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This week is going to be all about my Dad’s family and Bart’s Mom’s family. Here’s your schedule for the week:
Monday the 9th: Ralph LARKIN’s death date. Ralph is my paternal great grandfather. Tuesday the 10th: James BUTLER’s birth date. James is my paternal 3rd great grandfather. Wednesday the 11th: William LARKIN’s birth date. William is my paternal 2nd great grandfather. His birth date is actually on Friday but I have 3 people to write about so rather than write one incredibly long post I thought I would tell one story each day this week. Thursday the 12th: Clara TURK WOLF’s death date. Clara is Bart’s maternal great grandmother. Her death date is actually on Friday but as I said that’s a popular date so I’m writing about one person each day. Friday the 13th (!!!): Charles WOLF’s death date. Charles is Bart’s maternal 2nd great grandfather. He is the third ancestor to share this day as a significant date. Saturday the 14th: Esther MOELLER WOLF’s birth date. Esther is Bart’s maternal grandmother.
I can’t promise these blog posts will produce any new information for anyone because it’s going to be a pretty busy week. My goal this week is mostly just to commit some of the family stories to writing for preservation- not necessarily to provide new information to everyone. If you see a mistake that I’ve made please correct it. When I’ve got this much going on plus watching a toddler five days a week things can get pretty crazy and my mind isn’t fully focused on any one thing.
My house runneth over with cupcakes. Therefore this week I will be making warm drinks rather than cupcakes to celebrate birthdays. Possibilities are tea (maybe Chai or spiced), eggnog, hot cocoa, Golden Milk, Wassail, and some good old coffee- heavily flavored, of course. You’re welcome to join me. If you haven’t gotten your Yarzeit candle and you want to join me on the days we are honoring death date anniversaries be sure to add that to your grocery list this week.
Just for fun I’m going to leave you with a fun photo I came across last week in my files.
I’m hoping someone can clarify who the people in the photo are. I’m *guessing* that I’m the girl standing up on the left and my brother Cortney (?) is sitting by my feet. Next to Cortney is Mechelle on the floor and Chris is standing on the far right. Seated is Aunt Connie (behind me- you can hardly see her face), my Mam (Audrey), Uncle Junior (?) next to her, and my Papa Gene seated on the far right. Someone’s hand is in the photo on the far left. I think that might possibly be my dad. The two poodles belonged to Mam. I had no idea I had a photo of their poodles. I think this might possibly be the trailer they rented at the top of the hill on the East side of the highway after you turn North off of Highway 20 at the Oklahoma/Arkansas junction to go toward Southwest City, Missouri. That’s the only place I remember them having those poodles. The mama poodle had a litter of pups once and my brother Cortney got too close and she bit him on the lip. That’s what I remember about those poodles!
I’m looking forward to sharing stories with you this week. If you have any stories that you’d be willing to share on the blog please message me.
Blog theme today is ‘advice’. (I’m not sure why it isn’t ‘thankful’ or ‘gratitude’ but that’s coming on the 26th.) Today I’m going to give you another “short and sweet” blog post about advice given by my grandpa Eugene DRAKE.
My Papa said whenever you have a tough decision to make think about what is the right thing to do- and then ALWAYS choose what is the RIGHT thing to do. It’s timeless advice. So I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family or friends- or alone if you’re an introvert and that’s what you choose. And when you’re making that next decision, choose to do what’s right. You can’t go wrong with that.
“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” ~ Psalm 1:3, The Holy Bible
Today’s blog post theme is ‘tree’. I knew right away what I wanted to write about and that’s actual TREES! A little side note about the verse above, there’s an old hymn that was one of Bart’s favorites when we attended Poynor Baptist Church. I found the version below on Youtube. I don’t think I’ll ever find a version like the one we sang at that church but here’s a link to one that’s close:
(In case you’re a statistics nerd: this is the second day in a row Johnny Cash has been featured in a blog post.)
The Heritage Tree
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” ~ Proverbs 13:12, The Holy Bible
I recently blogged a little about a trip I took in 2011 to the Boston, Massachusetts area. (See the post on the Salem witch trials here.) While in Massachusetts I was going through an ancestral chart on Ancestry that listed a lineage showing the ENDICOTT family as our ancestors. A quick search on Google showed that in Danvers, Massachusetts (near Salem) was a pear tree that was several hundred years old and was brought over to the USA by the original ENDICOTT immigrant ancestor. I went to Danvers and photographed the tree.
