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...There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment...
Introduction page, The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1950 Edition, Victor H Green & Co., Leonia, NJ.

 photo 1950 intro.jpg

From 1936 to 1966, New York City mailman Victor H Green published a guidebook for African American travelers who wanted to visit the United States by car.

These were the Jim Crow years. Although many Americans could not afford cars of their own during the Great Depression, there was a rising middle class of black Americans who could and did purchase cars. Public transportation was fraught with peril for black Americans of all classes. In 1930, the writer George Schuyler said, "all Negroes who can do so purchase an automobile as soon as possible in order to be free of discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult."

Unfortunately, the racial profiling phenomenon "Driving While Black" is not a new thing. White Americans, especially those in the Jim Crow south, often viewed African Americans who owned cars as uppity or trying to rise above their assigned station in life. Black Americans traveling the country for business or pleasure often had great difficulty finding places to stay, eat or enjoy entertainment. If they were permitted entry into a typically "whites only" establishment, their personal safety was often threatened by white patrons or neighbors.

The answer to this for Victor Green was to seek out and accumulate information about hotels, motels, roadhouses, restaurants and other establishments whose owners and operators were friendly and courteous to African Americans. The 1936 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book focused solely on New York City. Subsequent editions were published with the help of "agents" in the states reviewed, who supplied information to Green about accommodations in cities and states outside New York. The last "Green Book" (as they came to be known) was published in 1966, following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The New York Public Library has high resolution images of the pages of twenty-three Green Books. They make for fascinating reading and, as seen in the introduction page of the 1950 edition, demonstrate Victor Green's fervent hope that one day, he would be judged on the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

You can access the images at the New York Public Library's website by clicking here.
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I've finally gotten around to transcribing two letters from my great grandaunt, Mildred Carlton "Minnie" Williams Shinn, to her brother, (my great grandfather), Jo Desha Williams.

Some comments before we start...
These letters were written with a dip pen. I am posting photos of each page for two reasons - first, I think it's remarkable that I can read as much as I can of letters written a century ago with a dip pen. I have a dip pen holder and several nibs. I can tell you it is no small feat to be able to finish a string of words without running out of ink, and then not dripping ink on the page when you've dipped the pen anew.

Second, I need some help with some of the words. I have transcribed the letters as she wrote them, including all the commas that were used when a period was needed. (These are some of the longest run-on sentences in the history of writing. Perhaps it was the style of the time for personal letter writing.) I have inserted a blank anywhere I cannot make out a word or words. Please feel free to comment with any suggestions for the missing words.

It cost two cents to mail these letters to Desha from Washington DC to Little Rock. As you will see, every available blank space on the page was filled.

Equally remarkable to me is that the letter could simply be addressed "Jo D Williams Russellville Arkansas" and it got to him. These were the days before zip codes.

I will add editorial comments in regular type after points in the second letter where I have information that will allow you to read the letter in context.

Letter postmarked 25 Jan 1915

 photo 01 25 1915 edit.jpg

My dear Desha,

Hazen is not dreaming dreams or seeing visions, although he is getting pretty near three score and ten, and I am not far behind him, we have just passed our 40 years of wedded life, and when I think of your four children in the parlor, seated upon the green sofa in the corner, when we walked in, looking so prim all in a row, I have to laugh for it seems as though it must have been in the beginning. But I must confess I do not feel any much older, till I begin to think of the great discoveries that have been made electric cars, telephones, autos ____ ____ flying machines and last but-not-least- doing away with the old time bath houses, as Pa always called them, we are strictly sanitary at present. I am enclosing some verses Hazen wrote for the dinner friends thought so fine had Roy run off a few copies, now see if you can come up that in your old days. With many good, and much love to all of you from the Shinn family, your sister, Minnie.

Comments: Hazen was what Minnie called her husband, Josiah Hazen Shinn. Roy was their son. They lost their daughter, Grace Electra Shinn, to typhoid fever at the age of 10 while they were still living in Russellville.
ETA: filling in one blank with the word "sanitary."
Letter postmarked 4 Feb 1915
Page 1
 photo 02 04 1915 p1.jpg

My dear Desha and Maxie,

Your good letters, and box of many good things came as quite a happy surprise, and I can ashure you have been greatly enjoyed by the entire family. I never had so many goodies in all my life before. They just come in time for our quarterly missionary meeting, when we take box lunch at an all day session, and they have been used at several luncheons I have had since my return, and still have my plum pudding for thanksgiving, so you can see I am making good use of them.

(NOTE: According to a biography in History of the Shinn family, by JH Shinn, published 1903, at page 254, Minnie was a member of the Christian Church and active in several ladies' circles of the church.)

I had often wondered if your children ever fully realized just what it ment to care for four extra ones upon a poor salary for only nine months in the year. It was trying to meet this new demand, that we had to open our little store, which proved our ruin for we lost everything as you will remember, and had to turn to our friends with nothing to face the future save our six children, that we still held to, and how well we have succeeded you know.
(NOTE: Minnie and Hazen married in Bridgeport, Franklin Co., KY on 17 Jan 1875. In October that year, their first child, Grace Electra was born. Joseph Roy Longworth Shinn was born on 18 Mar 1880. On 14 Jan 1879, Minnie's mother died, leaving her father with her four youngest siblings to raise. For whatever reason, Jacob Williams was not up to the task, so Minnie's sisters and brothers - Margaret, Mattie, Desha and Julian - went to live with Josiah and Minnie. Minnie's household exploded from four family members to eight. Minnie and Hazen moved to Arkansas in 1882, and then to DC in 1902. Minnie raised her siblings to adulthood.
ETA: "how well" in blank before "how well we succeeded you know.")

The Lord was with us and blessed us in our every undertaking. We have never doubted him and his goodness, and we did not flinch when other burddens came to us, such as Zella _____ Judd, and our own father.
(NOTE: Although I cannot read the two words preceding "Judd," I feel this must be a reference to Hazen's mother, Elizabeth Frances Gilpin Shinn Judd, who died in 1892 in Russellville, and is buried there. Minnie's father, Jacob Williams, died in 1900 in Russellville. So it is likely that from 1885 to 1900, Minnie and Hazen had their son Roy, Minnie's dad and Hazen's mother, and Minnie's youngest brother, Julian in some combination in the household. We don't have the 1890 census to see how many there were.
ETA: "Zella" in one of the blanks preceding Judd.)

We still tried to do our duty as best we could although not all ways understood or appreciated. With all our burrdens and troubles we tried to keep sweet and happy and make the most of life, and have found many pleasures all along the way and many many blessings, such as our lovely trip this summer, and new friends as well as old ones met, and other avenues of services oferred to us, we have not found very much time to lay up treasures below, although trust we may have a few above.

Page 2 (written on the back of page 1)
 photo 02 04 1915 p2.jpg

It seemed sweet to do the one thing that had always been upon my heart, that of moving our mother. This was a duty of love and devotion long deferred, on account of our obligations to the living, though after all of your children have been reared, and well placed in life, and the grandfathers put away, Then we could gather a little unto our selves, and do some things we liked and had always wanted to do, of course we are glad to have all of you share in this labor of love with us, and do you know that she still lives in the heart and lives of the people there as much as ever, after thirty six years.
(NOTE: I do not know where Catharine C Mueller Williams was originally buried. I do know she is now interred in Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort, Franklin Co., KY.
ETA: To fill in blanks in "Then we could gather a little...")

