Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day was not always Memorial Day. It started out as Decoration Day. A day dedicated to decorating the graves of the civil war dead.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield, May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

(Source: http://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/memorial-day/history/)

At least three of my Great-Grandfathers fought in the Civil War, George Wiley Whitehead, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Bland Sublett. Two other Great Grandfathers were German and not in the US at the time. I still have to do some research on the other three, but since they lived in Virginia during the Civil War, I am thinking maybe they did as well. However, I will try to refrain from searching for that now, and focus on this blog. I had several others fight in both the Great World Wars.

My Grand Uncle, George Stevens Whitehead, was a Rhodes Scholar, and left the United States in 1916 for Balliol College, in Oxford England. He and many others left school in 1917 in order to join cause. In fact, when we were visiting our Georgia relatives last week, we read a series of letters written to Papa (Walter Everett) by George. One of them included a message from King George V, about the great duty they had to their country.

While thinking about the great sacrifices my ancestors made so that we could live in a free and democratic society, I am engulfed in patriotism. I am deeply humbled by their acts of courage. I honor them by paying tribute to these brave individuals. Today, we raised our flag and bowed our heads for those brave soldiers and their families that made the ultimate sacrifice. I write this blog and think about the individuals in my family that have given so freely of themselves so that I can be free.

Therefore, whether you raised a flag, run in a Memorial Day run, or wear poppy red, we will remember the valor of the dead. 

Below are the men in my family that have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Larry Whitehead

Larry Whitehead


Fred Whitehead

Fred Whitehead


Walter E. Whitehead

Walter E. Whitehead

 

 

Visiting our Georgia Roots (Day 1)

I just got back from visiting my Georgia Roots. The adventure was a whirlwind weekend in rural Georgia. My sister Kathy, Cousin Susan both joined me for the weekend voyage. My Aunt Leah met us there and spent the day with us too. Our hostess and tour guides were our second cousin Sara and Charlie. We are forever grateful to Sara, Charlie and Miss Kitty for making themselves available to us.

Day 1:

Kathy, Susan and I set out Friday morning for Carlton. Everyone was a bit apprehensive, because we didn’t know exactly what was in store for the weekend. We were meeting relatives that we had not seen or really spoken to for 35 years. All of this was orchestrated because I wanted to investigate the homeplace and the area in which my ancestors had lived.

My sister had been on a previous genealogy trip with me and knew somewhat what she was getting involved in. But Susan, well, she did not really know the length of time that I had been researching or the depth that I was passionate about it. Both Susan and Kathy served me well. They were my photo journalists for this project. Over the course of the next few blogs you will see some of their handy work.

We arrived in Carlton just before noon. After getting acquainted, we headed off to our only preset appointment, lunch with Miss Kitty. Eleanor “Kitty” Mitchell Stevens, she is the wife of my 1st cousin 2x removed, Joseph Augustus Stevens, Jr.   She lives in the homeplace of Columbus “Gus” Augustus Stevens, my 2nd Great Grandfather. I am not exactly sure when the home was built but it is a grand old home.

Kitty prepared a spread. We visited while we ate. We visited after we ate. We then got up and looked around the place. Kitty had Gus Stevens Bible out for us to see all of the dates recorded. We spent a lot of time in Gus Steven’s old bedroom. I love the old homes that had a hearth in each of the bedrooms. This room had been converted to a children’s play room when Charlie and Sara were growing up. The parents would sit and visit in the front parlor and the children could play nearby.

Gus Stevens Family Bible

Gus Stevens Family Bible

Kitty Stevens, Sara Baldwin, Annette Nordmark, Susan Delker, Krista Whitehead

Kitty Stevens, Sara Baldwin, Annette Nordmark, Susan Delker, Krista Whitehead

After bidding Miss Kitty adieu, we set out for the Homeplace. I have written about the home place here (https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/whitehead-homeplace/)

This was the place where George Wiley and Cena Ann Mathews resided after the Civil War. The place today is still family owned, but it is being leased to a hunting group that has made it a great hunting lodge. From the decorations on the wall it seems that Turkey is their game of choice.

Homeplace-2015

Homeplace-2015

Inside the Homeplace

Inside the Homeplace

While there, Charlie showed me the proper way to handle a Honeysuckle Vine.

Charlie giving Krista a lesson on the Honeysuckle Vine

Charlie giving Krista a lesson on the Honeysuckle Vine

After leaving the Homeplace, we went to the Steven’s Family Cemetery. This is on Steven’s Homeplace property. We then went to see the Mathew’s Family Cemetery where Cena Ann Mathews and George Wiley Whitehead are buried. Lastly we went to see the Whitehead/O’Kelly gravesite. This is now on property owned by another individual, but Charlie had made arrangements to let them know we were coming. This cemetery has a chain-link fence that the Daughters of the Revolution had placed along with a marker indicating that Joel Whitehead’s father-in-law had fought in the American Revolution. The DAR has since changed their opinion on this matter. But that will be another story at another time. I am getting off track!