Endicott pear tree.
I later learned there was a whole society devoted to this tree and that they had a project going to keep the tree alive. Part of the project was grafts from the tree that they sent out to members who could then grow a descendant pear tree. All of this was an effort to continue the legacy of the tree. My parents and I got two successful grafts from the pear tree and they are growing in my orchard and doing well. Subsequent research has shown that the genealogy on that particular line was incorrect. Genealogy (especially from the early years of this country) seems to be somewhat cyclical so it’s quite possible that even though that line was incorrect and did not ultimately lead to the ENDICOTT family, a future line will lead back to them. So until a connection shows up in future research I will keep nursing the trees and hope they produce fruit. If it turns out that we simply aren’t connected to them, well then I have a very unique tree with a great history and it’s a unique memento of one of the best vacations I ever took.
My Endicott pear tree.
Granny and the Chinquapin Nuts
When I was young (elementary school-aged) I was staying with Granny BATES one day and we went for a walk. She picked up a couple of Chinquapin hickory nuts off the side of the road and told me about Chinquapin trees and how she hardly ever saw any anymore because a disease had come through and killed them all. She cracked one open and we ate it. I don’t really remember how it tasted, I just remember her talking about how sweet the “chinky pins” tasted. I kept the extra nuts in a drawer for a long time. (Yikes- I might have a “saving” problem!) I even took them to school for show-and-tell. I never saw a Chinquapin hickory after that until I was an adult. Bart and I like to plant unique trees and we were talking about a project where we could preserve a native species. I told him the story about Granny and the Chinquapin hickory nuts and we decided that was the project we wanted to take on. We ordered 5 Chinquapin hickory seeds from Ozark Chinquapin Society and planted them in honor of Granny’s 100th birthday. The seedlings didn’t make it. My dad has since tried. He gave two of the seedlings to my brother and sister-in-law, gave two to me and kept one in the hopes that one of our trees would survive. Once again- mine didn’t do so well (unless, of course, they sprout up next summer and surprise me). I hope they do. I’d love to have some Chinquapins growing here again.
Granny and I at her 100th birthday party.
While We’re Talking About Chinquapins…
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoot will not cease.” ~ Job 14:7, The Holy Bible
Speaking of Chinquapins, Bart and I saw a huge Chinquapin Oak tree this fall when we were traveling in Georgia. The tree was at Tunnel Hill, Georgia and it was so old th guide said it would have been there during the Civil War when my 3rd great-grandparents- John and Mary (MOBLEY) BATES lived in that area. She allowed us to take a few acorns off the tree and we are going to try to sprout them and grow trees from the nuts.
Me at Chinquapin Oak
“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” ~ Genesis 1:29, The Holy Bible
Bart and I have a small orchard. I love that orchard. We order heirloom trees from Trees of Antiquity. The quality of their trees is excellent and I love that they carry varieties that are very old. They try to keep these old varieties from becoming extinct. One year I chose an Arkansas Black apple tree in honor of my 2nd great-grandfather, George BATES, who had an apple orchard in Arkansas at the time he filed his Homestead Entry file.
Homestead Entry file document for George BATES.
It seems like Granny always had an apple tree wherever she lived. If I’m not mistaken, the tree behind Uncle Butch in the photo below is her apple tree on the place that is now Junior Anderson’s outside Southwest City, Missouri.
The “Maker” Trees
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30, The Holy Bible
My Dad (Roy DRAKE), brother Jared, and nephew Patrick, have used trees from my Papa (Eugene) DRAKE’s and great-grandfather Mark DRAKE’s old home places to make things like pens and other woodturned items. My husband cut a huge burl from an old tree on our place hoping that Dad can find some time to practice turning a bowl. Dad has made Christmas ornaments, bats, gavels, and other things out of the trees that have been cut. He does a great job!
