GEDmatch Acquired by Verogen

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Until this afternoon, I had never heard of Verogen. Today Verogen “joined forces with” GedMatch. Based on reading the details, while the GEDmatch personnel are staying involved, the ownership and management appears to have passed to Verogen.

I didn’t know about this in advance, but I’m not surprised. Curtis Rogers, one of the GEDmatch owners is in his early 80s and already retired once in his life. GEDmatch needs modernization and Verogen has committed to breathe new life into GedMatch which provides tools not available elsewhere and much loved by many genealogists.

The press release is here.

Verogen

Verogen is a forensic genomics firm founded in 2017 to focus on the challenges of human identification and improve public safety and global justice for all, according to their website.

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The graphic above and below, from their website, explain their focus.

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According to this 2017 article, DNA equipment supplier Illumina is a Verogen partner and this May 2019 article states that the FBI has approved Verogen’s forensic DNA sequencing system and underlying technology.

I have been and remain supportive of investigative genealogy in order to identify deceased bodies and to bring violent criminals to justice. Another benefit of this technology is the ability to exonerate those wrongfully convicted.

The question for today, though, is how this affects genealogists as GEDmatch users.

Upcoming Changes

The press release states that GEDmatch users will see improvements in the future, such as:

  • Increased stability
  • Optimal searchability
  • Enhanced homepage
  • Increased functionality

With regard to the GEDmatch vision and terms of service, that won’t change “with respect to the use, purposes of processing and disclosure of data.”

In other words, the way GEDmatch works now is the way it will continue to work, at least for the time being. Companies change thier terms and conditions routinely, ar ebought and sold, just as this is a change from previous terms.

The press release goes on to say that as many as 70 violent crimes have been solved to date using genealogy searches, although they don’t say through GEDmatch specifically. Family Tree DNA also allows uploading forensic kits after a verification process for law enforcement (LE) matching. That’s roughly 1 case per week solved which means closure brought to families and villans being identified and taken off the streets, making everyone safer.

I’d wager that there are many more cold cases in the process of being solved given that multiple companies have now announced forensic genealogy research services.

“Never before have we as a society had the opportunity to serve as a molecular eyewitness, enabling law enforcement to solve violent crimes efficiently and with certainty,” Verogen CEO Brett Williams said.

“Still, our users have the absolute right to choose whether they want to share their information with law enforcement by opting in,” Williams said. “We are steadfast in our commitment to protecting users’ privacy and will fight any future attempts to access data of those who have not opted in.”

One interesting aspect of this announcement is that GEDmatch has 1.3 million users and as many as 1000 people are uploading daily. That’s great news for those of us who utilize their tools as genealogists, and law enforcement too, assuming that at least some of those people opt-in.

The press release goes on to say that Curtis Rogers, one of the founders will continue to be involved with GEDmatch as this partnership moves forward.

How does this affect you today?

GEDmatch

Users when signing on to GEDmatch must read the updated terms and conditions that state that GEDmatch is “operated by Verogen, following the acquisition by Verogen of the website.”

Whether people *actually* read, or not, they must then choose one of the following 3 options:

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There can be no question whatsoever that users didn’t have the opportunity to make a choice, because you cannot enter the GEDmatch/Verogen site if you don’t make a selection.

If you choose Option 2, Reject, your entire account along with all of the kits and GEDCOM files are deleted permanently.

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I did not delete my account.

For the record, “Decide Later” does not mean that you can use the site until you decide. It simply returns you to the login page.

To access the GEDmatch site, meaning your account and tools, you MUST accept Option 1, indicating that you agree to all of the terms of service.

This also applies to any other kits you have uploaded that you manage, so be sure that the kits fit the criteria as set forth by GEDmatch, and that you have obtained permission of living individuals and discussed their LE opt-in preferences.

You can of course delete any individual kits after agreeing and signing in or change options.

GEDmatch/Verogen Terms of Service

I read the terms of service several times and found nothing unexpected or alarming, given that I was already aware that my kits that I have opted-in for LE are being utilized in forensic and law enforcement matching for identification of remains and violent criminals.

If you aren’t aware of that and how the site works in that general, this is a needed review anyway.

Every person needs to read the terms of service and decide how to proceed for themselves.

You can read the updated terms of service below which actually serves as a great overview of the GEDmatch options and services, or if you are a user, sign on to your account and you will see the same verbiage.

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The Farewell Tour: The Morning After – 52 Ancestors #265

This is part two of a two part series. You can read part 1, The Farewell Tour, here.

In the summer of 2018, I returned to my home town for a high school class reunion, not really realizing at the time I was embarking upon a personal Farewell Tour. What was supposed to be a simple event became more – a combination of an emotional reunion with the past and ripping a bandage off of a wound.

Highs and lows – tears shed, both happy and sad.

Reflection is a knife that cuts both ways, and deep.

I left the class reunion early the night before. That’s the beauty of having an informal event. You can leave when you want to and it’s not awkward.

Sunday morning in the hotel, I woke to see the mist hanging over the field in the sunrise and remembered where I was. I was anxious to leave, given that I was facing hours looking through a windshield on the road.

But I had unfinished business beckoning first.

I decided that I wanted to, no, needed to, drive by the old places I knew.

Correction – had known. Because I no longer knew them.

Change happens slowly, but after decades of cumulative change, a great deal is different. Eventually, nothing even looks familiar.

I also knew, in my heart, that this was my last trip. This was goodbye.

Forever.

That’s why I had to take this final drive.

Chapters

My life in Kokomo was broken into chapters.

I am omitting the chapter that actually caused my departure. Suffice it to say that it involved intimidation, abuse, violence, blood, guns, police and courts. A monster, pure evil incarnate. That location, individual and events are not reflected in this narrative at all. I have no desire to relive those terrible memories or to allow them the power of any space in my psyche. 

I fully understand people who won’t, or can’t, talk about traumatic events or wartime atrocities.

What I will say is that I’m incredibly grateful for my mile-wide spit-fire stubborn streak.

It saved my life, and that of my children.

I knew I had to leave for safer realms, regardless of the cost – and I did.

I proudly view my wounds as battle scars. Witness to survival.

HE.  DID.  NOT.  BREAK.  ME.

My entire life in Kokomo up to that time had been preparing me for that life-altering day. That fork in the road moment.

I was being molded, shaped into what I would become.

Strong.

Steel.

Resilient.

Survivor.

Home

Mom moved to Kokomo with Dad when I was quite young, before my first birthday.

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Chief Kokomo

Kokomo was named for an Indian, some say a chief, named Co Co Mo. The old Indian cemetery was known to have been located on the north side of Wildcat Creek between Washington and Union, right where the railroad tracks have been embedded for decades, extending from the old railroad bridge down the center of what is now Buckeye Street.

Chief Kokomo was reburied a few blocks further east within a decade of his death when a sawmill was being constructed where the old Indian cemetery once stood. We don’t actually know for sure that Kokomo was moved, but he was reported to tower above other Indians, being 7 feet tall, and a body of that description was first marveled at, then reburied in a cemetery now behind Memorial Gym.

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By 1868, the train tracks had already replaced the sawmill, apparently, where the old Indian Cemetery once stood. At that time, Buckeye was aptly called Railroad Street.

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This 1868 map of Kokomo shows the old Normal School where Central School would be build in 1898, standing tall and new between Sycamore, High (now Superior), Market and LaFountain (now Apperson Way.)

Part of the Old Pioneer cemetery shown at the bend of the Wildcat Creek subsequently washed away in floods and another portion was encroached upon by the football field. According to Kokomo history, the graves in the Old Pioneer Cemetery were reburied in Crown Point Cemetery in the 1870s. Who knows where Chief Kokomo, Kokomo’s namesake, really is.

Like so many other Indian villages, the Miamis were gone shortly after the settlers arrived and overtook their lands.

David Foster, Kokomo’s founder, when asked why he named Kokomo, Kokomo, said, “It was the orneriest town on earth, so I named it for the orneriest man I knew – – called it Kokomo.”

Well, now, that explains a LOT!

Legends of Chief Kokomo, assuming he actually existed, range from being a kind chief to a shiftless, lazy, alcoholic wifebeater. You can read about him, here.

Today, a monument honoring Kokomo is located in the Old Pioneer Cemetery, on a dead-end street behind the gym, in one of the oldest parts of town where his remains were ostensibly reburied.

It’s there that my history in Kokomo begins.

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I found a picture of Mom holding me, standing at the monument to Chief Kokomo, dated June of 1957. Mom is wearing a winter coat, so this photo was clearly developed in June, but taken earlier.

I can’t believe Mom is carrying me and wearing heels. My feet hurt just looking at her.

This photo makes me wonder if this was when Mom and Dad first moved to Kokomo and they were out seeing the sights, becoming familiar with their new hometown. They rented an apartment on Apperson Way, just 3 or 4 blocks away.

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Dad was always connected to his Native heritage. He attended and participated in powwows, even though they were illegal at the time, prohibited by law. In fact, powwows were illegal until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act took effect in 1978.

I remember attending powwows held along Wildcat Creek west of town with Dad when I was quite young. Dad gravitated to any essence of Nativeness. Mom had a picture of him in Native regalia someplace in the south when they were dating, apparently having danced. I’m not surprised that he found this monument, although it isn’t well-known or visible without actually knowing where to look.

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Given that this was the first place in Kokomo documented in my life, I felt I needed to include it on my Farewell Tour. Somehow that seemed fitting. I was glad to see that it, along with other settlers’ graves have been preserved and cared for more appropriately than in earlier times.

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Apperson Way

Mom and I lived in two apartments in Kokomo before we bought a house after my grandfather’s death in 1962.

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Our first apartment was located just a few blocks from the Pioneer Cemetery.

I have vague memories of living on the first floor of a 2-story house that stood across the alley from this vacant lot on Apperson Way between Mulberry and Walnut Streets.

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I remember climbing into the bathtub with my shoes on, standing in about 3 inches of water, and not knowing what to do. That’s my first memory.

Mom looked amused and laughed, so I knew I wasn’t in trouble.

I remember waking up and standing in my crib, holding on to the wooden sides, looking at Mom and Dad sleeping. They didn’t sleep much longer:)

The train tracks ran nearby, and we heard the “choo-choo” often, with clock-like regularity.

I recall hearing the sirens the day Dad was in an accident, too. Mom somehow knew something was wrong. I remember that she was afraid and then being held awfully tight as we were driven to the hospital in the police car.

It was at the hospital that day, as my father lay unconscious in an oxygen tent, teetering on the edge of death, that another woman with a child walked into the hospital room looking for her husband too.

Then, those two women discovered that my father was the husband of both women, and the father of both children, born 5 months apart.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that they didn’t kill him on the spot.

His heart was evidently in pretty good shape, because he didn’t die of heart failure either.

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Dad with Ellen and David either in late 1955 or 1956.

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Dad with me in about 1956.

Not only was my father out of work for months due to being badly injured, my father and mother’s relationship abruptly ended at this point.

Dad was a passenger in the automobile accident, according to the newspaper, sailing through the windshield. Seat belts didn’t yet exist. Afterwards, and after Mom booted him, his life-long drinking problem got worse. He went home to Ellen in Chicago.

It’s somehow ironic that Mom rode to the hospital in the police car fearful of losing her husband to death, and she lost him alright, but not at all in a way she could ever have imagined. If the accident was a surprise, I’m betting the “other” woman was an even bigger shock. At the end of that life-changing day, I’m guessing Mom had no idea what had just hit her and rolled over her life like a run-away freight-train.

Somehow life moved on. It had to. She had me to take care of.

Mom found a job as a bookkeeper at Mid-States Electric and soon, we moved to a new apartment.

Apartment at Mulberry and Webster

Just Mom and I moved a few blocks away to an apartment in a large house owned by Mrs. Crume.

Divorce at that time, as well as being a single mother carried its own level of stigma. As a single mother, I think Mom felt safe there. Privacy, but someone in the same house and close by, if needed. A door connected our apartments and was always unlocked. Renting from an attentive, watchful widow lady reduced the chances of wagging tongues about an attractive single woman.

Mrs. Crume became a second grandmother, of sorts, especially after my grandmother died in January of 1960.

My poor Mom, when it rains, it pours.

First losing her husband in a terribly humiliating way, rife with betrayal, and then her mother died.

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Mrs. Crume had grandchildren my age and I loved living there with built-in playmates.

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This yellow house stands on the corner of Taylor and Webster. Our entrance was the covered porch on the side, looking much the same then as it does today, except painted white.

Today, the street is paved, but at that time, Webster Street, on the side of the house, was brick and one way going to the right.

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I can’t tell you how many skinned knees I had from roller-skating.

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There used to be hedges along the sidewalk. I played house with my dolls in the gaps between the bushes.

I must have been about 3.

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I pushed my dolls up and down the sidewalk in the baby carriage that I received for my 4th birthday.

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I remember this particular doll. She may still reside in the attic, having taken up residence in the grandkids toy box at Mom’s for decades. My kids played with her. Someone used an ink pen to give her eye liner.

I particularly like these pictures because while Dad isn’t in the photo itself, his shadow as the photographer is clearly visible. That mirrored my life with him after he and mother split. A shadowy never-there but never-entirely-gone either presence.

They both loved me, but their relationship was clearly in the past, although it wasn’t for lack of my father trying. He would occasionally arrive late in the day, hoping to spend the night. Sometimes he did – on the couch. I don’t think that’s at all what he had in mind.

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Four years later, in August 1963, Dad would be gone from this earth forever.

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I stirred up mud pies with my doll dishes in the tiny hidden space between the steps and the house.

I also had a little halter for my pet chameleon. The halter and leash got pinned to a chameleon-sized pillow and I took the chameleon with his pillow outside to keep me company while I made mud pies.

My life was NOT dull!

Nosiree.

I was crushed when my chameleon died.

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Sometimes Mom and I “camped out” on the couch in the living room and had picnics on the floor. My son now owns that comforter. Mom and I recovered and retied the comforter when I was a teen. Mom complained about having to stay home from a date to recover it with her mother when SHE was a teen.

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Mom made many of our clothes. I was so proud of this matching mother-daughter outfit. We made them together. I’m sure I was a BIG help.

Mom and I shared a bedroom which was above the porch roof and I was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE I heard Santa and his reindeer on the roof!

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With my discovery of the tree the next morning, decorated with ornaments and colorful lights, I had sure and certain EVIDENCE that Santa indeed HAD in fact been on the roof😊

Not only did Santa deliver and decorate our Christmas tree, he found us again on Christmas Eve night.

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Me after running downstairs on Christmas morning in my too-big Native bathrobe with mother’s bathrobe belt. Yep, Santa had been there all right!

Segregation

This was the house where we lived when I started elementary school – 1st grade at Lincoln School. Kindergarten was only available in private schools. We certainly didn’t have the money for that.

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By this time, Dad and I had been attending powwows on the riverbanks, far from prying eyes, for several years. There, my hair was braided and tied with leather braid-ties, and I learned to “dance” in the Native way. I wore a beaded belt and a fringed, hand-made leather jacket of sorts.

Powwows were special because it meant I got to spend time exclusively with Dad during times when he visited. Mom stayed home. Dad nipped on a flask slipped into his pocket much of the time.

I didn’t know what was in that flask, and I didn’t care. I loved powwows – the music, singing and drums along the riverbank – and loved going to them with Dad! Those secret powwows spoke to a secret life, unknown elsewhere. The people at the powwow knew things that other people didn’t. I was at home among my people – no questions, no judgement, always welcomed with open arms.

I proudly proclaimed to my teacher at school that I was part Indian. Keep in mind that this was before the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibited segregation. Separate was not equal, and never was.

Concerned, the teacher called my mother and told her that she needed to stop me from telling people that I was mixed-race. Indian was not “white” and there were laws about such things.

Mom took me outside and showed me the sign planted in the grass between the sidewalk and curb beside our apartment. She asked me if I knew what it said. Thinking I was quite smart, I said yes, “No parking.”

She read me the words, slowly, one at a time, and they said, “Colored people not allowed.”

She explained that if I continued to tell people that I was part Indian, that we would have to move and I would not be able to go to Lincoln School anymore.

I could tell from Mom’s demeanor that this was very serious.

I didn’t understand.

I remember asking why, and how Mom struggled to answer.

I also remember crying and being told I couldn’t talk about going to powwows with Dad either, because powwows were “against the rules.” So was dancing.

I was devastated and terribly confused. Why was Dad doing something “against the rules?” I had to mind the rules. Why did Mom let me go to something against the rules? And why were powwows against the rules anyway? No one answered my questions.

Mom didn’t think I should go to powwows after that. Dad insisted.

I didn’t talk about that anymore – for many years.

I was old enough to know something was wrong, but not exactly what that something was, or how.

The Neighborhood

While the yellow house was rather traditional, some of the other houses in the neighborhood were anything but.

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I loved this house cattycorner across the street then, and still do.

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It’s not in great shape anymore. I always thought the top looked like a witch’s hat, but I wasn’t frightened. I think I began my love affair with architecture and turrets right here.

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This building across the street and down a few doors was the “old folks’ home” at the time. Note the slide fire escape, still in existence from the upper level in the rear.

I used to cross the street by myself, looking both way first, of course, and visit with the residents. They loved that. Now I realize that not many had family and I never saw visitors. These elderly people were being “warehoused until death.”

I often colored pictures in my coloring book and took them as gifts. I would go back to discover my artwork taped to the walls beside the residents’ beds. I was thrilled!

One day I told the nurse that I had no more pages in my coloring book, and the next time I visited, she miraculously had found a HUGE new coloring book, plus new crayons too. At that time, I didn’t understand the depth of her kindness.

With what seemed an unlimited supply of crayons and pages to be colored, I became a coloring-machine, mixing my own colors and being mindful of the lines! Sometimes I colored the backgrounds too and experimented with layers of color, scratching through the top layer.

Then one day the inevitable happened. I went to visit one of my favorite grandpas, and the bed was empty…

Moving

My grandmother had died in January of 1960 and my grandfather in June of 1962. At Christmas, Mom became a homeowner and we moved on Christmas Eve! No pressure that year for Santa😊

Mom assured me that he would find us, but I wasn’t convinced.

Somehow, he came through!

Merry Christmas, Sycamore Street

We only moved about three and a half blocks away, but then, it seemed quite distant.

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The house on Sycamore Street, originally built in 1925, looks amazingly like it did then.

The house was divided into two apartments. Part of the reason Mom bought this particular property was so we would have income from one apartment to help pay the mortgage. Our entrance was on the side and we lived upstairs.

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The best part? I had my own bedroom!

Our house shared a driveway with the huge brick house next door that had a ballroom on the third floor. I’ve always wondered if our house was the gardener or servants’ quarters, but it was too nice for that, and too close too.

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Digging around in the photo collection as well as at the County Assessor’s office and at Newspapers.com, I pieced together events that formed our neighborhood.

In either 1865 (newspaper) or 1875 (assessor’s office,) Robert Haskett, a bootmaker and businessman in Kokomo build the stunning 3 story house next door to the east. The map, above, shows this portion of Kokomo on a map dated 1868, and the house on Sycamore doesn’t yet exist.

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This 1877 map shows the Haskett land, outlot 12. It’s interesting to note that David Foster still owned a substantial amount of land on the larger map, and that “New London and Kokomo Pike” was a tollroad with a bridge someplace in what is today Foster Park. Kokomo Pike became Park Avenue that intersects with Defenbaugh.

Apparently at one time people tried to build and live on land that eventually became Foster Park. Kokomo had a devastating flood in March of 1913 where Wildcat Creek came within 10 feet of the railroad bridge, threatening to wash it away, and expanded to nearly a mile wide. I’d wager that if homes were built in Lowe’s Addition, on Fremont and Rose Streets, they were permanently abandoned at that time.

The old Haskett mansion at 524 West Sycamore has two floors that total 3390 square feet, and the third floor ballroom, now considered attic apparently, would have been half of that again. When I lived next door, the ballroom had been abandoned for years, looking like guests just walked out after the last New Year’s Eve gala, shut the door and it wasn’t opened again for half a century.

Today, the mansion, as I used to think of it, is taxed at a value of almost a quarter million dollars, where our old house next door is taxed at $82,000. Of course, our house is half the size and not nearly as fancy. I’m not sure I’ve seen actual curved glass windows since. The Haskett home was truly magnificent.

Robert Haskett and his heirs died, and the mansion along with its property was sold out of the family, then subdivided. Orchards covered most of the land between Sycamore and Walnut and on west where our house and others would eventually be built.

Property tax records indicate that our house today has a total of 1566 square feet, 1 fireplace, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. It was built in 1926, has 8 rooms total and stands on .129 acres. Apparently, the upstairs fireplace has been walled up, because there were two fireplaces when we lived there.

According to the Historical Society and home assessment records, this was the first house built when the Haskett property was initially subdivided.

Ironically, currently our house and the Haskett house next door are once again owned by the same people.

