52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – MUSICAL

Standing in the Country Music Hall of Fame last weekend, I thought about how important music has been in my life.  It genuinely brings me joy and changes my attitude.  It doesn’t matter what kind of music I listen to, it all works magic.  I played the saxophone in high school and was pretty good by first chair standards, but Boots Randolph I was not.  I once told my sister if I could have any skill/superpower, it would be to sing beautifully.  Right now my enthusiasm makes up for my lack of ability.  That seems to be the theme of my family.  Let me take you through a magical journey of my family and music.

Elzie Chenoweth's fiddle

Elzie Chenoweth’s fiddle

Elzie Chenoweth

Elzie Chenoweth

This fiddle belonged to my grandfather, Elzie Chenoweth (1897-1986).  It has been hanging on the wall in my Dad and Mom’s house since 1970. It hasn’t been used at all.  No one in the family knows how to play a fiddle, but I remember Grandma Vera saying the Swise family (Grandpa Elzie’s mother was Dollie Swise Chenoweth) was a very musically talented family.  she said everyone in the Swise family could play an instrument.  Charles Henry “Tuck/Tucker” Swise was very good on a fiddle and he often played for neighborhood dances.

"Tuck" Swise Family

“Tuck” Swise Family

Grandpa Elzie had convinced himself he had inherited the genes for music talent also. Somehow he got this fiddle.  I don’t know if he taught himself to play or if someone else helped him, but Dad says he remembers Grandpa “sawing” on the fiddle.  He also remembers Grandpa Elzie wasn’t very good at it.

Grandpa Elzie Chenoweth's jew's harp

Grandpa Elzie Chenoweth’s jew’s harp

Grandpa Elzie did have SOME musical talent!  He often played this jew’s harp.  This instrument is also known as a juice harp or mouth harp.  I recall evenings staying at Grandpa and Grandma’s when he would pull it out to play.  He tried to teach us, but we weren’t very good.

Dad said he tried to play it when he was a youngster.  Even though he had been warned, he got his tongue stuck in the harp and quickly decided it wasn’t for him.    For a fascinating read on the history of this musical instrument, click here.

My Dad never played an instrument.  When we took band lessons he used to say, “I’m pretty good at playing the radio!”.  His mother, my Grandma Vera Chenoweth, played the piano, but I don’t really remember hearing her play.

John Yess (1896-1985)

John Yess (1896-1985)

Grandpa John Yess' violin

Grandpa John Yess’ violin

My mother’s father – my Grandpa John Yess, (1896-1985) owned the violin on the right.  Apparently playing fiddle or violin must have been the thing to do with young men in the late 1910’s and 1920’s since both my grandfathers owned one.  You can see Grandpa John’s violin wasn’t very worn leaving me to believe he used it very sparingly or not at all.  It had a set of lessons to go with the instrument and it’s in the original box from the company he ordered it from.  The violin is marked “Stradivarius”.  Unfortunately upon research we have learned this was a very inexpensive version sold through mail order!

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

Mom was a clarinet player in the band at Princeville High School.  She is an avid music lover and encouraged my sister and I to learn to play an instrument.  We both chose saxophone – plus is saved on purchasing more than one instrument!

Both Mom and Dad encouraged us to enjoy all kinds of music and entertainment.  Every summer my parents bought season tickets to the local university’s summer music theatre.  After each performance we’d discuss the characters, our favorite songs and try to recall the lyrics.  To this day I can sing the lyrics to many, many Broadway showtunes!

I admire those who can play an instrument.  I admire even more those who have mastered an instrument(s) including their voice.  I LOVE live music whether it be country, bluegrass, jazz, pop, blues, or just a good ole Sousa march!  Both of our children played in the band for a short time in school as did my cousins children and niece and nephew.

Today, we continue to have a great love for music, but the focus has changed more toward attending concerts.  One of my nieces has created quite a list of entertainers she has already seen in concert.

We may not be musically talented, but we still have a great appreciation for music.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – ROAD TRIP

“Which ancestor do you want to take a road trip to go research?”

The question posed by this week’s theme took little time to answer. My husband’s family is 100% German and a good portion of mine is either German or English.  I’ve always wanted to travel to Germany and England and see where my family came from.  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  I have taken the first step.