My sister-in-law Becky and I have made jellies and syrup from tree fruits/nuts. One year I picked the blossoms off our Redbud trees and gave them to Becky. She made them into Redbud Jelly. (It tastes a lot like grape jelly, in case you’re wondering. Very delicious!) I’ve helped make a couple of batches of hickory syrup and in fact, I have a pint sitting on my kitchen table ready to send to a friend in exchange for the maple syrup she sent to me one year. My friend, Kendra, and her husband tap their maple trees up north and make their own syrup. It’s heavenly! Bart and I enjoy foraging together. This year we dug up some Sassafras root for tea and picked/dried some Sassafras leaves for filé powder so we can try Filé Gumbo. We also picked up Black Walnuts but it didn’t appear to be a very good year for walnuts. In fact, it wasn’t really a good year for most wild trees and plants. I’ve even foraged juniper berries and used them in a roast. We love to try new things like that.
I Just Love Trees!
“…Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy…” ~ Psalm 96:12, The Holy Bible
Recently the weather has been windy and I’ve enjoyed hearing the wind blow through the leaves and branches. It’s a soothing sound. The solitude and peace out here in the woods is refreshing. Take some time this week to walk through the forest and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s good for the soul.
P.S.- If you’re a Christian, you have this glorious tree to look forward to. I can’t wait to see it, too.
“Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” ~ Revelation 22:2, The Holy Bible
Today’s theme is ‘sky’. Think about that for a minute…because I’ve thought about it for 2 days! This is a tough one. It required some creativity. I’m going to present several stories, not a lot of proof, possibly some photos, and a little bit of “this is what I’ve been told”. I think you will enjoy it though.
IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF BAD ACTING! – Eugene DRAKE and Bessie WILLIAMS LARKIN
Eugene (“Gene”) and Audrey DRAKE were my grandparents and Bess was my great-grandmother. In the latter years of her life, Bessie lived with Gene and Audrey. Bess loved luchador-style wrestling- masks, theatrics, stage names- the whole nine yards. She loved it. And Gene? He loved antagonizing his mother-in-law! (It’s the DRAKE sense of humor- we kind of can’t help it!) Gene would let Bess turn on wrestling and then he’d start in on her about how it was all fake. She would retort that it was real and the fight was on. I don’t know how Gene really felt about the wrestling but I know he loved picking on Bess. The more he’d antagonize her the more riled up she’d get. My mom remembers times that she would be sitting on the couch next to Gene and he’d nudge mom with his elbow and very softly say, “Watch this.” Then he would start rooting for the wrestler that was opposing the one Bess was rooting for and he’d start smack-talking Bess’s wrestler. Mom said it would really get her going and Gene would be on the couch laughing the whole time.
Photo of a photo of Bess LARKIN, Audrey DRAKE, and I think the guy is Ray LARKIN.
Gene and Audrey DRAKE
Blue Sky luchador mask
REACH FOR THE SKY, PILGRIM! – William DRAKE and John Beason DRAKE
Remember Willard Drake who went to Leavenworth? William was his dad and my 3rd great-grandfather. William is said to have been a law enforcement officer at Oak Grove, Oklahoma. (Information supplied by Kerry Langstaff.) I haven’t been able to verify that. I do know that I’m not aware of William living near Oak Grove, Oklahoma but he did live close to Oak Grove, Missouri in 1870. I’m still trying to find some kind of proof for his work as a Constable or Deputy. John Beason DRAKE was William DRAKE’s grandson (son of Poppy Lon- my 2nd great-grandfather). John was an officer in Southwest City, Missouri.
DISAPPEARED INTO THIN AIR! – Bessie WILLIAMS LARKIN’s Family is Gone Like Yesterday!
My final short short story is about Bess’s family. I’m hoping that someone will find some information about them. Bess’s family has been so hard to trace. Her maiden name is WILLIAMS. Add that to the fact that she was married multiple times and then add to that commonplace first names and you’ve got a recipe for going nowhere fast! Over the past three decades I’ve been able to identify Bess’s dad and paternal grandfather but it’s been tough going and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to find information about them beyond names. The WILLIAMS’ are still very much a mystery to me.
Bess’s mom’s last name is BELL. It’s still a fairly common name and the problem with a last name like BELL is that it was also a common first and middle name as well as a noun (as in “ring the bell”). All of those things add up to another very difficult family to research. I have identified Bess’s mom, maternal grandparents, and one set of maternal great-grandparents but have not been able to identify anyone in her line beyond that.
