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Archive for the ‘stories’ Category

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Our last full day in Anderson was filled with emotion and fun. If you have read this blog for awhile, then you might remember my post – Independent From Birth – about my maternal grandfather’s foster sister, Eva – specifically the following paragrah:

She and her husband split up and divorced, and when Eva was in her early 40s, she discovered that she was pregnant.  The specter of what lay ahead of her would surely be weighing on her mind: an older mother, a single mother, a mother of a grown son, a woman who had limited income.  Any number of reasons would have aided her in her decision to give up her daughter – just as she had been given up.  It was only many years later before Eva died, that she would be reunited with her grown daughter.

I have also written a series of articles concerning the Clues to the Mystery of Clara (Eva’s biological mother). All of the research stemmed from a comment I received on my genealogy web site many, many years ago from a woman telling me she was Eva’s biological daughter. Ever since Lynn and I began communicating way back then, she’s given me what little information she was told. I’ve used that and gone on to find documents and news articles to help her find out more about her biological family. When I knew that I was definitely going to be in Anderson, I made sure Lynn knew our schedule in order for us to finally meet face to face. Little did I know that she had a surprise of her own for me!

When Lynn and her husband pulled in to the motel parking lot to pick us up, I could hardly contain my excitement! As soon as we could, we hugged and laughed. It was as if we had known each other forever. Originally, we had planned to get a pizza and go to one of the parks, but the pizza place wasn’t going to be open for awhile. That’s when she told me that Eva’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter were also going to be with us for the day! I had never met them. The granddaughter (Lynn’s niece) had plenty of questions about Eva as well. We met up with them and they followed us to Culvers for an early lunch. Immediately, we all began pouring over the information about Eva and Clara as well as my grandparents (Eva’s foster parents).

That’s when I told my cousin and her mother that they were about to have their mind blown. We did share a family connection via the foster parent to child connection. BUT – further back – one of Clara’s direct ancestors was the brother of my direct ancestor – on my grandmother’s side. There was a blood connection! It was so thrilling to provide this information that it was hard to eat!

Soon, lunch was over, and we drove over to Mounds State Park and grabbed a picnic table to sit and enjoy the cool day. There was plenty of conversation. Lynn recounted to us how she finally found Eva and was able to talk with her. Her niece recounted meeting Lynn and also talked about her dad – Lynn’s older half-brother. While we were engaged in family history talk, Lynn’s husband and my grandson went to explore the Great Mound. The sky was beginning to turn and threaten rain. Lynn’s niece and sister-in-law had to leave. We took some nice photos before we parted ways.

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Left to right: Wendy, Lynn (seated), cousin “B” and her mom “J”

Lynn, her husband and I drove through Anderson and happened to pass a cemetery. I saw the sign that said “West Maplewood” and then both my grandson and I exclaimed “There it is!” It was the gravestone that had been so elusive to us the last two days! I didn’t realize that West Maplewood Cemetery was off another road than East Maplewood – no wonder I could never find it. So Lynn’s husband pulled in to the cemetery. We all got out and set about exploring.

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The photo above shows the very tall grave marker in the Hawkins family plot. At the upper right is the stone for Coleman Hawkins and below that is for his wife (and my great-great-grandfather’s sister) Elizabeth Blazer Hawkins. For more on their story, please read Mingling of Families and Murder.

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This collage above shows the stones in the Hawkins family plot. Then from bottom left across and then up to top right: Ida E Hawkins (b. 1873 d. 1898); Silas Hawkins (b. 1870 d. 1901); Rufus Hawkins (b. 1866 d. 1896); stone hard to read;  and George G Hawkins (b. 1860 d. 1885).

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In another section of West Maplewood, I found my great-great-grandfather’s (Frank Blazer) and Elizabeth’s other sister, Mary Jane Blazer Webb. She was next to her husband, Marian Webb, and sons: Rufus V Webb and Wilson S Webb. There were several interesting gravestones we saw as we explored the cemetery. From there we went to Frisch’s to eat. Once again, I had the Swiss Miss! We topped off our day at Shadyside Memorial Park in Anderson. Here is a photo I have of my grandfather, Glen R Johnson, as a young boy with sheep at Shadyside in the early 1900s.

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The Terraced Gardens at the park were beautiful. There is also a memorial dedicated to all veterans from Madison county.

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Below are photos of the Veterans Memorial.