Map of Germany with tags for families

Map of Germany with tags for families

A very large map of modern Germany (4 1/2 ft x 3 1/2 ft) hangs on the wall in my office. I decided to begin marking where all our family’s ancestors were from.  There is something about seeing on a map the villages your family came from. You relate to it better.  You consider what is near that town: rivers, boundaries, other villages, mountains, plains, forests.  You begin to understand the culture of the place better when you see it on the map.   The picture above shows the home of four of my husband’s ancestral families.  They lived fairly close.  When I began to put into context where they lived, I realized how close they were to Arnhem and Nijmegan – both important World War II battle areas.  Our branch of the family had immigrated to the United States 100 years before World War II, but another branch remained in Germany.

The family lines posted above are the Terstriep family from Ahaus, Germany; Bernard Venvertloh from Eschlohn, Germany; Anna Maria Boeving, his wife, from Südlohn, Germany, and Henry Düisdecker from Munster, Germany.  All are ancestors of my husband and all had family members move to Quincy, Illinois in the mid 1800s.

Ancestral villages in Germany

Ancestral villages in Germany

This photo reflects more of my mother’s family.  The Bootz family is my 2nd great grandmother’s family who lived near Darmstadt and Bingen, Germany.  My father and mother-in-law’s families were from near Hanover, Germany.

I have tried to add to the map as I complete more research.  I can better see patterns of migration and how families interconnected.  I hope to add a map of England also.  My father’s family is from St. Martin, Cornwall, England.  Interestingly enough a recent PBS Masterpiece show, Poldark, is set in Cornwall and I have loved seeing the scenery of this part of England.  Our family actually came to the Colonies in the late 1680’s – preceding the Poldark story by a cool century!

So my wish is to travel to Germany and England and walk the land my ancestors walked.  I want to visit the Catholic church in Ahaus where my husband’s family were married, baptized and buried for over 300 years.  I want to see parts of Yorkshire where my Harrison side of the family came from.  Obviously I have no problem with English.  It’s my native language.  German is quite another thing.  I know only enough German to tell someone I don’t speak German!  To rectify this situation, I take the first step in my road trip by taking a beginning German class this fall.  Who knows. Maybe someday I’ll be able to take that road trip, study my family and speak German well enough to learn something new. It’s a first step on a hopeful road trip.

Happy 5th of July

Today I deter from my usual 52 Ancestors blog to talk about those brave ancestors of ours.  We really should be celebrating the Fifth of July and in this July 4, 2008 post, I’ll tell you why:

Happy 5th of July…that’s right!

I originally wrote this blog in July of 2008 and believe the message even more today.  Let’s thank our veterans for letting us celebrate this wonderful holiday and to our family and friends.   


As our country ponders what we will do to right the ship, we need to remember it is OUR country – we did not give the power to someone else.  Thus WE must be the change we want to see to paraphrase Ghandi.  


Happy 5th of July!




What? Happy 5th of July? Don’t you mean 4th of July? Nope…5th. Here’s my thought process.

On July 4th, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress . Actually on July 2nd, the Congress had already voted to declare independence from Great Britian. It was later published and signed near the beginning of August. 

So, why Happy 5th? 

On the Fourth, we actually made a statement as a country saying, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.” We listed the reasons why, what we believed to be the ideal nation, etc, but on the morning of the 5th, can’t you imagine those of the Continental Congress waking up to wonder, “What did we just do?” They had pledged EVERYTHING they had to see this through! 

It’s a whole lot easier to say, “I’m not gonna take this anymore and I’m changing something”, than it is to actually do it. Once you’ve made that public statement you have to begin to formulate how the action will take place; how you will change what you believe to be substandard. How many of us have said, I’m gonna lose weight, or I’m gonna finish school to wake up this next morning thinking, ahhh…maybe tomorrow. 

Well, these people had no choice. They had made a rather bold statement of independence and now they were known for it. People would be judging them on how they had achieved that goal or fallen short. They would judge them if they individually profited from the situation.

So, I believe it much harder to actually put the statement into action and today was the day of action for our country. We could no longer talk about doing something, we had to move, take action, change the world. And…overall, I believe it worked out very well.