It was our dear mother who was the most ______ of person I heard about during my visit, her life had not been lived in vain, her praises were still sung by all. We counted this duty long deferred the crowning joy of our delightfull ________, and a most happy ending, and do you know that the first letter written by Hazen upon our return was a letter of love and sympathy to a niece, in ____, whose mother died while we were away a half brother's child, to make our roof her home though she wishes as long as her grandfather will stay with him, her mother and grandmother died this year. Hazen will soon be her _____ _____ as the grandfather is very much broken in health. When we thought we had finished our task here the Lord has still further service for us I believe. She is eighteen and a very lovely girl finishes college this year. I am glad to hear that the grandbaby is such a lovely sweet child, guess our next trip will be down to see for our selves, and peep in upon Cedric and Katheline, had a lovely card from her inviting us, have answered thanking her and asking them, know that she must be a lovely girl from all you say, am so glad to hear of their beautiful little flat - know they must be happy, and trust that nothing may ever come but happiness to them, again thanking you for your many good things, and kind words appreciation and love, your devoted sister, Minnie.
(NOTE: The grandbaby was Gwendolyn Williams, daughter of Paul Meek Williams and Ruth Youngblood. Cedric was Cedric Hazen Williams, who must have announced his engagement to Kathleen Kilgore. They would marry on 14 Jul 1915 in Butler Co., MO, but the marriage would not last.
ETA: Words to help complete "...a letter of love and sympathy to a niece in [location] whose mother died while we were away, to make our roof her home though she wishes...")
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Two months prior to the death of Mattie Williams, the sister of Minnie and Jo D Williams (my great grandfather), Minnie's only surviving child died.

He was Joseph Roy Longworth Shinn. He died on 13 Feb 1930 in Washington D C.

Here's a transcription of the telegram sent to Jo D Williams by his sister, Minnie. It was received in Little Rock on 13 Feb 1930 at 9:39 p.m.
NL=Washington DC
James D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark

Roy passed away of heart trouble very suddenly at five pm today. Services Saturday the fifteenth at five pm. Expressing remains after services to Vernon Russellville Arkansas. I am bearing this sorrow very well. My health is as usual. Telegraphing Vernon to make arrangements.

Then, the telegram from the funeral home in DC, received in Little Rock on 14 Feb 1930 at 3:51 p.m.
Washington DC 437p
J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark

Remains Joseph Shinn leaving Saturday February fifteenth by railway express eleven forty seven pm. B and O no three.
The S H Hines Co.
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It always bothers me when I learn that someone has died alone. Even more so when I learn that they died days before the body was discovered.

And so it was with Martha "Mattie" Williams, older sister of my great grandfather, Jo Desha Williams.

But not only did she die alone, two days before her body was discovered, strangers to her family organized her funeral because my great granddad and his oldest sister, Minnie, did not - would not? - attend.

Indeed, from the telegrams from Hubert Wise notifying them of Mattie's death, it seems Minnie was only concerned with the estate.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm reading this chronology the wrong way.

You decide.
Telegram #1 - received in Little Rock, 15 Apr 1930, 10:18 p.m.
Extra=Chigaco ILL 1009p
J W Williams 2310 Ringo Street Little Rock Ark
Regret to tell you we found your sister Mrs Fisher passed away suddenly this evening, I have taken charge and will follow instructions left in letter by her. Have also notified Mrs Shinn nightletter following.
Hubert Wise 4738 Kenwood Avenue

Telegram #2 - received in Little Rock 16 Apr 1930 12:55 a.m. (This was Wednesday. Mr. Wise discovered the body late Tuesday night.)
NL=Chicago ILL
J W Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Dear Mr Williams not hearing from Mrs Fisher since I took her home Sunday evening and getting no response by telephone I went out this evening and with the janitor opened the apartment and found Mrs Fisher laying on the floor. I fetched Dr. Thompson who said death had taken place Sunday night. Mrs Fisher has left written instructions to be laid by her husband in Elmwood Cemetery. Also undertaker and service she desired. Will have autopsy performed and coroners inquest will be held in morning. Have enjoyed such close friendship with Mrs Fisher for many years. We shall do everything possible to carry out her wishes and shall await your instructions.
Hubert Wise

This makes me wonder if she committed suicide. I now will have to try and get her death certificate.
Telegram #3, from Minnie Williams to brother J D Williams, received in Little Rock on 16 Apr 1930 at 7:14 a.m.
NL Collect=Washington DC
J W Williams
2310 Ringo Street Little Rock Ark
Please go to Chicago for me and look after Matties affairs. I was looking for her to be with me. I am not able to go. Hope to bear it. Her furniture has just arrived but not her personal belonging have to be looked after.

Telegram #4, from J D Williams to Hubert Wise, 16 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark 4/16/30
Hubert Wise
4738 Kenwood Ave
Chicago Ills
Received message and nightletter. Carry out completely her instructions. This was her desire indicated to me after her husband passed away. You take charge of all her possessions of every nature including all funds held by her and follow instructions in regard to burial. We will be satisfied with what ever you do and thank you so much for your kindness and attention to this matter. Under the existing circumstances do you think it advisable for me to come. If so advise immediately. We know everything is in safe hands. May God bless you for your kindness to us.
J D Williams

Telegram #4, Received in Little Rock on 16 Apr 1930, 7:17 p.m.
Chicago ILL 710p
J H Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Dear Mister Williams thank you for your message of love and confidence placed in us. Have arranged for funeral service Friday at one thirty from Lawrence Undertaking Parlors in exact accordance with yours and Mrs Fishers request. It is not necessary for you to come. Every detail taken care of. Letter follows giving full particulars. Lovingly
Hubert Wise

And so Mr. Wise sent J D Williams the order of service for Mattie's funeral. I have not transcribed it, but you should be able to tell from the account that Mattie's friends put much time and effort into organizing her service.
 photo funeral service-page-001.jpg
 photo funeral service-page-002.jpg

Wire from J D Williams to Minnie Shinn, dated 16 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark April 16/30
Mrs Minnie C Shinn
624 Rock Creek Church Road
Washington D C
Night letter received - have been waiting to get notice from Mr Wise. He advises - Dear Mister Williams thank you for your message of love and confidence placed in us. Have arranged for funeral service Friday at one thirty from Lawrence Undertaking Parlors in exact accordance with yours and Mrs Fishers request. It is not necessary for you to come. Every detail taken care of. Letter follows giving full particulars. Lovingly
Hubert Wise - Now Minnie I could not change their plans - Mattie [illegible] as to all details planned by her as being executed and all belongings will be properly handled steel yourself and you can bear this burden and all will be well - will go later if necessary to wind up affairs better than now - desire to remember her as in life - not in death - now that all details are so well taken care of - the Good Lord has blessed us by her passing in the midst of loving and Christian friends - let us be thankful it is this way - will advise you by wire and mail the b[illegible] just as soon as received.
J D Williams
Address - 2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

Telegram #5, received in Little Rock on 19 Apr 1930 at 5:24 a.m.
NL=Chicago ILL
J W Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Your dear sisters remains were placed beside her husband this afternoon. Service was expressive of her life - dignified graceful and loving. Many beautiful floral pieces indicated the high esteem in which she was held by many friends. Her last wishes have been carried out to the letter an obligation I consider very sacred. Will you please notify law department First Trust and Savings Bank thirty eight South Dearborn street Chicago immediately authority to pay all bills presented by myself? Letter follows explaining this request. Similar request made to Mrs Shinn.
Hubert Wise

Wire from J D Williams to the bank, granting power of attorney to Hubert Wise, dated 19 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark - - 4/19/30 - -
Law Department - First Trust and Savings Bank
#38 South Dearborn St
Chicago Ills
Power of Attorney is hereby granted to Hubert Wise to act in my place - Pay all bills and accounts incident to the death and burial of my sister Mrs Mattie Williams Fisher out of any funds held by your bank in trust by her and this wire is your authority to honor the checks as issued by him for that purpose on the said funds as held by our bank.

