Thanksgiving is, of course, a time to be grateful for gifts. For me these include a loving family, surviving breast cancer, and the opportunity to travel and explore.
But it’s also a great opportunity to capture family stories. Have your kids (adults can do it, too) use their phones to interview older family members about what family holiday celebrations were like for them as kids. Who was there, what they ate, a favorite memory.
It will get generations talking with each other and create a priceless video keepsake at the same time.
Need some questions to start you off? Here are a few suggestions:
What was Thanksgiving like when you were a kid, and what did you eat?
What was/is your favorite kind of pie?
Who came to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family?
Were your grandparents there? What were their names? What were they like?
Did your family play music during gatherings, themselves, on the radio or records?
Who did the cooking? Who set the table?
What did you do after the meal was over?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
What were you most thankful for?
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Many gravestones don’t begin to tell the story of a life or death, just listing the barest of facts. But every so often I see one that illustrates a chapter of the life (or end of life in this case) that ensures the marker was created just for this specific individual. These are the type I wish every grave had, to help us appreciate the person memorialized.
This spectacular carving portrays a father holding a young child in his arms and standing at his wife’s gravesite. I’ve never seen one like it in person.
Even with over 150 years of weathering, the details are astounding. He holds a top hat in his left hand and his child in his right. The drapes of the child’s dressing gown hang down behind it’s father’s arm. Facial features of the man are still somewhat discernible, and his wife’s grave is marked with a headstone and footstone. One knows immediately that he has been left alone to care for their small child.
It marks the resting place of Clarissa Wells Collins in Austin’s historic Oakwood Cemetery.
Clarissa, a native New Yorker, married Travis County constable and farmer Thomas C. Collins in January 1856, when she was 30 years old.
They were blessed with a daughter, who they named Clarissa Ann (“Annie”), in July 1860 but just four months later Clarissa passed away.
On Halloween 1864 Adelaide “Addie” Swisher, Clarissa’s sister who had married James Monroe Swisher at her sister’s home in 1857, died as well presumably from postpartum complications. Her name is listed on Tom’s gravestone, along with the name “Little Lillie,” their three year old daughter who died the same year.
The following year Tom enlisted in the military and was stationed in Austin.
He joined his wife in death in April 1871.
Their young child, who is referred to in documentation alternately as Annie or Clara, ended up being raised by her aunt Ann Marie Wells in Brooklyn far from where her parents were laid to rest. She lived the rest of her life on the east coast, and I wonder if she ever came to visit their graves and stood before this stone. It’s doubtful.
So much sadness in such a short time.
But Tom’s love, and grief, is immortalized here in marble and encourages those who pass by to learn their story.
I came to Oakwood specifically to look for this marker, and made an additional discovery that made my day.
As I was photographing it, I looked at the bottom right corner and found the signature of the carver… Allen & Company Marbleworks of Galveston. Especially thrilling, since Allen owned the state’s first marbleworks, founded in Galveston in 1852 on Center Street between Strand and Mechanic. His business has now been owned by the Ott family for five generations.
The gravestone had traveled a long way to come here.
I love a good connection to Galveston history, and somehow seem to find them wherever I go.
Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day that roses represent love. Some carved in stone symbolize an eternal affection for a lost loved one.
But did you know that how the roses are represented on the grave marker can tell you a bit about the dearly departed?
The rose itself symbolizes love, hope and beauty.
The stage of bloom of the rose indicates the age of the deceased. A bud would have represented a child, a partially opened flower would indicate someone was a teen or young adult, and a rose in full bloom would symbolize the departed had reached maturity.
No matter which stage of bloom the flower portrays, the stem is often depicted as broken as a sign that the person was lost too soon – a life cut short.
Two roses joined together stand for a strong bond such as marriage, and often appear on the joint marker of a couple.
A wreath of roses symbolizes beauty and virtue.
A garland of roses, which may be held by an angel, indicates sorrow, and a bouquet of roses stands for condolences, sorrow or grief.
So the next time you see the depiction of a rose on a gravestone, take a moment to decipher what information it can share.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
It never seems to fail: you’ve searched endlessly for a particular gravestone, and when you finally find it…the inscription is in shadows with the sun at the back of the marker.