But…I imagine for a little bit on the morning of the 5th of July, 1776 there were some men who wondered What the heck did we do yesterday? And today, July 5th, 2008 there will be more men wondering the same thing, but for different reasons! Happy 5th!

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – INDEPENDENT

Emma Jane Harrison and George Edward Smith

Emma Jane Harrison Smith

As July 4th nears, I began thinking about the word “independent” and what definition I would use in this blog.  Obviously the Fourth reminds one of the independence of the American spirit as we became a new nation, but independent can also categorize people.  An individual can be less dependent on others.  They can carry an independent spirit or they can struggle to keep their independence as they age.  All these definitions can be used here.

Amelia (Emma) Jane Harrison was born March 21, 1868 to Robert William Harrison and Eleanor Senate Lawrence.  She married George Smith, who was five years her elder, in 1888 and during the next 23 years she gave birth to six children.  Her third child, Jessie Eleanor, was my grandmother making Emma Jane Smith my great grandmother.

Jessie Eleanor Smith Yess

Jessie Eleanor Smith Yess

Grandma Jessie always talked about her mother as a hard worker and the industrious type.  One could imagine how busy Emma Jane was running a household with six children.  Grandma’s father, Great Grandpa George Smith had a tendency for heading to town with her egg money at times to visit the tavern.  Keeping their head above water probably also made Emma Jane an independent woman.

Emma Jane’s father, Robert, died when she was only 22. She had given birth just a few months before to their first child, Blanche.  Emma’s mother, Eleanor Harrison, died when Emma was 54; her husband, George, died when she was 63 in 1931.  Emma lived until the ripe age of 85 and died November 20, 1953.  During her later years, she sometimes lived with my grandparents (John and Jessie Smith Yess).  She was used to doing something of worth every day and when her health and eyesight were no longer what they had been, she still felt the need to contribute to the daily housework at Jessie and John’s house.  Grandma Jessie would take newly-cut out tea towels and have her mother hem them each day.

Media0002

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

My mother, Sharon Yess, recalls watching her grandmother, Emma Jane, carefully hem the tea towels each day.  She also remembered watching her mother, at night after Emma had gone to bed, unhem the tea towels. The unhemmed towels were put back in a stack for stitching the following day.  In this way, Grandma Emma contributed to the housework in her mind and still felt some independence or worth.

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

I come from a long line of independent women.  I’m pretty sure our family motto was “Do It Yourself Because No One Else Will Do It”.  DIY is what we’re all about. I believe independent spirit can be handed down or bequeathed through DNA and I believe I have a double dose of independent spirit from both sides of my family.

Julie Chenoweth Terstriep

Julie Chenoweth Terstriep

.  Obviously our facial characteristics can be inherited too. As I loaded pictures of myself, my mom, my grandmother and my great grandmother, I was struck by the fact we all look quite a bit alike.  That must be what “Independent Spirit” looks like.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – HALFWAY

Theresa Hanlach Yess (1824-1910) August Yess  (1829-1905)

Theresa Hanlach Yess (1824-1910)
August Yess
(1829-1905)

This week marks the halfway point in my 52 Ancestors Challenge and the theme is appropriately halfway.  A suggested twist on the theme was to discuss an ancestor who you feel you have only halfway researched.  With much thought, I decided to further discuss my 2nd great grandfather, August Yess.

Here’s what I do know:  August Yess, as he was known in Peoria, IL, was born 29 January 1829 in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. We believe he immigrated to America via Baltimore, Maryland in 1852.  In 1855, he married Teresa A. Hanlach, also originally from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.  They had six children: Charles, Mary, William, Amanda, Joseph and John.  August died in 1905 and Teresa died in 1910.

I feel I only know half his story because Yess  cannot be his true surname.  Yess is not a German surname.  Much like many Germans who immigrated to the United States, the spelling of their surname was changed. Naturalization papers from 29 October 1892, show August Gess becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States.   He would have been 63 years old at the time and had lived in the U.S. for a length of 40 years.  Why did he suddenly feel the need to become a naturalized citizen after 40 years?

August was only 23 years old when he came to America.  I don’t know why he immigrated here, but I have learned a lot about Germany at the time from an Latter Day Saints genealogist who specializes in Germany.  King William and Baden were in upheaval during the 1850’s and he subsequently lost power to his son, Charles.  The political upheaval led to military action which led to emigration of many Germans.  Economic pressure also caused many Germans to emigrate to the United States.  Was it military servitude or no money that caused August to leave?