Kokomo Sycamore.jpg

My bedroom was the window on the second floor to the right of the front porch roof. There were functional fireplaces in the front of the house, both upper and lower – clearly before central heat.

There used to be stately maple trees in the front and side yards.

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Today, the pine tree in the rear, probably about roof height when I lived there, soars above the house, and the maple trees are gone.

The maple tree on the left side came crashing down on top of the house in the devastating 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado. I remember Mom grabbing me by the hair, which was the closest thing she could get ahold of, and literally dragging me down two flights of steps to the basement.

Kokomo Sycamore pine tree.jpg

I walked up the hill in the driveway to knock on the door and see if anyone was home. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but it didn’t matter, because they weren’t.

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There used to be a garage in the rear where a concrete parking area is today, at left, with another unsheltered parking space at right.

My freshman home-room class constructed our homecoming float on a farm wagon for the parade made from colored Kleenex stuck into chicken wire in that garage. I can’t remember what it was, but we had a lot of fun making it.

We were terrified that it would rain.

Where the white lattice fence stands today at the rear of the property used to be a concrete block wall separating our driveway from the neighbors to the rear.

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The concrete block chimney was added at some point for the furnace, a boiler when we lived there. Our radiators clanked and Mom was always afraid the boiler would explode.

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The door, arched roof and trellises look exactly the same today. And I do mean exactly. It’s difficult to believe they haven’t been replaced since we bought this property 56 years ago. I’m not positive they’ve been painted since Mom sold it 47 years ago.

Lilly’s of the Valley grew in the flower bed below the trellises along with the rose bushes I bought Mom at Woolworths one Mother’s Day. I wonder if any of those plants remain.

Even the unusual lock appears to be the same on the door. Where’s my old key???

I wonder how many people have lived here since Mom sold the house in 1972.

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The little window above the inaccessible decorative balcony was my closet, which also housed the door to the attic.

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Today, this home is in the Old Silk Stocking historic district, as it should be.

In 1972, when Mom married my stepfather, she sold this house and we moved to the farm.

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Across the street. Saying goodbye. Forever this time.

The Sieberling Mansion

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Down the street a few blocks the old Siebering Mansion, build in 1887, is now the Howard County Historical Museum.

Kokomo Sieberling.jpg

The stately Sieberling Mansion declined for years due in part to exorbitant maintenance costs. Now, it’s beautiful again and is stunningly decorated for the holidays. I can’t find a copyright-free photo, but just google “Sieberling Mansion Kokomo Christmas decorations.”

Mom and I used to drive the old mansion neighborhood during the holidays, enjoying the display every Christmas season. It seemed like the residents had an implied competition to see whose home could be decorated the most beautifully.

As a child, looking out from behind frosty car windows into the inky night as we slowly inched along the crunchy snow-crusted streets, the colored lights outlining these mansions took on a magical other-worldly quality.

Best of all, that entertainment was free and something I looked forward to every year.

Oh, the innocent joys of childhood.

Lincoln School Years

I spent my elementary years at stately Lincoln School.

LIncoln School 1950

Each year, we would graduate to the next grade, and move from one room to another. By third grade, we graduated to “upstairs” classrooms.

There was no room for a cafeteria in that old building, so we all walked home, ate lunch, then back again. Occasionally we would have lunch with our friends at their houses. That was a special treat.

Sometimes we would hold hands with our friends, swinging our arms, as we walked each other home.

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Today, the new Lincoln School looks very different. You’ll excuse me if I say it lacks character😊

Every student looked forward to 4th grade where the entire school was caught up in the spring-time spelling bee competition and festivities which crowned the royal court of the best spellers.

Lincoln spelling bee court

Yep, that’s me bottom right, wearing white dress gloves, looking extremely self-conscious and not exactly knowing what to do with myself. I was in the spelling court. I still remember the word that was my downfall. I forgot to say “capital I” when spelling the easy word, I’ll.

The court members were all my friends of course, but my special, brilliant friend, Marianne was crowned the queen – in the center behind me.

Marianne is the friend buried in the Crown Point Cemetery. She passed away on my birthday. Unaware, I dropped into her Mom’s house the morning of her death, and directly into a scenario straight out of hell.

Marianne and her sister, Linda, were my best friends for many years growing up. I don’t ever remember not knowing them.

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We neighborhood girls used to have slumber parties. This is Marianne putting on makeup and drying her hair (yes, that’s what that thing is) sitting at Mom’s vanity.

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The Larsen’s lived just over on Walnut street. The area above the garage in the rear was a “playhouse” for the kids. That was our favorite place for slumber parties because it was so spacious.

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The neighborhood seemed huge at the time, but in reality, it was only a block or so wide and 3 or 4 block long.

I was too young to walk home from Lincoln School and stay after school by myself, so I had a babysitter, “Mrs. Cooksey” aka “Cookie,” a widow who lived across the street from the school in the house below.

Kokomo Cookie's.jpg

I loved Cookie. We had fun and she let me push the old lawn mower from time to time, probably because if I was behind it pushing, there was no possibility that I could get my appendages into the blades and hurt myself. It made a fun whirring noise. She didn’t think mowing was nearly as much fun as I did.

Kokomo lawn mower.png

We picked dandelion greens, cleaned, cooked and ate them.

Cookie also had a wringer washer in the basement and I was allowed to help turn the crank too. What fun!

That machine looked a lot like this one, below, except her tub was white metal.

Kokomo wash tub

By Etan J. Tal – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78348153

The water drained onto the concrete floor, discolored from years of washwater, and we used a straw broom to sweep the hot, soapy bubbling water into the drain. I made a game of that, seeing if I could sweep all of the bubbles into the drain😊

How do you make chores alluring to a child? Make them fun, of course.

I was terribly sad when Cookie eventually went to work at the hospital. I stopped by to see her for years. She came to see me when I nearly died of meningitis at that hospital when I was 10.

As I got a little older, I did stay alone after school, but Mom wasn’t cracked up about that all day in the summer.

For some reason, the older I got, the more she didn’t want me staying alone. Imagine that!

Kokomo Mrs. Jones.jpg

Mrs. Jones lived in this house. She had a son a couple years older than me, Jimmy, and Jimmy had a friend, Tony. And well….you get the idea. Tony was my boyfriend for quite some time in high school. He left to become a preacher. I went to Europe. Sound like a country song? Tony wrote and sang country songs too.

Jimmy had a band, The Barons, who practiced in Mrs. Jones’ basement. That woman had the patience of a saint.

Suffice it to say that I absolutely LOVED going to Mrs. Jones’ house. The entertainment there was infinitesimally more interesting than lawn mowers and washing machines.

Walking from home to either Lincoln School, or later Pettit Park or Lafayette Park Schools in middle school, I had to walk past a little neighborhood convenience store called Chuck’s Pantry.

It was owned by…Chuck…of course.

I loved that little neighborhood store. Sometimes Mom would send me on an errand there – usually to buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Chuck knew all the neighborhood kids, and we all knew exactly how much each and every candy bar cost.

Amazingly though, whatever pennies we had in our change was always enough for a candy bar!

Kokomo Chuck's.jpg

Chuck’s never seemed large, but it looks even tinier today. The grey addition to the left, behind the truck, didn’t exist originally.

The Reservoir

Kokomo had a public swimming pool, but an entrance fee was required.

Kokomo Reservoir map.png

The Reservoir, located 4 or 5 miles east of town, was free.

Kokomo reservoir.jpg

On hot summer evenings, Mom and drove to the Reservoir, parked along the road and with lots of other overheated folks, splashed and played in the water. There were no lifeguards. That’s Mom in the black suit and me with the pigtails.

Kokomo reservoir mom me.jpg

There’s little resemblance today. No swimming is allowed now.

Kokomo reservoir today.png

There weren’t guard rails then either.

The Reservoir is the Kokomo water supply, created by a dam across Wildcat Creek which also helps to control the worst of the flooding.

Kokomo reservoir dam.jpg

My Dad used to take me fishing along the dam.

Kokomo reservoir dam me.jpg

I’m actually amazed that my mother allowed playing on the rocks in front of the dam. Given that she didn’t fish, I’d wager she didn’t know until afterwards when the photos were developed. Fishing was an activity I got to do with Dad alone – cherished memories today.

Kokomo reservoir dam today.jpg

I drove past the dam site and it bears little resemblance to yesteryear.

Kokomo reservoir dam from bridge.jpg

The only place I can actually see the dam itself is through the trees from the bridge.

I might also mention that various locations at the Reservoir were favorite parking places for teenage couples. And for patrolling police. It wasn’t unusual to find yourself staring into a blinding flashlight, not that I’d know from personal experience of course😊

I’m guessing some things never change.

Walking to School

In 7th and 8th grades, I attended Pettit Park and Lafayette Park Schools, respectively, for one year each. Both were long walks from home.

Kokomo walk to school.png

Given that the kids who had attended those schools during elementary school had already established relationships and a social hierarchy, those of us transferring in from Lincoln School (to Petit Park) and Petit Park (to Lafayette Park) were landing in uncharted waters.

I didn’t attend either school long enough to establish much of a connection, but the next 4 years would be spent downtown at Kokomo High School. All students who went to KHS transferred from another school, and there were several, so high school was the great equalizer. The playing field was once again level, which is another way of saying that everything was in flux and opportunities were everyplace just for the plucking. At least, that was my perspective.

A new crop of both friends, and boys.

New friends, classes that could be selected, clubs, special interests, sports – you name it. Middle school was in many ways an extension of elementary school where there was little choice for personal expansion. High school by comparison was a smorgasbord – the last stop on our journey to becoming adults.

Of course, that was the whole reason for the class reunion – we left walking across a stage and carrying diplomas.

I passed the same landmarks every day for those 4 formative years.

There were no school buses. We walked to and from school, about half a mile for me, regardless of the weather. Heat, snow, rain; it didn’t matter.

Kokomo Sycamore to KHS.png

There were two ways to walk, either through the center of town along Sycamore Street, past the courthouse, shown below, or one block to the south, along Superior Street.

Kokomo courthouse.png

The courthouse build in 1937 and many of the same buildings are still there, with new businesses as residents of course.

Kokomo Buckeye.png

The Woolsworths store is gone, but I loved that place. The grey building above at right bears no resemblance to the Woolsworths of yesteryear, with its huge plate glass windows that were painted jovially with Christmas and holiday scenes by high school students each winter.

Woolworths stocked items I could actually afford. Many of Mom’s gifts came from there, including a parakeet that “she” wanted. At least according to me, she wanted a parakeet.

Looking south along Buckeye, above, the old train tracks ran down the center of the street, crossing Wildcat Creek in the distance.

We always had to be careful not to turn our ankles crossing the tracks. They were still in use back then.

Kokomo Buckeye looking south.jpg

Walking a block south along Buckeye, to Superior Street, where Buckeye ends today, we can see the bridge. These train tracks were laid where a sawmill once stood, and that was constructed over the old Indian cemetery.

Kokomo Buckeye looking north.jpg

Looking north from the intersection of Superior and Buckeye, above, the tracks run through downtown a few blocks to the depot where the class reunion was held.

Kokomo Superior east.png

The buildings along Superior walking east toward the high school are mostly gone now, morphed into parking lots. Absolutely nothing, other than the train tracks, looks familiar.

As students, we ate lunch in the mom and pop places that used to line the storefronts along Superior.

Around the corner on Union, Finn’s Camera and Drug Shop, of all places, was a favorite offering grilled sandwiches, flavored Cokes and frozen candy bars. Amazingly, Bob Fenn, the proprietor could do math in his head.

Coneys and grills that couldn’t accommodate very many students at once dotted the downtown landscape, but somehow dealt with the noon rush. Two separate lunch “hours” in which students had to leave, eat and be back for the next class within 55 minutes.

The high school did have a cafeteria, but not many students ate there. Those with cars drove elsewhere, along restaurant row on Markland mostly. Burger King, home of the then-new Whopper and Whaler sandwiches was always a favorite. The guys loved the, “It takes two hands to handle a whopper,” jingle, smiling smugly at their private joke, while the girls collectively rolled their eyes and laughed nervously, if at all.

Kokomo Armstrong Landon.jpg

The old Armstrong Landon Building, rebuilt in 1923 after a fire burned the original, still sports its exterior fire escape. At 6 stories, it remains the tallest building in Kokomo. The building occupies the full quarter block of Main and Sycamore. Until the building was demolished where the parking lot is today, the back of the Armstrong Landon Building wasn’t visible from Superior.

Looking at an aerial photo, I think about half of downtown Kokomo is now parking lots. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or a good thing, but it’s definitely different.

Kokomo Superior.jpg

In many places, new buildings have sprung up with lovely art and murals documenting Kokomo’s history.

As we walk down Sycamore, in another block, we’ll be in front of Kokomo High School.

Kokomo KHS corner.png

The approach only looks slightly familiar, like a long-ago vague reminder of someplace I once was.

On the right, a newer building has been added, with the original technical education building (woodworking and shop) set back further to the rear, near Wildcat Creek.

Slightly further on the right, the main building stands, but from this persepective, it’s hidden behind the trees.

I created this layout of the campus of both yesterday and today.

Kokomo Kokomo High School layout.png

The old Central School which had been repurposed for the high school is gone, replaced by a parking lot, as you can see above.

Kokomo Katz Korner.png

Perhaps the greatest of ironies is this photo though. Across from the school, off of school property but as close as humanly possible, used to be a row of buildings. I have no idea what was IN those buildings, because that was pretty much irrelevant. One might have been a pool hall. The sign swinging from the brick building on the corner from rusty hinges read Katz Korner, I think.

It was on that corner that the rebel boys hung out. Think James Dean and Fonzie. Yep, rebels all, they stood there and SMOKED. Cigarettes of course, nothing else. Those boys were often referred to as “hoods,” although I’m not sure why. It was supposed to be a disparaging moniker, but it didn’t keep the girls who walked by in clusters, on the OTHER side of the street of course, a respectable distance away, from glancing furtively across the street, pretending they weren’t in the LEAST interested.

Those unruly bad-boy males on the “tough” corner struttin’ their stuff were both very interesting and tantalizingly dangerous. It’s like they had gone over to the dark side, but the dark side was very much a curiosity.

Cigarettes were only “naughty” but anything else would have been illegal. Which brings me to the ironic part – the parking lot that has replaced those buildings belongs to the KPD, Kokomo Police Department, whose headquarters are in the brick building.

I got a good chuckle out of this.

Karma strikes again!

Kokomo High School

Kokomo KHS.jpg

The front of the original KHS building looks much the same, although this building was obsoleted as a high school years ago. It’s now named Central Middle School, but make no mistake, this is not the original Central School that stood across the street.

Kokomo KHS stairs.jpg

Inside, the stairs were wood, and we ran up and down the 3 stories like they were nothing. Lockers lined the hallways. Students had 8 minutes between classes to get to their locker, switch out their books and be seated in the next class before the bell.

And we made it, too, almost every time.

Otherwise, you got sent to the office for being tardy.

These were also the stairs where we girls made a stand in order to be allowed to wear pants, as in slacks, especially in the winter. Before that was allowed, we had to wear skirts or dresses and hose. Who remembers garter belts?

Kokomo garter belt.jpg

Sorry guys, these were miserable.

Keep in mind that we walked to and from school every day, often a mile or more and this was before the days of pantyhose which would at least have helped a little with warmth.

Bottom line, the old-school school administrators felt that dresses were more respectable than pants. I mean, only rabble-rousing females would EVER wear pants – right??? But we were cold and miserable – and I was very proudly a rabble rouser.

I’m sure this confession stuns all of my readers.

“Someone” started a rumor that the girls weren’t going to be wearing panties on a specific day, which of course means garter belts, hose and nothing else. The boys clustered excitedly around the bottom of all of the stairs, waiting for, then twisting their their necks nearly in a knot to watch the females climb the steps.

I remember by boyfriend, Don, saying to me, “You’re REALLY NOT going to do that, are you?”

I gave his class ring back.

Whether we did, or didn’t, wear panties that day, is irrelevant. We clutched our skirts close to us so that the boys couldn’t see (as if they could have anyway,) which had the intended effect.

It worked.

In an amazing change of policy, that has nothing to do with the protest, of course, the girls were quickly allowed to wear pants, but only in bad weather…and NOT jeans. Of course, that was a slippery slope and by the time I was a senior, pants, especially bell bottoms were VERY COOL!!! Skirts and dresses were a thing of the past.

However, my name with school administration from that day forth was officially “mud.” It’s probably in my “permanent record” along with a list of my further transgressions, most of which make me extremely proud.

If I had a graduation picture, I would proudly photoshop “mud” on my forehead and post it here.

Memorial Gym

Across Apperson Way from the main building stood the gymnasium.

Kokomo Memorial Gym.jpg

Standing on what remains of the old Central School steps, I spy Memorial Gym across the street beckoning like an old inviting friend.

Kokomo Memorial Gym 2.jpg

It was here that graduation took place.

Kokomo Graduation 2.jpg

Let’s just say that graduation was a battle for me as were activities leading up to graduation.

I was an (ahem) unconventional, noncompliant student😊

Among other things, I wanted to take an advanced placement college prep course. My male counselor whose approval I needed declined the request, saying, “We’re not going to waste a perfectly good AP seat on a girl. You’re just going to graduate, get married and go to work at Delco. We’re saving those seats for boys who are going to actually do something with their lives.”

He might as well have waved a red flag in front of a bull.

Hell hath no fury…

The dean wouldn’t listed to reason. My mother wouldn’t take me, so I walked to the school board meeting…and spoke.

The board was patronizing and said they would “see about things.”

I stood firm and said I was not going away until they decided, and I refused to sit down.

I was shaking and alone, but stood absolutely still, firmly rooted, unflinching, at the podium. I had to hold the sides to keep them from seeing that I was shaking and terrified. I was on the verge of tears, from nerves, and I was afraid I was going to be permanently expelled.

I was beginning to wonder what I had done. What was I thinking? More to the point, what was I to do next?

No one blinked.

I knew my goose was cooked. But since that goose was already in the oven, no need to stop now…

I noticed that a reporter from the Tribune newspaper was sitting nearby, taking notes, and seemed interested. I ever-so-slightly waved at them with 2 fingers, not letting go of the podium, and smiled just a bit.

She was the only even slightly friendly face.

The reporter moved a few seats closer, watching intently.

The board members glanced up and noticed.

I got my seat in that class, I’m sure because that path was much easier than dealing with a female malcontent who refused to leave or sit down. Still, I can’t help but wonder how many females didn’t and became discouraged.

That condescending, discriminatory attitude and resulting restrictions became a self-fulfilling prophecy for generations of females and minorities.

Females were SUPPOSED to, expected to, graduate and get married and go to work in the factory at Delco. We were NOT supposed to want to pursue a college education unless we wanted to be teachers, or nurses. Those traditional female occupations were OK, but NOT engineers or anything that competed with males. Heaven forbid.

Furthermore, I missed part of a semester due to health issues but completed all of my requirements with outstanding grades. In fact, I graduated near the top of my class.

The administration did NOT want me to “walk” with my graduation class because of my absence, suggesting instead that I attend the “night graduation” for those who had been disgraced into going to night school. Like, you know, girls who had gotten pregnant and were not allowed to attend school with the rest of us because they might pollute us with their lack of morality. (Sarcasm.)

I flat out refused.

I was not allowed to order a cap and gown. That was fine, I said, because I would simply walk in my street clothes – specifically, blue jeans and a rather tight-fitting tank top. I was good with that.

Another battle was brewing.

Apparently, Indiana University had an entirely different opinion of my worthiness – because as if a magic wand had been waved, when the high school was notified by letter that I was receiving an academic scholarship from Indiana University, one of only two awarded – I was suddenly allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony.

Kokomo Scholarship.jpg

As the graduates names were called, their scholarships were announced. It might have been my imagination, but there was a pregnant pause just before my name.

Then it was my turn to walk.

All I can say is that I proudly strutted across that stage, head held very high, waved to my family in the stands, accepted my diploma from officials who were absolutely NOT smiling, reached out to shake each of their hands whether they wanted to or not, including the school board members who assuredly remembered me, smiled by best, brightest smile at them, said “thank you,” and proudly walked off the stage holding my diploma in the air.

Like I said, I’m absolutely positive “mud” is my official name.

Suffice it to say, I not only won the battle, I won the war.

Kokomo IUK.jpg

These weren’t my only battles with the administration at KHS, but the ones of which I’m proudest. I hope in some small way they paved the path for others who followed.

Literally, no one, not even my mother supported me, and I was utterly terrified.

My mother’s favorite saying to me was always, “If you would just behave.”

I didn’t and couldn’t. Thank goodness.

I doubt she thinks that any more😊

Roberta well behaved

Of course, while graduation was the pinnacle of our years at KHS, most of our time spent in Memorial Gym was for sports or gym class.

Basketball games were played inside, with football outside, behind and to the right on the old Kautz field.

