Odelle’s Retirement

My Aunt Carol passed away this year, and while her memory is still too fresh to write her story, I wanted to share another.  My cousin Leigh knowing that I am the family historian, sent me some pictures and things.  I quickly scanned in the pictures trying to ascertain who was who before I forgot.  But in the midst of the pictures was a copy of the Lynchburg GE News, dated 30 March 1979. 

This newsletter had a short story about the retirement of my grandmother from General Electric. I do not recall seeing this before.  But the thing I noticed right away is the General Electric Logo that has been apart of my family for decades.  This took me straight back to my childhood.  Dad would come home with some GE promotional gifts from time to time.  I still have the small screw drivers that my father gave to me.  I know I have the small pair of scissors and other items.  Okay, I have digressed.

Virginia Odelle Moss Sublett was my grandmother.  She worked in many different places before finding General Electric.  I want you to see the article for yourselves so you can see the type set, the logo the quotes.  She always had a great smile. She was 62 years old when she retired.  I had no idea she had worked for GE for nearly 20 years.  I knew she worked in the copy room.  But she actually worked in reprographics as a distribution clerk.  Reprography is the reproduction of graphic materials.  Architectural and engineering graphics and construction are all industries that utilize reprography (Wikipedia).  So, yes, it was copying but not in the same way I had imagined.

I like this newsletter because she shared her goals in retirement including baseball and visiting her children and grandchildren.  As I get older myself, I find myself wondering what my retirement will look like.  I hope to do more genealogy, maybe even as a profession for others.  I would like to travel more.

You can read more about her here: https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/never-give-up-on-learning/

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

A Peculiar Accident

John CG Stevens

You have heard the stories, a man comes home from war to die in a peculiar accident at home.  Now that I have your attention, I have one of those for you today.  It didn’t happen for 48 years later, but it did happen. 

John Cylvanus Gibson Stevens “JCG,” was my first cousin 4x removed.  That sounds pretty far removed at first.  But, you have to go back to the time period in which he lived to understand that is closer than it appears.  Several ancestors’ families lived in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  Later, when the first post office was established in 1867, it would be called Sandy Cross. 

According to an article regarding Georgia Place Names, Sandy Cross was “so named on account of the white sandy soil found here, and because several roads crossed here, going in the four directions of the compass (Krakow, 1975, p. 198).”

My ancestors lived and farmed here and established businesses here.  As a result they also grew up with each other, went to war from here, married here. 


John Cylvanus Gibson Stevens was born 12 January 1840 to Jasper Henry Stevens and Mahala Smith in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  He was the 2nd of five children born to them.  It is safe to assume that he stayed relatively close to home until he went off to war.  In the 1850 US Census, he was listed as having attended school as was his older sister Susan.  His father was listed as owning 1000 in real estate. 

By the 1860 Census, he was listed as living with his parents and working on the family farm. He was 20 years old.  His father’s estate had grown as well.  He had $2,500 in real estate and his personal estate was valued at $4,500.

Two years later he would join the Confederacy.

Civil War 1862

Over the years of writing my blog, I have learned that Whitehead and Stevens cousins served alongside each other in the War Between the States.  For example, JCG’s his first cousin Columbus Augustus served alongside him.  George Wiley Whitehead, neighbor at the time also served alongside JCG.  George Wiley Whitehead’s son, Walter Everett Whitehead, would eventually marry a Stevens, Luna Mae, whereby linking these two families together in both business and family. Interestingly, JCG’s father joined the Rebellion much earlier, 1861.  He was ultimately wounded in action and sent home in July 1864 (Stevens, 1973).

JCG enlisted on 4 March 1862 as a Private in the Echols Light Artillery.  Three days after Echols Artillery was organized. 

According to his Muster Roll for July and August 1863, he was absent due to being sick.  They indicated that he was at his home since 1 August, 1863.  Not all Muster Rolls were found.  The last one for JCG indicated he was Absent without Leave as of 10 December 1864.  I do not know the reason for his absence.  Desertions increased during the final months of the war. 

Historians have argued over the proper way to interpret the act of desertion –whether it should be regarded as a protest against the state or a reaction to the specific and immediate problems that soldiers faced (such as inadequate rations, excessively strict officers, etc.)(Sheehan-Dean, 2015).

My family is lucky to have some first-hand accounts that have been preserved in writing over the years about how really bad it was for the Confederates at the end.  In the book, This They Remembered, the author writes about four different Confederate Companies from Oglethorpe County that went to war.  At one point the author writes:

In the short space of six months the company had been transformed from the finest and most robust body in the service to a company of weak and sallow invalids.

(Johnson, 1986, p 122)

The Echols Artillery at this time had been reduced to forty-three men, rank and file, all being in feeble health from the effects of two years’ service in Florida.

(Johnson, 1986, p.125)

After the War

JCG married his wife, Susan Pinkey Graham on 13 February 1868 (Family Search, Georgia Marriages).  In the 1870 US Census JCG and Susan were living in Oglethorpe County (Post Office: Maxeys) and Susan had just had their first child, Alex.  He is listed as a farmer.  Remember, this was in the middle of Reconstruction. 

In the 1880 US Census, JCG and his wife were still living in Oglethorpe County.  Alex is no longer listed on the census (it is presumed he died in 1871, I am still looking for confirmation).  Children: Blanche (6), William (4) and John L (1).

By 1885, he and his cousins, Columbus Augustus Stevens (C.A.), and Joseph Reese Stevens (J.R.) owned a store, mill and cotton gin in the village of Sandy Cross.  The first name of the firm was called Stevens and Company (Stevens, 1973).  The firm grew in prosperity and also in the number of firm members including more family members. 

Of course, we do not have the infamous 1890 US Census as it was destroyed by fire in the 1920’s. 