My sister Mrs Minnie C Shinn Washington City D C the only two legal heirs to her estate including myself.

Witness my hand and seal this date Little Rock Arkansas.

J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

Wire to Minnie Shinn from J D Williams, dated 26 Apr 1930
Little Rock April 26/30
Mrs Minnie C Shin
624 Rock Creek Church Road
Washington D C
Just arrived home - am sending Special Delivery letter all correspondence from Mr Wise and others - they acted wisely. You do not need legal services - stop that expense for statement will be sent you of all expense - you will receive all over that amount - I have waived my rights by wire to bank last week. We are lucky indeed to have such good Christian friends to do this for without pay - compose yourself - dont worry - all will be well. You are alright and in safe hands for Matties will or request will executed exactly like she directed - You will receive balance some over two thousand without any legal action on your part.
J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

That last one sounds to me like Minnie was going to sue Mattie's friends - who organized and attended to all the details surrounding her death, without asking to be compensated - to ensure she got every dime left over from the estate of the sister she wanted to attend her in her old age.

But she couldn't go to the funeral.
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I have always dreamed of finding a long forgotten diary from one of my ancestors, and envied those who have.

However, our family does have some letters and telegrams, including two from my great great grandmother, Eada Belle Parrish, written in March 1881 to her father, and her favorite brother. Both letters were written after she had recovered from a bout of measles.
 photo EadaParrish.jpg

The town of Memphis, KS is now Garland, in Bourbon County. The school she refers to is the one at which she hoped to teach. We know she was a teacher for a time preceding her marriage to Fred Chapin. At the time she wrote these letters, she was attending school (university?) herself.
Memphis, Kansas
March 19th, 1881
Mr. B A Parrish

Dear father,

Your kind and welcome letter was received some time ago and I have delayed answering on account of being sick with the measles. I was very sick for a few days but have gotten over them now. I missed one month of school on account of them. Our school is out now. I expect to go back to Bro. John's before long. Father, I would like so much to see you and all the rest. Bro. Henry talks of going to Ky. next fall by land, if he does I don't know but what I shall come with them. I am well satisfied here. I think you might come and pay us a visit and see how you like this western country. It is a beautiful country I think, and is a good fruit country.I know you would like that there was an abundance of apples raised last season. If you were here you could have all the apples you would want. This has been the severest winter I ever saw, and still continues to be winter. Farmers have done no plowing yet and a great many are not done gathering corn. It has been snowing for the last three days and is very cold. I think this is a hard country on old people on account of the winters.

Pop, I think you are partial towards me. I don't think any more praise is due me than any of the rest of the family. I always tried to do any duty whether I succeeded or not.

As to the people here, I like them generally very well. They are more on an equality. Those who have means do not feel themselves above common people. As to marrying here, I suppose a girl could do as well here as anywhere, but I am not caring anything about that just now. I expect I was cut out for an old maid.

Well Pop, I guess I have written as much as will interest you now. I guess Charlie and Wessie and little Mary have grown considerable since I left home. Kiss them for me. How is Ma's health now? Tell her that I would love to see her very much. Excuse this ill-composed letter, as I am not much of a hand to write letters. This leaves all tolerable well at present, and hoping it will find you all the same. I will close for a time. Mine and sister Lydia's letter together will make you a pretty good letter.

My love to all and write soon to your daughter,

Eada B. Parrish

Some notes about the letter above.

Eada was 21 years old when she wrote this letter. She did not marry Fred Chapin until 1885, when she was 26.

Henry and Lydia Parrish were Henry Clay Parrish, Eada's oldest brother, and his wife, Lydia Conklin, with whom Eada was living at the time.

John was John Parrish, fourth in the line-up of Eada's brother's and sisters. He and his wife Gertrude lived in Mitchell, KS.

Ma was Melvina Crume, the second wife of Benjamin Abraham Yeager Parrish. She was Eada's step-mother. Eada's own mother, Minerva Hamilton, died in 1865 when Eada was 6, so it's likely Melvina was the only mother figure Eada remembered.

Charlie, Wessie and Mary were Eada's half brothers and sister. Charlie was the oldest and was born when Eada was 8 years old.

This has been the severest winter I ever saw, and still continues to be winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of The Long Winter, and Barbara E. Boustead, Ph.D. wrote, "Both meteorological records and historical accounts indicate that the winter was particularly long, snowy, and cold," in her 2014 dissertation, THE HARD WINTER OF 1880-1881: CLIMATOLOGICAL CONTEXT AND COMMUNICATION VIA A LAURA INGALLS WILDER NARRATIVE. (See this link for the entire paper.)
March 20th, 1881
Mr. Daniel Parrish and wife

My dear brother and sister,

After some delay I take the silent pencil in hand to try to answer your kind and welcome letter which found me sick in bed with the measles, or smeasles, as Dink calls them. I caught them at school and had them first, so I was able to help wait on Lydia and the children when they had them. I was not able to read your letters, but Lydia read them for me.

Well Bro and sister, I don't know what to write that will interest you. News is scarce at this time. With me, about all the talk is the cold weather, which is disagreeable. It seems like we will have a backward spring. There is no farming done yet. Dan, I recon you and sister have moved to yourselves by this time. I would like very much to step over and take tea with you. I know we would have a jolly time. I guess I will come over and live with you now as you have always promised me I should. You must tell me where you are going to reside. Sister, when I saw you last I did not think that the distance would separate us that does now, nor was I not thinking you would ever be my dear little sister. I am happy to know you are so well pleased with my Bro. He is a dear, good brother. You must take good care of him, also of your dear self.

Dan, I wish you were close enough that I could come to see you and sister. I would like it much better. Do you think of coming west any way soon? If I stay here I wish you would come. I believe I like Missouri better than I do Kansas. I am going back to Kansas in a short time. I will either try teaching or will go to school. We received a letter from sister Emma. She seems to be discouraged about going to school where she is. Wishes she had come to see us in place of going to school.

Sue, I would love to see you and Dan so much I don't know what to do. Is Sina married yet? Give my love to her, also to the rest of your father's family. Dan, who did Fin Young sell to? I guess there has been several changes made since I came away in that neighborhood. I recon little Becca is quite a woman by now. If you move away it will seem to her like all are gone.

I will close for a time, sister. Lydia is going to write to you. Bro, you and sister must write soon to me and tell me all the news. This leaves all well at present,, and hoping it will find you both the same. I will close by asking you to excuse all imperfections and write soon. My love and best wishes to you both.

I am, as ever, your affectionate sster

Eada B Parrish.

Some notes about the letter above.

Eada's brother, Daniel Braden Parrish, was a newlywed at the time of this letter. He and Susan E Morton married on 17 Nov 1880 in Breckinridge Co., KY.

Emma was Eada's older sister by two years. I don't have a lot of information about her, other than she never married, she taught school in Illinois and she was buried in Grayson Co., KY. I do not know where she is buried.

Sina was one of Susan Morton's relatives.

Little Becca was the youngest of the children of B A Parrish and Minerva Hamilton. She married Ulysses Grant Bond in 1883, divorced him in 1889, married Webster Taylor in 1906, divorced him, and married her final husband, James Shea, in 1910. She had two children with her first husband. Her son, Steven Washington Bond, lived in shack beside a railroad yard in Lewiston, ID, and was crushed to death when he fell into a pit containing a locomotive turntable in the rail yard. His grave in Normal Hill Cemetery is unmarked.
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Nearly five years ago, one of my Callaway cousins asked me to find out if we were related to Elihu Francis, who murdered his wife and three young children and then set fire to his house to cover up his crimes.

