Monday, February 24, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #8 - John W Howard

            John Howard was born in Holden, Missouri on December 13, 1891 to Mattie Thornton and Albert S. Howard.  When he was ten his family moved back to Clover Bottom in Woodford County Kentucky.  In 1914 John’s father was accidentally shot and died from an infection in the wound.  After his death, John was in charge running the farm where they lived. 
            In 1915, John’s mother noticed his interest in a neighbor’s daughter and told him he might as well marry her.  John agreed and on November 10, 1915 he married Lena Phillips in Versailles.  They then took the train to Frankfort for a few days’ honeymoon. 
            After returning they moved in with John’s mother for a few years.  Before the second child was born, John moved Lena into the house next door to his mother, but still on the same farm.  They lived there until about 1929, when they moved to down the road to a tenant house owned by a neighbor.  Another neighbor, noting the move, told John he should buy his own farm, but John disagreed.  So the neighbor went to Lena and told her he would finance the purchase if John would buy a farm from him.  Lena told John that night they were moving and he would be paying the mortgage. The bungalow house they bought was the house they lived the rest of their lives in and where they reared all nine of their children. 
John Howard (Back) and his sons - Taken about 1938
John still farmed for his mother and his six boys did the work on both
farms. They raised hemp, hay, and other farm feed crops.  He also was known as a good breeeder/trainer for Tennessee Walking horses, gaited mules, and hunting dogs.
            As the grandchildren came along, John mellowed and was known to always have candy tucked inside his dresser drawer…if he was asked.
John was a very stubborn man who refused to admit he was getting older.  When he was about 85, he was hit by a large truck as he stepped off of a curb.  The truck was turning a corner and did not see him.  He was knocked down and permanent damage was done to his knees.  Due to his age doctors gave him pain meds, but no treatment.  After a 3-year old granddaughter pointed out that she walked better than he did, John went looking for a Dr. that would treat the problem. At age 87 he had both knees replaced and had no problems walking the rest of his life. When he complained about the pain after the surgery his wife told him that he had paid a lot of money for those knees and he shouldn’t be complaining.  After that success he went looking for an eye doctor that would remove the cataracts that his previous eye doctor told him were not worth the risk of removing.  He found one and was able to see without glasses until he died.            
When he was about 90 his son brought a thoroughbred mare and colt home.  John decided that he should help train the horse.  Although he promised his wife he would stay away from the barn, the first time she went to town and left him alone, he slipped down to the barn.  .  When Lena came home she asked why he had changed his clothes, but he refused to answer her.  After investigating, she finally found his other shirt in the trash, torn and with blood on the collar.  He had gotten in the stall with the colt and the mother had defended her baby, getting him down against the stall wall. Luckily, when he went down the mare decided he wasn’t a threat and allowed him to crawl out of the stall.  Later he admitted that it took him the better part of an hour to get from the barn to the house.  John ended with stitches in his neck and shoulder and a vast array of bruises.
 As John got older, his driving became more and more alarming.  When his truck got a flat tire his sons decided that this was a blessing in disguise and kept putting off the repair, thinking this would keep him from driving.  Except John had other ideas.  So, when he decided that it was time for him to fix the tire he went out to fix it.  As he pulled the tire off, the jack slipped and the truck fell, breaking John's leg.
When Lena was unable to live at home any longer, John would move to the nursing home with her in the winter months, but would go back to the farm for the summer.  John passed away just one day before the second anniversary of Lena's death.  A few days before his death, John went to his lawyer to adjust some things in his will and went back to the nursing home.  It was like he knew it was time or, more likely, he decided it was time and he just died.  John always said that he would live to be 100, but he was a few months short.
John was very much against anyone gathering family history.  He was adamant that they shouldn't be poking around and would be sorry.  No one knows what he was trying to hide, but I sure am looking!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

52 Ancestors - #7 - Mattie Thornton

Mattie Thornton was the fifth of nine daughters born to Reuben Thornton and Sarah McDonald. She was born in 1865 in the Clover Bottom area of Woodford County, Kentucky. In 1890 she married Albert S. Howard, and after much nagging on her part, they moved to Holden, Missouri where Albert had relatives.  Almost as soon as they got there she decided that she missed her family and Kentucky and that they should return.  Albert held out until about 1901.

Meanwhile, their son John was born (1891); then twins in 1893 (Rena and Marian).  Albert gave in and agreed to return to Kentucky.  They arrived at the train station in Lexington, but no one was there to meet them.  Mattie, furious at the lack of welcoming, demanded that they return to Missouri.  Albert refused saying that he couldn't take anymore of her wishing to come home.

From "Ruins Are Relics of Early Times" – Woodford Sun, April 25, 1946
After returning to Clover Bottom they had their third son in 1905.  They also inherited the stone house that was one of the first two permanent dwellings built in Woodford County.  It had been built by Elijah Froman, Sr. about 1781 and had been sold to the Watkins family and then the Hamilton family, from which Mattie was a descendant.