I don’t know anything about his family.  I haven’t successfully found records indicating who his parents were, how many siblings he had, where exactly was his home?  Funny how these pieces to the puzzle tell so much about an individual.  Without these important components, one can only speculate on motive.

I don’t know if he came to the United States with any funds at all. Records did indicate he worked as a teamster for a time in Peoria County, Illinois after he immigrated.  He also owned quite a bit of farmland in Jubilee Township of Peoria County, Illinois near the Princeville area.  The Yess family still lives on Yess Road near Princeville.  I do know upon his death, August had amassed quite a bit of money and land.  Peoria County, Illinois probate records indicate he had 15 different Certificates of Deposits in five different banks; three different personal loans he held from individuals, and rent due from a piece of real estate identified as “No. 1311 First Street” – town unknown,  another listed as “H.A. Tuttle house” and “Lynch house” and various farms.

In total, August Yess or Gess of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany was worth $19,983 in 1905 which would be worth nearly $540,000 in 2015.  How did he purchase so much land, so many city lots and collect so much money?  It’s going to require more research. Below are a just a very few of the probate records I have for August Yess.

August Yess Probate File Page 1

August Yess Probate File Page 1

August Yess Probate File Page 2

August Yess Probate File Page 2

August Yess Probate File Page 3

August Yess Probate File Page 3

August Yess Probate File Pg 4

August Yess Probate File Pg 4

Halfway through the year with 52 Ancestors Challenge and I am compiling a list titled “I Want To Know”.  #1 on this list will start with August Yess/Gess family history.  In order to learn some of this information, I’ve decided to take the next step and study German at my university this fall.  I don’t expect to become a phenom at it or a native speaker, but I do hope to be able to understand some of the basic documents I attempt to read.  I’m hoping if I meet August halfway by learning German, he will disclose more information as a thanks.

Knowing only half his story is like viewing a two dimensional photograph and attempting to see a three dimensional person.  There are too many missing details.  It’s time to fill in the details.

August Yess -Probate-List of Assets and Notes pg 1

August Yess -Probate-List of Assets and Notes pg 1

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 2

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 2

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 3

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 3

52 Ancestors Challenge – The Old Homestead

William and Martha Chenoweth home, Hickory Grove area, Farmers Twp. Fulton Cty, IL

William and Martha Chenoweth home, Hickory Grove area, Farmers Twp. Fulton Cty, IL

Elias Chenoweth home in Table Grove.

Elias Chenoweth home in Table Grove.

Vera KC and Dean

Elzie and Vera Chenoweth homestead on West Adams Road, Macomb, IL

It could be called a dwelling, a domicile, a house or a residence, but when we call something a home we invoke emotions of comfort food, family, holidays and warm feelings.  Home is an emotionally loaded word.  My genealogical searches are scattered with homes that lead a path from Germany, England, France to Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Illinois and on to Kansas.  All those houses were homes to part of my family.  I hope to share next week the story of another home in our family that holds special feelings, but for this week I want to share these three homesteads.

The homestead at the top is the William and Martha Chenoweth homestead.  The farm and house no longer exist.  They were destroyed the federal government to make way for Camp Ellis in 1942 during the war effort.  William and Martha Chenoweth moved there sometime in the 1850s with their children.  William and Martha were my 3rd great grandparents, both born in Ohio, married in Indiana and died in Illinois.  The family in the picture is that of their son, Elias Chenoweth, his wife Permelia Jane Ellis Chenoweth and their children.  Martha Chenoweth appears in this photo so it most likely was taken after William’s death in 1884 and obviously before Martha’s in 1898. Five generations of my family had, at one time or another, lived on this homestead.  I’ve had my dad sketch out the layout of the farm.  He placed the buildings, house, orchards, lane, sawmill and everything on the map to give us perspective as well as leave a record.

The stories of this homestead weave a very interesting tapestry.  Dad climbed the windmill on this farm when he was only two years old.  My grandmother coaxed him down after awhile and Dad still remembers watching the blades rotate on the windmill.  He later became a pilot and I always wonder if that wasn’t the precursor to his love of flying.

