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Posts Tagged ‘Genealogy’

When my sister-in-law visited us this month she brought with her a stack of old pictures, many of which we had never seen before. Most of the pictures were of members of my husband’s family. Both sides were represented, his father’s family and his mother’s family. I scanned them all. Then we decided to identify as many people as we could. Some had names written on the back. Some had things like “mother” or “grandfather” written on them. We had to know who wrote on it to determine who was in the picture or, in some cases, we recognized them from other pictures we had. What started out as simply scanning the pictures turned into a major project of genealogical research.

Seated - L J and Joannah Howell.

Seated – L J and Joannah Howell.

Technically, I had to figure out how to put the names of the people on the scanned photos. I tried using the software we got with the camera we bought a couple of years ago, but many of the group photos didn’t have room to type all the names in a text box. Then I discovered that when viewing the scanned photo in Windows 7 Pictures I could add a comment to the file. So I typed the names of all the people we could identify into this comment field. You can’t see the field when viewing the pictures in slide-show mode, but you can have the information as part of the picture’s file.

To help get the names right, I signed into Ancestry.com where my son created an extensive family tree. My sister-in-law had never been on Ancestry.com. She was so impressed she decided to sign up for membership when she got home.

Together we searched the families and filled in the names. Of course, we got sucked into the genealogy. I showed her how we could search for details on a person by searching census records and military records. I also shared with her some records that I had printed out. We spent hours searching, reading and updating.

It’s funny how you see different pieces of information and then suddenly make the connection. An example is the research I did for my husband to find the ancestor who served in the Confederate Cavalry and rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest. He’d heard stories from his grandmother and great-grandmother who at one time had some old pistols and a uniform. But he was so small that when he grew older he questioned the truth of the stories. The artifacts had been long ago sold or given away. So I searched and found that Lee J. Howell served in the 18th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment which was organized in West Tennessee where they lived. The 18th came under the command of General Nathan B. Forrest in 1864.

Lee J. Howell - older man sitting on right

Lee J. Howell – older man sitting on right

We were looking up members of the Howell family to help understand the names and relationships of the people in the pictures. That’s when I put two and two together and realized Lee J. Howell was my husband’s Great-Great-Grandfather. His full name was Levi J. Howell, but according to census records he went by Lee. And the Great-Grandmother who told my husband the stories about the Civil War was Lee J. Howell’s daughter, Bell.

I also found Lee J. Howell in the 1920 census at age 87 living in the household of his son-in-law, which means he was living with his youngest daughter who had married a man named William Hockaday. That solved the mystery of the pictures which had written on them names of members of the Hockaday family.  Before making this discovery we didn’t know who the Hockaday’s were.

Jack Hockaday

Jack Hockaday

Research into families can be fascinating, especially when various pieces of information are shared. Each piece adds something to the puzzle.

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With the U. S. Postal Service’s proposal to cut Saturday service in the news, I thought of all the members of my extended family who worked for the Post Office over the years. I also thought of how Post Offices in small towns across America have contributed to these communities. I grew up in one of these small towns and, with my family connections, I saw first hand the contributions it made.

Post Office 1960

New Post Office 1960

Everyone in a small town visited the Post Office. It served businesses and individuals selling postage, shipping packages, providing Post Office boxes for mail delivery as well as general delivery services and rural delivery. In the days before email, people wrote letters and sent cards at Christmas, for birthdays or in sympathy. Businesses sent out bills and people paid them by mail, and often paid with Postal money orders. Legal documents that required signatures to confirm receipt went through the local Post Office. No express package carriers delivered the catalog orders or the special deliveries. The Post Office was the communications hub for the community.

And, often, the Post Office was a gathering place. Workers at the local Post Office knew everyone in the area, both names and addresses. They knew where people came from or where they have moved; they knew family connections, childrens names, and who worked where.

In our small town, as in those across the country, rural mail delivery made up an important part of the service provided by the Post Office. In years past, the rural mail carrier might have been the only connection to the outside world many country folks had. The carrier brought the mail and the news. He or she could be counted on to be there – every day.

Post Office Employees in My Family

In the late 1930’s my grandmother, Elvira Boone, was appointed Postmaster of our small town. Unlike many women of the time, she had attended Bethel College and she had worked for years as a bookkeeper in her brother-in-law’s drug store. So she had the qualifications. Her cousin, a U. S. Congressman, was credited with obtaining the appointment for her. Prominent members of the local community must have added their recommendations.  No doubt her appointment wrankled some local men who undoubtedly thought a prominent, well-paid position such as Postmaster should not go to a woman. Yet her calm, business-like manner gained her the respect of the entire community. She managed the office and its employees, most of whom were men, with few complaints. Elvira was Postmaster until the was forced to retire in 1963 at age 70.