And we Callaway descendants are related, but only by the marriage of one of Elihu's older brothers, Marian.

I had heard that Elihu died in 1916 in the insane asylum at Little Rock (now called the Arkansas State Hospital) of tuberculosis, but had no independent confirmation. I even knew where he was quietly buried after he died. Earlier this week, I went in search of media coverage. I found an article in the Southern Standard.
Elihu Francis Died In Insane Asylum Where He had Been for Observation

An important criminal case of Clark county was settled last week when the principal, Elihu Francis, died in the Hospital for Nervous Diseases at Little Rock.

It will be remembered that Francis was arrested in April of 1914 charged with the murder of his wife and three small children, whose charred remains were recovered form the ruins of their burned dwelling in Long Creek township, and that when he was arraigned for trial at the succeeding August term of the court he so appeared to be insane that the court ordered him to be taken to the insane asylum and there placed under the observation of the physicians to determine as to whether he was insane or only pretending insanity. At the next term of the court he was returned here for trial, but it still was not decided as to whether he was insane and he was sent back to Little Rock, where he remained until his death.

He died on Wednesday of last week of tuberculosis and the remains were brough here and interred near his old home in Long Creek township.

Source: Southern Standard, Thursday, 10 Feb 1916
Joe, Elihu is buried in Golden Cemetery.

I created his Find a Grave memorial when I found him listed in the Clark County cemetery books. I don't know if there's a stone, but I doubt there is. Here's the link to the memorial.

If you find a stone, please get us a photo.
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Last year, I posted this entry about Hurrell Burris Tackett, the only son of Willie Burris and John Thomas Tackett.

In that entry, I talked about how Willie, whose older sister was John Tackett's first wife, was living with Ora and John in the 1910 census. At the time, I said I thought Willie may have been in the household due to some illness Ora had that prevented her from taking care of her three children. And then I said...

I can imagine that Willie was a comfort and provided sorely needed help for for her brother-in-law, caring for her nieces and nephew during her sister's illness and after her death.

At the time, I had no idea how true those words were, albeit not in the way I meant.
Ora's death was noted in at least two newspapers of the time - the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, where she died, and her hometown newspaper, the Russellville Courier Democrat.

There must have been a rush on the Gazette reporter's deadline, because he (yes, in 1910 reporters were male in Little Rock) butchered almost all the names.
 photo Arkansas Gazette 26 May 1910 Ora Burris Tackett.jpg


After Sending Child From House On Pretext, Mrs. Orra B. Hackett Swallows Dose of Carbolic Acid

After sending her daughter Rheva, nine years old, and Miss Willie Burris, a young woman boarder, to the rear yard with instructions to feed the chickens, Mrs. Orra B. Hackett, 28 years old, wife of J. B. Hackett, 111 West Twentieth street, swallowed the contents of an ounce phial of carbolic acid yesterday afternoon.

The daughter, returning to the house a few minutes later, found her mother lying on a bed, with the fumes of carbolic acid in the room. Mrs. Hackett was unconscious and the bottle was lying at her side. The frightened girl ran screaming to the home of Mrs. T. S. Isch, 1920 Main street, saying that her mother was dying.

Dr. M. D. McLean was hastily summoned, and he worked with the woman in an effort to save her life, but she died within an hour after swallowing the acid.
Gave No Hint of Intentions.

Mrs. Hackett bought the acid at the drug store of C. N. Miller, 2301 Arch street. She told her daughter that she intended to use the poison on her chickens. She gave no hint of her intentions to end her life. Despondency, due to ill health, is supposed to have been the cause.

Mrs. Hackett's husband was down [t]own at the time his wife took the fatal dose. He was frantic with grief last night over the surprising tragedy in his home.

An inquest was held last night and a coroner's jury returned a verdict that death was due to carbolic acid poisoning, self administered. The body will be sent to Russellville this morning for burial.

Source: Arkansas Gazette, 26 May 1910
What's wrong with the Gazette article...
She was Ora B. Tackett.
He was John T. Tackett.
Their daughter was Reba Tackett.
Excerpting from the Courier Democrat, published 2 Jun 1910, with a note referring to the original appearing in Thursday's daily, on 26 May 1910.
...sent her child and a young lady boarding with them to feed the chickens yesterday afternoon...Mrs. Tackett has been in ill health for some time and despondency due to bad health is supposed to have been the cause.
What's wrong with both articles?

This was John Thomas Tackett's story. He didn't want anyone to know that his 28 year old wife committed suicide because he was messing around with her 17 year old sister. I looked for "Errata" in the Gazette for the rest of the month, and never found it. Being J. B. Hackett was just all right with him. Likewise that everyone thought there was an unrelated boarder in the house, instead of his underaged sister-in-law.

His daughter, Reba, had an entirely different one, as told to her granddaughter.

I received an email from that granddaughter five months ago.
I am the granddaughter of Reba Mae Burris Tackett Otto from Russellville, AR.

She was the daughter of Ora Burris who according to my grandmother died when her father fell in love w/her sister Willie. She took my grandmother to the store in a wagon. Grandmother went into the store and asked for carbolic acid from the store keeper. Even then, an adult was supposed to sign for it but Ora called out from the wagon that it was okay that grandmother purchase it. Ora and grandmother went home and Ora went to her bedroom and took the acid and grandmother said that she still could hear her mother's cries. Willie's Mom said to come back home and after a brief period, Willie married John Thomas and they had Hurrell...

...Grandmother said that when her father and Willie married, Orval did not like Willie b/c of what happened to his Mom and Willie's part in it and so his father sent him packing w/a mule from the farm. Orval married and he and his wife lived in Spearsville, LA until their death.
Note: Orval Tackett was 14 years old at the time of his father's remarriage to his aunt.
What I don't understand is why Susan Rebecca Dalrymple Burris - Ora and Willie's mother - went along with John Thomas Tackett's version of events. They were well known enough in Russellville that everyone there would have known that Willie had been living with Ora and hubby for a while.

I think it's probably a good thing daddy William Matthew Burris was already dead. Otherwise, Willie might have gotten the hiding of her life when she was summoned home, and well...

John Thomas Tackett's life probably wouldn't have been worth living.
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Right now, the thought is to have it at St. Joe Freewill Baptist Church's fellowship hall in September.

But that is not firm, and if you want to get in the planning - or just keep up with it - you may want to be part of this Facebook group.

If you are on Facebook, either reply in the comments, send me a PM here, or email me at sharpchick13 at hotmail dot com. I can send you an invite. I'll need your Facebook username.

In any event, I'll post significant updates here.
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For most of us who have slogged through mountains of paper, and hoped to do the genealogy happy dance at the mailbox several times a month, being able to use DNA test results has been a quantum leap forward for family historians.

You may be able to finally find out for sure if one of the cousins who was sniggered about behind hands cupped over mouths was really Uncle Harry's son. You can find closely related relatives whose family tree database fills in gaps in your own. You can see where the majority of your ancestors lived before the migration.

But for adoptees, DNA test results can set back a search into a mystery they thought they had begun to unravel. A "person of interest" as a possible bio parent - the one people have said they believe to be the one - might have to vanish after the DNA results come back.

That little tube of spit can literally change a life. Change a hunt to answer the question, "Who do you think you are?"