With a little preparation, this won’t be a problem at all.
For years I’ve kept a roll of aluminum foil in the back of my car, along with other “cemetery kit” supplies. Not because I wanted to always be prepared for a bar-b-que (although that might not be a bad idea, either!), but to use to reflect light onto dark gravestones during my spur-of-the-moment cemetery visits.
When the goal was to read or transcribe a marker but not necessarily photograph it, A simple hand mirror from the dollar store also serves that purpose.
This past Christmas my husband gave me a collapsible photography reflector so I could finally retire my box of foil. They are relatively inexpensive, small and portable so I highly recommend getting one.
When used to reflect available light onto the surface with an inscription (plaque, gravestone, cornerstone or other surface), previously illegible information can easily be read.
Watch the video for a quick demonstration of how easily and well it works.
On New Year’s Eve 1895, the Misses Caroline, Fannie and Josephine Kenison gave a cotillion for their young friends in this beautiful home at 1120 Tremont in Galveston. It was the home of their parents Alphonse and Ellen, originally from Louisiana.
The lower floor of the residence was prepared for the occasion by stretching canvas over the spacious double parlor floors, and then taking up the carpet in the library and waxing the floors to create a dance floor.
One can only imagine the other preparations that took place!
At exactly 11:59 the young celebrants gathered underneath the chandelier and gave six cheers for the parting year. When the minute had passed, six cheers welcomed the new year.
The house was filled even on non-social days, with a large family. Alphonse, the father; Ellen, the mother; daughters Josephine, Frances, Caroline and Lucie; son Alphonse Jr.; Lucy Sydnor, a boarder; Josephine Settle, Mrs. Kenison’s mother; and servant Belle Washington and her young daughter Hazel.
Alphonse was one of the first general insurance agents int he state of Texas. He and his wife lost two sons, Maximiliem and Wartelle, in infancy, but the rest of their children thrived.
Josephine “Josie” (1878-1957) eventually became Mrs. Clinton G. Wells, and remained on the island for the rest of her life, passing away in 1957. She had one son, named Clinton III, born in 1906. She is buried in Trinity Episcopal Cemetery. One wonders if she regaled her son with stories about her home when she was a young girl.
From the 1910 census on, Josephine and her son lived with her parents. Her status on the records is listed as being a widow, her husband having passed away in 1908.
Francis (1879-1968), known as “Fanny” to her family, married William Penn White, moving first to New York and then to New Jersey. They had three daughters.
Caroline, called “Caro” by her family was born in 1879. She can be found listed in the society pages through the 1910s attending parties and volunteering in the community.
Alphonse Jr. (1881-1934) married multiple times, and had two children.
Lucie (1886-1973) married Herman Bornefeld in 1914, with whom she had a son and daughter.
Graves of members of the family can be found in Old City, Old Catholic and Trinity Episcopal Cemeteries in Galveston.
In our last blog visit to the cemetery, we were pondering whether Elizabeth Israel’s husband was ever laid to rest beside her or if he had been interred away from his beloved wife.
I am happy to report that I received a reply to my question from a genealogist whose husband is related to the Israel couple.
She shared that they had been told that Alexander died while visiting his sister in St. Louis, but that they had discovered a receipt for his burial next to Elizabeth. The receipt had the payments broken into monthly payments, so it may be assumed that the engraving was too expensive for the family to undertake at the time.
I am so grateful to know that the couple is together. I don’t know about you, but these situations can make me grieve a bit for those involved, even if they are no relation to me. Yes, people interred in cemeteries are “real” people who led very real lives. I would rather find out about them than read a fictional account of someone who never actually existed.
I’ve added Alexander’s name and information to the Findagrave database for anyone who has the same question in the future.
I was also glad to be able to share a bit of fun information about Alexander with our informant, as well. Although her family knew that he had a registered patent for a washing machine, they had not yet seen a picture of it. Here it is:
Alexander was quite ingenious, and surely his blacksmithing skills came into play with the design.
The description of the machine is in Alexanders own words, so it gives an insight into his engineering skills.
