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.

burmashave1

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.

 

Carol:

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.

mom_carol_larry_narshella

Cousins

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.

Upbringing

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).

Merchant

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]

stevensmartinstore

Circa 1903

Believer

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.

Source:

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.

Claudia and the Foster Farm

keyacre farm logo

During my 2012 trip to Virginia, one of the remarkable things I got to do was to visit one of my families working farm.  You must understand that I was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  I have been to my Great-Grandfather’s homeplace.  However, they are raising timber now and not animals.  Joan Foster, she was the wife of my first cousin, once removed, still was operating Keyacre Farm.  The farm had been in the Foster family for at least a century.  Joan and her husband, Charles T. Foster changed the crops and livestock to be more progressive.  The original farmhouse remained upright, albeit not habitable.  It was this farmhouse that gave me the inspiration for this post.  My great-aunt Claudia Sublett married into the Foster family and the farm.

foster farm2

When I start to look at an ancestor to write about, I typically start with the US Census records.  It is here that you find a lot of semi-factual information.  I say semi-factual, because Census records typically are full of errors.  Sometimes the error was from the census taker.  He or she tended to spell names phonetically.  Sometimes the error was from the person giving the information.  Regardless, you have to take this information with the grain of salt.  It is more exciting to write about an ancestor that is not as far removed and you have first-hand accounts.  That is the case for Claudia Sublett.  My mother and Aunt have been able to help flush out the stories within the facts.

Foster home unknown yearold foster house with ivy

Claudia Sublett was the first child born to John Thomas Sublett and Georgia Kate Sublett.  Claudia was born on 5 October 1902 in Campbell County Virginia.  Her father was a farmer.  Her mother Georgia kept house.

In the 1910 Census, the family is living in Falling River, Campbell County.  Claudia lives with her parents, her sister Annie and her brother Lacy.

In the 1920 Census, the family is still in Falling River, Campbell County.  Claudia lives with her parents, her siblings Annie, Lacy and Mae.  Also living in the home was her grandfather George Bland Sublett, he was 74 years old.  Claudia’s youngest sibling Clarice “Pete” was born when she was 17 years old.

At some point, Claudia marries Harry Fran Foster.  It seems likely that Claudia and Harry got married around 1922 or 1923.  I haven’t been able to find a marriage certificate.

If you look at the 1930 US Census, one of the questions asked was “age at marriage,” It was listed as 20 years old, Claudia would have been 20 in October of 1922. When Claudia married, she moved into the big farm house located at 1838 Hat Creek, Road, Brookneal.  Harry had taken over the store and the farm.

Claudia and her husband Harry are living together when the 1930 Census is taken.  They are living in Falling River, Campbell County. Also living with them is her mother-in-law and father-in- law, her sister-in-law, Myrtie Baker, and 9 year old niece, Eleanor Baker.  Her husband’s occupation is listed as a merchant.  We do know from family history that this was the big farm house located in Brookneal.  My mother tells me that they ran a grocery store.  They are also listed as having a farm; however the Farm Schedules have for the most part been lost.

By the 1940 Census, Claudia is living with her husband Harry, their two sons (Charles and Anthony) in Falling River, Campbell County.  Also listed in the home is her mother-in-law, Eula Foster, her sister-in-law, Myrtie Baker, and 18 year old niece, Eleanor Baker.   Her husband’s occupation is listed as a merchant, retail grocery.  They also have a farm in this census.

When I asked my mother about her Aunt Claudia, this is what she said “She was the oldest sister.  Did lots of housework and did canning and had lots of African violets.  She and Harry were the richest of the family.  She drove a pink Thunderbird car.  They owned a grocery store and farmed with their two sons, Tony and Charles.  We use to play a lot of croquet when we went to see them.  Stayed at their house some summers and got so bored and homesick.”

During our genealogical trip to Virginia in 2012, we went to see the farm where Claudia raised her sons.  Claudia passed away in 2000.  The property, known as Keyacre Farm, was transferred to Charles Foster and his wife Joan.  Charles was an airplane pilot and farmer, however he passed away before my visit.  Together Joan and Charles kept the farm going.  According to Joan Shrader Foster’s obituary, they raised registered Angus Cattle.

 

 

While preparing for this piece, I conducted a general google search of Keyacre Farm.  The Foster’s farm was put on the market following Joan’s death in 2015. Here is an excerpt from the advertisement:

Beautiful working farm (157 acres) has been in the same family for well over 100 years.  3,100±SF, 2-story home place (needs renovation), large metal shop with office, shop & bath with attached shed, large metal feed barn with feed/hay storage area, cattle working area, and shop, 3 silos, metal hay storage building, milking barn, windmill.  Farm has long state road frontage, rolling terrain, good mix of pasture/crop land.  Feed tanks, cattle working gates, corrals and concrete feed bunkers (Farm Auction Guide, 2018).

keyacre farm action flier

The Keyacre Farm is also listed on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services list of Century Farms (VDACS, 2018).

Until later, I will keep exploring backwards.

 

 

Sources:

Farm Auction Guide, retrieved 5/24/18 at https://www.farmauctionguide.com/index.php/virginia-auctions/absolute-1547-acre-keyacre-farm-s-300640.html

Henderson Funeral, retrieved 5/24/18 at http://hendersonfuneral.net/obituaries/joan-s-foster/92/

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, retrieved 5/24/18 http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/conservation-century-farms-campbell.shtml