Mary Lytle Hickerson (c1720/5 – 1793/4), Died at Mulberry Fields – 52 Ancestors #266

We don’t know who Mary’s parents are, but Mary Lytle’s surname comes from two sources. First, an 1877 letter written from her unnamed granddaughter in Texas to a relative in Wilkes County provides us with this information:

Nacogdoches, Texas.

May the 20th, 1877

Dr. Hickison

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.

It’s very unfortunate that rest of the letter was lost, including the name of the sender.

Felix Hickerson didn’t have access to online records in 1940 when he published this information, but I do.

I checked the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census for women in Nacogdoches County born about 1791 in North Carolina.

In 1880, there were none, so the author had presumably passed away by then.

In 1870, we find Jane Anderson, age 78, born in North Carolina who cannot read or write. Hmmm. Just because the woman sent a letter doesn’t mean she actually scribed it herself.

Jane Anderson is living with J. B. Anderson, son of Benjamin Anderson, age 50 (born 1830) in Alabama.

There is no other female fitting this description in this county in 1870, or even close to this description, meaning born in North Carolina. Of course, we don’t know when she went to Texas.

In 1860, Jane Anderson, age 68, is living with Napoleon B. Anderson, age 26, born Alabama and Caledonia Anderson, age 18, born Texas. It appears that Jane can read and write.

In 1850, Jane Anderson, age 59, is married to Benjamin Anderson, age 92, living along with Jefferson Anderson, 20, Harriett 17, Doctor, 16, all born in Alabama. Were these Jane’s children?

I can’t find a record where Jane married Benjamin Anderson.

However, if Jane has been widowed 34 years in 1877, that tracks back to 1843, and Jane Anderson was clearly married in 1850.

Jane Anderson could be the wrong person, but if so, then where is the right person in the 1870 census? Or any census, for that matter?

Another inconsistency is that Mary Lytle Hickerson’s 1793 will very clearly calls forth her daughter, Mary Stewart, who clearly did marry a Stewart, Steward or Stuart, however you spell it.

Mary’s will does not mention a daughter named Elizabeth. However, Mary also did not mention Sarah and Rachel, and we know positively these two women were her daughters.

There’s no question that the author knew her mother’s name. She would not have mistaken Mary for Elizabeth, and middle names at the time her mother would have been born were exceedingly uncommon.

Is Elizabeth Hickerson who married a Stewart yet another unknown daughter? It’s certainly possible. In 1771, Charles Hickerson witnessed the will of Lydia (Harrison) Stewart who had son Samuel Stewart, the probable husband of Mary Hickerson Stewart. Lydia Stewart’s will also mentions sons Benjamin, Joseph, David, Samuel, Isaiah and John.

Mary Lytle Hickerson’s husband, Charles Hickerson, didn’t have a will, so the will mentioning children is Mary’s.

Mary’s will named sons David and Joseph Hickerson, daughters Jane Miller and Mary Stewart, along with Mary’s son Samuel Hickerson, leaving the balance of her estate to “my daughters” without identifying them.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the name of the letter’s author was on the portion that is missing.

I’ve been unable to identify the author from the census and other available information.

Lytle as a First Name

In combination with the surname Little provided in the 1877 letter, we also have evidence in the form of the name Lytle being used as a first name for Mary Lytle Hickerson’s grandchildren. Spelling was, of course, arbitary and phoenetic at that time in history. Lytle and Little would have been pronounced the same way, so the spelling would have been the preference of the speller.

Mary Lytle Hickerson in North Carolina

We know very little about Mary from records that involve her before she signed the deed with an X when she and Charles sold land to their son, David on July 29, 1788. In fact, there is no direct evidence other than the fact that David, born between 1750 and 1760 named his son Lytle.

We know, positively, that Mary and Charles were living on Mulberry Creek ten years before the deed-signing, in 1778 when Charles made a land entry, and that they lived in Surry County, the part that woul,d become Wilkes in 1776 when a group of militia men marched to the Cherokee Towns.

It’s probable that by 1774 they had already settled along the Yadkin near what was then called Mulberry Fields, today the area just north of Wilkesboro. Charles was listed in the tax district of Col. Benjamin Cleveland who we know positively lived there.

The first record of Charles Hickerson in North Carolina isn’t on this part of the Yadkin River but about 15 miles west of what is today Winston-Salem.

On January 11, 1771, Charles Hickerson witnessed the will of Lydia Stewart. Her husband, Samuel, had died a few years before, leaving his land to two of his sons, but his moveable estate to Lydia.

It stands to reason that Lydia lived on that land until her death. In fact, based on her will, it seems apparent that she still lived in the old home place.

Charles Hickerson, and by extension, Mary, would have had to live in close proximity to Lydia to witness her will. It’s also worth mentioning that at least one of Mary’s daughters, Mary, married a Stewart, if not two daughters – meaning Elizabeth too. This might suggest that the Hickersons in fact lived very close to Lydia – close enough for their kids to court.

Where did Lydia Stewart live?

Lydia Stewart’s Land

I lucked out. Not only did my cousin, Carol, discover that indeed, Charles had witnessed Lydia’s will, along with his mark for a signature, but I discovered that Wes Patterson has researched the Stewarts extensively. You can see his website, here.

Based on Wes’s work, it looks like Lydia Stewart lived on land that her husband, Samuel, willed to sons Benjamin and Joseph.

This land was located near where the Great Wagon Road crossed the Yadkin River where modern Robinhood Road intersects Chickasha Road near Gorgales Creek, then known as Muddy Creek.

Samuel had a land grant for 640 acres on Muddy Creek above the head of Stewarts Run.

Today Stewart’s Creek is Shallowford/Country Club Road.

The old wagon road came into Lewisville at Shallowford Road near Lewisville-Vienna Road. Yadkinville Hwy., Old 421, crosses the Yadkin River at Old 421 River Park.

Then, Wes’s item #16 confirms the location on Bersheba Creek where Samuel Stewart Sr. and Lydia had lived.

I found and marked these locations on Google maps, here.

Mary Lytle Winston-Salem.png

I’ve marked these places on the map, above.

On the left, at 7699 Yadkinville Road we see where 421, aka the Old Wagon Road crossing the Yadkin. The dotted line dot above that is where the Bashavia Creek empties into the Yadkin. This is where Lydia and Samuel lived, and where Charles Hickerson would have witnessed her will.

I wonder if Charles was working on her land after arriving in North Carolina from wherever they came from.

The other Robinhood Road locations are 5901 Robinhood at Chickasha Road, mentioned by Wes, and 4600 where Robinhood crosses Muddy Creek.

At 1425 Lyndale, we find the head of Tomahawk Creek, then Stewart’s Run, mentioned in one of the deeds.

Mary Lytle Bashavia.png

I think it’s safe to say we’ve pretty well isolated where Lydia lived given that the deed says on both sides of Bashavia on the east side of the Yadkin, and we know that Charles and Mary Lytle Hickerson lived someplace nearby.

Mary Lytle Muddy.png

The land around Winston-Salem is much flatter than further west in Wilkes County where Charles and Mary would settle permanently. Standing on the bridge below, looking north where the old Wagon Road crossed the Yadkin. Lydia and Samuel Stewart’s land would have been on the right, beyond the bend in the river.

Mary Lytle Yadkin.png

Moving on West

It appears that perhaps Charles and Mary checked things out here, and decided, for some reason, to keep moving west.

Mary Lytle Winston-Salem to Wilkesboro.png

Wilkesboro is about 45 miles further west on the Yadkin River, although the Yadkin does not follow 421, but arches north and then back south to Wilkesboro. Charles and Mary settled near Mulberry, north of Wilkesboro just a few miles. After the Revolution, they patented the land they had been living on where they lived the rest of their lives.

Note under item 15 that Les says that Samuel Stewart Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Winscott. He probably believed this to be true because Samuel Stewart Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth, sold land in 1774 mentioned in Lydia Stewart’s will.

I think that Wes might have been confused. Cousin Carol found the marriage bond of Elizabeth Winscott who married Thomas Benjamin Steward/Stuard on August 19, 1769. Either John or Joseph Stewart signed with Thomas, and Elizabeth appears to have been an orphan. Carol indicated that the original document was in very poor condition, badly smeared, and the transcribed version spelled the groom’s name as Benman Sheart. Carol found the record by reading the originals.

Therefore, we know that Elizabeth Winscot did indeed marry a son of Lydia’s, but not Samuel, who obviously was also married to an Elizabeth in 1774. The woman in the 1877 letter who was born in 1791 says that her mother’s name was Elizabeth Hickerson and she had married a Stewart – which certainly tells us that Elizabeth Hickerson Stewart was yet alive in 1791.

Either Mary Hickerson and Elizabeth Hickerson are one and the same person, or two of Mary Lytle Hickerson’s daughters married Stewart men.

Other than Mary Lytle Hickerson’s signature on the 1788 deed, the next we find of her is when she composed her will. Unfortunately, we don’t have a will for Charles Hickerson, so without Mary’s we would know little.

Mary Lytle Hickerson’s Will

Mary Hickerson’s will was composed on December 5th, 1793. The will was unsigned and the will was clearly not prepared by an attorney. It says that the will was “Delivered in the presence of us Amy Hickerson Jane Miller” so the witnesses were two Mary’s daugher and daughter-in-law, suggesting that they were the two people who just happened to be in the house as she was dictating or speaking her will.

Mary was likely very gravely ill, possibly suddently, told whoever was in the cabin at the time what she wanted, and that was it.

At the February Court term, the family probated Mary’s will.

Mary Lytle will.jpg

Recorded at the February 1794 court held in Wilkes County, meaning that Mary died sometime between December 5th and the February court dates, we find her will recorded and written into the book.

In the name of God Amen, I Mary Hickerson of the County of Wilkes and State of North Carolina, being of Sound mind and memory, blessed be God, do this the fifth day of December in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety three make and publish this my last Will and Testament in the manner following, that is to say– First, I give my son Joseph Hickerson one purple rugg. I also give my daughter Jane Miller my chest and tea ware. I also give my daughter Mary Stewart and her son Samuel Hickerson one feather bed and also my daughter, Mary Stewart, all the goods in the above mentioned chest. And all the balance of my property to be equally divided amongst my daughters. I also leave my son David Hickerson three yards of white linnin. Also this is my last Will and Testament and Desire. Delivered in the presence of us Aney Hickson Jane Miller.

Aney Hickerson was the wife of Joseph Hickerson, Mary’s son. Jane Miller was Mary’s daughter who was married to Leonard Miller.

Note that Mary specifically names her daughter, Mary Stewart.

We later discover that not all of Mary’s children were mentioned in her will.

What do we know about Mary’s children?

Mary Lytle and Charles Hickerson’s Children

Happy Valley History and Genealogy written and published in 1940 by Felix Hickerson provides the names of the children of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle. Below, I’ve expanded significantly on what Felix included. This isn’t intended to be critical of Felix, but I have a lot more available resources than Felix did in 1940, plus DNA evidence. Then again, living in Wilkes County, Felix probably had access to records that no longer exist or will never be online – not to mention the long memories of residents still alive who were born in the first half of the 19th century.

Let’s look at what we know about each child of Mary Lytle Hickerson.

David Hickerson

  • David Hickerson born circa 1750/1760 in Virginia married Nancy Toliver (Taliaferro). His children include:
    • John Hickerson 1782-1845 who married Nancy Petty and died in Manchester, Tennessee
    • Charles Hickerson born about 1784, died 1819 in Wilkes County, unmarried
    • David Hickerson Jr. born 1787, died in 1861 in Manchester, Tennessee
    • Joseph Hickerson born 1789, married in 1813 to Nancy Rousseau, died in 1850 in Coffee County, Tennessee
    • Major Lyttle Hickerson born 1793, married in 1827 to Amelia Gwynn, died 1884 in Wilkes County

Mary Lytle - Lytle Hickerson.jpg

    • Nancy Hickerson born about 1794 married a Cole, probably Isaac who proved David Hickerson’s will in court, died before 1870 in Coffee County, Tennessee
    • Mary “Polly” Hickerson 1798-1847 who married John Adams
    • Lucy Hickerson 1804-1853 who married an Allison
    • Sarah “Sally” Hickerson born about 1805 and married Isaac Lusk of Tennessee, died before 1860

There are no photos of Mary Lytle Hickerson’s children, of course, and I believe Lytle Hickerson is the only existing photo of one of Mary’s grandchildren. Does Lytle look like Mary or Charles?

With the exception of sons Charles and Lytle, David Hickerson and his children moved to Coffee Co., TN about 1809, but assuredly before 1812 because David’s son, David Hickerson Jr., served in the War of 1812 from Coffee County.

Rabbit Hole – Cameo Appearance of Nathaniel Vannoy

It’s interesting to note that Nathaniel Vannoy is a witness to David Hickerson’s will dated January 25, 1821. Daniel Vannoy was married to David Hickerson’s sister, Sarah. This goes to show that people kept in touch with family members, even distant, as they removed from their home counties and expanded westward.

The fact that Nathaniel Vannoy witnessed David’s will, suggesting he was a trusted friend or relative, but not next of kin, causes me to wonder if Nathaniel is the missing male child of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson who was born prior to 1788.

Although that gives me pause, because David Hickerson sued Daniel Vannoy for slander back in Wilkes County in 1794. Daniel Vannoy disappeared from the records after that suit, so it’s possible that David didn’t get along with Daniel, but was fine with his sister Sarah and her Vannoy children – especially if Daniel left. Several people sued Daniel Vannoy about that time for slander and assault.

David Hickerson’s son, Lytle, signed for another one of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson’s children, Susan, when she married in 1822.

At that time, Lytle Hickerson could have been Susan Vannoy’s closest living relative living in Wilkes County, with her parents both gone. In fact, for all we know, Lytle could have raised Susan after her mother, Sarah, died.

The Happy Valley story goes on to say that David Hickerson went to Tennessee in 1809, established a grist mill in 1815, later a cotton gin, sawmill and corn mill on the Duck River between 1820 and 1830. The family story of the migration of Sarah Hickerson Vannoy’s son, Elijah Vannoy, to Claiborne County, Tennessee is that the family came up the Duck River, which until this very minute, made no sense whatsoever. Elijah’s daughter is the person who conveyed that information about the Duck River, so it could be considered fairly close to the source.

Bingo – Elijah was visiting his uncle David Hickerson, probably considering whether to settle there or not, and I thought that Nathaniel Vannoy is Elijah’s brother that did stay, at least for a while. If so, I wonder who Nathaniel married and if he had children.

Another piece of this puzzle that never made sense is that the Duck River is no place close to Claiborne County where Elijah settled, so it’s not “on the way” nor would it be logical.

Mary Lytle Duck River.png

On the map above, the Duck River begins about Manchester, Tennessee where David Hickerson lived in Coffee County, and ended on the Tennessee River, further west.

Sneedville, where Elijah Vannoy settled is in the upper right-hand corner of the map.

Mary Lytle Wilkesboro to Duck River.png

If Elijah too had traversed the Duck River, from the west to get to Coffee County, he then had a long overland route to get back east to Sneedville which is far closer to Wilkesboro than to Manchester, or anyplace on Duck River.

I’m not even sure that a water route to Coffee County from Wilkesboro, meaning “up the Duck River,” makes sense under any circumstances.

The Yadkin River becomes the PeeDee which empties into the Atlantic near Charleston, SC. From there, travelers would need to travel around Florida by boat, to the Mississippi River at New Orleans, then traveling north to Paducah, Kentucky where they could intersect with the Tennessee River, then traveling the Tennessee back south to Manchester, southeast of Nashville.

That seems very counter-intuitive. On the map below, you can see the direct route, albeit over the mountains. The “water route” looks much longer and more difficult and I’ve not heard of anyone else taking a long water route between North Carolina and anyplace in Tennessee. Of course, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – especially not in my family who failed to do anything in the “normal” way.

Mary Lytle around Florida.png

Back to David Hickerson and Nathaniel Vannoy.

In a December 1833 deposition about the validity of David Hickerson’s will that was signed a dozen years earlier, in 1821, James Haggard, another one of the witnesses, testified that, “Sanders is dead and Vannoy the last I saw of him he resided in Greenville District, North Carolina.”

I was unsuccessful in discovering more about Nathaniel Vannoy in Greenville District, North Carolina, nor anything about a district called “Greenville District.”

Daniel Vannoy’s brother, Nathaniel Vannoy, died in 1835 in Greenville, the city, in Greenville County, South Carolina at about age 87. Born in 1749, it’s somewhat unlikely that Nathaniel would have been in Tennessee in 1821 at 71 or 72 years of age witnessing a will. Nathaniel was the register of deeds in Wilkes County in 1814 and 1815, a founder of the New Hope Baptist Church in 1830, and died living with his daughter in South Carolina in 1835. You wouldn’t think Nathaniel would have witnessed a will in Tennessee unless he lived there and anticipated being able to prove the will in court.

However, Nathaniel Vannoy’s son, Andrew, settled in Bedford County, Tennessee, and married on January 7, 1821, the same month that Nathaniel Vannoy witnessed David Hickerson’s will. Bedford County is just a few miles on west of Manchester near where David Hickerson lived. It’s possible that Nathaniel helped to move his son to Tennessee, helped him get settled, attended his wedding, and visited David Hickerson in the process. In that case, Greenville District would have been mistakenly recorded as North Carolina instead of South Carolina.

We’ll likely never know and the information available is ambiguous.

Let’s look at Mary Lytle Hickerson’s other son, Joseph Hickerson.

Joseph Hickerson

Felix tells us the following:

  • Joseph Hickerson, probably born around 1765 – Captain of the 13th VA Regiment, Rev War and later of the Wilkes County Militia

Felix was mistaken. Joseph, the son of Charles and Mary, is NOT the Joseph who served in Virginia. He can’t be, because that Joseph Hickerson died during the war.

