#52AncestorsIn52Weeks – Oldest

Top Row: Left to right – Elzie Chenoweth (grandfather), Dollie Swise Chenoweth (great-grandmother), Eleanor Senate Lawrence Harrison (2nd great grandmother)

Bottom Row: Left to right – Elias Birdine Chenoweth (2nd great grandfather), Della Margaret White Swise (2nd great grandmother)

Back in college, I took a class about families.  It seemed like a blow-off class with little information of importance.  Boy, was I wrong!  We studied birth-order of children.  It was fascinating and I still relate to what I learned there.  With the topic of oldest this week, I went way back to this class and comments my sister often makes.  “I didn’t have to remember that family trivia, you’re the oldest.  You always remember for me,” is a comment she frequently makes.  The other has something to do with the fact if something is not functioning at home, I quickly try to fix it myself which once led to me taking the one toilet out of our house to repair it.

Oldest children to have a tendency to do things differently.  Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist, was one of the first to develop this theory.  Supposedly the first-born child is the high achiever, the middle-born child the peacemaker and the youngest child is the outgoing charmer. It’s difficult to tell if that’s accurate.  Science sure can’t do it, but here is what I do know.

As a first-born or oldest child, I was my parents’ experiment.  They developed their parenting skills on me as do most parents.  By the time the next child comes along, they have skipped the books, discussion groups, forums, and advice giving columns.  The oldest child is the one who was an only child for a while.  They are the child who had the adults’ single focus.  In the beginning, they didn’t have to share the adult attention. It does make a difference.

After considering the topic for the week, I began thinking that most of my direct ancestors are not first-born children.  The first four – Elzie through Elias – were all first-born children as am I.  FIVE first-borns out of 31 possibilities – (16 – 2nd great grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 4 grandparents, 2 parents and me).  In fact, most of my ancestors were youngest or near the youngest 1/3 of their family.  Families were much bigger in the old days, so if you fell in the bottom 1/3 of 9 children, you might as well have been the youngest.

It did make me consider what kind of effect it had on my ancestors, their choice of spouses, their occupations, the way they interacted with their siblings.  Just some deep thinking for a rainy Sunday.

The last young lady in the group of photos is Della Margaret White Swise.  She was #5 of 5 in 1862.  As her mother came west to Illinois, leaving Virginia and the Civil War and Della’s father in the Army, the four oldest children and their mother contracted diphtheria in Ohio.  Family history says they were nursed by an Indian woman.  The other four children died.  Only Della – being under the age of two – and her mother survived.  She went from being the youngest in the family to being the oldest.

The story of Della and her family ends happily.  Their father, apparently after his term of service in the Army, went west to find the family in Illinois.  He must have been very happy to see his wife, Eliza Jane Hulvey White and Della.  You see, Della went from being the youngest of five children, to the oldest of 10!  How’s that for a switch from youngest to oldest!

52 Ancestors Challenge – 32

The theme this week refers to the number of the current week of the year…32 out of 52.  Difficult to believe more than one-half of the year has passed us by and I feel I still have many stories to share.  This theme was vague and left me to ponder many ideas.

I considered looking up important events that happened during different ancestors’ 32 year of life.  Fortunately Ancestry.com makes this an option with their timeline feature.  Most of the female ancestors I looked up had given birth in their 32nd year.  Quite surprising when you consider 32 years old seems older than we usually think about for childbirth these days.

My other thought was to find important events ancestors had lived through in the “32 years” – 1632, 1732, 1832, 1932 and so forth.  Unfortunately, this was much more difficult than I imagined and I’m ready to send Ancestry a suggestion for another feature they can add!

I settled on 32 questions I would like to ask an ancestor.  Specifically, I chose 32 different ancestors and have one question for them to answer.  If somehow from the great beyond they are able to send me the answers, please do so-preferably in a typeset page and signed by you or a letter written in your best penmanship, sealed with your personal seal in red wax.  Asking too much?

