John Lafayette Johnson, born in Howard county, Indiana on March 2, 1861. The first census (1880) I found for him shows him as a 19 year old man working as a laborer on the Isaac Goble farm in Rush county. (I have been unable to locate the 1870 census for him.) In 1900, he is married to Katie J Blazer and living at 1524 Forkner Street in Anderson with their two sons, 13 year old Letis, and 1 year old Glen (my grandfather). His occupation is listed as “rod roler.” Ten years later the family is still living in Anderson but at 434 17th Street. This time Letis (age 23) and Glen (age 11) are joined by baby sister, Mary, age 1, and John’s father, (James) Wilson, age 80.  John’s occupation is listed as huckster – a salesman. In 1920, John and Katie have lost their oldest son and baby girl but have added Glen’s wife, Vesta (my grandmother), and a foster daughter, Eva, to the family along with a grandson (my uncle – age 2 1/2). John’s occupation is Vendor – Retail and my grandfather’s occupation is Expressman.

johnson mules 001My grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, with the mules
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So about those mules?

The only thing I could come up with is that the family probably did have a garden – more than likely a very large garden. Perhaps they used the mules to plow the garden or maybe they just had mules! Notice that I don’t have pictures of the mules AND a plow. Just mules. Some people have horses – my Johnson ancestors had mules.

I tend to prefer this cute little mule: donkey on farm

Mule and Flower Box on the Littrell family farm in Missouri

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! This week’s challenge is “Plowing Through” – do you have an ancestor who had to plow through – fields, snow, a tough time?

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52ancestors-2015

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time!

The theme for Week #2 is “King” and Amy noted: “January 8 is Elvis’ birthday. January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Do either of these “Kings” remind you of an ancestor? Or, taken another way, do you have a connection to royalty? Did you ancestor flee from an oppressive king?”

Of course the first thing I saw was “Elvis Presley” and all other thought went out the window!  My sister-in-law was an Elvis fan – a very big one! She was born Phyllis Anne Pearson on August 9, 1941 to Forrest Orville Pearson and Helen Jane Manning in Troy, Ohio. When she was born, her older brother was almost three. Her parents were divorced and by 1952, Forrest had remarried and was expecting a child with his wife. Unfortunately, the little boy was born prematurely and didn’t survive. Phyllis also had a younger half-sister. Her mother had also remarried. As a child, she contracted polio; consequently, one leg was a tad shorter than the other and that foot was half the size of her other one.

By the end of 1960, Phyllis was working at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and met my brother, Jim. He had tried to enlist in the US Air Force but due to his eyesight and a bad shoulder, he was honorably discharged. Unable to follow in the footsteps of our father and grandfather, he found work at the same hospital as Phyllis. On February 1, 1961 the two of them married at the parsonage of the First Reformed Church of Xenia (Ohio) by Rev. Russell Mayer. Their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fuchs, were their attendants. The reception was held at my parents’ home in Beavercreek, Ohio. My brother had turned 21 years old a month previous – on January 2 – and Phyllis was 20.

I wasn’t at the wedding – because I wasn’t even born yet!  When my mother asked my grandmother on Easter of 1961 how she would feel about becoming a grandmother again, everyone looked at Phyllis, who immediately exclaimed, “It’s not me!” So Phyllis had been a part of my family even before I was born. She and my brother would keep me at their house on weekends here and there. I was at their house when I broke out in chicken pox at the age of six. They would get real ice cream for me from the ice cream truck whenever I spent time with them.

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My sister, brother Jim holding me and Phyllis

Phyllis’ personality was big. Everyone knew when she had entered a room. She had a voice that carried and a laugh I still hear in my daughter – who laughs a lot like Phyllis. She was tall and carried quite a bit of weight but she could dress in lovely skirt suits and blouses. Her blonde hair was always coiffed. I remember her purse – she always had a big one. We always teased her that she needed an even bigger one! To her family, she was Anne, but to us – Jim’s family – she was Phyllis. She and my brother took me to see “Jaws” when it came out in the movie theaters. I can still hear her yell when that shark came up out of the water!

When she and my brother adopted their son, she was so happy – they both were. I had a new nephew, and he was a darling. Phyllis was always laughing and making jokes. And she would talk about possibly going to an Elvis concert. It was after he had released “Moody Blue” but then he died. She was in shock – along with half of country.

She and my brother divorced in 1998 but she would always be my sister. Whenever we traveled to Ohio to visit my family, I always made sure to see her. She was a passenger in a car accident which badly damaged her polio stricken foot. The doctors weren’t sure if she would be able to keep it but she did. By that time her weight had ballooned, and she spent a lot of time in a wheelchair. She was afraid to use her foot as damaged as it was. Then came the answer we all thought would help – gastric bypass.

