Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ghosts of Christmas Past

One of my favorite things about Christmas is getting out the decorations and ornaments that I only see once a year. They bring back so many memories of Christmases past. 

On my tree I have two special ornaments. One belonged to my mother, and the other might have been Big Mom's, but more likely was one of my grandmother's. In any case, they are both at least 50 to 60 years old. Every year I wrap them up in massive wads of tissue or paper towels and place them in the very middle of my ornament box, surrounded and protected by all the other wrapped ornaments. Every year I hold my breath as I unwrap them, hoping that they are still whole and unbroken.

My mom's ornament

My grandmother's (or Big Mom's) ornament

Another prized Christmas decoration is my stocking. The mother of one of my 1st grade classmates made every child in the class a stocking. I have put up mine, which says "Rebecca," every Christmas for almost 60 years.

I panicked a little this year when I couldn't find this next decoration. I have red and green Christmas bins that hold all my decorations and ornaments, and I went through every one of them three times, looking for the musical Christmas ball that Uncle Tom sent us from Germany when he was working there in the 1960's. I finally remembered that I had put it in its own box and tucked it away in the top of the closet last year. 

It was an object of fascination in the 1960's, something from another country and emblematic of Uncle Tom's exotic life. We always hung the Christmas ball in a doorway, where there was room to pull down the wire string that made it play "Silent Night." Nowadays, I'm almost afraid that it can't withstand one more tug on the pull string, so it hangs quietly on its ornament stand.

Here is what I remember about our Christmas decorations when I was growing up.

  • The mantel was always the focal point for my grandmother's Christmas decorating. The stockings hung from it; Santa Claus, poinsettias, and Christmas cards sat atop it; and my grandmother always wrote something in lipstick across the mirror.

  • She always decorated around the front door with cedar branches and multi-colored lights (the big bulbs that you can hardly find anymore). When we lived at 2717 W. 42nd St., the cedar came from our own tree. After we moved in 1963, for a couple of years Mom was still able to collect cedar from the tree at the old house to decorate the front door of Big Mom's house.

  • We always had a real Christmas tree. It smelled like a real tree, and it shed like a real tree. No wimpy Christmas tree stand for us! Our tree stood in a bucket of rocks and had to be watered often so it wouldn't dry out before the big day. I really don't remember the ornaments, but we had tinsel and big-bulbed lights with reflectors. I still have this tree topper that we sometimes used, but it's too sad-looking now to top my tree.

  • My grandmother also put up another tree, a small silver one that Uncle Mack brought home from the shoe store where he worked as a young man. She usually decorated it with ornaments all of one color, and I remember that she often used pink. That may be where my pink Christmas ornament came from. Our television set was so big in those days (not the screen, just the cabinet) that the tree usually sat on top of the TV.
  • We had a small ceramic tree with imitation pine needles and lights. I don't remember where my grandmother put it on 42nd St., but at Big Mom's house it sat in the window above the kitchen sink. One year my cousin Debbie burned her finger when she touched one of the lights.
  • We always had Christmas Eve with Uncle Mack, Aunt Helene, and Debbie. Aunt Helene usually bought me something that was the desire of my heart. One year, when I was a teenager, it was two dresses from a shop at 51st & Peoria. I had tried them on during one trip to the shop, then begged for them so much that my grandmother took me back to buy them, just to find that they had already been sold. It was a big surprise when they turned up as gifts from Aunt Helene under our tree on Christmas Eve.

  • Aunt Helene was also the queen of wrapping--her presents were wrapped so beautifully that you hated to open them. I could never wrap presents as beautifully as she did, but I was the designated wrapper at our house. My grandmother's arthritis made it difficult for her to handle tape and ribbon, so I took over those duties. I was such a good kid (and loved surprises so much) that she could give me my own presents to wrap and I wouldn't peek! Mostly.

The decorations I put out at Christmas help me remember wonderful times with family members that are gone. Mom, Big Mom, Aunt Helene and Uncle Mack, all my aunts and uncles, Daddy -- I hold you in my heart at Christmas time and always.

Daddy and I, Christmas 1954 -- I wish I knew what happened to this Santa!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The News from Oklahoma

From the summer of 1907 until the beginning of her teaching career, my grandmother lived in a farm between Davenport and Chandler, Oklahoma. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, settlement in Davenport began in 1891 with the opening of Sac and Fox lands to non-Indians. A couple named Davenport staked a claim in that opening and their daughter Nettie became postmistress when the post office was established at Davenport in 1892. In 1901 plans to construct a railroad line through the area led to a building boom in the little town of Davenport.

My understanding of the move to Oklahoma was that my grandmother's Day grandparents came to Oklahoma first, followed later by the Castle family. James Thomas (J.T.) Day and his wife Nancy Emily Reed had been married in Magoffin County, Kentucky, on 13 April 1876 and by 1894 had seven living children, all girls: Ida, Florida, Zedda, Emma, Margaret, Minta, and Retta Lee. Sometime before 1907 the Day parents and their seven daughters, including Florida Day Castle and her family, had moved to Oklahoma.

But why Davenport? For a long time I didn't know or even question why or exactly when the Days had moved to Oklahoma. Then a few years ago I met some Day cousins and learned that our ancestors came to Davenport in a group led by Methodist ministers from Kentucky. I actually had forgotten that I knew that when I started to do some research on the Days last week and Googled "J.T. Day Davenport Oklahoma."