Without further ado, here is my list of “32 Questions I Wish To Know The Answers To”

  1. 2nd Great Grandfather – August Yess – Why did you leave Germany and who were your parents?  You’ve always been a difficult nut to crack and I seem to be willing to go to all ends of the earth to solve this one.  I’m learning German language this fall just to find clues!
  2. 2nd Great Grandmother – Permelia Jane Ellis Chenoweth – You had brothers and nephews and cousins who were involved in the Civil War. What kind of impact did it leave on you?
  3. 2nd Great Grandfather – Elias Birdine Chenoweth –  In your business papers, I have found many papers where you lent money to others and deeds where you purchased land.  What was your secret of business?
  4. 2nd Great Grandmother – Mary V. Peroni – You were born in France. Where, who were your parents and where did you meet your husband?  (That’s only one question even though there are several parts if you are keeping score.)
  5. 2nd Great Grandmother – Eleanor Senate Lawrence – What is the importance of your middle name?  I don’t seem to find any other connection to tell me why you have “Senate” as your middle name.
  6. 2nd Great Grandmother – Veronica Bootz (Schmitt) Smith – Was my 2nd great grandfather your second husband?  Some records seem to indicate that might be the case.
  7. 6th Great Grandfather – Hammond Harrison – You were born around 1715 in Yorkshire, England.  What was your occupation and what was your day-to-day life like?
  8. 7th Great Grandfather – John Chenoweth – You were born in St. Martin’s, Cornwall, England. In 1682 at age 23, you had immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland.   How difficult was the journey and why did our family choose Baltimore?
  9. 3rd Great Grandmother – Mariah Sherman – Are you related to General WilliamTecumseh Sherman?
  10. 3rd Great Uncle – Jonathan McBride Brown – You served in the 78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, but your son in law served for the Confederate Army.  Did you ever meet in battle?
  11. 4th Great Grandfather – Michael France – You were born in 1776 in Virginia.  What did your family share with you of that historic year?
  12. 2nd Great Grandfather – Daniel Medi – You and Mary had eight daughters and everyone of them had the first name of Mary.  (Mary Josephine, Mary Victoria, Mary Margaret, Mary Augusta, etc)  Beside the fact you apparently were a devout Catholic, what were you thinking?
  13. Great Grandfather – Thomas Edward France – You were sent West for your health and you went to the middle of Kansas.  Why did you pick Kansas?
  14. 3rd Great Grandmother – Eliza Jane Hulvey Sheets – During the Civil War, you went west to Illinois and during the trip, you and your children became ill with diptheria.  Who cared for you and when did you find out that four out of five of your children had died?
  15. Great Grandmother – Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake – You lived in Kansas on the prairie as a young woman. What was your life like helping to take care of your siblings in those days?
  16. 3rd Great Grandfather – Christian Swise – You were born in Hanover, Germany, but by age 26 you were in the United States and getting married.  Tell me what brought you here and about the journey.
  17. Great Grandfather – Thomas Edward France – Please tell me the story about you holding my grandmother, Vera, and your sister asking you what “brat” that was?  How did that make you feel?
  18. 2nd Great Grandmother – Teresa Hanlach Yess – You and my great grandfather, Augustus, came to Peoria, IL in the 1850’s and amassed quite an estate.  You outlived him and five of your six children.  How did you hold the estate together and who did you rely on?
  19. 2nd Great Aunt – Amanda Yess –  Documents show you were in a mental hospital in Bartonville.  What challenges were you facing that caused this?
  20. 2nd Great Aunt – Sarah Alice Salmans Abbott – You were the oldest of 10 children of Levi Franklin and Rosa Jane Brown Salmans. Your mother died when you were 22 and you remained at home until age 33 to take care of your siblings.  When you did marry at 33, tell me what your wedding day was like after caring for this large family?
  21. Grandfather John E. Yess – You lost your father before you were a year old.  When you were two, your mother remarried.  What was your relationship like with your step-father?
  22. Great Grandmother – Mary Josephine Medi Yess Hargadine – You lost your father and mother within the same year.  One year later you gave birth to your second child, and within another nine months your husband passed away.  What did you do to survive?
  23. Great Grandmother – Amelia Jane Harrison Smith – You were born in 1868 and lived 83 years.  You came from a large family.  How close did you remain to your siblings throughout your life and what did you do to stay in touch?
  24. 2nd Great Grandfather – Johann B. Schmitt – John Smith – You were born in Bavaria in 1828 and immigrated to the United States.  What were your thoughts when you changed your name from a German version to an English version in 1856?
  25. 3rd Great Grandfather – Solomon Harrison Ellis – You were born in Georgia in 1805.  Why did you move to Illinois even though it appears the rest of your family remained in the South?
  26. 4th Great Grandfather – George Ellis – You were born in Mecklenburg County ,Virginia; by age 11, your family lived in Rowan County, North Carolina. You died in Copiah County, Mississippi. Tell me about the journeys of your life and why you moved so often?
  27. 6th Great Grandmother – Alida Lydia Pruyn Logan– (1707-1788) You lived in New York until you were 40 and then you and Andrew show up in South Carolina.  What was happening in South Carolina in the 1770’s and 1780’s during the Revolutionary War and how did it affect you?
  28. 5th Great Grandfather – (Major) Francis Logan – According to a descendant’s SAR application, you served as a Captain in the camp at Ninety Six, SC during the American Revolution.  What did you witness there and during your 93 years of life?
  29. Grandmother – Jessie Smith Yess  – I was fortunate to have you to ask questions of for much of my life, but what did you enjoy playing when you were a child?  I think you were a tomboy, is that correct?
  30. Grandmother – Vera France Chenoweth – Again, I was able to ask you many questions first hand, but you were very talented at crocheting, tatting, and sewing.  Who taught you these skills?
  31. Grandfather – Elzie Chenoweth – You answered many of my questions about family when I was a child, but was your mother a good cook and what was your favorite meal for someone to make for you?
  32. To all my ancestors – Did you ever feel you would be forgotten, because you haven’t.