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We had spent quite a bit of time at the park when it started to sprinkle. The day was growing late and Lynn and her husband had another couple of hours on the road to get back to their home. Reluctantly, we piled back in to their vehicle so they could drop my grandson and me off at our motel. We said our good-byes, and they left for home. It was time to start packing up to leave the next morning and finish our journey home.

Next: Finding Lincoln

The previous installments of our genealogy road trip can be found here:  Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part FourPart Five, Part Six, Part Seven and Part Eight.

If you would like to read more about Lynn’s biological maternal grandmother, please go to: Clara – the News Article, Who Is Clara Badger?, and  Update and Summary.

(All photos copyright Wendy Littrell, address for private use)

 

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Wendy Amore, Christmas 1967 53 Cherry Hill Dr, Beavercreek, OH

Christmas 1967

For those readers who are a “certain age” – do you remember “Creepy Crawlers?” Prior to Christmas 1967, my neighbors had one of those kits. I loved watching how the liquid stuff that came out of bottle (“PlastiGoop”) and put into molds could create caterpillars, bugs, spiders, and a whole assortment of “creepy crawlers.” I enjoyed it so much and talked about it so Santa Claus – in his infinite wisdom – gifted me with a different type of Thingmaker – Fun Flowers.

The photo above shows me after Christmas using my new toy. I know that it is at least the day after Christmas because there aren’t any remnants of Christmas presents around the tree. I also don’t see anyone else in the picture. On Christmas Day there would have been quite a number of folks at our house making it particularly difficult to get a picture without anyone else there. My dad was taking the photo so he was also the one making sure I used the heating element correctly as I was only six years old. The TV stand next to me is holding the box with other metal molds so I could make several different types of flower petals and leaves. I decorated pencils with all of my flower creations! (Fun fact: I still own the chair as it is part of the dining room set which sits in our front room as well as the hutch cabinet in the upper part of the photo that now sits in our dining area/living room!)

Amy Johnson Crow is hosting an online learning experience called “31 Days to Better Genealogy.” If you haven’t signed up for this, you can do so here. There is also a closed Facebook group that you can request to join after you sign up for the daily newsletter. You will receive a daily email and during the day, Amy posts a live video on the Facebook group. All members of the group are encouraged to work on the tip of the day, report their results, help and encourage each other. Today’s tip was to write about a photo in order to encourage those taking part in the group to list more about their pictures instead of just name, date, and place. Give the photos life so those in the future (our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) will have that information.

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gaffeygazette

In 1953, my dad had already been in Japan for several months. Now, it was time for my mom, brother and sister to make the journey. They boarded the USNS General Hugh Gaffey for the trip over the sea from Seattle to Japan. Following are bits of my mother’s letter diary she wrote.

