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 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

Posted in Genealogy, History

Post Office Family

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.

Posted in Genealogy, History, Research

Old Deeds and Genealogy

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.

Posted in 276th AFA, History, WWII

276th Armored Field Artillery Battalion – Part 3

The Love Story

The story of the 276th Armored Field Artillery Battalion would not be complete without telling the story of two Tennessee boys and a wartime love story.

My father-in-law, Paul, had asthma as a small child so he was still in high school when he was drafted into the Army at age 19. His parents tried to get their only child out of the Army but their efforts only caused problems during his early months in the service. While training in Kansas, Paul made friends with another Tennessee boy, Luther, who grew up in a small town a few miles south of Camp Campbell, Ky.

When the 276th received orders for retraining on the M-7 to become a mobile artillery unit, Luther must have been delighted to be stationed so close to home. With a car at his disposal Luther would take his friend to his home town on weekends where they spent time with the local girls. They probably met other girls in Clarksville, the town closest to their camp. Months passed and both boys knew they would soon receive orders for overseas. One weekend when Luther had a date with a girl who lived near Clarksville, he asked her to find a date for his friend, Paul.

While in school, Earlene went with a boy who lived near her family’s farm. He joined the Army after the war broke out and became a gunner on a B-17 bomber. His plane went down during training and he was killed sometime in 1943.

Earlene’s father rented out their farm and went to Detroit to work in the defense industry.  While waiting for him to send for them, Earlene, her mother and sister lived with her grandmother near Clarksville. Earlene’s grandmother had remarried years before and her youngest daughter was only a little older than Earlene. This “aunt” agreed to find a date for Luther’s friend, and that’s how Earlene and Paul met.

It must have been love at first sight because Paul came back to see Earlene several times in the next two weeks.  Confined to camp awaiting orders to ship out, Paul and Luther sneaked out of camp so Paul could go see his girl. That night Paul asked Earlene to marry him. She hesitated at first. She knew what could happen. But he told her that he knew she wouldn’t be there when he came back. Somehow he convinced her. Luther drove them to Hopkinsville, Ky., where they were married.  It was June 20th, 1944, and they had known each other for twelve days.

The couple agreed to keep their marriage a secret from their parents, at least for a while. The 276th shipped out three days later, on June 23rd, for the war in Europe.

Months later, but before going to Detroit, Earlene told her mother about her marriage. Upset, her mother wrote to her father. Both parents were not happy about the marriage, but they accepted it. Paul wrote to his parents and his unexpected marriage must have shocked them.

Earlene tells of meeting her in-laws for the first time. She took a bus to West Tennessee where Paul’s parents lived. The bus driver misplaced her suitcase so when she arrived in Selmer, Tennessee, she had nothing but the clothes she wore. This made an already anxious situation worse. Paul’s parents recognized her in the bus station. They drove the only vehicle they owned, a logging truck. The three of them rode in the cab for the long drive to their house. Earlene said it was so far back in the sticks that she began to wonder what she had gotten herself into.

Paul’s grandmother waited at the house. When the old woman met Earlene she exclaimed “I knew Paul wouldn’t marry trash.” From that Earlene knew what her in-law’s had expected.

The young couple stayed in touch through letters. Earlene sent Paul a picture that she had made especially for him.

Both Paul and Luther survived the war in Europe. Before leaving Germany they were told they would be shipped to the United States, then would be reassigned for shipment to the Pacific Theater. When the men reached the states, in July 1945, they received a 30 day furlough to visit their families. Paul found his bride on her father’s farm and met her family for the first time.

Paul did not intend to go back to combat. He’d been through too much, seen too much. He vowed he would get lost in the swamp where no one could find him. Unfortunately his father was ill so Paul had to help his mother. He couldn’t hide. Instead, he gained permission to extend his leave. Before he had to report back, the Japanese surrendered.

Paul reported to Ft. Bragg, N. C. and was discharged in November, 1945. Paul and Earlene’s marriage lasted until his death in 1999. They raised five children. Paul’s friend Luther lived nearby. When Luther visited his stories revealed much of what Paul’s children knew of their father’s service because he rarely talked about it.

There were many of these love stories during World War II. Young men and women traveled all over the country and overseas. Workers left their homes for defense plants. The couples met in many ways and places – on the military bases, in USO canteens, through friends, while in transit, etc. Soldiers even developed serious relationships with girls they met overseas where they were stationed or fighting. War brought an urgency to their courtships. Many were short and some of the relationships did not survive after the war. What’s amazing is how many of these marriages not only survived but flourished. They are wonderful stories and I never tire hearing them.

Posted in 276th AFA, History, WWII

276th Armored Field Artillery Battalion – Part 2

When we last left our hero’s of the 276th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, it was February, 1945, and they had just crossed into Germany from Luxembourg.

I’m a map person. Several years ago I purchased a coffee-table book “US Army Atlas of the European Theater in World War II.” Researching this post I scoured the maps for locations mentioned in the 276th Battalion history and that exercise put some of the distances in perspective. In a straight line from Bastogne, Luxembourg, to Bitburg, Germany, it’s about 30 miles through hilly, heavily wooded terrain with crooked, narrow roads. The defenses of the Siegfried line ran along the German border between the two points. Bitter cold winter weather hindered progress as the Germans retreated behind their “west wall” line of defense. Can you imagine life for the men? Living outdoors, eating when they could, following orders, doing their jobs, fearing the next attack and struggling to survive. The 276th was a few miles southeast of Bastogne at the beginning of January. They did not reach Bitburg until Feb. 28, 1945. Eight long weeks.