Kokomo gym.jpg

The student cheer block, also known as yell block, consisted of coordinated dressing in red and blue with white gloves, cheering and yelling. We practiced in the gym and executed our synchronized “yells,” directed by the cheerleaders, during games when we cheered wildly for our hometown team, the Kokomo WildKats.

Kokomo Wildcats.jpg

The football field was located by Wildcat Creek that ran behind the school and is gone now – only the track and one set of bleachers remaining. The official high school is now Haworth, the “new school” built south of town back in the 1970s.

Kokomo High School, as we knew it, is no more.

Central School

Kokomo Central school.jpg

The old Central School building, built in 1898 stood across from the main KHS building and housed fun classes, like art and debate, for example.

I loved art, although I wasn’t fond of my overly-attentive teacher. I still have one of my leaf pencil drawings.

Kokomo leaf drawing.jpg

The Central School floors were well worn wooden planks, as were the stairs and everything had an echo quality.

Kokomo Central steps.jpg

Only steps to a parking lot where the school used to stand remain today.

Kokomo Central location.jpg

I walked into the parking lot, and noticed something VERY interesting through the trees.

What is that?

Why, it looks like a Fairy House???

The Fairy Houses

We did NOT have Fairy Houses when I lived in Kokomo. Two exist today and they look like they emerged directly from a storybook. They are amazing!!!

Kokomo Storeybook Express front.jpg

Believe it or not, this is a convenience store named Storybook Express with a drive-thru and it’s stunningly beautiful. Can you believe those words together in one sentence?

Kokomo Storybrook Express front.jpg

I want to live in this version of a hobbit house!

Kokomo Storybook Express corner.jpg

Standing in the parking lot, a lovely garden and statue grace the corner.

Kokomo Manetoowa.jpg

Manetoowa, honoring the spirit of the Native Miami people.

Kokomo Manetoowa statue.jpg

The perennial garden surrounding the statue is luscious. A time capsule rests beneath the statue itself.

Kokomo Manetoowa garden.jpg

This is amazing!

Kokomo wildflowers.jpg

Oh gosh, look at the cute little chimney, behind the statue.

Kokomo Storybook Express fence.jpg

Even the “fence” by the street is incredible!

Kokomo Storybook Express glass.jpg

I bet that’s Kokomo Opalescent Glass, too.

Kokomo YWCA.jpg

Looking across the street, I notice the old YWCA building where I spent many Saturday mornings as a child. In elementary school, I “helped out,” checking skates in and out so that I could attend the Saturday morning activities for a reduced rate. The Y had trampolines and crafts and best of all, swimming. Not to mention a pop machine with cream soda. Soft drinks were something we couldn’t afford, but part of my “pay” was one soft drink every Saturday.

The high school didn’t have a pool, so students swam at the Y – walking, or rather, running the block back and forth with wet hair that froze stiff in the winter, and YES, we still made our 8-minute class switch!

There’s one more Fairy House in Kokomo as well.

Kokomo Markland Fairy House.jpg

This one on Markland was for sale and I’m not even going to show you what they did to it.

Kokomo Fairy House side.jpg

Kokomo fairy house front.jpg

Tying Up Loose Ends

About the time I graduated from high school, Mom married my wonderful stepfather, sold our house in Kokomo and moved to the farm. I adored both him and the farm, writing about him here and here, and my wonderful memories of the farm, here.

I did not visit the farm during my Farewell Tour. I said my goodbyes there years ago. The house burned after Dad died and Mom moved to town. Like with this journey to Kokomo, I knew that my last trip to the farm was indeed my last visit ever. “Home” is not there anymore.

Having driven the length and breadth of Kokomo for two days, I had visited just about every place that held poignant memories for me, other than the chapter I omitted – except one.

The house on Mulberry Street at the corner of Indiana.

I didn’t want to, but I needed to return one last time.

My heart started pounding the inside of my chest as I drove down those streets lost in memory.

The House on Mulberry Street

Perhaps I should say where the house on Mulberry Street once stood.

If I close my eyes, I can still see it – standing in its stately grandeur. Stained glass windows restored after being found long-buried beneath the attic floor. A beautiful wooden spiral staircase climbing gracefully inside the front entryway bathed in rainbow light from the colorful windows. The wooden banister rubbed smooth from thousands of hands over a century.

Kokomo Mulberry Indiana.jpg

Today, this is the view.

The townhouse apartments across the street look almost exactly like they did back then.

Kokomo Mulberry Indiana apartments.jpg

I remember the old woman who had lived there seemingly forever warning me just before we bought the property about the rumor that the house was jinxed. “Haunted actually,” she said. “Cursed.”

Finally, taking me into her confidence, wide-eyed, she revealed the dark secret. That no one ever left there married. Ever.

We shouldn’t buy it, she warned, or we wouldn’t either.

Her story revealed that one man, long in the past, had locked his supposedly insane wife away in the attic, a hostage, and she cursed both him and marriage.

I smiled, and while I appreciated her grandmotherly concern, I thought those stories were amusing. I was glad my house, which was approaching her century birthday, had character.

I wondered about the attic though, especially when we were working on the restoration.

The elderly neighbor died shortly thereafter, but I thought of her words often as I found odd things buried there – and in the basement, under the floors, slid in-between the walls and under the insulation that was added decades later.

Kokomo Mulberry memorial garden.jpg

“Our” corner stands vacant now, memorialized only by the garden where the tree and sidewalk to the front door once stood.

Kokomo key.jpg

Today, these keys, found in the walls, resurrected into ornaments, are all that’s left.

Kokomo key 2.jpg

This grand lady was the first house I ever owned. My husband and I bought it because it had so much potential. Translated – it needed a whole lot of work and we could afford the property.

We were convinced that we could do anything.

We were was young and starry-eyed in love. We had vision and a plan for the future.

We would restore our house, raise our family and finish law school.

We would live happily-ever-after.

We worked towards our dreams which were slowly becoming reality. Long hours at work and school along with laboring on the house were paying off.

We could see the finished product through the hours, days and long weeks of back-aching work as we transformed this neglected gem into a much-loved beauty.

We found old newspapers and packages secreted in the walls, along with a very steep hidden stairway secreted in the rear of the house – barely wide enough for one person. Is it possible that those stories were true after all? Something wasn’t “normal,” that’s for sure.

But walls weren’t talking. And our friend was dead.

We kept on working, and working, and working. Restorations of old houses are never “finished.” Take my word for this.

I turned the corner and pulled my Jeep up in front of the property which looks very different today.

Kokomo Mulberry sidewalk.png

I can’t see where the house once stood. Thankfully, it’s shielded from my eyes by the newly planted trees between the sidewalk and Mulberry Street.

However, this small walkway from the street used to lead to the steps that led to the house on the other side of the sidewalk that’s no longer there.

Now, I just see a chilling reminder of a life and hope snuffed out – the walk that leads to no place.

And nothing.

Or maybe to another time.

To the days of wooden banisters and falling asleep in his arms in front the fire crackling in the winter fireplace.

Those long-lost days.

Before…

Kokomo Mulberry rear.jpg

I pulled down the alley to see if I could get a better view from the back. The neighbors bought the lot after the house was no longer there and built a garage. Today a flag waves over children’s playground equipment.

My husband would have been proud that the American flag flies on this land – he was a veteran – a special ops Green Beret in Vietnam.

Kokomo Mulberry aerial.png

After I returned home, I brought myself to look at Google maps where I can still see the footprint of the foundation of the house that once stood there. Of course, eventually the basement was filled in and the rubble removed, but the scar upon the earth and seared into my soul still remains.

I wish I hadn’t looked.

I want to remember the beautiful memory garden instead.

Kokomo Mulberry garden.jpg

I cannot tell you more about this chapter of my life – because I simply cannot.

I will write about this one day, if I can, but that day is not today.

The pain is still palpable and raw. In all these years, I’ve never been back. Never stood here. Never weeped.

When mother and I drove to town, we went out of our way to avoid not only this street, but the surrounding blocks as well. No words were ever spoken – sometimes just silence and tears as we glanced in this direction, then away quickly again, pretending like we hadn’t.

One of us would bite our lip. Neither of us would say anything. We didn’t look at each other, because that would have been to acknowledge something we both were trying desperately not to.

Just look in the other direction and drive straight away.

“I think it might rain,” someone muttered.

I must admit, she and I both wondered if that story about haunting and being cursed was true. If so, that spell was broken, because now all that’s left of that house and that life is a void.

It was all I could do to muster the courage to drive by after all these years – because it meant reliving that devastatingly heartbreaking chapter of my life. Pulling the bandage off the still-bleeding wound. Allowing myself to feel. Praying I wasn’t sucked into the vortex.

I knew this was my last visit, forever, and I needed closure. I needed to say goodbye. I never really got to say that before.

Kokomo Indiana garden.jpg

Finding phlox growing along the fence in a beautiful perennial garden that looks exactly like the phlox my Dad grew on the farm is soothing to me. I’m glad the current owners restored beauty, albeit differently.

Kokomo Mulberry phlox.jpg

It was like my Dad was reaching out to me over the years to comfort me – yet again.

Kokomo Mulberry phlox 2.jpg

It was my Dad’s quiet, steady voice that was able to reach me through the horrible fog all those years ago when my life was scorched to the bare earth and the husband I loved was ripped from my life.

I tried to rebuild my life in Kokomo, but it became increasingly obvious that I needed to leave. I was going to say, “for better opportunities elsewhere,” but the simple truth is I just needed put the past behind me so that I, we, my children and I, could build a future without ghosts that could not live and would not rest.

Kokomo kids.jpg

Goodbye

US 31 connects Kokomo, known for years as “Stop Light City,” to the outside world. What was once a bypass became a congested road lined by factories, businesses and malls. Those of us who lived there didn’t think much of it.

Today, there’s a bypass around the bypass, but I elected to drive 31 once again. After I moved away, it was 31 that brought me home again – and now, it would be 31 with its no-longer-familiar businesses upon which I would take my final exit.

Kokomo stop light city.jpg

My life had changed. I slowly morphed into a new creature. I think of an injured caterpillar that spun itself into a protective cocoon, then eventually hatched into a new creature, a butterfly.

Kokomo garden butterfly.jpg

I spread my wings and flew away.

Kokomo too has changed. Now that my folks are gone and I have no relatives there, there’s nothing in Kokomo to lure me back again. Nothing remains for me now.

For my family, Kokomo was a stop along life’s bumpy road where I lived for a quarter century and Mom for twice that long.

I wasn’t born there, but spent many years unconsciously honing the strength and skills I would need to survive, and then to leave. The strongest steel is forged from the hottest fire.

The best part for Mom and me, both, was the peaceful time on the farm with my stepfather. For her, a salvation. For me, a hiatus. God only graced me with Dad for a few years, but his quiet strength and peaceful presence remains with me wherever on this earth I journey.

Neither Mom nor I left family in Kokomo, so it’s not a place that will be cherished as a “heritage” location by our descendants. There’s no reason for them to return either.

Kokomo aerial.png

As far as descendants are concerned, that’s the very best part of what I took with me.

Them.

Together, we crafted our future.

Farewell, Kokomo.

Celebrate Your DNA

One of the challenges I have with conferences is that I spend so much time in the vendor area. Books, maps and DNA baubles are bright shiny objects to me.

I ran across Alex Coss in his role as “Chief DNA Celebrator” in his booth. Yes, that’s really what his business card says. I’m sure it won’t surprise you now when I tell you the name of his company is “Celebrate DNA.”

I ordered two items from Celebrate DNA to celebrate my own genetic heritage. I love wearing DNA-themed items. People ask questions and I get to explain how much fun DNA is and how critical to genealogy.

The great thing about Alex’s items is that many (most) of Alex’s products are customized for you based on your own DNA results.

Celebrate DNA shirt.jpg

I particularly like my double helix t-shirt. I know, that’s the geeky side of me showing through.

Celebrate DNA options.png

Celebrate DNA has are a lot more styles to select from in both t-shirts and sweatshirts.

I think these would be great to wear to family reunions and are sure to be conversation starters.

Celebrate DNA roots.png

Now, I want a canvas bag with my heritage splashed across the world. I don’t care if the percentages align with my genealogy or not, because my ancestors are from those locations. My history lives there.

Celebrate DNA day of the dead.png

I *need* this shirt for research trips, but perhaps in a different background color! There are lots of colors to choose from.

Celebrate DNA offers many other items too; mugs, bags, posters, hats and more.

These would make great genealogy holiday gifts for yourself or others.

Celebrate DNA is having a sale and offering an additional discount if you order by clicking here, then enter ESTES10 to receive a 10% discount on top of the sale prices.

Enjoy!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Genetic Affairs Reconstructs Trees from Genetic Clusters – Even Without Your Tree or Common Ancestors

Since Genetic Affairs launched in 2018, they’ve added a LOT of new functionality. I initially wrote about their clustering functionality here.

Genetic Affairs AutoClustering, SuperClusters and brand-new AutoTree tree reconstruction are to-die-for features for traditional genealogists. For adoptees or people seeking unknown parentage, they are the best thing since sliced bread, automating tasks previously peformed manually over labor-filled hours, days and months.

Why Genetic Affairs?

Genetic Affairs works with matches from three vendors; Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder test and 23andMe.

MyHeritage has integrated a version of Genetic Affairs directly into their product offering on the MyHeritage website so every MyHeritage DNA customer receives clustering functionality, free, through MyHeritage, but not tree reconstruction.

GedMatch has also implemented an autocluster version for Tier 1 users, but GedMatch’s version only works at GedMatch, of course, and does not include the new tree reconstruction feature.

This article pertains to the functionality of the features available directly through Genetic Affairs, including:

  • Clustering your matches visually to identify ancestral lines of people that match you and each other
  • Reports by cluster including common surnames and locations
  • Analysis of trees within each cluster to identify common ancestors
  • Partially reconstructs trees with your known ancestors for each cluster
  • Partially reconstructs trees between your matches even if you don’t have a tree or don’t share the common ancestor

Genetic Affairs provides visualization for linked DNA matches along with critically important clues to help you figure out just how you are related to these people, and these clusters of interrelated people. The Genetic Affairs user manual can be found here.

Analysis

Each time you run Genetic Affairs is called an analysis. Each analysis scans your kit at the selected vendor(s) for all current matches. A few minutes later, you receive a zip file via e-mail with two or three files depending on your selections at Genetic Affairs and the tree availabilty of the vendor:

  • Autocluster file including the visual clusters plus additional information
  • Excel spreadsheet of cluster members and relevant information such as common ancestors and common locations
  • Tree file containing reconstructed trees (23andMe does not support trees, so no trees are available for 23andMe clusters)

Let’s look at each feature. Grab a cup of coffee and head for the computer.

Selecting Analysis Options

I encourage you to experiment. Selecting a wider range of cM (centimorgans) results in a larger file, but may also mean that the analysis times out.

For this report, I’m utilizing my matches at FamilyTreeDNA and selected a cM range of 50 minimum and 250 maximum. I wanted a minimum cluster size of 2 people, meaning 2 in addition to me. This resulted in 249 total matches that met that criteria and 20 people who met the cM criteria but did not have another person with whom to cluster.

I tried a second analysis using 20 cM – 300 cM resulting in a much larger file with 499 people in the cluster group. Currently, 499 is the maximum that will be processed.

Genetic Affairs profiles.png

On the Genetic Affairs Profiles page, I can view all of the profiles I manage. Users can schedule updates where Genetic Affairs automatically scans for matches and produces reports.

Genetic Affairs my profiles

Click to enlarge

By clicking on the Autoscan button, you can schedule automated recurring scans with e-mail notification.

Genetic Affairs autoscan

Click to enlarge

You can scan daily, weekly, monthly or never – whatever interval you select.

You can select both the minimum level of DNA match and the minimum cM. The lowest you can select is 9cM.

You can view any e-mails that have been sent to you by Genetic Affairs. The green envelope means that there’s something in your e-mail box. This answers the question about whether the report was completed and sent. If the report has been sent, but is not in your e-mail, check your spam filter.

Starting the Scan

Back on the Genetic Affairs profiles page, you can initiate an autocluster by clicking on the AutoCluster button where you’ll see the options based on which vendor you’ve selected.

Genetic Affairs autocluster.png

For example, at Ancestry, you can include only people in a particular group or only starred matches.

Genetic Affairs Ancestry autocluster

Click to enlarge

23andMe includes surname enrichment and triangulated groups options.

Genetic Affairs 23andme autocluster.png

FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry both include the “AutoTree – identify common ancestors from trees” option. It’s very important that you click this box if you select the “Default AutoCluster” option – or you won’t get the reconstructed trees.

Genetic Affairs default autocluster.png

Of course, you can always run the analysis again.

Genetic Affairs autotree.png

If you click on the “AutoTree AutoCluster” function, the AutoTree box is already checked for you.

Genetic Affairs autotree autocluster.png

Rule Based AutoCluster

The “Rule based AutoCluster” is a dream-come-true for people seeking unknown parents or ancestors in a relatively recent timeframe.

Genetic Affairs Rule Based Autocluster.png

The “Rule based AutoCluster” provides you with options that allow you to do three things:

  • NOT – Exclude your matches with someone else. For example, your mother has tested. You can use the NOT rule to exclude anyone you might match through your mother’s side, providing you with clusters from your father’s side.
  • AND – Combine your results with someone else’s. If you have identified a half-sibling, you can view only clusters of only people who match you AND your half sibling.
  • OR – Combined rules. You can request a cluster of everyone in clusters with person A but not in a cluster with person B. In this case, if you match a number of half siblings, you can include all of their matches, except people who match them through their “other” parent, if that parent has tested.

Genetic Affairs has provided some graphics and examples here, but you may have to be a member of the site to access this page because the options are customized for you. So I’ll include the non-customized information, below. You can click these to open in a separate window and enlarge.

Genetic Affairs rule based 1.pngGenetic Affairs rule based 2.png

The “Rule based AutoCluster” explanations provided by Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs rule based 3.png

Read the details of how these tools work. They are powerful, so don’t assume you understand without reading carefully.

We have one housekeeping task to complete before we can get to the actual clusters if you are using Family Tree DNA.

I encourage you to utilize Family Tree DNA in addition to other vendors, especially with the introduction of SuperClusters. Family Tree DNA is the only one of the three vendors that supports both trees AND provides detailed segment information for you and your matches.

However, if you’re NOT using Family Tree DNA, skip to the next section titled “Clustering Your Matches.”

Housekeeping at Family Tree DNA – Finding Your Bearer Token

Recently, Family Tree DNA has been updating their trees. Note that during this timeframe, your tree may experience difficulty or slow wait times when loading.

During this conversion process, some trees are not working correctly and some have inadvertently been set to private due to a bug. This won’t stop the tree reconstruction from working for other trees, but after the conversion process is complete and the bugs fixed, there may be more trees available in your matches – so rerun this occasionally.

Check your tree setting to be sure yours is NOT erroneously set to private, otherwise, people can’t see your tree – and you think they can.

This setting can be found by clicking “Account Settings” by flying your mouse over your name in the upper right hand corner of your personal page, then click on “Privacy and Sharing” and scroll down to the bottom to view your selection under “Family Tree Sharing.”

Genetic Affairs FTDNA tree sharing

Click to enlarge

You want to select either “Only Matches” or “All FamilyTreeDNA users,” which is my selection, shown in red. If you select “Only Me,” your matches can’t see your tree. Living people are automatically privatized.

Sometimes there are unintended consequences of vendor updates and upgrades. In particular, vendors don’t test third party software to see if it still works in the same way. Companies like Genetic Affairs which provide invaluable services to the genealogy community test as soon as possible and make whatever changes might be required.

Family Tree DNA has implemented a security token. Users need to retrieve their token separately and enter it into their Genetic Affairs account in order for Genetic Affairs to be able to gather tree information from your tree as well as your matches trees.

Genetic Affairs has documented this step-by-step process, here. The bad news is that you  need to do this every time you run a cluster analysis.

If you use two monitors, put the instructions on one and sign on to your account on the other. Otherwise, print the instructions so you can reference while signed on to your account at Family Tree DNA.

Just so you know, this process looks far more intimidating than it is. Just take a deep breath and follow the step-by-step instructions, below.

This technique only works using Chrome, not in either Edge or Firefox. Use Chrome.

Genetic Affairs FTDNA mytree.png

First, sign on to Family Tree DNA and click on myTree in the upper area. Genetic Affairs provides instructions for both a PC and Mac. I use a PC. You can click to enlarge any of these instructions.

Genetic Affairs step 1.png

Step 1 from Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs step 2.png

Step 2 from Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs step 2 me.png

On my computer, a PC, this is what I see after pressing F12. Click on Network.

Genetic Affairs step 2 network.png

I clicked on “Network”, as instructed, and this is what I see.

Genetic Affairs step 3.png

Step 3 from Genetic Affairs. Press Ctrl+R on a PC or Cmd-R on a Mac.