June 10, 1953
Well, will start our daily diary on board ship.
June 9 – We were up at 5:00 A.M. at the Hostess House. Had our bed check at 6:00. Bags were picked up at 6:30. Then we went to breakfast at 7:00 A.M. Had 2 hrs to wait. At 9:10 we boarded buses to take us to the pier. Everything went according to schedule. At 10:15 we unloaded, rec’d our passports and went aboard.
Mom Ann Mike on ship
After looking over our cabin & stowing away some of our packages we carried aboard, we went up on deck. Our cabin is on B deck which is 2 decks below. Have nice quarters. It was very interesting to watch people coming aboard as we were among the first to board. The band was playing. We took several pictures of the dock and band & people coming aboard.
We pulled away from the pier promptly at 11:00. Stayed on deck for awhile, then went below. We are on 2nd call for mess so our hrs are 8:00 A.M., 11:45 and 5:15.
In the afternoon we had to go to a meeting and also had a fire & boat drill. We don’t stay below too long at a time as I guess the depth and rocking of the ship makes you squeamish.
We went up on the sun deck and watched the sights. We are traveling the great circle route which is by way of Alaska. Our ship travels 29 knots & goes faster than you realize. At 7 o’clock I asked one of the Lt’s if we were out of the sound yet as we still saw land. He laughed & said what you see now is the Aleutian chain, stretching out from Alaska. The sun never set till 10 P.M. last nite & was beautiful. Also at 10 P.M. we saw the last touch of land. The children have curfew at 8:00 P.M. They have to be in bed by that hr.  We will only be on the water 9 sailing days but due to the time change will actually be 10 according to the calendar. I heard someone talking & they said we would skip Sat, but will wait & see, you hear so many rumors you’d be dizzy if you believe them all.
June 10 – It is now 11:15 and will soon go to lunch.  We were up at 6:30 and made ourselves presentable, at our breakfast or rather I did. Was raining this A.M. & real rough.  Was like riding the elevator.  The ship just pitches about.  The Captain announced some of the decks closed due to rough weather.  He expects to be out of this roughness in the next day or two. In the evening played canasta.  We have coffee hr at 9:00 so drank coffee & ate angel food cake & then retired.  The ships paper said we traveled 471 miles in the last 25 hrs.
June 11th – We sat our watches back one hr in the nite, and made it difficult to try to sleep. The sea is really rough today the ship just rocks from side to side & back & forth. We have run into considerable fog. Was talking to the Capt of the ship & he said this fog has put us back a day & they have changed course. He’s a very nice person & comes around & talks with everyone. We have slowed down to 15 knots & traveled 560 miles in the last 25 hrs. We have 2400 troops aboard too & I feel for those boys. They don’t have any privileges & have to stay either on the forward deck or aft. and have no protection. They are quartered on the same deck as we are but are in the center of the ship & very poor ventilation.
June 12th – We sat our watches back another hr in the nite, and are to set our watches back again tonite. We rec’d our declarations forms for customs at 8:30 this morning. It is quite a job to fill it out. Had another boat & fire drill this morning at 10:30. Tomorrow we pay our subsistence. It is much cheaper than we all thot. Is only 16.43 per person so will only come to little over $49.00. Here I was planning on $90.00. The trip across is cheaper than the trip from Ohio to Seattle.
June 13th – We ran into a storm in the late afternoon & tossed the ship.  Our port holes were latched down & our room was like a dungeon.  It is the Aleutian squall we are in.
June 14th – It’s Sunday & sure is rough.  The bow of the ship comes up out of the water & slaps down.  Still have our port holes latched down.  It is stifling in the cabin.  All decks are out of bounds as the waves are quite high & we toss about.
June 16th – It is Tuesday.  We cross the international date line yesterday afternoon.  So we missed Monday entirely.  The sea has calmed so our port hole is open.  Has warmed up & by grapevine we are 2½ days out of Yokohoma.  Boy this is a long boat ride, even tho I haven’t got sick I’ve seen all the water I want to for awhile.  It’s the monotony that gets me.
June 17 – Wed & just a few more days to go.  The day passed very fast for me.
Debarkation title
June 18 – Thurs & today & tomorrow before we get off this ship.  We will drop anchor late tomorrow afternoon about 20 miles off shore & then Sat morning will dock. It is getting very hot. We ran into a squall last nite & they latched down the port holes & brother we roasted. I’m sitting here in my slip trying to cool off. Will write more tomorrow.
Fri June 19th.  This is our final day sailing.  Will drop anchor sometime this evening.  Also we are to see land about eight tonite, sure will be good to see the good solid land (even tho its Japan it’s better than all this water).  The steward was telling me it’s a sight to watch the husbands come storming up the gang plank.  They are to come on by alphabetical order there’s no stopping them.  I’m going on deck to watch them & take some pictures then will rush down to the cabin.
Sat – June 20.  This is the great day.  It seems nobody slept much in the nite.  Saw land for the first in 9 days.  We had stopped around midnight & was sitting outside the harbor.

Yokohama harbor
At 8:30 had our money changed.  Then back on deck.  We couldn’t take pictures till we were 300 yds from the pier.  We had a good spot along the rail.  Finally we could see the sponsors & band in the distance.  Seemed the ship would never get to the pier.  I started taking pictures of the band just as we nosed into the pier.  I spotted Gene right away.  They were all standing on a high balcony.  I started waving & finally he spotted us.  He used the binoculars so he could see us close.  He also was taking pictures as the ship was pulled alongside.  Gene was smart & started downstairs.  He got up to the gate so he could be one of the first on board.  All the passengers on board had to go to their cabins so the sponsors could find you.  He had a staff car & driver to take us to where we were going.  Went thru customs.  I’ll bring this diary to a close for this time.

(Photos: Mom, her roommate Ann and my sister on the deck of the USNS General Hugh Gaffey. Photographer: Jim Amore. Digital image scanned from original slide by Wendy Littrell; Scans of ship’s newspaper, originals in possession of Wendy Littrell; photo of Yokohama Harbor. Photographer: Jim Amore. Digital image scanned from original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell – address for private use.)

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First German Reformed Church

No, not that type of connection! As far as I know, I am not related to George Washington through his mother or his father. This is similar to the “Six Degrees of Separation” game (and no, I haven’t found any connection to Kevin Bacon either!). I did however, discover that one of my ancestors had something in common with our country’s first president. It was a particular place.