The house had a second story covered porch above the kitchen window. Dad and his brother,  K.C. Chenoweth, thought it would be great fun to make parachutes for cats.  They attached the handkerchiefs to the cats and dropped them from the upstairs porch. The fun came to a quick end when Grandma suddenly saw a cat dropping past the kitchen window while she was baking.  The parachutes didn’t impress her!

One of the barns on the farm was a design called a “bank barn”.  The barn was built into the bank and had buttresses to keep the lower wall from pushing out.  The buttresses were made of concrete and very rough.  Dad and Uncle K.C. thought sliding down the buttresses would be a great recreational activity, but they tried it with new blue jeans on.  Again, Grandma was less than impressed with their decision making!

When my Grandpa Elzie was a young man and living in this home, his brother came home a little too late one winter evening.  He thought he had successfully sneaked into the house without tipping his hat.  Uncle Arthur was cold though and he stirred up the stove to warm himself up. Apparently he was a little too good at stirring up the fire as a chimney fire broke out and gave away the secret of his late arrival.

The old homestead was full of so many stories and memories and I’m sorry the only way I got to see it was through the mind’s eye of my family members.

The second home, Elias and Permelia Chenoweth’s new home in Table Grove, IL was quiet impressive. Elias, my 2nd great grandfather, is shown standing in the yard with his daughter.  He was a conservative man when it came to business dealings and from what I have read, was pretty humble.  A fire broke out in the house not long after it was built.  Elias and Permelia survived the fire, but never rebuilt the house. Permelia felt the fire was God’s way of telling them they were too proud of the home.  Story is there is an identical home to it still surviving in Table Grove; both built at the same time.  This picture was taken sometime prior to his death in 1915.  Permelia died in 1911. Most likely this photo predates her death also.  It looks to be a beautiful house and with my love of old houses, I surely would have liked to see the details of it.

The third home was that of my grandparents, Elzie and Vera Chenoweth, west of Macomb, IL.  This is the house my dad and uncle moved to when they were young boys and where they lived until they were married.  My dad and mom moved to this house in 1968 until August of 1970 while they were building a new house. Grandpa and Grandma’s house was very special. I can close my eyes and still see the built in glass-doored bookcases, the beautiful wooden stairs, the secret upstairs porch and the attic that seemed to hold many magical things.  This is the home I remember going to for Christmas and sleeping upstairs in the big feather bed with my sister and cousins.  This home always smelled of freshly baked cookies, homemade noodles and beef.  It felt and looked like love.

Houses are simply dwellings; wood, brick or other material bound together to provide shelter.  Homes are magical places where families share the joys and sorrows of life with one another.  If only the walls could talk then the stories we have wouldn’t be limited to those we managed to write down.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Heirloom

“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”  Unknown 

Quilt block of Nona Salmans Foreman

Quilt block of Nona Salmans Foreman

Friendship Quilt of Lena Belle Salmans

Friendship Quilt of Lena Belle Salmans

IMG_0279

It wasn’t the most stunning or fancy quilt I had ever seen, but it had the sweetest story surrounding it like the arms of a loving grandmother.  I seem to remember this handmade quilt on one of the spare beds at Grandma’s house.  It was only used when my sister, cousins and I  came to visit.  I’m not even sure at what point I asked her about the story of the quilt, but Grandma Vera Chenoweth shared it.

The handmade “signature” block quilt had embroidered on each block the name or signature of a different family member in Kansas.  In my last post – titled Wedding – you’ll recall I told the story about my Grandma Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake and how she suddenly moved, with her family, back to Illinois after her mother-in-law’s death.  This was Grandma Belle’s quilt.  Grandma Vera told me she remembers her mother putting the quilt together when she was a child.  Grandma Vera married in 1921 so this memory had to be from an early time.

Grandma Vera was always very practiced in “hand” skills.  He should crotchet, tat and sew with the best. She was no slouch when it came to sewing. She had asked her mother if she could help piece the blocks of the quilt together and help hand-sew the quilting stitches.  She said her mother smiled and said, “No, thank you. This is how I visit with my sisters and family.”  It seemed when she picked up each block, she thought of her sisters and nieces in Kansas. It had to be difficult to be so far away from her very close family.  The remaining siblings all lived near each other in Kansas. Grandma Lena Belle was the only child to move away.  Her quilt was much like a “prayer quilt” to her.  Each time she touched the blocks, she thought of or prayed for the family member.