“…the clothes are thoroughly washed or scoured and boiled at the same time. The clothes are thoroughly cleaned without danger of injuring or tearing the same, and the machine is adapted for washing the finest fabrics – lace curtains and the like. The water is kept constantly boiling by the heater and s continuously circulated throughout he revolving drum an brought into contact with the clothes contained therein. The clothes are constantly carried upward and dripped by means of the radially-disposed ribs and are at the same time subjected to the scoring or rubbing action of the rotary washboard.”
It actually sounds quite like our washing machines today!
Thanks to Jan for solving our mystery.
This story has now come full circle, and I got to meet Jan and Eddie in person this week! Eddie even brought me a copy of the undertaker’s bill for Alexander’s funeral. Though the spelling is a bit amusing, once you realize that the funeral cost was quite high for the time it becomes clear that the family probably couldn’t also afford to have his side of the gravestone engraved at the same time.
Jan and Eddie are looking into having the stone engraving completed.
After having lunch and hearing more about their family genealogy, we went to see the home where Eddie’s family survived Galveston’s 1900 hurricane.
It has been restored, and is adorable! That’s Eddie and his lovely wife Jan standing on the porch.
They weren’t able to find out who currently owns the home, but are very interested in finding out. Now the only thing left undone is to hopefully someday see the inside. Hey…it doesn’t hurt to dream!
(I’m re-posting this from my former blog “Headstones and Footnotes” because I have some fun updates to share as a follow-up!)
While walking through the LaPorte Cemetery in Harris County, Texas this gravestone caught my attention. It’s a lovely marker in wonderful shape, despite being over 100 years old. But what intrigued me is that someone seems to be missing.
Only half of the stone is engraved.
“Eliza, beloved wife of A.C. Israel”was interred here in 1910, having passed away at the age of 64. The other side of the marker was obviously left blank in wait for the passing of her husband…but where is he? Unless he is breaking a Guinness World record for age, surely he has passed away by now.
“A.C. Israel” was Alexander Charles Israel, who was born in Ohio in 1844 to native residents of that state. The family also lived in Meigsville, Ohio (1850 census) and St. Louis Missouri (1860).
On September 8, 1864 Alexander married Elizabeth Williams, who was born n 1845 in New York. She was the daughter of Henry Williams (b. 1823) and Harriet (born 1825).
Alexander and Elizabeth lived in Concord, Missouri (1870 census) ad Rock, Missouri (1880) before moving to Texas. They had three daughters together:
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Harriet Israel (Serface) b. 1867-1913
Emma Florence Israel (Serface) b. 1869 – 1954
Cora Belle Israel b. 1871 – 1923
Family photo shows : Alexander Charles and Eliza and their daughters Emma Florence (left), Libby (top) and Cora Belle (bottom).
Elizabeth died in 1910, leaving Alexander a widower.
He was recorded as living in LaPorte, Texas by the 1910 census with his occupation listed as owner of a blacksmith shop. A 38-year-old servant, Lillie Brown, and her six-year-old daughter Helen lived with him. He was still living in Harris County at the time of the 1920 census.
Alexander passed away on May 22, 1922 in Harris County, Texas.
I can find no record of his burial in the LaPorte Cemetery, or in the cemeteries where Elizabeth Harriet (who died just three years after her mother and is interred in Houston) or Emma Florence rest. I have found no grave listing for little Cora.
So the mystery remains…where was Alexander buried. It’s possible that he was laid to rest beside his wife and the engraving was never ordered. It’s sad, but I’ve seen it happen several times.
I have contacted a descendant of the family in an attempt to find Alexander, but haven’t received an answer. Perhaps someone reading this will have a clue.
Until then, his resting place remains a mystery.
Is Eliza still waiting for her beloved husband to join her? “Stay tuned” to find out…
On our way to visit the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, my husband agreed that since that outing was “his thing,” we should make a stop on the way that was something I would especially enjoy. And, yes…he knew that would entail sitting in the car as I roamed an old cemetery somewhere along the route, taking photos. He’s a good sport!
So, with a bit of quick Googling, I found Lavaca County’s Old Moulton Cemetery. It seemed to have a good number of older headstones and offer some exploring opportunities.
It was in this cemetery that I came across the marker of R.H. and E. J. McGinty – both born toward the first part of the 19th century.
