31 August 2010

Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 3: More Surprises

We spent a couple hours visiting with the Duttons, but we knew we wanted to also spend a good amount of time with my g-g-g-grandfather Aaron Walker (1788-1862) so it was time to move along.  But before we did, the sexton Jerry had told me about the oldest part of the cemetery, so secluded and far back in the woods, there was no road to it.  Jerry was confident there were no Walkers or Duttons back there, but my son wasn't going to leave without walking the area, so we headed back there.

As soon as we turned off the road and started driving down the path we came upon a couple isolated graves, and my son shouts "It says 'Dutton'"!  And he put the car in park.

As is our custom, we each put a stone we brought from home on the marker to show it had been visited.
"Eunice Hazen, wife of Marvin Dutton, born in Hartford, Vt. Jan. 10, 1799, died Aug. 31, 1885."  Marvin Dutton (1799-1872) was the older brother of my g-g-g-grandfather Samuel Dutton (1806-1835) and Norman Dutton.  As a reminder, my g-g-g-grandmother Nancy (Smith) Dutton married Samuel, gave birth to my g-g-grandmother Louisa, Samuel died, and as a widow she married Norman, who was Samuel's younger brother.  Follow all that?  Geesh they make it complicated!  Next to Eunice was a small slab marker, again worn smooth.  Not even the shaving cream trick could bring up anything on it.  Was it Marvin?  Or was it a child?  I am hoping to get the info from the sexton.

On the other side of Eunice was this marker --

Theodore S. Barton (1826-1888) and his wife Almira M. (1836-1899).  The Bartons have made an appearance in my blog before!  As you can correctly guess, Almira Marie (Dutton) Barton is the daughter of Marvin and Eunice Dutton.

Next to Theodore and Almira was another marker (almost completely illegible without the shaving cream, and completely legible with it, not saying that is an excuse to keep using it, it is not) --

 "Dora A., Dau. of  T.S. & A.M. Barton, died Mar. 25, 1872, Aged 4 Yrs. 5 Mos."

I must say I have been overall impressed with the amount of information my ancestors have decided to put on their stones.  ESPECIALLY maiden names, one of the hardest things to locate in the rural midwest predating marriage licenses.

Much more to follow in Part 4.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Tombstone Tuesday, S.E.: Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 2

Oakwood Cemetery does not exist.  At least that is what my TomTom GPS says, we had to punch in the longitude and latitude to get it to work.

The trip down was fairly uneventful.  It was a hot and sunny day, and I got a little sunburned.  We were running a little behind schedule so the sexton Jerry had to cancel meeting us.  I must admit my heart beat just a little faster when we passed the sign announcing "Woodford County."  So many of my ancestors are from there -- the towns of Metamora, Secor, and Washington are continually appearing and reappearing in my research. 

I wouldn't exactly call the cemetery "beautiful."  There is almost no uniformity.  But it is very peaceful and restful.  It is extremely shaded by centuries old oaks, so the grass does not grow very well at all, but the overall feeling is one of comfort.  When we pulled into the cemetery we were greeted by FaG volunteer Jane who was there photographing gravemarkers for the website.  She was only too happy to show us the burial sites for our ancestors that we had driven to see.

We started at the Dutton family plot.  It is marked by a column with the names of eight deceased but is marked on the ground by at least nine graves. 

Dutton family monument in back, individual stones line up to the west facing each other.
 Jane had warned me that many of the markers at the cemetery were broken, missing, and even rubbed smooth.  In the case of the Dutton family plot, two were rubbed smooth, one was broken and missing, one was cracked.

We were able to identify six of the markers on the ground -- Norman J. Dutton (1810-1889), James M. Owen (1846-1883), Ella Dutton Rickets (1854-1887), Henry M. Dutton (1852-1853), Horace S. Dutton (1843-1862) and finally, drum roll please, Roxa Smith (1785-1868)!