So just in case y’all feel like doing a little research, Bess’s parents are Samuel Morris WILLIAMS born April, 1864 in Illinois. Up until this year I believed he had died in 1905. That’s what Mam (Audrey) told me and that was the accepted family history among older family members. However, this year I discovered information indicating he did not, in fact, die but rather ran off and left his wife and kids. Samuel’s dad was John WILLIAMS (1840-1904). Bess’s mom was Eliza Emoline BELL (born July, 1871 in Roubidoux, Texas, Missouri and died in 25 February 1934 in Upton, Texas, Missouri). Eliza’s parents were Quincy Adam BELL (1825-1902) and Emily MOODY BELL (born in Missouri) OR Elizabeth Emoline STEPHENSON (1844-1897) (I’m not sure which one or they might even be the same person). Quincy’s parents were John BELL (1795-1848) and Sarah HARDIN (1806-1896). I would love for you all to join in the search.
One additional thing. I’d love for you all to consider taking a DNA test to contribute to advancing the family genealogy. If you’re interested but have questions, message me and I’ll be glad to help if I can. I just ordered my test a few days ago and I’m looking forward to getting my results.
Some people will think today’s fact isn’t so “wacky”. That’s okay. Call it what you want- as long as you read on!
Wacky Fact Wednesday was going to be part of my effort to shorten blog posts for a while. Then my SIL Becky came along with the photo/blog challenge and that theme for today is ‘Ancestor’. So I’m combining the two for this blog post, but don’t worry- it’s still short and sweet.
The “wacky fact” of the week is: my direct-line Drake family has lived in Delaware County, Oklahoma for 6 consecutive generations (including me). Here is the line, being respectful of privacy by starting with my great-grandfather: Mark DRAKE, his father Poppy Lon (Alonzo Ervin), and Lon’s mother Hester (MITCHELL) DRAKE after she was widowed by Lon’s father William.
The ancestor I want to focus on today for the Ancestor photo/blog section is Mark DRAKE. Mark Hanna DRAKE was married to Edith HUBBARD whom I wrote about here. (Better grab a box of Kleenex before you go read that one.)
Mark Drake circa 1954. This is the best picture I have access to tonight and is the only one I could find. Sorry for the quality.
I only remember Mark when he was old, of course. His eyes looked cloudy blue which means he probably had cataracts. He smoked cigars all the time (I wish I knew what brand). He and grandma Edith made wonderful homemade ice cream. They always cranked homemade ice cream at a yearly extended family gathering in the summer each year- at least that’s what I remember. We got to crank it when we were kids. Somehow it seemed a privilege when we were young- not so much when we got older. I remember them being very loving and quiet. Mark had a little spark- I bet he was a real character in his younger days. In fact, this story that I was told about him by one of the older Hubbard relatives (Deloris NORRIS) goes something like this:
Mark’s brother had a pair of new boots that Mark really liked and wanted. Mark tried to talk his brother out of them but the brother wouldn’t give them up. One day the brother left his boots on Mark’s porch and went inside. Mark went outside, put the boots on and walked through the barnyard muck in them (think the worst possible thing when you think about the muck), took them off and replaced them on the porch for his brother to find. With the Drake’s proven penchant for fighting I just wonder if that dig at his brother caused them to have a little row – or maybe it began a lifelong tit-for-tat!
Although Mark seemed to still have a little underlying spark in his old age I never remember him being anything but loving and kind. I actually enjoyed seeing that spark come out when I was young. It made him more real and gave him a personality. I liked to go over and visit them and sit on his lap and talk to him and Edith. I surely miss them and am looking forward to the day when I see them again. Maranatha!
I would love it if everyone shared their memories of Mark and Edith here.
This week's theme is “different” meaning someone who is your polar opposite, someone who acted or reacted differently than you would have, etc. I couldn't think of anyone more polar opposite of me than my great-grandmother, Bessie WILLIAMS STEELEY LARKIN LANCASTER FORDEN. (There are a couple of surnames left out. My apologies to the at-least-two fellas whose names can't be remembered.) Talk about the apple falling far from the tree- I didn't think I was much like Bessie at all. I was 10 years old when my great-grandma passed away. What I remember of her is based totally on memories that are 30+ years old. Those memories are also memories of a 10 year old- someone with little life experience on which to base her observations and an understanding that was limited to what adults would let her know (or not know) based on age.