Genetic AFfairs step 3 me.png

This is what I see after Pressing Ctrl+R.

Genetic Affairs step 4.png

Step 4 from Genetic Affairs. Press Ctrl+F on a PC or Cmd+F on a Mac to display the search box.

Look for the Search box.

Genetic Affairs step 4 me.png

Type the word “bearer” (without quote marks) and then press Enter. You will see the links at left with the word “bearer” highlighted in yellow. Click on one of those yellow words.

Genetic Affairs step 4 me bearer.png

I clicked on one of those yellow “bearer” links and the box at right in yellow appeared, containing my token. This is what you need to copy.

Genetic Affairs step 4 copy token.png

Copy only the portion of the yellow box that I’ve highlighted above in green, not the words “Authorization: Bearer.” Now all you have to do is paste over at Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs step 5.png

Step 5 from Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs step 5 me.png

I pasted my copied token, above, then clicked on Perform Analysis, the blue button above at right to begin my cluster analysis. It worked wonderfully.

You need to obtain your token every time you want to run an autocluster for accounts at Family Tree DNA. Hopefully Family Tree DNA will do something to eliminate this manual step for Genetic Affairs – but in the mean time, we have this workaround.

I know this seems painful, but it wasn’t and it’s well worthwhile.

Now let’s cluster!

Clustering Your Matches

Genetic Affairs autocluster order.png

At Genetic Affairs, if you initiate clustering by clicking on the AutoCluster button, you’ll need to put a checkmark in the AutoTree function box. If you began by clicking the AutoTree button, the box is automatically checked for you.

A few minutes later, you’ll receive an email with a zipped file. Save this file to someplace on your computer where you can find it, and open the zipped file by clicking.

Genetic Affairs zip file.png

You’ll see the files, above.

Click on the chrome AutoCluster HTML file which will display in your browser.

The first thing you will see is your visual autocluster. It’s so much fun to watch your matches “fly” into place!

Each of the people in this cluster are somehow related to the other people in the custer who have cells of the same color. The people with grey cells are included in two clusters – meaning the one to the right and the one above, both.

Genetic Affairs cluster.png

The names of the matches are listed to the left and above the display.

The legend is to the right.

Genetic Affairs cluster legend.png

I have a total of 41 clusters.

Scrolling down the page, each cluster has additional information, and each column is searchable or selectable, including comments I’ve entered at the vendor.

Genetic Affairs autocluster info

Click to enlarge

Just by looking at these first 3 matches, I know immediately which side of the family and which ancestors are involved with this cluster. I can look at my notes, to the right, which indicate whether I’ve identified our common ancestor. I paint identified matches at DNAPainter which I’ve entered into the notes field at the vendor.

If I’m signed in to my account at the vendor, I can click on my match’s tree link, above, and take a look. Keep in mind that these people can be related to you, and each other, through multiple ancestors.

Genetic Affairs autocluster members.png

You can hover over any person in the grid, above, to view additional information. For each person whose square is grey, indicating membership in (at least) two clusters, you can hover over the grey square and view the members of both clusters. In this case, I’m hovered over the grey square of Brooke and E.H and the black box shows me who is in both people’s clusters.

Note that while a match could be related to you through several ancestors, and hence be in more than 2 clusters, because of the grid nature of clustering, a match can only be displayed in a maximum of 2 different clusters.

Looking at the auto-generated table below, I see the common surnames in cluster 1. Keep in mind that many of these people maybe related to each other through a spouse that you aren’t. Your ancestor’s brother’s children, for example, are also related to each other through your ancestor’s brother’s wife.

Genetic Affairs surnames.png

I know that Vannoy is the common line, but Upton isn’t my ancestor – at least not that I know of. However, a surname with 20 people in a cluster needs to be investigated and evaluated. Do I have any missing wives in this line? Here’s a really great place to start digging.

In this case, it turns out that one of my ancestor’s children married an Upton, and several of his descendants have tested.

Let’s see what other tools we have.

The Ancestor Spreadsheet

Opening the spreadsheet file, I see several rows and columns.

Genetic Affairs common ancestor

Click to enlarge

The common ancestor between the people in the rows is listed at left. The green cells are from my tree.

Two example ancestors are shown above, Mary McDowell and William Harrell, who just happen to have been married to each other.

Scrolling on down, I see rows without green cells.

Genetic Affairs ancestors

Click to enlarge

These people share a common ancestor in their trees, an ancestor that isn’t in my tree. Presumably this is an ancestor I don’t share with them – or one I haven’t identified.

For example, “Bev” and “van” share William Grubb. “Vicki” and “Mark” share Martha Helen Smith. I don’t share either of these ancestors, but Martha Smith married Alvis Winster Bolton, the son of my ancestor – so I know why Martha Helen Smith appears as a common person in the trees of my matches, but not me.

Further down in the same cluster, I notice that one match shares multiple lines in our trees. Therefore, our DNA match could be on either line, or some segments from one line and some from the other.

Scrolling to the bottom of each cluster’s sheet, common locations are provided.

Genetic Affairs locations

Click to enlarge

While the designation of “Tennessee” isn’t terribly exciting, scrolling further down provides a list by county, and that IS exciting, especially if you’re chasing a brick wall. Sometimes a group of ancestors in a location where you’re seeking a female’s family is very suggestive especially when combined with ancestral names and surnames.

Let’s move on to the third group of files, Trees.

The Tree File

Click on the tree file and you’ll see the following.

Genetic Affairs tree file.png

Reconstructed Trees

For each cluster where trees can be reconstructed, you’ll see two files for cluster 1:

  • Ancestors 1
  • Tree 1

Opening the file labeled Ancestors 1, I see the following information for the first ancestor, meaning a common ancestor between the two people listed below that ancestor. You can click to enlarge these images.

Genetic Affairs ancestors by cluster.png

Opening the corresponding Tree 1 file, I see that Genetic Affairs has reconstructed the tree between me and the other testers as best it can based on the provided trees.

Genetic Affairs reconstructed trees.png

Looking at the tree for cluster 3, below, I see this line in cluster 1, above, has been extended because Sarah, the pink match and me all share a common ancestor, Elizabeth Shepherd.

Genetic Affairs reconstructed tree 2.png

Looking at another cluster, below, while I don’t share an ancestor in a tree, three people that I match at a relatively high level do.

Genetic Affairs reconstructed tree no common ancestor.png

As you can see, their common ancestor is Anne Adelaide Chiasson. This is my Acadian line, so our common ancestor or ancestors must be someplace on up that tree, or the result of an undocumented adoption, or a missing ancestor in our trees.

Constructing the trees of your matches to each other, even when you don’t have a common ancestor in your tree, is the best feature of all.

Clustering plus tree reconstruction, especially in combination with the other clues, is the key to breaking through those unyielding  brick walls.

Super AutoClusters

Just as I was getting ready to publish this article, Genetic Affairs released a new feature called Super AutoCluster.

I absolutely love this, because it combines your clusters from multiple vendors – today Ancestry, who does not provide segment information, along with Family Tree DNA, who  provides invaluable segment information.

This combination can be extremely powerful.

To begin a Super AutoCluster, click on that option under an AncestryDNA kit that also has a kit at Family Tree DNA. Both kits need to have a profile at Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs supercluster.png

Next, you’ll see the screen confirming the kits to use. The combined autocluster tool is limited to a total of 500 matches, or 250 at each account. However, that’s more than enough to make some great progress.

Genetic Affairs supercluster setup

Click to enlarge

Note that you’ll need to retrieve and paste your bearer token for Family Tree DNA. Refer to the instructions for the Bearer token section earlier in this article.

Press “Perform Analysis.”

Drum roll please…

Voila, your combined cluster.

Genetic Affairs supercluster cluster

Click to enlarge

In this example, you can see the large peach and purple Ancestry clusters. The green red, brown and pink smaller clusters are Family Tree DNA clusters. The Family Tree DNA clusters have tiny little Fs in their cells. If you click the above graphic to enlarge, you can see the Fs.

However, the grey cells that intersect the two clusters, meaning an Ancestry and a Family Tree DNA cluster, are found in both of those clusters, connecting the clusters for you logically.

If you look closely at the cells labeled here with “common names,” you’ll see “N” in the cells indicating a common names for you to check out within that cluster.

The “Common Ancestors” box shows the people who connect to both clusters.

There are also a number of people that span the green and red Family Tree DNA clusters too.

Genetic Affairs then proceeds to combine the clustered DNA matches and trees for you from both vendors.

Genetic Affairs supercluster tree

Click to enlarge

In addition to the cluster graph and spreadsheet information that now includes combined information, you’ll see a much larger clustered tree.

And again, the best part is that even if you don’t know how you connect to people through trees, their tree and ancestors will be connected, even if you’re absent. You’ll be present in the genetic cluster itself, so you can work the combined tree cluster to see where you might fit in that branch of the family. Because trust me, you do fit – somehow, someplace.

Cost

Genetic Affairs uses a “credit” payment system. Your first 200 credits are free so you can learn. These may last you for weeks or months, depending on how often you run the clusters. If you manage multiple kits, you’ll use credits more quickly, but it’s worth every last dollar. Genetic Affairs is very inexpensive. I manage multiple accounts and I spend around $5 per month. You can read about Genetic Affairs’ payment plans and see sample calculations here.

My recommendation is simply to dive in and use your free credits. By the way, I’m gifting myself with a “credit purchase” for Christmas😊

Genetic Affairs is a wonderful genealogy gift idea for serious genealogists, adoptees or people seeking unknown parents or ancestors in recent generations.

Have You Tested or Transferred With All 4 Vendors?

If you haven’t yet tested at or transferred to each of the main 4 vendors, clustering, reconstructed trees and SuperClusters is yet another reason to do so. Additionally, every close relative’s DNA holds hints that yours doesn’t, so be sure to test them too.

You can purchase kits, below, or read about how to transfer your DNA to vendors who accept uploads – FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch, all for free, here.

Enjoy!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

The Farewell Tour – 52 Ancestors #264

Sometimes, you just need to say goodbye.

Call it closure, resolution, moving on, or what have you.

Some things just need to be done.

This door closed, ever so gently, but not before wandering around one last time.

Smiles, tears, laughter and oh-so-many memories – along with an amazing surprise.

I did it all in the summer of 2018.

Recently, my daughter-in-law mentioned that my grandchildren are interested in where grandma grew up.

When I drove away for the last time on that Sunday morning in the summer of 2018, I had no intention of ever returning.

For two days, I did a driving “Farewell Tour,” which I’ve now transformed into two articles. Not only is this for my grandkids, but I realized, especially since my family left no descendants in the city where I grew up, it’s especially important for me to document my memories.

Otherwise, they die with me. Mom’s already gone.

Perhaps your family would enjoy a similar article about your memories.

Return to Kokomo

I left Kokomo, the town in which I was raised, almost 40 years ago now, for all the reasons that seem so familiar in my ancestors’ stories. Better opportunity, education, higher wages, hope for my children.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this wasn’t just a relocation, but a huge fork in the road. Actually, more like a sharp turn than a curve.

I not only left the location behind, but the culture, the people and everything that went along with it. Good and bad.

Until my parents passed away, I returned fairly often, so it didn’t seem like a dramatic departure, more like a new job with different scenery.

However, I slowly grew distant from all things Kokomo. After my stepfather, then my stepbrother, then my mother died, there was nothing left to go back to – so I didn’t.

By that time, everything having to do with Kokomo was about death and loss – estates, attorneys and battles. Deceit and lies. Not good memories.

Reunion

My high school class hadn’t been terribly active in terms of reunions. There was a 10-year reunion, which I attended.

Kokomo 10 year reunion.jpg

I had just finished my master’s degree, was working in research and was proud of my hard-won accomplishments. I hadn’t stopped to realize, until I arrived at the reunion, that I couldn’t afford senior pictures – and I hadn’t kept in touch – so my nametag literally had NOTHING on it except my name.

I was incredibly glad to see my friend Kim who had finished her medical degree, against astounding odds. Back in the summer of 1970, she and I had studied together in Europe on a scholarship. I don’t know about her, but that experience had changed my life forever.

The 20-year reunion in 1993 occurred on the same weekend that my (now) former husband had a massive stroke.

I think there were other reunions after that, but the years following that stroke consumed every ounce of my time, money and patience. I happened to be in town for one other reunion, dropping in briefly, but I don’t recall when.

Then, in 2018, classmates began planning an informal get-together at a local craft brewery. Alright, my kind of event.

Plus, there were a few people I would really like to see. What happened to them? Would Kim be there?

I hadn’t been back to visit Mom and Dad’s graves for several years. They weren’t, and Kokomo wasn’t, on the way TO anyplace. I thought a combined trip to visit Mom and Dad at the cemetery and meet-up with my classmates would be fun.

What I didn’t realize was that I would be taking a trip down memory lane.

Literally driving into, and through, my past.

And…that this would be my last trip.

My own version of a rock star Farewell Tour.

There is truly, truly nothing to go back for now.

The tiny tendrils that initially held me have dropped away one by one.

Now, I’m free.

The Cemetery

No trip home is complete without a trip to the cemetery. My only immediate family in Indiana lives in cemeteries now.

I wanted to visit Mom’s and Dad’s graves, even though I know they “aren’t really there.” Their physical remains are, and that’s as close as I can get for now.

Kokomo Mom cemetery.jpg

They rest side by side but with separate headstones. My stepfather’s first wife is buried beside him. I always laugh, thinking about him between both of his wives keeping a watchful eye on him.

Kokomo Mom and Dad cemetery.jpg

I know this sounds bizarre, but I took my small car quilt and had a picnic with Mom and Dad.

My stepsister who died as an infant and my stepbrother who died in 1999 are buried there too, as well as the father of my friend, Peggy.

Kokomo Gary cemetery.jpg

I stopped and bought flowers for all of them.

Peggy

Peggy was my long-time friend. Our mothers had worked together and we were close friends in high school, and after.

We hung out, got into trouble together (oh yea!), and eventually supported each other on our life’s journeys as we both experienced joys and tragedies – pretty well summed up by the phrase, “life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

We visited each other in multiple states across the county.

Kokomo Robert Hotz cemetery.png

Peggy saw my Facebook posting that I was planning to visit Mom in the cemetery in Galveston, and she replied that her dad was buried there too. I found his grave, recorded two videos for Peggy so she or another family member could find it in the future, and left flowers on her behalf.

Little did I know that Peggy, who lived in Alaska, would pass away just a few months later, in January 2019.

I’m incredibly glad I recorded Facetime live at her father’s grave and posted it on her timeline for her family – albeit with a quivering voice. It was such an emotion-filled day for me.

Kokomo Peggy and me.jpg

Mom, below at left, with Peggy and me at Highland Park in Kokomo having a picnic the last time were all together, about 20 years ago.

Peggy and I never did tell mom all the stories. I don’t think she would have appreciated them – certainly not in the way Peggy and I did.

Kokomo Peggy me Mom.jpg

The Kokomo Speedway

After I left the cemetery, I drove south from Galveston past the Kokomo Speedway – a hangout of mine at one time.

Kokomo Speedway.jpg

I never raced at the Speedway, a dirt sprint track.

My racing days began on drag strips and ended a few years later when I rolled a Datsun 240Z while pregnant.

Kokomo Datsun 240Z

My Datsun looked a lot like this one that’s for sale today, except mine was “souped up” with spoilers, an air dam, pin striping and different tires – not to mention a roll bar which is probably what saved my life and that of my unborn child.

Truth be told, I didn’t actually roll the car racing, but doing doughnuts in a vacant shopping mall parking lot one Sunday morning after a snow. I spun into the snow bank (more like a mountain) left by the plow, slid up the bank with enough momentum to flip the car. I can’t tell you how mad I was at myself – not to mention I couldn’t get out of the car until someone noticed my predicament and called for help. That was long before the days of cell phones, but I digress.

I decided at that point that maybe racing, at least for me, probably wasn’t such a good idea anymore. Having children changes your perspective. The only thing, other than the car, that had been hurt was my pride, but it was a close call. Too close.

My favorite events at the Speedway as a child were the figure 8 races, often on the 4th of July when racing was accompanied by fireworks. The stands were always full that night.

A lot has changed here over the years. I wouldn’t have recognized it as the same place.

B&K Rootbeer Stand

Kokomo B&K.jpg

Right down the road, the B&K Rootbeer stand looks almost exactly the same. Memories of frosty mugs served on trays hung on the edges of rolled-down car windows as we parked under the drive-in canopies. The canopies appear to be gone, but the building itself remains, although didn’t appear to be open.

It was here that I remember, on a very nervous first date, saying something that caused my date to accidentally snort his rootbeer up his nose – and back out again. I desperately tried not to laugh but it’s difficult to pretend rootbeer running out of someone’s nose isn’t happening. And yes, there was a second date. Meet Eddie – you’ll see him again.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Eddie would one day be at my wedding. But not as the groom – as the best man. Now THAT’S a story:)

A block on further down the street was a local favorite – of teens and adults both – for entirely different reasons.

Ray’s Drive-In

Even the sign at Ray’s Drive-In is the same today.

Kokomo Ray's.jpg

As teens in Kokomo, we “drove around,” meaning we piled into cars – mostly owned by our parents – and cruised through several locations popular with teens. We wanted to see who was riding with whom. Who was sitting “close” to whom? Were girls sitting right next to boys on the bench seats, with no one in the passenger seat? If so, they were a couple. Or were they a couple and NOT sitting side by side? Were they arguing? Who was absent from cruising meaning they might be on a date?

Inquiring minds wanted to know!

So much to observe and interpret – and of course we didn’t want to miss ANYTHING!

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Ray’s Drive-In, just a block from B&K Rootbeer remains a drive-in today. Ray’s was famous, literally, for their huge elephant ear tenderloin sandwiches and their frozen custard. I’m drooling just thinking about it. They are still on the menu.

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I discovered after moving away that these fried tenderloins are a regional treat. Translate – you can’t get them elsewhere.

You also can’t get another regional favorite, Sugar Cream pies, and try and I might, I CANNOT get them to taste right.

Northwest Park

The next stop on the teen cruising circuit was Northwest Park, a half mile or so west of Ray’s on Morgan Street.

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The last time I visited Northwest Park, in the 1970s, I played frisbee in a field of grass that you can barely see behind the tunnel of trees that had just been planted at the time. They were about 3 feet tall. You always remember things the way you saw them last, so imagine my surprise.

North-N-Tavern

Driving east on North Street, I passed this *historic* tavern, pronounced “North End Tavern.”

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Some places are iconic. I’ve never been IN this tavern, but it has always stood on this corner, and has never looked great. It was always a known “trouble spot,” not where kids gathered, but regularly on the police scanner on weekends. It was close to the north Delco plant and several smaller factories that paid lower wages.

What’s that old saying. “In good times, people drink, and in bad times, people drink.” This neighborhood watering hole seems to prove that adage.

If I was going to go to a bar in Kokomo, it was going to be one with music, preferably a live band. Drinking wasn’t my thing, but music certainly was.

For the most part, when I lived in Kokomo, my time was consumed by college, family, work and children.

Quilts

I learned to quilt at home and in the Missionary Circle at church, but I wasn’t a quilter, per se, back then. Things have changed!

I was thrilled to discover that a quilt show was being held the same weekend as the reunion. In fact, that might have been the tipping factor to convince me to go😊

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When my Mom married my stepdad, we moved to the farm. The farmhouse had been constructed by the Amish who lived quite prevalent within the community.

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Amish are prolific quilters and maintain beautiful gardens.

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I learned to love flowers in Kokomo. Rose of Sharon blossoms remind me of the beauty of flowers blooming their hearts out on the farm.

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In fact, farm life and flowers often appear as a theme in my quilts today, influencing the choice of fabric, design and color selection.

Not everything in Kokomo was beautiful though.

Universal Steel

Kokomo was an industrial, automotive, manufacturing and steel-town. Many people from Kentucky, Tennessee, western Virginia and West Virginia moved north to work in the factories, creating a microcosm of all things Southern. This explains my accent. My father’s family was from Tennessee and we didn’t know we had accents. We talked just like everyone else!

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Many factories sprang up, as did an entire secondary layer of service industries. While I was in college, I worked at Universal Steel, a recycling steel company where I gained experience outside of college on computers. My first management job, I was responsible for their entire system that managed everything from inventory to accounting to payroll.

To make life interesting, episodically the “frag” machine that shredded cars would blow up if the gas tank wasn’t entirely empty, often causing the office building across the “yard” to lose power. That’s death to computers and caused no end of problems for me.

Computers and education were the path to a better life. Hard to believe my professional computer science career started here, a place where I had a flat tire almost daily.

It was Universal Steel that sent me to classes at the Burroughs training center in Detroit. From there, I was on my way.

Wildcat Creek

Creeks and rivers were central to the lives of our ancestors. I didn’t realize it, but the Wildcat Creek, located only a block or so from the house where I was raised was ever-present in my life too. I could literally see it between the buildings in the distance.