What I found was more than I expected. The Google search led to a priceless Oklahoma resource, the Gateway to Oklahoma History, an online repository of the Oklahoma Historical Society, which now consists of "hundreds of thousands of newspaper pages dating from the 1840s to the 1920s." My search of J.T. Day helped to pinpoint a date by which my 2nd great-grandparents had moved to Davenport -- 1904.

The first issue of the Davenport Leader in which J.T. Day appeared was dated 15 December 1904. The entire front page of the paper was dedicated to the growth of the town--the construction of a bank building, the preparations for oil and gas drilling, and the purchase of townsites for homes. The townsites were owned and sold by the group of Methodist ministers, incorporated as the Kentucky, Oklahoma, Indian Territory and Adjacent States Land and Townsite Company. According to the Leader, the secretary of the townsite company, Rev. C.F. Oney, had recently come to town from Kentucky to close several pending deals.

Davenport Leader, 15 December 1904

The Oneys were ancestors of the Days, so I did a little research on C.F. Oney. Creed Fulton Oney was the son of James Oney and Rhoda Day. My 4th great-grandfather, Thomas P. Day, and Rhoda Day were brother and sister. J.T. Day's mother was an Oney. So Creed Oney and James T. Day were double cousins. It made a little more sense now how my Days had ended up in Oklahoma.

On the front page of the 15 December 1904 issue of the Davenport Leader was the name I was looking for. The paper reported, "G.A. Hugo and J.T. Day are having plans drawn and will soon commence building large and substantial residences on their lots recently purchased." The 2 March 1905 issue of the Leader reported, "Wm. Tipton and family arrived last Thursday from Lykins, Ky. and for the present are stopping with his wife's parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Day and family. He will locate here." William Tipton's wife was Zedda Day. Here is a piece of evidence that might support the story that Grandpa and Grandma Day's daughters followed their parents to Oklahoma.

According to my grandmother, the Castles came to Oklahoma the summer before statehood was declared in November 1907. After seeing the headstone of Goldman Davidson Castle in Kentucky, I wondered if his death in February 1907 gave his son George permission to follow his wife's family to Oklahoma.

So I began to search for mentions of the Castles in Davenport newspapers. The next item I found was in a different paper, the New Era, dated 12 May 1910, and was especially precious to me. My grandmother was born in 1897 and died almost 25 years ago. But here she is in print, captured forever at age 13: "The Era is indebted to Miss Fannie Castle, little daughter of G.T. Castle, who recently bought the Berry farm, for a monster boquet which she brought to the office last Saturday." 

My grandmother, Fannie Castle (back, center) at
about the age she delivered the bouquet

I also found several news items and articles referring to a fact that I don't think any of the Castle descendants knew: George T. Castle, former deputy court clerk of Morgan County, Kentucky, ran for the office of Register of Deeds for his new home in Lincoln County, Oklahoma. The following article appeared on 18 April 1912:

  The Era is pleased to be able, this week, to announce the candidacy of G.T. Castle for the office of Register of Deeds. Mr. Castle is known to most of our readers as a man of ability and integrity, but to his friends as well as to those who are not acquainted with him the following facts will prove of interest.
  He was born in Morgan Co. Ky, 45 years ago and made his home there until about five years ago when he came with his family to Lincoln Co. He has a good education, is a good accountant and served for four years as deputy clerk of Morgan Co. where the office of clerk and recorder are one. He is an able man, known to be honest in all his dealings, a good fellow in the best sense of the term, has a fine family, owns a good farm and knows how to manage it and has a host of friends in Lincoln county who can vouch for his fitness for the office he wants.

Following a few weeks later was an endorsement from the county court clerk of Morgan Co., James H. Sebastian, with the headline "Says Castle Is O.K."

The New Era, 13 June 1912

What I find really interesting is that the Davenport newspapers of the early 1900s were every bit as informative and gossipy as Facebook. Here is a sample of some of the little items of news that mentioned the Castles, both young and old.

5 August 1909
  • J.T. Day is putting in a cain (cane) mill and evaporator on his place two miles north of Davenport.
Davenport, OK on August 31, 1910