The stone is in remarkably good shape, given that it has been exposed to Texas weather for over 100 years.
The engraving itself was obviously not done by a seasoned professional. But whoever did carve the marker took great care and engraved the names, information and epitaph to the best of their ability. The extra effort makes it all the more poignant.
So, who was this couple?
Robert Henry McGinty was born to Shadrach McGinty and Mary “Polly” Lamar McGinty on April 17, 1824 in Jones County, Georgia. Mary’s father James Lamar, according to family stories, was a first cousin to Mirabeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas.
Shortly after 1840, Robert’s family moved to Dallas County, Alabama where he would meet his future wife. Her name was Elizabeth “Eliza” Jane Lucas, who was born in Dallas County on November 14, 1828. They married on Feb. 6, 1844.
By the 1850 census, Robert, his new wife Jane (age 21) and their sons John Henry (age 3, born Dec. 1, 1846) and James Milton (age 1, born Jan. 10, 1849) lived on a farm next to Shadrack’s in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.
Another family story explains that both were farmers on the Dubois Plantation at the time. Although there is still a Dubois Plantation Road off of Highway 190 in Tammany, Louisiana near the famous River Road District, this is in St. Tammany Parish.
Catahoula Parish is far north of this location, closer to Natchez. But, of course, there is nothing to say that they did not live on plantation grounds, and that the family just misinterpreted the name through the years. Plantation names were not listed on the censuses, but Catahoula Parish had the highest number of slaves in the era, so it makes sense that the area was plantation/farm country.
The next handful of years were filled with joy and sorrow: the birth of daughter Mary Jane in 1851; the death of son John Henry in 1853; the birth of daughter Susan E. in 1854; the birth of son Obediah L. in 1857; the birth of son Robert in 1859, and the death of Susan the same year.
Evidently, during that time Robert’s parents Shadrack and Polly moved to El Dorado, Union County, Arkansas to farm. Shadrack disappears from the records soon after that, and is assumed to have passed away.
So to help his mother and leave the heartache of lost children behind, Robert and Jane moved their family to Arkansas, inheriting and farming his father’s land. His mother Polly lived with them and appears in their household on the 1860 census.
Robert left to serve in the Confederate Army, Company C, Second Battallion of the Arkansas Infantry on September 22, 1861. He was wounded by enemy artillery and sent home in December, probably in time to see the birth of daughter Nancie (Nannie) Aresenith on Dec. 20, 1861.
In the spring, he returned to the army and served until the end of the Civil War, joining Company I of the 6th Arkansas Regiment while it was stationed in Corinth, Mississippi.
After the war, as was the weight of large families of this era to bear, more children came into and passed from their lives.
The family welcomed another daughter, Sallie Micou, on Dec. 3, 1863, but mourned the death of their son Robert within a few months.
Their last son, Calhoun, arrived the 5th of November, 1866., and their last daughter Georgia was born in Lavaca County on May 5, 1871. (They had moved to Lacava County, Texas in 1870.)
And the losses continued, with Mary Jane (who had recently married) dying in March of 1869, Obe in Sept. of 1886 and little Calhoun just five days later.
Robert Henry joined the five of his ten children that passed before him on Dec. 19, 1896 in Moulton, Lavaca County, Texas. Imagine how sad the holiday season must have been for their family that year.
His epitaph reads, ”Eternity Called, He Answered Ready.”
In 1901 Jane filed for and received a Confederate widow’s pension. This document still exists and is a goldmine of information, confirming the above story.
Jane passed away on February 25, 1904 in Alvin, Texas. Her son James Milton lived there, and although she was not listed on the most recent census in the household, perhaps she was visiting him at the time.
She had left five of her children behind, buried in different states. I’m sure she thought of them often.
Her touching epitaph reads, “Mother, our best friend on earth.”
Ironically, James Milton is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Alvin, where I took some photos in May. I did not seem to get a shot of his marker though, so I guess I’ll have to go back for another visit.
Always looking for an excuse to find more stories.