Roxa Smith's marker with the Dutton monument in the back.  We believe the stone to the left is not a gravemarker but a cornerstone of some type.
Roxa's gravemarker was probably our biggest surprise of the visit.  A little backstory -- when I learned that the remains of Norman Dutton had been dug up in Kansas and reintered here in Oakwood Cemetery, Metamora, Illinois, I knew immediately there had to be a reason.  And I was correct, this was the location of the gravesite of his wife, my g-g-g-grandmother Nancy (Dutton) Smith (1812-1868), but not in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would also locate her mother, my g-g-g-g-grandmother Roxa (Rich) Smith!  We summize that Nancy must occupy one of the other graves with a smooth stone, or broken and missing stone.  The grave between her husband Norman and her mother Roxa is has the broken missing stone, our best guess that is Nancy because of the placement.

Another necessary comment about the appearance of the above stone.  The first time I saw one like it that Jane sent me I was horrified, I was just sure she was splashing the stone with bleach or hydrogen peroxide!  But she assured me that she felt as strongly as all of us that the stones need to be protected and she would never use anything that would harm them.  She uses shaving cream, smears it on, and then squeegee's off the excess, and when the rains come they wash off the rest.  Made sense to me, shaving cream is especially known for being gentle.  Well it turns out I found out after I got home that the use of shaving cream can also be harmful to the stones.  I didn't know then, now I do.

Anyway, more to come about our surprising and eventful trip to Oakwood Cemetery in part 3.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

30 August 2010

"Close" Only Counts in Horseshoes and Tiddlywinks, not Genealogy

Oh the heartbreak.

As reported here previously, my g-g-grandfather Henry Martin Walker, Sr. (1929-1865) died in a troop train accident during the Civil War.  It was March 2nd, 1865, and he was a member of Company A, in the Thirty-Third Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  Now let's get a bit of perspective.  There were several hundred of regiments fighting in the Civil War.  And most all regiments had several companies.  So what are the odds?

Researching the Thirty-third and the train accident, I found a 1914 publication of the Illinois Historical Society indicating that I might find useful a book written in 1883 by Alfred O. Marshall called Army Life or Recollections of a Private Soldier which I was lucky to find online here.  And I got really excited to begin reading that he was a member of Company A in the Illinois Thirty-Third!  And it is over four hundred pages long!  What are the odds?!!

Jumping to the end of the book, I couldn't have been more crestfallen to read that the book ends when Mr. Marshall was mustered out -- three months before my g-g-grandfather enlisted, and five months before the train accident.  Sigh.  What are the odds?


Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 1

I have known for a long while that my g-g-g-grandfather Aaron Walker (1788-1862) was buried in Oakwood Cemetery some three hours away in Metamora, Illinois.  But when I discovered his daughter-in-law Louisa (Dutton) Walker's stepfather Norman Dutton (1810-1889) had been reintered there from Kansas, I knew it was time to try and set up a road trip.

Norman John Dutton passed away and interred in Kansas, reinterred in Illinois with his wife.

Transportation and companionship was not a problem.  My oldest son is a bona fide "graveyard rabbit" and is always up for visiting a cemetery, especially an old one; The older the better.  He enjoys spending hours walking the cemeteries local to us reading gravemarkers, interpreting, and learning, and applying what he learns to local history.

I only wanted to make the trip once, so I wanted to do research ahead of time to make sure we got to visit all our ancestors.  I found allies in two FindaGrave.Com volunteers named Deb and Jane.  They made multiple trips to the cemetery on my behalf locating ahead of time what ancestors my research put there, looking for ancestors I suspected might be there, AND BEST OF ALL -- finding an ancestor who I never dreamed of finding on this trip!  But more about that later.  Jane put me in touch with the cemetery sexton Jerry, who could not have been more courteous and helpful, offering to meet me out there with his maps and book of names to show me around.