10 August 1911
  • Mollie and Debbie Massey visited Fannie and Georgia Castle Sunday. [My grandmother was 14; Aunt Georgia had just turned 8.]
  • Mr. and Mrs. Jones [Cora, George's daughter by his first marriage] of near Chandler were the guests of Mrs. Jones' parents, Mr. and Mrs. Castle Sunday.
17 August 1911
  • Mrs. G.T. Castle and little daughter, Jessie, visited the school Friday afternoon.
2 November 1911
  • There was quite a crowd at prayer meeting last Wednesday night. The prayer meeting will be at J.T. Day's next Wednesday.
2 May 1912
  • G.T. Castle and little son Goldman visited J.T. Day's Tuesday.
30 May 1912
  • J.T. Day and G.T. Castle and family were visitors at W.T. Tipton's Sunday.
27 June 1912
  • J.T. Day and wife were in Chandler on business Tuesday. [Was nothing private?]
  • G.T. Castle and wife were visiting the latter's parents Sunday.
  • Maggie Day was shopping at Davenport Thursday.
  • Misses Minta and Retta Lee Day are expected home Saturday from Chandler where they have been attending normal [school] for the past month.
26 September 1912
  • There was a family reunion at the Day home Sun. Everyone of the family was present and able to partake of a goodly dinner of which mutton was the chief diet. After dinner which was served on the lawn, a photographer was called and a family picture taken.
  • Minta Day and her sister, Mrs. Day who is here on a visit from Kentucky, expect to attend the State Fair...
2 January 1913
  • G.T. Castle and family have moved in from the farm and are occupying the Hugo house for the present.
13 February 1913
  • G.T. Castle, who was appointed deputy assessor for South Fox township, has started in on his duties.
30 September 1915
  • Miss Fannie Castle was in Chandler last Saturday.  
School Dope (column)
  • Fannie Castle was absent from school Monday morning.
14 October 1915
Literary Program a Great Success (article)
  • Miss Fannie Castle, in giving the reading "Little Nell," so vividly described the scene that you could almost see the flames leaping from the little log house on the hillside and hear the blood curdling yell of the savage red men. 
28 October 1915
  • Mrs. G.T. Castle and son Forrest drove to Chandler last Thursday.
18 November 1915
  • Fannie Castle of Davenport and Ollie Landis of Luther called on Marie Bell Sunday afternoon. [Marie Bell Lay was my grandmother's best friend from Davenport.]
30 December 1915
  • Miss Fannie Castle, who is teaching school near Tulsa, is here spending the Holidays.
Miss Fannie Castle as a young teacher

6 January 1916
  • Miss Fannie Castle and brother Forrest went to Tulsa Saturday night on the 9:02.
2 March 1916
  • Miss Fannie Castle came up from Tulsa Saturday, and returned to her school Sunday.
  • Marie Bell entertained a number of young folks Saturday night at her home in honor of Miss Fannie Castle of Tulsa. The evening was spent in music and games. Those present were Messers. Eldon Hall, Steve Grigsby, Roy Rounsavell, Hobart Baugus, Oscar Allred, Ollie Landis, Oliver Lay and Misses Jurene Grigsby, Gertrude Rounsavell, Ezma Johnson, Willa Harvey, Fannie Castle and Eva and Marie Bell.
I'm so glad I found these newspaper articles, and I'm so thankful to the Oklahoma Historical Society for these glimpses into a century past and the lives of my grands and greats.

Davenport Leader (Davenport, Okla.), Vol. 1, No. 33, Ed. 1 Thursday, December 15, 1904, Newspaper, December 15, 1904; ( : accessed November 13, 2016), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History,; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The New Era. (Davenport, Okla.), Vol. 4, No. 23, Ed. 1 Thursday, June 13, 1912, Newspaper, June 13, 1912; ( : accessed November 13, 2016), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History,; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kith and Kin

When the Days and Castles first came to Oklahoma, they lived between Davenport and Chandler. I think it was in the early 1980's that we took my grandmother back there to visit one Sunday. We drove around roads that she remembered from 70 years before. We learned that many of the same families still lived on these farms, and how did we know that? Because my grandmother would point out the home of a family she remembered, and sure enough, the name on the mailbox would be the one she said. 

In my last post I shared a map my grandmother drew in her 80's showing the homes of families she remembered from her early years in Kentucky. The summer after she turned 10 she and her family moved to Oklahoma, and she never returned. She drew that map 75 years after she left Kentucky in 1907. Now, I could probably draw a map of the neighborhoods I lived in before I was 10, but I have lived here ever since, so I have 60 years worth of memories to draw on. If I had left Red Fork at the age of 10, I wonder how much I would remember now.

I thought it might be fun to find these Kentucky families on the 1900 census and try to determine where they lived and what connection they might have had to the Castle family. Why did my grandmother remember them? And just for curiosity's sake, was her map correct?

It complicates things a little that the names of the communities around West Liberty seem to have changed. Some of them have disappeared altogether. The communities that I remember my grandmother talking about were Caney, Cannel City, Stacy Fork, and of course, the town of West Liberty. On my grandmother's application for a delayed birth certificate from Kentucky, she said that she was born near Caney. The one-room school she attended was in Stacy Fork. Since he was postmaster, for a time the area around Grandpa Castle's house was known as Castle, KY. The name I never heard was Panama, the area around the little G.D. Castle family cemetery. It must have been a usage that came about after my grandmother left Kentucky.

G.D. Castle postmaster appointment showing p.o. name as Castle, KY

Starting with the cluster around Stacy Fork in the left-hand corner of the map:

I know how my grandmother knew the Ratliffs. Dora Castle, daughter of James H. and Elizabeth Nickell Castle, was married to Wheeler Ratliff. They first appear in the 1910 census in Walnut Grove, Morgan County, also known as Precinct 7, Caney. They are buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Stacy Fork. No wonder this is so confusing! 

How about the Webbs? This was a hard one, but I figured it out. Geneva Haney Alexander was a friend of the Castles who lived in Tulsa but had moved there in her teens from Morgan County. Geneva was born in 1902 in Stacy Fork. Her parents were Jariel D. and Martha Lou Webb Haney. Jariel and Martha are enumerated on the 1900 census in Caney. Geneva, her husband Jess, her parents, and her brother Cecil are all buried at Memorial Park in Tulsa.