The quilt has survived what has to be approaching 100 years.  It still seems very mystical to me.  I love to look closely at each block and divine the true personality of the owner.  Some were much more fancy than others; some were simple and plain in light colors. Others probably have hidden meanings long ago lost much like symbols on tombstones.  When I touch it, I see the loving hands of a great grandmother I never met, but know a lot about.  The stories I have been told about her keep her very much alive and this quilt rests on her lap while she carefully stitches each block together with sad, longing eyes and nimble fingers.

52 Ancestors’ Challenge – Wedding

Ed and Lena France Wedding Day_small

He was 29 and a bachelor who had moved to Kansas to take advantage of what was thought to be a better environment for his health.  She was 18, the third oldest daughter of a family of ten.  She had lost her mother in December of 1888 due to childbirth and now was taking in laundry and baking for bachelors in the neighborhood.  Her next oldest sister had been married just a year before while Mother was still living.  Belle was not so lucky.  She was not married until after her own mother’s death.  Thomas Edward France and Lena Belle Salmans were married on the 17th day of February 1889 most likely in Larned, KS.  The photo above was of their wedding day.

After living in Kansas for nine and a half years, Ed and Belle made their way back to Illinois to attend Ed’s mother’s funeral.  Lavina Clanin France had died at the age of 60 years.  Ed’s father, John, was still living in Fulton County, Illinois.  Ed and Belle had two living children by this time.  Lola was born in 1890 and Lee was born in 1892.  An infant daughter had died in 1895.  Ed, Belle, Lola and Lee supposedly took the train back to Illinois.  Once there, John France asked Ed and Belle to remain in Fulton County and set up housekeeping in his house.  He was 63 years old and didn’t want to keep house by himself.

It was well past six months before Belle could return to Kansas to bring back their things and say goodbye to her family.  The remaining nine Salmans siblings all lived in Kansas until their deaths.  Belle would never return to live there, but merely to visit her siblings.Two more children were born to Ed and Belle – two daughters – Essie in 1899 and Vera in 1902, but their son Lee died in 1906 of pneumonia breaking his parents’ hearts.

At the age of 51, Ed succumbed to pneumonia and died in 1910. It’s hard to say if abiding by his father’s request to move back to Illinois actually caused his demise.  Breathing issues are what had prompted his move west in the first place. Nevertheless, Belle was left with a farm, a father-in-law, and four children to care for.  Her daughter Vera often commented on Belle’s industrious nature and “farming” intelligence.  She was well known for the quality of her horses.  She managed the farm and put her share of physical labor into it with the help of a hired man, Milton Westlake.  Westlake was a widow also and worked for Belle for five years before they finally married in 1915.

Westlake, Milt & Lena Belle Salmans France

December 8, 1915 Milton A. Westlake and Lena Belle Salmans France married, both for the second time. Belle was 45 years old at the time of her second marriage; Milt was 47.  They were together for 31 years until Belle’s death.

She looks very proper in her first wedding photo.  She was only 19 at the time of her wedding and the world had no doubt weighed heavy on her shoulders.  She looks very happy in her second wedding picture.  Her children were grown, She had moved from Kansas to the France farm in Fulton County, IL and then moved again when the government bought her farm for an army camp.  Her life was ever-evolving.  She was a pioneer in more than one way during her life, yet she seemed to embrace the happiness of a new marriage and a new companion later in life.

it would be interesting to hear how different her thoughts were at her wedding at age 19 and her wedding at age 46.  What comparisons and contrasts could she provide.  What perspectives on life could she offer.  I hope to get to ask her someday in the Great Beyond.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Commencement

COMMENCEMENT – the act or instance of commencing; beginning.

Eliza Jane Hulvey (b:5 April 1832  d:25 March 1885) was the 13th and last child born to Philip and Amelia (Walters) Hulvey of Augusta County, Virginia.  She is my 3rd great grandmother and she is wrapped up in beginnings and endings.  She ultimately had to face a commencement any woman who is a mother knows would be the last scenario you could withstand.  Indulge me while I tell her somewhat complicated story.

