“We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name.” ~ Maya Angelou
Sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s I stopped by to visit my paternal grandmother, Erma, and she took me down into her basement saying that she had something that she wanted to give to me. I must have been around 21, because I didn’t have a car or my license to drive until then because I either walked everywhere that I wanted to go or hopped on a city bus during inclement weather. I was surprised and touched when she pulled out some old quilt tops that she had made and asked me if I wanted them because I was the only granddaughter that she knew of that sewed.
And I did love to sew. I spent time when I was young with the Mary-Martha Fellowship at the Mennonite Church that I went to and with my favorite Sunday School teacher, Martha King, learning stitches and embroidering. My maternal grandmother taught me to basic knitting and crocheting and I remember knitting lots of headbands with variegated yarn. Because I was a kid in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s it was a time when fashions were changing and kids were splitting open the seams of blue jeans and inserting calico material to make bellbottoms. I did this, too, and also did a lot of embroidery on my jeans. At that time, embroidery was my favorite thing to do (besides reading) and I used to take whatever I was working on to church with me and work on it while sitting in the pew during services. And…I majored in Home Economics in high school along with music, art, and English – all those things that absolutely would not help me to get a job later in life. But I certainly can entertain myself!
I believe that my grandmother told me that she had made those quilt tops during The Depression but had never gotten around to actually finishing them up. So she wanted me to have them because she didn’t think that she ever would. So I stored them away in tissue paper to keep them safe and have hauled them around with me wherever I have lived. In the small town where I raised my children, there was a house over on the next block that, for whatever reason, was selling off the contents of the house in yard sales for several weeks. Because it was a small town, we could walk most everywhere that we wanted to go and walked by this house often. One day my daughter and I were walking by and noticed that there was one lone item standing in the front yard that had a sign on it that said “FREE” and then I noticed that it was an old, handmade quilting frame. Yes! Perfect! My daughter and I picked it up and carried it down the alley.
A couple of years ago, I got the quilt tops out and made some minor repairs where the thread had come loose from dry rot and then packed them away again. Soon, though, as soon as time permits, I will start to work on them since I have the space to spread out and get busy. I cherish these quilt tops as being a part of the family that has been entrusted to me and I’ll give one to each of my children as I finish them up.
One of the reasons why I adore these quilt tops is because they showed me a different side of my dad’s mother. I never suspected that she sewed. It seemed at the time like a small bond between us. My two grandmothers lived for a time right across the alley from each other, which is, of course, how my parents met. When I was in 2nd grade, my maternal grandmother went to live with her cousin and we moved into Grandma’s house, so for a while, we lived right behind my dad’s mom and my dad’s sister lived a couple of houses away. Two of my cousins and an aunt lived with Grandma, two more cousins lived nearby, and we were mostly pretty close to the same age. My grandmother’s house had a parlor-ish front room with covers on the furniture that we, as kids, were not allowed to enter. What I remember the most about my grandmother at this time was that she had housework duties scheduled. Although I don’t really recall what that schedule was, I’m pretty sure that she did laundry on Monday (sometimes we got to help sprinkle the clothes, roll them up, put them in a plastic bag and into the refrigerator), because Tuesday was ironing day.
She had a big metal glider on her front porch and petunias in flower boxes on the banister. In her back yard was a big bed of peonies that we kids were supposed to stay away from. That was something that we always kept in mind while playing games of “Mother May I”, “Witch in the Well”, “Colored Eggs”, “Red Light – Green Light”, and “Freeze Tag”. The fence surrounding the backyard was bordered with marigolds and zinnias (with which my Aunt Dorothy taught me how to save seeds) and there were irises surrounding the house (with which Aunt Dorothy taught me how to divide). Also in the backyard was a huge cherry tree with sour cherries that were not so good for eating, but great (I hear) for making pies. Just outside her fenced in backyard was a handful of apple trees that produced very sour green apples (Which I didn’t like, but some of the neighborhood kids did.)
I’ve not been able to find much of a paper trail for this grandmother, but there are some things that I do know through various documents. Erma R. Minnie Pittman was born 06 August 1907 in Flushing, Belmont County, Ohio to Jeremiah Mason Pittman and Sarah “Lena” Pool. She was the seventh of eight daughters and also had two younger brothers. So far, I have not found any actual birth document for her, but I have with her siblings.