Geneva Haney (seated) with my grandmother

Lykins was and is a very popular name in Morgan County. On the 1900 census there are over 35 heads of households with the last name Lykins, just in Morgan County. According to Ancestry, in 1880 and 1920 more people with the surname Lykins lived in Kentucky than in any other state. Eliza, daughter of William and Nancy Wells Castle, married Clay Lykins, but I can't determine from which of these families he comes.

Haney is another popular name in Morgan County. My grandmother listed four different Haney families on her map. My grandmother apparently knew some of these Haney families as relatives and perhaps others as the families of classmates. There were several Haneys in the photograph I have of her classmates at Stacy Fork School. The Castles were also related to the Haneys through marriage. Rachel Sargent Castle's father, John Sargent, died very young. His wife, Rachel's mother, Anna Bays Sargent, remarried to James Haney in 1841. Of the seven children that lived with her on various censuses, she was the mother of at least three: Miriam, Elizabeth, and George Washington Haney. 

Stacy Fork School, about 1902

I found the Gulletts, Quicksells, Nickells, Combses, and Whiteakers all listed on the 1900 census in Morgan County, River, District 0074. Starting on page 26 of that enumeration are the Castles and Gulletts. Heads of households on that page are John Gullett, Mason Gullett, George T. Castle, and Goldman D. Castle. Mason Gullett's son, Asa, married Lutie Day, the first cousin of my grandmother's mother, Sarah Florida Day Castle. 

On page 28 are three families that I know my grandmother knew. First on the page was Massoline Nickell with her six children. She was the widow of Kelsey Nickell, who was the brother of George Turner Castle's first wife, Frances. Halfway down on the page was the family of William H. and Nancy Wells Castle (my grandmother listed all their names on her map; see below). Two houses down from the Castles was Napoleon "Uncle Boney" Haney. He was married to Miriam Haney, daughter of James Haney and Anna Bays.

On page 29 were Combs and Quicksell families, and on page 31 was the family of Alex Whiteaker. Under his name my grandmother listed three of his children. The first name, which looks like Bob, has to be some nickname for his oldest daughter, Mary Belle. Then comes J.D. (James) and Myrtle. James Whiteaker really did go by J.D.; as such he signed as informant on his father's death certificate.

William and Nancy Wells Castle family

On the right of my grandmother's map at the end of Castle Branch she lists all the children of William and Nancy Castle. Again, it's neat to know that they were known as Will and Nan. John Seymour Castle, who apparently went by Seymour, married Rosa Katherine (Kate) Oney. My grandmother listed their two children, (John) Boyd and Edna. Elizabeth (Elizie on the 1880 census) married first in 1892 to G.W. Lee, and then in 1906 to Alonzo Daugherty. She was already married and living on her own before my grandmother was born, which is probably why she is missing from my grandmother's list of Will and Kate's children. The next two children were Eliza, who married Clay Lykins, and (Goldman) Davidson, named for his grandfather, who died by age 25. (George) Barnes Castle married "Lula" Oney, and apparently set up housekeeping very close to his mother and dad. The two youngest were (Rachel) Florida and Effie. Florida's son, Mearl McGuire, and Effie both corresponded with my grandmother in her later years. 

I'm not sure Malone was called Malone when my grandmother lived in Kentucky. It is another small community lying outside of West Liberty. The census does not call it Malone until 1940, and only about 15 families were enumerated in that district in that year. Since my grandmother corresponded with Mearl McGuire, who lived in Malone, she may have used that name on her map because it corresponded to the area where the McGuires had lived when she was young. She lists five families there: the Walshes, DeBords, McGuires, Wells, and Bays.

In 1900 the John Debord family was enumerated in the same district with the families above: Morgan County, River, District 0074. John Debord (spelled in various censuses as Deborde, DeBorde, Deboard, Debard, etc.) was married to Calah Wells. Calah was the sister of Nancy Wells, who was married to William H. Castle (Nan and Will), but that is not her only connection to my grandmother's family. The father and mother of Nancy and Calah were James Wells and his wife Carrie Ann Day. Carrie Ann was the sister of Andrew Jackson Day who was the grandfather of my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day, wife of George Turner Castle. Whew! Is that convoluted enough for you??

I haven't figured out how or if the Walshes were related to the Castles, but they did live in the same area as the Debord and Wells families. In fact, according to Findagrave, John Walsh and his wife Mary, James Wells and his wife Carrie Ann Day, and John DeBorde and his wife Calah Wells are all buried in the DeBorde Cemetery in (wait for it) Malone

The Bays families in Malone were no doubt descended from the brothers of Anna Bays Sargent Haney. My grandmother would probably have known the degree of relationship, but the Bays families in 1900 were too far downstream for me to determine how they were related to Anna.

Caney, Stacy Fork, and Malone are all described by Wikipedia as lying along Highway 191 south of West Liberty, so if you want to read my grandmother's map oriented properly, West Liberty would be rotated to the top of the map.

If you compare my grandmother's map to this 1999 map of Morgan County, it might not match perfectly, but you can sure get an idea of these little communities in relation to each other. Traveling south on 191 from West Liberty, you might first see these little "branches," DeBoard Branch, Castle Branch, and Haney Branch. Just before DeBoard Branch to the east is the community of Malone. Look west between the Castle and Haney Branches and you will see Panama. Just south of Haney Branch on Hwy. 844 you will see Stacy Fork. To the east of Stacy Fork is the Walnut Grove Church. Further south on 191 are Caney and Cannel City.