His service record says:

Joseph Hickerson, enlisted October 1777 for 3 years, sick at Bethlehem 13th VA reg commanded by Col. William Russell – listed under casualties as “Dead Nov 8.”

Mary Lytle Joseph Hickerson Rev War.png

In a March 1939 letter from Adelaide Sisson, the Librarian General of the DAR to Frances Hickerson of Hickerson Station in Tullahoma, Tennessee, Adelaide says that the Joseph who served in Virginia was born in 1747 and was married in 1768 to a Whiting.

The lineage is published in the DAR Lineage book, Volume 166, page 221. She further says that the DAR is focused on New England and cannot be of further assistance with Virginia. It’s too bad she didn’t bother to look further, being located in Washington DC, because that would have prevented the incorrect information being disseminated about Joseph Hickerson from Wilkes County for, oh, the next 80+ years!

Obviously, Mary’s son Joseph listed in her 1793 will was a different Joseph Hickerson. We know that Charles and Mary Hickerson were in Surry County by January 1771, so it made no sense that their son Joseph served in Virginia several years later.

Joseph, the son of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle was born about 1766, lived his life in Wilkes County, married Ann Green (or Greer), date unknown but clearly before 1793, and had at least 4 children:

  • Joseph Hickerson born 1789
  • David Hickerson born 1793
  • Joshua Greer Hickerson 1794-1856, married Susannah Murphey and moved to Warren County, TN
  • Sarah Hickerson born about 1803

Mary Hickerson

Felix tells us that:

  • Mary Hickerson married Mr. Stewart and (possibly) moved to Texas

While indeed Mary Hickerson clearly did marry a Stewart, she may or may not have moved to Texas. Texas didn’t exist in the 1790s, to begin with, and it’s likely they moved someplace else first. Texas was part of Spain until 1821 when it became part of Mexico who actively recruited Anglos. By 1834, 30,000 Anglos lived in Texas. The Texas Revolution took place in 1835-1836 and Texas joined the union in 1845. Given this history, it’s unlikely that Mary Hickerson Stewart was living in Texas prior to about 1830.

Typically, Tennessee was the path to Texas, or one of the paths.

While this information came from the 1877 letter, given that the writer, whoever she was, says that her mother’s name is Elizabeth, not Mary, I have to wonder if Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle Hickerson had another daughter, Elizabeth, that we don’t know about, who also married a Stuart. The letter’s author clearly knew her mother’s name – and Mary Lytle Hickerson when she was creating her will in 1795 on her death bed clearly knew her daughter’s name.

Mary and Elizabeth are not nicknames for each other.

The Stewart that Mary Hickerson probably married was Samuel Stewart, who I thought was the son of Samuel and Lydia Stewart who lived close enough to Charles Hickerson for him to witness Lydia’s will in January of 1771 in Rowan County.

By the time Lydia Stewart’s will was probated in 1772, the location was Surry County. Lydia mentions son Samuel Stewart inheriting the bed known as “his bed.” Of course, “his bed” could still be “his” after he moved from his mother’s home, but it sounded to me like Samuel was still using “his” bed.

One Samuel Stewart sued Daniel Vannoy, husband of Mary’s daughter, Sarah Hickerson, in 1781. In 1794, after Mary’s will was probated, Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, Samuel Hickerson alias Stewart, and Daniel Vannoy were embroiled in slander and assault lawsuits.

The one child of Mary Hickerson Stewart’s that we know positively existed was Samuel Hickerson aka Samuel Steward/Stewart. Descendants of Sarah Hickerson DNA match with the children of one Samuel Hickerson who was found in Kentucky.

Samuel Hickerson alias Stewart also went by the name of Lytle. Did Mary rename him entirely after she married Samuel Stewart from Lytle Hickerson to Samuel Stewart?

Note that Wes Patterson, under item 15, says that Samuel Stewart Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Winscott. If the Samuel married to Mary Hickerson is the son of Lydia Stewart, then did he later marry Mary Hickerson? Note that the women in 1877 letter said her mother, Elizabeth, married a Stewart and that she was born in 1791.

So, there is some doubt about whether or not Mary Hickerson Stewart/Steward moved to Texas, but clearly Elizabeth Hickerson Stuart’s daughter wound up there.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to Mary Hickerson Stewart, when, or where – or to her Stewart husband, whatever his name was. Mary’s son, Samuel Hickerson appears to have gone to Kentucky where today, I have DNA matches to his descendants.

Clearly, for anyone descending from daughter Mary Hickerson Stewart, there’s a lot of unraveling left to do.

Jane Hickerson

Felix tells us that:

  • Jane Hickerson married Mr. Miller.

Indeed, Jane, born about 1760 did marry Leonard Miller with whom she had at least 7 children, three being daughters. I can only confirm one child positively, and three probably based on DNA matches to their descendants.

  • Michael Miller 1783-1858
  • Benjamin Miller born 1790, lived in South Carolina by 1815, in Alabama by 1820 and in Lafayette County, Mississippi by the 1830s when his father, Leonard was living with him and collecting a Revolutionary War Pension
  • William Miller 1791-1889

It appears that Jane remarried in 1806 in Wilkes County to John Reynolds based on a marriage bond signed by David Hickerson, her brother. It’s possible that instead of Jane herself, one of her daughters, also named Jane, married in Wilkes County.

Jane Hickerson’s situation is interesting, to say the least.

In May of 1794, following a series of lawsuits, Leonard Miller forfeits his bond and does not appear as a witness in the slander suit of Janes brother, David Hickerson, versus her brother-in-law, Daniel Vannoy.

This series of lawsuits is particularly brutal, because Jane Hickerson Miller herself was convicted of concealing a feather bed stolen from her sister, Rachel Hickerson Harris, during a 1789 robbery and arson of Rachel’s home. The jury’s remarks are particularly unflattering towards Jane:

March term 1793 – State of North Carolina Morgan District Superior Court of law – The jurors for the state upon their oath present that Jone Miller late of the County of Wilkes in the Morgan District labourer being a person of evil name and fame and of dishonest conversation and a common buyer and receiver of stolen goods on the 10th day of March 1789 in the county aforesaid one feather bed of value of 15 pounds of the goods and chattels of one Braddock Harris by a certain ill disposed person to the jurors aforesaid as yet unknown then lately before feloniously stolen of the same ill disposed person unlawfully unjustly and for the sale of Wicked gain did receive and have (she the said Jone Miller) then and there well knowing the said bed to have been feloniously stolen to the great damage of the said Braddock Harris and against the peace and dignity of the state . J. Harwood Atto. Genl. State vs Jone Miller Ind. Misdemeanor, Braddock Harris, John Roberts (name marked through) prosr. And witness. Joseph Hickerson. Witness Rachell Harris. Sworn and sent.

This robbery and arson committed by John Roberts, followed by lawsuits filed after Mary Hickerson’s death, divided the Hickerson family terribly. Many suits for assault and slander follow – and the only thing that’s clear is that there’s a war being fought between the Hickerson siblings along with their spouses.

  • During this time, about 1794, Mary (or Elizabeth) Hickerson Stewart leaves, Daniel Vannoy disappears without a trace and Leonard Miller moves, apparently without Jane, to South Carolina. Braddock and Rachel Harris move to South Carolina too and in 1809, David Hickerson goes to Tennessee.
  • In 1800, Jane Miller appears in the census in Wilkes county, without a male of Leonard’s age in the household. She does have 3 males 10-15, 1 male 16-25, 2 females under 10, 1 female 16-25, and one female 26-44, which would likely be her.
  • In 1800, John Reynolds is the same age as Jane, has children, but no wife.
  • In 1810, John Reynolds has a male 26-44 and a female of the same age. These age brackets seem to be off.
  • Leonard Miller, in Laurens County, SC, in 1810 does have a female of his age in the household, so perhaps he remarried too.
  • In 1833, Leonard Miller, then living in Jefferson County, Alabama applied for a pension for having served in Rutherford’s Campaign under Col. Benjamin Cleveland in Wilkes County. After his death, in April 1845, Leonard’s son, Benjamin stated that Leonard had 7 children, and he had heard from none of his siblings in the past 18 years, dating back to about 1827. Benjamin said the last he heard, they were scattered with some in Kentucky and Virginia, but he didn’t know where. He said that Leonard had not had a wife since he had been a pensioner.

Something happened between Jane and Leonard Miller, and it looks like they got a “divorce” in one manner or another. I found no divorce records, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Rachel Hickerson

Apparently Felix didn’t discover Rachel Hickerson.

  • Rachel Hickerson was born about 1765 and married Braddock Harris about 1786.

In April 1786, Braddock was convicted in court of “intended rape,” was carted through the town for an hour as a spectacle with a sign pinned to his forehead saying, “This is the effects of an intended rape.”

John Roberts burned Rachel and Braddock Harris’s house on March 1, 1789 after robbing their home. In collaboration with John, Rachel’s sister Jane Miller hid the stolen feather bed.

No wonder this family was at war!

After Mary Lytle Hickerson died in late 1793 or early 1794, Rachel Hickerson Harris stayed in Wilkes County long enough to testify against both Roberts and her sister, but then she and Braddock left for Laurens District, which became Laurens County, SC where they lived until at least 1810. Rachel died in 1822 in Franklin County, Georgia. Rachel had at least 8 children including three females.

  • Stephen Harris born about 1787/9
  • Mollie Harris born 1792, marriage unknown
  • Sallie Harris born about 1792/4-1856 married Nathan Curry, having many children including at least 6 daughters
  • Nancy Harris born 1799, marriage unknown
  • John Lane Harris born about 1802
  • Littleton Harris born about 1804
  • William Washington Harris born about 1807

Sarah Hickerson

Felix also didn’t discover Sarah Hickerson.

  • Sarah Hickerson married Daniel Vannoy on October 2, 1779.

Sarah was born sometime between 1752 and 1760, based on her husband’s age and her marriage date. Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy had:

  • Elijah Vannoy born about 1784 married Lois McNiel in 1809 and moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee a couple years later
  • An unknown son born before 1788
  • An unknown daughter born before 1788
  • Joel Vannoy born in 1792 married Elizabeth St. Claire in 1817, having 8 children. He then married Emily Lemira Suddworth about 1832 in Burke County where they had another 10 children.
  • Susan Vannoy, born about 1804, married George McNiel in 1822 in Wilkes County and had 6 children
  • Possibly another daughter born between 1795-1800

According to the census, Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy had at least one unidentified male and one unidentified female child, both born before 1788. They may have had another daughter born between 1795 and 1800.

That male child may have been Nathaniel Vannoy, found in 1821 in Franklin County, Tennessee witnessing the will of David Hickerson, or maybe not. Nathaniel could also possibly have been Daniel Vannoy’s brother, although he would have been quite aged to have been traveling.

It’s also possible that the unidentified children didn’t survive.

Possibly Elizabeth Hickerson

  • Elizabeth Hickerson, mother of the anonymous letter writer who left Wilkes County about 1794 married a Stuart (Stewart/Steward)

It’s possible that Mary Lytle Hickerson had another daughter named Elizabeth, based on the 1877 letter from Elizabeth’s daughter where she states that her mother married a Stewart and that she (the letter writer) was born in 1791.

I find it hard to believe that the letter-writer would record her mother’s name incorrectly.

If Elizabeth Hickerson’s daughter was born in 1791, and Mary Lytle was having children by about 1745, Elizabeth’s mother would have been between the ages of 43 (born in 1748) and 33 (born in 1768 as Mary’s last child.)

When Was Mary Lytle Hickerson Born?

We know that Mary Lytle Hickerson’s daughter, Mary Hickerson Stewart had a son named Samuel Hickerson who used aliases including Stewart, Lytle, and Litle.

In 1781, Samuel Steward filed a suit against Daniel Vannoy in Wilkes County. I initially thought this was Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, Samuel, but at this point, I doubt that she had her son, Samuel in 1760 or before which would have had to be the case if he were filing a suit in 1781. Samuel would have had to be of age to file suit. It Samuel was age 21 in 1781, he had to have been born in 1760 or earlier.

We know that Charles Hickerson was age 60 in 1784 when he was exempted from taxes, which puts his birth year in 1724.

Assuming that Mary is not older than Charles, and that they married when she was about 20, and assuming that her daughter Mary Hickerson is Mary Lytle’s oldest child, that put’s daughter Mary’s birth about 1745. To have had son Samuel in 1760, Mary would have given birth when she was 15. While that’s not impossible, especially given that he appears to have been illegitimate, it’s unlikely.

Mary Lytle Hickerson’s will specifically names Samuel Hickerson as Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, and he is the only grandchild she left anything to by name. I suspect that this is because she probably raised Samuel in her home after he was born illegitimately to his mother, before Mary married the Stewart male probably sometime after 1771.

Based on the ages of her children, I suspect Mary Lytle was born about the same time as Charles Hickerson, so would have been about 68 when she died in December 1793 or early 1794.

Mary’s DNA

I’ve identified autosomal DNA segments on three chromosomes that descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle. What we don’t know, and can’t discover until we figure out who their parents are, is whether these segments descend through Charles or Mary.

Mary Lytle segments.png

Mary’s Direct Matrilineal Line

However, if we can find someone descended from Mary Lytle through all females to the present generation, which can be male, we can obtain Mary’s mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both sexes of children from their mother, but only females pass it on. Therefore, the mitochondrial DNA of Mary’s daughter’s direct linear female descendants (to the current generation which can be male) is the same as Mary Lytle Hickerson’s.

Mary’s mitochondrial DNA can tell us a great deal about where she came from and may help us further break down brick walls, especially if it’s rare, or Native. We don’t know who Mary’s mother is, so Mary’s mitochondrial DNA is a direct lifeline to matrilineal ancestral women – Mary’s mother, grandmother and so forth.

Of Mary’s daughters, listed above, we know that:

  • Mary Hickerson Stewart had one son, but nothing more is known
  • Jane Hickerson Miller had daughters, but I’ve been unable to document who they were
  • Rachel Hickerson Harris’s daughters are listed in bold, above
  • Sarah Hickerson Vannoy’s only known daughter, Susan, is bolded above as well
  • Elizabeth Hickerson Stuart’s only known child is the nameless author of the 1877 letter from Nacogdoches, Texas. If anyone can figure out who she is, and if she had daughters, please let me know.

If you descend from these women through all females to the present generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you. Please get in touch! We have brick walls to break down together.

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Frank Sadowski: Terror on Tombstone Ridge – 52 Ancestors #269

Frank Sadowski

Frank Sadowsky, or Sadowski, whichever way you prefer to spell it, was my mother’s fiancé who was killed on Okinawa during the brutal battle that led to the end of World War II.

I mentioned Frank in my mother’s story about professional dancing in Chicago during WWII, which is where she met him when she danced with Frank’s sister, Margie. Both women were members of the Dorothy Hild Dancers that performed at the posh Edgewater Beach Hotel. You can read those articles here and here, if you wish, but the real story is about Frank.

I honored Frank with an article, Frank Sadowski (1921-1945), Almost My Father, on Memorial Day, 2015, since Frank clearly didn’t leave any descendants to do that for him. I can’t explain it, but I felt driven to record Frank’s story, and far be it from me to argue with a desire that strong.

That article, in a most amazing twist of fate led Curtis, Frank’s nephew, to find me when he was struck with a sudden urge to do a Google search on Frank’s name just three weeks later.

I know, I know, how strange could that be some 70 years after Frank’s death. It’s bizarre, but not nearly as bizarre as what was yet in store.

Curtis’s son, Bert, is serving in the military and Bert’s great-uncle Frank served as Bert’s inspiration, standing at his grave, before Bert enlisted.

Little did Curtis, or Bert, know that I had Frank’s ring, cherished lovingly by mother for all those years.

I still cry remembering this, but I knew deep in my heart what needed to happen. Yep, Frank’s Ring Goes Home is the next chapter that unfolded before Christmas in 2015 when Burt was gifted with Frank’s ring. I promise, you’ll want to read this with a full box of Kleenex nearby.

Bert ring.jpg

Bert is the proud owner of Frank’s ring today and I know beyond a doubt that Frank is watching over him.

Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d think Mother and Frank might have been somehow involved in this, from the other side😊

But the weird quirks of fate were not yet finished with Curtis and me.

Those articles would also lead Joan Mikol to find me. That wasn’t Joan’s first fortuitous discovery either. Nope, because several years ago, in Chicago, walking her dog, Joan noticed scrapbooks sticking out of the trash that included clippings and photos belonging to the Sadowski family. The scrapbook that Frank’s sister, Margie, had kept about Frank, including his letters home. After Margie’s death, non-family members threw everything away.

Thankfully, Joan pulled the scrapbooks out of that trash can and saved them – for decades – until she too googled Frank’s name. Below, Joan gifting the scrapbooks to the Sadowski family.

scrapbook-joan

What Joan didn’t know is that house had been the Sadowski home which just happened to be inhabited by a ghost.

scrapbook-me-and-curtis

Joan, Curtis (above), his wife Janet and I met near Chicago as Joan gave the scrapbooks to me and I gave them a few hours later to Curtis. I told that story in Sadowski WWII Scrapbooks Salvaged from Trash Heap.

Those pages revealed such a treasure trove. I discovered information about Mom and Frank that I never knew before. Thank goodness the scrapbook is back with the Sadowski family where it belongs.

Janet is currently scanning the contents for all to share.

Who Was Frank Sadowski?

I wanted to know more about Frank – the mystery man that stole my mother’s heart and never let it go. Frank, a medical school student, enlisted in the war, even though he clearly didn’t need to. Why would he do that?

Sadowski Steinmetz.png

It appears that Frank’s interest in the military began in high school. This 1938 article in the Chicago Tribune mentions ROTC Second Lieutenant Frank Sadowski. He would have been 17 that year.

Frank graduated 2 years later, in 1940 from the Steinmetz Academic Centre.

Sadowski senior.png

You’ll notice that Frank is wearing his ROTC uniform in his senior yearbook photo, above.

A serious student, Frank recorded his dreams in his high school yearbook.