The Bessie I Knew
What I remember of Bessie is that she didn't have a middle name. She chewed tobacco. She adored and was extremely serious about WWF-style wrestling. She was superstitious to the extreme and was also very serious about that. She had long hair that she wore in a bun for as long as I can remember. She seemed ancient to me although she was only 78 when she died. She seemed rough toward the other great-grandkids but I always felt like I was her favorite and thought she was nicer to me than to the others. (Maybe all her great-grandkids felt this way, I don't know.) She always made handmade Christmas presents and I still have the last homemade Christmas gift I remember her giving me.
My most vivid memory of her had to have happened not long before her death when she lived with my grandparents. I was walking around my Mam's house with one shoe on and one shoe off and I walked in front of Bessie. She came unglued!! She yelled at me to get that shoe off my foot and didn't I know that bad things would happen to me if I walked with one shoe on and one shoe off?!?! Scared me to death. I wasn't really a superstitious person but neither did I want to tempt fate so I took off that shoe until I found the other one. A couple of days later I hit my head on the corner of a cabinet door I had left open and my head started bleeding and all I could think about was the bad luck she predicted because I walked with one shoe on and one shoe off.
The Bessie Others Knew
A young Bessie WILLIAMS LARKIN (with short hair!).
I felt like I really didn't know Bessie very well so I called on various people to tell me what they knew about her. This is what I learned about Bess as an individual and as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother.
Bess was born just after the turn of the century in August of 1901. She grew up in an extremely poor family. When she was about four years old, her father- Samuel Williams- was killed by a train near Cabool, Missouri. Bess had 13 (possibly 14) siblings. I was told that there were such age differences in the siblings that it was almost like two different sets of siblings and some of the older and younger siblings really didn't grow up together or know each other well. The year prior to Bess's birth, twin boys were born to her mom and those babies died before Bess was born. When Bess was 16, she lost her brother, Bennie. At ages 36 and 37, she lost her sister Sarah and her brother Hosea (whom the family called “Hose”). In her 50's she would lose her sister “Ide” (Ida) and her brother Jahu. Eight years before her own death, she would lose her brother Mart (Martin). There were other siblings but I don't know when they died, except for Aunt Eule (Eula). To my knowledge, Aunt Eule was the last surviving sibling and she died in 1996. Before she died, my dad, Mam, Aunt Carol, and I took a trip to see Aunt Eule and we interviewed her. I will try to get that interview transcribed soon and post it. If I can, I will post some audio as well so everyone can hear Eule. She was quite a character. Many of the WILLIAMS siblings moved away to other parts of the country. Just this past week I spoke with two daughters of Bessie's brother, Mart. One lives in the Bakersfield, CA area and the other lives in the Sebring, FL area. With 13 siblings, it's no surprise the family is spread out from one coast to the other. Many of the siblings and their families spent time overseas due to being in the military.
Studies have shown that families in extreme poverty place a high value on being able to entertain others because sometimes the only form of entertainment they can afford is each other. True to this fact, Bessie was a person who could entertain. She was talkative, loud, boisterous, and outgoing. She could play the guitar and harmonica very well and taught all of her children that were interested in learning to play the guitar.
Here is Bessie's son, Uncle Carl, playing his guitar. I can remember Carl playing his guitar at my son's third birthday party. He played Hit the Road Jack. My son sang that song for years and “played” it on his toy guitar.) Bessie knew all the old Irish songs and played and sang them all the time. Bessie never met a stranger. I surely wish someone had a recording of her playing and singing because I don't ever remember hearing her sing or play.
Bess was always superstitious but my dad says so was everyone else at that time. She didn't let people open umbrellas in the house and if someone handed someone else an open knife, it was promptly refused and the person had to close it before handing it back again because it would bring bad luck if you accepted an open knife.
Bess's first marriage was at age 13. She married Otis STEELEY. They were only married for a day or two and then they managed to get the marriage annulled. My great-grandpa, Ralph LARKIN, was working for Bessie's dad around that time. He one day announced to everyone that he would be marrying Bessie and when she turned 16, they married. Ralph was an ultra-religious Pentecostal Holiness. Bessie was “rough”, talked “like a sailor”, and didn't go to church. Ralph managed to get her turned around but even then she was an “irreverant Christian” as described by one of her grandsons. Ralph and Bessie had 10 children. Ralph was very strict and several of his children didn't like that. When their children were old enough several moved away from home and didn't go back. After Ralph's death, Bess married several more times. She married a man from Joplin, Missouri; a man named Jim who lived in Grove, Delaware County, Oklahoma; Palmer LANCASTER; and Bill FORDEN.