In the 1900 US Census, JCG and his wife Susan are living in Oglethorpe County (Grove Creek District).  He is now listed as a merchant and living in a house and not a farm.  Their five youngest are still living there.  Willie (24), working as a general salesman (this is likely the family business).  Twins girls, Essie (19) and Bessie (19) are living at home.  Ernest (17) and Pearl (12), are listed as still attending school.  In this census, we learn that Susan had 11 children born, but only seven are still living. 

According to the Steven’s book, JCG sold his interest in the store properties and land to Walter M. Martin, the brother of another firm member in 1908 (Stevens, 1973).  He was 68 years old.  

In the 1910 Census, JCG and his wife Susan are now 70 and 64 years of age respectfully.  The only children that remain in the home is Essie (28) and Pearl (22).  JCG now lists his occupation as Farmer, owning his own farm.  The census also tells us that he owns his property free and clear. 

Now his peculiar accident.

My cousin Charlie, whom I have gone exploring backwards with and has the same genealogy virus that I do, sent me an article the other day that he found while search microfilm at the University of Georgia.  In the article we learn that JCG and his wife had been to Comer, Georgia and was on his return home when the engine of the car stopped.  JCG got out of the car to hand-crank the vehicle, and it plunged forward and ran over him.  Poor Susan Stevens was still in the car and remained until the car “ran against an embankment”.  Unfortunately, he did not survive his injuries, he was 72 years old. 

I have included a copy of the article and a short video so you can see the position in which he found himself in.

My exploring backwards goal is to create small vignettes and hopefully weave them into a family history book for all of us to enjoy.  But, alas, I am not yet retired, so it has been slow going.  Thank you to all of you that give me the encouragement to keep plodding away.


“Georgia Marriages, 1808-1967”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FW7P-TZH : 11 January 2020), John C.g. Stevens, 1868.

Johnson, Mary N. (1986). This They Remembered: 1861-1865. Washington Publishing Company, Ga: Brentwood University Press.

Krakow, Kenneth K. 1975. Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins found at http://www.kenkrakow.com/gpn/s.pdf

Sheehan-Dean, A. Desertion (Confederate) during the Civil War. (2015, October 27). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Desertion_Confederate_during_the_Civil_War.

Stevens, Claude G. “The Stevens Family, John Stevens Line,” Commercial Printing Company, 1973.

The Oglethorpe Echo, Volume 40, Number 19.  “Mr. John G.C. Stevens is Killed by His Auto” sent to me Charlie Snelling after finding it in the microfilm at the University of Georgia. 

Pandemic of 1918

Ancestry and the Pandemic

As we struggle to adapt to the new normal.  We are often reminded about the Pandemic of 1918.  The experts are trying to look backwards to see what we can learn from the one that struck over a hundred years ago.  As a genealogist it is difficult to not want to research how one’s own ancestors handled the pandemic.

So, I am doing just that.

I decided to see if I could find someone who died near that time and found my second great grandmother Timotheus Jane Bailey Sublett.  After a little further looking I found her death certificate.  It said what I had suspected.  By examining the record, I discovered Timotheus Jane Bailey Sublett died of Bronchial Pneumonia.  The contributing factor was the Spanish Flu.

timotheus jane bailey sublett death certificate

I decided to look further.  Timotheus was one of 111 Deaths attributed to the Spanish Flu in Campbell County Virginia.  Furthermore, she was one of only 7 that list pneumonia as the primary cause of death (Barker, 2002).  Barker’s research noted that Campbell County, had 387 deaths in 1918.  One hundred four were the number of deaths from influenza, and 7 were from pneumonia.  My second great-grandmother died of Bronchial Pneumonia on 9 December 1918, 4 days after her 78th birthday.  Her age doesn’t sound old now, but according to Our World in Data, the average life expectancy plunged in 1918, and was only 47.2 years old.  The year prior was 54 and the year after was 55.3 years.


Barker further explained that Virginia was not immune to this pandemic.

During October 1918 life in the state was disrupted by the pandemic.  Schools, churches, and a variety of public places closed their doors during the epidemic’s peak. Newspaper obituaries were filled with the names of young men and women whose lives had been cut short by influenza. Although the epidemic abated in November, influenza reappeared the following month in a less deadly form (Barker, 2002, p. 8).

Barker further explained that the Influenza first arrived in Virginia in its military installations and camps (Barker, 2002).  It is interesting that the same recommendations were being made then as they are now: avoid public gatherings, avoid crowds, walk instead of taking the streetcar. According to Barker, the ‘Spanish influenza struck the healthiest and most productive members of society” (Barker, 2002, p. 19).

Timotheus likely had a typical life of a young woman growing up in rural Virginia.  She grew up with her parents, Yancey Bailey and Mary Marshall Cobbs on a farm.  At the age of 24, she married George Bland Sublett, before he went off to fight in the Civil War.  Upon his return, they set up house with George’s parents to help with the farm.  Together they raise seven children.  I do not have enough information to assess whether she stayed with her parents while he was off at war or if they set up house prior to his departure.

***As this Coronavirus slashes our plans this year, remember we aren’t the only ones that have lived through a pandemic.

In 1918, my grandfather, Lacy Sublett was a 9-year-old boy attending school.  Schools closed in the fall of 1918 in many Virginia cities.   Lacy was living on a farm in Naruna, Virginia at the time.  I bet he didn’t have time to get bored and went straight to helping on the farm.  I will take the amenities that we have now, like Netflix, air conditioning, and remember to count my blessings.

The Coronavirus hit too close to home for my family and I would like to remind everyone that they call it a pandemic for a reason.  Listen to your health officials, wash your hands and wear a mask.


Until later, I will be exploring backwards.


Barker, Stephanie Forrest, “The impact of the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic on Virginia” (2002). 3. Paper 1169

Our World in Data, retrieved on August 14, 2020 at https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy.