You’ll notice throughout this article many references to Wildcat Creek.

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Shortly after arriving in town the day of the reunion, I met with my classmates for lunch at a restaurant located on Wildcat Creek, a couple blocks from where we went to high school. From the parking lot, I could see the old iron railroad bridge. Today walking trails span the banks of the Creek.

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I’m amazed this old iron bridge still exists. It was old when I was young. At that time, only railroad tracks crossed this bridge. Today there’s a pedestrian path.

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Wildcat Creek was never beautiful. Slow-moving and green – it was never inviting. Yet, it holds such good memories – mostly because of the parks along its length. The Wildcat flooded often. Where you can’t build structures, you build parks.

Foster Park, along the river, was where David Foster, an Indian trader first located in a cabin reportedly belonging to Chief Kokomo. I waded along the riverbanks here as a child.

I walked with boyfriends as a teen.

The older part of town is found along the creek. To the north, on hills above the floodline, the historic Victorian homes. To the south, the older, less opulent homes that were sometimes flooded.

I started my driving tour when I left the restaurant after lunch.

Ghosts of Places Past

The main drag east and west on the south end of town was Markland Avenue.

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Stopped at the corner of Markland and Main, I spotted the old triangle shaped factory building, located along the now-defunct railroad track, so important to shipping in the late 1800s and early 1900s when these factories were built.

I hadn’t thought about his oddly shaped building in years.

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Elwood Haynes, automotive pioneer, built factories and brought industry to Kokomo. Many buildings like this one, scattered throughout town, harken back to that time.

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When I lived in Kokomo, these buildings housed smaller factories that produced supplies for the automotive industry. The structures have been repurposed several times since then.

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This one was at one time a maintenance facility for the interurban railways, or trolleys. They were gone by the time I lived in Kokomo. Today, this building appears to be used for storage.

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Driving down the street, you can see the ghosts of businesses past in the long triangle-shaped building along Main Street.

I had a boyfriend, we’ll call him “R,” who worked either in this building, or the next one south, now gone – then Kolux. I used to walk the mile and a half or so from home and meet him when he got off work in the summer. No AC in those buildings, so he was always drenched with sweat. No mind – I didn’t care. We’d roll the windows down in his red 65 Chevy SuperSport 4-on-the-floor, also with no AC, and drive to Ray’s Drive-In or B&K Rootbeer for refreshments.

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Across the street to the right, my favorite pub still exists – even though I drank very little. Always a factory town, the Corner Pub was a family place, famous for their steaks and drinks. I always had one, just one, Apricot Brandy Sour. They certainly had the best plate-sized New York Strip steaks in town at the time.

Yum!!!

Mid-States Electric

A few blocks on south at Defenbaugh and Market, I found the building that was once Mid-States Electric, a supplier to the automotive manufacturing industry, where Mom used to work.

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Mom’s office as the bookkeeper was just inside the door sheltered by the right canopy, which didn’t exist at the time.

Mom ran the office in addition to being the bookkeeper. Inger, Peggy’s mother, sold light fixtures when they added services for builders. The lighting showroom was in the door under left canopy, above.

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The electronic parts were stocked in the rear where the contractors entered, the red area today on the side, above.

I remember the old Coke machine back there. Cokes were 5 cents each, in glass bottles that you slid out of their row.

Mid-States’ claim to fame was that one or more of their parts were incorporated into the early space capsules through Delco Electronics which manufactured some of the components.

After my father’s death, and before Mom met and married my stepdad, she eventually dated the owner of the company. Let’s just say that didn’t end well. It seldom does for the woman.

Thankfully, it did end and as a result, Mom landed a better job elsewhere a few years later.

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Looking north from the parking lot, I can still see the old factory water towers in the distance.

It wasn’t a short walk to our house, probably a couple miles, but I walked it often. We didn’t worry about kids being kidnapped back then.

Mom worked at Mid-States for at least a dozen years and I worked there as well from time to time on Saturday mornings to help out and earn some spending money. Mostly, I carefully addressed envelopes by hand and did filing.

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Mid-States was a supplier to Delco Electronics and was strategically located a block away. The huge Delco plant was 3 or 4 blocks long and as wide. Imagine my surprise today to find green grass and nothing else.

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Ghosts of train-tracks past, partly paved over, leading now to nothing and no-place.

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Delco may be gone, but many old factories are still in use. This is the water tower I saw from the Mid-States parking lot, now part of an automotive recycling facility. It may have once been Kokomo Opalescent Glass, now located nearby.

Pictures like this graphically explain the term, “rust-belt.”

Kokomo Opalescent Glass

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I remember Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company quite fondly, the current factory shown above.

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In business since 1888, they produce amazing art glass and it’s quite affordable in the gift shop. I do own a couple of pieces.

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I bought this plate in the 1970s at the Treasure Mart.

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Of course, ashtrays are out of vogue today, but that wasn’t always the case. This ashtray, about 5 or 6 inches across,  has an interesting backstory.

Mom was a very attractive lady.

Mom Graduation color

Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company purchased electronics from Mid-States Electric. A man named Bill was the vice-president and sales manager, at least eventually.

Bill paid an awful lot of attention to Mom. He brought her gifts, and when a dog bit me on the playground at school, he bought a goldfish for every hole the dog’s teeth left in my hand. Of course, he didn’t give the fish to ME directly, but took them to Mom.

I do recall that Mom and Bill had a couple of dates, but something happened and not only was she angry with him, but avoided him henceforth. Whatever happened, she was madder than a wet hen.

All I know for sure is that she was NOT discussing this with me.

In 1966, Bill made her a custom one-of-a-kind ashtray.

At that time, every home had ashtrays sitting on the tables.

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I didn’t realize Mom had labeled this until I flipped it over just now to see if anything was written underneath.

Today, this graces my desk, holds my thumb drives and makes me chuckle thinking about the memories.

I would like to have purchased another piece of Opalescent Glass while I was there. I was hoping for a colorful butterfly signifying metamorphosis.

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Maybe something like this.

Now I wonder if I could talk them into making a double helix. That would be stunning! Hmmm.

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Unfortunately, the gift shop was closed, but the factory was operational. I found the trash while walking through the parking lot.

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This is the trash heap. Just wow!

This was one of my favorite parts of my Farewell Driving Tour. Beauty is where you find it.

Highland Park

Driving back past the building where Mid-States Electric used to be, west on Defenbaugh Street, with the railroad tracks down the middle of the street for the full length, to Highland Park.

Today, the tracks only run for a couple blocks and then center flower containers that form a median barrier are located where the tracks used to be. The tracks became useless when Delco was no longer at the end of the line.

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There’s still an essence of Mom there – both in that building and in Highland Park where she often took me as a child.

Highland Park

There were three main parks in Kokomo.

Northwest Park, the “new” park where I played Frisbee and the pine trees are now tall. We already visited there.

Foster Park, along the Wildcat Creek downtown, which we will visit shortly, and Highland Park, in the south part of town.

Highland Park was by far the largest with lots to see and do.

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Today, both Old Ben and the old Sycamore stump are housed in this building. When I was young, the Sycamore stump stood outside and Ben had a small building that vandals broke into and damaged Old Ben’s horns and tail.

Who is Old Ben, you ask?

A mammoth, iconic steer.

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I know his name is “Old Ben,” but I distinctly remember everyone calling him Big Ben – because he was HUGE!

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Ben doesn’t look bad for being over 100 years old now.

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I remember marveling at Ben as a child, pressing my nose against the window to get a better view.

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This Sycamore stump, housed in the same building, is massive too – more than 57 feet in circumferance.

It was very difficult to photograph with the close proximity and glass. The stump was actually a phone booth when I was a child and probably 20 people could have easily fit inside.

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Nearby is an old shelter that used to house a well.

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We pumped water with the handle on hot days when I was a kid.

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The stonework is original, but the well is now defunct.

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When I was a child, the main playground area had 2 sections. One was smaller and fenced. When I was about the age in the photo above, the officer on duty approached mother and suggested that we needed to play in the smaller fenced area. I was “too dark” for the white playground, on the “non-colored” swings and merry-go-round.

Of course, the smaller fenced area’s swings and other items weren’t nearly as nice. They were the “colored” area – and the sign said as much.

Mother was furious. I now realize that in part, she didn’t want anyone to see me playing in the “colored” playground because I could not have attended the “white” school where we lived. In fact, we couldn’t have lived where we lived either. So being sent to the “colored section” was about a lot more than appears on the surface. As a child, I clearly didn’t understand. I just wanted to play.

We left, despite my protests, and I don’t recall that mother and I ever went back to that particular playground.

It was only shortly thereafter that desegregation was legislated and the issue disappeared, at least officially, as did the secondary playground which then became a special protected area for young children.

Highland Park is a park because it’s low, sits in a bowl of sorts, floods often and you certainly can’t build there

Across from the main playground area today are many picnic tables scattered along the length of the creek as it zigzags through the park.

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Unfortunately, the curved iron table legs stick out beyond the edge of the seats as the iron curves up underneath the seat. Many years ago, Mom got her foot caught in one while carrying a dish at an Avon picnic, fell, and broke her pelvis in 3 places. I would think they would have changed the design, but looking at Google maps today, I noticed it’s still the same.

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Maybe a lawsuit would have hastened a safer design, but mother would never have done that. I made that suggestion to the powers that be, and didn’t even get so much as an “I’m sorry.” Not exactly heartwarming when your mother is hospitalized and incapacitated.

Amazingly, she eventually recovered.

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This footbridge leads to a small island skirted on all sides by the creek. As teens, we used to cross onto the island and sit on the banks of Kokomo Creek. People driving by can’t see you, but they can see your car in the lot.

Intrigue!

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Kokomo Creek is much more inviting that Wildcat Creek, in part because it’s shallow and there are no polluting factories.

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As kids, we used to catch crawdads here in conical shaped paper cups after having Sno-Cones at the concession stand, still standing in the distance, above.

We never kept the crawdads – always let them go. I never wanted to hurt a living creature. The fun was in the wading and catching! There is no joy in killing.

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Looks like kids still take off their socks to wade!

Back then, there was a child-sized amusement park too.

Today, the child’s train and other children’s rides are gone, but they were so much fun at the time.

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That’s me in the second car with the pigtails above, and right behind the engineer, below!

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The train used to run along the banks of the creek from one end of the park to the other, blowing its whistle. I don’t know when the train disppeared, but it was gone before I had children.

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This little child-sized ferris wheel was so much fun, and not frightening at all. You could only ride if you were age 5 or under.

I was so disappointed when I was too big.

I vaguely remember another picture that I didn’t find in mother’s box of photos.

Near the old Sycamore stump was a small children’s play area. There were a few swings and 3 slides of varying sizes. You can see several of these pieces of now-known-to-be-dangerous playground equipment in this article, but the slide I’m referring to is the second photo into the article.

It had small edges about 3 inches tall and a hump near the top. The author calls it the “metal slide of doom” and I can vouch for that.

I climbed to the top of the BIG slide, sat down, and started sliding, only to hurtle over the side from the top, falling onto the ground with a dull thud.

I vaguely remember hearing my mother scream, seemingly distant, then nothing.

Apparently my father ran up to me and snatched me up off of the ground to him – terrifying my mother even more, in case I’d broken my neck.

Kids are pliable, and I, thankfully had broken nothing.

However, I forever thereafter hated slides. Still do.

I rememer once after that having to climb back down the steps, with kids in the way.

I never did THAT again either.

The Covered Bridge

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Indiana is the land of covered bridges. Thankfully, they disassembled this bridge in the countryside and brought it to Highland Park instead of tearing it down.

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Today, it graces Kokomo Creek near ancient trees.

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Couples used to hold hands and sneak kisses in the privacy of the bridge.

I remember. (Teehee.)

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Today, I’m alone here with my memories.

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A time traveler of sorts, peeking backwards.

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Viewing life through the knotholes is somehow fitting.

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The park was also on the teenage cruise path, because there were several places that couples could park their cars and take walks.

Mom sometimes ate lunch here on her Avon route, and I used to come and sit at the picnic tables and pen letters to my merchant seaman penpal, Robin.

The other end of the park sported a dam and a pond.

A little later, back at my hotel, I realized I had forgotten to drive to that part of the park. I returned, because I wanted to take one last walk there.

The Dead, Raised

The sunshine was warm and lovely, with very few people. I parked the car and began strolling along the creek, lost in thoughts of old friends and exciting times like when I slipped off the algae-covered dam into the creek and emerged, both abashed and completely drenched.

Of course, I was in trouble because I wasn’t supposed to be ON the dam in the first place.

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I see the geese are still residents. I used to feed the geese and have fond memories of coming here when I was pregnant, walking my rescue dog, a small Sheltie named Lady.

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These geese are VERY tame.

One time, Mom, me and a very handsome boyfriend named Eddie brought popcorn one Sunday afternoon to feed the ducks.

Eddie wanted to impress both of us, but he could do nothing to convince a duck to eat out of his hand. He tried calling, talking, chasing – but absolutely nothing worked.

Mom sat down on the ground, and within a minute or so, the ducks were not only eating out of her hand, they were in her lap.

Several ducks!

Then the geese joined in. Eddie gallantly rescued Mom from the Great Goose Ambush. Or maybe I should say that Mom allowed herself to be rescued😊

Of course, that rescued Eddie’s hurt pride too.

This is the park where Mom, Peggy and I were last together.

Where Mom tripped over a picnic bench leg and broke her pelvis when she was in her 70s.

I was lost in memories here, having drifted back in time, when I noticed someone else in the distance. Other than the two of us, this part of the park was empty, and I didn’t want to disturb her.

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The other person was playing a guitar and singing. Lovely, just lovely. And Carly Simon too.

You’re So Vain

“You probably think this song is about you.”

One of my favorites from my years in Kokomo and seemingly written about a beau.

“You gave away the things you loved…”

Be still my aching heart.

Then, Janis Joplin. Me and Bobby McGee.

Music speaks to my soul which was experiencing a full range of emotions.

The tragedy in Janis’s voice, and life, mirrors my feelings about Kokomo perfectly.

Tears welled into my eyes and slipped down my cheeks.

I needed to cry.

My life there was so hopeful…until it wasn’t anymore.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Oh God.

“I let him slip away.”

This truly, truly harkened back to my life there.

“I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday.”

This lady’s voice was hauntingly familiar.

I closed my eyes and strolled quietly along the water, hoping that she wouldn’t see me and stop singing.

My heart needed this.

Many of my Kokomo memories are extremely sad. Soul searing.

I stood completely still, eyes still closed, letting her aching voice float me back in time.

She finished that song, and another.

Then she stopped and didn’t start again.

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I opened my eyes to see that she had stood up and was walking towards me, slowly, hesitantly, gingerly.

“Uh-oh,” I thought.

I wrenched, lurchingly back to the present.

She peered at me questioningly…and said my name. Not Roberta, but Bobbi, my nickname used among friends.

I was utterly stunned, but stammered, “Yes. Yes, but who are you?”

“Carla” she said.

And together, we both blurted out, “what are you doing here?”

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We grabbed each other, hugging and crying.

Carla was one of my best friends in high school.

We had lost track of each other entirely – 45 years ago.

In fact, at the last reunion I attended, I had been told that Carla had passed away, so imagine my shock!

I thought I had seen a ghost and it took every ounce of self-restraint to NOT blurt out, “but I thought you were dead.”

I presumed she was here for the reunion too and was SO VERY GLAD because I had lost track of nearly everyone, and I knew that a couple of the people I really wanted to see, like Kim, weren’t attending.

“What reunion?” she asked.

She was in town to visit her brother.

We sat and talked for some time, catching up. Time flew. I told her I was going to the reunion and where it was being held. Thankfully, it was not a reservation affair, so she could attend too. We traded information and I told her I hoped to see her that evening.

I still can’t believe how fortunate we were to be brought back together again for that instant in time. The stars aligned.

Truth truly is stranger than fiction.

What a beautiful gift.

But now it was time to go.

Continental Steel

Leaving Highland Park the back way took me past the old steel mill, now defunct, vacant and a hazardous waste site.

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This toxic land probably reaches a mile in each direction. A solar farm occupies part of the acreage. The once loud, booming steel mill now eternally silent.

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I remember, as a child, riding by the steel mill in Mom’s car and peering inside to see if I could see the red-hot molten steel being poured from huge vats.

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At night, liquid metal cast an ominous orange glow over everything. It was both exciting and frightening, seeing the eerie orange men, just feet or inches from molten death.

The entire neighborhood for blocks in every direction had layers of gritty grey dust that constantly permeated everything – for decades.

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Across the street where this building stands today was a tavern that catered to the steelworkers called, you guessed it, The Steel Inn.

More than one wife went to retrieve her husband from the Inn’s clutches on payday. They cashed checks!

Many Kokomo husbands and fathers worked at “the mill.” The pay was good, even though the work was hot and miserable. In the end, those families lost their pensions due to corruption and mismanagement.

The Seashore Swimming Pool

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Driving on north toward Foster Park, the old Seashore Swimming Pool is now known as Kokomo Beach.

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The Seashore was one of my favorite places. I remember it as huge, of course.

We bought a season pass so I could swim daily in the summer. I walked to the babysitters in the morning, then to the pool after lunch, walking home when the pool closed at dinner.

These were some of my best memories of Kokomo. I loved to swim and bake in the sun by the hour.

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I swam and dove and danced.

Of course, I avoided those “metal slides of doom” 😊

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Kokomo Beach has a lot more to offer today than when I was a kid, but we loved it just the same. Summers were hot and the water was cool.

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Not to mention that the pool was also on the teenage circle cruising tour to see who was talking to whom and wearing what. Or not wearing what. Bikinis were in, but I wasn’t allowed to wear one! I did however “adjust” my two piece a bit. Ahem.

At that time, you could drive around the entire pool in a circle, half on the street side, the other half being the circle driveway that also passed the dance hall.

I tell you what – that open air dance hall with the juke box was HOT, and I don’ t mean the weather, and only accessible from inside the fenced pool. However, those crusing by could clearly SEE the dancers and watchers through the chaink link fence.

Anyone who was anyone made an appearance there, preferably daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the pool was open. And if you were wearing a very cool bathing suit, all the better. If you were a guy, you fed the juke box quarters to keep the girls dancing. Mostly, girls danced with each other, except for slow dances. Very few boys had the self-confidence to dance quite so openly. Except one boy whose mother was a dance teacher at Arthur Murray. He could dance up a storm!

Mother didn’t want me to go IN the dance hall, but she really couldn’t keep me out since she was at work. In the dance hall? Who, me? Noooo, must have been my evil twin!

A pedestrian bridge now connects the pool property to Foster Park, across the Wildcat Creek, but when I lived here, we had to walk the long way.

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A beautiful fountain has now been installed in Wildcat Creek, definitely improving the appearance.

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This was a welcome surprise as I walked across the pedestrian bridge.

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Looking up the Creek, I can see the bridge over the main North/South street, Washington, in the distance. Across Washington Street used to be a long-abandoned gravel pit with a high fence. That place with its rusting abandoned equipment was ghostly and frightening.

I mean, what if you fell in and couldn’t get out? No one would know. You would die there. No thank you.

Today, the gravel pit has been filled in and there is nothing but mostly-forgotten memories and grass where residents walk their dogs.

Foster Park

Named for David Foster who first settled here in 1842, trading with the Miami Indians along the Wildcat, this park was only a block from the house where I grew up.

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In fact, today from Superior Street along Foster Park, I can still see “my house,” between the buildings. As a child, we used to cut between the houses on the hill where the gravel leads to the lower church parking lot today.

It’s on that hill, walking to the pool one day, that I found a half dollar coin dated 1852 in the dirt.

It was also through this gap between buildings that I watched the Palm Sunday tornado tear across the south part of Kokomo on that devastating Sunday afternoon in 1965, not realizing what I was seeing.

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Here’s roughly the view of Foster Park that I saw from my bedroom window, except from higher and a block further distant. Softballs diamonds were located where the tennis courts are today. Playground equipment is to the left, and Wildcat Creek is just the other side of the drive, in the trees, at the rear of the photo. I could see the Creek from my bedroom window, because the house stood on a hill. When the Creek flooded, it never flooded beyond the park, but it looked like a massive lake.

I played softball in Foster Park (poorly), swung on the swings (joyfully), played miniature golf (terribly), and it was here that I sat in the car with my friends on July 20, 1969, listening to the moon landing.

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This tank has “always” been in the park in front of the playground area and kids climbed on it when I was young. They obviously discourage that today.

Foster Park houses the log cabin that was the Girl Scout office. We had special meetings here.

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At that time, the cabin was one room and heated only with a large fireplace. I remember the wonderful wood-smoke smell so vividly.

Kokomo Girl Scouts.jpg

It’s apparently still a Girl Scout building with at least one addition. I’m sure it has central heat and probably air too.

Progress.

While the log cabin is still there, many places in Kokomo aren’t.