Some of these families had known each other forever. On this one page of the 1870 census, long before my grandmother was born in 1897, I found these names on Page 1 of the Morgan County, Caney, enumeration: Anna (Bays) Haney, Goldman Castle (and wife Rachel, daughter of Anna), Alex Whiteaker, and John Haney (father of Jerial, grandfather of Geneva Haney Alexander). No wonder they stayed in my grandmother's thoughts for 80 years.

1870 Morgan County Census

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Castle Cousins

My grandmother, Fannie Castle, moved to Oklahoma in the summer of 1907. She was 10 years old. Much to the regret of my brother and me, she never got to return to Kentucky. Life moved on in Oklahoma, she met and married my grandfather, had twin boys, taught school for 43 years, raised my brother and me after our mother died, and helped raise her great-grandson, my son Jason. But she never forgot Kentucky. I mean, really, she didn't. She had an amazing memory.

In her 70's and 80's she began writing about her life in Kentucky. I have handwritten descriptions of her Castle grandparents' house and farm and even a map she drew of the area she remembered from her childhood. As many of us do as we get older, she became nostalgic for old places and old friends. She took out a subscription to her hometown Kentucky newspaper, The Licking Valley Courier, and she began to write to the cousins who still lived back there.

My grandmother's map of her home in Kentucky,
drawn about 75 years after she left there

She was so excited to get letters from them, and I guess that is why I remember them as well. I read their letters and saw the photos of their children and grandchildren. She heard from Virgil and Nettie Castle, Effie Castle Walters, Hattie Day Egelston, Mearl McGuire, Ida Frances Castle Elam, and even more often from Ida's daughter, Irene Downing. Nowadays they would all be Facebook friends, but back then they wrote long newsy letters and sent real photographs. 

I knew the names of all these people, but it might be surprising to find out that I didn't know exactly how they were related to my grandmother. Since meeting Virgil Castle's granddaughter, Jeneen, I have decided that I need to do a little research and document the connections between all these Castle cousins.

All of the connections go back to my grandmother's grandparents, Goldman Davidson Castle and his wife, Rachel Sargent Castle. They married September 1, 1844, and had at least seven documented children over 24 years. They were: William Henderson Castle, born 1846; James Harvey Castle, born 1852; John Castle, born 1854; Lilburn Castle, born 1857; Sarah Francis (later known as Aunt Sis) Castle, born 1862; George Turner Castle, my great-grandfather, born 1863; and Nancy Anne Castle, born 1868.

The 1850 census of Pulaski County shows one child of Goldman and Rachel Castle, William, age 4. The 1860 census of Morgan County enumerates children William, 14; James, 8; John, 4; and Lilburn, 1. Morgan County death records show that John and Lilburn both died in October of 1861 from scarlet fever. The 1870 census of Morgan County shows children, James, 17; Frances, 9; George, 7; and Anne, 2. In 1880 Sarah F., age 18; George T., age 16; and Nancy A., age 11, were still living at home.

1870 Morgan County census

William H. Castle married Nancy Jane Wells in Morgan County on November 3, 1867. Census records from 1870, 1880, and 1900 document these children: John Seymour, Elizabeth Ann, Lou Rittie, Eliza, Goldman Davidson, George Barnes, Rachel Florida, and Effie Lee. Some other family trees show another son, James Mize. William Henderson Castle and George Turner Castle were brothers. That means that Effie, with whom my grandmother had a long and affectionate correspondence, was her first cousin. Rachel Florida would also have been my grandmother's first cousin. Her son Mearl McGuire wrote to my grandmother. They would have been first cousins, once removed.

Effie Castle Walters

Mearl McGuire

James Harvey Castle married Elizabeth Nickell (sister of George Turner Castle's first wife, Frances.) Their children were Lula Catherine, Preston, John Smith, Lonis Sterling, Dora Alice, Caledonia, Ida Frances, Nora, Betty, Essa Mae, Goldman, Cleveland and Hendricks (twins). Caledonia died at age 16; Nora, Betty, and Goldman died young; and the twins died as infants. James, Elizabeth, and their children, Caledonia, Nora, and Goldman, are all buried in the Castle plot we recently visited.

James H. Castle family, 1890's?

Ida Frances Castle Elam and her daughter Irene corresponded with my grandmother. Ida would also have been my grandmother's first cousin. 

Ida Castle Elam (1st row, far left) and her children
Irene is 2nd row on the right

Her sister Lula Catherine would have been almost 15 years older than my grandmother and died in 1966, long before my grandmother began corresponding with her cousins. However, I recently saw a picture of her posted on Family Search and was amazed at how much she resembled my grandmother!

Lula Catherine Castle Lewis

Fannie Castle Smith

John Smith Castle, son of James and Elizabeth, and brother of Ida and Lula, married Bytha Engle. Their son Virgil and his wife Hettie also corresponded with my grandmother. John Smith would have been my grandmother's first cousin, so Virgil was her first cousin, once removed, although I noticed that Hettie called her "Aunt Fannie," as most everybody did. Jeneen is Virgil's granddaughter, so that makes Jeneen and me third cousins, once removed. Just today I became Facebook friends with another of Virgil's granddaughters, Kathy. 