Robert Henry McGinty (1824-1896) age 72
Elizabeth Jane Lucas McGinty (1828-1904) age 76
John Henry McGinty (1846-1853) age 7
James Milton McGinty (1849-1926) age 77
Mary Jane McGinty Slaughter (1851-1869) age 18
Susan E. McGinty (1854-1859) age 5
Obediah Lamar McGinty (1857-1886) age 29
Robert McGinty (1859- ?)
Nancy Aresenith McGinty Harris (1861-1940) age 79
Sarah Micou McGinty Crouch (1863-1955) age 92
Calhoun McGinty (1866-1875) age 9
Georgia McGinty Murphy (1870-1954) age 84
Sometimes, when you delve into history to solve a mystery, you end up with several more. That’s just what happened when I came across the simple grave maker for “Mrs. Appleton.” (And yes, that’s part of a snakeskin…seven feet long…laying next to the marker.)
I found this marker in Rocky Community Church Cemetery, sometimes referred to as Rocky Creek Cemetery, in Johnson City, Blanco County, Texas. Unmarked graves make me incredibly sad, but those with only names are sad as well. When did this person live? Where is the family? Not even her first name was included.
That creates the challenge of filling in information with some research.
So who was Mrs. Appleton ?
Her name was Sarah
Sarah Jane Null was born On December 23, 1839 in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1859 she married James B. Appleton. James, whose middle initial is sometime listed as “R,” was born in Pennsylvania in 1830.
They had their first child James William the following year in Indiana. They then moved to Shelbyville, Shelby County, Indiana in 1865.
From February to October 1865, James served as a private in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.
Soon after his return from service, the couple had two more sons: John Morris on September 29, 1866 and Wallace P. in 1871.
1870 Sarah and her husband James lived in Shelbyville with with son “Willie” (James William), who was 10, Morris, who was 3 and a house servant named Mary Wilcher who was 37 years old. Sarah was listed as a milliner, and James was a painter.
In the 1880 census, the family was living in Blanco, Johnson County, Texas and farming. They were still there in 1890 when James was listed on the veteran’s schedules.
But either farming wasn’t a good choice for them, or perhaps they were homesick for Indiana, because the were back living in Shelbyville by 1895 when James passed away (according to Sarah’s obituary).
Prior to his death, the couple operated a millinery and dry goods establishment in town. Their store was at the corner of West Washington and Public Square. (The site later became home of the First National Bank Building.) They lived in a home at the corner of Franklin and West streets.
We can assume that Morris took his father’s place in the business, since he was living in his mother’s home in 1900. That year’s census lists her occupation as a milliner and his as a salesman. The 1910 census information remained the same.
John Morris Married Lida G. on May 19, 1912. They eventually moved to San Antonio, Texas where he worked as a grocery store clerk until he retired. They lived at 1023 Alamo Street. Both are buried in Shelby County, Indiana, though.
In 1920, Sarah was living in Shelbyville with her son James, who was 59 and worked at a tobacco company.
Something quickly changed again, however, because Sarah was living in Morris’ Shelbyville home when she passed away on November 26, 1921, the following year. Even more mysteriously, James and Sarah’s other son Wallace were listed as “whereabouts unknown” in Sarah’s obituary.
Where could they have gone, and why wouldn’t their family know?
At age 81, Sarah died of apoplexy and was said to have been ill for some time. Apoplexy at the time was commonly used as a term for a store or brain hemorrhage.
Mrs. Appleton had been a member of the First Presbyterian church here for several years. She was also a member of the Woman’s relief Corps, the Rebekahs and Royal Neighbors. Her name appeared often in the local newspaper, for attending or hosting social affairs and being involved in community activities. She obviously led a full life and had many friends. (Obituary appeared in the Shelbyville Republican, Saturday, Nov. 26, 1921.)
She is buried in City Cemetery in Shelbyville, Indiana.
So a few questions remain.
If James died in 1895 after they returned to Shelbyville, why is he buried in Texas? Was he perhaps visiting one of their sons who had remained in the area?
Sarah’s obituary even mentions her burial arrangements to be interred in Indiana, where there is a marker for her. Why is there also a marker for her by her husband’s? Did someone assume she was buried nearby, or was it simply placed as a remembrance?
At least we now know her full name and a bit about her. Mrs. Appleton obviously led a full, active life and had many friends. Something not reflected by the simple marker in the Texas hill country.