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Jacob Marion Wilt is my great grand uncle. He is the oldest child born to my 2nd great-grandparents, Isreal Isaac Wilt and Christena Nash and oldest brother of my maternal great-grandfather, Joseph Napolean Wilt.  Jacob was born on February 21, 1858 in Indiana. On August 6, 1881 Jacob and Scena Gibson were married in Newcastle, Henry County, Indiana. They had a son, Russell Ray Wilt, born September 6, 1890 in Newcastle. The family is found in the 1900 Census living in Jefferson township in Henry County.  They reported that they had been married 18 years. By the 1910 Census, Russell was already out on his own.  Jacob and Scena were living in Sulphur Springs in Henry County.

And there begins the mystery.  It was reported by a distant cousin (Jacob is their great grand uncle also) that Jacob and Scena moved to California. I have not located either one – however, according to the 1920 Census, Russell is married to Ferna (LNU) with a young daughter, Thelma, and living in Modesto, California. In 1930 the Russell Ray Wilt family is in Oakland, California and in 1940 they have moved to Pierce County, Washington.

There is a Jacob Wilt listed in the 1920 and 1930 Censuses in San Bernadino, California – but his age is off by a couple of years and the listing for his father’s birth place is not Virginia. In the 1920 Census, that particular Jacob reports that he is divorced and in the 1930 Census, it shows he is widowed. I need to pinpoint the exact locations in the enumeration districts where both this Jacob and also Russell were living. If they are close by, then these two “different” Jacobs may just be one and the same. I haven’t located any further information on Scena (whose name has also been spelled Sena and Cena and mistakenly reported as Lena – depending on who was reading the writing!) nor on Russell’s wife, Ferna, or their daughter, Thelma. The Wilt branch of the family still living in and around New Castle, Indiana, didn’t seem to know any further information.

Sources: All Census information came from www.familysearch.org indexes.  Jacob and Scena’s marriage information came from the same website – the “Indiana Marriages, 1811-1959” database (digital image).

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In my previous post from last Thursday, Treasure Chest Thursday – Items from a Box (Part 1), I wrote about a picture I found in one of the many small boxes of photos and ephemera I have. Today, I’m pulling out one of my grandmother’s grade cards!

Vesta Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Hamilton County, Indiana. By the time she was in 7th grade in 1911, her parents had divorced. Her mother and her aunt’s widower had married and were living in Anderson in Madison County, Indiana. She attended Anderson Public Schools and the principal was Eva DeBruler. When she started school in September of 1911, she was in “B” Class of grade 7. In the second semester, she was in “A” Class of grade 7 and by the end of the school year, she was promoted to the “B” Class of grade 8. Her mother signed “M. Clawson” for each month of the two terms of the school year except for the last – May.

My grandmother received A’s, B+’s, and B’s  in all of her subjects (Conduct, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Arithmetic, Language, Geography, Sewing, and History). Grammar was crossed out and Sewing was written in. She took one month of Music during her first term, and she only missed one day during the first month of school.

Stay tuned for more Items from a Box!

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(Original Photo and Digital Print held in possession of Wendy J Littrell. Do not copy without permission.)

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Twenty seven years ago today, I was at work when my boss, the owner of the printing company for which I worked, opened the door to the graphics room and told me I had a phone call.  It was early afternoon and I still had an hour or so of work yet. No one usually called me at work.  As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew.  I knew because that was how I had envisioned it happening a week or so before.  It wouldn’t be my mom calling me or anyone else – it would be my brother.  The words he spoke brought forth too many polarizing emotions.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.  I knew that a life lived had been to the absolute fullest.  I knew that while everyone else in the family would be falling apart, that I would draw on my inner strength and remain strong for them.  This woman we spoke of had been a constant in my life since birth – the only grandmother that I knew.  When it seemed that my life was falling apart throughout different periods, she was my champion. When I was at my absolute lowest and disappointing everyone else, she hugged me and let me know that no matter what she wouldn’t be mad at me and would love me unconditionally.  Walking into my grandparents’ apartment later that evening and seeing my grandfather all dressed up in a suit – for he had been waiting to go see his beloved wife – stabbed my heart.  My mother expressed that my grandmother had really wanted to see her newest great-granddaughter, my baby, just a little over a month old, and had never gotten to.  I broke down in grief.