Another of my grandmother's correspondents was Hattie Day Egelston. Until I did this research, I assumed she was a cousin on the Day side, which she is, but she is also a Castle. Her mother was Nancy Anne, George Turner Castle's youngest sister. On her father's side she was related to my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day. She is what my grandmother proudly called a "double cousin." She would have been another first cousin on the Castle side; I'm not even going to try to figure what she was on the Day side. She wrote often about her sister Edna, who would also have been my grandmother's double cousin.

Hattie Day Egelston
Edna Day Long and husband

My grandmother was so proud of her Castle ancestry. Her dad had been a county court clerk in Morgan County, a job with prestige, and her grandfather Castle had been postmaster. Nothing was more important to her than family, and her correspondence with her cousins meant so much to her. I believe it did to them, as well. She would be so proud to know that we are still making connections with our Castle cousins.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Linda and Becky's Excellent Adventure, Part 2: The Castles

We got up on Sunday morning with plans to find a popular breakfast buffet in Berea. It was not to be. My car wouldn't start. We called Triple A and waited about an hour for someone to come jump the car. He suggested we drive for a while to build up the battery, so we headed out of town. I can't imagine that the buffet in Berea would have been any better than the brunch buffet we found in Winchester, Kentucky. I think it's the best fried chicken I've ever had. The car started just fine after we rolled our full selves out of the restaurant.

After about an hour and a half through fairly scenic highway, we arrived in West Liberty. Now you have to give me a break here, because I was never the driver when we visited West Liberty before. I was a little lost, and it didn't help that there was a major tornado there in 2012, and a lot of the town doesn't look the same. After wandering around a while, I finally found the road out of town and then the turn on Centerville Road to the cemetery.

Linda was thrilled to see the same sign that thrilled my brother and me--the one that says "Day Branch Road." 

Again, I knew that "our" cemetery was up a hill off of this dead end road. I just couldn't find the right place. I had the right hill in my mind's eye, but there were at least three hills that could have been it. (I wrote about our first attempt to find the cemetery in the post, "My Old Kentucky Home." Our successful second attempt was described in the post, "Genealogy on the Road: West Liberty, Kentucky.") We drove until I knew I had passed the place I was looking for, and I turned around and drove back up the road. At the exact moment that we drove by a house, a man and woman walked out of it and started to get into their car. 

I stopped the car, and Linda leaned out to shout, "Could we ask you a question?" We all got out of our cars and met in the driveway. Linda asked, "Would you happen to know where the Castle cemetery is?" The woman replied, "I think I do. I'm a Castle." In two previous trips to West Liberty, my brother and I had never met a Castle. A lot of people we talked to remembered Virgil Castle, but he had passed away long before. On our first trip we talked to Linville Castle on the phone, but I had heard that he had since passed away. We had no idea that any Castles were still living in West Liberty, and here was one standing in front of us! What were the chances that at the exact moment we passed her mother's house, our cousin Jeneen would be getting into her car??

Becky, Linda Castle Hess, Jeneen Castle Roach

Jeneen and her husband Tommy were helping her mother move that day. We visited for a few minutes, trying to find our family connections. (Our common ancestors, we determined, were Goldman Davidson and Rachel Sargent Castle. My great-grandfather, George Turner Castle, and Jeneen's 2nd great-grandfather, James Harvey Castle, were brothers. Virgil Castle was Jeneen's grandfather.) Tommy took our picture, we exchanged addresses and emails, and then we followed Jeneen and Tommy up the road, so that Jeneen could point out her window at the right road to the cemetery. 

We turned the car up the road, and I thought almost right away that this was the wrong road. It was only the width of the car but still far more accessible than the path to the cemetery that I remembered. Still, we kept driving to the top, where we found an abandoned house. Now I knew it was the wrong road. 

We got out of the car and looked around, just to be sure, surprising a cute little family of deer that seemed almost tame. I was positive we were in the wrong place, so we got back in the car. It wouldn't start. We were down a country road, up a hill where no-one lived, and we were stuck. But we didn't even have time to panic, because a car drove up behind us, honking its horn. It was Jeneen and Tommy to the rescue! She had realized it was the wrong road and had come back to tell us. 

We now had help but still didn't know how we were going to get the car started. We eliminated ideas one by one: no jumper cables; a car couldn't get close enough to jump us anyway; automatic, so we couldn't just put it in neutral and back down; the closest Triple A serviceman was a couple of hours away. Tommy and Jeneen's friend John came up on his four-wheeler, and he had tools. Of course, I couldn't have a battery that was easy to get out, but the guys finally removed it. Our only option was to drive back into West Liberty and buy a new battery, which we did. 

Now this might sound like a bad thing, but having car trouble turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We got to spend a lot more time with Jeneen and talked a lot more about the Castles; we learned things, and so did she. She wasn't even certain who was buried in the little Castle cemetery plot on the hill. Four of the headstones were for her 3rd great-grandparents, Goldman Davidson Castle and Rachel Sargent Castle, and her 2nd great-grandparents, James Harvey Castle and Elizabeth Nickell Castle. She didn't even know about Donia's foot! (See "Genealogy on the Road: West Liberty, Kentucky").