I’ll let you know if I get any letters posted to me with red wax seals on them.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – EASY

Signed checks by Elzie Chenoweth, Wm. Chenoweth, Elias Chenoweth and Dollie Chenoweth

Signed checks by Elzie Chenoweth, Wm. Chenoweth, Elias Chenoweth and Dollie Chenoweth

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Family history books of Salmans, France, Hulvey, and German families of Quincy, IL

Levi Franklin Salmans family

Levi Franklin Salmans family

They made it easy.  Really.  Whether it was asking questions to discover family members or tracing the genealogy of the family, they – my ancestors – made it easy.  They left records, notes, stories.  My Grandma Chenoweth had meticulously handwritten the names of her family on the back of photos.  She kept a diary also.   My Grandma Yess has handwritten the family genealogy. It was important we knew the stories of the family and knew where we came from. She wanted us to know how important it was we were related to the prolific Harrison family of Peoria county.  She wanted us to know even though her maiden name was Smith, it really should have been Schmitt.  Her grandparents had immigrated from Germany.

My parents are the current archivists of many of the family heirlooms.  This includes the old deeds, checks and pictures of the family.  It’s a true joy to rifle through the old family bible with records handwritten in German, read the letters written to my grandparents by a World War II soldier who used to work for them, and to gaze at the faces of family members.  Is it just me or do you see the same faces repeated over and over within a family?

One year for Christmas my parents gave my sister, my two cousins and I each a cancelled check from my grandfather, great grandfather and great grandmother and 2nd great grandfather.   I took those, along with photos of each of those individuals and a couple of the funeral cards from those family members and had them framed.  It’s interesting to see who the checks were written to and to compare the nearly identical signatures on the checks.

Many of the family photos have information typed or written on them much like the Levi Franklin Salmans photo above.  What a tool this is!  I can easily take this photo and compare it to the other loose photos within the box and separate out the different siblings and their children based on this photo.

The family stories are priceless.  Someone took time out of their busy day to reflect on what would be important to the family in the future.  They didn’t sugar coat the story, but told the reality of what life was like and the challenges they faced.  Those  pithy stories are what inspire us to persevere.