So the trip was set for yesterday and I am here to report we made it there and back.  A trip full of surprises, a scare, and the encountering of an angel.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

23 August 2010

My Blog Pays Me Back -- Signatures of my Great-Great-Grandfather and Great-Great-Great-Grandfather

I had two main reasons for starting this blog.  The first was to keep my family and relatives abreast of my research.  The second was to try and make connections with other cousins researching the same lines so we can share data.  The hope being that through searches on Google and other search engines would hit this site, and the cousins would come visiting.  Well it finally happened!  This weekend I got an email from from a "not-really-cousin" who was Googling my g-g-grandmother Nancy Dutton.  She wrote that Nancy's mother "Roxa was the 3rd wife of my great-great-great grandfather Elisha Collins.  My ancestors are from Cynthia Osborn his 2nd wife."

Since Nancy's father was likely Sylvanus Smith of Vermont, my new found friend and I are "not really cousins" but she did provide for me something I was not likely to find anytime soon -- Roxa (Smith) Colllins' application for a Revolution War Widow's Pension, in the name of her deceased husband Elisha. And what did I find but the signatures of my great-great-grandfather Henry M. Walker, Sr. and his father, my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Walker as witnesses!

The date was April 5, 1860.  In the family's timeline, Henry had been married to Roxa's granddaughter Louisa for four years.  Henry and Louisa's first child Letta was almost three, and Louisa was three months pregnant with their second child Samuel.

More to follow from this resourceful document as I transcribe it.  Thanks to my new found friend and contact for pointing it out to me.  And if I have any other cousins or "not-really-cousins" out there reading this that want to share data, my contact email is not very cryptically on the right.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

19 August 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Signatures of TWO Great-Great-Great-Grandmothers on ONE Document!!

If you follow my blog you know that my great-great-grandfather Henry Martin Walker (1829-1865) died in the Civil War, leaving behind his widow Louisa Lorena Walker (nee. Dutton, 1833-1913), and three children -- Letta Agnes Walker (b. 1857), Samuel Clark Walker (b. 1860), and Henry Martin Walker, Jr. (1864-1952).

I ordered Louisa's Civil War Widow's Pension Application from the National Archives, and they sent me the first hundred pages (I still have to obtain the remaining).  What a wealth of information!  Tons of resources!  But the real treasure for me was on one of the first affidavits testifying that she was the mother and guardian of the three surviving children.  The hand-written paragraph reads --
Nancy S. Dutton is the mother of the claimant and Submit C. Walker is the mother of the deceased and they have both resided in the same town as the claimant and children for the last fifteen years and have both of them been present at the birth of all the above named children.
And there affixed below, the signatures of BOTH my great-great-great-grandmothers --

-- Five generations back from me, and six generations back from my children.  I got goosebumps!

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

17 August 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Grandparents Bruce and Thelma Gibson

I know it appears I have been on a theme lately, so I thought I might as well keep up with the appearances --

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

16 August 2010

"Do You Remember Grandma's Lye Soap?"

Thanks to Dick Eastman over at Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter for both educating me and rekindling a wonderful memory --

YES!  I remember grandma's lye soap!  My grandmother Thelma Gibson (1903-1991) actually made the stuff and my mom kept some of it around principally for fighting the spread of poison oak and poison ivy.  She would also reach for it as a "last straw" when commercial soaps or cleansers were not up to the job she was performing.  Actually, truth be told, my mom kept lots of bars of it around, more than she would ever need.  The bars were huge, and she kept many.   I wonder if she took that much to appease my grandmother?

No, I am not old enough to remember the song, a big hit apparently selling over two million copies back in 1952.  But what seems strange to me is people from 1952 asking "do you remember" grandma's lye soap, when we were still using my grandma's lye soap into the '60s and '70s?

However, I do remember my mom jokingly singing the song around the house!  What a fun memory.  You can hear the tune and read the lyrics by clicking here.  You can see YouTube videos of the song being performed by clicking on the link above to Dick Eastman's website.

Do you remember grandma's lye soap?  "Yes, I do."