As I was researching information on my  4th great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lutz, I came across an interesting piece of information. The daughter of Adam Lutz and Maria Rucht was baptized on September 24, 1762 in the First Reformed Church of Philadelphia by Rev. Frederick Rothenbuehler. The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 35, No. 1, published in 1987 lists this on page 11. It mentions that her father was “of the Palatinate (came on the ship Lydia from Rotterdam, 13  Oct. 1749…)” and lists her sponsors.

Wanting to know more about this church, I used Google to see what I could find. The First Reformed Church of Philadelphia was also called the German Reformed Church of Philadelphia and was founded in 1727 by German immigrants. The minister, Rev. George Michael Weiss, arrived with 400 other people from the Palatinate region of Germany. Today, the church is called Old First Reformed UCC (United Church of Christ).  For more on the church’s history, you can go to History of Old First Reformed UCC, Old First Reformed Church, and The German Reformed Church. I was excited to find that my 4th great-grandmother was baptized in a church that is now part of the denomination of which I’m a member!

I also learned that in 1800 memorial services for George Washington was held at that church! Well, not in the same building because the congregation had moved down the road a bit but the congregation still had the same history as it did when Elizabeth Lutz was baptized 38 years before!

My 4th great-grandmother married Adam Goul and went on to have eight children. My direct ancestor was their first son, John W. Goul, through his daughter, Melissa Goul, through her daughter, Katie J. Blazer, through her son, Glen R. Johnson, through his daughter, Mary Johnson (my mom!). Elizabeth died in Champaign county, Ohio on November 13, 1845 and is buried in Treacles Creek Cemetery in that county.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons; photograph in public domain)

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fred wilt track and field

Frederick Wilt was born the middle of December in 1920 in Madison county, Indiana to Jesse and Inez (Franklin) Wilt. He was my mother’s first cousin as his father and my grandmother were siblings. He attended Indiana University and went on to Purdue for his Masters. At the age of 28, he competed in the Olympics held in London and then four years later, in Helsinki, Finland. Google him – “Fred Wilt” and Olympics and see what you find. My grandmother was quite proud of her nephew. His book, Run Run Run, is in my collection. Talented, breaking records in track, and then going on to a successful career as a Special Agent in the FBI. I saw Fred, his wife, and his three daughters each year in Indiana at the annual Wilt family reunion. He was tall (at least to me as I was a child), had red hair, and a smile on his face.

Wilt Reunion - Fred Wilt family

Here is a picture of him in October 1969 with his wife, Eleanor and their daughters at the Wilt Reunion in Noblesville, Indiana

When he passed away in 1994, a very nice biography was printed on his memorial page. I have a memorial bulletin, and I would suspect that his wife and daughters were the ones who wrote the memorial. I give them all the credit for the written biography and the funeral home  the credit for placing it on the bulletin and printing them. I do not intend to devalue their words or make them my own by using the following information.  In part, this is what it reads:

Mr. Wilt, a prolific author, wrote over twenty books on the subjects of Track and Field athletics and physiology. His programmed physiology text Mechanics Without Tears is used in many colleges. Mr. Wilt received numerous accolades During his lifetime. He was chosen the 1950 James E. Sullivan Award winner, presented to the outstanding Amateur Athlete in the U.S.A. He was named to the Indiana University Hall of Fame, Purdue University Track & Field Hall of Fame, the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame, and in 1992, to the New York Athletic Club Hall of Fame. He represented the USA on two Olympic teams, London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952. He held the world record for the indoor two-mile run in 1951. He won the NCAA two mile and cross Country titles in 1941 while competing for Indiana University. He won eight national titles in cross Country, the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and the U.S. indoor mile from 1949-1954, running for the New York Athletic Club. He established Five American records at distances from 3,000 to 10,000 meters.

(Original photos, slides, and digital images owned by Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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The Donkey

At the farm is a planter where my mother-in-law had lovingly planted many types of flowers over the years. Sadly, with her passing, there won’t be any more flowers planted in it – at least not in the foreseeable future. The planter looks like a little cart being pulled by a donkey. All of the children have been fascinated by this farm fixture, and they’ve all wanted to “ride” it. When they’ve been very small, someone has held them on it to get a picture.