I’ve begun collecting recipes handwritten by my Mom, aunt, grandmothers and other family members . Recipes tell a surprising amount of information.  There’s Ethel’s Salad written in my Grandma Yess’ handwriting.  I’m not sure who Ethel was, but apparently Grandma liked her salad.  Other recipe cards refer to Aunt So & So’s German Chocolate Cake, or Cousin So & So’s bread and butter pickles. You can tell which recipes were the favorites by the stains on the card.

It may not seem very important to you today, but imagine how interesting it was for me to read my Grandma Vera Chenoweth’s diary and find out she had her FIRST decorated birthday cake at the age of 52!  I hadn’t ever considered the idea of how unique a decorated cake would  have seemed to her.  It gave me a perspective to think at age 54 how often I had a decorated cake for an occasion.

It was very easy to begin my journey to family genealogy thanks to those ancestors.  I vow to make it easy for my ancestors to find it easy also.  Hopefully this blog can be saved in perpetuity and someday my great great granddaughter can laugh at the picture of me in my high school basketball uniform.  My future grandson or granddaughter can grow to appreciate the stories of their ancestors as much as I have.

WRITE IT DOWN, please!  Write about your daily life. Write about your first experience at school, your first love, your first job, your biggest triumph or disappointment in life.  Share the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak.  The more honest you are when writing, the more people understand what a complex creature you are and a treasure.

EASY

E – Elaborate – tell as much as you can

A – Acknowledge – share who was important to you.  First teacher who left an impact, a coach who pushed you, or a friend who stood by your side should be acknowledge.

S – Spell it out!  Write so that the person reading can piece together the relationships of those you are referring to.

Y – YOU – only YOU can leave this legacy. No one else can tell the story like you can.  Write when the notion hits you or do it every day.  Either will work, but just make sure to write and reflect.

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 – 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.

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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 – 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 – 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.

52 Ancestor Challenge – Live Long

“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

The Egyptians put great emphasis on keeping the names of their pharaohs  maintained on their tombs, in halls and records.  They believed their pharaohs were immortal as long as their names remained for everyone to see. Genealogy is not unlike that belief.  In maintaining records and family trees, we believe we can give some measure of immortality to our ancestors.

My parents were children of the late 1930’s; my grandparents were born in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.  I was fortunate enough to personally know all my grandparents.  I was even more lucky to hear the stories they told of their parents and grandparents.  And with that set of memories, I easily move back to the 1830’s – almost 185 years in the past.

Elzie Chenoweth and Vera France Chenoweth about 1920

Elzie Chenoweth and Vera France Chenoweth about 1920

The picture above is of my paternal grandparents, Elzie Chenoweth (1897-1986) and Vera France Chenoweth (1902 – 1995).  Both lived long prosperous lives and saw their great grandchildren born.  With the blessing of videotape, I can still see them and hear them whenever I want. Grandma Vera was a daily diary writer and I still love to pick them up and read what she had recorded each day.  I hear her voice reading it when I see her handwriting.  She lives on through her writing. I hope to do that someday also.

Jessie Smith Yess  (1899-1990)

Jessie Smith Yess
(1899-1990)

John Yess (1896-1985)

John Yess (1896-1985)

These pictures are of my maternal grandparents Jessie Smith Yess and John Yess.  These youthful pictures of them remind me they once were young and just beginning their lives.  My grandmother had been a schoolteacher and quite frequently wrote down quotes or poems she liked.  We still have many letters and poems Grandma Jessie wrote.

Obituary of August Yess (1829-1905)

Obituary of August Yess (1829-1905)

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

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

The obituary at the left is of the man pictured on the right.  August Yess is my 2nd great grandfather and a German immigrant.  He became prosperous after immigrating to the United States and owned a lot of land in Peoria County, Illinois. The picture of August and Theresa Yess, as well as the obituary of August Yess, gives immortality to them also.

Immortality as defined by Websters dictionary, means “unending life”.  Pictures, stories, documents catalogued bring unending life to our ancestors and thus immortality.  It’s vital to honor our friends, relatives and ancestors by recording their names with photos.  We honor them when we repeat their names, when we tell their stories, when we remember them. They live long.