Elvira Boone, Postmaster

Elvira Boone, Postmaster

Elvira & William at Postmasters Convention in San Francisco

Elvira & William at Postmasters Convention in San Francisco

During her career as Postmaster she attended numerous Annual Postmaster’s Conventions across the country. My sister went with her to a convention in Washington, D. C. and my Uncle William accompanied her on several trips.

My grandmother was not the first postal employee in the family. According to a family story, my fraternal grandfather was a rural mail carrier for a time. He delivered the mail by horse and buggy. Once when he tried to ford a creek swollen from rain, his buggy turned over and he was washed down the creek. This incident upset my grandmother so much that he gave up the rural route.

Post Office Employees, Erin, Tn. 1950's

Post Office Employees, Erin, Tn. 1950’s

Many more family members worked for the Post Office over the years. This picture was taken during my grandmother’s tenure as Postmaster, probably in the 1950’s. From left to right: Thomas Douglas – Clerk (my Father’s Cousin), Roland Roby – Rural Carrier (my Father’s Sister’s Husband – my Uncle), Guy Knight – Rural Carrier (my Father’s Brother- my Uncle), Ewing Rainwater – Clerk (my Mother’s Sister’s Husband – my Uncle), Dunc Dillon – rural Carrier (no relation), Pat McCarty – Rural Carrier (no relation), Bill Smith – Rural Carrier or Clerk (no relation), Elvira Boone (my maternal Grandmother).

In the late 1950’s my mother began her Postal career as a Substitute-Substitute Clerk.  She worked when the full-time Clerk or the Substitute Clerk was sick or on vacation. At that time the local office employed only one full-time Clerk. When the mail volume was heavy, the Substitute Clerk worked longer hours, and additional hours were authorized for the Substitute-Substitute Clerk, especially before Christmas. The Rural Mail Carriers worked part-time, coming in early every morning to sort the mail for their route and delivering it in their own vehicles. The length of their workday depended on the volume of mail that day and the length of their route.

Up until the 1960’s, mail arrived via train each morning and afternoon. In the early years, my mother would work two hours in the morning to sort the incoming mail and distribute it to the rural carriers. Then she would go home and return for another two hours in the afternoon to again sort incoming and outgoing mail. Not many people wanted to be available to work when needed or to work these hours.

When the town grew, a second full-time clerk was authorized. My mother moved up to the Substitute Clerk position and her hours increased. By this time we children were old enough for her to be away from home more. Later, she was promoted to full-time Clerk. She retired in 1989 with a good pension. Within a few years this pension, along with one my father left her, paid for the cost of her care as an Alzheimber’s patient.  I will always be grateful that she not only had the income during her active lifetime but also when she became ill.

The family connection to the Post Office extended far beyond our small, local community. One of my mother’s sisters, Wildred, worked in the Akron, Ohio, Post Office until her retirement. A letter from my mother’s aunt Eunice, dated 1942, mentioned that her daughter Lemoine worked at the Post Office in Sitka, Alaska.

So when I hear of the Postal Service is having financial diffuculties and that Postal employees are losing their jobs, I think of what those jobs meant to my family. Over the years the Postal Service has provided jobs not only for minorities and veterans, but for women who had little opportunity for steady, good-paying jobs with benefits.  Even though we have other means of communication these days, the Postal Service provides vital services. I, for one, think we should support the Postal Service as an essential government function. It’s not really a money-making business like some want to make it. It is a vital part of our national infastructure.

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Was my ancestor wounded at Malvern Hill or Gettysburg? Accounts differ, but they provide fascinating information about the battles and his unit’s participation in those battles.

E. D. Boone

E. D. Boone

Etheldred D. Boone enlisted in Company B 14th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA. The regiment was organized near Clarksville, Tennessee, in June, 1861.  Along with the 1st Tennessee and the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, the 14th completed the three regiments that made up the Tennesse Brigade assigned to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Company B, organized in Palmyra, consisted of members primarily from Montgomery County. E. D. Boone lived in what was then Stewart County near the town of Erin, which later became the county seat of Houston County. In 1861 Palmyra was a thriving community a few miles and a short train ride from Erin. The train ran through Erin to Cumberland City then along the Cumberland River to Palmyra and on to Clarksville.