Meet my adoptive cousin through the Cothern/Cothren/Cochran line, Sheila Annette Cothern Trevett. Sheila and I have corresponded for several years.

This morning, she told me her story.
I'm the adopted granddaughter of Sherman Cothern in your family tree. Arkansas, Pope County. My adoptive parents named me Sheila Annette.

I love the family history of the Cotherns, even the deep mysteries of misspelling rife throughout.

But genetically, I've felt compelled to answer my own questions too, for the last 20 years or so, I felt confident I had it figured out, then I spit in a tube.

It's been about 36 hours since I first looked at my DNA results.

It's AMAZING what spitting in a tube can tell you.

I found my biological mother 22 years ago. I was 29. I took the clues given on the phone from the lady at the Dept of Social Services in New Mexico, combed through old newspaper microfilm in Las Cruces, with the help of a boyfriend, to find a birth announcement, a yearbook check, and I figured out her maiden name, and first married name. I knew the name of her son. I had my two kids by then, and my driving motivation was the health information, and well, just the truth.

The day I went up to meet her, from LA, at the trailer park in Fresno, was the day OJ was “running” with Al Cowling. Listened to the whole thing on KFIam, missed the traffic.

I knew she'd had a hippie, free love, it's the 60's and 70's “lifestyle” or proclivity. She'd settled down with her current husband for about a decade. The son she'd kept, who was 20 months older than me, was in jail. Actually, the jail where my college roommate's father was the Warden. She was honest, from the get-go, that she was pretty sure it was the one guy, who she was seeing regularly and used the phrase “like rabbits.” But there was a one-night stand in there.

I figured the odds were pretty good, the sheer volume of an 18 yo and a 21 yo who just got out of the service would beat the one-night stand. Right around her 18th birthday.

Nope. One-night stand, I can't remember his name dude it is.

Understand, I've done hours and hours of research and compiling putting together my family tree on all four branches I believed were “me.”

And poof, ¾ of it is shot to hell by spitting in a tube.

Thanks LL Cool J.

See, the very last in-depth branch I went down, in this last year, was my birth dad's. I'd been given enough information from the family, I knew it was there, even if I couldn't decipher the German. Oma was still (and is) alive, at 98! Ok, can I be functioning and loving at 98? Cool genes!

I was more interested in figuring out who my biological mother's father was...

Yep, she's adopted too. Birth mom, product of the end of WWII.

(And my kid's grandmother. She's adopted. That's going to be fun. Apparently I attract it? It's unbelievable what level of attraction.)

Anyway, I thought I had the right Maggio who lived in the Chicago area, and served in WWII. Nope. Close, cousin. Same area of Sicily, same town. But a different Tony Maggio (yes, I'm aware Frank Sinatra's character was Tony Maggio in “From Here to Eternity.”)

Oh the sin, the lust. And I realize, me over turning stones makes people uncomfortable, brings up bad memories, and times in their lives they've probably repressed.

Sorry, a little. But I've paid for those sins too.

Mind-blowing to be figuring this out with the results of the spit tube (for a mere $90.)

This Tony Maggio had already married, circa 1944, in the middle of serving in WWII, but he still banged the cute WAC girl from Indiana, and viola, Mary-Ann (or Patricia, her birthname.) Had to be in that time of the surrender of Europe and the halt of Hitler, and before we dropped the bomb. She was most-likely, thanks to an app calculation from a Google search, conceived the day the bomb was tested at White Sands. July 1945. Good times.

Turns out, my DNA shows her having a sister born 2 months earlier than her. This is going to be rich.
Anyway, back to the tube.

So this ongoing boyfriend, like rabbits and all, his family tree when I circled back to his mother and the in-German print-out, holy cow They are straight-up German royalty. Her grandmother, a Baroness, straight off two lines including King James, and George I. Great stories, eccentric, interesting (and awful) historical figures. Wow, no wonder these people were a little weird about me doing this tree, claiming their heritage.
I ruminated a few months about it, suddenly thinking, wow, I come from actual people who held the power, and now I'm “The Help.” Because I am, it's great. I live in my idea of paradise, in The Rockies, in someone's really beautiful mansion on a mountain. I have to keep it clean, and make them food when they visit. Be polite. Got it.

And then I saw LL Cool J's episode on “Finding Your Roots.” His 70 y.o. Mom never even knew she was adopted. Her parents were dead, and when they did his tree, and put it together with his DNA – OOPS, not matching.
Hmmmm. Maybe I better check.

So here I am, 36 hours since seeing the results. Reeling.

I am 9% Western Europe, which would include German. That's probably the Fleeners right there. Really I'm 31% English, 26% Italian, 19% Scandinavian (?? What?? My adopted brothers supposed to be the Scandinavian one, instead he's German!) 11% Irish (could be Scottish too, Celtic.) a bit of Caucus, European Jew, West Asia.

So wow. I've got a 3rd cousin match, and a bunch of 4th cousins, and it seems to be Simmons with some Carter and Wright thrown in that coincides across the cousins, and they're all pretty much Texans from Houston over into Louisiana since the early 1800's.

So who was this guy, born mid-1940's, getting shipped off to 'Nam circa 1964, via Ft. Bliss, El Paso, TX? Blonde, blue eyed, hairless. Bet he's got a Scandinavian mom.

We shall see. Let the process of elimination begin.

In case its of interest to share on your "Shakin'" site - lord knows I'm shaking. - Sheila

If you recognize any of the surnames, or particular sets of facts Sheila has related, comment here, or email her.

Ditto if you are someone who helps adoptees who are researching family history of their biological parents.

Sheila's email address is sctchef at gmail dot com.
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Because of the letters and telegrams from Minnie Shinn to her brother, Jo Desha Williams, I am able to reliably track my great grandparents' movements, and the places they lived.

The 1915 letters place them at their home in Russellville, where they began their married life.
 photo Williamshouse3.jpg

The latest of those two letters was postmarked 4 Feb 1915.

The 1930 telegrams announcing the death of Minnie's son, Joseph Roy Longworth Shinn, were dated 13 and 14 Feb 1930, and sent to my great grandfather in Little Rock, at 2310 Ringo Street.

 photo 2310 ringo street this.jpg

With the letters and telegrams alone, I knew that Desha and Maxie moved from Russellville between 4 Feb 1915 and 14 Feb 1930.

However, from the 1920 census - taken on 10 Jan 1920 - I learned they were already in Little Rock, living at 709 East 14th Street.
 photo 709 east 14th.jpg
Now, I'd like to narrow it further.

I think I'll spend some time at the library, looking through old Little Rock City Directories on Ancestry.
Image from Google Earth, taken July 2015
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In my email yesterday was one from the sole surviving sister of Joe Thomas Meek, who wrote a very interesting letter in 1983 about a trip he had taken to Mississippi to see the graves of his great grandfather (my second great grandfather) James Alexander Meek, and James' parents.

After studying that letter in more depth for almost a year, I put forth a theory about why Joe Meek's grandfather had decreed that [n]one of the family can ever be named JAMES or ALEXANDER again, as my grandfather (William Thaddeus Meek) promised.

According to my correspondence with my second cousin, once removed, I was right.
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Two of my Balding cousins, Parry and Frances, have been in town this weekend for a funeral for their mother, Miriam Roots Parke Balding.

Parry and Frances are my first cousins, once removed - the son and daughter of Aunt Miriam and my grand uncle, Marvin Parrish Balding, Sr. We are all so close in age that it's often easy to forget they are not my first cousins.

But we had not seen each other since we were all children. This Balding family removed (as our ancestors would say) to Annandale, VA in our childhood. I've been Facebook friends with Parry for a while now, and as a family we recently rounded up the funds to mark the grave of another close Balding relative.