Bessie lived in several places throughout her life. As a child and living with her family in extreme poverty, they lived on the river in Kansas City- a very rough area of the city. Also in her childhood she lived in Texas County, Missouri in the towns of Success and Roubidoux. After her dad died and her mom remarried, she lived in Enid, Garfield County, Oklahoma. At age 14 she lived in Iola, Allen County, Kansas. The following year the family was living in the Picher-Cardin, Ottawa County, Oklahoma area where Ralph found work in the lead and zinc mines. In the late 1910's and throughout the 1920's they bounced back and forth between Roubidoux, Missouri, and the Miami-Picher, Oklahoma area. In the 1930's they bounced back and forth between Upton, Texas County, Missouri and Miami, Ottawa, Oklahoma. By 1940 they were living in Beaty, Delaware County, Oklahoma. Since I don't have census records available to me after 1940, I can't tell you all the places she lived after that but I know she lived in Delaware County when she died. Her doctor was in Gravette, Benton County, Arkansas and that is where her official place of death is. My dad told me that after Ralph got sick with black lung disease from working in the mines, his doctor told him to move to Arizona where the climate was drier. This was a common recommendation from doctors at that time. So Ralph and Bessie moved to Arizona for a year or two but both of them hated it and they moved back to the Delaware County, Oklahoma/McDonald County, Missouri area before Ralph died.
When my dad was young, he and his 3 siblings were four out of eight grandchildren that lived close to Bessie and were able to visit her frequently. (The others lived too far away to visit often.) He felt that Bessie doted on them and loved them and was very affectionate with them. She always wanted them to come over. They would walk a half mile down the road (the Poynor School road for those of you familiar with that area) from their house to her house after school. They would visit her, eat some of her good cooking, and then make another half mile trek west to their Grandma DRAKE's home and visit her. I love knowing they were able to do that. It brought back fond memories of when we lived close enough to my husband's parents that our then-3-year-old son could walk through the back yard and to his grandparents' home for snacks or meals or visits and hugs. Dad said when they went to Bess's house she always had food or cooked them food and she was a good cook. Breakfast was always pancakes and if anyone got eggs it was only for grandpa. For other meals, she cooked cornbread and beans; soup; anything she could use her garden vegetables in; she fixed turnips although he didn't much care for those; fried cabbage; salads with wild greens including sour dock, lamb's quarters, chickweed and dandelion leaves; poke greens fried in bacon grease; and lots of wild edibles. She had to know how to use wild edibles because the family was so poor. Bess and my grandma Audrey always had the pressure cooker going all summer long canning whatever they could from wild edibles to garden harvests to whatever they were given or could find. On Friday nights before grandpa Ralph got sick, he would come home from work and he and Bess would make dough balls for bait, pack up, and go to Grand Lake for the weekend and fish from Friday night to Monday morning. Grandpa would get up Monday morning and go straight to work and grandma Bess would come home. They fished for what my dad considered to be “trash fish” including carp, buffalo fish, and drum fish. Whatever they caught, Bess would pressure can (bones and all) during the week. Grandpa Mark DRAKE would always tell dad to be sure to tell Grandma Bess to can some fish for him and Grandma Bess would can him some fish and send them over. Dad said the canned fish tasted really good. She also pressure canned mixed greens- meaning any wild edibles she could find growing. Basically, anything that was wild and edible they would eat or can to eat later. Grandpa Ralph and Grandma Bess also always kept a barrel of brine pickles on hand. My dad loved them because they were crisp and salty. He said he could take a fork and fork one out any time he wanted one but if grandma caught him sticking his bare hands in to get one he got in trouble.My dad said Bessie and Ralph had the worst luck with houses Several homes they lived in burned. In one four year period they had two houses in a row burn. The houses were across the road from each other. Because of this they seemed to be constantly starting over from scratch and it was very difficult for them. He remembers the interior of the house that burned down. He said it had no ceiling, just bare rafters and once when Uncle Mart came to visit Bess, he was taking medication and put the medication up on top of the rafters by the roof. He said he was told Mart had Tuberculosis and that he was taking medication for that. Another thing he remembers is that grandma Bess loved Hollyhocks and had huge ones growing all around her house. He doesn't know why but says he didn't like the Hollyhocks at all. He could not remember if there was a particular color that was her favorite. She had a huge variety of colors of Hollyhocks. He remembers Bess and Audrey washing laundry in the back yard of one of the burned houses. They had a tub and an old wringer washer. They would wash out the clothes in a tub and then put them through the wringer. They would then turn around and make lye soap in the same tub they washed clothes in. They lye soap was used to wash everything- clothes, skin, etc. The lye soap was made using beef tallow and ashes and he said it was very good for their skin.