Lord-Jon’s Tacos

My favorite Kokomo food place, Lord-Jon’s Tacos has been closed for years now. The owners sold the recipe to another local business, and while the tacos aren’t the same, they’re better than *not* Lord-Jon’s at all.

I found a photo I took some years back when I introduced a friend to Kokomo’s best.

Kokomo Lord-Jon's Tacos.jpg

Lord-Jon’s started out in a small restaurant and then moved to a tiny fair-type food trailer when I was a teen. We often drove there for lunch in high school.

There was no eating in, so we often bought our tacos by the bagful, then drove down the street to the A&W Rootbeer. We pulled into the drive-in area, ordered icy rootbeers and ate our tacos and rootbeer. To this day, I still think of those two unlikely food items going together.

I craved these tacos when I was pregnant for my children. Thankfully, they were 3 for $1 at the time.

Later, Lord-Jon’s would purchase two buildings, one on the east side of town, one on the west, and discussed franchising. I don’t know what happened, but not only did franchises not happen, they closed both locations and sold the recipe.

Kokomo Handle Bar.jpg

Today, the Handle Bar in Kokomo offers something similar, although I understand that they’ve now changed hands too. Sadly, each change moved those tacos further from the originals.

Kokomo Tacos.jpg

Just the same, my mouth is watering just looking at these.

We’ve tried to reproduce Lord-Jon’s tacos, to no avail. The tortillas appear to be deep-fried masa flour, but I really don’t know – and no one is talking.

More Memories

Lord-Jon’s isn’t the only thing that’s gone of course.

So are the drug stores, restaurants and groceries that I remember as a kid.

The old A&P grocery store had coffee grinders by the checkouts that ground coffee beans by the bag, dispensing ground coffee back into their own bag. While Mom shopped, I offered to pour coffee beans into the big grinders and push the button for people because I loved the smell. I still love the smell of coffee.

Outside the A&P, in the parking lot, were tie-ups for horses for the Amish families. There were always horses and buggies there. We thought nothing of it.

The “other” drive in restaurant was Frisch’s Big Boy on the south side of town.

Kokomo Frisch's.jpg

You can see the drive-in canopies in the rear in this 1962 phone book ad. This was the southern point of the well-worn teenage cruising circle. Over the course of the evening of cruising, around and around and around, you had to pull in and purchase something at each place, at least once. It was necessary to see who else was driving around. Otherwise, you might miss something!

In Forest Park, the shopping plaza on the west side of town, the Ben Franklin store. In the building to the left, Haag Drug became the Huddle Restaurant and eventually, the Dairy Queen.

Kokomo Forest Park.jpg

Mom’s job after Mid-States would be located about where the National Grocery was in this photo. This photo looks to have been taken in the 1950s or 1960s and Mom worked at Kokomo Land Company in the 1970s.

Upstairs on the second level, we played Bingo. I was pre-school, but I got my own card and was I ever PROUD, especially the first time I got to jump up and shout BINGO. Legitimately – for myself I mean. I shouted bingo all the time. If someone bingoed, they let me shout!

My Jobs

I began babysitting when I was about 10 for the neighbors across the street, with mom nearby. By the time I was 12, I was experienced and in demand.

Kids could work part time at age 14. That was a rite of passage.

Kokomo Hutto Drugs.jpg

My first “real job,” the summer I turned 14 was covering for vacations at the lunch counter at Hutto’s Drug Store.

I was so VERY excited. I learned all about making flavored cokes. Yum!!!

I remember getting my very first quarter tip and how thrilled I was to have a tiny cache of change in the cup bearing my name under the counter at the end of the day. I didn’t know about that part in advance.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I saved my money to buy my boyfriend, “R,” a birthday present. She didn’t like that at all. I also used to call him from that phone booth out front and ask him to come and give me a ride home. She REALLY didn’t like that. She didn’t like him at all – and as it turned out, she was right.

About 2 blocks down the street from where we lived, Scotty’s Hamburgers opened a couple years later.

Kokomo Scotty's.jpg

I worked at Scotty’s in high school. We always contributed food to the police officers and firefighters.

Kokomo old police station.jpg

The old police station and fire station was just across the street in this old “castle.” The arched doorways housed the fire trucks. The doors were always open, and the firefighters sat just inside or outside on the sidewalk in chairs. They were always ready to leave on a moment’s notice and also loved to talk. Kids visited with them often. At Christmas, they made and collected toys for children in the community and made sure Santa visited everyone.

If you were a child and your toy broke, they could, and would, fix it. They fixed my doll somehow. I was just sure they could fix anything!

I don’t think this was meant as community outreach, but it surely was!

Kokomo praying mantis.jpg

Today, there’s a Subway and praying mantis on the corner.

I don’t know, so don’t ask. (I think it’s supposed to be art.)

One of my favorite places was the Treasure Mart. In today’s vernacular, it was a resale shop. It had a little of everything. Scratch that. It had a lot of everything, except clothes. No clothes.

Kokomo Old Treasure Mart

Located at Sycamore and Delphos, it too was a huge repurposed building. Located on the main drag, it was always convenient to stop by and see what they had.

Across the street is Crown Point Cemetery where my friend, Marianne, was buried following a tragedy that that ended her life, and others, far too soon.

Kokomo Crown Point.png

Cristo’s Club – My Guilty Confession

Ahem, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I used to love Cristo’s. It was a bar, but more specifically, a dance club type of bar – and I loved to dance.

The difference between Christo’s and other bars was that Christo’s had live music. The only other location within 50 miles with a band was an upscale place beside Delco that catered to Delco employees – which I wasn’t.

Cristo’s could also be a bit “rough” from time to time. I never had a problem, and I did things I would never do now – like leave my purse on the table while I was dancing.

I went there with dates, without dates, with girlfriends – it didn’t matter. I was comfortable regardless.

Disco was in. Eventually, I danced in competitions with a specific partner – one of my college professors.

If I die of lung cancer, it’s because of the second-hand smoke from Cristo’s😊

I wondered, does Cristo’s still exist?

Kokomo Vaile.png

I drove down Vaile Avenue and spotted the old PPG (Pittsburg Plate Glass) plant.

Kokomo PPG.png

Cristo’s was located across from a factory, like most of similar establishments in Kokomo. We’re getting close now.

Kokomo Cristo's.png

This is, or was, it.

The building was in bad shape back then, so I’m not surprised that it’s gone. But what great memories!

Celebrate, Celebrate – Dance to the Music

I suddenly feel like dancing!!!

The Kokomo Tribune

After high school, I worked as a proofreader at the Kokomo Tribune – a building that took up an entire block after purchasing the building on the end that used to be a funeral home. I remember walking through the embalming room before the new purchase had been remodeled and integrated into the Tribune building. There were instruments hanging on the wall. SCARRY!!!

Kokomo Tribune.png

The Tribune was located across the street from one of my favorite places, the library, and believe it or not, I actually checked books out and read them in lulls when I wasn’t proofreading.

The old Carnegie Library was been replaced with a contemporary building in 1967.

Kokomo library.png

When I was 11, I was invited to display my salt and pepper shaker collection in the old library building, just before the new library opened. I was VERY excited, because the newspaper reporter came, took my picture and interviewed me!

When you’re 11, that’s a VERY big deal.

The Post Office building remains across the street from the Tribune, below. I worked there for a few months during the Christmas season one year, sorting bags and bags and bags of mail. I remember seeing the bag being set aside for a special delivery to Santa at the North Pole.

I laugh every time I see this building.

Kokomo post office.png

As teens, we could leave high school to eat lunch. One day on a lunch errand with two girlfriends for someone’s mother, we just happened to be following an old farmer wearing overalls up the steps into the Post Office when his suspenders snapped and his pants fell to the ground, around his ankles.

Quite startled, he tried to hobble up the stairs, but could not with his pants preventing him from walking or climbing stairs.

He had already seen us behind him.

He tried to hobble while attempting to pull his pants back up, but couldn’t do that either.

In the mean time, he dropped the mail he had been carrying. We wanted to help him, but couldn’t bring ourselves to approach him, in part, because we couldn’t control our laughter.

Even funnier were the boxer shorts he was wearing – with large red hearts.

We progressed from laughing to howling.

I can just hear him saying to his wife that he didn’t care, he wasn’t going to let a perfectly good pair of shorts go to waste.

Or, maybe, that was her saying that to him.

In any case, we laughed until we cried and couldn’t breathe. We sat down on the steps because we could not go inside and face him – after he finally GOT inside. Tears streamed down our faces.

Finally, we had composed ourselves at least somewhat, figuring he had exited out the door on the other side. I would have.

We continued up the steps and opened the door, only to run smack dab into him face-to-face.

He hurried out the door. We hurried in and the hilarity began all over again.

We noticed that the clerks didn’t need to ask why we were laughing and they were trying to compose themselves too.

It was a hopeless endeavor.

That poor man. I wonder if he ever told his wife.

I bet he threw those shorts away AND got new suspenders.

The Newspaper Route

College required lots of money, especially when you also have to pay for child care. In addition to my proofreading job, I needed extra income to make ends meet. My husband and I both decided to adopt a driving newspaper route. The routes paid fairly well and only required 2-3 extra hours per day, 7 days per week. The most difficult part was getting up extremely early to pick up your bundles of newspapers at 5 AM on weekends. The newspaper published in the evenings during the week, but in the morning on holidays and weekends.

Kokomo Tribute carrier.jpg

Originally, we shared one route, but eventually, we each had our own. We paid off our car loans, student loans and bought a house.

On Saturday, I would come back from delivering the papers to go to work proofreading for the Sunday paper.

Then, in an instant, life changed.

One October day during mid-terms in college, when the corn was full height but harvesting had not yet commenced, a woman ran a stop sign at a country crossroads.

Kokomo accident location 800W 500N.png

I couldn’t see that she was approaching the intersection due to the corn, and as I began to enter the intersection, she shot in front of me at high speed. I knew I was going to hit her, so I slammed on the brakes, threw the transmission into reverse to slow my speed as much as possible and then it happened.

BOOM!

I remember the impact and my car flipping end-over-end over her car, airborn, into this field. Again and again and again.

When my car finally landed, I was upside down and the front of the car had been crushed into me. I was hanging by my seatbelt with sheet metal and glass all around me. I drifted into and out of consciousness and vaguely remember seeing someone, who turned out to be the other driver, peering into the windshield – then screaming.

It was a pretty awful sight.

Suffice it to say that the neighbors who lived on the corner went to our church and called my parents who lived a few miles down the road. Next, I remember hearing my mother screaming. That would have woke the dead, believe me.

Thank God I had just left my son with Mom because he would have been killed. That was before the days of car seats and he played in the back of my Pinto wagon while I drove the route, delivering papers.

The neighbor had the presence of mind to take my son into the house so that he wouldn’t see me like that.

I survived, obviously, but that accident began a chain of events that would eventually lead to me leaving Kokomo – not immediately – but a few years later.

The butterfly effect.

Let’s talk about something else.

The Gas Tower

Every city has landmarks, and Kokomo was no different.

People could see the gas tower for miles in any direction.

Kokomo gas tower mom me.jpg

The tower was “always there” and for many years, I didn’t realize what it was. It looked like a trash can we had at home, so as a small child, I thought it was just a very large trash can.

Kokomo gas tower 2.jpg

The gas tower stored natural gas which had been discovered in the area in the 1880s. This gas boom encouraged industry and was directly responsible for Elwood Haynes establishing his automobile business in Kokomo.

The tower was constructed in 1954, 378 feet tall, storing 12 million cubic feet of gas.  Looking back, I realize it was a huge bomb just sitting there on the south side of town.

Eventually, maintenance costs became atrocious – $75,000 per year and a million for a paint job. In 2003, the tower was demolished, leaving a vacancy on the horizon.

I remember when I was about 10, my great-aunt visited. She wanted to see the town, so we drove around while Mom was at work and promptly got lost.

I had her pull over into a parking lot, and as soon as I could find the tower on the horizon, I could orient myself and knew how to get back to something familiar.

While everyone in Kokomo was familiar with the tower, I had never been in the old train depot before the reunion, at least not that I recall.

The Reunion

After changing into my “skinniest” clothes, it was time to join my classmates.

Kokomo Depot.jpg

The reunion itself was held in the old train depot, now a craft brewery, located on North Buckeye. I love the original bricks on Buckeye Street.

Kokomo Depot inside.jpg

The reunion consisted of buying a beverage and sitting on the patio. Given the informal nature of the event, people wandered in and out, and it was impossible to take a photo when everyone was present. Fortunately, we did have a photographer among us (whose name unfortunately escapes me.)

Kokomo reunion at depot.jpg

The less-formal environment was lovely. Clearly, the majority of the 300+ classmates didn’t attend.

I was initially surprised to discover that many of my classmates are retired, until I thought about the factories and remembered that they have 30-and-out retirement plans.

While going to college, obtaining degrees and “living the American dream” of business ownership seemed like a great idea at the time – it’s with no small amount of envy that I realize had I simply stayed in Kokomo and continued working at Chrysler, then I too would be retired today with a full pension.

There is no pension, ever, when you’re self-employed.

Of course, I clearly wouldn’t be writing this blog, or involved on the frontier of genetics – so only occasional tinges of regret about that road not taken.

Kokomo restaurant.jpg

The building across the street from the depot had been transformed into a beautiful restaurant. I would have eaten there, except I wanted either Pizza King pizza or Lord-Jon’s Tacos, or at least a close facsimile!

Unfortunately, Lord-Jon’s Tacos is gone, but Pizza King isn’t!

Kokomo Pizza King old.png

The Pizza King, an Indiana franchise, used to be located in this building on Phillips at Taylor. Mom and I used to order a pizza very occasionally for a special treat. Eddie, that boyfriend I mentioned, used to work here and he would call us if they had a pizza that was burned a bit or someone didn’t pick up their order.

Today, the Pizza King has moved across the street and down half a block into the building that used to be the old Hansel Coal Company that dated from the 1920s. No one has heated with coal in decades and I’m actually surprised that the building remains.

Kokomo Pizza King now.png

Unfortunately, they were closed and I didn’t get pizza after all☹

Kokomo Pizza King pizza.jpg

I grew up on Pizza King pizza, and like Lord-Jon’s Tacos and Ray’s tenderloins, this is the best pizza EVER!

The next morning, I would leave Kokomo for the last time – but I had one last thing to do first. The hardest part of all.

For the rest of this story, click here to read The Farewell Tour: The Morning After.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Thankful

Perhaps this article will reach you early on Thanksgiving morning while the day is still calm and quiet, before anyone arrives. Maybe you’re enjoying a cup of coffee or tea while you’re pondering, perhaps a little nervously, what the day will bring.

Thanksgiving only comes around once a year to remind us, but I try to think thankfully as a habit, not just when reminded.

I know, I know. It’s difficult – especially right now if you live in the US with all of the hatefulness and divisiveness nationally, and within the genetic genealogy community this past year.

It’s been rough. There is lingering sadness for more civil times.

Sadness is a fact of life, but you can’t grieve without having loved – and that’s the gratitude part of the equation.

Sometimes we just have to be thankful for lemonade and look beyond recent difficulties – focusing on the larger landscape and big picture.

I’d like to share what I’m thankful for.

Expressing what we are thankful for when people visit has the unintended (or intended) consequence of educating the younger generation about our family history while the adults reminisce. Maybe they’ll ask questions about topics that provide an opportunity to discuss ancestors and genealogy – without them realizing that’s what’s going on.

For example, my grandkids like old family photographs, so I’m using those in this article, plus a few leading questions:)

What Am I Thankful For?

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?

Mom Dean wedding

Mom and Dad’s wedding in September 1972

I’m thankful that I got to spend so many wonderful years with my mom and stepdad, even though they are gone now. They blessed me with memories that make me smile and cry at the same time. How is that even possible?

Thanksgiving Dad

Dad and first grandchild at Thanksgiivng

I’m thankful for those “first Thanksgivings” when we got to welcome a new family member. These memories are priceless today. That little tiny yellow sleeper is in my “special box” in the basement. Wanna guess what else is in there?

I’m thankful that I can look around the room in those old pictures and see my home as it used to be. Not only is this “home” gone today, so is the house and most of the items on the shelves have been scattered to the winds.

I do have a few. Here, let me show you…:)

Last Thanksgiving William George Estes

Last Thanksgiving with William George Estes in 1970 or 1971

I’m thankful for the “last Thanksgivings” because it means there were so many before.

Did you know my grandfather lived to be a really old man? How old to you think he is in this picture?

Dave Estes 2010

Dave, Thanksgiving 2010

I’m oh so thankful that I found my brother, Dave, in 2004, was able to spend time with him before losing him in January 2012. I learned so much about love from this rough, tough guy – even though he turned out not to be my biological brother.

Did you know that Dio, his dog, rode in his semi with him? Did I ever tell you about how Dave got Dio?

Helen and me - Two sisters

Me meeting Dave’s sister

I’m thankful that I was able to find Dave’s biological family. Knowing they had a brother was such a gift for them – and me. I now have a sister-of-heart. Helen brought me a symbolic white rose the day I met her almost exactly 6 years to the day after Dave passed away.

cousin-nancy-farm

Uncle Lore and Nancy at Mom’s in the 1970s

I’m thankful for family traditions, both old and new, and cameras to record those traditions for future generations. This was Thanksgiving on the farm in the 1970s, with lots of people crunched into the kitchen, sitting at card tables. All that mattered was that we were together. Uncle Lore and Nancy are both gone now.

Do you know how Uncle Lore got his name?

Mom only got the Fostoria dishes out for holidays. I had forgotten about that until I saw this photo. Who has those plates anyway?

Thanksgiving Tim

Tim at the Thanksgiving buffet

I’m grateful for the new family members that have joined us, bringing their talent, traditions and blessings with them. I hope we enrich their lives as much as they enrich ours. We have a new holiday tradition.

Thanksgiving new family

Shawn’s family

I’m grateful for wonderful memories of life-altering moments when families are indelibly joined forever. Is there a name for how you are related to your daughter-in-law’s family? We’re all blood relatives to the same grandchildren.

Wedding lobster bride and groom

Now this picture just begs to tell a story…

If you’re thinking there’s a story just waiting to be told here – you’re right and I think Thanksgiving would be a good time to share it with others. What do you think?

Thanksgiving Grandpa and girls

Grandpa and the girls making rolls at Thanksgiving

I’m grateful that my granddaughters like to help grandpa make crescent rolls for Thanksgiving dinner and that they get to spend time with us.

What are your favorite memories of your grandparents?

Girls cookie making

Making cookies is FUN!

The granddaughters are coming in a few days to bake Christmas cookies. Passing those traditions, and recipes, on.

What is your favorite cookie recipe?

Red Umbrella

Having fun on a rainy day along the Rhine.

I’m thankful that grandpa thinks that sitting under a red umbrella with grandma in the rain and carrying the bag of fabric because I hurt my knee is fun. Or at least tolerable. We had so much fun that day! Did you know I broke my leg on that trip?

Thanksgiving fortune cookie.jpg

I’m grateful that Family Tree DNA began testing in the year 2000 because it allowed me to test long-time researchers, then in their 80s and 90s, whose DNA has proven so critical to unraveling our genealogy, sometimes in very surprising ways.

How’s that?

For awhile, I thought that my father might not be descended from the Abraham Estes line, but Uncle Buster’s DNA matches proved that he was. Thank goodness!

Thanksgiving Uncle Buster

Uncle Buster

I’m grateful for the more than 80 family members who have tested over the years in order to further our family genealogy. Many have passed on, including Uncle Buster, above, who is really my first cousin once removed. Is it any wonder families are confusing?

Why do we call him Uncle if he isn’t? It’s a southern thing – save yourself, don’t ask.

Thanksgiving swab

Swabbing as a family during the holidays – but before eating

I am grateful for my family members who have tested their DNA in more recent years, became interested, picked up the research mantle and will continue after the current generation is gone. (You know who you are!)

Oh, you haven’t tested? Hold on – I have a kit right here in my purse…

Thanksgiving Speak trip Whalley church

Speak family tour in Whalley – all the cousins – what FUN!!!

I’m thankful for all of the new cousins I’ve met and known cousins I’ve confirmed thanks to DNA testing.

I love the collaborative research, the discoveries they’ve made and shared with me, and the joyful adventures we’ve embarked on together. My Speak cousins above, in the church in Whalley, Lancashire that our ancestors attended. Y DNA proved our family connection to the Speak family of Lancashire. This was the trip of a lifetime. Well, except for that fire alarm in the middle of the night…

FTDNA triang browser select

Phased Family Matching at Family Tree DNA

I am grateful for the ongoing development by the DNA testing companies to bring us tools like triangulation, Phased Family Matching, Theories of Family Relativity and Thrulines.

Chromosomes are cool! Who do you think you got your hair color and dimples from in the family?