But that's not the same.
Naturally, we reminisced about family. In addition to visiting family graves at Roselawn Memorial Park, we went later in the day to Oakland & Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park to visit Balding and Chapin graves.

I went home after Aunt Miriam's service, and waited for Parry and Frances to call about going to Oakland. I got to thinking about Aunt Miriam's middle name - Roots - and wondered.

Was she descended from Logan Holt Roots, the former Congressman from Arkansas, who is buried at Oakland?

 photo Roots.jpg
Family plot of Logan Holt Roots and Emily Margaret Blakeslee

I starting digging farther back into her family tree, and discovered that yes, she was. Logan Holt Roots was Aunt Miriam's great grandfather.

But when I returned to my desk after the trip to Oakland, the Roots family story got even better.
Logan Holt Roots was born on 26 Mar 1841 to Benajah Guernsey Roots and Martha Sibley Holt, at Locust Hill near Tamaroa in Perry County, IL.

As a young man, Benajah Roots moved from his birthplace in Onondaga Co., NY to Sparta, in Randolph Co., IL. There he built a cabin, and went back to New York to get his wife and two children, Oliver Guernsey and Philander Keep Roots. (The latter was known by most people as P K, probably a mercy for a child at any time.)

By 1854, Benajah built a frame house that served the family as both home and school. The home was known as Locust Farm/Locust Hill Academy, and was located near Tamaroa, Perry Co., IL.

In addition to his roles as an educator, civil engineer and lawyer, Benajah Roots was also a stalwart abolitionist, who assisted slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. His Locust Hill home with the secret passageway in the basement has been definitively proven to be part of the network of homes used to hide runaway slaves on their way to Canada.

The Southern Illinoian described the danger of Roots' actions this way:
...Jean Ibendahl points out that Root's stand was not popular with his neighbors.

"This was a hotbed of Southern sympathizers," Ibendahl said. "Once, they threatened to tar and feather him, so he left until tempers had cooled down."...One time, two slave owners were convinced Roots had their slaves hidden in the cistern, even though they had searched the property and found nothing.

"They camped in the orchard, which was south of the house," Ibendahl said. "Roots sawed a hole in the kitchen floor to give the slaves food and water. Finally, the owners gave up and left..."

It's the stories of the ancestors - even though these are not mine - that create the fullness of their lives long after they are gone.

Everyone has a story.

I love this one.
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Five years ago, I wrote that I hoped I was closing in on Molly Ann Tipps, my step-mom's great grandmother.

I thought I found the identity of her parents from her death certificate. The informant for her death certificate was her daughter-in-law, Ella (Haun) Coffman.

But George Tipps and his wife, Maggie, were not her parents. I found Molly's parents this morning.

And eleven of her siblings.
I had checked the 1860 census for Molly, born Margaret Anna Tipps in March 1858 in Tennessee. This morning, still under the impression I had the right set of parents, I decided to look again.

That's when I saw a little girl named Margaret in Franklin Co., TN in 1860. By the time I got through the preliminaries on continuing to track this family, I had found eleven siblings - Molly appears to have been the youngest child - one of whom had a heartbreaking end in the Loudon Co., TX poor farm.

Here's what I was able to figure out...

Molly's parents were John Franklin Tipps and Samira Hall. I found them in the 1840, 1850, and 1860 census. Their first three children were daughters, including Rachael M Tipps Neal, who died in the Loudon County poor farm.

A note on Racheal's death certificate said:
This woman was an inmate of the county poor house, and nothing is known of her parents. I made a correction to that record in Ancestry.
 photo page 1.jpg

John F Tipps and Samira Hall appear to have lived in Franklin Co., TN most, if not all, of their married lives, adding to their family with regularity.

One this page of the report, there are three more daughters, and three sons. Son George Larkin Tipps was a Methodist circuit riding preacher.
 photo page 2.jpg

Another son and another daughter were born before Molly.
 photo page 3.jpg

Since I didn't find either John or Samira Tipps after the 1860 census, I assume they may have died. I have more research to do on them. I haven't found a grave for either of them at Find a Grave, so I can't link Molly to them.

I've done the next best thing I can, and added hyperlinks to the known burials of some of Molly's siblings on her Find a Grave memorial.

Now, I'll keep on looking...
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For many years, historians and geneaologists have said that death of children did not evoke the same feelings in parents of the 19th and early 20th centuries that it does in parents of today.

The thought was that there were so many children born that parents realized there would be a certain level of infant and child mortality. That's just the way it was. They didn't look at their children like we do ours.

Thankfully, that line of thinking is changing.

Because all you have to do is go to a cemetery with children's graves of that time, and look at the gravestones.

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A few short months ago, I asked a few of my friends to help form a non-profit tax exempt organization to provide promotional and supplemental financial support to municipal cemeteries in Arkansas listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are nineteen such cemeteries, and being owned by cities, they face unique challenges. Money is the first of those. Citizens of cities are not keen about being hit up for donations to operate and maintain city owned property when taxes are being levied for that purpose.

We created Stories in Stone, Inc. at the end of December last year. By mid February of this year, the Internal Revenue Service had decided we were a good idea, and granted our tax exemption.
We are operating on a dream and a shoestring right now.

We need your help. There are several ways you can help us.

Bookmark our website, and check it frequently. We are traveling to all of the cemeteries to photograph them. Each cemetery has a page on our website That's one of the ways we are promoting the cemeteries to all of those of us who brake for cemeteries, and can wander for hours, camera in hand, drinking in the history and art. If you are reading this blog, then you like cemeteries, too.

Follow us on Facebook. Give us a "like." It will boost our appearance on Facebook pages of others who are also interested in historic cemeteries.

Donate some money. Our website and Facebook page have a "Donate" button that takes you to our PayPal page. It doesn't have to break the bank. Donations in the amounts of $5 and $10 can add up, and help us to do some wonderful things. You don't have to have a PayPal account to use the button - you can use your credit/debit card, or your bank account. All donations are tax deductible.
You will find six videos on the Stories in Stone YouTube Channel.

We'd appreciate you watching any or all of these, and giving them a like.

And spread the word.

Our goal is to try and save history, one stone at a time.
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In the left sidebar of this blog, you will see links to five family trees I manage, and that I host at Rootsweb. There is now a sixth that I had not yet added.

And probably won't.

Rootsweb, the red-headed stepchild of, has been down now for nearly a week.

I didn't make that discovery until last Friday, when I uploaded my GEDCOM for my own family tree. According to the message displayed at that link:
This database is currently being updated. It should be online in a few minutes. Please wait for the screen to refresh with the updated information. If it has not been processed in a few hours please try your upload again.

Since Friday. More than "a few minutes."
I sent Rootsweb an inquiry yesterday. This is the canned response I got:
Response (Kevin) (02/29/2016 10:49 AM)
Dear Dee,

Thank you for contacting RootsWeb in regard to the uploading and processing of a World Connect tree.

The site is currently down due to ongoing technical issues. This includes access to and the processing of any World Connect trees. We hope to have the issues resolved soon. We are sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.

If there is anything else with which we might assist you, please let us know.

RootsWeb Support Team

I stewed about that asinine response all day long.

I woke up this morning just as peeved as when I went to bed last night.

I just sent this response:
I'd like to thank you for this response, but find myself unable to do so.