Sadowski goals.png

It’s ironic somehow that by February 16, 1943 when he enlisted, Frank was well on his way to becoming a physician, fulfilling his goal by following in his father’s footsteps.

Frank had also fallen madly in love with my mother.

So much for “down with women.”

However, Frank would never become a famed physician and surgeon, nor marry my mother, because his military interest overshadowed both. Frank’s infamy would be through the sacrifice of his life in the service of his country, saving others. Exactly how Frank saved others wasn’t exactly like he had envisioned.

Sadowski draft.png

Frank registered for the draft on February 16, 1942. I notice he registered under Sadowski, not Sadowsky as his military records are listed.

Sadowski draft 2.png

Then, exactly a year to the day later, on February 16, 1943, Frank enlisted.

Frank’s mother was dead set against Frank’s enlistment. Her reason was not what you might expect. You’ll find out why and a whole lot more in Frank Sadowski, Jr. – Bravery Under Fire.

Frank’s sister saved his letters and pasted them in that scrapbook, later found by Joan more than 30 years after Frank’s death. Not wanting his family to worry, Frank downplayed the severity of what was occurring in the Pacific in his preserved letters to his sister and father.

Sadly, I don’t have Frank’s letters to my mother, or hers to him, but I’d wager they were of a different flavor, probably intensely personal, and he likely downplayed the danger to her too. Mother told me that she knew when she kissed Frank goodbye at the train station when he left the last time that she would never see him again, at least not on this side of the grave.

Frank Sadowski christmas

1944 would be Frank’s last Christmas – ever. He was deployed to Okinawa on a destroyer on December 9th. Just before boarding the ship, Frank sent one last v-mail letter to my mother in which he says that he writes to her daily, whether he can mail those letters or not. I wonder if she ever received them. The other soldiers, “Joes” as he calls them, tease him because of his devotion.

Frank wrote letters to family members in which he tells them how much he loves them, thinly veiling his homesickness with attempts at humor and then finally, “Don’t forget, your son still loves you,” written to his Dad.

Lastly, “Well, Dad, my time is running out but my love for you and the family isn’t.”

Did Frank somehow know?

Maybe what the fortune-teller told Frank’s mother was right…

Injury

After arriving in Okinawa, Frank’s foot was injured in training, but he intentionally omitted that information in letters home. The military apparently informed his father and Frank was quite unhappy about that fact – telling his father that he had a “slight cut” on his foot from an ax but was in “the pink of condition.”

Yeah, right.

Frank’s father suggested that he should not serve on the front lines until the foot could be further evaluated. After all, having a fully functional foot for a soldier is critical to safety, but Frank was having none of that.

That “ax” was actually a machete that caused an infection against which sulfa drugs were ineffective, as Frank later confessed to his sister, Margie, who he affectionately calls “Red.”

While Frank was fighting an infection in his foot and his father was encouraging him not to serve on the front, my Mom was busy preparing with the USO for a military show at which she is planning the best surprise EVER for Frank. I can only imagine the look on Frank’s face as he stood in the audience to realize that the “star” was his own lovely fiancée.

But of course, that too would never happen.

Like Frank’s dreams, mother’s wasn’t to be either.

Frank, recovered and back on a ship reports that he has all of his earthly possessions packed into a single duffel bag, including writing paper and an 8X10 photo of mother that he worries about being damaged.

Writing home to his family was obviously important, as was mother, because space in that bag was at a premium.

Sadowski Bible.png

Frank says the Bible, a small New Testament I’m sure, probably similar to the one above, lives in his pocket.

Suddenly, Frank’s letters became sporadic, causing his family and Mom to compare letters as they try to piece together what is happening.

Then something goes wrong. In January, Frank winds up in Hawaii and tells his family he is sightseeing.

Sightseeing!

Seriously?

Of course, that wasn’t true.

While the machete wound didn’t kill him, something else nearly did.

 Illness

On February 9th, Frank says he is scheduled to receive additional inoculations, but that doesn’t happen. By February 12th, Frank was quite ill in the Philippines with infectious jaundice, probably what is today known as Leptospirosis. Frank’s letter on February 17th is very short, telling his family that his skin is very yellow. He doesn’t write again until March 2nd.

His silence was driving them insane.

In March 1945, Frank was “hospitalized” for 18 days due to jaundice. I use that word loosely, because we’re talking a battlefield hospital where Frank tells his family that the soldiers have managed to rig up a shower – and how glad they are for that convenience we take for granted.

On March 2nd, Frank tells his sister he is so ill that he is falling asleep while writing.

Ironically, had Frank just remained sick a little longer, he wouldn’t have died in April.

Frank mentioned that mail is taking 5 months to arrive, so imagine Mom and Frank’s family receiving Frank’s last letters, dribbling in months after his death.

And not knowing which letter was actually the “last” that would arrive. They may not have received his Christmas letters until sometime in May, weeks after he died.

How gut-wrenching and traumatic. They must have looked forward to and simultaneously dreaded the mail delivery every single day – all while life went on around them and they had to go through the motions of participation.

Okinawa

On April 1st, the Battle of Okinawa began, which would claim the lives of between 100,000 and 130,000 men over the next 82 days. Between 14,000 and 20,000 of those men were Americans, with the remainder being Japanese and conscripted Okinawans. That’s roughly 1,500 deaths every single day with far more during intense fighting.

Just a month earlier, Frank was incredibly ill with infectious jaundice which followed on the heels of an infected machete wound. Frank would clearly have still been weak after being ill for several weeks during February and March.

By April 6th, the US was in the thick of the bloodiest Pacific Theater battle of WWII, on Okinawa, and had been for almost a week. April 6th was the day that Frank landed on the Okinawan beach and with the 382nd Infantry, Frank moved inland, engaging in a battle that lasted until June 22nd.

This horrible battle was anything but a sure win. In fact, there were days that winning was gravely in doubt.

The kamikaze Japanese soldiers fought hard, willingly sacrificing their lives, costing the American troops many lives and much equipment. Ultimately, the US forces won that battle, clearing Okinawa of Japanese soldiers – but at an exorbitantly high price – including Frank.

WWII was ending. VE Day, Victory in Europe was declared on May 8, 1945 and VJ Day, Victory in Japan was declared in Japan on August 15, 1945.

Frank’s story ended on April 19th, just 13 days after he arrived on the Okinawa beach and began making his way to Kaniku, the gateway village to Tombstone Ridge. How aptly that would be named, sadly.

Frank would die on Tombstone Ridge, but how, exactly? Frank was a medic, given that he had been enlisted in medical school at Northwestern before volunteering for the military to serve his country.

Was his sister’s statement true – that Frank was shot in the head as he threw his body over a fallen soldier that had been wounded? She also mentioned in a letter that Frank was awarded a medal posthumously for “bravery under fire.”

Was he?

What medal might that have been? What happened to those medals? They weren’t in the trash heap, at least not that Joan found. Neither was the flag that would have draped Frank’s coffin at his funeral in 1949. That too is absent.

Any awards or honors would have been presented to Frank’s next of kin, his parents, given that he and my mother hadn’t married. That wedding was planned for his return, which of course never happened either.

Questions – More Questions

Why am I so plagued with questions? Always, more and more questions.

I think it’s the genealogy curse.

The circumstances surrounding Frank’s death are so murky. You’d think there would be more information. He died in the midst of hundreds, thousands, of other soldiers.

There has to be information, someplace.

Keep in mind that the National Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis burned in 1973. Frank’s records were assuredly among the records that went up in flames, incinerating irreplaceable history.

I check Ancestry, MyHeritage, Fold3 and other resources often for additional information. New records are being transcribed and indexed all the time, so you never know what might be found.

I discovered the Roster of the WWII Dead 1939-1945 on Ancestry which included Frank’s service number.

SAdowski roster of dead.png

Frank’s service number is also reflected on his tombstone request, completed by his father in 1949, almost 4 years after Frank’s death.

Frank Sadowski headstone request

Why was Frank’s tombstone being ordered 3 years and 11 months after he died?

Curtis tells me that Frank’s father, also a physician, had a terrible time getting Frank’s body returned for burial, finally having to “pull some strings,” taking measures outside of normal channels – but Curtis didn’t know exactly what, or when.

Frank’s father was finally successful, with Frank Jr. eventually being buried in All Saints Cemetery, at least supposedly.

frank-sadowski-stone

Frank’s military headstone was ordered in March of 1949. The family was finally able to obtain at least some level of closure. Frank finally had a funeral, right?

Or did he?

Where is the notice of Frank’s death, obituary or funeral in the newspaper? Surely a man killed in action defending his country would rate AT LEAST a mention in the Chicago Tribune. Not only that, but Frank Jr.’s father, also named Frank, was a physician, so money certainly was not an issue.

Other family members had obituaries including Frank’s father.

Sadowski Frank Sr obit.png

Frank’s father’s obituary in the Chicago Tribute published on February 7, 1972.

I needed to know more and opted to retain a researcher who specializes in reconstructing service records from multiple sources I’ve never even heard of – with the hope of discovering additional information about the circumstances surrounding Frank’s death.

Frank’s Death

Frank’s case is tough, really really tough.

Twenty months after my original request, I have finally, finally received a few more records about Frank along with associated records of Frank’s unit – the 96th Division, 382nd Infantry.

The only information directly about Frank is contained in only one document – his hospital admissions file.

Sadowski hospital admission.pngSadowski hospital admission 2.png

Or, in Frank’s case, there was no hospital record. He died on the battlefield on April 19, 1945, of multiple wounds to the “thorax, generally.”

The causative agent was “bullet, missile not stated.” In other words, he was shot, and with what didn’t matter.

What exactly, is the thorax? The medical definition states that it’s an area of the body between the head and the abdomen. In other words, the chest.

I initially thought that Frank likely died of a severed artery or major blood vessel – but the record says, “with no nerve or artery involvement.” Of course, this suggests that someone actually investigated his wounds.

However, if Frank was hit with multiple bullets or missiles, he likely took a direct hit in the lower throat or chest and died immediately due to a severed artery or vein or blood loss. At least, I hope that, mercifully, he did.

Frank’s wounds may have been such a mess that trying to determine exactly “what” he died of was futile and really didn’t matter. He died of battle wounds. Period. They had hundreds of these reports to complete, daily.

Given the description of what happened during those horrific days, I have serious doubts that anyone devoted any time to any men who were already dead.

Soldiers and commanders had everything they could do to deal with fighting, tactics and the wounded. Not to be harsh, but dead soldiers weren’t a priority at that point, nor should they have been.

This leaves me with a general feeling that the circumstances surrounding Frank’s death listed on the hospital card may have been completed sometime after the fact and may simply be a routine completion of a mandatory form by someone who was not on the front and had no idea what actually happened to Frank. In other words, I question the accuracy of what information IS there, and I still wonder what really happened.

Let’s take a look at the formerly classified history of the 382nd Infantry Regiment to understand the circumstances under which Frank lived the last 13 days of his life, and the day of his death.

Reconstructing the Final Days of Frank’s Life

Sadowski 382 history.png

These records have been extraordinarily difficult to extract from the government.

I requested information about Frank’s service, death and his wounds. I was hoping to learn more about Frank’s activities and what happened to him.

Where was Frank’s body buried, exhumed and shipped home from? Was his body actually returned almost 4 years later, or is that just when his headstone was ordered?

Surely if Frank’s father had to move Heaven and Earth to obtain Frank’s body, then there’s a military record someplace. There HAS to be. The military doesn’t do anything without multiple copies of records – often stored in multiple places – which is how records can in some situations be reconstructed despite the 1973 fire.

We know from Frank’s letters that Frank was in the Philippines for training before he shipped to Okinawa. What else can we glean from the 382’s history, both from the documents provided by the government as well as Okinawa: The Last Battle from which I’ll be quoting as well.

The government’s History of the 382nd provided by the researcher with Frank’s hospital admission record tells us that Frank’s unit was involved beginning in October 1944 in the liberation of Leyte Island from Japanese control and establishing bases for future operations against the enemy. It’s worth noting that many men in the medical unit received commendations including the Bronze Star for bravery, heroic achievement and “untiring and courageous efforts instrumental in saving many wounded men” under intense fire.

Some men received these medals posthumously, such as Stanley Beeman:

Private First Class Beeman, a litter bearer went forward to a position where one of the line companies was under heavy machine gun fire from several pill boxes. With utter disregard for his own personal safety, he evacuated and treated many wounded men. In so doing, PFC Beeman sustained a wound but refusing treatment for himself, he returned again to the front line in an attempt to rescue a wounded soldier whose position was covered by fire from enemy automatic weapons. In this attempt, he was fatally wounded. His heroic conduct in giving his own life to save a comrade was in the finest tradition of the military service.

The commendations awarded to these men were recorded in the unit history for their service on Leyte Island.

It’s worth noting the extremely difficult conditions revealed by in the Bronze Star justification for Staff Sergeant Leland Jorsch:

When enemy machine gun and sniper fire began inflicting heavy casualties among our troops, medical aid men were not available for the evacuation of casualties.

Many of these awards reference highly concealed enemy positions. Several discussed injured men lying helplessly in a swamp and one mentions a soldier who exposed his position as a decoy to allow fellow soldiers to escape. Miraculously, the decoy lived and didn’t even appear to have been injured. Another man was killed within 6 feet of the man he was attempting to rescue. Yet another saved the man he was attempting to help, but was killed while giving aid.

All is not fair in war. One report tells of the enemy force masquerading under a white flag opening fire, killing 11 and wounding 33. One soldier crawled into a flooded rice paddy three times under enemy fire to save those wounded soldiers.

Another man crawled into the same enemy fire that had just killed his fellow soldier attempting to rescue a wounded man.

Yet another hero was assisting a wounded soldier when the platoon fell back, stranding them both – necessitating crossing enemy sniper fire carrying the wounded soldier to reach safety.

The posthumous award to Virgil Carrick based on his valiant behavior on October 21, 1944 reads like the description of what was said to have happened to Frank:

When a comrade was wounded while his platoon was moving through a rice field under heavy enemy fire, Private Carrick, without hesitation, went to his aid. In full view of the enemy, he administered first aid to the wounded soldier until he was himself mortally wounded by sniper fire. His heroic sacrifice exemplifies the finest traditions of the service.

Ryukyus Islands

Sadowski Ryukyus.png

The opening page of this report states that the 382nd Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division was ordered to land April 1, 1945 on the Southern Hagushi Beaches on the West Coast of Okinawa Shima and attack south.

Sadowski Okinawa beachhead.jpg

This photo shows Marines wading ashore on Okinawa on April 1st.

In the Pentagon document detailing the history off the 382nd Infantry unit provided with Frank’s hospital admissions record, the description of Frank’s unit’s activities during this time begins about page 72 with instructions to land behind the 96th and assist in the execution of the Corps mission of driving across the narrow neck and splitting the island in half. The 382nd infantry was tightly tied with the 381st and 383rd.

Page 75 and 76 discuss rehearsals and training, including:

  • Short and distance fighting
  • Target practice
  • The requirement that all men be able to swim 50 yards
  • Using tanks for fighting and protection
  • Close combat and booby traps
  • Combat in villages, clearing houses
  • Perimeters
  • Scouting and patrolling
  • Ambushes and surprise attacks
  • Disarming and destruction of booby traps and gapping mine fields
  • Map reading, compasses and sketching exercises
  • Physical hardening – calisthenics, hardening marches and athletics
  • Identification of friendly and enemy aircraft
  • Weapons inspection and maintenance
  • Ordinance and signal equipment
  • Amphibious vehicles

The soldiers spent much of the month of March practicing before actually landing on Okinawa Shima on April 1st known as L-Day. Of course, Frank wasn’t practicing because he was desperately ill.

The typed images that follow are from the governmental history of the 392nd included with Frank’s report.

Sadowski 382 history 1.pngSadowski 382 history 2.png

On April 4th, the 3rd Battalion took up positions in Nodake. Frank had not yet joined the unit, but he would on April 6th while this fighting was underway. Okinawa, at this point, is only about 3 miles wide with Nodake and Ginowan being about half way across.

Sadowski 382 history 3.png

In the The US Army in WWII, Chapter 5, we discover that on April 5th:

In the center of the island, troops of the 382d Infantry advanced more than two miles south from Nodake along the division’s east boundary (shown below).

Sadowski Nodake.jpg

On the west coast, the 96th’s right-flank units swept along the flatlands from Isa to Uchitomari. Progress was only a little slower in the division’s center along Route 5. Enemy resistance, which included artillery fire from the area to the south, varied from sniper fire to intense machine-gun and mortar fire directed out of scattered Japanese strong points.

For the 96th Division, 5 April marked the beginning of iron resistance on Okinawa. The 383d estimated at one time during the day that its forward elements were receiving fire from 20 machine guns and from 15 to 20 mortars, besides artillery pieces. Driving through the green, rolling country east of the Ginowan road, the 382d unmasked a series of fortified positions, many of them protected by mine fields. Each position caused American casualties and required enveloping movements. Well-camouflaged Japanese troops, supported by tanks, attacked the 1st Battalion during the afternoon, but the attack was broken up by artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire. During the day, the 382d gained about 400 yards on the left (east) and 900 yards on the right.

Those fortified hills are shown in the red box on the map, above.

Page 106 of the document shows a photo of Frank’s Unit, and for all we know, Frank could be in the photo.

Sadowski Japanese defense.png

Published in a weekly intelligence report from 1945, the above example of the techniques used by Japanese to fortify defensive positions was provided with the following commentary:

The diagram does not show all the defensive positions in the area depicted and is designed only to indicate the method by which the enemy attained mobility even in fighting from positions underground. In describing this position, the bulletin states: About 50 yards south of the approach road was the camouflaged entrance to a typical tunnel system within the hill. The entrance was a square log-shored shaft 30 feet deep. A smaller curved shaft which came to the surface about 15 feet away was probably designed for ventilation purposes. The main tunnel to the hill installations ran from this shaft, under the road to the first of a series of caves approximately 100 feet from the shaft entrance. This tunnel was from four to five feet high and three feet wide. Walls were reinforced with logs six to eight inches in diameter, loose coral rock on the ceilings was held in place by logs. The tunnel apparently was used for ammunition storage as well as communication.