DNAPainter garden

My painted chromosomes at DNAPainter based on segment data of identified common ancestors

I am grateful for the third party tools like DNAPainter, Genetic Affairs, Genetic Families (dnagedcom.com) and GedMatch who provide additional tools. Between them all, I might, just might, be able to break through some of these brick walls yet in my lifetime.

Want to see which pieces of DNA you got from grandma? I made you a painting of your own.

Me as Dutch

“Me” in traditional Dutch clothes

I’m grateful for my ancestors who were:

  • European
  • African
  • Native American
  • Jewish
  • Middle Eastern
  • Asian
  • Muslim
  • Christian
  • Bigamists
  • Catholic
  • Baptist
  • Quaker
  • Sultan
  • Puritan
  • Brethren
  • Dancer
  • Mennonite
  • Acadian
  • Bootlegger
  • Alcoholic
  • Preachers
  • Mentally Unstable
  • Immigrants
  • Refugees
  • Murdered
  • King
  • Queen
  • Pauper
  • Pilgrim
  • Crusader
  • Shipwrecked

Just look at all of those stories waiting to be told. Without every one of those ancestors, I would not be me and you would not be you!

I’m incredibly thankful that I have been graced with the privilege of being the storyteller, of chronicling my ancestors’ lives. They did the best they could with the resources at their disposal in the time they lived.

Did you know that for a long time, women weren’t allowed to own things separately from their husbands? Or vote?

The ancestors I admire most are the ones who stood up for what they knew was right, spoke truth to power, even when it was inconvenient, dangerous, or both.

Just ask Dorothy Durham who had the audacity to show up in open court “on behalf of her husband,” who was notably absent, and place bond for Anne Kelly, a servant impregnated by Dorothy’s son so that Anne would not be whipped and imprisoned for “having a bastard child.”

There is no assurance of a happy ending. Sometimes the price of integrity and resistance is death.

Ask Elizabeth Day, who was murdered. Ask the Native Americans or the Jews in the Holocaust and the Jewish ancestors that my husband can’t find in his family. Genocide wipes entire peoples from the face of the earth and their records along with them.

May their brave, heroic souls rest in peace.

Wedding quilt sisters

Quilt sisters

I’m extraordinarily thankful for my family and my family-of-heart, in particular, my quilt-sisters.

Wedding bride out the door

After literally sewing the bride into her dress

Family-of-heart is your family-of-choice. The people who will literally come over to your house and do whatever is needed to get your house, you and your daughter ready for her wedding.

Lentz Mon Ami wedding

Such a beautiful day

Or get you ready for your own outdoor wedding.

Thanksgiving quilt sisters.jpg

These are the people who have a key to your house, and your heart. Your dog thinks they are family, and vice versa.

These are the people who may literally save your sanity or your life, and we have.

Thanksgiving Connie Quilt

Memory quilt for quilt sister moving away

These are the people who go to the doctor with you, make care-quilts or lovingly offer to take you in when disaster strikes. Like losing your job or that fire at Mary’s house.

They bring over chicken soup when you’re sick – then show up anyway when you tell them to stay home.

You share happy or sad tears, and either is better together.

me mary quilt

They are the ones who will help you hem a quilt for an ill family member at their son’s house. Their family is your family and vice versa.

You develop your own shared traditions, together, over time. Like Christmas Eve…

kathy mary quilt

They are the people whose family you know well enough to collect their handprints to make a surprise anniversary quilt, without the recipient being any the wiser until the great unveiling.

mud buddies

Mary’s gonna kill me for this one:)

Or they’ll play in the mud with you, er, I mean garden. Yep, that’s the garden out back. It looks a lot different today.

mary puddle

Bet you can’t guess who is who

Or splash in mud-puddles, er, I mean, clean your shoes off. You’re never too old to play in puddles.

These are the people who make life worth living, and for whom I’m very, very thankful.

What about you?

What are your thankfulness memories that you could share with your family around the table today?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Legacy Family Tree: Webinars and Genealogy Software Both Half Off + Today’s Free Tip

Legacy Tree Black Friday.png

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Today’s Useful Tip – FREE Webinars

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You can search specifically for the MyHeritage LIVE sessions from both 2018 and 2019 by typing “MyHeritage LIVE” in the search box.

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I was in Oslo in 2018 and Amsterdam in 2019, and I can tell you these free sessions are very worthwhile.

Search Webinars by Topic

If you think the free sessions are great, imagine what else is available. You can search by topic or presenter.

Below are the results when I searched for “DNA.”

What a great lineup.

You’ll need a membership to view most of these but there are three upcoming webinars that are FREE.

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Pssst – It’s a Secret

Can you keep a secret?

I’ll be recording sessions for Legacy Family Tree Webinars during 2020. I’ll let you know when they become available.

Get the Deals

Click here for all the Legacy Tree Black Friday deals including webinars and software. They even have gift cards.

Offer expires on Cyber Monday, December 2, 2019 at 11:59 PM MT.

Happy Holidays

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Thank you so much.

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It’s That Genealogy Advent Calendar Time of the Year

Advent gift.jpgIt’s that time once again.

The holly jolly time of year when everyone is decorating, cooking and cleaning house frantically before family comes over.

Err, umm, I mean, the time of year that everyone wants to please family members with the best gifts ever, and eat too much!

Ok, maybe all of the above😊

This is the time of year that I avoid stores LIKE THE PLAGUE.

I’m not fond of crowds, and I hate cold and parking lots – but I love my family and friends and want something special for everyone.

Purchasing online is the best thing since sliced bread as far as I’m concerned.

Over the next month, I’ll be sharing a few genealogy gift ideas with you that I, as a genealogist, either use and appreciate, or would like to receive. (I promise to omit the January cruise to the Bahamas!)

Think of this as the advent calendar of genealogy gift suggestions and tips, except there won’t be one every day, just occasionally.

Some articles will include affiliate links, and others will not.

Every article will include useful tips from me about my own experiences and/or how to use these products effectively.

These are EXTRA articles, in addition to my normal publishing schedule. Like always, you’ll still receive at least one regular mid-week article plus the weekend 52 Ancestors articles. I hope these continue to inspire you!

I have two items for you today.

$50 Off RootsTech 2020 1-Day Pass

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I received this offer from RootsTech to share with you. Rootstech 2020 will take place February 26-29 in Salt Lake City.

From now until December 9th, you can share the promo code GENFRIEND with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, or anyone you know that might be even slightly interested in going to RootsTech. This code will give your friend 50% off a 1-day pass – an offer too good to pass up!

I don’t know that this offer will apply to anyone trying to purchase a full pass. If I were going to travel to Rootstech, I would certainly want to spend more than 1 day, but this might be a great option for anyone local to Salt Lake City and who might want to get thier feet wet.

I’ll be speaking at RootsTech 2020, presenting “Kicking DNA Up a Notch to Unmask Unknown Ancestors” and “Native American DNA: Confirming Those Stories,” both on Wednesday, February 26th. You can view the schedule, here.

I’ll also be making a few cameo appearances in various booths from time to time, but I’ll announce that schedule closer to the conference.

I can’t wait to see old friends once again, and make new ones.

Give DNAeXplain FREE 

This isn’t really a holiday gift, per se, but is a thoughtful way to say, “I’m thinking of you and thought you might enjoy this.”

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You can share this blog and all 1200+ articles with anyone, anytime.

If you have genealogy friends who might enjoy these articles, they can sign up to receive articles by e-mail for free. Just go to www.dnaexplain.com. Below the black header, on the right-hand side, you’ll see the following.

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Just fill in your e-mail and click on “Follow.”

People can also sign up using an RSS feed if they would prefer.

Please feel free to forward any of these articles or post links on social media sites. In fact, every article has “share buttons” at the bottom.

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These articles also make great educational tools or discussion fodder at genealogy interest groups.

What is an Affiliate Link?

To remind you, I receive a small contribution if you purchase something through an affiliate link. Affiliate links are clickable and there is a permanent list at the bottom of each article that shows my affiliate relationships.

Affiliate links help to fund the more than 1200 free articles available at www.dnaexplain.com. As you know, this educational blog in its 7th year now is entirely free to everyone. There is no annual subscription and no contributions are requested.

All I ask of you is:

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It won’t cost you any more to purchase through an affiliate link, and it helps me keep the lights on and the blog free for everyone.

Other News

I recently updated the Mitochondrial DNA series to reflect the changes on the Family Tree DNA results pages. You can see my permanent Mitochondrial DNA resources page here that includes the links to the 5-part mtDNA series. It’s now permanently in that black header.

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I’ll be publishing the first article in the Y DNA “how to” series in the next few days. I know the Y DNA series has taken awhile, but it’s on the way. I promise.

Thank you for your ongoing support and I wish a joyful holiday season for you and yours.

The list of affiliate links is below.

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Thank you so much.

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It’s Black Friday Already at MyHeritage

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I just received word that the MyHeritage DNA kit is only $39 in the US until November 29th.

This is the lowest price, EVER.

Not in the US? Here are equivalent prices elsewhere in the world!

  • US:  $39
  • UK: 39£
  • CA: 55 CAD
  • AU: 66 AUD

If you live elsewhere, check the MyHeritage website from your location. They sell worldwide. In fact, my best matches on my mother’s Dutch lines are at MyHeritage.

This $39 price beats transferring from other vendors and unlocking (unless the person can’t retest), plus you get the latest and greatest technology AND the ability to upgrade your DNA test to include MyHeritage Health in the future if you want to.

If you purchase 2 or more kits, shipping is free!.

Today’s Genealogy Tip

The best thing you can do for your genealogy, other than to test your own DNA, is to test your oldest family members – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

DNA testing has never been less expensive and there are more people in data bases from around the world than ever before just waiting on matches.

Buy DNA tests, wrap them up, put them under the tree, and swab before eating😊

Just think about all of those wonderful matches beginning in January!

Click here to order now.

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Thank you so much.

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Charles Hickerson (c1724 – 1790/1793) High Drama on the Frontier – 52 Ancestors #263

We first find Charles Hickerson in Surry County, North Carolina on January 11, 1771 when he witnesses a will by Lydia Stewart.

Charles isn’t on the 1771 tax list, but he is there by 1772. He was not a young man – about 48 years old with children of marriage age.

Where did Charles come from?

We don’t know, but there IS a long-standing theory that Charles and family came from Virginia. At the end of this article, I’ll share what DNA has revealed.

Where did that Virginia theory come from?

Happy Valley

In the book Happy Valley, written by Felix Hickerson (1882-1968) and published in 1940, Felix discussed his research, looking at multiple possible ancestral lines.

First, Felix documents the Rev. Francis Higginson (1587-1630) who arrived from Claybrooke, Leistershire, England and was the first minister in Salem, Massachusetts.

Felix states that the Higgison’s of New England are connected with the Higginsons and Hickersons of Virginia on pages 4 and 24 of The Higginsons in England and America.

He notes that:

The name Hickerson in Virginia was first spelled Higginson then Higgason, Higgerson and Hickerson, dating to 1645 or earlier when Capt. Robert Higginson, the Indian fighter, commanded at the Middle Plantation, a palisaded settlement in York County.

Robert Higginson was a son of Thomas and Anne Higginson of Berkeswell, Warwick England.

Robert had two brothers, Humphrey and Christopher, mentioned in James City family records.

Felix then says, “The Higgisons later settled in old Stafford County, VA as is shown by wills, deeds and inventories, among which is an inventory of the estate of Thomas Higgason who made a will that was probated in February 1743.

Felix goes on to state that after 1778, we find Charles Hickerson and his wife Mary Lytle on the Yadkin River along Mulberry Creek.

I found Charles slightly earlier, on the 1772 Surry County, NC tax list – a portion of which became Wilkes County in 1777.

Felix descended from Charles Hickerson through his son David, and his son Lytle (1793-1884). Felix lived on the family home place on the Yadkin River at Wilkesboro owned by Lytle called “Round About,” originally owned by Col. Benjamin Cleveland of Revolutionary War fame.

I spent time this past summer in the Allen County Public Library searching through all of the Hickerson/Higgason and related books and records from New England and elsewhere, to no further avail. Felix was a thorough researcher.

Where Did the Information About Stafford County, Virginia Come From?

Years ago, before DNA testing, when I was trying to figure out which of John Vannoy’s sons my ancestor Elijah Vannoy descended from, I asked people descended from all 4 candidate-sons to send me information about their wives. Sarah Hickerson was married to Daniel Vannoy.

In the Hickerson packet sent by my Good Samaritan cousin, we find a partial letter, as follows:

Nacogdoches, Texas
May the 20th, 1877

Dr. Hickison (sic)

Dear Sir,

I write you in regard to a business matter.

You will doubtless be surprised to hear from one of Elizabeth Hickison’s daughters. My mother was daughter of Charles Hickison of North Carolina. He was buried at the Mulberry Fields on the Yadkin River, Wilkes County, North Carolina. My grandmother’s maiden name was Mollie Little. She was from Scotland. Grandfather was from England. I write you the particulars so you will know who I am. My mother married a Stuart. I was 3 years old when we left that country. My age is 86 years. I have been a widow 34 years.

(remainder of letter is missing)

Comments by Felix Hickerson:

I think it is undoubtedly true that the Charles Hickison here referred to was the father of David Hickerson and the grandfather of Litle (Lytle) Hickerson.

Whether Hickerson was originally spelled “Hickison” is doubtful, as an old lady, aged 86, living so far away, could easily become careless about the spelling when perhaps others adopted the simplified spelling.

“Mulberry Fields” was the original site of the town of Wilkesboro. It was the central meeting place for a large neighborhood.

Mulberry Fields is shown on the map below.

Hickerson Mulberry Fields 1752.jpg

On this map from 1752, North is at the bottom, so Mulberry Fields is actually north of the Yakdin.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the name of the letter’s author was on the portion that is missing.

What other documents do we have?

Pioneers of Coffee County

Alice Daniel Pritchard states in this 1996 Coffee County book that:

Charles Hickerson, the progenitor of the lineage presented here, came from Virginia to settle in the New River Basin of North Carolina, about 1772. He and his son, David were on the 1774 tax list of Benjamin Cleveland. In 1778, that part of Surry became Wilkes County. Information from the unpublished manuscript of William Lenoir, lists Charles Hickerson with the names of Wilkes County Revolutionary War Soldiers. He served on a jury for the State of North Carolina Wilkes County court in 1779. In July 1784, Charles Hickerson was over age 60, as recorded in the Wilkes County Court Minutes when he was listed as being exempt from paying Poll Tax. On July 29, 1788, Charles Hickerson sold 150 acres of land on Mulberry Creek, Wilkes County to David Hickerson for 75 pounds, “Being survey Charles Hickerson lives on,” signed by Charles Hickerson and Mary Hickerson. In her nuncupative will, Dec. 5, 1793, probated February 1794, Mary Little Hickerson did not mention her husband, leaving the impression that he had preceded her in death. He was not on the 1800 Wilkes County, census.

Before this verbiage, Alice discussed the fact that Charles was rumored or suspected to have been from Fauquier or Stafford County, Virginia and that Stafford County was formed from Fauquier.

Charles Hickerson’s son, David Hickerson, moved to Tennessee before 1812 where one of his sons served in the War of 1812.

We don’t think of letters being written and travel occurring between those locations, about 350 miles across the mountain range, but both seemed to happen more than we might have expected. Thankfully, at least a few letters survived.

Coffee County Letters

When David Hickerson moved to Tennessee, his son, Little, also spelled Lytle Hickerson remained behind and lived the rest of his life in Wilkes County.

David Hickerson died in 1833, but his sons still communicated back and forth and apparently visited from time to time. These letters show what life was like in the 1830s.

Letter from John Hickerson to Major Little Hickerson

Coffee County, TN
January 25, 1836

Major L. Hickerson
Wilkesboro, NC

Dear Brother:

I have been looking for you in this county for some time but have been disappointed. Have concluded to write you a few lines to inform you of our misfortune in losing our daughter Sally. She was taken sick on Tuesday the 15th of December. Her child was born on Friday and she died on Sunday the 20th. The child is living. We have it here. I hope we can raise it.

I was in Nashville when Sally died and had been there for some time. No person known that never had the misfortune to lose a child how much it will grieve them to have one taken so suddenly. But when death comes we must submit. Sally’s mother didn’t get to see her until Friday evening after which she never spoke again.

I hope when you receive this letter if you are not coming to this county soon you will write and let me know when you expect to come and when Ely Petty is coming.

Our crops of corn and cotton are light in this county. My corn crop is up to the average. Before the frost I expected to make between 40 and 50 bales of cotton but only made 10. The early frost last fall almost put me in the notion to hunt a warmer climate. I will try it another season.

We have got our new county at last after a struggle of 6 or 7 years with the strongest kind of opposition. I have no doubt but the county seat will be at Stone Fort. On the first Monday in February next, the commissioners are to meet to select a place for the county seat. I had the appointing of the Commissioners. I among of them and can venture to say the Stone Fort will be the place. It will make the people’s land valuable in the neighborhood.

If you have a disposition like mine I hope you will never undertake anything without you are sure of success. Am sure I have spent $500 about the new county. Maybe I have made 200 or 300 enemies that used to be my friends. Ever since our election I have been out on the new county business. We lost our election by a few votes and rascality. In one instance the sheriff had to case the vote. The Hillsborough people when they beat us in the election made sure they would get their new county and have the county seat at Hillsborough. They bragged and boasted and said many things that they had better left unsaid. They said the Hickersons had lost their election and the new county was dead and buried. About that time I would have feely given $1000 if it would have insured our success. I got busy in a few days and went to see a number of people in the adjoining counties who were newly elected and in a good humor and ready to promise anything that was right and reasonable. I made the necessary arrangements with them and employed a surveyor and had our county run out and complied with every letter of the constitution. I have been at Nashville most of the time since the Legislature met, but we never got our new county bill past into a law until the 8th of January. The victory was – – much talked about as the battle of New Orleans.

When the new county bill was first introduced in the Senate the vote was nearly equally divided. By the time it came to the third reading there was but one vote against us. In the House, the majority vote was in our favor at the first reading, and only one opposing vote at the third reading.

I got acquainted with most of the members of both houses. Some of them I fear cannot be repaid for their kindness.

You can tell ___ Allen I met a son of William Allen in the legislature from ___ County. His name is Jared S. Allen. He was a good friend of mine.

Didn’t intend when I began this letter to make it so long drawn out. Will write again when the commissioners select the place for the county sea of Coffee County.

All our friends are well.

Yours with respect,
Jn. Hickerson.

Letter from John Hickerson to Major Litle Hickerson

Coffee County, Tennessee
April 29, 1837

Dear Brother,

I received your letter on the 26th of March a few days ago. Was truly glad to hear from you and family, and that all are in good health, plenty to eat, a fine son, etc. You mentioned writing a few days after the presidential election was over. The letter didn’t reach me. There are so many Van Buren postmasters in this State it is difficult for a letter to pass, or even a newspaper is the editor does not belong to the party. My paper, the Banner, that never used to fil don’t come now more than half the time. The editors tell me they never fail to send it, and I have no doubt for they are honest. I believe some of the Van Buren postmasters intend to make the people quit taking any paper that tells the truth. They like darkness better than the light because their deeds are evil.

Myself and family are all well and so are all our friends and neighbors I saw mother a few days ago. Her health was as good as could be expected of one of her age.

A great many commission merchants in Nashville and New Orleans have failed. Produce of every description has fallen very much since you were here. Cotton that opened last fall at 12 to 14 cents in Nashville is now worth only 6 to 7 cents. Plenty of negroes for sale in this county but no buyers. Corn and bacon are plentiful Corn is $2 per bushel on credit. Bacon is 10 cents but the Wagoners are buying it up fast and hauling it to Mississippi to sell for 25 cents per pound.

The town of Manchester is improving very fast. Three stores there now, all doing good business. We have had one circuit court since you were here. AT the next, two negroes will be tried for killing their mistresses.

I wish to be remembered to all my old friends. Best wishes to yourself and family.

Jn Hickerson

You mentioned in your last letter that Col. Waugh spoke of taking a long trip through the west this spring. Tell him to be sure and call on me without fail. Please write me real often and I will be sure to answer.

To Major Litle Hickerson
Wilkesboro, NC

Now that we’ve seen what life was like in the 1800s, let’s look at the earliest records pertaining to Charles. What can we discover about his life?

Was Charles a Patriot?

Charles Hickerson lived in Wilkes County during the Revolutionary War.

Charles is not listed on the DAR website as having served as a Patriot, meaning no one has yet joined based on his service but according to the DAR criteria, since he served as a juror in 1779, he would qualify.

He may have actively served as well.

William Lenoir, a soldier from Wilkes County kept a diary that incorporates details about his Revolutionary War service – which of course includes information about other Wilkes County men too.

The William Lenior Diary shows the following two pages:

Hickerson Lenoir list.jpg

The first page indicates that the men on this list were involved in an expedition against the Indians on May 31, 1776.

Leonard Miller, listed, either was then or would become Charles Hickerson’s son-in-law.