Physical Distancing

April 15, 2020-Journal

Physical Distancing-Political Distancing

Last week one of my favorite singer songwriters, John Prine, died due to complications of Covid-19.  I had been on a video call, well let me be honest, I was on a virtual happy hour, with some friends when I read the news.  I lost it.  I just commenced to crying.  I was crying because this stupid virus took away an American Icon.  I was crying because this virus has taken so many people.  I was crying because this virus was keeping us apart when we needed to be together.

We have endured years of political distancing.  America is ripping at the seams when it comes to our opposing political parties.  Prior to the virus, our nation seemed more divided than ever.   I never like to talk politics because I believe everyone is welcome to their own opinions and I do not like conflict in general.  

But as we look for a silver lining in all of this, could it be that physically distancing has led us to be closer together? Could this dreadful virus bring us together?  Wow.  That would be mind boggling.  Maybe as we unite against this Virus, we will unite against the other things that divide us.


~Ramblings of a novice wordsmith

#stayhome #alonetogether

You are not alone

April 13, 2020

You are not alone.

That mantra could not be more apparent as we ALL face stay at home quarantines across the world in response to this pandemic, Covid-19.  As these are unprecedented times, I wanted to take some time to write down what is going on in my world.

Maybe a future generation will read these ramblings or maybe my family or friends will read this.  Regardless, at the end of the day, I write because I need to.  My brain is not wired that I can remember these long thoughts, or soliloquies in my head for any length of time.  Sometimes they just have to come out.

Generations ago, people wrote in diaries daily, from politicians to generals, to women on the farm to men in the city.  People have been chronicling their life for generations.  So, I am going to try to do it.  I do not think it will be a daily thing, but maybe just a personal record of the world from my window.


Amidst this pandemic, there has been a line in the sand that has been drawn of who is essential and who is not.  Grocery workers, medical personnel, liquor store owners, mail carriers, fast food workers, law enforcement officers are all considered essential.  We could debate some of these, I am sure.  But, the overall goal is to prevent total chaos and disorder, minimize the loss of life and feed the masses.


My world is different than most, while my employer considers me “essential” and I come to work every day, I do not have a medical degree, nor do I have a badge that can protect society.  I am an analyst at my local Sheriff’s Office.  My job is to help detectives find the bad guys.  I could do this from my home but nobody has told me to leave.

While my friends and loved ones who are teachers, accountants, engineers, sales associates and retired individuals have to quarantine 24 hours a day, I quarantine only at night and on the weekends.  This seems surreal to me most days as I talk with friends from all parts of the country.  They tell me that showering has become optional for several days in a row.  They tell me that Irish coffee is there new normal cup of Joe.  They tell me that if they have to teach their children another math lesson using this “new math” they will go bonkers.  They are trying to do their part.  So they binge television, alcohol and food to try to maintain some sanity.


So, a quick catch up for those who may find this article years from now.  During the Pandemic of 2020, the world seemingly came to a halt.  This Virus (Covid-19) apparently started in China, when some people ate some bats that might have been infected.  I am going to let that sink in for a minute.  I am also going to leave the statistics and the overall spread of the virus to the news media that talks incessantly about it daily.  But regardless, the virus spread and the world was ill-equipped to stop it.  First like a lot of American ethnocentric thoughts, it was well it’s “over there.”  So, we might have read about it and were somewhat curious about it, it didn’t start sinking in immediately.  By late February, the virus had spread to several other countries and cruise ships and gathered in our collective consciousness.


In America, it seemed that sports went away first.  There were young collegiate athletes about to start a game when the news of its stoppage came blaring in.  As an avid sports fan, no matter the sport, this one was the most intrusive.  No longer could I lounge away my weekends or evenings listening to the crack of a baseball bat.  March Madness 2020 did not happen.  Then this weekend, the Masters 2020 did not happen as scheduled.  There are plans for it to occur later in the year, but the azaleas won’t be in bloom.  I know the concept of sports being so important is a trivial matter for some.  But, I feel it is a core element of who I am.  You see, my family played sports.  I remember many of summer nights going to the Middleburg Heights City Parks to watch my father play softball in a league.  My siblings and I were in our own leagues whether it was softball or baseball.  We rode our bicycles to St. Bartholomew Church to watch my older brother play football.  Both parents played tennis and golf.  Both parents bowled when we were younger.  As we got older we were on high school teams.  If I wasn’t playing a game, I was usually at a sibling’s game or meet or match.  Then we watched games together on TV.  I could discuss the tandem of my family and sports for a while, suffice it to say, they are intertwined.  Don’t get me started on my nieces and nephews playing sports.


Panic struck across the world and people did what they could to protect themselves from a least one problem, toilet tissue.  Yes, toilet tissue.  When future generations look back they will see that toilet tissue was the first thing to leave grocery store shelves.  While this seems insane on one level because the virus doesn’t seem to include diarrhea as the top 10 symptoms.  I have since learned that we have an innate need to keep our living condition in some semblance of order, and if we find comfort in toilet tissue, we do this…because we can.  I also learned thanks to CBS Sunday Morning that we had the same issue during the oil shortage of the 1970’s.  We want to feel a teeny tiny bit in control of anything, so we hoard, we stock pile.


There has been a pandemic before and likely a pandemic to follow.  My hopes for the next pandemic.  First, I hope I am not around for the next one.  Second, I hope we can learn from this one.  While living in the age of the internet, we can choose to focus on the good things.  There are a group of people that are offering their recreational vehicles to health care workers so they may have a place to rest and not risk infecting their family.  You can read about that here:  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-facebook-group-volunteers-loan-rvs-for-mds-health-care-workers-front-lines-covid-19/

There are bourbon distillers that have stopped making bourbon to help people by temporary making hand sanitizer.  You can read about it here:  https://abc13.com/whitmeyer’s-distilling-hand-sanitizer-brothers-texas-children’s-hospital-donation/6085582/

There are designers using their resources to make fabric masks so that they can save the medical grade masks for the virus.  You can read about it here:  https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28993157/kiya-tomlin-wife-steelers-coach-making-masks-hospitals

Facebook has a new group, View From My Window, as of this writing there are over 709,000 members since April.  It is only April 13, 2020.  The premise of the group is to create a connection amongst us all while we go through these difficult times.