This is the environment that Frank and other soldiers would encounter in the region of Nodake, Ginowan, Kaniku, Kakazu, Nishibaru, Tombstone Ridge and the fortified hills and ridges.

Sadowski Tombstone Ridge.jpg

This reconnaissance photo of Tombstone Ridge, near the village of Kaniku, was taken with North appearing at the bottom, not the top.

Sadowski Okinawa map.jpg

This map illustrates troop movements.

On the Google map below, you’ll note Kakazu Ridge to the left and the locations of Nishibaru, Tanabaru to the east with Ginowan in the upper right. It’s also worth noting that the large word, Ginowan in the middle of the map is the US Futenma Air Force Base.

Sadowski Okinawa google map.png

Kaniku is located where the red arrow points, and Tombstone Ridge is located between the red arrow and Tanabaru according to the 1940s map.

Referring now to the activities of April 9th:

The 382nd was ordered to the ridge just east of Kaniku, also known as Tombstone Ridge, which was literally covered with caves, pillboxes and fortified tombs and dominated the flat terrain on both sides and front.

Sadowski 1945 aerial map.png

This aerial photograph taken in 1945 when the US built the Futenma Air Base would include the villages along with Tombstone Ridge. Flat areas were described as flanking the sides of Tombstone Ridge.

I can’t tell how far the ridge runs, but the darkest areas would hide the thickest vegetation. I’ve marked Tombstone Ridge with a red star, but the hilly area clearly stretched along the south of the base and then along the east side as well. Prime ambush terrain for troops attempting to travel along the southbound road from or to Ginowan.

The men fought their way very slowly south on this road.

From 6 to 8 April the 382d Infantry advanced slowly east of the Ginowan road.

Unfortunately, I cannot find Kaniku on Google maps, although GoMapper shows Kaniku as a small place-name, below, not far from the Okinawa National Hospital. That’s all I needed.

Sadowski Kaniku map.png

Based on the military maps, Google maps and GoMapper, it appears that Tombstone Ridge is the area between Kaniku and Tanabaru, closer to Kaniku, today dissected by the expressway and ramps.

Sadowski Kaniku and Tombstone Ridge.png

This area is generally quite built up – but “driving” down these tiny roads in the green area today, you can still feel the remoteness and steepness of the terrain. Some roads aren’t paved.

It was here that Frank died, on the ridge named for the burial tombs on either side.

Sadowski Tombstone road.png

This Google Maps Street View photo is from the top of the ridge looking down the west side, where our soldiers were fighting.

Other roads are still 2-track and dirt in these hills today.

The enemy fought stubbornly from hilly ground north and west of Kaniku and delivered heavy fire from his strong positions on Tombstone Ridge, just south of Kaniku, and from Nishibaru Ridge, southwest of Tombstone.

Sadowski Tombstone Ridge area.png

The hills north of Kaniku would likely be the green undeveloped area.

Quantities of rifle, machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire were poured on the troops as they moved south. Savage hand-to-hand encounters marked the slow progress of the regiment, which suffered numerous casualties. By night of 8 April the regiment was strung out on a wide front just north of Kaniku and Tombstone Ridge. Heavy fire from the front, from the Kakazu area on the right (west), and from its exposed left (east) flank, where the 184th was slowed by strong opposition, had brought the 382d virtually to a dead stop.

Frank might have only landed 2 days before, but by this time, he was in the thick of the fighting and that beach landing must have seemed a lifetime ago.

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All 4 locations, Kakazu, Nishibaru, Kaniku and Tanabaru are shown above. The distance as the crow flies between Kaniku and Tanabaru is about 2000 feet, but of course, that would be directly over Tombstone Ridge, through the green area. All green areas are undeveloped for a reason – they are terribly difficult terrain, or very low along a river.

As we read the events that took place over of the next few days, note that the 382nd was divided into three Battalions. I did not find any direct information as to which one of the Batillions of the 382nd Frank was fighting in, at least not in his records. However, based on where the 1/382 was located on the fateful day of Frank’s death, I suspect he may have been assigned to the 1st, but that’s far from a fact. Therefore, as I read this, I realize that regardless of exactly where Frank was fighting at any specific moment in time, all men were embroiled in the fight for their life – a fight many would not survive. Half of one Battalion was annihilated.

Back to April 9th, 1945 in the government report, below.

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Sadowski, ridge east of Kaniku

Looking over Tombstone Ridge from the the ramp of a bridge over the expressway, today.

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My God, this was brutal. One LMG (light machine gun) section killed entirely. The rest running low on ammunition, and all while being attacked from the hills above.

Among other things, the soldiers were exhausted.

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The government report begins discussing the 19th, above, describing how the 382nd assaulted the ridge, struggling to fight their way to the top through the foothills through a brutal attack under a hailstone of bullets and mortar fire.

The 1st Battalion led the assault, but all 3 Battalions were fighting close to each other, with the 1st and 2nd moving together to assault and attempt to take Tombstone Ridge, passing through the ranks of the 3rd Battallion. Clearly Frank could have served in any of these – men were mowed down in all three.

Sadowski soldiers.jpg

Photos from Okinawa show all vegetation destroyed including leaves entirely stripped from trees and plants by the intensity of the warfare. It’s no wonder that this battle was nicknamed the “typhoon of steel” by American troops and “rain of steel” by the Japanese based upon the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of the Japanese kamikaze attacks and the sheer number of troops and vehicles involved in the assault on Okinawa.

In another document, we find additional information about the days before Frank’s death. This verbiage from the US Army in WWII: Okinawa: The Last Battle tells us the following:

The 382d Infantry of the 96th Division, in the center of the XXIV Corps line, also came to a standstill during 9-12 April. The 382d had three battalions on line by 10 April – the 2d on the right (west), the 1st in the center, and the 3d on the left. On the west the 2d Battalion tied in loosely with the 383d Infantry on Highway 5; on the east a large gap lay between the 184th Infantry of the 7th Division and the 382d.

The terrain fronting the 382d was notable for its irregularity but had a few prominent features lending themselves to defense. The enemy had fortified Tombstone Ridge, a long low hill running northeast southwest just south of Kaniku, as well as high ground south of Nishibaru. Kakazu Ridge extended across much of the regiment’s right (west) front; and the upper part of the gorge, east of Highway 5, was an effective obstacle even if less precipitous here than on the other side of the highway north of Kakazu.

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Tombstone Ridge at Kaniku cut by the expressway.

The main effort of the 382d during this period was made on 10 April, while the 381st and 383d on the west were attempting their “powerhouse” attack on Kakazu. The 382d attacked southwest with three battalions in line. On the west the Battalion advanced several hundred yards and crossed the gorge, only to halt in the face of heavy fire from its front and flanks. On the regimental left (east) the 3d Battalion gained one of the knobs east of Tombstone Ridge, but continual rain, which bogged down the tanks and decreased visibility, combined with heavy enemy mortar, machine-gun, and 47-mm. fire to force the battalion to withdraw to its original position north of the Ginowan road.

Sadowski Okinawa infantry.jpg

This photo donated to the WWII Museum by Thomas Hanlon shows the 96th infantry advancing through Okinawa – clearly in a flat area.

The 382d suffered its worst setbacks of 10 April in the center of its line. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles W. Johnson, attacked Tombstone Ridge, which dominated the ground across the entire regimental front. By 0840 Company A had seized the northern nose of the ridge, but it was stopped by small-arms fire from the steep slopes of the ridge and by heavy artillery and mortar fire. Colonel Johnson then swung Companies B and C around west of Kaniku for an assault on the ridge from the northwest. The Japanese were unusually quiet while Companies B and C advanced to the crest, but shortly afterward they delivered a 15-minute concentration of mortar and artillery fire, at the conclusion of which they swarmed out of pillboxes, trenches, and caves.

A furious struggle followed. From the reverse slope of Tombstone machine guns opened up on the Americans at almost point-blank range. The Americans used portable flame throwers, but the Japanese brought forward flame throwers of their own.

Sadowski flamethrower

Soldier using a flame thrower.

Spigot mortar shells burst on the hill. Colonel Johnson, who had previously extricated Company A from its deadlocked position on the north of Tombstone, now committed it on the right (southwest) of the other two companies. It was of no avail. On the northeast flank, now open, the Japanese overran a machine-gun position; only one man was able to escape. The American troops on the right made a few more yards in a desperate effort to gain a firm foothold on the ridge. By 1415 it was obvious to Colonel Johnson that further attack would be fruitless, and he secured permission from regiment to pull out of the fire-swept area. The men made an orderly retreat to high ground north of Kaniku. More spigot mortar fire fell during the withdrawal, but the troops remained calm; they were “too tired to give a damn.”

Sadowski Spigot

WWII Spigot Mortar, an anti-tank device known as the Blacker Bombard.

The abortive attacks of the 382d Infantry on 10 April were its last attempts to move forward until the Corps’ offensive opened on 19 April.

On 11 and 12 April this regiment, like the 7th Division to the east, mopped up small bypassed.

On April 13th: The attack on the 32d and 184th Infantry was not in regimental strength, as planned. Two infiltration attempts by about a squad each were repulsed by the 184th before midnight. Two squads also attacked the 3d Battalion of the 382d Infantry, just to the west of the 184th, and a savage fight ensued, during which an American private killed a Japanese officer with his bare hands, but the enemy did not follow through with this assault. While groups of two or three tried to infiltrate behind the 7th Division front, the only attack of any weight came shortly after midnight against Company G of the 184th. By the light of flares it discovered to its front from thirty to forty-five Japanese, carrying rifles and demolitions; the company opened fire and sent the enemy running for the cover of caves and trenches. Perhaps, as Colonel Yahara later said, the 22d Regiment, which was not familiar with this part of the island as was the 62d Division, was bewildered by the terrain and became too broken up for a coordinated attack. Perhaps another change of plans further weakened the enemy’s attack on the east. Possibly the 22d Regiment moved by design or by chance to the west and ended by taking part in the attacks on the 96th Division.

The assault on the 96th was heavy, sustained, and well organized. The enemy artillery and mortar preparation began promptly at 1900 as planned and continued in heavy volume until about midnight, when it lifted over the center of the division line. Japanese in groups ranging from platoon (about 50) to company size (about 200), with radio communications to their own command posts, began to infiltrate in strength into the American lines in the general area between Kakazu Ridge and Tombstone Ridge. (See Map No. XIII and also this map.)

On April 12-14th, the three Battalions of the 382nd were shown by blue lines, with the Japanese in red, in this section of Map XIII above. Regardless of which Battalion Frank was embedded with, he was in the midst of this Hell.

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The 96th Division front in the area under attack was thinly held by the 382d and 383d Regiments. There was a large bulge in the lines where the 382d had been held up by strong enemy positions in the Nishibaru Kaniku Tombstone Ridge area. A series of fire fights broke out as the Japanese closed with elements of the 382d strung along Highway 5 and with troops of the 383d just west of the highway. Troops of the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, saw a group of sixty soldiers coming down the highway in a column of twos. Thinking they were troops of the 382d, the 383d let twenty of them through before realizing that they were Japanese; then it opened fire and killed most of the enemy group. At 0100 the 2d Battalion of the 382d, calling for artillery fire, repulsed an attack by a group estimated as of company strength. Although troops of the two regiments in this sector killed at least a hundred Japanese during the night, a number of the enemy managed to make their way into the Ginowan area. Japanese proved to be the only ones who attained any measure of success in the entire offensive of 12-13 April.

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This map reports the movements of April 6-15; the movements of April 15th shown by dots with the heavy hashed lines indicating their positions as of 4 PM. The 382-1 marched to the east of Kaniku and the 382-2, if I’m understanding this correctly, marched directly to the west of Kaniku. Regardless of who moved exactly where, Frank was in one of these units that surrounded Kaniku along Tombstone Ridge and where he would remain until the 19th.

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Given those movements, it looks like Frank was fighting someplace in the area triangulated by the red arrows, probably near the upper arrow.

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The government report on the 19th, the day Frank died, reports the following:

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Based on this verbiage and the report from the 20th, Frank died taking Tombstone Ridge. Mop up probably meant not only removing the Japanese, but also assisting our injured soldiers and removing our dead.

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The gorge above, is likely the area just north of Kaniku where the river cuts through the ridge.

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The description of April 19thon this page, including a few photos, tells us a little more:

Meanwhile the 96th Division was attacking with the 382d Regiment on the left (east) and the 381st on the right (west). The 382d Infantry had the task of taking Tombstone Ridge and the Tanabaru Escarpment; the 381st, that of seizing Nishibaru Ridge and the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment beyond. The 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, on the division right at the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges, was a mile ahead of the division left. Facing the 96th in the Kaniku-Nishibaru sector, the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion, which had absorbed the depleted 14th Independent Infantry Battalion, defended the center. It had the 1st Light Machine Gun Battalion attached, and altogether numbered about 1,200 men.

On the left, the 2d Battalion of the 382d Infantry moved out at 0640 and began occupying the series of small hills to the front, only a few of which were held by the enemy. Sniper and mortar fire from the Rocky Crags on the left was a source of trouble and caused casualties. A few spots of resistance developed but were easily overcome. At one point a Japanese popped out of a small roadside cave and satchel-charged the lead tank of a column; by a strange quirk the tank toppled over against the hole and closed it. The road was now effectively blocked to the other tanks. A few scattered grenade fights took place but did not prevent a gain of 800 yards on the division’s left.

Immediately to the right there was no opposition to the advance of the 1st Battalion until Company C on the left and Company A on the right started a pincer move against the northern tip of Tombstone Ridge, so named because of the large number of burial tombs on either side. About seventy-five feet high and half a mile long, it was the dominating terrain feature of the vicinity.

Sadowski Tombstone half mile.jpg

On this contemporary map, the red broken arrow in the lower right hand corner marks 500 feet, so the combination of red arrows above marks a half mile, roughly 2500 feet. The information about the ridge elsewhere says that it runs northeast to southwest, and we know there is a gully marking the northern end, which is likely the river.

The current location of the area known as Kaniku, which is probably close to but possibly not the exact same location as the village in 1945, is marked with a red star. The Ginowan Road is the curved road to the north of the star where foliage today overlays a tunnel under the Ginowan road.

Frank and the soldiers had unknowingly walked into a trap.

As soon as the two companies moved forward the Japanese positions on the ridge broke their silence. Company C was stopped on the east side by machine-gun and mortar fire, Company A on the west side by grenades. Artillery and tank fire was brought on the position to neutralize it. At noon Company A charged up the west slope only to find that it could neither stay on top nor go down the other side. The company commander was killed on the crest. In the midst of this action a supporting tank was lost to a 47-mm. antitank gun. At the end of the day the 1st Battalion held only a precarious position across the northwest nose of the ridge and along a portion of the west slope. The crest was nowhere tenable and the east side was wholly in the hands of the Japanese. Though Tombstone Ridge was unimposing from a distance, it harbored a maze of mutually supporting underground positions that opened on either face and made it a formidable strong point.

Sadowski April 19 Tombstone Ridge.jpg

You can see in the above excerpt from Map 23 that the 382nd in blue was pressing south and the Japanese, in red, were entrenched on Tombstone Ridge. Given that Frank died, these troop movements might suggest that he was fighting in the 1/382.

April 19th could well be described as the worst, bloodiest, most difficult battle of the war on Okinawa – aside from the fact that Frank was killed.

This next section of the government report is very telling – 43% of their men, almost half, has been killed or wounded. An utterly horrific day from which no soldier would emerge unchanged.

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By noon on the 24th, the top of Tombstone Ridge has been reached by all Battalions. Frank would have been proud. His body probably lay someplace on that ridge where his blood had been spilled and his lifeblood seeped into the earth by the Okinawan tombs.

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The 382nd went on to move south until the end of June when the island was once again swept for final cleanup.

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The end of the report contains statistics about equipment and rounds of ammunition in addition to a summary of the Japanese defenses and why they were so costly in terms of American lives. In essence, the Japanese dug into the natural terrain, taking advantage of caves, causing the Americans to literally fight an uphill battle in terribly difficult terrain that offered a great deal of camouflage to the Japanese.

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One interesting comment was that on Okinawa, “there has been a noticeable decrease in infectious hepatitis which has assumed epidemic proportions during the rehabilitation period on Leyte and aboard ship enroute to this target.”

This commentary about insects is telling as well and may provide a significant clue as to what happened to Frank’s body.

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Their recommendation was also to increase the medical detachment to 36 from 32 men. It was noted elsewhere that the medical detachment experienced much higher mortality rates than the regular troops.

In the section about enemy tactics, we find further information. Note that blue means US troops and red, Japanese.

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The Japanese soldier’s apparent expectation and welcoming of death seemed to make them appear fearless. The US soldier may have won the battle, but clearly, they respected the character of the Japanese soldiers.

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Near the end, a summary of the losses was included.

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I didn’t realize that this area is only comprised of 6.3 square miles. That’s not much. 380 Americans killed, 1997 wounded and 11 missing means that we sacrificed 60.32 men for every square mile. There are 640 acres in a square mile, so we gave one life for every 10.61 acres and a man was wounded or killed for every 1.69 acres. If you include Japanese casualties, there were bodies everyplace – literally 2.54 Japanese dead per acre, in addition to the American casualties. No wonder they had problems with retrieving bodies, burials and flies. I would wager that the caves and existing tombs provided a fortuitous ready-made solution.

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We won, and Frank’s service certainly helped to achieve that.

But Frank lost, making the ultimate sacrifice.

Frank’s Remains

Truthfully, I expected a much higher American casualty count. This makes me wonder if indeed Frank’s body could have been initially missing and since no Japanese were left on the island except for prisoners, that’s how it was determined that Frank was in fact dead. In other words, there were no American POWs from this battle. Was Frank’s body found later? Is that why his grave marker was ordered almost 4 years later?