In turn, she pointed out the original home place of her grandparents, Virgil and Net Castle, and her mother's home on original Castle land. 

Eventually we said our good-byes again, and Jeneen pointed us to the right road to the cemetery. "Path" is a better word. We had to park the car on Centerville Road and walk up the hill to look for the headstones. They were not easy to find. Linda and I peered through the little pine forest in several places before we finally saw the stones. Of course, the little family plot was more overgrown than the last time I was there, and Linda spent several minutes cutting thorny vines away from the fallen stones while I cleared moss from Grandma Castle's marker. The shade of the tall trees surrounding the plot made it hard to even take photos of the stones, but we did the best we could.

We finally left West Liberty and started our 12-hour drive home to Oklahoma. We were glad to see this sign on our way out of town. 

Today had definitely been an excellent adventure.

The Castle coincidences don't end there. I came home and looked through a box of my grandmother's things, looking for a map she had drawn of the West Liberty area 75 years after she lived there.  I've known about the map since before the last time my brother and I were there, but I don't know why I keep forgetting to take it with me to Kentucky. I found the map, but I also found a letter to my grandmother from Virgil Castle's wife, Net, dated March 8, 1982. Virgil had been sick, and Net had been doing a lot of the farm work. Then she wrote this: "Aunt Fannie, watch in the next week's paper (The Licking Valley Courier, to which my grandmother subscribed). My granddaughter's picture will be in the paper. She won 2 big trophies for speech making and her picture is in the paper. She is a real smart little girl. She is 12 years old." Guess who she was talking about? Jeneen!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Linda and Becky's Excellent Adventure, Part 1: The Whitleys

I haven't written anything in a while, because I really haven't made new discoveries lately in any of my family lines. I continue to (haphazardly) search for clues to my Smith great-great-grandfather and my Roberts and Pharris ancestors in Jackson County, Tennessee. But when I got an invitation recently to a celebration of my 5th great-grandparents, William and Esther Whitley, who have been widely documented and continue to be two of my most fascinating ancestors, I knew I would have something to write about.

One day in August I got an email invitation to attend "A Day with the Descendants of Logan's Fort," to be held in Stanford, Kentucky, on September 10. I knew that William and Esther had lived at Logan's Fort before they built their brick house on the Wilderness Road, but other than that, I really didn't know much about their lives at the fort. The planners of the event were hoping to have a descendant of each of the Logan's Fort families at this special celebration, and I wanted to be there to learn more about the fort and my ancestors' participation in its history.

I did a little research and found that it was a 12-hour trip by car from my house to Logan's Fort. I love to drive, but I didn't feel comfortable going by myself. The date of the event, on a Saturday in September, meant I would almost certainly have to take off a couple of days from work. My brother was the obvious person to go with me--we have a history of genealogical expeditions--but he would also have to take a couple of days off school, harder for him than for me. He tried to help me figure out an itinerary that included a plane trip and a rental car, but I really wanted to drive. I tried to think of someone that would be able and willing to go with me and interested in the history and genealogy of Kentucky.

Aha! My cousin, Linda Castle Hess! She's retired--busy but flexible--and she and I have shared an interest in genealogy since she moved back home a few years ago. She's on the "wrong" side of the family, I thought, since the Whitleys are my mom's side, and she is a cousin on my dad's side. But maybe, just maybe, we could travel on a couple of hours east of Logan's Fort and visit our Castle homestead in West Liberty before starting back home. I contacted her, and she was more than excited to join me on a whirlwind trip to Kentucky.

We decided to get a head start by leaving town on Thursday after I got off school. I picked Linda up at her house in Sapulpa, and as she got in the car, she gave a name to our road trip. She called it "Linda and Becky's Excellent Adventure," and it was!

We set off on the first leg of our trip--to St. Louis--and then on the next day to spend the night at Mount Vernon, KY, not far from Logan's Fort and the Whitley House. The major excitement on Friday was the incessant rain, at one time so hard that we had to stop along the way at a Huddle House restaurant in Mascoutah, IL. It was there that I saw that I had an email from Peggy Denham, one of the planners of Descendants' Day. I wrote back to tell her we were on our way. She was delighted that we were coming, because apparently I was going to be the sole representative of the Whitley family descendants at the event.

On Saturday morning, with the rain stopped at last, we traveled to Stanford, KY and the Visitors' Center at Logan's Fort. Stanford is a lovely small town, the second oldest settlement in Kentucky, due to the presence of Logan's Fort. It is the county seat of Lincoln County, which once encompassed more than a third of the state of Kentucky. Records in the courthouse there go back to the 1780's and include some recorded on sheepskin. Traveling through town, we found the dead end road--Martin Luther King Street--that led us to the Logan's Fort Visitor's Center.

The founder of the fort, Benjamin Logan, came to the area in 1774 and began to build a fort in 1775 at the site of a spring called St. Asaph's. St. Asaph is the patron saint of Wales, and Logan was Irish. It is unlikely the name originated with him, but he was happy to call the fort St. Asaph's. As you can see, that name didn't stick. The building where the festivities were being held was the former Stanford ice plant which has now become the Visitor's Center. A path had been cleared to the spring which is situated right behind the building.