You can see that everyone is somewhat the same boat, some have a better or worse view of the world from where they sit.  Some of the pictures are beyond breath taking, some are sad but it reinforces that everywhere in the world is facing the virus.  My favorite is of a guide in Botswana, who posted his view of a herd of elephants outside his dwelling.

If you want to see true beauty check it out.  Here is an article about it: https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/people-across-the-world-are-sharing-view-from-my-window-as-they-stay-indoor-during-coronavirus-lockdown-2560857.html


So, yes, the pandemic of 2020 is keeping people apart.  But, in doing so, we are also bringing people together.


Ramblings of a novice wordsmith.


#stayhome #alonetogether


Happy New Year 2020!

I have had hard time getting back to this blog.  Somethings just seem to always get in the way.  I bought a computer a couple years ago, and well, I think it was a lemon.  Our internet was slow, and I genuinely lack the desire to go into my office and deal with both of those things.  My lovely spouse recognized this and ended up buying me a faster better computer.  So here I am.  A couple of updates from me first.

  1. I met a new cousin online. Heinrich is a cousin that lives in Muenster Germany.  We connected over Geni.com.  It is always exciting to meet new cousins while doing genealogy.
  2. I am going to take an online class from Boston University in Genealogy. This will further my knowledge basis in the fundamentals of doing genealogy research.  A future goal would be to possibly merge my passions of genealogy and the law to help solve cold cases with DNA and other genealogy tools.


So, this is not a normal blog post but in order to get it to meet the loose requirements of exploring backwards I thought I would share how distant cousins can still have an impact in our genealogy research.

Heinrich and I were trying to find out how we were related and at what point.  Well it turns out that Heinrich is my 2nd great-nephew of wife of 3rd great-uncle.  Is your mind blown, mine was?  So technically we are not blood relatives.  But, his German upbringing has brought insight into my German sides history.  We connect at Daniel Kersten (1792-1865), who is my third time great grandfather.  Daniel and his wife, Margaretha Gierten had five children.  Mathias Kersten (1843-1905) is my 2nd great-grandfather.

Wilhelm Kersten (1858-1925) is Heinrich’s connection.  Wilhelm was 15 years younger than his older brother Mathias.  I have included the connection so you can see for yourselves.

Relationship between Heinrich Skutta & Krista Anne Whitehead_

Wilhelm married Gertrud Backes after arriving in Chicago, Illinois.  According to Cousin Heinrich, there is a bit of drama into this relationship.  Heinrich stated that Gertrud’s father, Mathias Backes was not happy with the courtship of Gertrud and Wilhelm.  I am going to quote Heinrich because it is a very interesting story.


Before I now come to talk about the Kersten family, I have to introduce the father of Gertrud Backes, Matthias Backes (born 14.03.1828 in Eimerscheid, died 17.03.1911 in Manderfeld).

The male ancestors of Matthias Backes had married into the farm with the house name Backes in the village of Oberlascheid, where they had stored their previous family name Köllers and adopted the house name Backes.

The word “Backes” is in the dialect of the German language the name for Backhaus. A baking house is a smaller building for all the villagers so that the families in the village could bake their bread and other things.

The village Oberlascheid lies about 8 kilometers south of Manderfeld in the German federal state Rhineland-Palatinate, in the district Bitburg-Prüm and belongs today to the association municipality Prüm.


Matthias Backes had presumably come by money lending to a not small fortune and then married on 22.04.1857 in Manderfeld Mrs. Anna Maria Kläsges (born on 12.06.1837 in Manderfeld, died on 12.12.1870 in Manderfeld).

Matthias Backes is called the “Alte Backes” (awesome) among his descendants because he turned 85, made the Backes family in Manderfeld the leading family and was very innovative for his farm in Manderfeld and for the village of Manderfeld as a whole.

If you drive through Manderfeld and Oberlascheid today, you can clearly see the difference in prosperity.


Now to Gertrud Backes (born on 01.07.1867 in Manderfeld, died on 27.11.1920 in Manderfeld): She is the 4th child of the married couple Matthias and Anna Maria Backes.

Gertrud Backes was baptized on 02.0.1867 in the parish church Sankt Lambertus Roman Catholic and her godparents were Nikolaus Theissen from Manderfeld and Gertrud Köllers from Lascheid.

The 3rd child of the married couple Matthias and Anna Maria Backes also had the first name Gertrud, she was born on 24.08.1865 in Manderfeld and died on 20.05.1866 in Manderfeld.

The 2nd child of the married couple Matthias and Anna Maria Backes was Nikolaus Backes (born on 09.07.1861 in Manderfeld, died on 06.05.1894 in Manderfeld). Nikolaus Backes is my great-grandfather.

5th and 6th children of the married couple Matthias and Anna Maria Backes were the twins Anton and Margaretha. They were born on 04.12.1870 in Manderfeld. Anton died already on 02.02.1871 in Manderfeld.


Her great-great-great-aunt Gertrud Backes then married Mr. Wilhelm Kersten on 04.08.1885 in Chicago (born on 07.05.1858 in Manderfeld, died on 19.10.1925 in Malmedy).

A substantial reason that both have moved to Chicago was that Matthias Backes as father of Gertrud Backes did not agree with this desired marriage, because the Kersten family or Wilhelm Kersten was clearly less wealthy than he himself.

This marriage did not achieve his goal of further increasing the family’s wealth through wealthy spouses.

According to the stories in our family, Gertrud Backes had her compulsory inheritance paid out and went to Chicago with Wilhelm Kersten.

Thanks Cousin Heinrich!


Now how is that for drama.  I have some documents that can support this.  Three children were born to Gertrud and Wilhelm, Mathias Nicholas (1886-1886), Helena Wilhelmia (1887-I do not know her date of death) and Josef Wilhelm *1889-1923).