That report caused me to wonder if the rest of the men killed were shipped home and buried right away, so I checked. I discovered that Thomas Beeman’s military headstone was ordered in February 1949, just before Frank’s was ordered. I checked another man who was listed as killed in November 1944 and his military headstone was ordered in October of 1948. This looks like a pattern.

Was Frank already laid to rest, and the headstone just ordered later for some reason?

I called All Saints Cemetery in Chicago where Frank is buried and they informed me that Frank was actually buried on March 23rd, 1949, the day his marker was ordered. They have no further information except that he was killed in action. They don’t know where his body was shipped from, nor do they have an obituary nor funeral home information.

Where was Frank’s body for almost 4 years?

You will note that the events of the day Frank was killed are vague and later, reports said that the battle and terrain were so rough that they were unable to retrieve either our men or the Japanese for burial.

Given the description of what happened beginning April 10th, I wonder if Frank actually was killed on April 19th, or if that was when they recorded his death and that it actually occurred a few days before in the fighting.

Was Frank’s body actually recovered? If it was, does Frank’s body rest someplace in Okinawa? Was he either buried there, or not found and actually not buried? So many questions. Are there any answers at all? Not in Frank’s file, that’s for sure, but maybe elsewhere?

In an article by Ian Michael Spurgeon in the publication, Army History in the winter of 2017, titled, “The Fallen of Operation Iceberg,” the name for the Okinawan invasion, Michael discussed the burials of the men killed during this period:

The US Army moved across Okinawa in a steady, but bloody, march. Though successful, the campaign cost the lives of more than 12,000 Americans. By 1945, after nearly 4 years of operational experience in the Pacific, the US efforts to recover those killed in action – called graves registration activities – were at their wartime peak. Usually American forces rapidly evacuated most casualties for treatment or burial behind the front lines. As a result, over 95% of those killed in ground fighting were recovered and identified. However, the intensity of the fighting on Okinawa as well as the poor weather resulted in the loss of identification material for many remains. They became the unknown soldiers of Operation Iceberg.

Spurgeon goes on to say that specific platoons were tasked with collecting the dead which were to be brought down from battlefield positions to collection points where men retrieved the bodies and the balance of the platoon processed the dead elsewhere. Sometimes due to this practice, the deceased soldiers bodies were actually separated in the records from the location where they were killed.

On April 10th, these soldiers tasked with removing the bodies found themselves in the midst of the fighting among the 96th Infantry division.

This page shows the hills on Okinawa honeycombed with caves and dugouts. Perhaps this was Tombstone Ridge.

Sadowski Okinawa tomb 2

Taken by “photolibrarian”

The photo above of a large sacred tomb cave taken by “photolibrarian” on Kadena Air Base illustrates that tombs, some quite large, were concealed in caves and often camouflaged. These tombs held the bones of generations of ancestors and were revered in Okinawan families. You can read more about those traditions here.

Below that photo, we see the 96th Division Cemetery of Okinawa.

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The above photo taken in 1945 of the entrance to the 96th Division Cemetery, where Frank was probably initially laid to rest, was donated to the National WWII Museum by Charles Reed.

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This photo of the cemetery from June 1945 with its rows of stark white crosses was donated by Thomas Hanlon.

The article goes on to say that the bodies were to be delivered as soon as possible to the nearest military service cemetery. Due to the climate, injuries and terrain, not all bodies were complete or in good condition and some soldiers were not buried intact.

While the wooden white cross markers in these photos appear to be orderly and graves individual, that’s not exactly the case as shown in this YouTube video where servicemen are being buried in the 96th Division Cemetery during WWII. Bulldozers cleared trenches and canvas-wrapped bodies, men still wearing their boots, were buried in mass graves, side by side in long orderly rows with their fallen brethren, where their remains were covered by hand with shovels. White crosses were placed in rows above the graves.

As best I can tell based on the map in the article, the 96th Infantry Cemetery was located someplace close to the star on the map, below.

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These cemeteries were intended to be temporary, until the end of the war, and battlefield burials were discouraged.

In December 1945, the War Department began the process of removing and returning fallen Americans to their homes from across the world. On Okinawa, remains of servicemen were scattered over rough terrain and found in isolated areas. American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) investigation teams recovered few remains from the battlefields since most of the remains had already been removed and buried. Civilians often found remains before teams arrived.

In July 1947, AGRS established a mobile identification laboratory in Okinawa where disinternment teams removed remains from graves and all identification material buried with them. They looked for the original report buried alongside the remains, in a bottle or other weather-proof vessel, and compared it with the cemetery records. Remains were then transferred to tables and examined for decomposition, bones, damage, teeth to be compared with dental records, personal effects and ID tags. After positive identification, the remains were then reburied for later transfer.

In March 1948, the AGRS ordered the relocation of more than 9000 remains from Okinawa to a processing laboratory on Saipan where they were stored in a temporary mausoleum at Naha. In the end, of more than 10,000 burials, only 203 sets of remains remain unidentified in 2017.

It sounds like Frank was buried several times; initially in the 96th Cemetery, reburied waiting for shipment, then interred in a mausoleum at Naha, next shipped home on a refrigerated vessel, likely sent by train to Chicago and finally buried one last time in All Saints Cemetery. That’s a long nearly 4-year final journey no one knew about.

Curtis mentioned that Frank’s father had a difficult time getting Frank’s body shipped home. This article explains why. It doesn’t say how long the remains stayed in Naha, but I browsed through several Headstone Applications for Military Veterans killed in April 1945 in Okinawa, and nearly all of those headstones were ordered in the same timeframe as Frank’s, so it appears that Frank arrived home about a year after his body was sent to Naha.

Soldiers cards marked as “nonrecoverable” had headstones ordered in 1960 which gives me at least some confidence that Frank’s body is actually buried in his grave in All Saints Cemetery in Chicago.

Assuming that Frank’s body did make a final journey home inside that casket, we also know that part of him remains in the earth on Tombstone Ridge as well as in soil of the long-defunct 96th Cemetery.

In reality, I don’t think where Frank’s actual body is matters now, because whether any part or all of Frank’s remains came home in that wooden box, his grave celebrates his life, honors his sacrifice and provided at least some modicum of closure for his family. Not only that, Frank’s grave served as inspiration for Bert and will continue by its very existance to stand as a silent sentry, whispering encouragement to others for decades to come.

Commendations

My biggest disappointment is that while the unit report detailed who received medals of honor for the earlier battle on the Island of Leyte, it doesn’t include that information for Okinawa, the battle in which Frank died.

Margie, Frank’s sister, indicated than he posthumously received an award for “bravery under fire.” Mom told me that he died trying to save another soldier on the battlefield. I’m presuming of course that a family member told Mom that. She would have no other way to know.

Frank would have worn a Combat Medic Badge based on his assignment.

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Frank’s Purple Heart medal to which he was unquestionably entitled may have disappeared over time, but I found one that I’m awarding him by proxy, right here and now.

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If Frank was awarded a Bronze Star, which would have been for “heroic or meritorious achievement or service,” it could also have included a “V” for valor.

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I was unable to determine what medals Frank was awarded, or why. If any of you have any idea how I might make that discovery, I’m all ears.

Epilogue

Unless new information comes to light, I feel that I’m closing this final chapter of Frank’s story, at least the portion that I can tell. You never know, Frank might not be finished quite yet😊

He seems to be quite a character!

Frank died in 1945, was later laid to rest, a few times apparently, then brought back to life by the combined efforts of many people (plus fate) in order that his story have a heartbeat of its own.

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I take comfort knowing that Frank is with Mom and that his ring is with Bert where I feel with all my heart that both he and Mom would unquestionably want it to live on.

After all, it’s within the Sadowski family that Frank will be fondly remembered, his story told and retold to future generations, having become not the famed doctor, but instead a courageous legendary hero, his memory bathed forever in the colors of our flag.

Gone, but never, ever, forgotten.

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What is a Quilt? – 52 Ancestors #268

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A few weeks ago, someone from Scandinavia asked me the question, “What is a quilt?”

First, I was a bit stunned because of all the locations in the world, people in the far north need quilts more than people in warmer latitudes – so the question itself surprised me. However, when I visited Scandinavia, I realized that quilts are not nearly as popular there as in the US. There are few if any quilt shops – and apparently, judging from that question, few quilts.

Then, I began to answer the question technically. A quilt is three layers of textiles, sandwiched together.

  • The bottom layer is typically utilitarian, one piece of fabric that you won’t see became it’s face down, or against you.
  • The middle layer is something called quilt batting which is most often cotton or wool, warm and insulating, which also serves to give the top a kind of puffy effect – filling out the wrinkles a bit.
  • The top is often multiple coordinating fabrics pieced in a pattern, or artistic.

A quilt is not only warm and wonderful, but it’s beautiful too.

You can see the 3-layer sandwich and the quilting in the example below of a quilt edge waiting to be trimmed and a binding applied to secure the three layers together so it looks attractive and the layers don’t ravel.

Quilt 3 layers

The back is larger than the front and waiting to be trimmed. The batting is the white middle layer.

The quilt top itself is generally smaller pieces of fabric sewn together to create either a pattern or some type of art work as illustrated by the same quilt’s corner, shown below.

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All three layers are then quilted, sewn together in a pattern which serves to hold the quilt together and is decorative at the same time. You can see the swirl pattern on this quilt which is the quilting.

Quilts serve as blankets on beds, personal napping companions, as art, or as utilitarian items like table runners, clothes and much more. I keep one in my car for picnics, emergencies and naps. My quilts have been used for almost everything over the years including animal rescue.

Quilts can be self-expressive clothing too.

Quilt DNA vest

In this photo, I’m wearing a quilted vest with a matching laptop bag. Actually, that bag’s large enough to carry half of what I own! I might have been a little bit overexuberant when I made the bag.

I dug around on my phone and showed this next example of a quilt to the person who asked. I’m particularly fond of this quilt, made out of scraps of fabric, most of which I hand-dyed myself using a marbling technique. Translated, this means I made both the fabric, except the solid red and dark grey, designed the pattern and then made the quilt. I love it because it’s bright and cheery and holds many good memories.

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This is what happens when life gives you scraps and you are losing your marbles.

My friend told me it made him dizzy. Well, this quilt, named “Losing Your Marbles,” was quite complex and kind of made me dizzy in a different way too.

Sigh. I think I failed to convert or even convince him.

A Quilt is Not About Fabric

Later, as I thought more about the question, I realized that while I gave my friend a technically accurate answer, quilts are really much more and I failed to convey the beauty behind quilts which has little to do with the fabric or pattern.

Quilts are love. Pure and simple. You don’t make a quilt for someone you don’t love.

Full stop.

Yes, there are different kinds of love, but quilts are the quintessential expression of love and caring for others.

Quilters Create Quilts, and Quilts Define Quilters

As with our ancestors, what we do defines who we are. Who we are also determines what we do. My great-grandmother who died in 1949, more than anything else, is remembered for being a quilter who graced everyone in the family with one or more lovingly hand-made quilts that have now been passed on for 3 going on 4 generations.

I just might have picked up the quilting bug from my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore (1866-1949).

Climbing vine family photo2

Nora was a quilter extraordinaire, representing the State of Indiana in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair with her Climbing Vine quilt, above. Long after her death, Mom, me and my daughter posed in front of her quilt at a quilt show.

Nora's pink and green quilt

Nora created stunning quilts that took years to complete as well as utilitarian quilts, like the pink and green hand-quilted Depression Era quilt that graced Mom’s bed for years.

Handkerchief quilt

Nora made what is now known as “The Handerchief Quilt.” This old blue “Drunkard’s Path” quilt was so loved and worn that I had to find a way to salvage it. There were literally holes, in several places, but my kids loved it so much they cried at the prospect of using it to make something else.

“You can’t cut Mawmaw’s quilt, ” they sobbed. They had know it their entire lives as their grandmother’s quilt that they used to snuggle underneath with her. Little did they know it was her grandmother, Nora, that made the quilt they so loved.

Regardless, I certainly couldn’t cut sometime that priceless to my children so a solution had to be found. I dug around in Mom’s “heritage drawer” and took some of my grandmother, Edith’s handkerchiefs to repair her mother, Nora’s quilt.

Now this quilt embodies 5 generations – Nora, the original quilter, her daugher Edith’s handkerchiefs,  then Barbara, my mother snuggled under it with her grandchildren, and I restoring the quilt to something useable. Of course, then my kids insisted I immediately put it away for safekeeping! Someday it will belong to one of them.

And so it goes, quilts embody love, being a virtual hug from the quilter every time you wrap the quilt around you. Quilts are a method of passing love on generation after generation.

Quilts are wonderful family heirlooms, even tattered old ones – but that’s not all. They are also for family-of-heart.

Louise

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I was reminded of that, in spades, the day my second-mother of sorts passed away. I don’t remember ever not knowing Mrs. Larsen – Louise as I came to call her as an adult. She was our neighbor before I started school, my friends’ mother, my Girl Scout leader and then my friend. She inspired me, she disciplined me when I needed it, and sometimes when I didn’t – she was my mentor and cheerleader. She wasn’t always right, but she always cared. She was sometimes at odds with my quite conservative and strict mother, so the Larsen household was a safehaven of sorts for the neighborhood kids.

After high school, I moved away but kept in touch with Louise for decades through her family and sporadic visits. I attended her daughter’s funeral, a horribly sad day when we buried one of my best friends. Years later, I went home for another daughter’s wedding and visited with Louise when I managed to get back home, which wasn’t often. My mother moved, then died, so there was no reason to go back anymore, but I manage a last visit about a decade ago and spent time with Louise.

A few years later, Louise began to slip into dementia and moved, albeit reluctantly, in with her daughter in a distant state. Nothing was familiar and Louise was not happy.

I made a quilt for her, quickly so she could have it immediately. I included fabrics I thought she would enjoy and wrote a letter tucked into the box with the quilt saying that the floral fabrics represented the lives of the girls in her scout troop. We had bloomed from the seeds she had planted. Her daughters told me that she couldn’t remember much from the present, but she could name each of “her girls” from the Scout troop. She would reminisce and wonder what happened to each of us.

Eventually, Louise entered hospice. I knew the end was near and wished her GodSpeed through this final trial.

Louise passed over, released from the terrible burden of dementia, comforted by her quilt over these increasingly difficult four+ years as dementia consumed her.

I hope when she could no longer remember who I was, or who family was, that the flowers in the quilt still brought her solace in some deeply visceral way – even though she could not remember why. I hope she felt love when someone tucked her in or covered her with the quilt.

I hope the quilt enveloped her and helped her feel safe when no one was present. I hope the quilt served its purpose, embraced her and shepherded her to the next world.

A few hours after her passing, her daughter sent this:

She was covered with the quilt you made for her for the past week. You were with her the entire time.

I sobbed. The quilt, send on a mission of comfort and love had worked its magic.

That is what a quilt is.

And then:

I took the quilt home. It’s a family heirloom now. Thank you.

This, my friends, is why we quilt.

And now, I hope the quilt brings comfort and warm memories to her family members for many years to come.

Quilts Document Lives

As a genealogist, I’ve come to realize that quilts often document life’s journey – both for recipients as well as the quilter. You might want to read about Sarah’s Quilt, found in her estate inventory, as an example. In fact, throughout this article, all of the links tell stories that are important parts of the lives of quilters and the people who received those gifts of love.

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I recently did a Google Hangout for WikiTree about using quilts and other forms of personal handwork as documentation, which you can watch here. As you can see, my producer, Chai, was making sure everything is in order before the hangout started. She, along with her rescue cat-sisters, help me quilt.

Why Quilt?

Quilters make quilts for many reasons – as varied as there are people and quilts. Almost any opportunity suffices!

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Because a new baby is on the way.

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Or has just arrived!

Then they start growing up.

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You might make a quilt because you’re a grandma and your granddaughter mentions that she likes warm, fuzzy flannel.

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Or to comfort a man who suffered through dialysis as single parent and unable to work while he waited for a kidney transplant that he did eventually receive, but it was touch and go for a long time. Whew!

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Because your cousin and genealogy buddy’s husband passed away, so you take some scraps from a quilt you made for yourself, assemble it into a quilt overnight, quilt it and have it to her in another state within a week. Who needs sleep? It’s overrated!

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When your granddaughter wants a “princess castle.” Note this is a card table cover with an adult doing something on top of the table.

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As a gift to celebrate a trip to the Netherlands with, and the retirement of my cousin, Cheryl, with whom I share the Dutch Ferwerda (Ferverda, Fervida) ancestral line and a lot of Frisian DNA. This quilt is so full of symbolism. Delft blue, Netherlands orange, tulips, windmills and more.

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Cheryl and I visiting “our” family windmill, above, discovered by ace Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink.

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And yes, Yvette received a quilt too during my next visit. We’ve become fast friends. I keep waiting for Yvette to discover that we’re related. Hurry up, Yvette!

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You might make a quilt as a going away gift (sniffle) for a dear friend who moved (too) far away. This friendship quilt was made by several people, each adding a row with personal meaning for our dear friend. The cats helped!

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The center of the friendship quilt is embroidered with “You never really leave a place you love. Part of it you will take with you and part of you will be left behind.”

The bordering row is photos of our quilt group and memories that we shared. This quilt has been passed on to the next generation now, as a healing care quilt gifted with love.

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I made this quilt for my long-haul truck-driver brother to use in his rig. Yes, that’s Dave, my brother who wasn’t my brother, but I couldn’t have loved him more. DNA isn’t everything. (Did that really come out of my mouth???)

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After my brother who was my brother, John, and my brother who wasn’t my brother, Dave, both passed away (a few months apart no less), I adopted another brother, John. So yes, I really do have my brother John and my other brother John, who has now survived cancer! John lived in Japan and sent me Japanese kimono fabric, part of which I turned into his care quilt during his chemo. Cranes have a special healing significance in Japanese culture, believed to live for a thousand years and referred to as the “bird of happiness.”