After everyone was worn out, we returned to the Carlton home to rest for a while. Well, other people rested, I was still in fifth gear, Charlie, Leah and I sat down and we went over some of the items I had brought. I was pleased that I could fill in some gaps for Leah on her family tree.

We then set out for dinner at the Red Minnow in Elberton. Cousin Sara told us that Papa loved Elberton. I am not sure why. I will have to ask. A piece of trivia for everyone, Elberton is known to be the granite capital of the world. [You can read more about granite here: http://www.egaonline.com/]

The Red Minnow is an all you can eat buffet of everything precious to the south. The kitchen must have a hundred deep fryers to cook everything. It was not Swamp Guinea (a much-remembered restaurant from our previous visit in 1980). However, we were hungry and the food was good.

I will share day 2 on another day.

Traveling to the past

 

If you think about it “exploring backwards” day after day is akin to traveling. I am traveling back in time as I research my ancestors. I take you, the reader, along for the ride. Recently, I have spent a good portion of my time focusing on my paternal side. The reason for this concentration has been in preparation of my upcoming travels to Georgia. I want to be sure that I use this time wisely. Is there something online that I do not need to focus on? Is there something in Georgia that I can only do in Georgia? These are the questions that I have had to answer.

You see, I have gathered my Aunt, a cousin and my sister and we are going to explore the homeland. Well, it is not the original homeland of the family, it is rural Georgia. When I think of it, I think of red clay, Swamp Guinea and the old white homeplace with the separate staircase. This is the place where my family has been since my fourth great grand-father; Samuel Whitehead (1760-1844) migrated from North Carolina to Oglethorpe County about 1785-1789.

I am super excited because I will meet in person some distant cousins that have become more tangible in recent years. Over the course of my explorations, I have made contact and corresponded with them. My cousin Sara, she and her brother own some of the key pieces of family property. Miss Kitty, my distant cousin’s mother still lives in the Steven’s family home. My other second cousin Charles seems to know where everyone is buried. I will write more when I return.

 

Until then, I will be exploring backwards.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Time

There was about 400 miles between where we lived and where my Nordmark cousins lived. It was at Easter time that our two families got together. My Dad’s sister, Annette married a great guy, Don and together they had 5 children. Combine that with my family of 4 children, you had a full house come Easter weekend.

I believe we alternated years. One year the Whitehead’s would load up in the station wagon and make the trek to a northern Chicago suburb. The next year, the Nordmark’s would come down to a Cleveland suburb. I recall them having a van. Our parents must have done this because they realized how important family is to the development of children. Why else would they torture themselves for that trek? If you recall this was before video games, etc. So, I am not even sure what we did to keep ourselves occupied for 5 or 6 hours.  Do you?

Whitehead-Nordmark Family

Whitehead-Nordmark Family

Easter Morning

Easter Morning

Whitehead-Nordmark Easter

Whitehead-Nordmark Easter

I think it is important to have interactions with your cousins. We share a similar family history. They are usually our first friends as children. They are the only ones to understand your crazy family. We each had a least one or two cousins that were of similar age. Jeff, the oldest, didn’t have anyone close to his age, and Joe(y) didn’t have one close to his age, but otherwise we had instant friends all weekend.

In our family, everyone remembers the famous Easter outfit that cousin Aimee wore one year. She was a box of Sun-Maid Raisins from head to toe. Otherwise known as the Sun-Maid girl, I have looked for the picture with her in full attire but I cannot find one, so below is the only one that I have. Maybe one of my cousins will share with me.

Joe, Krista and Aimee

Joe, Krista and Aimee

 

So Happy Easter family, if you recall other Easter memories, please feel free to comment here. Until later, I will continue to be exploring backwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was the family divided?

There are notes in my family history that there were 2 brothers that fought for the Confederate States of America and another brother that fought for the Union. I have not yet reached the same conclusion, but I hope by writing about them here is that family members might be able to fill in some gaps. I do know that George Wiley and Elijah Dean were both soldiers for the Confederates. William Franklin fought in the Mexican American War.

Joel Whitehead married Mary Polly O’Kelley. Together they had five sons and seven daughters. For this post, I am just going to focus on the brothers.

What I do know about the Whitehead brothers:

 

  • Samuel, Joel’s oldest son, was born about 1821 in Oglethorpe County. He was named after Joel’s father. The last census record that I find him in 1860; he is living in Oglethorpe County, with his wife Savenia. He is listed as a living next door to his mother as a farmer and they show no children residing. He is aged 39 years.
  • William Franklin born about 1826 in Oglethorpe County, he married Pamela Fannie Jones. According to his tombstone, he was in the Mexican American War. This war was between 1846-1848. He fought with Captain Loyall’s Company, the Georgia Mounted Volunteers. The 1870 Census shows William aged 43 with his wife keeping house in Starkville, Oktibbeha Mississippi. It shows that his three children Robert, Margaret and Lasella were born in Mississippi. However, by 1880, the Pamela and her children are back in Georgia, and she is listed as a widow.
  • George Wiley was born 26 January 1829 in Oglethorpe County. George served in the Confederate Army. He was also a County Surveyor. See my previous post (https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/george-wiley-whitehead/)
  • Elijah Dean was born 23 October 1833. He was the fourth son born to Joel and Mary. I have records showing him also fighting for the CSA. He was a Private for the 38th Regiment Georgia Infantry.
  • Charles E. was born in 1841. In the 1880 Census, Charles is listed as blind and living with his brother Elijah in Jackson County. In addition, he is also found on the 1880 Non-population Census for Georgia; Schedule of Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes.