After the surgery, she would write to me that she wasn’t sure it was worth it. She wasn’t able to keep anything down and some of her family members were treating her differently. I kept teasing her that soon she could go bikini shopping! When we saw her in the summer of 2006, she still had that wit and laugh, but truth be told, her appearance was startling. She had gone to from at least 400 lbs to under 200 lbs. Her face, which had always been round and “jolly,” had lost that roundness. Then when we saw her the following summer, she was walking with a walker and seemed to have a breathing issue, as if any movement just wore her out. She didn’t speak much, and I can’t remember if I heard her laugh that evening. She seemed to have a hard time sitting. Her face was devoid of joy and happiness. I know she was still in mourning after losing her mother earlier that spring. Looking back on that evening, I should have realized something was off but I chalked it up to her grief and not seeing her for a year. She had lost even more weight.

In 2008, we were in Ohio in June, to visit my mother who had her own illness to battle. I called Phyllis to ask her if we would be able to see her but she said that she just hadn’t been feeling well and wanted to rest. I thought she might have a kidney infection or something but the following month I received a call from my nephew who told me that Phyllis had been hospitalized, and it didn’t sound good. He didn’t go in to detail but I could tell that he was scared. The next day – July 27, 2008 – my cousin called in tears to tell me that Phyllis had died. I just couldn’t believe it. She had been so full of life for as long as I had known her. I wondered if having the gastric bypass had done her in since she hadn’t been able to eat very much after she had the surgery. It wasn’t until that fall when my sister and I were visiting our mother in Ohio that we asked my nephew exactly what happened. He said the doctors had told him that she had kidney cancer. I wonder if she even knew and had chosen not to endure chemotherapy. Now, I believe that when I had seen her in the summer of 2007, she probably had the cancer then, and was starting to feel the pain. I think she had just given up.

I miss getting letters from her – I miss her laugh and the way she could tell a story! I miss her because even though she and my brother had divorced, she was a link to him after he passed away – to the life they had lived happily when I was a child. Not only did my mother survive her son but also her daughter-in-law. My nephew had already lost his father, then his maternal grandmother, then his mother and the following spring, my mom – his paternal grandmother. A few weeks after my mom died, Phyllis’ brother passed away. My nephew endured a lot in a short span of time. It was times like that, I wish we were closer.

So, on the anniversary of Elvis’ birth, I remember my sister-in-law, Phyllis Anne Pearson Amore. I hope she’s at peace and laughing.

phyllis 001

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52ancestors-2015

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time!

The first week’s theme centers around “Fresh Start” and immediately several things came to mind – namely, what person or family do I want to look at with fresh eyes? It is the family of my second great-grandfather’s brother, James J. Johnson, who is a collateral ancestor.

Instead of writing about the family in this post, I’m going to list those things which I have documented because I can’t get a “fresh start” unless I only state what is true (according to the sources).

On February 28, 1848 James J. Johnson and Dolly Mullis were granted a marriage license in Rush county, Indiana and married on March 4, 1848.

john johnson dolly mullis marriage record

John J. Johnson is listed by name in the 1850 Census enumerated on September 7, 1850 living in Union twp, Rush county, Indiana. He is listed as age 27 making his birth in 1823 and lists his place of birth as Ohio. His occupation was farmer. Living in the household was Dolly Johnson, age 25, born in North Carolina, and could not read or write. A one year old child, Ann M. Johnson, born in Indiana also resided in the house.

In 1856, John J. Johnson is listed as guardian for Jemima E. Johnson, his younger minor sister after the death of their father, Jacob Johnson.

On July 29, 1870 J. J. Johnson was enumerated in the 1870 Census. He was living in Stony Creek twp, Madison county, Indiana. Johnson was a 47 year old farmer, born in Ohio, with a personal income as $900 and a real estate value of $4000. Others in the household included: Dolly Johnson, age 44, born in North Carolina; 12 year old Rosa A. Johnson, listed “at home,” born in Indiana, and had attended school in the last year; and John J. N. (or J. M.) Johnson, age 7, listed “at home,” born in Indiana, and attended school within the year.  Two others in the household included: 55 year old Sophia Mullis, born in North Carolina, with a personal property value of $1400, and who could neither read nor write and Thomas Mullis, a 42 year old farmer born in North Carolina, with a real estate value of $3000 and a personal property value of $2000 and could not write.

On June 11, 1880, John J. Johnson is enumerated living in Stony Creek twp, Madison County, Indiana at age 57. He is a farmer, married, and born in Ohio. He lists his father as born in New Jersey and his mother born in Pennsylvania. He is living with his wife, Dolly Johnson, age 55, who was born in North Carolina as were both of her parents. Daughter, Rosa A. Milburn, is age 22, married, born in Indiana. She lists her parents as born in Ohio and North Carolina. Son, John M. Johnson, is a farmer age 17, born in Indiana, and lists his parents born in Ohio and North Carolina. Grandson, Edward D. Milburn is age 3, born in Indiana and his parents are listed as born in Indiana.