Within a week the family gathered to remember this matriarch of our family.  We laughed and we cried.  Six of us – grandchildren and great-grandchildren – were pallbearers.  It was such a cold day – the day we carried the casket out of the church into the waiting hearse.  Snow covered the ground.  We traveled to the cemetery and had a final service in the chapel.  It would be several more years before I went to the gravesite.  When I did return, it would be to visit not only my grandmother and my mom’s baby sister, but also my grandfather, who wasn’t able to go on after the love of his life was gone.  He passed away a year less a day after she did.

Like me, my grandmother was a child of divorced parents.  When I was young and going through the rough patches of my parents animosity, she would always comfort me and tell me she knew what I felt.  As a young child, I used to spend weekends with my grandparents.  I was the youngest of their eight grandchildren – by fourteen years – so to say that I was spoiled by them is an understatement!  In my defense, I never asked for them to spoil me and in their defense, during the time the others were young and growing, my grandparents lived in Germany and were always traveling due to my grandfather’s military duty or for pleasure.  They missed a lot of holidays and birthdays with my siblings and cousins.

Vesta Christena Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Indiana to Joseph N. Wilt and Martha Jane Stern.  She was the oldest girl and fourth child.  Another daughter and son followed her.  Before she was 12, her parents had divorced.  Her mother married her widowed brother-in-law, Frank Clawson.  The family moved from Noblesville to Anderson, Indiana and on Easter Sunday 1916 she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.  Vesta dated Glen Roy Johnson for several months and the two got married at Martha and Frank’s house on Christmas Eve 1916.  The following December their first child, a son named after his father, was born. As the years went by the family added their first daughter, Genevieve, and then a second daughter, Mary (my mother), and lastly baby Lois Evelyn who was born prematurely and died just a little over 2 months later.

 

My grandmother knew her own heartache. She was separated from her beloved Glen for quite awhile while he went to training for the Signal Corps and then went overseas to France during WWI.  She had been separated from her mother and two youngest siblings after Martha moved to Oregon before my mother was born.  She lost a baby and then much later watched her oldest daughter suffer from a brain tumor and ultimately succumb to another inoperable one.  She lost the father that she hadn’t seen for so long without having that estranged relationship mended.  As the years wore on, she watched her youngest daughter struggle and grieve for the end of an almost 30 year marriage.  She lost her mother and three brothers.  She sat by her husband’s hospital bedside for months as he recuperated from a blood cot on his brain that he had suffered in a fall.

Then her health began to fail.  She wasn’t a stranger to health issues – having one ailment and surgery or another throughout her adult life.  But after she broke her elbow in the early 1970s, she was never as healthy as she had been.  All too soon she was experiencing a heart attack every three months.  I was very scared about losing her – not only for myself but for what it would do to my mother. After hospital stays and a change in her diet and medication, it seemed she rallied from the heart issues (although they were still there). 

The family would gather for a surprise birthday we had for her at our house.  She was so surprised when she walked in through the garage to the dining room and most of her family.  Then there was the 60th wedding anniversary celebration at their apartment complex.  Long time friends, church friends, military friends, and the family and extended family came to honor them.  We were only missing one of my cousins and her family.

I moved away for awhile and when I returned back to my hometown, I realized just how she had aged – my grandfather too.  I knew that as the years had ticked by, time was winding down for their life among us.  My grandfather had been the one who had several health issues before I had moved away and I guess I had thought that he might be the one to go first.  Then she was hospitalized and then again several weeks later.  That visit was one she wouldn’t return home from.  I learned later that she had told the apartment manager as the EMTs were wheeling her to the ambulance to make sure her husband would be okay.  Did she know she wouldn’t come home? Did she decide that it would be okay to go if it was her time?

My grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – born on May 7, 1898 – died on January 19, 1984.  My grandfather – Glen Roy Johnson – born November 21, 1898 – died on January 18, 1985.  They were the glue of the family.  There are times during holidays and celebrations, the family left an empty chair – in honor of our grandmother.  Our Beloved Nana – the woman whose “grandmother” moniker I have assumed for my own grandchildren – the woman whom I will never live up to as a grandmother – the woman who is always beside me in times of trouble – smiling and cheering me on.