 

Union Soldier Button

Union Soldier Button

csa button

Confederate States of America Button

 

If any of my readers have information about any of these brothers, I would love to hear from you. Until later, I will continue to explore backwards.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I am going to Georgia on a genealogical journey!  I am going to be ‘exploring backwards’ in the exact same places of some of my oldest ancestors. I am going to meet some extended family along the way.

Why do genealogists like to go on these adventures? Well, unbelievably, not everything is on the internet. You have to get out from behind the monitor sometimes to see what all there is to explore.

I have written on this blog before about some of the places I would like to explore, homesteads, churches, and cemeteries, etc.

Two family homes in Oglethorpe and Madison County come to mind. My recent connection with Sara (my second cousin) has me more curious than ever. Her and her brother, James, own the two family homes that I have been interested in revisiting.

Sara wrote in her last email that the Carlton house was built around 1919-1920. Luna May died on 16 July 1921. “The house was designed by her around her…Papa never finished the upstairs.”

I did know that the house was designed with her (Luna May) in mind due to the debilitating arthritis she had. I also knew that I had stayed at the house when we went to visit in the early 1980’s. But, I didn’t know that the upstairs had not been finished. As a child, we do not look at those things. I remember it being the biggest house I had ever been inside. It was so grand and stately.

Walter and Luna May

Walter and Luna May Whitehead

There seems to be some confusion as to the original Whitehead owner of the Whitehead Homeplace and when exactly it was built. According to the book that I used previously the original owner was Samuel Whitehead (Rogers, 1971). I just assumed since it was directly in my family tree that it made sense that it was Samuel Whitehead (1760-1844). But it could have been Joel’s son Samuel (1821-unknown). However, on my copy of the book, there is a handwritten note by Martha W. Moore that states it was built by George Wiley Whitehead. This makes more sense to me as this was Walter’s father.

Whitehead Homeplace (Rodgers, 1971, p69)

Whitehead Homeplace (Rodgers, 1971, p69)

There are some deed books and marriage books in the local court houses that are calling on me. I would like to figure out once and for all who was the original owner of this homestead.

 

 

 

Source: The Housing of Oglethorpe County, Georgia 1790-1860, Ava D. Rodgers,
Publisher: Florida State University Press, Tallahassee, 1971
St. Petersburg Printing Company, St Petersburg FL
Page 69

 

 

 

BSO and a story from Martha

BSO-

This is an acronym for Bright Shiny Objects. An infliction that I have always had but festers more when I am researching backwards. I recently received a twenty page document from my cousin, Sara. This document contains many stories that my Grand Aunt, Martha Ann Whitehead Moore wrote before she passed away. It is a treasure trove of family history and the stories that bring these family members to life. It is one of the best BSO’s I have had in a long time.

 

Martha wrote, “family stories that should be handed down from generation to generation.” That has been my goal with my blog. I always encourage family members to contribute their memories.

Here is an example of one of the stories. I have only corrected any grammatical errors that I found and added full names for clarification when necessary.

This happened on October 8, 1908

Faith in Grandpa Restored

I was born in 1904, the daughter of Christian parents, and my grandparents were of very strong Baptist faith. My mother was a victim of rheumatoid arthritis, so I lived with my grandparents.

My grandmother [Martha Witcher Stevens] died when I was 3 years old. My childhood from then on was under the control of my grandfather and two “old maid” aunts (Cynnie and Pellie). They instilled in me the danger of cursing and using foul language.

When I was four years old on two occasions I heard my Grandfather [Columbus Augustus “Gus” Stevens] use words that I considered foul. One was at 6:30 P.M. when we went to “slop the hogs.” He said, “Dog-gone the pigs,” when they splashed his Sunday-go-to-meeting trousers.

Then at 9:00 P.M. that same day he heard some neighbor-hood teen-aged boys in his ribbon-cane patch. They were swiping a few stalks (which he would have gladly given them). He said, “Dog-gone the boys.”

That was it – the straw that broke the camel’s back! My grandfather had cursed. I just knew he was headed downward – straight to the devil. I cried myself to sleep that night.

The next day I told my old maid aunts about the two “Dog-gones” I had heard. They assured me that the language was not strong enough to sentence my grandfather to everlasting punishment. So I ran to the front yard and started walking in his foot-steps again.

I continued to try to follow his examples and have used them to guide me all the way to 91.

The End.

 

I do not have a picture of my Grand Aunt, or I would post it here. I love this story for a variety of reasons. One, it shows her admiration for her grandfather.  Additionally, in less than 300 words, we learn about her childhood and what type of person she became.

Until later, I will continue to explore backwards.