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My daughter loves shoes and handbags! This one is titled “Diva’s Dreams.” You should see what’s on the back. No, I’m not showing.

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Lifetime achievement awards honoring the lifework of Max Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan establishing the genetic genealogy industry.

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Of course, then I wanted a DNA quilt for myself too. And before you ask, sorry, this is not a published pattern but is similar to a free pattern published by “In The Beginning” fabrics. Unfortunately, since the DNA/science fabric is no longer available, neither is the pattern…but you can always try and ask them for a copy.

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This quilt was made for cousin to celebrate a trip together to the homeland of our Speak and Bowling ancestors in Lancashire, England, spending time in London on the way, of course. What fun we had and memories we made!

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Thank you to a veteran for their service. Again, no pattern. I charted this out on graph paper. I’d like to make another one for myself. So many quilts needing to be made, so little time.

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One might make a quilt to relive wonderful memories of a trip to England, represented by lovely English flowers. Never mind that my spouse left me stranded in London. I found a quilt shop to self-medicate with fabric and make myself feel better. I also learned a few new words in the process.

In Gisburn, the village of my Speak family ancestors, we found a lovely tea shop, represented in the four corners by teapots, of course.

Quilt-firefighter.jpg

For the unborn child of a woman whose firefighter husband was intentionally targeted, run down and killed while participating in the volunteer “Fill-the-Boot” program for Muscular Dystrophy – as she was pregnant with their first child. Worse yet, she was the nurse on duty in the emergency room where her husband was taken after he was hit.

Talk about your worst nightmare. I still shudder to think about this. Many of the care quilts I make are for people who need hope or comfort – or maybe just a hug and reminder that there is love in this world.

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Because somebody’s doll needed a “Frozen” quilt. How could I resist this face?

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When you need to make a “ garden window” for a friend’s mother who was diagnosed with cancer in the fall and was afraid that she wouldn’t live to see the next spring. She lived to greet several more springtimes.

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To say thank you to a wonderful benefactor for funding an archaeological dig.

I absolutely love this quilt! It’s a good thing I made it “for” someone specific or it would never have left my house.

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Because your granddaughter loves the Pink Panther and wants to live in Paris.

Always support the dreams of young people! They will be the ones to bring you fabric in your elder years. Someday I’ll explain to her how difficult this multicolor sawtooth block border was to design and construct.

Oh yes, and her doll needed a matching Paris quilt too.

Quilt-officer.jpg

For a police officer shot and nearly killed in the line of duty while responding a domestic dispute in process. His partner was killed that night, in cold blood, by the same perpetrator, a felon previously convicted of murder. I met this quilt’s recipient quite by accident a few years later. A friend and the granddaughters helped.

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As a wedding gift for a lovely couple where sunflowers were the theme.

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This amazing quilt was a thank you to a wonderful friend whose generosity I could never repay. This is one of my all-time favorite quilts and if I didn’t love him so much, I would have kept it and sent him something else.

I believe that when you make something “for” someone, it must go to them. I create with “intention” and thoughtful focused positive energy – so it would not be right for the quilt to go elsewhere. In essence, it would be “quilt cheating.”

In rare cases where the person passes over before I can finish a care quilt that I was making for them, I ask the family if they would like to have the quilt or would like for me to pass it on to another special person who needs a care quilt.

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This cheery quilt hopefully eased the ravages of chemo by allowing the recipient to take his mind elsewhere – to the ocean. The amazing center seascape fabric was painted by Mickey Lawler. Another quilt I loved.

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Just because you love purple is a great reason to make a quilt. I originally created this for myself, but then…someone else needed it more than me, so it’s on a journey of its own. I birthed it, but it was not mine to steward. Maybe I’ll make another one and see if I can manage to keep the next one😊

Quilt retirement.jpg

To celebrate a public safety officer’s retirement, where he can finally be safe. Thank God!

That officer is my son, and I sewed patches from his uniforms in the 4 blue corners after I gave him the quilt. It was a very long career for a police officer’s mother to endure. I tried not to worry, but there was just no helping myself. Now he’s on to act two and I hope to live long enough to make him a retirement quilt from his second career!

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A cheerful quilt for a family member to celebrate life’s fun moments. The recipient participates in triathlons and the family takes the quilt along for picnics.

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Feeling creative with scraps and “thinking outside the box.” This wall hanging is about 5 feet tall.

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As a housewarming gift for my daughter. I love her a lot, because I made this quilt for me!😊 Now I get to enjoy it at her house where it was obviously meant to live because it’s absolutely perfect there.

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A rose quilt for my son-in-law’s grandmother when she became ill. She loved pink and roses.

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After Grandma passed over, I made this memory quilt featuring spare fabric from her rose quilt, other fabrics to commemorate her interests, a couple sweatshirt fronts including a turkey at the top made by her grandchildren along with Grandma’s apron that she made and wore every Christmas holiday to make special cookies – for as long as my son-in-law can remember. The brown border fabric is St. Louis arch fabric to celebrate good memories.

Not all quilts are made for humans, however.

Quilt Ellie.jpg

Ellie, my grandpuppy had a “baby quilt” that I made the week my daughter rescued her and she was living with me because my daughter then left for vacation. We bonded.

A year or so later, Ellie rescued another fur-family member.

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One might make a quilt as a couch cover. (Ok, truth – I gave this to my grandpuppies who loved it…to death.)

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Then, they received their own “dog quilts.” They love them, especially when grandma comes over to babysit when they don’t feel well and snuggle with them. (What do you mean by, “are they spoiled?”)

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As a memory quilt for a father whose son died a tragic, long, painful death, the result of a drunk driver who hit his car head on. I officiated at the funeral of this young man. Heartbreaking is an understatement. So many lives destroyed and others indelibly changed.

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And another quilt for the mother of that same son. I hope these quilts brought them more peace than sadness. Each parent chose the items they wanted in their individual quilts. All of the fabric in the front of both quilts is from the son’s clothing. Knowing the family well, these quilts were extremely difficult for me as the quiltmaker.

This next quilt, on the other hand, was a lot of fun! You might recognize this as the Texas state flag.

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I made this quilt for my good friend, Janine, who is a proud 5th generation Texan, loves Texas, and we have such wonderful memories together.

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Quilted with boots and other Texas symbols.

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With NASCAR fabric on the back, because Janine is an awesome reporter on the NASCAR circuit.

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Gifted to her as a surprise alongside a Texas road one spring day taking photographs together when the bluebonnets were blooming. What wonderful memories we’ve made and continue to make!

I kept hoping Janine and I would discover that we are cousins! It finally happened along with a DNA match. Viva genealogy!!!

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A wall-hanging made for my mother to celebrate her dancing career, titled “Stars Over Broadway,” made from ribbons Mom won for crocheting and other handwork at various state and county fairs. Mom was an incredible multi-talented lady.

This quilt is also nicknamed, “Never Again” as it fought me every step of the way and was much more difficult than it looks due to the intertwined custom “dancing” design and the unforgiving nature of the ribbons.

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This is what happens when your husband mentions that he wants a table cover for his ham radio work. Yes, that is printed circuit board fabric! Electronics is his passion and he loves his geeky quilt!

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Said husband and I made this quilt together on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing to celebrate that historic day that inspired Jim to enter the world of electronics. One day that choice would allow him to contribute to the Mars Insight project – 50 years later.

And look, they found the cat that jumped over the moon. Who knew?

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When your quilt-sister helps you finish the quilt (at her son’s house) because your brother (John) had just been diagnosed with cancer and you need to have the quilt done by, literally, tomorrow morning. Yes, you might say that Mary and my families are intertwined now. Families of heart for decades, that’s for sure. Weddings, births, deaths, surgeries, Christmas Eves, memories, love. May we have many more years.

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A memory quilt for my brother, John, after my mother passed away. The blocks in the quilt are Mom’s clothes and linen calendar towels that she collected every year. She also gave them as gifts every year too.

Every. Single. Year.

I selected calendar towel years in which something significant happened in John’s life. There are more towels on the back too.

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I made a quilt commemorating Mom’s life for myself too, and one for all 5 of her grandchildren. I even included a piece of my Dad’s tie that he wore walking me down the aisle – blue diagonal striped material in the right border, beside the pig towel. Yes, I grew up on a hog farm and wouldn’t trade it for the world. This quilt graces “Mom’s” bed in the spare bedroom, so keeps her grandson and family warm when they visit.

Quilt Christmas for Ronnie.jpg

A fun I-spy quilt for a senior citizen who lives in a group care facility and still loves Santa. His communication is limited but the smile on his face was a mile wide and he wants to keep this quilt on his bed year-round!

Ronnie says of his quilt, “Heaven might be like this.” I hope so Ronnie!

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Flowers for my close friend who is now cancer-free. This quilt accompanied her through the rough times, and now will see her through many wonderful years too.

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To celebrate the new millennium and that I survived Y2K in a technology field. LHM!!!

My husband and I selected these fabrics and made this quilt before we were married. Don’t tell him, but that just might have had something to do with why I said “yes.”

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When your young rescue cat, Elizabeth, at left, only 18 months old, has cancer and isn’t going to be with you very long. Elizabeth loved her soft quilt.

Both of these fur children came to live with me after abuse and starvation at the hands of a monster. Kitters, at right, still loves the quilts, now hers via right of inheritance.

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Some quilts get loved so much they have to be patched. The original owner of this quilt, an amazing cat named Tabitha, has passed on now, but the family is still loving her quilt (and her.)

Sometimes quilts receive a Second Act that is more important, and sometimes more appreciated than the first one. Ellie and Libby, my grandpuppies, had possession of this quilt for awhile, but Kitters, Chai and Mandy, cats who are infinitely disgusted by dogs have taken possession now, when Jim isn’t napping under it. And sometimes when he is. The battle continues.

Film at 11.

Quilt Loren.jpg

This quilt went to the family of a young man who tragically perished in a housefire, along with everything in the house including their fur-family.

Another two quilts went to his mother and sister as well. I’m very negligent about taking pictures before the quilts leave for their intended homes.

Literally hundreds of these “care quilts” have been created over the years by the quilt-sisters, sometimes alone, but often working together on the spur of the moment, between jobs and families, to create a healing gift for someone in need.

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Sometimes fur-family members get into the act too. I needed all the help I could get with the blocks of a wedding quilt!

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This Navajo Code Talker quilt of love was made for Code Talker, USMC William Brown. Sadly, he passed over as the quilt was on its way, but it served him at his funeral in a place of honor, and now comforts his daughter.

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A surprise by the quilt-sisters to celebrate Mary’s 50th anniversary.

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Indeed, quilts are expressions of love to celebrate births, anniversaries and everything in-between. To commemorate lives well-lived and lost too soon. For people we know and love and “care quilts” for people we’ve never met but need a helping hand or a lift of their spirits.

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So to answer my friend who, by now, is probably extremely sorry he asked and dozed off long ago. Quilts are the spirit of humanity, pedestrian scraps of life joined together to create beauty, but most of all, quilts are simply expressions of love.

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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

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Michael McDowell (c1747-1840): Elusive Death Record – 52 Ancestors #267

While an ancestor’s death record might not seem like much to write about – Michael’s is – at least to this descendant.

We’ve looked for informatoin about his death for what seems like forever.

Michael was a Revolutionary War pensioner, so you’d think his death would be recorded in his pension records.

Nope.

Maybe on the Tennessee roster of pensioners and payments?

Nope.

Well, then was he listed in the 1840 census in someone’s household as having been a pensioner?

Nope.

1839 and 1940

I knew that Michael was taxed in Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1839 for 40 acres of land total, and that on June 20th, 1840, Michael sold 2 of those 40 acres to his granddaughter Margaret Herrell and her husband, Anson Martin.

Michael would have been 93 or 94 years years old. He was not listed individually in the 1840 census, but that’s not surprising. If he was alive, he would probably have been living with one of his children – at least one would presume, especially if his wife was deceased or equally as elderly too.

Michael doesn’t appear in his sons’ households, but in 1840, Rev. Nathan S. McDowell, not a son but possibly a grandson, has a male of age 80-90 that could be Michael living with him.

I would have thought that were the man living with Nathan, Michael, he would have been listed as a pensioner, but there was no such listing on the second census page.

Therefore, I initially figured that Michael gone by the census enumeration date of June 1st until I realized he sold land on June 20th, so he was very clearly alive then. Not only that, but he was healthy enough to sign the deed, possibly going to town to do so.

Given that information, Michael’s military service had probably simply been overlooked in the census. After all, he was a quite elderly man.

Obviously, the census can’t be taken everyplace on the same day, so the census is taken as of a specific date. At the end of the Claiborne County census, it’s signed as being completed as of October 1.

Maybe Michael had died between June 20th and October 1st? If that was the case, then who was that man living with Nathan and if it was Michael, why was his military service overlooked? Something doesn’t add up.

Speaking of adding up, even more confounding is the fact that Michael apparently died owning 38 acres of land.

Why was there no will or probate in the Will and Probate books? Why was there no deed recorded? One or the other had to have happened. You can’t just die owning land and have it flopping around in a the state of limbo. SOMEONE had to own it which means that the disposition of Michael’s estate had to be managed by an executor or administrator unless Michael sold the land before his death. But there’s no record of that either.

Surely, at his age, Michael had prepared a will? One would think.

Ummm, nope.

Michael was obviously an optimist.

Court Notes

The Claiborne County Court Notes are not indexed and published, at least not completely. I decided to read them page by page because I had at least three ancestors who died in the span of a decade or so, and I wanted to obtain as much information as possible.

In Michael’s case, I was hoping that I would find some evidence of at least a year, and maybe a month that he died.

I found quite a few McDowell references.

Michael’s son John was assigned as a road hand or was responsible for overseeing road maintenance. He was allowed to purchase a sledge hammer to break up unyielding rocks in the road. Backbreaking work, and Michael would have done that as a younger man. But that’s not what I was looking for.

I discovered that Nathan McDowell had a “sugar camp.” Interesting, but that’s not what I was looking for.

John, Michael’s son, and Nathan were assigned as jurors in court several times, commissioners and even guardians. That’s not what I was looking for either.

John P. McDowell, also related and probably a grandson, not to be confused with John McDowell was assigned as a Justice of the Peace. Still not finding what I was looking for.

But then…there it was.

The Death Record

On Monday, September 7, 1840, William McDowell, in his first court record ever, appeared in court at Tazewell, gone to do a son’s sad duty.

Michael McDowell death.png

Satisfactorily evidence was produced in open court to prove that Michael McDowell a pensioner departed this life on the 6th day of July 1840 and there upon came William McDowell and took upon himself the administration of said estate who gave bond and security that was accepted by the court after taking the oath requested by law.

Wow, that’s wonderful – not that Michael died of course – but that we found evidence of when. Happy dancing a little jig.

Hmm, I wonder was constituted “satisfactory evidence.” If Michael had a will, it would have stated that a will was produced, so there was none.

William McDowell was administrator, so that would mean an inventory would be filed. We’ll be able to see what Michael owned. We’ll discover what happened to his land, and we’d know if Isabel outlived Michael. It’s possible since a female of the same age was living with daughter Mary McDowell who was married to William Herrell.

Dead Silence (Pardon the Pun) and Unresolved Questions

I read the court notes through 1842 and nothing at all.

Nothing.

Nada.

How is that even possible when an administrator WAS appointed. There had to be assets or an administrator would not have been required, nor would bond and security.

I discovered that the court records through 1850 had been at least semi-indexed by WPA back in the 1930s, but nothing there either.

One question answered, and several left twisting in the wind, like fall’s final leaves.

Michael died only 17 days after selling 2 acres to his granddaughter and that deed was recorded. Furthermore, Michael clearly had $50, a substantial sum in addition to his pension payments. That cash would surely need to be accounted for. Michael was no pauper.

Isabel could have still been alive and they had at least 6 living children, and possibly more, to share an estate. I had hoped to obtain a full list of Michael’s legatees in an estate settlement, but that didn’t happen either☹

Rats!

Perhaps Michael had already given all his possessions away?

Buried on Slanting Misery

Standing at the top of the hill on Michael’s land, aptly named Slanting Misery, you’d never know you were overlooking the cemetery where Michael is assuredly buried.

Claxton land from Slanting Misery

The family stood in Michael’s field under that cedar tree, directly between me and the barn, on July 6th, or 7th at the latest, in the mid-summer heat of 1840, dug a grave and said their final farewells. Reverend Nathan S. McDowell likely preached Michael’s funeral sermon about everlasting life with a final Amen.

The heat was likely oppressive in the heavy clothing of the time, and the funeral probably correspondingly short.

Michael’s granddaughter, Margaret Herrell Martin who bought land just days before was probably pregnant for a child who would soon be laid to rest beside her beloved grandfather.

Margaret would have sheltered her 6 stair-step children as they ceremonially dropped their single handfuls of dirt onto the planks of their great-grandfather’s coffin after the wooden box was lowered into his grave – as was the custom.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

No stone marked Michael’s final resting place, or if one did, it was a wooden cross or a fieldstone. Perhaps that Cedar tree was planted in Michael’s honor or memory, to shade family members who came to visit.

Michael’s remaining acreage, along with his human remains, simply melted back into the remote, achingly beautiful, mysterious, Slanting Misery.

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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

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Y2K Twenty Years On

Y2K

Just looking at those 3 characters, 2 letters and 1 number, probably caused you to do one of three things:

  • Cringe reflexively (that’s me)
  • Roll your eyes, thinking, “what a nothingburger”
  • Wonder, what’s Y2K?

Twenty years ago last evening, I spent the day, and night, fully awake and worrying. Probably obsessing is more like it.

I was responsible for the smooth transition of several governmental clients into the new millennium – and that meant, specifically, making sure we had found and addressed all of the potential Y2K bugs and issues both apparent and inherent.