[My newfound cousin was nice enough to translate a will I discovered.  Unfortunately, I do not know the source of its existence.  I will have to do more research there.  I will include that in a future post because it combines a couple of things that need exploring.]


One additional speculation as to why Gertrude’s father did not agree to this marriage could have been the nine-year age difference between the two.  According to the index of their marriage that I found, Wilhelm was listed as 27 and Gertrude was just 18 years old.

wilhelmkersten_gertrudebackes_cook county marriage index

It also could have been that they might have been pregnant before the nuptials.  Their first child Mathias Nicolas Kersten was born 16 Mar 1886, approximately 7 months after they got married.  Unfortunately for the newlyweds, Mathias died just 6 weeks later.


Okay, that is all for now.  Thanks for going on this journey backwards with me.  I know there has been some dry spells but I hope to get back at it.  Thanks Cheryl for my fancy laptop!  I love it.

In the meantime, if you are a relative and have some photos or information, please reach out to me so I can add those documents to our family story.


Until later, I will be exploring backwards.







Sunday’s in the Country

My mom and my Aunt Carol were southern city slickers.  They grew up in the city limits of Lynchburg in the 1950’s.  Their parents however were not raised in the same way.  In fact, my grandfather, Lacy Sublett, grew up on a farm in rural Campbell County.  Naruna was and still is just a dot on a map.  A place to get gas on a country road.  A country drive to sing songs and read billboards, like Burma Shave.


Their grandfather John Thomas Sublett was a tobacco farmer.  I have written about him specifically here.  https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/john-thomas-sublett/

My mother recently gave me some old photos.  Several of the images were from the Sunday’s they would spend in the country at their grandparent’s home.  Their cousins would be there also.  I ask my mother and aunt for their memories of going to the country here is some of what they said.



On most Sundays, we went to the country, granny and grandpa Sublett house in Naurna. It had a chicken coop, smoke house for curing hams, not cigarettes, a big wheel to sharpen knives, out house, a water hand pump on the back porch, which we all drank from, same ladle. We read Burma Shave signs on the way down.  We also held our arms out the window, letting the wind blow, and sing. Cars didn’t have any air conditioning.

They also had a clay tennis court, big deal during those days. We would play with these little rubber dolls, about 3-inches tall. We would play under a big tree that had moss under it. Would play for hours. My aunts, uncles, and cousins would be there. The adults would hand churn ice cream. It was delicious.


My mom wrote back: well, I just remember singing ‘Naruna, Naruna, we’re going to Naruna!’  So, that means that we were happy to go. Played with cars under a big tree that had lots of green moss underneath so guess we made roads, etc.  Slopped the hogs.  All the adults sat around in a circle and talked.  They had a cherry tree, I can remember eating so many, and grandpa said they would give me a stomachache but I never had one.  I loved climbing the mimosa tree because the branches were easy to climb and it wasn’t too high from the ground.  Loved stopping by Jack’s Place in Rustburg either going on coming home.  Loved their hot dogs with chili.


My Aunt Carol then wrote that my mother had tried to killer in the cherry tree.  “Betty Lou almost kind me in the cherry tree. My brown sweater got caught on a branch and I was choking and Betty calmly went in and told the adults who came and rescued me.” My mother corrected her stating it was a mimosa tree but Carol still thinks it was the Cherry tree. By the way, my mom never discounted the tale of the attempted murder!  Sisters!

If you find yourself with pictures that you do not want, just send them to me.  I will put them to good use.


Here are some pictures from that time-period.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Until later, I will be exploring backwards!

lacy_sublett_john_thomas_on ground with girls

I love how the men are down on the blankets with the children

adults in chairs on farm

Visiting on a Sunday afternoon

adults in front of jtsublett

Notice how the men and women are in different circles and they used every type of chair imaginable.



A Life Well Lived

Columbus Augustus Stevens

I have written about my second great-grandfather on my paternal side, Columbus Augustus “Gus” Stevens, before.  However, I do not think I went through his biography, until today.  I came across his death certificate and thought you should know about the life he lived for 84 years.

Gus was born on 26 June 1844 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  His parents were Obadiah Stevens and Martha Patsy Watkins.  Gus was born and raised in Oglethorpe County.  His father was a Farmer in Oglethorpe.  When you are trying to research a person in our distant past, we lean on records to help build the frame of the person.  Oftentimes, researches only have the basic census data.  I am lucky enough to have had my ancestors that were our family historians.  These records can help sketch in the details of the character of that person.  I have been fortunate that some records came from the family homes directly.

Here is the story about Gus: Plantar, Veteran, Believer, and Citizen.


Columbus Augustus Stevens was born in rural Georgia (Oglethorpe County) with his three brothers and his parents.  Gus first appears on the 1850 Census.  Gus was 6 years old; he lived with his parents, and his three brothers.  His father was a farmer and had listed $3000 of real estate.  His family was like others in rural Georgia.  The family owned slaves.  According to the 1850 Census, Obadiah had about 15 slaves.

By the 1860 Census, Gus was sixteen.  He lived with his parents and his grandmother, Martha Stevens.  His father, Obadiah, had $5000 in real estate and $20,500 in Personal Estate Value.

South Carolina seceded from the Union on 20 December 1860. The following year, several other states joined, including Gus’s State of Georgia.  On 12 April 1861, the first shots at Fort Sumter indicated the beginning of the War Between the States.  Gus was just 16 years old at the beginning of the War Between the States.

Civil War

Records indicate that Gus enlisted March 1862 at Lexington, Georgia into Echols Artillery.  He was not quite eighteen years old.  He remained a soldier until the surrender in April 1865.  He went to war with his brother William and his cousin, John Cylvanus Gibson Stevens (JCG).  In fact, if you look at this regiments roster, you would see many familial names including Whitehead, Mathews, Faust, etc.