Albert was killed in 1914 by an accidental shooting.

In 1921 the stone house was destroyed by fire.  The fire also consumed all the family furnishing, family Bible, and portraits of William and Mary Hamilton.  After the fire, Mattie moved to the small community of Nonesuch, Kentucky.  Years later, her grandson, Joe Howard, would come by during his school lunch break and eat with her.  One day, he decided to go with his friends instead.  Mattie stood on her porch watching for him.  As he made his way back to the school building, she spotted him and shouted down the street, "You hussies stay away from him!  He's a good boy!"  Needless to say, Joe never missed another lunch.

Mattie passed away in December 1954 and is buried in the Versailles Cemetery in Versailles, Kentucky.

52 Ancesters - #6 - Jimmi Lena Phillips

My paternal grandmother was named after her father, James Phillips.  She used Lena most of her life and the name Jimmi caused one census taker to mark the wrong sex.  Lena's father died when she was very young and her mother remarried when Lena was 3.  Lena grew up in Woodford County and married John Wallace Howard, of Clover Bottom.  They lived on a farm all of their married life.  Lena had 10 children - 8 boys and two girls.  One of her sons died when he was four months and another died at Pearl Harbor when he was 20.  She also buried another son when he was 68.  Lena was an avid learner and read everything she could, at one point even reading some old law books that she found.

Lena's early married life was working hard to help her husband on the farm and then raising her children.  She kept chickens and cooked huge meals for the family and neighbors who always seemed to drop by at meal time.  She also found time to grow flowers - her peonies were some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  My earliest memories of Grandma was the peacocks in her yard.  Although I was terrified if they got too close I thought they were the most beautiful birds.  She always had a vase of discarded feathers that I tried to talk her out of on each visit.

Lena had all of her children at home and never entered a hospital until she was in her 80's.  She and John were married 73 years when she died at age 95.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

52 Ancestors - #5-Eleanor Thomas

My maternal grandmother was the only child born to Gertrude and Clarence Thomas.  She was born in Henry County, Kentucky in the small town of Eminence in 2 September 1902. Her father died from TB when she was 8 years old. On the 1900 census he listed his occupation as Artist, so needless to say there wasn't much money in their home.  "Mammau" and her mother, my "Nanny," went to live with Nanny's parents and stayed there until my Mammau moved to aunt's in Georgetown to attend Georgetown College.  There she met a young man, that eventually talked her into moving to Georgetown permanently as his wife.  They started married life with 50 cents and a bicycle.  She had three children, but only my mother lived.

She was a true flapper of the 1920's.  After her wedding her new mother-in-law told her she was a married woman now and she should wear her dresses longer.  She never had a bad thing to say about anybody, she loved to have fun and laugh, but she was always the first to laugh at herself.  Her favorite story about herself was the morning she was running late for church and was rushing around fixing her hair and makeup.  After she got to church she noticed that someone sitting near her was wearing lemon perfume, but couldn't figure out who it was.  The scent seemed to follow her after church as we went to eat dinner at a local restaurant.  She didn't discover that it was her until she got home that afternoon and found the lemon Pledge furniture polish sitting on the bathroom sink instead of her hair spray.

Mammau never learned to drive, never balanced a checkbook, but whatever my grandfather wanted to do she supported him 100%. She never argued, but she always got her point across.  When Granddaddy went to see his cousin for the afternoon and called her that night with the news that he was in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras and would be back the next day.  Of course, he forgot that that was the one place she had always wanted to go.  The next morning she walked downtown, bought new living room furniture and carpet.  When he got home the bill was waiting for him.  He paid it and they never spoke about it again.

When Granddaddy died I went to live with her to "watch over her."  I had just gotten my driver's license and we would go out and cruise around town.  When I ran over a curb and crunched the fender on her car, she told my mom my grandfather had done it years before.  She helped me plan a trip to Alaska on a motorcycle - and was probably more disappointed than me that I never went.  Along the way she told me stories.  Stories of her mother, my grandfather - the love of her life, and my mother.   She told me the history of her life - and her things.  Most of her furniture once belong to some great-great....., she had a chest full of quilts that were made by her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and other ancestors. She had two huge portraits of a man and his wife hanging in her living room that turned out to be my 5th great-grandparents, who were the first of her family to come to Kentucky in 1790.  She told me who owned what silver, who handed down which china and I loved every word.

Mammau had a massive stroke just weeks before I graduated from college and she died eighteen months later on 17 September, 1984, just fifteen days past her 83rd birthday.  I wish I had written down more of what she told me, but she is the one who got me started on my family tree.  I hope from her I have inherited a positive outlook on life and the ability to inspire my grandchildren to honor their family's place in history.