John Sheets WhiteA marriage license was issued on 24 August 1854 for Eliza Jane Hulvey and John Sheets White.  Eliza and John were both 22 years old at the time.  However, their first child is listed with a birthdate in 1853.  Did they not apply for the actual license till much after the ceremony was performed? That question is yet to be answered.

John Sheets White

Their children were Mary Agnes White (b. 1853), an infant that died at birth in 1855, John Newton Ellisander White (b. 1856), James William White (b. 1857), Pricilla Emma White (b 1858) and Della Margaret White (b. 1860).  Della was my 2nd great grandmother.

According to the book Hulvey Clan Historical Ties by Velma June Good Hulvey, (p. 301) “They left Virginia and lived for a short time in Ohio.”  But family documents show John Sheets White listed as a Prisoner of War on September 27, 1862 after the Battle of Antietam during the US Civil War. The Battle of Antietam was held September 17, 1862.

Oath of Allegiance Eliza Jane Hulvey White

Oath of Allegiance Eliza Jane Hulvey White

However, family records also show Eliza and the five oldest children were in Ohio during this same time period when they contracted diptheria.  Legend has it an Indian woman nursed the family during their awful illness. Unfortunately, the four oldest children — Mary Agnes, John Newton Ellisander, James William and Pricilla Emma — all died from diptheria between the 2nd and 9th of September 1862. Only Della Margaret, the youngest and Eliza, her mother survived.  Eliza went from having a family of five children and a husband, to a woman who was unsure where her husband was during the war and a mother who had lost four children.

Records don’t help to bring this story into focus, though.  We only know that on 25th September of 1863, Eliza and two small children were given an Army pass to travel to Winchester, Virginia.  Della would have been one of the children.  The next child born was Elly Walters White (b. 1861 d. 1865).  If Elly was born in 1861, why was he not with Eliza and the other children when they contracted diptheria?

The next record shows a pass in October of 1863 at Martinsburg, VA for Miss L. White on B & R Railroad good for one day only.  An Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America accompanies the pass she received.  The Oath describes her as “Age: 29, Height: 5 ft. 3, Complexion: dark, Eyes:blue, Hair:brown”.

Not long after this John and Eliza must have been reunited as Robert Franklin White was born in August of 1864. By 1877, five more daughters and one son were born to John and Eliza.  Their family moved to Illinois where they would someday be buried.

The gaps in the records are still to be filled, but we know Eliza ultimately gave birth to 14 children in 23 years.  The first four children died of diptheria.  Della, the youngest at the time, survived to become the oldest of the remaining eight children who reached adulthood.  The end of the Civil War was the beginning of a new life for Eliza and John where their family would set down roots and continue to grow.  The commencement of a new life for her was not without its pain.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Military

Memorial Day is a genealogist’s Christmas, truly.  It’s a time when we honor our ancestors by decorating their graves and also a very important time to recognize our military.  The day was established after the Civil War to honor the dead.  I struggled with this weekly theme.  Both of my uncles (my mom’s brother and my dad’s brother) served in the United States Army. My own dad served in the National Guard, but my grandparents, Elzie and Vera Chenoweth, made a great sacrifice in the name of military also.  They served in a unique way.

Elzie Chenoweth and Vera France Chenoweth about 1920

Elzie Chenoweth and Vera France Chenoweth about 1920

In 1981 I convinced my Grandma Vera Chenoweth to dictate the story to me of their farm and what happened when a military camp came into the neighborhood.  Fortunately it was printed in a lovely book titled, “Tales of Two Rivers II”, published by the Two Rivers Arts Council and Western Illinois University’s College of Fine Arts Development.  Rather than write my interpretation of the events, I decided to go back to the primary source and let Grandma tell the story.  So I present to you, from my Grandmother Vera Viola France Chenoweth, the following story — “US Was Written on the Cars”

It started in the spring of 1941. We would see strange cars going up and down the road.  Some of our neighbors said they saw “US” written on the cars.  This went on all summer and we all passed anything we heard back and forth. The in the fall, we saw men surveying for the roads and the sewers that ran under the roads. But you couldn’t get anything out of those guys.  They wouldn’t tell you anything.  Then one day, Elzie (my grandfather, Elzie Chenoweth — pictured above) went to bale hay at the neighbors, and he told everyone that he’d heard we were going to get a camp because he’d seen them unloading cats.  Well, everybody thought he meant “Cat” tractors, bulldozers, but after they questioned him, he jokingly said it was “tomcats”. 