Martha Whitehead (Gus’s granddaughter) wrote short episodes of certain things she remembered or had heard.  We are fortunate enough that she shared them with her family.  She went to live with her Grandfather, Gus, when her mother became bedridden due to a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis.  [Below is an excerpt from her stories.  While this is a true story, it also reflects the time-period and is not politically correct by today standards.]

An Afro-American looks after a confederate soldier by Martha Whitehead Moore:

“As I said, Grandpa was just 18 when he enlisted. Obadiah thought he and Cousin John Stevens (JCG) needed someone to go along with them to look after them. So one of Cuz John’s freed Afros went with the two whites to SC. He was Ab (short for Abner) Stevens and was an excellent cook. He also did the laundry for Grandpa and Cuz. John. Most important of all, he was a “good chicken thief”. He made food available, even for the Yanks who were “prisoners of war.”

History tells us that the life of a Confederate Soldier was challenging at best.  Aside from the war itself, many Confederate soldiers were constantly hungry and sick.  Troops went months without pay.  Therefore, the fact that he came from a wealthy family meant he was able to get food and supplies.

Gus’s brother William Walter, died during the Civil War.  It is unclear if he was a casualty of a weapon or a disease.  Assigned to the Tiller’s Company, Georgia Light Artillery (Echols Light Artillery) like his brother and cousins.

According to the war records, Gus was paroled (surrender) at Greensboro, North Carolina on 28 April 1865.  According to North Carolina History, the troops assembled at Greensboro to disarm themselves and return home (Kickler, 2005).

statement of service

Statement of Service

I can only imagine the experiences that Gus had to endure during the War Between the States.  However, to have your older brother killed in battle and then to surrender to the Union must have unnerved a young man.


After the War

After the War, Gus returned home to Oglethorpe County. On 4 July 1867, Gus signed the Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book.  This indicates that he is living in Election District 236 of Oglethorpe County and has signed his allegiance back to the United States of America.  I can only imagine what these men thought about signing this document after losing this War along with the bloodshed of their brethren.


According to the Ancestry website:

“The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 required Southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment, draft new state constitutions, and register voters, both black and white. In order to vote, men had to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States, and some were disqualified for their participation in Confederate government posts. This database contains books recording those oaths of allegiance and returns listing qualified voters registered in Georgia in 1867. It includes both black and white citizens (Ancestry).


CA stevens oath of allegiance

Oath of Allegiance

Gus married Martha Jane Witcher four years after the war on 29 April 1869.  They set up house in Oglethorpe County within his parents’ home.  He was 24 years old.  Gus would work with his father on the land as a plantar and farmer.

The following year, 1870, the United States held its Decennial Census.  The census indicated that Gus and his wife had a baby and the family of three are living with his parents.  Their first-born child Ambrose Pope was a listed as one month old.

In the 1880 Census, Gus and his growing family are still living with his parents.  According to the census, their children Ambrose, Luna, Asa, Cynnie and Pellie, are all under ten years old.

The infamous 1890 US Census was burned, so we do not have that information.  Nevertheless, we know that Gus’s father died in 1891.

According to the 1900 Census, Gus is Head of Household.  Gus lives with his wife, Martha, and their son Asa, and his wife Lester.  Asa is now helping to run the farm.  Gus’s daughters Cynnie, Pellie, Fannie and Martha Obie reside in the home.  His youngest son, Joe Augustus, 11 years old is living at home as well.

On 19 May 1909, Gus’s wife Martha Jane dies.  They had been married for more than forty years.

In the 1910 Census, Gus was Head of House, his daughters Cynnie and Pellie still live with him.  Martha Ann Whitehead is listed as a “Stevens” on this census.  However, we know the true family history of how little Martha went to live there because her mother was bedridden.  Martha’s mom, Luna May, had her two maiden sisters help care for little Martha.

Grandpa Gus and Martha v3

Martha Ann Whitehead with her grandfather Gus Stevens

By the 1920 Census, Gus is living with his two maiden daughters, Cynnie and Pellie, his grandson Joseph A Stevens (31 years old) and his granddaughter Martha Ann Whitehead (15 years old).

Marge Walter E Mae Pellie Gus or George W Cynnie Fred

L-R: Margaret Whitehead, Walter Whitehead, Mae (in arms) Cynnie or Pellie Stevens (in hat), Gus Stevens, Cynnie or Pellie, Fred Whitehead

Civic Life

After establishing himself as a plantar and merchant, Gus set his sights on public service.  According to the Oglethorpe Echo, Gus served one term as a Representative in the House of Representatives (1892-93).  He additionally served one term in the Georgia Senate (1902-1904) for the 30th District.  He was a member of the Masonic Order.  He was also on the County Board of Education for a few years (Oglethorpe Echo, 1929).


Gus, his brother, John Reese and his first cousin, JCG Stevens along with Robert Huff, started a general store in 1885 in the Village of Sandy Cross, Stevens Huff and Company.  Additional stores and properties were added later.  In fact, at one point they had two stores and 5 cotton gins covering Madison and Oglethorpe County.  The company survived two World Wars and a Great Depression but ultimately dissolved voluntarily in 1963 (Stevens, 1973).  [I did a general post about it here: Mercantile Business]


Circa 1903


Gus loved God and Country as we have seen.  Most community activities centered on the church in these days.  According to the obituary written in the Oglethorpe Echo, Gus joined Clouds Creek Baptist Church around the same time he married Martha, 1869.  He became an ordained deacon on 5 October 1877.  On 9 September 1906, a new Church was chartered in Oglethorpe County.  The church, Sandy Cross Baptist Church was established from members of both Clouds Creek and Bethany Baptist Church.  My second great grandfather was one of the founding members.  He was one of the Deacons.  I found an article written about the church and it lists several of my ancestors.  In death, he bequeathed a house and property (4 acres) to Sandy Cross Baptist Church.

ca stevens article in newspaper

Article about Sandy Cross Baptist Church written by family friend and Minister Faust


His Death Certificate indicates that he died of hypostatic pneumonia.  However, he had incurred a hip fracture just 5 days earlier when he fell.  The local newspaper, the Oglethorpe Echo, published a snippet this nice tribute following his death.