Hickerson Lenoir list 2.jpg

This page simply lists “soldiers” and included is Charles Hickerson, with his name scratched through, along with Andrew Vannoy, my ancestor’s son, who we know served.

Additional information is provided on page 258 in the Journal of Southern History.

Hickerson Journal Southern History.png

Lenoir’s diary in an article in the Journey of Southern History tells us that:

In the spring of 1776, the Cherokee Indians, inhabiting a large area in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, inspired by the efforts of John Stuart and Alexander Cameron, the British Indian agents, began a series of attacks upon the white settlers of the frontier. They further agreed to attack when the English fleet reached the port at Charleston – a plan that was thwarted. However, the militia determined to stop any further plans.

A North Carolina force of 2800 men in addition to 1500, 1150 from South Carolina and more from Georgia were placed under commanders that entered and destroyed the Indian towns along the Tugaloo River. These consisted of the Cherokee Lower Towns with 356 gun men, the Middle and Valley Towns with 878 men and the Overhill Towns with 757 men. Outlying towns had another 500 warriors, totaling about 2000 in all.

The Rutherford expedition passed along the Island Ford Road, a few miles south of Morganton, and moved on to Old Fort. The Wilkes County and Burke County forces joined with this group.

Rutherford’s instructions were direct, according to the State Records of North Carolina. He was to move into the Indian country and, “there act in such a manner as to you in your good sense and judgment may seem best so as effectually to put a stop to the future depredations of those merciless Savages.” Rutherford was an experienced Indian fighter and was trusted to know what to do.

On July 16, 1776, we find the following passage written by the North Carolina Council of Safety:

The Troops Brigadier Rutherford carries with him are as close Rifle Men as any on this continent and are hearty and determined in the present cause. We have every expectation from them. With pleasure we assure you that they are well armed and have plenty of ammunition in short they are well equipped.

William Lenoir recorded his experience in his diary.

August 1776 – After ranging sometime on the head of Reddeys River with 25 men Capt. Jos. Herndon was ordered to raise as many men as would be equal to the number of guns in his district and perade at the general place of rendezvous at Cub Creek.

Does this entry actually mean that there were only a total of 50 guns in the entire county? Surely not. On the 1787 tax list just a few years later, there were a total of 12 districts with 1003 total entries ranging between 45 and 120 entries per district with the average of 83. This makes far more sense.

The next day, on the 13th, the militia paraded.

On Wednesday the 14th I took 30 men out of our company and as Lt. of the same joined Capt. Ben Cleveland with 20 of his men.

On Saturday the 17th marched from the Mulberry Field meeting house to Moravian Creek 6 miles. On Monday the 18th to Bever Creek 10.

The men continued to march towards the Cherokee towns through August and into September when the fighting began on the 12th with the killing of 3 Indians and the scalping of one Indian squaw. On the 19th and 20th, they killed more Indians, took prisoners and began burning towns.

Lenoir notes several times how difficult the terrain was.

His account is painful to read, understanding that the settlers thought they were within their rights, and the Indians felt invaded, especially after having ceded a large amount of land in 1775, supposedly to buy peace and no further settler incursions. You can read about the Cherokee Wars here.

Indeed, the militia laid waste to the Cherokee towns, with amazingly minimal loss of life on either side – at least compared to what could have occurred. Thirty-six towns were completely destroyed, along with their stores and crops. The Indians faced the prospect of starvation. The Cherokee survived the winter using their knowledge of the land on which they lived, eating nuts and what they could hunt and gather. They signed peace treaties the following year. Those treaties, like the rest, didn’t last long. The westward land push continued.

Today, the path taken by the soldiers is known as Rutherford’s Trace.

Hickerson Rutherford's trace

By Learn North Carolina – Map by Mark A. Moore, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives & History. Based on research by Charles Miller, Waynesville, North Carolina. From brochure Rutherford Expedition, 1776 produced by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. – http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/maps/nc/rutherford-trace-450.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52491123

Lenoir closes by noting that he arrived back home on Monday, October 7, 1776. If Charles Hickerson was with these men, he returned home then as well, as did his son-in-law, Leonard Miller.

Did any of these men collect a Revolutionary War pension or land based on this service? Unfortunately, this campaign didn’t last long enough – from August 12th through October 7th. Not even 60 days. In various pension requests submitted after the Pension Act of 1832, it’s noted that the application was denied because the man did not serve a minimum of 90 days.

Leonard Miller’s Revolutionary War pension application confirms the dates and many of these events, although clearly not in as much detail as Lenoir, nor at the time they happened.

In 1776, Charles Hickerson would have been 52 years of age. I don’t know whether he would have been considered seasoned and wise, or “too old,” especially given the difficult terrain and physical demands of the march through the mountains.

No place is there any explanation about the men whose names are lined through.

However, I counted.

  • 58 total names
  • Of those, 2 are lined through and listed as providing a horse.
  • 2 have a note – “h found” and I’m wondering if that means not found.
  • 9 are lined out, in addition to the two who provided horses
  • That leaves a total of 45.

In Lenoir’s commentary, he states that there were 20 men from his company and 30 from Benjamin Cleveland’s which totals 50. He also mentions that there were about 25 men at Reddies River, but he doesn’t say if that 25 is part of the 50.

There’s no way to correlate between these numbers and list to arrive at the actual number of men who went on this expedition, or to know who they were.

I was hoping to find at least one of the men whose name was lined through applying for a pension or land, but I was not able to do so. They would have been more than 76 years old by 1832, assuming they were only 20 in 1776, and this campaign didn’t last long enough. However, I was hopeful that perhaps one of the men served later, perhaps during the Battle of King’s Mountain, in addition to the 1776 Expedition to the Cherokee – which would have told us that the men lined through did in fact serve.

What did I find?

  • Nathaniel Gordon is mentioned in Chapman Gordon’s wife’s pension application as being an officer, but Chapman served in 1779 and 1780.
  • John Sheppard enrolled in 1777.
  • In 1833, Timothy Holdaway did apply for a pension from Bent Creek, Jefferson County, Tennessee, stating he was one of the first settlers there 50 years earlier, just a few years after the War. He describes more of the march against the Cherokee in his application. His name is listed twice, once under “h found.” However, he’s not lined through.

Therefore, we don’t know if Charles Hickerson signed up and then didn’t actually go on the expedition, or what, exactly. We do know that Leonard Miller did march in the expedition, as proven by his 1832 pension application, but he was also charged, not once, but twice, with being a Tory.

One man’s pension application describes marching against Tories at the Moravian Town in Wilkes County, along with other places. Apparently, there was at least a small Tory population there. It was even smaller after the soldiers hung several Tories.

Early North Carolina Records

Aside from the Revolutionary War records, what can we discern about Charles in early records?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Lydia Stewart’s Will

Charles Hickerson witnessed the will of Lydia Stewart on January 11, 1771. Lydia’s will provides us with Charles’ signature, or in this case, his mark.

This is the only remaining personal item of his own making on this earth, other than his DNA passed on to his descendants, of course.

Lydia Stewart will.jpg

In the name of God Amen I Lydia Stewart of Rowan County in North Carolina being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto God do dispose of my worldly estate as followeth

Imprimus I will that out of my estate a title to be obtained for a certain tract of land on the southside of Yadkin River adjoining Benj ? and James Persons land and if such title can be obtained the same to be sold of the value thereof to eb equally divided unto my beloved sons David, Samuel, John and Isaiah Stewart.

Item I give and bequeath unto my granddaughter Lydia (the daughter of my son David) my bed and furniture thereunto belonging.

Item I give unto my son Samuel the bed and furniture usually called his bed.

Item I give unto my son Benjamin an iron pot now in his possession

Item I give unto my son Joseph’s daughter Lydia a good heifer or young cow

Item I bequeath unto my beloved sons David, Samuel, Isaiah and John Stewart all the rest of my estate to be equally divided amongst all their heirs I do nominate and appoint my said sons David Stewart and Samuel Stewart exec of this my last will and testament ratifying allowing if confirming this to be my last will and testament I do utterly dismiss all former wills by me made in testimony whereof I have set my hand and seal Jan. 11th, 1771

Signed sealed and published and pronounced in the presence of us

Christopher Stanton, jurat, his mark

Charles Hickerson his mark

Edw Hughes, jurat (signed)

Lydia’s will was probated in Surry County in November term 1772, proved by Edward Hughes and Christopher Stenton.

Lydia’s husband, Samuel died about 1770.

It’s interesting that Lydia’s property was on the Yadkin in 1771, suggesting that’s where or near where Charles lived as well. A few years later, we know that Charles lived just north of Wilkesboro, which is located on the Yadkin River in an area called Mulberry Fields at that time.

Even more interesting, we know that Charles Hickerson’s daughter, Mary, married a Stewart and one Samuel Stewart filed suit against Daniel Vannoy, husband of Charles Hickerson’s daughter, Sarah, in 1781.

Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, Samuel Hickerson, used the alias of Samuel Stewart.

(Thanks to cousin Carol for finding Lydia’s will.)

Surry County Tax Lists

Charles Hickerson is first found on the Surry County tax list in 1772, but is absent in 1771. However, based on Lydia’s will, we know he was already living there in January 1771.

Benjamin Cleveland’s 1774 tax list shows:

  • Francis Vannoy with Leonard Miller, in all 2
  • Charles Hickerson, David Hickerson, in all 2
  • Daniel Vannoy 1

The 1774 list is important because it shows an early affiliation between the Vannoy and Hickerson family. Leonard Miller either was at that time or became the son-in-law of Charles Hickerson by marrying daughter, Jane.

By the 1790 census, Leonard Miller had 8 family members and lived 19 houses from Daniel Vannoy who married Leonard Miller’s wife’s sister in 1789. Six living children suggest a marriage of at least 12 years, so married perhaps between 1774 and 1778 – right about the time of the 1776 Expedition. It appears since Leonard appears on the tax list with Francis Vannoy in 1774 that he was not yet married at that time.

Finding Charles Hickerson and his son, David, together on the tax list may suggest that David isn’t then married either.

1775 John Hudspeth list of taxes:

  • Charles Hickerson 1

The War

While military events aren’t reflected in the tax records, they were very much a part of the lives of these Appalachian families – for six long years during which time Wilkes County was formed from Surry in 1777. What residents didn’t fear from the Indians, they feared from the British and Tories, not to mention the fear of battle taking place and destroying their homes.

The first Cherokee Expedition occurred in 1776, and the famous Battle of King’s Mountain on October 7, 1780. The last battled listed, here, was another Cherokee Expedition that ended in October of 1782 following a total of 28 known battles in which Wilkes County men participated plus 4 earlier battles, here, when Wilkes was Surry County.

Perhaps the best known battle was the Battle of King’s Mountain, often credited with turning the war.

Hickerson King's Mountain.png

Colonel Cleveland commanded forces at the Battle of King’s Mountain too, along with many Wilkes County men. I do know that some men were older at that battle. Specifically, the Rev. George McNiel was 60 and went along as the chaplain, of sorts.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive list of the OverMountain Men who fought at King’s Mountain.

In the intervening years, Tories were despised and were hung from the Tory Oak in Wilkesboro in 1779, and from a tree at RoundAbout, the plantation of Col. Benjamin Cleveland.

Land!

On March 4, 1778, Charles Hickerson entered a claim for 320 acres on both sides Mulberry Creek including his own improvement. Entry 14

Hickerson 320 acres.jpg

This tells us that this is where Charles has been living. He couldn’t claim land until the Revolutionary War was over so that the United States government actually had land to give.

Just a few weeks later, on April 21, 1779, Leonard Miller entered 50 acres on Mulberry Creek joining Charles Hickerson’s lower corner. (Leonard Miller marked out, David Hickerson written in.) Entry no 977

This tells us that Charles’ son-in-law, then his son owned adjacent land.

September 24, 1779 – Granted Charles Hickerson 320 acres both sides Mulberry Creek, page 96

Oct 16, 1779 – William Fletcher entered 100 acres at the first big branch of Mulberry that runs into Mulberry Creek above Charles Hickerson’s called the Hay or Mead Branch below improvement that the Tolivors made (William Fletcher marked out and Aaron Mash written in). Entry 1247

Aha – there’s probably the Tolivor family whose daughter David Hickerson likely married!

I love stream names, because they provide us with intersection points.

Hickerson Hay Meadow.png

Intersection of Hay Meadow branch and Mulberry Creek. About 3 miles north of the Yadkin.

Beginning in 1779, we find Charles Hickerson in the court notes, often serving as a juror, probably as a result of becoming a land owner.

Sept term 1779 – State vs William Alexander indict T.A.B. 13 jury impaneled and sworn: including Nathaniel Vannoy, Daniel Vannoy, Charles Hickerson. Not guilty

Daniel Vannoy is Charles Hickerson’s son-in-law, or at least he would become his son-in-law on October 2nd.

Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson were probably married at the bride’s house – so in the cabin of Charles Hickerson. Except – we have to wonder why Charles Hickerson didn’t sign for his daughter’s marriage. Was he not in favor?

December 6, 1779 – Charles Hickerson is a juror

January 24, 1780 – Joseph Herndon entered 200 acres upper long branch Mulberry Creek above path leads from Mulberry Fields to Charles Hickerson’s. Entry 1555

You can see several landmarks mentioned on this first map of North Carolina, created by John Strother in 1808. Mulberry Fields is shown with the red arrow, with Charles Hickerson’s land nearby marked with the red box. If this branch isn’t Charles Hickerson’s then it’s the branch just below, at the rear of the red arrow. The point here is that the location of “Mulberry Fields” is to the left of his land, where Charles is described as being buried. This makes sense, since his land was considered to be in or at the Mulberry Fields.

Other landmarks mentioned in various documents are Mulberry Creek, Roaring River, Fishers Creek, Cub Creek which runs by the courthouse, Moravian Creek, and Beaver Creek – all of which we see below.

Hickerson Strother map.png

Using the actual survey portion of Charles Hickerson’s grant, plus a little math, we can determine a lot.

Hickerson survey.png

A pole is 16.2 feet, so the top to bottom measurement is 2,592 feet, or about half a mile. The left to right distance is 4,860 feet, or just under a mile, which is 5,280 feet.

Looking at Mulberry Creek on Google maps, we can see a section that looks almost exactly like this drawing.

Hickerson land map.png

Looking just north of this, in fact, we can see Hay Meadow Creek, referenced in another deed.

Hickerson map Hay Meadow.png

This is where Charles lived.

Hickerson land aerial.png

The path referenced is probably either Mulberry Creek Road or Mountain View Road.

Unbeknownst to me, I’ve driven this road, oblivious that it was literally through my ancestor’s land.

Let’s take a drive!

Taking a Drive

On the road just about where Charles’ land would begin, let’s drive north on Mountain View Road.

Hickerson road.png

Fields hang precariously on the sides of hills, placed wherever there’s a few feet available to cultivate.

Hickerson field.png

Charles’ cabin stood someplace along this route.

Hickerson barn.png

Above, driving through the hills before we descend a bit to cross Mulberry Creek, below.

Hickerson Mulberry Creek.png

Charles owned the land on both sides of the road and both sides of the creek. Mulberry Creek isn’t terribly wide.

Hickerson Mulberry bridge.png

Of course, no bridge existed in those days. Charles and his neighbors would have forded the creek with a wagon or his horse would just have walked across.

Hickerson Y.png

The Y where Mulberry Creek Road goes to the left and Mountain View Road to the right – both roads skirted a mountain or large hill.

We’ll go to the right, first.

Hickerson Mountain View Road.png

We immediately start climbing as we move away from the Creek.

Hickerson hill.png

It’s pretty much straight up on the left.

HIckerson field 2.png

Fields dot the landscape to the right.

Hickerson curve.png

As we drive further, it’s wooded on both sides, not farmable, then or now.

Hickerson wooded.png

We’ve reached the boundary of Charles’ land, so I’m “turning around” and going back to the intersection with Mulberry Creek Road.

Hickerson at Mulberry Creek Road.png

I’m turning right onto Mulberry Creek Road, with the bridge over Mulberry Creek on the curve, above.

Hickerson Mulberry Creek Road.png

The first thing I see is the S curve sign!

Oh NO! I can’t “Google” drive down that road. Apparently, it’s too curvy for the Google car.

Hickerson Mountain.png

Here’s what I’ve missed. For perspective, in the upper left-hand corner of the picture is the intersection of Hay Meadow Creek with Mulberry Creek.

Hickerson logging.png

Now, looking northeast to southwest, the roads skirt this mountain or hill that clearly can’t be cultivated. In the upper left-hand corner, we see the bridge over Mulberry Creek. It looks like this mountain is being logged now. That’s probably the only way to make this land productive – but it wasn’t when Charles Hickerson owned this land and its mountain. I wonder if this mountain or “hill” had a name.

Where did Charles Hickerson actually live on this land from 1772 until his death between 1790 and 1793, and his son David after that?

How did Charles earn a living? Did he clear and farm the lowlands, or did he perhaps build a mill on Mulberry Creek?

Where are Charles and wife Mary, buried?

FindAGrave shows several cemeteries in this area.

Recalling that Charles’ granddaughter said he was buried at Mulberry Fields, I‘d wager he’s buried on his own land, in a cemetery marked only by a wooden cross at the time, or fieldstones, lost now.

Hickerson cemeteries.png

The cemeteries with brown pins are family cemeteries. The brown question marks are “lost” cemeteries that families know exist, or existed, but not exactly where. The green cemeteries are church cemeteries, none of which existed at that time.

I’d wager that there’s a lost cemetery someplace on Charles Hickerson’s land. Both he and his wife, Mary, died in the 1790s and you know his children had children that died. They likely would have been buried in the family cemetery too.

Civil Matters

Thank goodness for court records that allow us a distant peek into life at the time Charles Hickerson lived.

Charles would have traveled to town, Mulberry Fields then, Wilkesboro now, to the courthouse where he would have remained until after the several-day court session was concluded. Not only did he have a civic responsibility, but court was the entertainment of the day.

Until Charles Hickerson owned land, he would not have qualified to be a juror.

September 1779 – Charles Hickerson, juror

December 1779 – Charles Hickerson, juror

March 1780 – Charles Hickerson, juror

May 5, 1780 – Alexander Holton entered 50 acres north side Mulberry Creek between John Robins and Hickersons (Alex Holton marked out, Gervis Smith written in), entry #1804

Apparently, Charles got a new neighbor.

1782 tax list: Charles Hickerson 320 ac, no slaves, 3 mules or horses and 4 cattle.

No slaves. I’m greatly relieved.

April 1784 – Charles and David Hickerson summoned to court as jurors next session.

July term 1784 – Ordered David and Joseph Hickerson, William Johnson, Thomas Robins, George Barker, Leonard Miller, John Robins Sr, Andrew Vannoy, John Nall, Phillip Johnson and George Wheatley, Lewis Piston, Francis Brown or any 12 of them be a jury to lay out and view a road from Thomas Robins to the main road near Robert Chandlows and that John Robins Sr. appointed overseer of the same

July 29, 1784 – The following person be exempt from paying a poll tax on account of their age and infirmities: Charles Hickerson

The list of exempt people included Charles. In 1784, Charles was either age 60, or infirm. If he was 60, that puts his birth in 1724, which seems about right.

April 25, 1785 – court at George Gordon’s – Charles Hickerson appointed juror to next court

July 27, 1787 – Andrew Vannoy, William Viax, Nathaniel Burdine, Owen Hall, Jesse Hall, John Hawkins, David Hickerson, John Chandler, Robert Chandler, Joseph Hickerson, Leonard Miller, James Brown, Walter Brown, Timothy Chandler, Henry Adams, John Townzer and Stephen Hargis jury to view and lay out road from Andrew Vannoy’s to Timothy Chandlers.

We know that Andrew Vannoy lived further north on Mulberry Creek, near the town of McGrady today, probably on Vannoy Road. This also tells us that Joseph Hickerson, Charles’ other son, lived nearby too.

July 29, 1788 – Between Charles Hickerson and David Hickerson 75 pounds 150 acres Mulberry Creek being survey Charles Hickerson now lives on. Witness Philip Goins, Nathaniel Gordon and Charles Gordon. Signed Charles X Hickerson and Mary X Hickerson, page 35

Charles patented 320 acres. This 150-acre conveyance leaves 170 acres unaccounted for. What happened to that?

July 30, 1789 – Deed from Charles Hickerson and Mary Hickerson to David Hickerson 150 acres on oath of Charles Gordon

To assure the legality of a land transfer, the seller also appeared in court to testify and generally, one of the witnessed gave oath that they witnessed the conveyance, meaning the money pass hands.

In the 1790 census, Charles Hickerson has 3 males over 16 and 1 female. David who lives next door has 1 male over 16, 4 males under 16, 3 females and 2 slaves.

This is interesting, because Charles Hickerson only has 2 sons, David and Joseph, who are both adults. Who are those 2 addition