After grandma Bess came to live with my grandparents Gene and Audrey, she never complained about being sick. She and my grandpa Gene had ongoing rivalries over wrestling being fake and overrated. Bess was pretty healthy until she slipped and fell in the bathtub. She twisted her colon and got gangrene. The doctor didn't realize she had gangrene and by the time he figured it out it was too late and she died. My dad described her overall disposition as being a happy one. He remembers her being a very fun and loving grandmother and very smart. She had a linoleum floor in one of her houses and when it was waxed, it had to also be buffed. After waxing, the linoleum was very slick. So when it was time to buff the floor, grandma Bess threw rags down on the floor and told the kids to get on them and slide. Grandma got her floor buffed and the kids had a great time doing it and didn't realize they were doing grandma's work for her. (I seriously can't imagine my dad buffing the floor like this as a child. lol)
My conversations with others about Bessie WILLIAMS LARKIN were very enlightening. I learned about a Bess that I never knew. The more people talked about her, the more I realized that some apples really do fall close to the tree- even if they don't know how close they stay. I may not chew twist tobacco and while I might find it fun to go see luchadors wrestle once just for fun with my brother Jared, it's definitely not something I'm into. I am not THAT superstitious (never mind that just this week I picked up a penny on heads in the parking lot and recited to myself, “Find a penny, pick it up. All the day you'll have good luck.”). For the past few years I've been learning what I can about wild edibles and I started canning when I was in my late 20's/early 30's. And nevermind my long hair that just today I wore in a bun…now what was I saying about apples and how far they fall from trees? Yeah…
The Bess my dad knew doesn't seem like the Bess I knew and I'm so glad I got a chance to hear these stories and get to know her from a grandchild's perspective. Because don't we all love grandma's and their fabulous cooking? This post has really presented her to me as a real person and I love that. I wish I had known then what I know now. I could have learned all my wild edibles knowledge from her and been so much better at it by now. It's probably a good thing there aren't time machines. I hope you've enjoyed getting to know Bess. The next time you're tempted to think you are totally opposite from an ancestor, try to remember that “the apple” really doesn't fall that far from the tree. You may be more like them than you know.
The Dust Bowl has always captured my attention and I especially love a well written novel set in that era such as Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. My ancestors seem to have (thankfully) missed the “black blizzards” (huge, black dust clouds) that rolled across the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.
My grandparents- Eugene and Audrey DRAKE- and their children lived in Abilene, Texas during the mid-1950’s when the area had a revival of dust storms reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl storms. My dad was very young at that time. However, he can recall the black blizzards rolling through. He said when they hit, you couldn’t see anything around you. Everyone rushed into their homes and began stuffing wet rags into every crack and crevice possible to keep the dust out. If a crack was missed, dust poured into the home. Even with the wet rags in place, the dust was still a problem. It was like a black wall rolling toward you when the black blizzards rolled in.
1950’s Abilene, Texas
In the 1950’s, Abilene was a dry city so there would not have been any bars there. The Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra gave it’s first concert in 1950 and fine arts groups were active there during this time period. The city boasted a professional baseball team- The Blue Sox- which was associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers and operated in Abilene until 1957. Major employers in the area included the railroad and the military bases. In 1953, Abilene schools were still segregated. (https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hda01) This was the environment in which my dad lived and attended school in Abilene from 1954-1957. He went to school there between his 5th and 8th grade years. He does not remember the elementary school he attended. He said at that time the family lived on North 11th Street in Abilene and they were close enough to the school that he walked to school. I was unable to tell by looking online (especially being unfamiliar with the area) which elementary school he might have attended. He does remember attending North Junior High.
In addition to living on North 11th Street, the family also lived on Burger Street in Abilene.