Logan's Fort Visitor's Center

The spring

The spring was, of course, crucial to the fort, and Benjamin Logan had an ingenious way to ensure that water was available to the fort during times of siege. A 4' deep tunnel was built between one of the fort's blockhouses to the spring house. The fort's inhabitants could get water without ever becoming a target for attack. As we learned from the first speaker at Descendants' Day, vessels to carry the water were scarce, so sometimes the settlers used hollowed-out pumpkins.

The first speaker was Dr. Kim McBride, an archaeologist who took part in the dig in the 1990's at the site of the fort. She explained how we know what the fort looked like and how it was situated relative to the spring and other natural features. An illustration of the fort was presented to Lyman Draper, an early historian, by a Captain Briggs. The detailed sketch, housed with Draper's papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, is only about the size of an index card.

The dig uncovered hand-made nails and a hook, pieces of pottery, and the remains of a man, presumed to be William Hudson. Hudson was one of a group of men and women (including my ancestor, Esther Whitley) who went to milk the cows outside the fort and were attacked by Indians. Dr. McBride feels confident in the identity of the remains because it is known that Hudson was scalped and buried inside the fort, and the recovered skull shows evidence of scalping. Finding the remains of Hudson also helped pinpoint the site of the fort, and examination of various levels and colors of soil have helped determine the location of the tunnel to the spring.

The next part of the program was very entertaining. Everybody loaded onto a wagon, one pulled by Clydesdales and another by a tractor, and traveled a short distance to the spot where a monument commemorating Logan's Fort was dedicated 100 years ago. Amazingly, the speech given upon that day by the vice mayor of Stanford, Dr. J.G. Carpenter, was published in its entirety in the newspaper of that day and was available to the planners of the 2016 event. The original Dr. Carpenter, portrayed engagingly by Than Cutler, must have been quite a character. His speech, full of bombast and vivid vocabulary, was hilarious. To just give you an idea, his favorite name for the monument was "this ponderosity."

Than Cutler as Dr. J.G. Carpenter

A very delicious picnic lunch followed, then we gathered back inside the Vistor's Center for a talk by a local attorney and historian, Jeff Ralston. His presentation was very informative and he gained my esteem by mentioning my ancestor, Esther Whitley, several times. He had intended to give the talk at the site of the fort, which I had not yet seen because it was up the hill and behind some trees. However, it was just too hot for any of us to stand up there for an hour, so he spoke instead at the Center.

Seven families lived at Logan's Fort and inhabited seven cabins, three on the side of the fort that had two blockhouses, and four on the side with the single blockhouse. The heads of the seven families were Benjamin Logan, Ben Pettit, William Whitley, William Menifee, George Clark, James Mason, and Samuel Coburn. Several single men also lived in the fort, occupying the blockhouses. Various accounts I have read put the attack on the group outside the fort at the beginning of the siege, or at the end when the settlers believed that the Indians had finally given up. The date seems beyond question: May 20, 1777. As mentioned before, William Hudson was killed. Another of the men, Burr Harrison, was badly wounded but still alive. Using something as a shield--a feather mattress, roll of wool cloth, or bale of cotton--Benjamin Logan was able to reach Harrison and help him back to the fort, where he later died. Eventually, the Indian attacks lessened, and by 1779 the Whitleys were able to return to their own land.

I learned much that I did not know, but was also glad to hear from an expert researcher this story about Esther Whitley: Many Indian leaders came to Logan's Fort to negotiate with the settlers. They often urged William Whitley to compete with them in shooting contests. William told them that if they could ever beat his wife that he would consent to shoot with them, but that never happened because they could never beat Esther!

Again we climbed onto wagons and took a short ride to the fort where we explored and then gathered for a photo. 

Only one wall of the fort with two blockhouses has been built. The Logan's Fort Foundation hoped to build the entire fort with only the technology available in 1775, but it has become so expensive that they may have to finish it with modern tools. The most impressive feature of the fort to me was also one of Benjamin Logan's innovations. Mr. Ralston had reminded us of all the fort gates that we have seen in movies. They all open out, and once those seeking shelter have been let inside, somebody has to pull those heavy gates shut and bar them. Logan's Fort had a different type of gate. Perfectly balanced on hinges, it could be pulled up with a mere leather thong; once everyone was inside, all that was needed was to let go of the thong and the gate closed itself.

Logan's Fort



Linda and Becky's Excellent Adventure at Logan's Fort

On May 20-22, 2016, the siege of 1777 was reenacted at the rebuilt Logan's Fort. I wish I could have been there. This video is pretty neat and gives you a good idea of the appearance of the fort and events during the siege.

We left during the last presentation to make it to the Whitley House by 4:30, when the last tour begins. I so wanted Linda to see the house. I had told her that it was the first brick house in Kentucky but I think she was really expecting a glorified log cabin. We come from Oklahoma, after all, where anything over 100 years old is pretty special. The Whitley House is 220+ years old, and it really is pretty amazing inside and out. This is my third time to visit the house, and I always learn something new. (See my post, "Daughter of the American Revolution," for more about the Whitleys.)

We had planned to spend the night closer to West Liberty and the Castle side of our excellent adventure. But the wind was coming up, and it was looking like rain, so we spent the night in Berea, Kentucky, not knowing what an interesting day was coming up.