The History of Madison County lists the story of how John J. Johnson’s neighbor, Coleman Hawkins, tried to kill him on the night of December 5, 1888. The article mentions that Johnson had been a postmaster in the area of Johnson’s Crossing near Stony Creek twp in Madison county, Indiana and mentions Johnson’s daughter, Miss Rosa Johnson.

John J. Johnson’s obituary on the front page of the Anderson Democrat on October 14, 1892 stated that he died instantly while sitting in a chair after he had returned from visiting a daughter in Knightstown. The physical description of him said that he was over 6 foot tall and large in proportion.

Dolly (Mullis) Johnson is listed on the 1900 Census as still residing in Stony Creek twp.  She is a widow and the mother of 5 children but only four living.

The obituary for Dolly Johnson that ran in the February 25, 1908 edition of the Anderson Herald states that she was 82 years old and was survived by four children. It mentions that she was the widow of John Johnson and died at her daughter’s home – listed as Mrs. Charles Anderson. Besides that daughter, listed later as Rosa Anderson, the other children who survived her are Martha Johnson, Mrs. Jonathan Delawter, and Mrs. Mary Reid.

What strikes me are two things – one, until I can locate this family in the 1860 Census, there are several questions and two, I believe the names of the children that survived Dolly Johnson are wholly inaccurate and lacking – but…since I’m looking at this family with fresh eyes, I have to consider all the possibilities.

Even though it is not documented proof, I do have a list of people who attended the Johnson reunion in 1915 & 1916. This list is a good indication as to who were considered to be “family.”  Included in the photo with a key to the who is who on the back are Rosa Anderson (3rd person from the left on the 4th row standing), Mrs. Delauter (1st person on the left on the 2nd row sitting), Mrs. Marshall Johnson (9th person from the left on the 3rd row standing), Mr. Marshall Johnson (10th person on the left on the 3rd row standing), and Mr. Delauter (1st person on the left on the 3rd row standing) (as well as my grandfather and his parents).

Johnson Reunion cropped

I am pretty confident that Marshall Johnson is John Marshall Johnson, son of James J. Johnson and Dolly Mullis. There is a marriage record on FamilySearch.org for John Marshall Johnson and Rosa J. Hawkins on December 17, 1881, as well as marriage records for some of their sons that lists their parents as: Marhsall Johnson and Rosa Hawkins, Marshal Johnson and Rosa Jean Hawkins, J. M. Johnson and Rosa Jane Hawkins,  and J. M. Johnson and Rosie J Hawkins.

I also believe that Rosa Johnson Milburn Anderson was their daughter due to the entry in the History of Madison County concerning the attempt on her father’s life by Coleman Hawkins; she was enumerated as living in their household as “daughter” in the 1870 and 1880 Censuses; and she attended the first reunion in 1915.

Elizabeth Delawter appears to also be a daughter of John and Dolly as she and her husband Jonathan appear in the photo for the 1915 reunion and are listed in reunion minutes. A notation reads: “Lizzie Delawter died.”

In the above three cases, those who survived Dolly (Mullis) Johnson seem to be correct. What about the mysterious “Martha Johnson” or “Mary Reid”? And why wasn’t John Marshall Johnson listed? And why was there no mention of the 1 year old child – Ann M. Johnson – who had appeared in the 1850 Census with John and Dolly? Who provided the information to the newspaper for the obituary or did someone at the paper take it upon themselves to write it up and perhaps print the wrong names?

Further research that I need to do before making a conclusion according to this family: find the family in the 1860 census, any land records or deeds, obituaries or news articles, marriage records, better death records, and birth records if they exist.

Oh where, oh where, are you – descendants of this couple through any of the three children listed above or any children that I haven’t documented?

(52 Ancestors graphic courtesy of Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small)

 

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The Look of Love

glenvesta41jrgrad

A few days ago I posted a photo of my parents that was one of my favorites, but when it comes to my maternal grandparents – I have many that I adore! The reason I enjoy looking at them is because in photos of just the two of them, their love for each other just radiates off the photo. Take a peek!

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grandad_pershing

The Library of Congress’ Today in History page reports that on this day in 1918, the “American Expeditionary Forces…launched its first major offensive in Europe as an independent army” led by General John J. Pershing. My family has a connection to “Black Jack” Pershing in two different ways. As seen in the photo above, my grandfather met the General in the days of WWI when Pershing inspected my grandfather’s squadron. In a letter to my grandmother back home in Indiana, my grandfather mentions the inspection and meeting. Pershing is the first man in uniform from the right (not standing on the car) and my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, is the third from the left.

The second connection is through my husband. Pershing State Park in Linn county, Missouri lies across US 36 – 16 miles from my husband’s father’s farm. Each time we drive that road, we see the signs about Pershing and the Park.

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