As part of Lee’s campaign to save the Confederate capital, Malvern Hill was the last of the Seven Days Battle for Richmond which began at the Battle of Oak Grove on June 25, 1862, and ended at Malvern Hill on July 1st.

In a letter written in 1909 by a surviving member of Company B to E. D. Boone’s son, Samuel B. Powers stated that E. D. Boone was wounded at Malvern Hill. See the full text of the letter from Samuel B. Powers at the end of this post.

In 1862 the Tennessee Brigade, commanded by James J. Archer, was attached to A. P. Hill’s division of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On June 26th Hill’s division engaged the Union forces at Beaver Dam Creek and again at Gaines Mill on June 27th. The division fought at Glendale on June 30. But, on July 1st,  A. P. Hill’s division, exhausted from the previous days fighting, was held in reserve during the Battle of Malvern Hill.

So could my ancestor have been wounded at Malvern Hill? With all the fighting over a seven-day period, it is possible that he was wounded during this campaign. The battle at Glendale took place on the approach to Malvern Hill where the Union forces had retreated to the high ground. A large number of Union troops had dug in on the hill, with artillery in place, prepared to make their stand when the Confederates attacked on July 1st. At the time the names of the various battles were not as distinct as they are today. Historians have given names to the various actions based on specific locations and dates, yet the soldiers on the field may have referred to them differently. If he was wounded at Malvern Hill, as the letter states, he was probably wounded on June 30 in what is now called the Battle of Glendale.

But then there is the other account – that E. D. Boone was wounded at Gettysburg. In my grandmother’s library a book titled “A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans” (1913) contained biographies and histories of prominent Tennesseans. My grandfather’s write-up told of his father’s service in the Confederate Army. “…serving therewith until the battle of Gettysburg, when he was seriously wounded during Pickett’s charge. He was carried back with the army into Virginia, and remained in the hospital at Richmond until the close of the war, and for some time thereafter was compelled to use crutches.” The source of this information is unknown.

The Tennessee Brigade, including the 14th Tennessee Regiment, did participate in the battle of Gettysburg as part of Henry Heth’s Division in A. P. Hill’s Third Corp. Their commander, James J. Archer, was captured on the first day, July 1, 1863. Command passed to Birkett D. Fry who led the Tennessee Brigade at the forefront of Pickett’s famous charge on July 3, 1863. Elements of the 14th reached the Union lines but lost their battle flag to the Yankees within their battle works.

One hundred men, of the original one thousand, reformed the 14th Tennessee Regiment on the day after Gettysburg. By the surrender at Appomattox Court House the following year only 40 men remained.  Regardless of when he was wounded, E. D. Boone served with honor, was wounded and his widow received a widow’s pension.

Due to his untimely death in 1873 of cholera, E. D. Boone never had the opportunity to tell his son about his military experiences. Perhaps by requesting copies of E. D. Boone’s military record and his widow’s pension application from the Tennessee State Archives, I will be able to obtain more information about his service.

Letter written to W. R. Boone by Samuel B. Powers regarding E.D. Boone’s service in the Confederate Army.

RFD # 1
Palmyra, Tenn.
Feb 12th, 1909
 
Mr. W. R. Boone
Erin, Tenn.

I received a note from Capt. W. G. Russell a few days ago with a letter from you enclosed making inquiry about E. D. Boone who was a member of Co. B 14th Tenn. Regt. in Confederate Army. Being a member of the same company I was very intimate with him. I waited on him through a spell of fever while in the Army. From your letter I think you want to know in what Battle he was wounded. It seems that the old boys of other companies do not agree about the battle he was wounded in. I have talked with your father since the war. He told me he was wounded at Malvern Hill, the last of the seven days fight before Richmond VA. If you will see a history of that fight you will see it commenced the 26th of June & ended the 1st day  July 1862.

Respectfully Yours,

Saml. B. Powers

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Was my great-grandmother a real estate mogul? Not likely. But she did buy and sell real estate at a time when women were supposed to stay home, keep house and raise children. We’ve found her name on several deeds, from 1892 to 1914, some in prime locations in the downtown district of the thriving community. She passed on her real estate savvy to her son, my grandfather, who invested in several land parcels. Disposing of his real estate sent me on a search where I found more than deeds.

Great-grandmother Boone & Aunt Lura

Old deeds can provide another tool for genealogical research. Although they are not likely to be available on the internet, if you are willing to search through courthouse records, they can provide a valuable resource in learning about your ancestors. Which is what I have done, not for the sole purpose of genealogy, but for the purpose of settling an old estate.

It might seem incredible to some but my grandfather’s estate, at least the real estate portion of it, has never been settled. Not so bad you say, except he died in 1921. Yes, that’s ninety-one years ago. He left a widow and nine children, including my four-year-old mother. All the children are gone now, so it is up to the grandchildren to settle his estate. With so many heirs, the property must be sold and the proceeds divided up. After the lawyers take their share, no one will get much, but my hope is to get it settled before the hundred-year mark.

Before selling real estate you must have the deed. The task of locating these documents has proved to be difficult. Although my family paid the real estate taxes all these many years, when the lawyers searched for the deeds they couldn’t find them all. Or rather, they couldn’t match the deeds they found with the property. So my dear brother and his wife went to the courthouse and scanned every deed they could find that might be related to our family. Scanning them was an enormous task. Reading them and making sense of them proved to be something entirely different.

Have you ever read a hand written deed from before 1900? If not, it is an experience you should try at least once – if you have the patience. Needless to say, I volunteered for the job.  I had deciphered some old deeds from the 1800’s passed down in my husband’s family so I didn’t go into it entirely blind. I’ve also spent time on Ancestry.com reading census records and other handwritten documents. So I used those experiences as a guide. I knew the people involved, at least I knew their names from our genealogical records. Finally, I knew the location of the property. I grew up in the small town and my mother made a point of showing us the property when we were younger.

The deeds I looked at were dated as early as 1871 and as late as the 1950’s. The ones prior to the 1920’s were hand-written. The old descriptions might refer to an “oak tree” or a “tree stump” that is long gone and usually list adjoining property owners who years ago sold their land. The people involved are no longer living. Roads have been moved or widened or re-named or no longer exist. So it has been quite a challenge.

The silver-lining to all this work has been the insight I gained about my Great-grandmother Boone. My mother and grandmother rarely spoke of the woman although she lived near them and was obviously a part of their lives. I got the impression from my grandmother that Great-grandmother Boone was the stereo-typical mother-in-law, always critical. Perhaps that came from her own difficult life.

At age 23 she was left a widow with two small children. Both her husband and father-in-law died during a cholera epidemic in 1873. I don’t know how she survived in the ensuing years. I do know that over time she became a business woman. She managed to send her son to Edgewood Academy,  a prominent boarding school in the area. And she invested in real estate.

By 1900, census records tell us she owned her home, free of mortgage, and she took in boarders. Both the 1910 and 1920 censuses show that she ran a hotel, which she rented, and she had employees. According to family lore, she and her daughter ran the hotel for the railroad. It sat facing the railroad tracks across the street from the train station. She purchased a lot on Market Street (the main drag) in 1914 which became the location of the Central Hotel when the building was moved in 1921.

In the early 20th century, Erin was a thriving railroad town where twenty or more trains came through each day because it was the shortest route from Nashville to Memphis. The high ridge west of town meant each west-bound locomotive needed the help of a hill engine to get it to the top of the hill. The train would stop in Erin so that the additional engine could be hooked up. A turn-around track enabled the hill engine to reverse directions both in town and atop the ridge.  Over time the railroad decided that a longer route was more economical than utilizing the hill engine so traffic declined. But during the railroad’s heyday, my great-grandmother’s hotel would have been a thriving business.

When her daughter-in-law died in 1911 leaving six small children, my great-grandmother refused to raise her son’s children. She was 61 and running her own business. My other, and younger, great-grandmother and great-grandfather moved in with my grandfather and took over the day-to-day responsibilities of running the household and caring for the children. Comments in later years from one of my aunts conveyed my grandfather’s disappointment in his mother. Family resentment carried down through the generations.

As a career woman and grandmother myself, I have some understanding of my great-grandmother’s viewpoint. She had raised her children to adulthood alone. She had moved on to become a business woman active in her church and community. At her age taking on the responsibility of caring for a baby, a toddler, pre-schoolers and school children must have seemed an insurmountable task and a drastic change to her lifestyle. So I can sympathize with her decision. She didn’t abandon the family. She was nearby to provide support and guidance. As the children grew older she let them work at the hotel, she set a high standard for her grandchildren’s behavior, and, I’m sure, she contributed financially to their support.

Yes, my great-grandmother Boone was a strong, independent woman well ahead of her time. And I’m pleased to have learned more about her and her many real estate transactions.

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Illnesses and accidents affected our ancestors in many different ways. Often health issues changed the course of their lives and the lives of their families. Without the benefits of modern medicine, what today would be a simple illness became a life or death struggle, often ending in an untimely death.

After being under the weather during May (nothing serious), I thought about the health conditions in my own family history and how those medical problems impacted their lives. There were epidemics, accidents, women who died young after having too many children and those assorted family illnesses your doctor asks about when taking your family medical history.

We rarely hear about epidemics these days due to better sanitation, monitoring and medical treatments. In the past epidemics caused panic and many deaths. In 1873 Asiatic Cholera swept through the small community where my family lived. A father and son who were working on railroad bridges across one of the many creeks, contracted the disease. Both men succumbed, one day apart. First the father, then the son. This son had survived wounds suffered at Malvern Hill where he fought for the Confederacy. He returned from the war, married and fathered two children. His untimely death left his twenty-three-year-old widow to raise their son and daughter alone. That son was my grandfather, the one I never knew. Cholera took his father and his grandfather when he was only four years old and had a lasting effect on his family.

The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 killed more people worldwide than died in World War I. Some call it a pandemic. Unlike today when the elderly and the very young are considered most at risk from the flu, in 1918 the flu struck healthy, young adults. My grandmother survived a bout of this virulent strain of influenza.  Her mother, my great-grandmother, took primary responsibility for my mother, a baby at the time, so her daughter could recover. My mother always said her grandmother raised her. In her later years my grandmother was susceptible to pneumonia due to the scaring of her lungs caused by the flu.

Accidents also impacted our family. My husband’s grandfather died in an automobile accident coming home to Tennessee from Detroit to visit his family for Thanksgiving. He went to Detroit to earn enough to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. He had paid the debt, purchased a new car and planned to return to farm with his grandsons. The oldest grandchild, my husband was twelve and his brother was eleven. They lost the opportunity to work on the farm with their grandfather. Due to the determination of my husband, his father and siblings much of the place his grandfather worked so hard to keep is still owned by family.

When my grandfather was eighteen and working for the railroad, he caught his arm between the couplings of two cars. His mother recorded both the date his arm was mashed and the day after when it was amputated in the family bible, reflecting the importance of the event. Unable to do physical labor with only one arm, he had to find an occupation suitable for a one-armed man in the 1880’s and 90’s. Medical knowledge at that time ensured that the injury did not threaten his life. Years later his eleven-year-old daughter fell from the porch and sustained internal injuries. These injuries might have been repaired with modern surgery, but in 1914 medicine had not progressed enough to save her. She died of her injuries leaving a grieving family.

Doctors of the past couldn’t always diagnose an illness. One of my great-grand fathers became unable to work on the farm due to an unknown ailment. So he sold the farm sometime after 1900 and moved to another town along the railroad where his wife and daughters ran a boarding house. Had it not been for the illness the family would have remained on the farm and one of the daughters would not have run off and married to a man who lived in the boarding house.

For at least two women in our family, having too many children appears to have contributed to their early demise. My great-aunt married in 1900, had seven children and died in 1911, a month after the birth of her last child. She was only thirty-one years old. In my husband’s family his great-grandmother married at age sixteen, had nine children and died in 1919 at age thirty-nine. Her death certificate gives tuberculosis as cause of death with influenza as a contributing factor, another victim of the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. In the case of my great-aunt, her husband moved his in-laws in with him to help him raise his children. He later married his first wife’s sister, my grandmother. In my husband’s family, his great-grandfather only lived four years after his wife’s death. The older children then took the younger ones, eight and eleven, to raise. We will never know if these women would have lived longer if birth control had been available back then.

Discussions of illness and death can get pretty depressing, yet it can be important to our own health to know about the ailments of our family members. My paternal grandmothers had colon cancer so I have colonoscopies more often than most people. We’ve identified several members of my mother’s family who had Alzheimer’s, including my mother, so the horror of that dreadful disease looms over us. A stroke caused my grandfather’s death in 1955 and 41 years later my father died from a stroke. My aunt said my father’s death was almost identical to the way their father had died years before. So I watch the blood pressure and cholesterol. My husband developed diabetes which affected the lives of several members of his family. So even if it feels uncomfortable, we should all have those family discussions about illness and causes of death. It could save our lives.

No doubt modern medicine would have changed outcomes and changed lives. Some of us might not be here if outcomes had been different. Yet such intimate knowledge gives a humanity to the old family tree and allows us to see them as people, struggling and suffering just as we do. They continue to live through the family stories passed down from one generation to the next. And perhaps we will learn something about ourselves.

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Sometimes when we research our ancestors we find some interesting characters on our family tree – such as my Great-Aunt Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore. Aunt Sallie married my Great-great-grandfather’s brother, Rufus Hicks Sizemore, in 1856, when he was 24 and she was 22. Years ago my mother showed me the faded newspaper which carried Aunt Sallie’s obituary and asked me to make photo-copies. More recently I typed it up before it faded into oblivion. The obituary reads like a tribute to a woman who was both prominent in the community and loved by all who knew her. She’s one of my ancestors I wish I knew more about. I hope everyone enjoys reading her obituary from almost one hundred years ago.

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore published in the Dickson County Herald

April 19, 1912

In Memoriam

Mrs. Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, and died at the home of her son Claude H. Sizemore, in Dickson, Tenn. April 1, 1912, aged 78 years.

Mrs. Sizemore was a great-niece of the sainted Samuel McAdoo, one of the pioneers in establishing the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in this country. She became a member of the Cumberland Church when just a child and was a faithful and loyal Christian all her life. She was married to Dr. R. H. Sizemore and was a faithful and devoted wife for him to his death.  He died at Erin, Tenn., July 14, 1879.

Three sons blessed the united life of Mrs. Sizemore, vis.: Eugene A., who died in infancy; Clarence R., now living in St. Louis, Mo., and Claude H., a resident of Dickson, Tenn. The deceased has also left one brother and one sister to mourn their loss.  Mrs. Sizemore had every attention in her last sickness that loving hands and tender hearts could render. It was not until the inevitable came upon her that she would allow special attention.

She was a woman of great willpower and never wanted anyone to attend to her so long as she could wait on herself.  She was cheerful and hopeful in all her sickness up to only a short time before the end came. Her faith in God was fixed to the end. Almost with her latest breath she whispered, “It is well.” She knew no fear of any thing, or any body. She fully believed her life was safe anywhere. Day or night, if she felt duty called, she did not hesitate, but, at once, would go out in the darkness of the night that she might be a help somewhere. Her husband was a surgeon in the army during the war between the States, and this good woman soon felt that loyalty to her husband demanded her presence with him in his delicate work, and she went to him and for two years, or longer, she was right by his side assisting him in his work.  Many of the old soldiers yet living say she was God’s angel among the wounded and dying.  At her funeral veterans of the gray were her pall-bearers. Many of them as they looked upon her cold form for the last time could not refrain from weeping. It was by their hands her body was consigned to its last resting place.

Her patriotism is no less spoken of than that of many of the illustrious dead who fell in line of battle. Many of her courageous and daring deeds are recalled by those who were with her and knew her army record. I only mention a few here. At one time she passed between the Union and Confederate lines while under fire with a looking-glass under her arm, playing the citizen of the neighborhood. At another time, on hearing of the hunger of an almost starving rebel, she determined to get some potatoes nearby, and though the army on both sides were in battle array she passed somehow the pickets, got the potatoes and returned and was reprimanded by her husband for taking such risks. Her simple reply was, “I got the potatoes.” Another time, at the point of a pistol she forced a horse thief to put back her horse in the stable, warning him that to carry out his orders would result in his death. She was taken to Atlanta while the city was being shelled, but made her escape in a meat car. In a difficulty between a Federal officer and her husband she threw herself between them to save her husband from the drawn sword in the officer’s hand. She defied the officer and called him a coward. She often went among the sick and dying administering medicine and giving such other help as she knew how to give in their troubles. She assisted her husband in dissecting, often standing in heaps of limbs all around her, she holding the tallow candle, the only light available, while her husband was amputating and otherwise attending the soldiers.

Mrs. Sizemore was indeed a remarkable woman and her long life of heroism and Christian labor is an inheritance for her grown sons that they will ever enjoy. The older people feel the loss of a comrade. The younger ones feel the loss of a loving and congenial mother, who was ever ready with a rich story to rehearse that would thrill and make them love her memory. She sleeps the sleep of the good and brave. Some sweet day we shall meet her again.

Her funeral was conducted from the M. E. Church, South, in Dickson,Tenn., before a large audience of sorrowing friends, April 3, 1912.

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With gold at record high prices, like many others, I started looking at my jewelry to see if there were any odds & ends I could sell. Broken chains, single earrings, and other such pieces. This got me to thinking about what I have, where they came from and what the items mean to me. Some pieces hold such sentimental value that I would never sell them.

One of my treasures is the gold coin necklace my mother gave me years ago. Along with the gift came the story, the family history tied to the coins. This piece of family lore makes the coin necklace a treasure beyond price.

My great-grandmother, Theodosia, was born in Mississippi in 1858. According to family stories she received my coin, a 2 1/2 dollar gold piece dated 1851, as a birthday gift. Dosia lived most of her life in Tennessee where she died at the age of 82. She gave two coins, mine and another dated 1850, to my grandmother who in turn passed them on to my mother. After having the coins set in bezels so they could be worn as necklaces, my mother gave them to my sister and me.

That explains how I came to own the coin, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I can only speculate on the origin of the coins. Did they come from Dosia’s father or, perhaps, her grand-father? Was it a family custom to give the children gold coins on their birthdays? Did her mother put the coins away so that Dosia and her siblings would have them when they grew older?  Whatever the plans for the coins, the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 changed everything.

Dosia’s father, R. B. Sizemore, enlisted in the 26th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A. Her mother, Elvira, remained behind to tend the farm and their four children. Late in 1864 R. B. Sizemore died a result of some unknown disease, rather from battle wounds. From the history of the 26th, the date he enlisted and his death, we can surmise that he participated in the Battle of Ft. Donelson  (Feb. 1862) where he was taken prisoner and exchanged six months later at Vicksburg. During the following year the regiment defended Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama against Grant and Sherman. Then in May, 1864, they journeyed east to Virginia where they fought in the Wilderness Campaign, the Seven-Days battles around Richmond and finally to Petersburg. There is no way for us to know when R.B. became ill. We only know he died in Mississippi in December, 1864.

Sometime during the war, either before or after R.B.’s death, Elvira hid the gold coins in a stump for safekeeping. She probably stashed more than the two coins, but we will never know what treasures she hid away so that they would not be stolen in those uncertain times.

My great-great-grandmother remained on the farm in Mississippi until 1867 when she took her children north to her mother-in-law’s home in Tennessee. Theodosia was nine years old.

After her mother remarried in 1870, to her father’s brother, Dosia went to live with another of her father’s brothers, R. H. Sizemore. This uncle was a doctor who had served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army with his wife, Sallie, by his side as his nurse.

During the time Dosia lived with her aunt and uncle, she must have met her future husband, John Uffleman. He was the oldest son of German immigrants who came to America in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. John’s family did not participate in the Civil War. In 1867 his entire family left Pennsylvania, came down the Ohio River, then up the Cumberland River. They bought enough cheap land in western middle Tennessee along Wells Creek to divide into separate farms for each son.

Dosia and John married in 1879. My grandmother, Elvira, born in 1893, was the fourth of five children to survive to adulthood. The family lived on the farm on Wells Creek until John became unable to work. Sometime around 1905 they sold the farm and moved to McKenzie, Tennessee, where they ran a boarding house near Bethel College. My grandmother told me that they left the farm when she was 12 so I’ve calculated the date based on that.  During their time in McKenzie, my grandmother attended Bethel College. After their oldest daughter, Lois, died in 1911, John, Dosia and their two younger daughters returned to Houston County, near their former home, to help raise the grandchildren.

Theodosia Sizemore Uffleman led a fascinating life spanning the years from before the Civil War until the beginning of World War II. That’s a big chunk of American history. The coin pendant gives me a tangible connection to the places she lived, to the events of her personal life and to the historical events of the time.  When I pass it on to one of my grandchildren, I also hope to pass along the story of Dosia’s coins.

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Whether researching your family history or a specific area for a novel setting, the USGenNet group of webpages is a great resource.  Quoting from their site at http://www.usgennet.org/ “USGenNet is the first and only nonprofit historical-genealogical web hosting service on the Internet.” Many states, county and local genealogical and/or historical groups have websites using this hosting service. When you go to one of these websites, such as the one for Dickson County, Tennessee, you will find a wealth of information about the area. There are family histories, obituaries, maps, cemetary information, newspapers, pictures, etc. Links to other sites of interest, like state archives, are often provided.