Those siblings were:
Lottie Esther, born 11 October 1893, married William Dennis Gatten
Francis Estelle, born 10 February 1898, married James “Matthew” Brandon
Esther Mae, born 29 September 1899, married Carl Victor Medley
Eva Louella, born 24 October 1901, married John Orville Piatt
Lillie Van Vesse, born 05 January 1904, married Raymond Clarence McWilliams
Elma Jane, born 21 April 1906
Celesta Ann, born 21 November 1910, married Walter S. Burkhart
Raymond Mancel, born 12 June 1913, married Esther Ickes
Thurmond “George”, married Dorothy B. Unknown
In the 1930 census, we find Erma living with her husband Lloyd Albert Schrader in North Industry in Canton Township, Stark County, Ohio along with his two young sons from a former marriage, Junior and Wayne, and their infant son.
In 1940, the family is living in Plain Township, Stark County with their growing family, which now includes my father, George. Lloyd and Erma would have nine children, one of whom died as an infant. The youngest, Melvin, passed away a couple of years ago, otherwise, all of my paternal aunts and uncles are living today (with the exception of my dad’s two half brothers from Lloyd’s first marriage who have also passed away). In January of 1943, Lloyd would die leaving Erma with a house full of young children. Erma passed away 25 May 1994 and is buried at Sunset Hills Burial Park, the same cemetery as my maternal grandmother, Elsie, in essence, making them neighbors one final time.
This is my Week #24 post for Amy Johnson Crow’s
52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge.
The optional theme for week 24 was “Heirloom”.
In preparation for this post, I exported a Marriage Report from my Family Treemaker software into an Excel spreadsheet so that I could do some sorting. Initially, my plan was to figure out what month most of the marriages of my ancestors took place in. (I, also, realized at this time just how many I didn’t have.) Would it be June, the traditional wedding month? Would it be October? But then, I happened upon two marriages that took place on the same day, in the same county, within the same family – but different officiants. This information was just begging for a closer inspection…
On Thursday, 13 May 1847, while the Mexican-American War raged on against Santa Anna, a sister and a brother were being newly wed. Levi Wycuff, ninth born child of Cornelius Wycoff and Leah Critzer (and third-born son) was marrying Mary Earl and Eliza Wikoff, seventh born child (and Cornelius and Leah’s fifth daughter), was marrying David Donaldson.
David Donaldson, the son of the Rev. John Donaldson and Mildred Goodwillie, was born 05 January 1823 in Harrison County, Ohio. Eliza was born 06 June 1820. I think that it’s pretty safe to assume that since David’s father was a minister attached at one time to the Scroggsville United Presbyterian Church, that this is the reason that David and Eliza were married in this particular church. The minister who performed the ceremony was James Patterson, who followed John Donaldson as minister of the church.
The Scroggsville United Presbyterian Church is celebrating their 197th Anniversary this month (August 2015). The church, to this day, still holds weekly services. The Reverend John Donaldson was associated with at least three Presbyterian churches in Ohio.
Approximately 10 years after David and Eliza married, they made the move to Washington County, Iowa where they would settle for the remainder of their lives. David and Eliza Wycoff Donaldson both died in Washington County, Iowa. David on 11 September 1909 and Eliza on 24 January 1924. They are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Washington County.
“DONALDSON, DAVID, farmer; Sec. 36; P. O. Washington; among the pioneers of this township “is the subject of this sketch, a native of Harrison county, Ohio; was born January 5, 1823, but was raised in Carroll county, that State, on a farm, and has always followed farming as an occupation; he came to this county as early as the fall of 1853, and entered land and returned to Ohio that same fall, and in 1857 came out and located on his present homestead, which now consists of 180 acres; he is justice of the peace, and has held various other offices of trust; he was married in Ohio, November 24, 1846, to Miss Louisa Wycoff; by this union they have a family of three sons and one daughter living: John A., David O, William H., and Catharine Mildred, and two deceased : Isaac, and Martha L.”
The particulars of Levi Wycuff and Mary Earl have been a bit more difficult to bring to light. My theory for this is that some families were more social than others (throughout history, of course) and that the ones that were more “sociable” would be the very ones that we find out the most information about. The quiet folks (introverts) with a small circle of friends and family are probably the ones that have just faded away into history.
Levi and Mary were married in a civil ceremony by a Justice of the Peace in Fox Township, Carroll County, Ohio, B. Boice (Boyce.) In the United States, there is no distinction made between church marriages and civil ceremonies. Both religious and civil forms of marriage carry equal weight according to the law.
Levi was born 22 November 1825 in Jefferson County, Ohio, one of the 12 children that were born to Cornelius and Leah. Mary was born 22 December 1825 in Carroll County, Ohio, the daughter of William Earl and Catherine Withrow.
Levi and Mary were married for more than forty years and had seven children:
Jane “Jennie”, born 29 March 1848, married Simon E. Paisley [*my line] and Henry C. Fried (Freed).
Leah Catherine, born 29 October 1849, married William M. Beadnell.