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Amanuensis Monday: The Obituary for Lucy (Surpluss) Turner, 1874-1933

The El Dorado Times, Saturday, April 15, 1933 --


Word has been received here of the death recently in Inglewood, Calif., of Mrs.
Lucy Surpluss Turner, formerly a resident of the Rosalia community. Mrs. Turner
was 58 years old and was well known throughout Butler County, her father,
Nelson Surpluss, having been one of the first settlers in Rosalia Township.

Surviving are a brother, J. A. Surpluss, of Topeka, and two sisters, Mrs. J. A.
Armor, and Mrs. Mary Hembree, both of Wichita. Mrs. Surpluss was buried at
Whittier, Calif.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

12 August 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Grandma's Afghan Crocheted Just for Me

In her twilight years my beloved grandmother Thelma Gibson (1903-1991) with great forethought decided to make a blanket or afghan for each of her six grandchildren.  Here is mine, ironically made up of "granny squares." It is being modeled here by my beautiful wife.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Grandpa Gibson the "Millionaire"

From the September 17, 1942 edition of the Tucson Daily Citizen --

-- According to this website if you adjust for inflation, $75,000 in 1942 is the equivalent to $1,044,914.52 today in 2010.  My grandfather Bruce Gibson (1902-1994) was making "in excess" of an annual equivalent salary of over a million dollars.  But less than a year later after this article appeared, he declared bankruptcy.  My aunt, his eldest daughter, and I obtained his bankruptcy papers from the National Archives and we cannot find any clue "why" he went bankrupt. The search continues.

What we do know is he moved his family to northern California and worked very hard to restore his family to financial security.  And he was successful at it!  The family was the epitome of middle class for the decades to follow.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

10 August 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Keith (1894-1980) and Mattie Walker (1884-1938)

Since I got past the morbidity of the subject matter, I have found the FindaGrave.Com website one of the most rewarding on the whole Internet for family historians.  My grandparents Keith Glen Walker and Mattie Mae Walker (nee. Needham) are buried in Kimball, Nebraska.  Realistically, when is the next time I am going to make it to Kimball?  Sadly, no time soon.  So I post a photo request on FindaGrave.Com, and one of the thousands of members of FaG's army of volunteers goes to work!  Thank you "custer1963" for the reward you have given me and my relatives by taking this picture for us --

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

09 August 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The Obituary for Mrs. Keith Walker (Mattie Mae Needham 1884-1938)

From the Arnold (Nebraska) Sentinal September 29, 1938 --

Mrs. Keith Walker of Dix, Nebr., formerly Mattie Needham of Arnold, passed away Tuesday at a hospital in Omaha, where she had undergone an operation several weeks ago.  Mrs. Walker is survived by her husband and several children, and her sister-in-law Mrs. Hattie Needham of Arnold.

Funeral services and internment are to be at Dix, Friday afternoon, according to word received this morning by local relatives.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Poem: "A Crazy Quilt"

An elderly neighbor passed away and his widow found out I was interested in genealogy so she gave me all his study materials.  I found the following poem included amongst the papers.  The citation reads "From the 'Romance of the Patch Work,' by Douglas Mallock, seen at the display of rare old quilts, Denver Museum, June 2. 1970."

They do not make them anymore
For quilts are cheaper at the store
Than woman's labor, though a wife
Men think the cheapest thing in life
But now and then a quilt is spread
Upon a quaint old walnut bed.
A crazy quilt of those old days
That I am old enough to praise.

Some women sewed these points and squares
Into a pattern like life's cares.
Here is a velvet that was strong
The poplin that she wore so long,
A fragment from her daughter's dress,
Like her, a vanished loveliness;
Old patches of such things as these,
Old garments and old memories.

And what is life: a crazy quilt
Sorrow and joy, and grace and guilt
With here and there a square of blue
For some old happiness we knew;
And so the hand of time will take
The fragment of our lives and make,
Out of life's remnant as they fall,
A thing of beauty after all.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker