Posted in Family, Genealogy, Historical Sites

The Trip To Nowhere

Young men seek adventure especially when they are living in a small town, out of school and out of work. That’s true today and it was true in the past. The particular adventure story I’m going to tell you took place in 1937 (my estimate) and one of the young men was my father, Vernon R. Knight. He and his friends, J. V. Averitt, Charles E. Covington, and Hugh Dickson, set off to see the country in an old car that belonged to one of them.

Vernon R. Knight

My father never talked about this trip. The only way I knew about it was through a conversation with my aunt, his sister, after his death. We were going through some old pictures. We didn’t know where some of the pictures were taken so we asked her about them. She said, “Those must be from the ‘trip to nowhere.'”

Aunt Sissy went on to tell us about how my father and his friends took an old car and headed west. They drove as far as they could on the money they had, and then they stopped and found work. One place they worked was in the oil fields in Texas. When they had enough money, they started out again.

Somewhere along the road my father bought a camera. This old style camera, that expanded when you opened it up to expose the lens, was always in a drawer in the dining room along with an old photo album. As kids we would take out the camera and examine it with the natural curiosity of children. We would also take out the old photo album and flip through the pictures, amazed at what our parents looked like when they were young.

Hoover Dam

The first pictures in the album from the “trip to nowhere” were taken at Hoover Dam (known as Boulder Dam at the time). These helped me date the trip. Hoover Dam was completed in 1935. In 1936 the water in Lake Mead was high enough to begin electrical generation. It took some time for water to fill Lake Mead. In my Dad’s pictures, the lake is almost full so I am guessing it was a year or two after completion of the dam.

J. V. Averitt and Charles Covington at Hoover Dam
Lake Mead
Hoover Dam Spillway from electric turbines
Lowering Loaded Flat Car at Hoover Dam

 

The next pictures find our young men in the Petrified Forest in Arizona. At that point they would have been along Route # 66. J. V. Averitt told his son, Phil, about how many times they had to patch the tires on the old car. Back then, tires had inner-tubes, that held the air, inside the outer tire. If the tube got a hole in it, they would take the inner-tube out, patch it, then put it back inside the outer tire before re-inflating it.

The next group of pictures are landscape shots. My father probably took them because the terrain was so different from what they were familiar with in Tennessee. These are pictures of the desert alongside the road, possibly in Arizona or New Mexico.

Only a couple of the pictures featured any of the young men. My Dad apparently didn’t want to take pictures of people. After the photos of the desert there are no more pictures from this trip. Did he run out of film? Maybe, but I don’t know.

The only other thing I remember seeing from the trip was a card my Dad sent to his mother to let her know he had made it to the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure where the card ended up.

I treasure the pictures and this little bit of history about my father when he was an adventurous, young man.

Posted in Family, Genealogy

Elnora Boone Knight – May 1, 1917 – March 31, 2002

Today, May 1, is my mother’s birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 100 years old today. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful, intelligent, vibrant woman has been gone for fifteen years. I miss her still.

Elnora, a child of the depression, graduated from Erin High School in 1934. The next-to-youngest of nine children, who lost her father when she was only four years old, Elnora didn’t have much growing up. What she did have was imagination and a sense of adventure. In the late thirties when her older sister needed help, Elnora boarded a train in tiny Erin, Tennessee, and traveled to New York City alone. She made her way to her sister’s home in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn and while she was staying there she journeyed to Niagara Falls before returning home to Tennessee.

My parents married in 1938 and after a brief stay in Detroit, they returned to make their home in Tennessee. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Daddy enlisted and after training he was assigned to the Coastal Artillery near San Francisco. My always-eager-to-travel mother again boarded a train and traveled across country to join him in California. She described the trip as an adventure. When she recounted changing trains in Bakersfield, CA., she said she had to walk a long way carrying her own bags to catch her next train. Some nice soldiers helped her and even years later she expressed her gratitude for their kindness.

During the war my mother followed my father across the country getting jobs wherever they were stationed. She returned to Tennessee when he went through his medical training in Illinois, then joined him at his first hospital assignment in Asheville, North Carolina.  Later he was transferred to a hospital in Palm Beach, Florida, which turned out to be the converted Breakers Hotel. Before the end of the war, when Ream General Hospital (The Breakers Hotel) was closed, my father was sent to Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta, GA. That’s where my sister was born which necessitated my mother returning home to Tennessee to await my father’s discharge.

The love of travel never left my mother. As we grew up we didn’t have a lot of money so we’d go visit her many relatives who lived across the country. We visited her brother in Oak Ridge Tennessee and explored the Smoky Mountains. We drove to the coast of Georgia to stay with her older brother who lived right on the beach on St. Simon’s Island. Other times we went to south Alabama, the panhandle of Florida and Akron, Ohio, to visit her sisters. One of her sisters lived in Sitka, Alaska, and she always talked of going to visit her but sadly she never did. She did however, visit a cousin in Boulder, Colorado, with her mother and aunt.

As money became available we took family trips to New Orleans, Panama City, Washington D.C., New York City and Palm Beach to see the Breakers Hotel and where they had lived during the war.

When my father retired my mother had accumulated enough leave from her job at the local Post Office for them to take several long road trips. I was lucky to accompany them at least part of the way on one trip out west. We visited Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons. She had me take her picture at the top of Yellowstone Falls to prove she was brave enough to go out there. She had a fear of heights but she wouldn’t let it stop her from going to the edge of the falls or from a bubble-top helicopter ride over the Bad Lands of South Dakota. I had to fly home but they went on to visit my aunt in Oregon, up to Vancouver and then back down the California Coast to San Francisco. Then they came home through Salt Lake City and Denver. On another trip they drove through the northeast all the way to Nova Scotia, across Canada to Montreal and back home. And another year went across Texas and the southwest to the Grand Canyon and then dipped down into Mexico. How I would love to duplicate any one of those trips.

My mother didn’t learn to drive until the late 1950’s. After my father underwent major surgery she decided she could no longer depend on others to drive her around. She was never the best driver but that didn’t keep her home. While we were in high school, she would drive us to Nashville at least twice a year to shop for clothes. She could make her way downtown to Cain Sloan’s parking garage and after a long day of shopping we’d exit the garage, turn right on Broadway and head out of town on Highway 70. I don’t think she ever learned to drive anywhere else in Nashville except to the hospitals.

Elnora loved her grandchildren, her flowers in her beautiful yard and reading a good book or watching an old movie on TV. She used to say she watched all the old black & white movies because when she was growing up she didn’t get to see any of them. They didn’t have the money for movies.

Later in life she bought her own car and drove it where she wanted to go. This might have been taking her grandson to Walmart in nearby Dickson or driving to Dover to the UDC meetings. When my sister moved to Mobile, Alabama, and I moved to Florida she made her final road trip. Since my father’s health was poor, she drove by herself. This adventure took her to Chattanooga to my brother’s house, down through Georgia to our home in Florida for a short visit, and then across the panhandle of Florida to Mobile to stay with my sister. She was seventy-two years old when she made that trip. I always thought she was so brave for making that long drive alone.

Only a few years later, Alzheimer’s had taken its toll. She came to Florida to stay near me. Her strong constitution and vibrant spirit remained almost to the end — just a month short of her eighty-fifth birthday.  This post is dedicated to her loving memory.

Posted in Genealogy, Historical Sites, History

The One-Room School-House

old schoolThe coming of fall has me thinking about this little one-room school-house that represents an almost century-old connection between my mother’s family and my mother-in-law’s family. Back then the one-room school-house provided the only opportunity for education in rural America. Limited transportation meant the schools had to be close to where the children lived so they could walk or ride a mule or be driven in a wagon. The lone teacher taught students from first grade up to eighth, if they stayed in school that long.

The remains of Spring Valley School is in this picture. It’s located on Salmon Branch (road and creek) in Houston County, Tennessee, not too far from the Humphreys County line. What was once the Spring Valley Church stands in a similar dilapidated state across the road from the school. Then, as now, the gravel road winds its way up the valley alongside Salmon Branch. A ways beyond the school it climbs a dry ridge and then drops down into the upper White Oak Creek valley where it joins the road from Erin to  McEwen.

Spring Valley School is about twelve miles from the county seat of Erin. From the late 1890’s to the early 1900’s my grandfather, W. R. Boone, was superintendent of schools in the county. He presided over a school system with from 2,200 to 2,600 students scattered over the small rural county. He also taught school part of that time, as did his sister, Lura. After his marriage in 1900 he and his first wife, Lois, had seven children. Lois died in 1911 soon after their last child, also named Lois, was born. Aunt Wildred was almost three years old when her mother died. My grandfather then married my grandmother, Elvira, who was Lois’ younger sister. By the time W. R. died in 1921 he and Elvira had four children. At the time of his death his oldest child was twenty-one, Wildred was thirteen and my mother, Elnora, was four.

W. R. Boone believed in education, as did his widow. Their children all graduated from high school and some went on to take business and secretarial courses, which was a financial strain after their father’s death. Since at that time a teacher did not have to have a college degree, the older girls took the teacher’s exam and taught school for a time. The school board appointed Wildred Boone as teacher of Spring Valley School on June 27, 1927. (Her name is mis-spelled as Mildred in the historical record.) With the school so far from town, Wildred boarded with a family who lived nearby — the Tates.

Wildred Boone Tate
Wildred Boone Tate

My cousin, Dawn, wrote a wonderful story on Ancestry.com about her grandmother, Wildred. I’ll share some of that story here. While staying with the Tates and teaching school, Wildred fell in love with one of their sons, Hershel Tate. On December 17, 1927, the couple eloped. They traveled to Humphreys County and married. The nearest town in Humphreys County is McEwen, but they may have traveled further on to Waverly, the county seat.

In the late 1970’s Aunt Wildred visited the home we built on a hill overlooking Jones Hollow. On the opposite side of that hill along Salmon Branch was the Tate place. Aunt Wildred told me of hiking over the hill from the Tate’s to Jones Hollow to visit George and Hattie Jones. She said she loved visiting the Jones place.

In 1927 George and Hattie’s son Samuel Paul Jones and his wife Louise lived in a little house in Jones Hollow along with their one-year-old daughter, Dorothy Earlene, my mother-in-law. George and Hattie doted on Earlene, keeping her with them as much as they could. So Wildred would certainly have met the baby girl during her tenure at Spring Valley School.

A few years later Dorothy Earlene Jones started school at Spring Valley School where she would finish the eighth grade. She then went on to attend Yellow Creek High School.

Hattie and George Jones holding baby Earlene
Hattie and George Jones holding baby Earlene

After their marriage, Hershel and Wildred moved to Akron, Ohio, and Hershel went to work in one of the rubber plants there. Samuel Paul Jones’ brother, Robert, also went to Akron to work. Hershel Tate and Robert Jones had grown up less than a mile apart. Both went to Akron and worked in rubber plants until they retired.

When we were in Tennessee last fall we drove around some of the old roads near Jones Hollow. We passed the remains of Spring Valley School and stopped so I could snap a picture and capture the place where so many memories were made. Places like this remind me of how small the world is and how our lives are intertwined. Although our families have scattered across the country places like this still tie us together. All of those mentioned from former generations are gone, except for Earlene. And her memories have faded. I hope that stories like this will keep the memories alive for our children and grandchildren.

 

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History, Research

Family Pictures Lead to Search for Information

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.

Posted in 30th Infantry Division, Genealogy, History, WWII

Summer of Sorrow and Excitement

This summer has been tumultuous, filled with sorrow and excitement. The sorrow was the unexpected death of my brother-in-law and the expected loss of my uncle. The excitement came at the Romance Writers of America Conference in Atlanta.

In the latter part of June my husband got the call telling him he’d lost his brother. Quite a blow for brothers so close. We live seven hundred miles apart but they talked so often that it seemed they were together all the time.

Dwight & Pat - Brothers Working Together
Dwight & Pat – Brothers Working Together

Dwight had a rare disease and we knew each day was a gift. After being diagnosed with heart failure we thought he had only a few months. But the specialist he saw at Vanderbilt happened to have worked with a physician in Boston who was on the forefront of research about the disease. Dwight went to Boston for treatment – chemo and stem cell transplant. It almost killed him. But he responded well to the treatment, returned home and gained strength. They  told him the damage to his heart could never be reversed but it would not get worse. That was six years ago. Six precious years – a gift from modern medicine with help from a higher power.

Dwight
Dwight

Dwight had a military funeral. We were grateful for the honor shown to him for his service in the Tennessee National Guard. Both Dwight and my husband served in the National Guard during the Vietnam War era. The. National Guard wasn’t appreciated back then (that’s putting it mildly). But their father, having served in Europe under Gen. George Patton during World War II, swore his sons would not go through what he went through. Without their knowledge he arranged for the brothers to join and brought them the paperwork to sign. They really didn’t have a choice. There was no arguing with their father about it. He understood why the National Guard would not be sent to Vietnam. They didn’t. They just knew they were in.

The Tennessee National Guard was part of the 30th Division. As such, they were pledged do defend Europe as part of our NATO treaty agreements. They couldn’t be sent to Vietnam because they had to be available to be sent to Germany if the Russians attacked. Back then, the Cold War was on and at times heated up when tension rose between the two super powers. Some believed that the Russians would take advantage of our involvement in Southeast Asia and would make advances in Europe while we were otherwise occupied. It was important that we did not forget our committment in Europe.

As part of the Tennessee National Guard, Dwight and my husband saw action keeping the peace on the streets of Memphis after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King. Frightening times with rioting in the streets of almost every major city in the country. Snipers shot at firemen and the Guard had to stop the snipers. And the looting and the violence. They did a good job and were commended for their handling of the situation in Memphis.  Years of  intensive training followed so that the Guard units would be able to handle any domestic situation from flooding rivers to riots.

Dwight deserved the honor. So did my uncle who passed away the day we buried Dwight. Uncle Roland served during World War II. They say on the news that we are losing these veterans every day. I can personally vouch for that. Uncle Roland was ninety and had been ill for some time. Like my other family members who served in that war, by the time I realized I should talk to them about it (if they would have talked to me) it was too late. I do know that Uncle Roland was in the Pacific Theatre and served as part of the first occupation forces in Japan. I was pleased to learn that his children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are interested in preserving the WWII memories of our family. So I plan to pursue research into Uncle Roland’s service as well as my other uncles who served.SONY DSC

I mentioned at the beginning the excitement of the RWA Conference in Atlanta. Wow! It’s hard to convey the experience. My first national conference turned out better than I imagined. Frightened at the prospect of stepping way out of my comfort zone, I made up my mind that I was going and that I was going to get as much out of the event as possible while trying to remain calm. Everyone told me to have fun but I didn’t really believe I would. I was pleasantly surprised that I did. I cannot describe the feeling of being surrounded by two thousand plus talented writers, both published and unpublished. And sprinkled throughout were literary agents and editors from numerous publishing houses. I’m please to say that I pitched my WWII love story to both editors and agents and now I’m busy sending it off – synopsis, partial manuscript and full manuscript to the ones who wanted to see it. No guarantees – but I’m thrilled to have these professionals look at it. Putting me a big step closer to being published.

We have to celebrate our triumphs while we can. Life is too short, even if you make it to 90. Every day is precious. And sorrow comes to us all. We must have the strength and the courage to keep going. And for me, that means keep writing.

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, Historical Sites, History

Battle of Stones River Remembered

The picturesque Stones River winds its way through Rutherford County, Tennessee, on its way to Percy Priest Lake and eventually to the Cumberland River. Along its shores the Stones River National Battlefield spans a small parcel of the land where Confederate and Union forces fought December 31, 1862, through January 2, 1863. Caught amid the urban sprawl of modern-day Murfreesboro, the site marks one of many battles, in what was then considered the “west,” that allowed the Union forces to split the Confederacy.

Visitor Center
Visitor Center

On a recent trip to Tennessee, our son took us to the Stones River National Battlefield.  I’ve visited many Civil War battlefields over the years but this was my first time at Stones River.  At the visitors center we learned about the battle and then we took a driving tour. My husband and I are both history buffs and we have a particular affinity for the Civil War. Both of us have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and we both grew up with the many Civil War sites nearby.  Seeing the terrain and hearing the story of the Battle of Stones River gave us an understanding of what the men who fought here went through one hundred and fifty years ago.

Stones River
Stones River

At the beginning of the war, Tennessee seceded while Kentucky did not. This drew the initial lines in the “west.”  By mid-1862 most of the Mississippi was lost and Union ships blockaded the southern and eastern ports. Union strategists planned to cut a wedge through Tennessee and Georgia to divide the Confederacy. Although widespread, the road network of the day would not sustain transport of supplies, munitions and men. Railroads and riverboats provided the fastest and easiest means of transport. So the Union generals were ordered to capture the railroads and take control of the rivers.

Fences on Battlefield
Fences on Battlefield

The spring of 1862 saw the fall of Fort Donelson and Nashville, both on the Cumberland River. On the night of December 30th General William Rosecrans left Nashville and marched his men southeast along the Nashville Pike, which paralleled the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. They camped just outside Murfreesboro where the enemy waited. Anticipating the coming fight, Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg attacked on the freezing-cold morning of December 31st. From the south they pushed  the Union troops back toward Nashville Pike, the railroad and the Stones River.  The battle raged across cotton fields, through stoney outcroppings and cedar thickets for three long days. Thousands on both sides were killed, wounded or captured.  (13,249 Union, 10,266 Confederate)

Terrain near river, scene of last day of battle
Terrain near river, scene of last day of battle

Approximate area of river crossing

On January 2, 1862, after having pushed the northern troops off a hill and across the Stones River, Union artillery on the far side of the small river fired on pursuing Confederates, killing or wounding nearly 1,800 in mere minutes. The southerners retreated as the Yankees recrossed the river and retook the high ground.  The following day General Bragg withdrew his men from the battlefield and from Murfreesboro.

Cannons fired across the fields.
Cannons fired across the fields.

In the months following the battle, General Rosecrans built a large fort at Murfreesboro called “Fortress Rosecrans.” This 200 acre, earthen-works fort became the supply depot for the later campaigns against the rail center  in Chattanooga and eventually Atlanta.

In 1863, not long after the battle, Colonel William Hazen’s men built a monument to commemorate the Union soldiers lost in the battle. It is the oldest intact Civil War memorial.

Hazen Brigade Monument
Hazen Brigade Monument

In 1866, over 6,100 Union soldiers were reburied in the Stones River National Cemetery.  In 1867 remains of Confederate soldiers were moved to a cemetery south of Murfreesboro. Later, in the 1890’s, about 2,000 southerners were moved again to Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro. As at many other battlefields, the U.S. government established cemeteries for the Union soldiers who died, but private citizens provided for the interment of the Confederate dead.

Across the fields to the Stones River Cemetery
Across the fields to the Stones River Cemetery

The Stones River battlefield became a tourist attraction bringing people and needed money to the area. Situated along the railroad, the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway provided excursions for those who wanted to see the cemetery, memorials and the battlefield  itself. The railway published a book called “Southern Battlefields” in 1890 to serve as a guidebook for those touring the many battlefields. Later, in 1906, the railroad built the artillery monument, a 34-ft-tall obelisk marking the hill where the last attack took place so that the passengers could see it from their train.

Hazen Brigade Monument - inside the wall
Hazen Brigade Monument – inside the wall

Modern day tourists can explore the preserved portion of the battlefield and the surrounding area. With the help of maps and information provided at the visitor center, tourists can maneuver through homes and business areas to find the Hazen Brigade Memorial, the remnants of “Fortress Rosecrans” and to explore the Stones River.

Marker along driving tour
Marker along driving tour

When we returned home, I did a little research to determine if any of our ancestors fought at Stones River. It turns out that the Tennessee Sharpshooters (also called Maney’s Sharpshooters, 24th Tennessee Sharpshooter Battalion, Maney’s Battalion) under Captain Frank Maney are listed in the order of battle for the Army of the Tennessee at Stones River.  George Wade Knight, my great, great-grandfather, served in the 24 Battalion Tennessee Sharpshooters as did his brother-in-law, Perry L. Brown and his wife’s brother-in-law Philander Rushing.  All were from Humphreys County and probably joined up together.

Leaving Hazen Brigade Monument
Leaving Hazen Brigade Monument
Posted in Friends, Genealogy, History

Celebrate & Reunite With Family & Friends

March is the month for Irish Celebrations and family reunions, at least that’s how it works for me. My hometown holds a big St. Patrick’s Day Celebration every year with parade, carnival and craft fair. This event also provides an opportunity for old friends to gather, high school buddies to get reacquainted, and families to reunite. We attended the annual event and it provided lots of excitement.CrowdsCrowds Accumulate

The small town of Erin, nestled in the hills of middle Tennessee, hosted enough visitors for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to multiply its normal size by tenfold, if the estimated 20,000 attendees was accurate. And crowded is far from the normal in this quiet community. Many came out to enjoy the gorgeous weather. I also have to give credit to all the people who worked so hard to make the parade such an exciting and fun event.St Patrick Leads Parade


There Goes the Band

The parade started with St. Patrick leading the way. The local high school band followed.

The Lord High Mayor rode in her pink Cadillac and much more followed.Lord High Mayor

Then came the floats
Then came the floats
The Bagpipes played.
The Bagpipes played.
The clowns entertained.
The clowns entertained.

More Old CarsOld Cars
Shriners Vets

Horses
National Guard
ProwlerPA Band

Float 3


Kids Parade

Miss Houston County
Miss Houston County
Confederate Re-enactors
Confederate Re-enactors
The Yankees are coming.
The Yankees are coming.

Irish TrainIrish Beauty