James Pierce, born 29 April 1852, married Minnie E. Harmon.
William “Henry”, born 4 June 1856, married Janet “Jane” Brown.
Samuel “David”, born 20 December 1858, married Bridget Hanley.
Cornelius Atwood, born 9 June 1861, never married, died young.
Thomas Ellsworth, born 8 March 1864, married Thaisa Hess.
In 1850, we find the couple living in Washington Township in Carroll County, Ohio with their two young daughters. Levi’s occupation is listed as being a farmer. I have yet to find Levi and Mary in the 1860 census even though I am like 99.8% sure that they should be in Carroll County, Ohio. I can’t even imagine why I can’t find them even using “creative” spellings of Wyckoff (or as Levi’s family writes it, “Wycuff”.) Even after attempting to go through the county page by page and line by line, I am coming up empty. All of their children from Jennie through Thomas have claimed on various documents that they were born in Carroll County, Ohio and the births of those children would cover from 1848 through 1864.
The one thing in particular that I found disturbing while trolling through those pages was the high incidence of “unoccupied” written on a line instead of a family name. Seriously. There are a bunch. In all of my years of scouring census data, I have never run across so many homes listed as unoccupied. I seemed to find the highest incidence in Fox Township. I scrolled up and looked to see who the enumerator was (or the Assistant Marshall, as it’s called there) and the name is D.H. Tolan. The only likely candidate that I found was a 25-year-old David H. Tolan living in Carrollton whose occupation is listed as “Printer” living in the household of his father, the Post Master. Seems like an intelligent enough person (with very legible handwriting), so were there really that many unoccupied homes in 1860? (I get so very side-tracked in my researching…)
The next thing that I did was to look up the historical population for Carroll County. From 1840 to 1850, the county saw a decrease in population of -2.3%. From 1850 to 1860, the population decreased by another -11.00%. And from 1860 to 1870, the population decreased by another -7.9%. Carroll County was (and still very much is) a rural farming community. Were people moving west as territories opened up for homesteading? Or were they just giving up farming and going to work in the coal mines?
In Levi’s case, it appears that he gave up farming to move to the Salineville area to work in the coal mines, because that’s where we find him and his family in the 1870 and 1880 censuses.
Levi died 22 June 1888 and Mary followed him on 25 November 1894. They are both buried in West Grove Cemetery in Jefferson County, Ohio.
As much as people think that marriage has changed in these times, it hasn’t really changed so much at all. There have always been civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies throughout the different countries and throughout the ages. It is essentially a contract between two people. Around the time of these two marriages, the mid-19th century in America, marriage was beginning to change in the fact that people were starting to marry for love, and not just out of necessity to run a household. Without any kind of record of how the day progressed for these two couple, I wonder about what that day was really like. Were these couples in love? Or did the union just seem like a good deal as they were moving into adulthood? I imagine that both women wore their best dresses (that in all probability were not white). Were those dresses black, blue, or red? Did all of the families involved – the Donaldsons, the Wyckoffs, and the Earls- meet at a central place to celebrate later in the day? Was it a nice relaxing evening in mid-May where the families took a break from the toil of farming to celebrate all together? So many questions…
I’m not supposing that I’ll ever know, but it is something to think about while trying to imagine the lives of our ancestors.
This is my Week #23 post for Amy Johnson Crow’s
52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge.
The optional theme for week 23 was “Wedding”.
Civil Wedding, Albert Anker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
History of Washington County, Iowa: From the First White Settlements to 1908. Also Biographical Sketches of Some Prominent Citizens of the County, Volume 1Howard A. Burrell January 1, 1909, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
The History of Washington County, Iowa: Its Cities, Towns, and C., a Biographical Directory of Its Citizens ….m, January 1, 1880, Union Historical Company
Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington County, Iowa: Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with Portraits and Biographies of All the Governors of Iowa, and of the Presidents of the United States, Brookhaven Press January 1, 1887, Brookhaven Press
By Roseohioresident (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
History of the Upper Ohio Valley, with Family History and Biographical Sketches: History of Jefferson co., O., by J. H. S. And w. M. rainer. Brant & Fuller, 1890 – Belmont County (Ohio)
History of Washington County, Iowa: From the First White …, Volume 1; By Howard A. Burrell.
The History of Washington County, Iowa: Its Cities, Towns, and C., a Biographical Directory of Its Citizens …. January 1, 1880, Union Historical Company.
History of Carroll and Harrison Counties, Ohio, Volume 2 By Harvey J. Eckley, William Thomas Perry.
By R H Lee, County Engineer, Carrollton, Ohio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Tombstone Tuesday is a GeneaBloggers Prompt