He was very self-conscious and felt out of place being from the country and now attending school in a city. However, he said he was well-liked and remembers being invited, accepted, and involved in school social and academic pursuits while he was there. Financially, life was very difficult. One of his prized possessions was the 1957 school yearbook his mom saved up to buy for him.
Here he is in 7th grade, 1956-57 at North Junior High:
He was in Mrs. Boyland’s Homeroom 4. Here is Mrs. Boyland in the 1956-57 school year:
The Principal that year was J. M. Anthony. He struck fear in students at North Junior High.
Dad’s favorite teacher that year was the pretty Miss Cole, English teacher:
Outside of North Junior High, the drought raged on in Texas. In regard to the drought, one farmer had these things to say, “…the biggest difference was that in the `30s, it broke people financially. But the 1950s broke them spiritually.” Water arrived in town periodically in tanks on the back of trucks and people rushed to get it. One state official wrote a letter to his peer in July 1950 saying that residents in Abilene were accusing the government officials of being communists, presumably in response to the water shortage issues and other drought-related problems. 1951, 1954, and 1956 were in the top 10 of driest years on record in Texas. Crops wouldn’t grow, ponds dried up, and the ground was so dry it had 6-inch open cracks. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/14/texas-drought-dry-spell-1950_n_926703.html)
In the 1954-56 time period, San Angelo newspapers reported up to 70 mile per hour wind gusts causing horrible dust storms which killed people, uprooted trees, damaged property and crops, and killed livestock; wind spreading fires that destroyed buildings; wind gusts that blew down walls; and, horrific vehicle accidents caused by low visibility due to the dust in the air. At points there was zero visibility due to the dust blizzards. Instead of finding rain in their rain gauges, residents found inches of dust. The storms were often very fast moving leaving little time to take cover.
(http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/rick-smith-where-did-all-the-dust-storms-go) The drought finally broke early in 1957. That was also the year Gene and Audrey and their family moved out of Texas for the final time.
In researching my family’s stay in Abilene, I found two reasons why my grandparents chose Abilene as a residence. My father told me they went there to try and get better jobs and have a better financial situation. In addition to that information, I found a newspaper article on Ancestry.com that helped explain what drew my family specifically to Abilene versus another city. Audrey’s brother, Ralph, moved to that area in 1953 with his wife. Their brother, Carl, was also living there. It’s quite possible that the deciding factor in favor of Abilene was that there were close family members there. You can read about the article I found in my blog post at Days of Our Lives: Close to Home, Close to the Heart, Part 2 beginning at the section heading, “Carolyn Bennett”.
I’m glad my family had that time with other family members but I’m very thankful they moved back here to Oklahoma where my parents married and created my family. Life could easily have turned out so differently. I try to be thankful for every turn mine has taken.
Remember this coming week to treasure family and love each other. For more genealogy goodness, click on over to my Sister-In-Law’s blog at Down in the Root Cellar where she is participating in the same genealogy blog challenge I’m doing this year.
As requested, here is a follow-up post to give you a little more information about C.J. Drake.
C.J.’s death certificate will fill you in on his date of birth and death as well as give you an official cause of death, name of the funeral home and the cemetery of burial:
C. J. only appears on one census record. Below is a copy of Mark and Edith’s family on that census record:
A record of his burial is here but there is no photograph of the stone and I have never photographed the stone: Find a Grave
Maybe we can all make an effort this year to honor him with flowers when we honor our other family members buried at this cemetery. I think that would make grandma happy.
Some old school census records showing C.J. and some of Mark and Edith’s other children:
1936 (shows Papa Drake but not C.J.):
Is anyone familiar enough with Mark and/or Edith’s signatures to know whether or not the signatures on the above 3 school census records were really their signatures?
These documents don’t give a lot of insight into C.J.’s life but they are all I have about him at this time. He didn’t have lot of time to live his life and make records. He was still in high school when he died. He did not serve in the military nor have I found any record that he registered for the draft although I’m sure he did since it was the law. He never married or had children. I find it comforting that he was on his way to a revival and was driving a truck full of family and friends there when he died. I have to believe this was also a solace to Edith. One of the things that got me through a lot of difficult days and nights was the fact that I knew my son was serving God when he died. I knew that my separation from him was not for an eternity but only for a little while.
If you know of stories about C. J. or Mark and Edith or have a picture to post, please post them.
Edith and 2 of her siblings- Bedford and Rosa- in 1982.