Y2K, for those of you young whippersnappers in category three, was a computer issue in which the date did not roll correctly from the last day of 1999 to the first say of the year 2000 – the new millennium. Specifically, the date incremented to 1900 (best case,) not 2000. Computers failed and came crashing to a halt with all types of unexpected issues, a combination of both hardware and software – operating systems and applications both.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “how stupid,” there were actually good historical reasons that happened, given the few bytes of memory that programmers had to work with in the decades before the year 2000. Ah, the law of unintended consequences. No one thought about or imagined that foundation code would still be in use decades later. But, it worked and it was.

The biggest issues turned out to be in buried or embedded systems – like systems used in wastewater treatment plants. Systems that literally no one thought about until they stopped working for some reason.

If you’re in category two and think that absolutely nothing happened, that’s not quite accurate either. Lots of things either didn’t work or didn’t work correctly – especially interconnected dependent systems.

More to the point, the very REASON that nothing catastrophic happened is exactly because of the thousands of people who did obsess, who did prepare and who, like me, sat watch just in case. Fortunately, few had to spring into action.

Y2K was a nothingburger because we were successful.

You can read more about Y2K, what did and didn’t work, here.

I Almost Forgot

It’s somehow ironic that I almost forgot about this significant anniversary. Not only did Y2K consume about 2 years of my professional life, ramping up to what we surely hoped was literally nothing at all, Y2K also culminated the literal “decade from Hell” for me personally.

I was incredibly glad to see the new millennium arrive, shepherding out the old and welcoming new opportunity. A transition I desperately needed.

Here’s my Y2K story. What’s yours?

Where were you and what were you doing?

The 1990s

The 1990s began with so much promise. I was living the dream; all-American kids who danced and played football, white picket fence home with a few cats and 2 rescue dogs, along with my husband as my business partner in a high-tech consulting firm. However, tragedy quickly reared its ugly face.

In 1978, I had found my only sister and become quite close. In June of 1990, Edna, who had survived breast cancer, or so we thought, died of a massive heart attack while on vacation in another state. Her loss struck at the core of my being, a devastating loss. I would stand in the hot summer sun burying her ashes, only having 12 short years with her.

My beloved step-father’s health began declining.

In June of 1993, my husband, young and vibrant, in his 40s, suffered a stroke, but didn’t die. We would find a way to survive, feeling like we escaped a very close call.

A month later, in July, he suffered a second, massive stroke, but still didn’t die. Your reaction might be that was good – but trust me – his quality of life was terribly diminished. He was paralyzed and his brain was approximately half destroyed. There was no recovery. That stroke upended the life of everyone in our family, permanently, in indescribable ways.

In the blink of an eye, I became the only bread-winner, inheriting all of the bills while losing his income, plus his massive medical bills. Oy! I had to figure out how to provide full time care for a severely disabled spouse – and work at the same time.

Not to mention, I had children who suffered immensely and whose needs didn’t abate because their parents had become incredibly challenged.

In September of 1994, my step-father died.

My mother struggled, and a year later, she left the farm and moved to town.

You might guess that I was reeling by this time – and you’re right, I was.

Everyone in my family was struggling mightily.

I was and am incredibly grateful for my high-tech profession and the ability it afforded me to work in a less-structured environment – meaning not 8-5, 5 days a week. I don’t think I would have survived otherwise. My clients were incredibly helpful and understanding, and did not abandon me when I needed them most.

My son and husband both were volunteer firefighters. God bless them all, including the fine people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons, of which I am not and was not a member. I was, however, a regular weekly visitor to the Family History Center at the local church and they stepped forward to help.

We were in desperate need for so much help. I, we, would not have survived that first year without them, all of our friends. Nothing in my small 1960s ranch home was wheelchair accessible – but a few months later, it was, allowing my husband to come home, at least for awhile.

My life, however, was upside-down and in a constant state of turmoil where it would remain for the next several years.

Y2K

People didn’t think much about Y2K until about 1998 or so. Generally, there was a widespread belief that either nothing would happen because it was nothing but a lot of hype, or software vendors would magically ‘take care of it.” It wasn’t until we began actually testing hardware, specifically specialized governmental hardware and software combinations that we discovered problems that no one even thought about.

For example, a small computer controlled a drawbridge that raised and lowered the bridge for ships to pass beneath. That “computer” didn’t look like a computer, per se, and no one even thought about the fact that it had an embedded clock and/or date. It did, and yes, when testing, we made the discovery that it wouldn’t work. However, that system was so old there was no “fix” and another solution had to be found, and quickly.

I developed a Y2K evaluation process for governmental clients and prayed that we had unearthed all of the potential issues. If not, then my next prayer was that no one got hurt. That the issues weren’t with something like stop lights, railroad crossing signals or anything that could endanger people.

No Vacation

After I thought I had everything Y2K in hand and was attempting to plan a vacation, to Machu Picchu, to welcome in the millennium far away from any computer, my client announced that they had a different idea entirely.

They did not wish me to be absent.

What I had not told my client was that the visit wasn’t just to be a vacation, but potentially a wedding.

That’s kind of when everything began to unravel, like dominoes falling in a row.

I stepped outside at a client’s office to take a “difficult” personal phone call when I turned around to discover the client standing behind me. He didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but given what had just transpired, and the fact that I was in tears, he couldn’t exactly ignore the situation.

Suffice it to say that neither the trip, nor wedding, was going to take place.

Don’t ever say, “what the hell else can go wrong?” because fate always takes that as a challenge.

We began counting down to the great unknown of Y2K.

Thanksgiving 1999

The phone woke me ringing at 4:32 AM. Those calls are never good news.

However, I was on call for clients – but the chances of a client calling me before 5AM on Thanksgiving was virtually slim to none.

I grabbed the phone.

“Hello”.

In response, my mother said one word, my name, like she didn’t know what else to say.

I barely recognized her voice.

I knew something was very, very wrong.

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

“Gary’s dead.”

Gary was my brother.

I got in my car and drove home, immediately.

Investigators were everyplace.

Gary died unexpectedly, in suspicious circumstances.

The events surrounding Gary’s death would ricochet through my family like a deadly, stray, bullet – and never be resolved.

Christmas Cometh

We were literally counting down, day by day then hour by hour to Y2K. What was initially circumspect confidence on the part of my municipal clients had turned to nervous paranoia – and not necessarily without reason.

Other municipalities continued to find previously undiscovered issues, especially with custom code, sending everyone scurrying to check and recheck everything.

Everyone wanted me to be on site at the same time the last few weeks of the year. If I could have cloned myself, I would have made a small fortune.

Mom was driving to my house on the 22nd for Christmas because I had to work the day before and after. In fact, Mom was pretty much in charge of Christmas that year, because I couldn’t be.

On the morning of December 21st, my phone rang again.

Mom called to inform me that her brother, Lore, had died.

Lore’s death wasn’t exactly unexpected, given that he suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s. His death had been approaching for a long time. In many ways, it was a release. However, for numerous reasons, the timing was terrible .

Lore was mother’s only sibling, and his death left mother as the last of her generation.

Mom never got over Dad’s passing in 1994 and Gary’s death was less than a month old when Lore died. I wasn’t with her when this news arrived and Mom was already feeling extremely sad.

I was entirely overwhelmed.

Worse yet, the funeral was to take place on Christmas Eve – in North Carolina – a day and a half drive from where Mom lived – on icy roads. Who schedules a funeral on Christmas Eve anyway??? Mom made it clear that she was going, with or without us.

Thankfully, my only living sibling and his wife stepped up to the plate and drove Mom to North Carolina, over ice covered mountain roads for her brother’s funeral. Mom could do nothing but cry, for days.

In my world, in 1999, Christmas simply didn’t exist.

New Year’s Eve

While the rest of the world was celebrating the arrival of the new millennium, I was preparing to handle a disaster.

I didn’t know what disaster, but given the way my life had been unraveling recently, I was just SURE that I’d be dealing with SOME disaster.

Y2K Best Buy

Thanks to cousin Kelly for this memory:)

We tested and tested and retested in the days before New Year’s Eve. Every governmental and military agency had people on site and on stand-by with backup plans for how to function if necessary. Emergency preparedness fully deployed.

In the days of inter-dependence, no person and no governmental unit is or was an island.

We began by watching municipalities as the international date line began to roll over to January 1. Our major concern was the power grid.

The first large city was Sydney, Australia. I watched the celebrations closely and carefully, not the fireworks, mind you, but the news channels.

I’ve never watched more New Year’s Eve celebrations in my entire life.

Finally, it was time in Europe, then Iceland, then in Maritime Canada, then in the eastern US. The ball dropped.

Nothing major.

Then, it was time for my clients.

I held my breath.

Nothing, absolutely nothing.

What a HUGE relief.

Finally, about 5 AM, I fell asleep – Champagne untouched.

Epilogue

Y2K came to represent much more in my life than a technology issue. The arrival and non-event of Y2K itself heralded a new millennium – and a new beginning.

The 1990s were indescribably brutal, both due to the unexpected illnesses and deaths, and the surrounding circumstances.

I left that behind when 2000 arrived.

I never thought much about where I would be or what I would be doing in another two decades.

Two decades earlier, on New Year’s Eve of 1980, I would celebrate a milestone of a different sort – my first New Year’s Eve after having moved away from Indiana. I don’t recall what I did, exactly, but my life was new, a bit frightening and full of hope. Wonderful career opportunity in a new location – making new friends.

At Y2K, I was ever so grateful to be shed of the 1990s and that 2000 entered sheepishly, with no fanfare of the type I had been fearing. It was almost like we were being mocked for our feverish anxiety, much like millions of ants scurrying from place to place. It’s ironic that “nothing” was the measure of our success.

It was exactly that OCDish preparation that prevented large-scale catastrophe.

Once again, in spite of the 1990 tragedies, I was full of hope for the future.

Uncharted Path

Unbeknownst to me, Family Tree DNA, the company that would establish the genetic genealogy industry was a fledgling startup in Houston, Texas, with two principles and little else on that fateful New Year’s Day. I found them through genealogy, little dreaming of what the next two decades would hold.

Within a few years, my life would realign in many ways. I would remarry and gradually shift my profession, focusing on DNA, genetic genealogy and writing Personalized DNA Reports.

One day at a time, my career morphed from one type of technology to another.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined where I would be, literally and figuratively, twenty years out from Y2K. The technology and science that I depend on today didn’t yet exist in 2000.

Tasmanian sun.jpg

As I sit in the sunshine this beautiful New Year’s Day, looking forward to the future and embracing a journey I never imagined, I can’t help but wonder where I will be and what I will be doing in 2030, and beyond. What wonderful gifts await? What does DNA hold, for me, and for all of us? Which ancestors are just waiting to be discovered? Who will I discover and get to know?

I’m oh so grateful for this uncharted path. Y2K wasn’t just a technology event. For me, the new millennium signified molting the heavy past in order to embrace a promising future. A transition – an exit from a dark tunnel into the light.

And I thought Y2K was just an inopportune catalyst for change in the computer industry.

John Estes Goes to Jail – 52 Ancestors #265

Estes jail Claiborne.png

I wasn’t even looking for John Estes – either one of them. There were two, of course, living in Claiborne County at the same time, both my ancestors. This couldn’t be simple, could it?

I was reading the unindexed court notes page by page, from 1829-1842, 13 long and miserable years, looking for the deaths of or details about 3 ancestors who, it turns out, died between 1833 and 1840. As luck would have it, they are all twisted into this story kind of like a kudzu vine – because these families were all near neighbors in Claiborne County, Tennessee and intermarried.

And there was drama…so much drama.

John Campbell died in September of 1838. About 1795, he had married Jane Dobkins, the daughter of Jacob Dobkins who died in March of 1833.

I actually started reading the Claiborne County court notes searching for information about John Campbell and Jane Dobkins’s other daughter, Jane Campbell, who married Johnson Freeman – then got divorced – unheard of in that day and time. Whoo doggies, that’s some story and will get an article all to itself.

John Campbell and Jane Dobkins’ daughter, Elizabeth Campbell, had married Lazarus Dodson about 1820, but predeceased her father, John Campbell, sometime before 1830.

When John Campbell died in 1838, a guardian was appointed for Elizabeth Campbell Dodson’s children because they had an inheritance from their grandfather. Yes, their father Lazarus Dodson was still living. I thought for years that he had died, but he hadn’t. The court records never say “deceased” after his name and I found him later, remarried and living elsewhere. Subsequent court records indicate specifically that the Dodson children inherited through “Elizabeth Campbell, deceased.”

No, I don’t know why Lazarus Dodson wasn’t appointed guardian, but I’d wager it had something to do with the ever-present drama in this extended family. I suspect because those children were being raised by their grandmother, Jane Dobkins Campbell. Several of Elizabeth Campbell Dodson’s children married spouses who lived near the Campbells on Little Sycamore, adjacent the Liberty Church today. You can’t marry who you don’t see to court.

Estes jail Liberty to Cumberland.png

Their father, Lazarus Dodson lived several miles north near Cumberland Gap.

The Receipt

John Y. Estes, born in 1818, married Rutha (Ruthy) Dodson, daughter of Lazarus Dodson and Elizabeth Campbell on March 1st, 1841 in Claiborne County, Tennessee. Rutha was also a legatee of her grandfather’s estate and in fact, on September 5, 1842, John Estes signed a receipt for $54.35 for receiving money from her guardian. He signed at the same time that he received $1.50 rent from that estate for 1841, and also acknowledged the balance still owed was $56.61.

Back then, that was a LOT, LOT, LOT of money. Enough to purchase a farm – but John didn’t. In the 1850 census John and Rutha are listed as living beside William Devenport and in 1851 a deed is conveyed between land owners noting that William Devenport and John Estes live on that land – but neither were owners.

There’s something else odd about that 1850 census. John and Rutha were married for 9 years and had only one child, Lazarus, age 2. There should have been roughly 4 children by this time. Yes, death was a constant companion, but there might have been something more.

This receipt is important, but I’m getting ahead of my own story.

Let’s step back in time.

Two John Esteses

John R. Estes (1787-1885) and wife, Nancy Ann Moore left Halifax County, Virginia about 1820 when their son, John Y. Estes, was about 2 years old. John R. Estes had served in the War of 1812.

In Claiborne County, in 1826, John R. Estes made a land entry, but appeared to sell the entry after it was surveyed but before it was completed.

In 1850, John R. Estes is listed as a shoemaker with no land, and in 1860, a miller with no land.

John applied for bounty land from his 1812 service in 1850, but apparently sold that land claim to his son George who moved to Missouri. He sold a second claim some years later too.

To the best of my knowledge, John R. Estes never owned land. He lived very near or perhaps even beside John Campbell along Little Sycamore Creek.

John appeared to live a pretty quiet life. He’s never in the court records as a juror, because jurors are required, among other things, to own land. But of note, he’s also never found in the court records for anything else either – although the Claiborne County notes are incomplete.

John, like his father, George Estes, lived to be a very, very old man. John died in 1885 at approximately 98 years of age.

In 1842, John R. Estes would have been about 55 years old. His son, John Y. Estes would have been 23, turning 24 that December.

Court Minutes

When I read court notes at FamilySearch, which I try NOT to do very often, I read for any of my family names of course.

I thought that I had already told the story of both John Esteses and frankly, I didn’t expect to find anything more than a footnote to add to their existing articles, if that.

Sometimes I peruse court notes late at night. They are calming, so calming, in fact that often they put me to sleep.

With the political drama the past few months in our own lives, sometimes I need that. I was well into year 13, thousands of pages already read, nodding off that evening, trying to keep my eyelids open.

Suddenly, I glimpsed something that woke me right up.

John Estes’ name in the court notes.

I shook sleep off and started back at the beginning of that page again. It wasn’t a typical entry which formed a predictable pattern.

No, this was something different.

October 3, 1842

Estes jail 1842.png

Alexander Fullington jailor for Claiborne County be allowed the following sums for the following purposes to wit: the State vs John Hodge $32.50 for 76 days board and 4 turn key. The State versus Thomas Ursery(?) $32.87/2 for 85 days board and 2 turn keys. Also the State vs John Estes for $36 for board and turn keys and that he have ticket to the county trustee for the same.

What? John Estes in jail?

If Alexander Fullington is being paid for these prisoners, where was the trial in the court notes? Had I missed it?

These court notes seem to be mostly civil suits and domestic things like road orders and maintenance combined with sporadic estate settlements. Although some trials are mentioned, that only seems to happen when a jury was called.

Noticeably absent are criminal prosecutions. But something had obviously occurred, because the jailor obviously petitioned for reimbursement. So did other county officials, regularly, in this court.

Not all “state” (versus civil) cases say why the person is being tried, but the few I’ve found that do during this timeframe are mostly for lewdness and one for usery. Lewdness, by definition in the legal documentation of the day pertains, for lack of a better description, to sexual relations between a man and woman outside of marriage.

My next thought was maybe that John wasn’t actually IN jail. The record states the number of days for the other men, but given that John’s amount is MORE than the other 2 men, that’s unlikely. Why else would the jailor be petitioning for reimbursement if John wasn’t IN jail. So much for that idea.

How long was John Estes in the clink for? John Hodge’s cost per day was 43 cents and Thomas Ursery was 39 cents. But Hodge had more turnkeys than did Ursery. Did turnkeys cost extra, and what was a turnkey anyway?

Research into other cases about this time tells us that Fullington was allowed 50 cents per turnkey, so we need to reduce the total by that amount to obtain the daily board rate per prisoner.

I googled for turnkeys, but the best I could find was that a turnkey was the person, or guard, who literally turned the key to release prisoners. Reading other Claiborne County records, I determined that the number of turnkeys related to the number of times the person was removed to be taken to court. I’m unclear whether the final turnkey is the last time the door was opened, meaning the time they were released.

Using the 38.5 cents average amount per day for lodging, minus turnkeys, John Estes probably served about 94 days.