Keep in mind that these are websites maintained by individuals so the exact information posted and how often the information is updated depends on the individuals maintaining the site. Some allow contributors to submit items to be posted on the site. Most rely on volunteers to keep the sites going.

I have spent hours exploring the TNGenWeb site - since Tennessee is my home state. The County Pages offers easy access to every county that has an individual site and offers additional information about each county.  It  includes a clickable map of the counties which is very helpful if you need to research a region but you aren’t sure which counties to search. And if you are looking at a county, like my home county (Houston), which was formed from sections of several different counties, you can dig deeper by going to those original counties. Another map evolves over time with the creation of the counties starting before statehood when Tennessee was a part of North Carolina. It even includes the State of Franklin, the first attempt at adding a new state to the original thirteen states. The State of Franklin is another whole topic for a later day – but a very interesting episode in the history of our country. My adopted home state of Florida‘s site includes lots of information that I have only just begun to explore.

Although I started using these pages for genealogy research, I found some truly fascinating stories. For a historical novelist, the details provide not only story ideas but authentic background, events, dates, and locations.

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Welcome to my website! Join me as I journey through history doing research for my novels, visiting historic sites and digging into my family genealogy. To introduce myself, I will begin with where I grew up – because I am one of those southern women whose identity is strongly tied to place and ancestry.

I was raised in middle Tennessee between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in the small town of Erin. The story goes that Erin was named by the Irish railroad workers in the mid-1800’s because the green valley nestled between steep hills reminded them of Ireland. But the area was occupied much earlier.

American Indians, including the Cherokee, the Creeks and the Choctaw, shared middle Tennessee as a hunting ground. Evidence of human occupation has been dated back to pre-historic times. The Wells Creek Basin is the site of an ancient meteorite crater. Indians traded flint from Wells Creek as arrow heads and spear heads throughout North America. On a trip to Yellowstone in the 1970’s I visited the Buffalo Bill Historic Center in Cody, Wyoming, where I was surprised to find a collection of arrowheads from Wells Creek, Tennessee, on display.

My grandfather Boone was an amateur geologist/archeologist. He collected rocks, including dolomite and shatter cone from the Wells Creek Basin and various Indian artifacts from the area. Although he died when my mother was four, my grandfather’s collections remained on display in my grandmother’s house, like a private museum. The stories fascinated me and his collection inspired the “rock hound” in me to start my own collection.

The first influx of settlers came to the area where I was raised after the Revolution when Continental soldiers received land grants as payment for their service. Some soldiers sold their land to settlers and speculators, but many brought their families west to what was then the frontier. The McMillan’s, my fraternal grandmother’s family, settled on their land grant in what became my hometown. The McMillan family cemetery is situated on a hillside in western end of the valley overlooking the middle school (old high school), the nursing home, and much of the community known as Arlington. These early settlers were primarily of Scotch or Scotch-Irish descent who brought with them an independent spirit and strong religious faith.

Several regiments were raised in the area during the Civil War. My maternal great-grandfather served in the 14th Tennessee and fought in the eastern theatre. My fraternal great-great-grandfather served in the 24th Tennessee Sharpshooters and Maney’s Battery along with his two brothers and one brother-in-law. His other brother-in-law served in the 50th Tennessee. My maternal great-great-grandfather served in the 26thMississippi Infantry.  All these soldiers reflect the strong support for the Confederacy within my family, yet none represent the “traditional” image of the south filled with wealthy plantation owners. They were all small farmers or local merchants.

After the war, people from the north came south in search of cheap land. Among these were my maternal great-great-grandparents, who emigrated from Germany in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. In 1867, they came down the Ohio and up the Cumberland to Wells Creek and purchased farmland. These are my German ancestors and the most recent of my ancestors to come to America.

In 1871 portions of Stewart, Montgomery, Humphreys and Dickson Counties were combined to create Houston County, named for Sam Houston, former Governor of the State of Tennessee. Sam Houston is one of the many historical figures from Tennessee. Unfortunately, I can claim no kinship to the Tennessean turned Texan.

In 1886, Goodspeed published a history of Tennessee which includes a History of Houston County.  The account provides fertile ground for the imagination. So many individual stories, so many lives to explore. These are the people who make up the fabric of our country. Real history, about real people, helps us understand who we are and where we came from. It’s why I love history. It inspires me to write, to transform bits and pieces of real lives into fictional characters and stories.

Over time I will share some of the history that inspires my historical romantic fiction and my women’s fiction stories.

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