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The parents of my great-grandfather – Joseph Napolean Wilt – were Israel Isaac Wilt and Christine (or Christena) Nash.  I haven’t delved into the Nash family very deeply and wonder if I’ve really scratched the surface.  One of my resolutions, posted in I Resolved To . . ., is to pick another branch of my family to research. After all, my grandmother’s middle name was Christena – after her grandmother. 

Christena Nash was the daughter of Alexander Nash and Elsie.  Elsie’s name has been spelled Elcie, Elsy, and Elsie.  Her surname has been listed as Winninger or Winger – and several variations of those names.  Christena was born in 1837 in Pennsylvania. 

Alexander Nash was born the end of May in 1808 in Pennsylvania.  His parents remain a mystery to me although in the 1880 US Census, Alexander listed his father as born in Maryland and his mother as born in Pennsylvania.  A man named Alexander Nash is in the 1840 US Census enumerated in Beaver Township, Green County, Pennsylvania with 1 male age 0-5, 1 male age 30-40, 1 female age under 5, 1 female age 5-10, and 1 female age 20-30.  This leads me to believe – although not documented – that Alexander is the older male as he would have been 32 in 1840.  Elsy born in mid-July 1813, would have been 27 years old.  Their oldest three children are reportedly: Sarah Nash, born in 1829; an  unknown son born between 1835-1840; and my 2nd great-grandmother, Christena, born in 1837.  I found Sarah’s information through the Henry County Genealogical Society on an index of the Lebanon Baptist Cemetery in Henry County, Indiana.  She had died on August 21, 1850 at the age of 20 years, 7 months, and 27 days and was listed as the daughter of Alex and Elsie Nash.  Her mother was only 15 when she was born.

Alexander and Elsy were enumerated on the 1850 US Census in Prairie Township, Henry County, Indiana.  His age was listed as 42 and her age as 38.  Children in the household included: “Christy Ann” (Christena), Sarah, Alexander, Catherine, and Nancy and Elsy (appearing to be twins).  If the young male enumerated in the 1840 Census had been their son, he had died prior to the 1850 Census.  Sometime between the two censuses, the family had moved from Pennyslvania to Indiana. As the younget girls, Nancy and Elsy, were listed as born in Pennsylvania and were age 4 in 1850 – their move to Indiana had been recent.

The 1860 US Census shows the family living in the same place.  Even though Sarah was to have died in 1850, there is a Sarah still enumerated with the family – something further to be researched.  One thought is that she actually died in 1860 and the indexer either made a typo when putting the date online or couldn’t read the headstone.  That would also mean that there was an unknown daughter in the 1840 census and Sarah was actually born in 1839 and Elsie hadn’t been as young as if Sarah was born in 1829.  It might also explain why the family didn’t show up in the 1830 Census – they might not have been married yet and still residing with their respective families.  Children, besides Sarah, included in the 1860 Census include Alexander, Catherine, Nancy, Elsy, and Mary.

Alexander died on April 14, 1883 and Elsie died on May 3, 1890.  They are both buried in the Lebanon Baptist Cemetery.  They had a son, Wilmot Nash, born on April 9, 1848 who died at age 2 on June 11, 1850.  He is buried close to them.  Their daughter, Christena, also died before they did – on August 18, 1876. 

Further research will include the 1870 and 1880 US Census records for Alexander and Elsie; Indiana marriage records on their children; headstone transcriptions; other Indiana county records; and looking into Nash families in the Beaver Twp and Green County areas of Pennsylvania.

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The topic for the 79th Carnival of Genealogy is Family Reunions.  Since I have posted several topics about this subject, I won’t repeat! 

My first post was Family Reunions. This was an article concerning preparations for the big event. I also included information about the reunions I attended as a child.

This post, Past Reunions, concerned the newspaper articles and a Reunion Minutes book that was kept. It never ceases to amaze me the gems we find in news articles or through our ancestors’ careful note taking!