Next thing, those men came to our house and asked Elzie to walk the farm with them.  They’d asked different questions and every once in a while, they’d scribble something down, but they wouldn’t tell anything either.

By the Spring of 1942, we had rented a Macomb farm, afraid they’d build the camp and we wouldn’t have any place to go.  Then we saw water towers being built between Ipava and Table Grove.We’d get up to milk in the morning, and we’d see the lights over by the water towers where they were working.  Then they started building some long storage sheds, and by September, the government had purchased 8,500 acres of surrounding farmland.  By the 10th of September, before the corn had even matured, they brought in bulldozers and plowed up the fields, corn and all, and were getting it ready for building.

We got a notice on February 1, 1943, that we had to be off our farm by March 1, 1943 — a month from then. We didn’t now where we were going to be.  So we had a sale.  Our sale was on Friday, February 26th. Things sold well.  People came from everywhere, because all the neighbors had to sellout, too.  We had a rubber-tired truck, built for us by Cecil Wright for $65 early in the year, and it sold for $200.  Woven wire fences went for $1 a rod.  We had to get our hay and straw out of the barns, because they were going to tear them down.  On Saturday, the 27th of February, one day after our sale, we had read bad weather, a blizzard.  We had planned to move that day, but didn’t know what to do.  Our boys weren’t old enough to help a lot.  Our oldest son was only twelve.  But Elzie’s brother and Oliver Smith came and helped us move that day to Macomb.  On Sunday, the government workers were in, tearing down our barns and letting the boards fall on our horses and tractor that we didn’t have moved yet.  

While it was going on, lots of newspaper men came in to do stories on the new camp. People in Macomb thought it was great. I was going to improve business for them.  Everyone around us told us to fight it, but we went to Illiopolis, and talked to them and decided it wouldn’t do any good; just one man fighting the government. 

When we were moving, it was every neighbor for himself.  Normally neighbors would hep each other, but all of us were moving.  Some folks closed up farming; some went to farm somewhere else.

On July 4, 1943, they had an open house at Camp Ellis.  They said there were 8,000 soldiers at the camp … on land that used to belong to us and our neighbors.

There are a few notes I need to add to Grandma’s writing. 

  1. First, my Grandpa Elzie was a big joker, so it was not surprising to hear he had tricked the neighbors with his cat joke.
  2. Cities mentioned in this article are all in Illinois . Macomb is in McDonough County.  Table Grove and Ipava are in Fulton County.  Illiopolis is near Springfield, IL.
  3. When Grandma mentions the neighbors, she is really talking about her extended family.  The Chenoweth and France family had lived and owned farm land in this neighborhood since the 1850’s. My father was the 5th generation to live in the house on the farm. The house was torn down when the camp came in.
  4. “Elzie’s brother” refers to Harry Chenoweth.  Oliver Smith was a cousin to Elzie on his mother’s side. Oliver Smith’s wife was Mazie Swise Smith. Grandpa Elzie’s mother was Dolly Swise Chenoweth.  Mazie and Dollie were sisters, however, Oliver was the same age as Grandpa Elzie — Dollie’s son.
  5. My grandparents purchased a farm near Macomb using the good word of the Table Grove, IL bank and the promise of the federal government to later pay them for the land.  In 1968, Grandpa and Grandma retired and moved into the city of Macomb to live — some 25 years after having to leave the original farm.

The most important part of this story was one I lived – it was the example my grandparents gave us.  Grandpa Elzie died at the age of 88; Grandma died at 93.  In all the years I had shared with them (25 with Grandpa and 34 with Grandma), I never once heard them speak with anger or bitterness over having lost the farm to the government.  This was war time — World War II.  Their cousins and neighbors were losing sons.  They would lose their hired man in France several days after D Day.  I distinctly remember Grandma saying they felt it was their duty to help in the war effort by giving up the land. Through their example of patriotism and sacrifice, I consider this the way my grandparents served in the military.  On this Memorial Day Weekend, please remember those who have served our country whether it be in uniform or in support of those in uniform.  God Bless America.

The Patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s Tree.  Thomas Campbell.