The Margin Note

But then, there’s a pesky margin note that says the following:

“ticket 2nd for Estes amt $36 6 Octr 1842”

Three days later, the court added the second ticket to this same note. Oh boy.

Which suggests that there is ANOTHER ticket for John Estes – for ANOTHER 94 days.

Was that two of the same offense, or two separate offenses?

This means that John spent roughly 6 months in jail during 1842. But was John’s jail time actually during 1842?

I looked back at the other entries for Alexander Fullington in the court minutes and discovered that he submitted tickets for payment regularly: April 1841, July 1841, October 1841, January 1842, April 1842 and July 1842.

If John Estes had completed his sentence by July 1842, probably either of them, Fullington would have submitted his claim by then. This tells us that very likely, John Estes was in jail from about April 1842 until about October 1842. If I’ve misunderstood this note and there was only one sentence for 94 days, it still tells us that John got out of jail sometime between July and October 1842, given that Alexander apparently submitted his bills every 3 months.

Jail Time

What was jail like during that time? In some cases, jails were actually enclosed areas, or yards, in which prisoners were confined and trusted not to step over the line.

Was that the kind of jail John was in?

Nope – this was John’s jail.

Estes jail Claiborne distance

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40340005

The old Claiborne County jail, built in 1819 was in use until 1931. Yep, it’s this building where John Estes spent roughly six months of his life.

The National Register of Historic places provides the following information:

Built in 1819 the jail is composed of stone on the first story and brick on the second story. The jail also features metal grating over the window and door openings.

The two-story jail is rectangular in shape, with a front gable roof. The entrance faces west towards the highway. The gable ends of the jail are twenty-six feet across. The sides of the building (north and south) are thirty-two feet long. The first level is constructed of cut limestone rocks and mortar. The walls are eighteen inches thick, with the length of individual stones measuring up to five feet. The roof is covered with metal and a brick chimney rises from the peak on the west half of the building.

The west façade features a central entrance to the building that measures two feet wide and six and one-half feet tall. The door on this entrance is of a grate design, consisting of two-and-one-half inch bands of metal running horizontally and vertically within a metal frame. A rounded bolt head protrudes at each juncture of metal bands. This metal grate is an original feature. The second story of the jail is brick laid in common bond. In the center of the second story is a door-sized opening, enclosed with vertical board shutters. A circular vent opening with a metal “X” grate is located in the peak of the gable.

The north and the south elevations of the jail each have four window openings, two on each floor. Each opening is covered with a framed metal grate matching the front door, and vertical board shutters. Some of the grates are original, and some are (historic) replacements. These openings measure two feet wide and between four and six feet tall. A couple of the shutter boards have become detached and currently lean against the building. Large metal bolts protrude from the brick walls in the back two-thirds of the second story. The east (or back) elevation of the jail is solid stone across the lower level; the brick second level has one window with an original metal grate covering and vertical shutter boards. A circular vent, matching the design of that in the front gable, is located at the top of the east gable. A short, brick chimney rises from the metal roof at approximately one-third of the distance from the front of the jail.

At the jail’s entrance, one step leads down into the front portion on the first floor, with a stairway on the south wall. This portion of the building is ten and one-half feet deep, or approximately one-third of the building’s depth. The floor of this section is brick, and the walls of this room are of mortared, cut limestone.

A door-less opening leads to a larger back room. To the north of this doorway, a fireplace has been removed, but its flue is still intact. The back room historically consisted of a central hall flanked by smaller units to each side. Local historian Mary A. Hansard wrote in 1979 that the jail had “a large stack chimney in the center, with two fireplaces on the lower floor and two on the upper floor. There were two rooms on the first floor. One was used as a kitchen and dining room, and the other as a dungeon in which to confine criminals.

Hansard wrote that “[t]here were three apartments on the second floor, all nicely plastered.”

As on ground level, the individual rooms of the second floor have been removed. The back, larger portion of the second floor is open. Local historian Alexander Moore Cloud noted that the jail was built with double walls. “The inside walls were of wood while the outer walls were made of stone.”

Some of the original interior wood siding remains; vertical slats of wood still hang on the east and west walls of the rear section on the second floor. The metal bolts visible on the exterior, protruding from the north and south elevations, can be seen on the interior walls. These bolts were installed for reinforcement of the jail’s security; as explained by a descendant of Josiah Ramsey, a member of the committee that undertook the building of the jail, the bolts held wood siding to the interior of the brick walls, preventing prisoners from chipping out the mortar. As noted previously, the north and south walls have two windows with original metal grid coverings. The original wood floor remains. The ceiling is open, revealing exposed rafters and the under side of the metal roof.

According to early records of the Claiborne County Court, debt was one of the most common offenses. Debt, and other non-violent offenses, drew the punishment of lashing at the county whipping post, which was located between the jail and the courthouse and consisted of a yoke, similar to an oxen harness.

The county jail contained a room, eighteen square feet in size, specifically for debtors; it was one of the units on the second floor. There, the sheriff held people who made no attempt to resolve their indebtedness. It was the sheriff’s responsibility to take debtors, two at a time, from the jail to the post for whipping until they promised to find work that would pay off their debts. Crimes of assault and battery also appeared frequently; legal disputes between individuals were also common. Trespass, libel, and murder were rare charges. A more serious crime, such as horse theft, was punishable by branding (“H.T.” on the thumb), practiced as late as 1822. The court frequently listened to cases of “bastardy,” an offense, assumingly by a male, of fathering a child and refusing to support that child.

During the period between from the 1830s to the Civil War, very little specific reference to the county jail exists other than that it was, of course, in use.

Estes jail Claiborne side.png

The court records a page or so after John’s mention give us a rare glimpse when the jailer asked for repairs including an iron door’s hinges to be fixed, handcuffs, etc.

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Report of the ail commissioners to with: We the commissioners of the jail of the town of Tazewell report to your worships now in session do say that the jailer so far as he is concerned has done his duty for we have examined the jail from time to time when the prisoners were in jail and making great complaints against the jaelor but when we examined into the matter we always found that the prisoners got a plenty to eat and drink as the law directs.

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And further we report that the jail ought in our opinion to be repaired as follows to wit:

First the meddle door ought to be hung and made sufficiently strong so that when any of them transgress to put them back into the dungen and keep them there till they do better.

Estes jail door.png

Here’s that metal door that clanged shut behind John Estes.

Further we believe it would be better to have the inside bord seasoned oak plank one inch thick and tong and groved together this ought to be done on the floore as well as the wall and furthermore we wish the court to appoint 5 commissioners to superintend? the work and let it out to ? able persons that will have the work done in proper manner so that the jail will be secure this 4th day of October 1842.

Jail would be glum in the best of circumstances. Obviously, it’s meant to be punitive, a place to be avoided.

Estes jail Claiborne inside.png

Jimmy Emmerson took these two photos of the inside of the Claiborne County jail, making them available, here. Thanks Jimmy.

This would have been John’s view of the world, every day for 6 months – and that’s IF he wasn’t in the dungeon.

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I wonder if John was one of those “residents” complaining about the jailor and conditions. It makes me wonder since this entry in the court record occurred immediately after the request for reimbursement for board for John and two other prisoners.

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The local newspaper reports that at least some hangings were carried out from the upper window, here, although I have my doubts.

Joe Payne writes about the jail here, with some interesting old photos.

Fullington’s Records

I read Alexander Fullington’s submissions for payment to the court with the hope of obtaining enlightenment into cases during that timeframe.

Monday April 5, 1841 – ordered by the court that Claiborne County pay to Alexander Fullington the following state claims for turnkey and board as jailer to wit:

  • State vs Benjamin Young $13.36
  • State vs Edward Slavens $5.50
  • State vs Obediah Norris $15.37/5
  • State vs Jas Asberry $24.87/5
  • State vs Thomas Cox and wife $7.62/5

July 5, 1841 voted that Fullington be allowed:

  • Sum of $1 for 2 turn keys receiving to jail Ruth Collins

October 1, 1841 Alexander Fullington allowed for keeping:

  • Azariah Watson in jail 83 days and two turn keys the sum of $33.12/5
  • John Hodge in jail 7 days two turn keys/holter chain and steeple the sum of $5.62/5

I could not determine what a holter chain and steeple was, but I’m wagering it was a restraint.

January 3, 1842 Fullington allowed the following fees:

  • Jessie Lyndsey in jail 36 days and turn key $17.50
  • Ruth Collins ditto and turn keys $19.75
  • Ditto Zachariah Hicks 7 days and 2 turn keys $3.62/5

April 4, 1842 – Fullington allowed:

  • Ruth Collins, 2 turnkeys – $1

Ruth seems to have been a frequent flyer.

July 4, 1842 – Fullington allowed:

  • Azariah Watson – ludeness
  • Steven Ouseley – usery
  • Burdren Bussell and Sarah Baltrip – ludeness – 41 days in jail $53.79 and 6 turn keys
  • Jacob Pike and Elizabeth David in jail 9 days $3.57/5 and 8 turn keys 4.00 – acquitted

October 4, 1842 Fullington allowed:

  • 103 days boarding Sarah Nunn in jail @ 2/3 2 turnkeys @3 – $39.62
  • Bartley (or Barthey) Nunn in jail 60 days at 2/3 and 2 turn key @3 – $23.50
  • Veyena (or Verena) Nunn 67 days at 2/3 2 turn key at $3 – $26.12/5

This tells us that Fullington is allowed 50 cents per turnkey.

I sure wish they had recorded their crimes.

Why was John in Jail for 180+ days?

I wish I knew.

Most of the cases, above, don’t have a corresponding trial record, nor do we have a crime listed with Fullington’s report. The very best I can do is to note that during this timeframe, there are only two crimes found.

Usery, which is an illegal form of lending. John clearly wasn’t doing that.

The only other specific crime is lewdness which, as I understand it, requires two people.

It’s unlikely, especially given that John was married, that he was engaged in lewdness with a woman not his wife. Furthermore, there is no corresponding female being prosecuted.

If couples married in a situation where the female became pregnant, it doesn’t appear that they were prosecuted for lewdness.

These court notes are more concerned with running the county – in other words, paying the jailer. I have to wonder if there is another set of court records someplace, then or now, that we’re missing.

Which Doggone John?

Do we have ANY clues at all as to which John might have been in jail?

It’s possible.

Let’s look at their history. John R. Estes was older, 55 years of age, and had never, to the best of my knowledge, been in trouble before.

John Y. Estes was young and his life seems to have been somewhat troubled.

Unlike other young men, John never bought land.

In the 1860s, John volunteered for the Confederacy. It’s unclear how he wound up in the hands of the north, but he did after being reported as a deserter.

Most of the soldiers from Claiborne County fought for the North, but John didn’t. This would likely have driven a wedge between John and his wife’s family along with neighbors. Having said that, this region was clearly split over allegiances.

After his release from the Northern prison camp, John walked from Illinois back to Tennessee, only to subsequently deed all of his property to his son, Lazarus, only 17 years old and living at home with his parents. Given John’s absence, it’s quite likely that Lazarus has been shouldering the brunt of the work. John did not own land, but deeded his sheep, horse, hogs, cow, etc. to his son.

What happened next isn’t quite clear, because in 1870, John is still living with his wife and they have another baby, and another would be born 1871.

In 1879, John Y. Estes signed a deed granting two men access to create a road across his land to access the land they had just purchased from Lazarus Estes, John Y.’s son. This is the first hint that John owned land, and there are no deeds to back that up.

However, in 1880, Rutha is living with her 5 children and is noted as divorced in the census. John has walked to Texas on a bum leg, is boarding with someone, and lives the rest of his life there, dying in 1895.

John’s life seemed troubled beginning in 1842. That’s sad because it includes his entire married life to Rutha Dodson. She became disabled with arthritis the last 22 years of her life, dating to about the time John Estes left for Texas.

We find potential hints about this situation with John in the court notes having to do with the settlement of Charles Campbell’s estate relative to the Dodson children.

On July 5, 1841, Wiley Huffaker made settlement with the heirs of Lazarus Dodson and reported to the court. Generally, settlement was made once a year until the child was no longer a minor, or all of the minor children were of age.

However, the next year, we find something different.

July 6, 1842 – “That Wiley Huffaker have until next term to make settlement as guardian.”

August 1, 1842 – “Ordered that Wiley Huffaker guardian to the minor heirs of Lazarus Dodson have until the next turn of this court to make settlement as guardian.”

Was this because John Y. Estes, as Rutha’s husband was legally the recipient of her portion and was in jail?

September 5, 1842 – “For satisfactory reasons appearing it is ordered by the court that Wiley Huffaker guardian to the minor heirs of Elizabeth Dodson decd have the further time until the next term of this court to make settlement as guardian aforesaid.”

Note that John Y. Estes signed the receipt that he received a portion of his wife’s inheritance on this same day, September 5th, stating additionally that he was paid for the land rent for 1841, along with how much was outstanding.

October 3, 1842 – “A second settlement made by the clerk of this court with William Fugate one of the administrators of the estate of John Campbell decd which was examined by the court and ordered to be filed and recorded.”

October 4, 1842 – “This day came on the settlement of Wiley Huffaker guardian to the minor heirs of Elizabeth Dodson decd which settlement was by the court examined and ordered to be filed and recorded.”

The actual detail of the filing is recorded in the Probate book, but does not add any previously unknown information.

If John Y. Estes was the John in jail in 1842, he would have still been incarcerated in July, or Fullington would have submitted his receipt for payment at that time.

We know that John was out by September 5, 1842. If he was in jail for 94 days, twice, and got out the first part of September, he would have gone to jail the last part of February or the first part of March.

He was roughly in jail from either January through June, or from March through August, or sometime in-between those dates.

John and Rutha were married on March 1, 1841. If Rutha got pregnant immediately, their first child would have been born in the end of November. If she got pregnant shortly after their marriage, their first child could have been born while John was in jail.

Rutha was likely pregnant before the end of 1841, so gave birth to the child while John was in the clink. Regardless, this would have left a wife and newborn child during planting season in unknown and precarious circumstances.

That child did not survive to the 1850 census, so could have died at birth or maybe shortly thereafter.

Not a good way to start a marriage. No wonder the marriage eventually ended in what she noted as divorce on the census – although no divorce records exist.

John volunteered for the Civil War as well, probably in August of 1862, leaving Rutha to farm and raise their children for 3 long years. Given what appeared to be an icy reception upon his return by signing his worldly goods over to his son, they appeared to have a rocky relationship. The ice apparently thawed for a least some time, because the next child was born in February 1867.

Perhaps tied into that somehow was that Rutha started life with a bonus, meaning her inheritance from her grandfather. Yet, they didn’t own land on any census. At that time, men made those types of decisions and woman had little if any input. Where did that money go, and why?

Sadly, they never seemed to be happy, as best I can tell from what I can see peering through a keyhole from a distance of 150+ years.

Of course, after all of this tying the breadcrumbs together, I could still be quite wrong about which John was in jail. I only have a combination of coincidence, this circumstantial evidence and speculation.

It’s unlikely that I will ever unravel this knot. The only thing I know for sure is that John Estes was, indeed, in jail, probably for more than 6 months, and the only two John Esteses in Claiborne County at that time were both my ancestors.

If only those jailhouse walls could talk.

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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.

Kokomo Mom me.jpg

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.

Kokomo 1868 train tracks.png

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.

Kokomo 1868 Pioneer Cemetery.png

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.

Kokomo chief statue me mom.jpg

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.

Kokomo Chief statue today.jpg

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.

Kokomo pioneer cemetery 2.jpg

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.

Kokomo pioneer cemetery marker.jpg

Apperson Way

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

Kokomo Apperson Way.png

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.

Kokomo Apperson map.png

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.

Kokomo Dad David Ellen.jpg

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

me and dad crop.jpg

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.

Kokomo Crume grandkids.jpg

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

Kokomo house Taylor and Webster.jpg

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.

Kokomo me skating.jpg

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

Kokomo me skates.jpg

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.

Kokomo me dolls.jpg

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

Kokomo me doll.jpg

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.

Kokomo me carriage.jpg

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

Kokomo Crume house.jpg

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.

Kokomo me mom camping on couch.jpg

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.

Kokomo me mom matching dresses.jpg

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!

Kokomo me Christmas tree.jpg

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.

Kokomo me Christmas morning.jpg

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.

Kokomo Lincoln School map.png

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.

Kokomo house on corner.jpg

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

Kokomo house on corner 2.jpg

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.

Kokomo old folks' home.jpg

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.

Kokomo Sycamore map.png

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.

Kokomo house on Sycamore.jpg

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.

Kokomo 1868 Sycamore.png

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.

Kokomo 1877 Sycamore.png

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.

Kokomo Sycamore side.jpg

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.

Kokomo Sycamore garage.jpg

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.

Kokomo Sycamore house back.jpg

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.

Kokomo Sycamore side 2.jpg

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.

Kokomo Sycamore side 3.jpg

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

Kokomo Sycamore 530.jpg

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.

Kokomo Sycamore from across street.jpg

Across the street. Saying goodbye. Forever this time.

The Sieberling Mansion

Kokomo Sieberling map.png

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.

Kokomo Lincoln School today.jpg

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.

Kokomo Marianne.jpg

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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My Dad used to take me fishing along the dam.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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It was here that graduation took place.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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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!!!

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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?

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

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

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Manetoowa, honoring the spirit of the Native Miami people.

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

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This is amazing!

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

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Even the “fence” by the street is incredible!

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I bet that’s Kokomo Opalescent Glass, too.

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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.

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

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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.

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Today, this is the view.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Kokomo Speedway

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

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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

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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!

Kokomo Ray's drive in.jpg

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.

Kokomo Northwest Park.jpg

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.”

Kokomo North-N-Tavern.jpg

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.

Kokomo Mid States.jpg

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.

Kokomo Opalescent bottom of ashtray.jpg

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.

Kokomo Highland picnic tables.jpg

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.

Kokomo picnic tables curved.png

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.)