In May 2015, I took my sister and cousin Susan to Georgia for a genealogy trip.  Aunt Leah met us there and we were fortunate enough to visit Miss Kitty.  She still resides in the Steven’s family home.

While preparing for this piece, I wrote to my cousins for their input.  Cousin Lynn, daughter of Miss Kitty, shared this story:

The Stevenses killed a “hawg” on the first frozen day of the year, everyone who participated got a share of the meat.  There was a GIANT cement pit, like we would see now in an oil-change shop, where they did some part of the process.  And there were GIANT cast-iron pots, as large as a bathtub but semi-spherical, where (I think) they boiled water to help scrape the wiry hairs off the skin.

She also shared this about the main house:  I believe the Oglethorpe County Tax Assessor shows that the house was built in 1901.  But there are tales about the kitchen being a separate building during the Civil War, and it was eventually jacked onto logs and ROLLED up to the main house.  This certainly ties into the differing floor levels between the dining room, the butler’s pantry, and the kitchen itself!

Inside Stevens Homeplace7

There is so much more to say about Gus, but it will have to wait for another day.  If you have memories, please share them here!

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.


Ancestry.com. Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.  Original data:  Georgia, Office of the Governor. Returns of qualified voters under the Reconstruction Act, 1867. Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

Compiled Service Records of Conferate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of Georga., NARA, Publication Number M266.

NorthCarolinahistory.org: An Online Encyclopedia, “Lunsford Lane” (by Troy Kickler), http://northcarolina.org (accessed 5/31/2019).

Oglethorpe Echo, March 8, 1929. Article about CA Stevens Death

Stevens, Claude G., 1973.  The Stevens Family, John Stevens Line, Commercial Printing Company, Inc. Toccoa, Georgia.

Decoration Day

The readers of this blog realize that most of my relatives derived from the states below the Mason Dixon Line.  My third great grandfather, Thomas Harrison Holt, was no different.  Thomas Harrison Holt was born between 1814-1818 in Campbell County, Virginia.  When I started this post, I held the belief that Thomas was a veteran of the War Between the States.  However, through further research, the Thomas Holt that I saw in War records was not my Thomas Harrison Holt.  I was going to do this post for Decoration Day.  Although I know that, he did not actually fight in the War between States, he and his family were impacted by this War.  How could any family not be?

When researching an ancestor, I always start with Census records.  These records usually give us the best opportunity of learning about the lives of our Ancestors.  The early years of the Census were difficult.  The main obstacle, trying to determine family members, is not easy with early census records because the US Census did not include names or ages until the 1850 census.  They used tic marks and age ranges.

However, if Thomas’s father was William H. Holt, and I believe he was, we can infer some family dynamics by looking at the census records of 1820, 1830, and 1840.  Unfortunately, the 1820 census for William H. Holt does not have a readable header as such the only thing I learned is the William H. Holt was living in Campbell County in the Lynchburg District.

In the 1830 Census, we see that Thomas was likely living with his parents and seven siblings.  This census shows that the Holt family did not own any slaves.

In the 1840 Census for William H. Holt, it shows a male that was between the ages of 15 and 20.  However, if we believe that Thomas was born about 1818, he would have been 22 years old.  I looked at the names around Thomas’s father and did not see Thomas’s name.  I know Census records are historically inaccurate for a variety of reasons.  Therefore, we will conclude that we do not have enough information to determine where Thomas lived in the 1840 Census.

On 2 October 1843, Thomas Harrison Holt married Elvira Hancock in Campbell County, Virginia (Ancestry, 1999).

The US Census changed formats in 1850 and began to show names and ages.  We meet Thomas’s family in this census and learn that his job is of an overseer.  Thomas is listed to be 31 years old, has zero dollars of real estate.  His children are Arvella, Leroy, Laura, and Elvira A D.  The family lives in Campbell County, Virginia.    He does not show any monetary value in the Real Estate column.

The 1860 Census indicates that Thomas and his wife are living in the Eastern District of Campbell County, Virginia with 7 children, Arvella, Leroy, Laura, Guilford Walker (my second great grandfather), Mary Agnes, Queen and Nannie.  We no longer see Elvira A D.  Thomas remained an overseer.  His real estate is listed at $1100 and his personal estate $432.  His eldest daughter, Arvella is 16 years old and is listed as a Domestic.  Leroy and Laura are attending school.  Guilford, Magdalia, Queen and Nannie are listed as living in the home.

The War Between the States began in April 1861 and did not conclude until four years later.  The War profoundly shaped our country and its citizens, our ancestors.  For example, Thomas’s son Leroy C Holt would have been 17 years old when the war broke out.  We do not see him in any family records after the war.  You have to wonder what happened to him.

In the 1870 Census, Thomas is a Farmer living in Campbell County, Virginia.  His value of real estate is listed as $600 and his value of his personal estate is $250.  His wife is listed as keeping house.  His twenty-one year old daughter Laura is working as a Seamstress.  His son Guilford Walker is working on the farm with him.  The younger four children, Magdalia, Queen, Mary Agnes and Earnest are listed as living at home.  There is a sixty-five year old Black Male living in the home that is working on the Farm.  His name is Lyman Stern.

I was able to locate the 1870 Non-Population Schedule for Campbell County, in which is shows what type of agriculture my ancestors took part in.  These records point toward the type of work he did.  According to this document, Thomas had 61 acres of land, 37 acres of which were woodland.  The cash value for his farm was $600 and the cash value for his farm implements was $15.  Thomas owned one milk cow, one working oxen, 10 sheep and 5 swine.  The total value of livestock was $305.  His farm produced about 33 bushels of winter wheat, 135 bushels Indian corn, and 50 bushels of Oats.  His farm produced approximately 1,800 pounds of tobacco.  Since I did not know what this means in terms of wealth, I looked at the other farms on the page.  It looks like Thomas had an average sized farm.