From the southern shoulder of the “bulge” in the line, due to the German counter-offensive later known as the Battle of the Bulge, the 276th moved toward the northeast in support of the 80th Infantry Division. On Feb. 7, 1945, the Battalion fired 1,702 rounds in preparation for the 80th attack across the Our River into Germany and against the Siegfried Line. The 276th fired a total of 2,610 rounds that day, more than 325 rounds per gun. After that firing continued at a rate of approximately 1,000 rounds per day as they continued to pound the German fortifications. On Feb. 19-20 the 276th again fired heavily in preparation for another attack by the 80th Division. This time the 276th AFA Battalion crossed the Sauer river into Germany near Cruchten.

During these attacks the 276th for the first time fired a mixture of rounds that consisted of 40% fuze delay, 50% fuze quick and 10% white phosphorus, a chemical that burned through anything and could not be extinguished with water. The combination proved effective against enemy troops and would be used again.

In early March they moved rapidly northward to Koblenz on the Rhine. My father-in-law told of sitting on high ground overlooking the Rhine river and seeing the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, north of Koblenz. Although not mentioned in the history, he remembered seeing the bridge and firing across the river to protect the crossing troops. Since it was the only bridge left intact across the Rhine, it had to be the bridge at Remagen. For years he had a print of the bridge hanging in his room.

His buddy in the 276th told a funny story on him years later. While near the Rhine, a young man, drunk on liberated cognac, sat astride the gun barrel when German artillery began firing rockets on their position. He couldn’t get down so he rode out the barrage on the tube. Shells landed so close that the water cans hanging on the gun were shot off, but he didn’t get a scratch. According to my husband, his father didn’t want the story told and tried his best to stop his buddy from telling it in front of his sons. 

At Koblenz the north-east flowing Moselle joins the Rhine. On March 15 the 276th crossed the Moselle with elements of the 4th Armored Division. They continued toward the south-east against stubborn resistance from rear-guard troops and defiant towns. Although the men rarely knew what was going on overall in the war, they knew moving forward meant they were winning and that was always good news.

While the 4th Armored Division diverted south to take Worms, the 276th remained at Oppenheim to support a bridgehead operation by the 5th Division. They crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge above Oppenheim on March 24, then reverted back to supporting the 4th Armored Division on their swift advance east to encircle the city of Frankfort. Within days they advanced across northern Bavaria, heading northeast. On April 3 they ended a long road march near the city of Gotha with enemy aircraft and artillery firing on their advance. After an ultimatum Gotha surrendered the next day and the 276th moved south on the road to Ohrdruf.

On April 5th the battalion fired on the city of Ohrdruf against stubborn resistance by the Germans. When the enemy surrendered, the Americans learned why they defended it so stubbornly. Ohrdruf was a sub-camp of Buchenwald – the concentration camp and ‘death factory’ – and the first such camp discovered by the Americans. Although my father-in-law never spoke of it directly, Patton visited the camp and ordered that as many of his men as possible tour the camp as witnesses to the atrocities committed there. More than likely the men of the 276th saw the camp at Ohrdruf and, possibly Buchenwald, since they were in the area when it was discovered. The only time I ever heard my father-in-law say anything about the concentration camps was in the 1990’s when a TV program mentioned that there were people claiming the holocaust never happened. He adamantly insisted that it did happen, but he would say no more.

Reassigned to the 11th Armored Division, the 276th drove southeast from near Suhl  to near Kulmbach by April 12, battling not only Germans but also heavy rains. As part of Task Force Hearn another road march began near Grafenwohr, “site of the largest barracks and training area in central Germany,” and within a week they traveled 150 miles to Grafenau. Their objective was Linz, Austria on the Danube. The German army offered little resistance during this advance.

But, on April 30, the enemy made a stand at Wegscheld. After an all day assault, including heavy fire from the 276th, the 11th Armored Division occupied the demolished town. The battalion fired approximately 1,600 rounds that day, including a 90 round white phosphorous concentration. May 1st the 276 crossed into Austria with the 11th.

On May 2, the 276th received orders to return to supporting the 4th Armored Division near Lalling, Germany. They marched back to the northwest, then on May 3 moved to a ‘rest’ bivouac area near Saldenberg for three days. On the 5th they joined the 4th Armored Division moving east and north into Czechoslovakia toward the city of Strakonice. The Czech’s lined the roads welcoming their liberators.  They were still moving toward Prague when they received word that the German armed forces had surrendered. The war in Europe was over.

Surrendering German troops streamed through the battalion’s camp toward designated assembly areas. On May 10 the 276th motored to Bogen, Germany, where they became part of the military government and oversaw the flow of prisoners into fenced areas for processing to prisoner of war camps.

The joy and relief of victory in Europe was short-lived for the 276th. On May 13 they learned they would be deployed within 30 days to the Pacific Theater, traveling through the United States. On May 16 they participated in a ‘ceremony shoot’ for a group of Russian generals. On June 2 they received orders to move out. The heavy vehicle column traveled across Germany and France by train while the light motor column traveled by road meeting up at Camp Lucky Strike, near Le Havre, France. Here, due to the points system for discharge, members of the battalion with more than 85 points were transferred to the 341st FA Battalion of the 89th Infantry for transport home and discharge.

The remainder of the 276th embarked for the US from Le Havre, France, on July 2, 1945. It was one year to the day from their departure from New York.   By July 11 all had departed Camp Shanks, NY, for home on furloughs. Thankfully, by the time they were to reassemble for redeployment training, the Japanese had surrendered and the war was over.

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History

Health Issues And Our Family History

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.