Ongoing technical issues? Or trying to do away with the free Rootsweb services thousands of us use because we believe that our genealogy information should be freely available to folks who lack the resources for a subscription to

I fail to understand how a company as large as, which has been systematically buying up other genealogy resources - including another free one, Find a Grave - does not have the wherewithal to get the free service back online. The $1.6 billion Ancestry got in 2012 when it agreed to be acquired by Permira Advisors, LLP has all been spent? All the tech team sent packing? My understanding is that as of 2011, Ancestry had revenue in the US alone of $399.7 million.

Surely a bit of that revenue can be used to get Rootsweb back online.

A note - I am currently a subscriber of However, that can change.

My GEDCOM is still processing...and after careful consideration, reading the blog entries of other geneabloggers about this ridiculous downtime and the post to your own message board which has been closed to further comment, and weighing my options, I have decided to move all six of my GEDCOMS to another service which thankfully is not yet controlled by

And I'll be telling the readers of my blog exactly why.

I am determined to keep the information in all six of the GEDCOMS I manage freely available to others.

As I move each GEDCOM, I will update its link in the sidebar.

With gratitude to Dr. Beverly Hofstadter,

Needy baby, greedy baby...
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I got a bundle of old newspaper clippings, telegrams and letters from my youngest sister not long ago. In that bundle was a clipping that solved a riddle for me.

I never understood why my great great grandmother, Laura Isabelle Cunningham Balding was buried at Oakland & Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park. Her husband, James Henry Balding, was a musician in the Civil War for the Confederate States of America. When he died, he would be buried in the Confederate soldiers section of what is now the Little Rock National Cemetery.

Wives and widows could be buried with their husbands. So why was Laura buried next door at Oakland? I pondered that for several years, until I read the death notice for Laura and Henry's youngest daughter, Ethel Clare Balding, and a letter that told me Ethel Clare had died of congestive fever (malaria) and was buried in the city cemetery.

The city cemetery was Oakland, purchased on 31 Dec 1862 from a plantation owner.

That sent me on a search through Oakland's digitized deed and burial records. I found the deed for a single lot, purchased for $2.50 on 13 Oct 1890, two days after Ethel Clare Balding died. But there was no stone.

No stone for a nine year old child. The family pitched in to mark her grave.

On 4 Feb 2016 - 125 years after her death - Ethel Clare Balding's grave was properly marked with a gravestone I hope would make my great great grandparents smile.

 photo Ethel Clare Balding.jpg

The sexton placed it at the foot of her mother's grave, because we believe Ethel Clare was buried there, her remains perpendicular to her mother's.

 photo Ethel Clare Balding and Laura Cunningham Balding.jpg

It's never too late to do the right thing.

The journey is good.
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I've been on a campaign to find James Ernest Balding's resting place, once I found out that his youngest sister was buried here in Little Rock.

I knew from California Death Index information that he died on 2 Apr 1944 in Los Angeles County, CA. But I didn't realize I had access to his death certificate on Family Search until this morning.

I had to scroll through hundreds of 1944 California death certificates to find it. But when I saw his name at the top of the certificate, I rejoiced. Now I'd know where he was buried.

Only he wasn't. His body was donated as a "specimen" to the University of Southern California.
James Balding died alone in an institution called Ranchos Los Amigos at Hondo, CA (now Downey, CA), where he spent the last 8 years, 5 months, and 7 days of his life. The certificate notes that his wife's name was Ella - he and Dora Enderlin had divorced prior to the 1940 census, where she listed her marital status as divorced. In the 1930 census, they were married and living in Los Angeles County.

I had not been able to find James in the 1940 census. It's possible I could now, knowing more geographic detail about where he was during that census.
From this website, I learned about the history of Rancho Los Amigos, including the period of time in which James was a patient there. Here's an excerpt - you should click the link and read the rest.

The southern campus of the Rancho Los Amigos Hospital is often referred to as the "Hollydale Mental Hospital" or the "Downey Insane Asylum" in contemporary times, however these misnomers paint an incorrect picture of the hospital's past use, which was much broader than just caring for the mentally ill. It was built in 1888 as a catch-all institution for the Los Angeles County Medical Center; a place to care for the handicapped, homeless, insane and elderly. The hospital was located in the former town of Hondo, which was absorbed by Downey in the 1950s. Funded by county bond money, it was simply called the County Poor Farm. Here, able-bodied residents could work on a large farm which sustained most of the hospital's dietary needs, in lieu of paying for room and board and medical care. These tenants were typically the homeless who drank too often, and just needed a few sober weeks of manual labor on the farm. Others worked on crafts such as wool clothes and rugs, which would be sold to the public. The 600 acres of property also encompassed an aviary, zoo, and rail line used for freight and passengers. Unclaimed bodies of residents who died at the poor farm were buried at a potter's field nearby, which has been relocated (but no one seems to know where, exactly) after torrential flooding washed away some of the caskets in 1914.

In 1918, the Spanish influenza epidemic hit the area, and the facility began treating all victims rather than just the indigent, and the word "Poor" was simply stricken from the name of the facility. The hospital expanded greatly in the 1920s to alleviate overcrowding conditions and rebuild flood-damaged structures, leading to the construction of the Spanish Colonial Revival buildings seen today. In 1932, the name of the institution was changed once again to Rancho Los Amigos, which translates to "Ranch of the Friends." The wide range of activities offered at the hospital were making it a legendary place to receive physical and occupational therapy; swimming, woodworking and weaving proved to help restore broken limbs and spirits. One example was that of a man with a badly crippled left arm and hand; the therapist placed a sanding block in it and directed the patient to sand furniture, which exercised the muscles and the patient also earned his own stipend to spend at the hospital store. Another patient who suffered from polio learned to paint by wielding an artist's brush between her teeth after 10 years of recovery.

After the Long Beach earthquake disaster in 1933, a large group of Rancho patients flooded the county supervisor Roger Jessup's office. They told tragic tales in hopes that he would push for funding improvements at Rancho to help the many victims. Some of these real-life stories were so traumatic that Jessup's secretary, Grace Wagner, became "hysterical" after hearing them, and actually leaped out of the office window and plummeted to her death.

But that's information from just the top of the certificate. It was the rest that hurt my heart.
James Ernest Balding died of complications of central nervous system syphilis. The final "stage starts after three years of exposure and infection to syphilis. Typically, the person is no longer contagious with the disease, but the gram-negative bacteria in the body can reactivate, reproduce, multiply, and spread drastically throughout the body. At this point, the infection spreads to all the systems in the human body, including the nervous system, bones, eyes, and heart. Neurosyphilis at this point can cause several damages to the body, including tabes dorsalis. When the nervous system is infected at this particular stage, the individual is at risk for meningeal syphilis, which in turn slowly shuts down the entire body. The tertiary stages can also cause the growth of many tumors, and lead to cancerous affects in the body. This stage can be diagnosed through specific tests in serology. The nonspecific tests may be negative. At this point, there is little treatment the individual can pursue, and the body shuts down as a whole." Source: Wikipedia.

Death certificate for James Ernest Balding, 1878-1944
 photo James Ernest Balding death certificate.jpg
This discovery gives rise to dozens of questions, most of which I expect will never be answered. Stuff like...

Who was Ella? The institution didn't know how old she was, making me believe they were not in touch with her, and possibly didn't know how to contact her to ask her.

Did Dora and James divorce because of his syphilis? They appeared as husband and wife in the 1920 and 1930 censuses, so they were together for a while.

Was Pop Balding notified of his brother's death? Both parents were already dead. Aside from Ella, Pop and Ione (nee' Balding Seaman Sisson) were James' only known survivors.

Who gave his biographical history when he was admitted? Hospital staff did not know all of his parents' biographic information - something you'd collect at admission, and certainly in a facility where people came to die.