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Baby O – summer 2010

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Baby C – summer 2002

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Donkey as of June 2013

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(My grandson next to the Mickey statue at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum)

Where did Walt Disney get his idea for Main Street USA in Disneyland? Perhaps from the small, rural town in Missouri where he lived for several years during his impressionable childhood. My grandson and I had the opportunity to visit Marceline, Missouri during our vacation. Marceline is about 17 miles away from my father-in-law’s farm and driving down the main drag, conjurs up all sorts of ideas and thoughts about what many small towns in rural America are like. There’s a corner café where the food is out of this world and owned by a local resident. If you arrive during regular meal time hours, you might find Ma Vic’s standing room only – but don’t leave – a table will soon be available!  Down on the corner is Zurcher’s. Close to the old train depot is Ripley Park.  The park includes a Santa Fe railroad caboose and a steam locomotive as well as a gazebo.

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Near there is the Walt Disney Hometown Museum where I took my grandson during one of our excursions while on vacation recently. The museum is open April through October and is only $5 for admission. It is well worth that! The tour begins in the first room where a guide provides a very rich and detailed history of not only the Disney family, but the Santa Fe Railroad and the city of Marceline. She was eloquent, personable, and very knowledgeable. Very large panoramic photos are displayed in chronological order around the room and at one side is Walt’s original school desk from Park elementary which he rescued on one of his visits to Marceline before the school was torn down. During the summer the desk is on loan to the museum from Walt Disney Elementary school and if you go, make sure to notice the large WD that Walt carved into the desk (which is how he knew that it was his)! There is a sign outside the museum which restricts the use of photos or videos, however, we were informed that photos are allowed because so many people are posting them to Facebook and of course, free advertising doesn’t hurt!

Most of the artifacts, especially in the several rooms on the first floor, were donated by the family of Walt’s younger sister, Ruth Disney Beecher. There were letters, photographs, objects – even the TV that Walt made sure Ruth had in order to watch the opening ceremonies of Disneyland because she didn’t like to be in big crowds. On that television set was the original special broadcast of those ceremonies which you can stand and watch. In another room was information, posters, records, videotapes, DVDs, and news clippings about the 1956 Disney movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase” with Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. The movie is playing on a screen and anyone is welcome to pull up a chair to watch it.  Another room is the “Train” room and has many displays of Walt’s trains. There are cases filled with letters among the Disney family members, a phonograph (which is playing on a recording) of Walt interviewing his parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. In another room is a large screen and several chairs where a visitor can watch The Man behind the Myth hosted by Dick Van Dyke. My grandson and I watched about ten minutes of the documentary, and I wished we had more time to watch all of it.  My grandson also enjoyed the ten minutes of “The Great Locomotive Chase” so I will be on a mission to see if our local library has a copy to borrow. Upstairs, is a large room dedicated to a scale model (not complete) of Disneyland. Since I had visited the theme park as a very young child (see my series of Travel Thursday posts: Over the Rainbow Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5), I pointed out to my grandson the areas I fondly remember. There were several local news articles about Disney and artifacts elsewhere on the second floor. Downstairs, adjoining the large front room where we began the tour, was a room dedicated to the only ride that operated outside of Disneyland – the Midget Autopia. There is a car on display from that ride. Since there are 70 trains that run through town each day – the museum is located in the former train depot – we were able to look right out the window to watch them go by – another highlight for my grandson!

Exiting the museum through the same door that Walt would enter when he rode the train into town (Amtrak only stops in Marceline for groups of twenty or more with special arrangements), there is a smaller building toward the back that is the Railroad museum. That was very interesting as well. Even though the ladies who run the tour explained that if we wanted to leave for lunch and come back – our ticket would be valid all day – our time was very limited. Perhaps on another visit, we would be able to do just that and spend more time. In particular, I think I would have found the correspondence between the family members pretty interesting. We were told that on the north side of town, we should visit the “Dreaming Tree”, a cottonwood tree that grew on the Disney farm and where Walt and his baby sister, Ruth, would sit under while Walt would daydream. The Tree of Life at Walt Disney World represents Walt’s tree from Marceline. There are other spots around town that were pointed out as places to visit – Walt Disney Elementary School, the park with the flagpole that Walt gifted the city with during one of his trips back, the barn that used to sit on the Disney property, and even the Disney home (which is now a private residence, but people do drive by to look at it). Though the main drag of Marceline is on Kansas Street, the street sign downtown reads “Main Street USA” and resembles the famous mouse ears that Walt made famous!

I recommend that if you are within a 50-75 mile radius of Marceline that you drop in during the times the Museum is open – especially if you or your family are fans of anything Disney – or trains!

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