The 1880 Census represented a big change for the US Census; there were several more questions on this form.  Unfortunately, for some of us, the Census takers did not always complete the records entirely.  For example, the 1880 Census had a spot to write down the street and house number for each family.  Regrettably, the census taker for my ancestor did not write this down.  We do know that Thomas and his family lived in Campbell County, in Falling River District, 041 Enumeration District.

Thomas (62) and his wife, Elvira (52) have four children still living at home.  Guilford (28) is a farmer.  Queen, Mary Agnes and Earnest are still living with in the home.  The census no longer asks about income, but does ask about certain disabilities.  The ages documented over the various years varied so much.  In some documents, Thomas and Elvira are as close as 5 years in age of each other.  This is why you cannot rely just on census records.

The last record I have on him is from the Virginia, Deaths and Burial Index.  It indicates that he died on 12 March 1884 in Campbell County, Virginia in the Staunton River District.  He was 70 years old (Ancestry, 2011).  This would have made his year of birth 1814.  However, we might never know.

I have not been able to find a photo of his tombstone.  Nor do I have really any photos to share.

So, this weekend as you fire up the grill or you go out on the lake for the first time, remember those ancestors of ours that gave the ultimate sacrifice fighting for something they believed in.

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.




“Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853–1912.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.  Retrieved from Ancestry.com.

Virginia, Compiled Marriages, 1740-1850, Dodd, Jordan R., et al.. <i>Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850</i>. Bountiful, UT, USA: Precision Indexing Publishers. Retrieved from Ancestry.com.

A Wedding Article

I have been fortunate to be left a lot of genealogy bread crumbs on the paternal side of my family.  I have written before about two books that have been written by my ancestors to which I can lean on for information.  I hope to add to the collection one day.

Sometimes I hit pay dirt by just doing the general sleuthing on my own.  That is what happened one day when I stumbled onto this nugget about the wedding day of my first cousin once removed Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Whitehead and James Blaine “Jim” Sweeny Jr.

I have copied it directly here because I love the descriptions and do not wish to alter this article.  My cousin Sara has provided me with the pictures to accompany this post.


Danielsville Monitor, 2 January 1948


The Baptist Church of Carlton formed a beautiful setting, Saturday afternoon, December 27th, for the marriage of Miss Mary Elizabeth Whitehead, lovely daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Joe Whitehead, to James Blaine Sweeny, Jr., of Baltimore and Annapolis, Md., son of Mr. and Mrs. James Blaine Sweeny, Sr. of Baltimore.

Dr. E. L. Hill performed the ceremony and music was presented by organist, Miss Mary Kelly, and Mrs. Emmett Compton, soloist.  The Church was decorated with candles which were placed on candelabra and forming an arch at the altar.  Quantities of palms, smilax, and urns filled with white gladioli against a white background graced the altar.  Placed in the center was a large silver wedding bell.

Usher-groomsmen were James Blaine Sweeny, Sr., and Emmett Compton of Annapolis.    Miss Mae Whitehead, sister of the bride was maid of honor.  She wore a fitted emerald green taffeta gown with sweet-heart neckline and carried a muff showered with yellow carnations florets, arranged on ribbons with matching hair motif.    Bridesmaids were Miss Mary Arnold Reid of Elberton, and Mrs. Sara Bolin of Buford.  They wore gowns and carried muffs similar to those of the maid of honor.   Junior bridesmaids were Miss Patricia Scarborough of Elberton and Miss Obie Gillen of Lexington, cousins of the bride.  Their gowns and muffs were identical to those of the bridesmaids.

Frank P. Sweeny of New York, brother of the groom, acted as best man.    The lovely brunette bride entered with her father who gave her in marriage.  She was radiant in her gown of ivory satin, fashioned with heart neckline and a bouffant skirt ending with a train.  The bride wore the wedding gown which was worn by Mrs. William N. Zeigler, formerly Miss Janette Adams, at her marriage.  A tier veil of white illusion net was attached to a coronet of orange blossoms.  This veil was formerly worn by Mrs. William A. Kelly.  She carried a bouquet of white orchids, carnations, and lilies of the valley.     Mrs. Whitehead chose a black crepe gown with pink yoke neckline, embroidered with sequins.  Her flowers were pink orchids.  Mrs. Sweeny, mother of the groom, wore a royal blue crepe gown and her flowers were white orchids.

Following the wedding the parents of the bride entertained at a reception in their home.  The home was decorated with foliage and white flowers.  The table in the dining room was centered with the bride’s cake iced on a mound of white flowers and ferns.  White candles and crystal candelabra completed the decorations.  Miss Madge Yawn of Thomaston kept the bride’s book.   The bride chose for traveling a wool suit worn with matching accessories and white orchids.    Following their wedding trip, Lt. Cmdr.  and Mrs. Sweeny will reside at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.

I can visualize this ceremony, can’t you?  Now look at these pictures.

I can not help but include a snippet from Betty’s mom, Emma Chloe Adams Whitehead, the author of The Adams Family, James Adams Line (1796-1982).  It adds to this piece…

 “Joe’s father insisted that we invite everybody in Carlton, as well as our Elberton and Madison County friends.  There were probably two hundred guests for the wedding and in our home for the reception.  He sat at the front door to greet each one as they entered.”

I can see Walter “Papa” being so proud and telling the world that his granddaughter was getting married and inviting the world.

I close by stating, that although my blog has come to a trickle; I am still exploring backwards.  By this time in my journey, I have picked all of the low hanging fruit.  The things that take longer and harder are in my path now.  So, if you find any old pictures, Bibles, stories, etc.  Send them my way!

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.



Daniellsville Monitor, 2 January 1948, retrieved at http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/madison/vitals/marriages/whitehea1535gmr.txt

Whitehead, Emma Chloe Adams, The Adams Family, James Adams Line (1796-1982).  1983.