In the article, Wilt Cousins, I mentioned the reunions my maternal grandmother’s side of the family had each year and added more information about those in that branch. Toward the end of the article I urged everyone to document the pertinent points of the reunion – who, what, where, why, and how. If our ancestors had done this, we might not have so many questions now!

I’ve included several photographs scattered throughout all the articles – a mixture of very old to new.

Oftentimes reunions aren’t just large everyone-from-each-branch type of events.  More than not they are get-togethers for scattered members of the family when they come together for graduations, births, weddings, and funerals.  Such was the case for my family this past spring as we gathered for my Mom’s memorial service. 

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My first cousins – Jane, Judy, Jack (siblings), and my sister and I.  Two of our cousins weren’t able to attend and of course, my brother, was in our hearts.  We are the ones, now, to move forward and make sure our parents and grandparents and all those who have gone on before us, are kept in our hearts and memories.  We will be the ones to share stories, to reminisce and provide family “lore” for our children and grandchildren.

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I wrote this post about wanting to meet Maureen Taylor of Photo Detective fame and show her the portraits I’ve acquired.  Yesterday I had an opportunity to photograph the portraits – since they are way too large to scan – and look them over a little more.  I had to experiment a little because each time I used a flash, it would create a glare on the picture.  Thinking I might need to have my photographer daughter set up her studio lights & take pictures just so I can have better quality digital shots.  I don’t want to expose these fragile pieces to harsh lights any more than I should though. 

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This is a crayon/charcoal rendering of my 2nd great-grandmother, Malissa (Goul) Blazer.  The portrait is at least 16×20.  There aren’t any artist’s marks or other identifying features.  I think the drawing was made from a photograph rather than at a sitting. 

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This is another large rendering of my great-grandmother, Katie (Blazer) Johnson.  She is young and it is my thought that she wasn’t married yet.  Below is a photo that shows Katie about the same age – quite probably the photo that the drawing was made from.  The “smudge” on the lower corner of the picture appears to be an artist’s mark – except it really is just a smudge of some sort.

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This portrait of the Johnson family (below) appears to be an enlargement of a regular photograph.  It was very difficult to photograph.  Whatever material or chemical process was used, made areas of it too shiny to capture correctly.  This picture is poster sized.  The original photograph would have been made between 1906-1908.  I don’t know what year the enlargement would have been made.

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This is the only picture I have of my maternal great-grandparents’ (Katie and John Johnson) family that included both my grandfather (younger boy), Glen Johnson, and his older brother, Letis.  In fact, this was the first picture I saw of my great-uncle.

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Above is my other maternal great-grandfather, Joseph N. Wilt.  Written on the back of this 16×20 is my great-grandmother’s name (Martha Wilt) and her address.  There are also indications on how much brown, gray and black to use on the drawing.  All indications to me that they were still married at the time – which would have been before 1909.

Below are other renderings that were packed with those above.  Some of these people are still a mystery to me.

baby mary

This is actually a photograph (above) that is 16×20.  My mother seemed to think this was my grandfather’s baby sister, Mary, before she died.  Others seem to think it is a little boy – not a little girl.  When I look at this picture, I see resemblences to other member of my family in the eyes and mouth.

baby glen
My mother told me the child above is her brother, Glen, as a baby.  I have no reason to believe otherwise.  This is a drawing – slightly smaller than 16×20.

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The drawing above is of an unknown woman.  My mother told me she thought it was a sister of my 2nd great-grandmother, Malissa. I’m more inclined to believe it is my great-grandmother’s sister, Rachel (Blazer) Given.  I’ve seen pictures of her other sister, Martha “Mattie”, and this isn’t her. 

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My grandfather, Glen Johnson (baby) and his older brother, Letis, with the family dogs. 

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This is another photograph that has been enlarged.  It is of my grandfather, Glen Johnson, at Shadyside Park, close to his home in Madison County, Indiana.  Again this was very hard to photograph due to the materials or chemical used in the process.  The size is smaller than a 16×20.

My biggest challenge will be to figure out what to do with these rather large pictures.  I don’t have enough wall space to have them framed and hung.  Nor would I want them exposed to bright sunlight.  I’ll gladly accept any recommendations and suggestions.  Perhaps Maureen Taylor herself might give me some pointers!

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