So many questions, not so many answers.

But enough for me to create a Find a Grave memorial for him.

Because everyone has a story. Even if there's no happy ending.
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 photo MaryCDunnCallawayWilliams edit.jpg
Mary C Dunn, during the time of her marriage to Allen Mason Lowery Callaway, 1866-1877

She was my great great grandmother. Her name was Mary C Dunn. Over the years, I've documented her first and second marriages in Clark Co., AR, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Even 4th great grandchildren. I know how and when she died. I know where she is buried.

But I could never find her parents. I tried. I talked to her portrait frequently, hoping to prompt some lucid dreaming that would show me some obvious thing I had overlooked.
Then, a few years after I started my search, I met a cousin through Mary's second marriage.

He was VERY helpful in finding information about Mary's younger brother, Bob Dunn, who came to see her from Texas. We were fortunate to have this very weird photo of the two of them standing in front of a bedsheet.
 photo BobDunnMaryCallaway enhanced.jpg

From time to time, I would search through census records in Floyd Co., GA, looking for Dunns that fit this family of three known siblings, Martha, Mary and Robert J Dunn. Floyd Co., GA is where Bob Dunn (or RJ, as he was called in many historic documents) was born, according to a birth certificate for one of his daughters.

I could find age appropriate combos of any two of those names, but not all of them together, when they had to be little kids.

In any event, Floyd Co., GA didn't cut it for any date after 8 Sep 1866, when Mary married my great great grandfather.

I ordered her death certificate, thinking since she died at her daughter's house, the information would be there.

Nope. Her son and informant for the certificate, Ruben Ned Williams, said her mother was unknown. And that her father was Mr. Dunn.

I did not believe that Mary had never talked about her parents to her children, even if she was separated from them by distance or death.

Highly irritating. I can trace my Callaways back to 1667 in Somerset Co., MD, when Maryland was Maryland Colony, because there was no United States of America.

But in Mary's case, I couldn't get back any farther than 5 Jan 1849, when she was born.
Over the weekend, I got an email from Jason Williams, who is the cousin who found all that Texas information on Bob Dunn. Jason had been looking at some DNA matches for his father, and was back in census records for Floyd Co., GA.

He wanted me to look at one from 1850.
 photo 1850 census Floyd Co GA pg1 crop1.jpg

There at the bottom of the page were a couple - E Dunn, age 28, and his wife, Sarah Ann Dunn, age 24. Both were born in Georgia.
 photo 1850 census Floyd Co GA pg1 crop2.jpg

E Dunn (whom we soon determined was Ezekiel Dunn) and Sarah Ann Dunn had four children, according to the transcription of the census. Sure enough, at the top of the next page were four children.
 photo 1850 census Floyd Co GA pg2 crop1.jpg

The census enumerator had written the first two names of the oldest child - 6 year old William Berry. Then s/he had enumerated the younger children, James E, Mary C, and Martha L. With a quote ("), sometimes seen as DO on census records, meaning same surname. S/he never carried the family surname, Dunn, over to the top of the second age for this family. It also looks to me as if the children had originally been enumerated as a separate household, someone realized the error later, and went back and scribbled out the house and family numbers at the far left of the first line.

So for a transcriptionist - all transcriptionists throughout all the years - the four children had become William Berry/Burry, James E Berry/Burry, Mary C Berry/Burry, and Martha L Berry/Burry.

Except for my eagle-eyed cousin, on what must have been his umpteenth pass through 1850 census records for Floyd Co., GA. It didn't look right.

Obviously not. I knew Jason was on to something.
In case any of my first cousins are reading this, and wondering how a guy named Jason Williams is related to us, he's our third cousin. Mary was his great great grandmother through her second marriage to David Andrew Williams.

Mary C Dunn -> Ruben Ned Williams -> Howard Ruben Williams -> Jason's dad -> Jason
Many, many emails later, Jason (who has done almost all the work) and I have determined the following...

Ezekiel Dunn and Sarah Ann Meeks married on 8 Sep 1842 in Floyd Co., GA.

They had at least 6 children: William Berry Dunn, born 1844 in Floyd Co., GA, died before 1870 in Clark Co., AR; James Alexander Dunn, born 3 Feb 1846 in Floyd Co., GA, died 29 Mar 1908 in Searcy Co., AR; Martha L Dunn, who said she was born in 1848 in order to get her marriage license in Clark Co., AR in 1869 to marry David Andrew Williams, died 2 Nov 1876 from tuberculosis in Clark Co., AR; Mary C Dunn, born 5 Jan 1849 in Floyd Co., GA, died 9 Apr 1929 in Clark Co., AR; Robert J Dunn, born 3 Dec 1853 in Cave Spring, Floyd Co., GA, died 15 Dec 1926 in Sulphur Springs, Hunt Co., TX; and Ezekiel Dunn, born 1856 - probably in Floyd Co., GA, although there are records that say he was born in Arkansas.
Then we lose the children in 1860 - at least neither Jason or I have found them with other surnames yet.

But Sarah Ann Meeks Dunn was found in the 1860 census - with her new husband, David Benjamin Cagle - whom she married in Clark Co., AR on 13 May 1860. They were living in Greenville Twp., Clark Co., AR. None of Sarah's children are with the new couple, although several of David Benjamin Cagle's children are living with them.

Now, Mary's marriage record to Mace Callaway in 1866 made more sense to me:
Oct. 15th 1866 Clark Co Ark.

This is to certify that I, James Wilson, a regularly ordained minister of the gospel of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church did on the 8th of September 1866 solemnize the rights of matrimony between Mace Callaway, aged 20 years and wife Mary C Dunn, aged 17 years. He having no parent or guardian and her having no Father and the consent of her mother made her home with another family. In their presents (sic) was the right for [illegible]. Both residents of this county and State. My credentials recorded Batesville Independence County Ark. James Wilson

Sometime between 1856 and 1860, Sarah Ann Meeks had been widowed, and relocated to Clark Co., AR. Her six children had been placed with other families. In 1870, Jason found 14 year old Ezekiel Dunn living with Green Anderson Malcom and his wife, Susan, in Greenville Twp., Clark Co., AR.

Did David Benjamin Cagle refuse to allow his new wife to have her children with her? At the time of their marriage, her youngest was only 4 years old. Were the children with either Ezekiel or Sarah's families back in Floyd Co., GA until she could get settled and send for them? Was there just no room at the Cagle inn for them?
Sarah Ann Meeks and David Benjamin Cagle had two known children - Rufus Miles Cagle, born 7 Feb 1861 in Clark Co., AR, died 10 Jan 1929 in Clark Co., AR; and Henry E Cagle, born 1865 in Clark Co., AR.

In the 1900 census, Sarah Ann Meeks, having been widowed after the 1880 census, was living with her son, Rufus Miles Cagle, and his family in Caddo, Clark Co., AR. She said she was the mother of 9 children, 5 of whom were living at the time of the census. Jason and I have only documented 8 children. I think there was a Dunn child - probably her firstborn - who died at birth or in infancy.

And here's the kicker - in that 1900 census, Sarah Ann Meeks is living one home over from her widowed daughter, Mary C Dunn Callaway Williams, and Mary's two sons, Ruben Ned and Willie Williams.

So why didn't Ned Williams remember his grandmother 29 years later when he gave information for his mother's death certificate?

We will probably never know.
Naturally, the next steps are to flesh out as much information as we can about Mary's siblings and their families, and to try to keep going backward to find the parents of Ezekiel Dunn and Sarah Ann Meeks. Jason is hot on that trail, burning the midnight oil.

And the journey is good.


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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