Monday, April 2, 2012
Photograph of Grace Meisel Martin and William Lanis Martin - taken in the early 1940s.
Thinking About Aunt Grace
J. Mark Lowe
In anticipation of the release of the 1940 census (www.1940census.archives.gov), I have been thinking about lots of family members that I would like to review. My parents were not yet married in 1940, so they will still be living at home with their parents. My Dad graduated from College High in 1940, but we will save that story for another day. However, since my Dad was one of the oldest grandchildren of James W. and Clara Martin, his Uncle and Aunts spoiled him tremendously. Even after my Dad moved the family from Kentucky to Middle Tennessee, the family would often surprise us at home with the whole wonderful entourage. What wonderful memories I have.
My Mom and Dad both loved so many of those folks, and encouraged us to know all of our family. One of those Great Aunts was Grace Meisel Martin. She was married to my Dad’s Uncle Lan. His full name was William Lanis Martin and he was named for one of his Uncles. Lan and Grace farmed in the Oakland community of Warren County.
Grace Meisel was born the 12th of August 1909. My Dad (J.W.) was born at the end of August and they always celebrated their birthdays together when possible. She was the oldest daughter of Edward Amel and Nora Ellis Vincent Meisel. They lived in the Bee Springs Community of Edmonson County, Kentucky. Aunt Grace loved her siblings. Her sister, Anna, was often included in Martin family gatherings and she was a wonderful storyteller and great teacher. Her baby brother, Charles, was always funny and a great Christian gentleman. He continued to brighten our Martin Reunions with his laughter, stories and warmth until his passing.
Edward Amel Meisel was also born in Edmonson County, Kentucky. His father, Maximillian A. Meisel was born 1850 in Baden,Germany and migrated to the United States about 1871. Max married Anna E. Couran , 1 Jan 1874 in Boston, and the family lived near Boston until 1879 when they moved to Edmonson County, Kentucky. Edward was naturalized in the Federal Court in Boston, Massachusetts on 13 November 1877. The three oldest children of Max and Anna were born in Boston: Augustus Maximillian, Charles Paulus, and Isadora. Their younger children, including Edward A., were born in Edmonson County.
For years, I loved visiting with Aunt Grace. She would always tell me that she grew up in Bee Springs. I still remember the day, my folks drove across the ferry and we visited Bee Springs. Grace Meisel Martin was a lively character, who loved people with all her soul. Our visits to her home after Uncle Lan passed often lasted for hours, with Aunt Grace insisting that we stay long enough to eat. We often left her house with magazines, books or other valued objects – all with a connected story.
After my Dad passed in 1989, I often visited Aunt Grace with my mother, Chris. My Mom told me how Aunt Grace and Uncle Lan had welcomed her into the family. They would often go visit for the weekend when they were young newlyweds. This relationship lasted a lifetime. You could always be assured of a bear hug with Aunt Grace.
On one visit after my Dad passed, Aunt Grace encouraged my Mom to stay busy. She said, “Chris, hon, Nothing can fill that hole that J.W. left, but your heart is big enough to fill with more love. Visit those grandchildren, keep working, and travel.” My Mom certainly heeded the words of Aunt Grace . On that particular day, there was a gift of ‘clean’ romance novels, a bundle of Bible Pathway readers, a few magazines, and a selection from the Avon Bottles. I guess I forgot to mention that Aunt Grace collected Avon bottles. She had them lined up on shelves installed across windows, so the light could glow through them. I selected Pontiac, which still stands on the shelf above by the window. Aunt Grace passed from this life in 1992, but her memory is still strong in our hearts. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren discuss her often and she carry some of her same traits: loving, great storytellers, giving, always funny and great cooks. Thanks Aunt Grace for sharing yourself.
[Aunt Grace has a great-grandson named Max.] Here's just a small part of her family recently.
Keep the Story Alive.Pontiac
 Grave marker and family records
 1910, 1920 Census Records, Death Certificate, Oral History
 Oral History, 1900 Census, Death Certificate
Naturalization Record, Federal Court, Boston 13 Nov 1877
1874 Register of Marriages in Boston
 1880 Census
 Registers of Birth, Boston, Massachusetts
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
We always try to handle the registration in the beginning. The nametags were arranged somewhat alphabetically on a large table beside a registration book. This tall young man walked into the hall and said, "I probably don't have a nametag." Since I have been handling the nametags and registration for more than 20 years, I thought I remembered this young man. I said, "Clay, I think I still have your nametag, but you can have a new nametag if you want."
When this young man was a small boy, we were using pin-back nametags. In order not to hurt the kids, I brought peel and stick nametags for them. Clay was beginning to write and I let him write his name on the nametag. When we collected nametags, I placed Clay's on top of a blank nametag and saved it.
It was at that point that I realized that our nametags carry the story of our reunion from year to year. The other day I asked this question: How important are reunions for creating a sense of family to young people? I now realize that family reunions are what created my interest in genealogy. Family reunions have given me the opportunity to know many of my numbered cousins and those removed. Clay will be graduating from High School next year and may not have realized the connection to his Martin family, but someday He will tell his kids - I wrote my name on that nametag before the year 2000.
That is what Family Reunions are about - they are a connection to something that lasts longer than one person. Thanks, Clay, for reminding me of our purpose - Keeping the Story Alive.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I'm spending the weekend in Gadsden Alabama for the North East Alabama Genealogical Society Swapmeet to benefit the Nichols Memorial Library. On Thursday, the Library was open late, so I checked into my hotel by the Coosa River and stopped by the Library. There were several folks there researching and many of the great NEAGS volunteers who always make me feel so welcome. As I sat down at a table to begin research, the discussion turned to DNA and before I knew it, we were having an impromptu basic DNA presentation.
Friday morning began with a visit to my cousin, Jimmy Martin. Jimmy is the Grandson of Beckham and Kate Morris Martin of Warren Co KY. We usually visit at the Martin Family Reunion in Smiths Grove KY in July. I've always enjoyed our conversations and when Jimmy heard I was going to be in Gadsden - He invited me over.
Jimmy and his wife, Kris, live just outside Gadsden not too far east of the Coosa River. He gives wonderful directions and I drove right to their home. Jimmy was waiting for me. I am about 20 years older than Jimmy, so my knowledge of his older family members interests him. His Grandfather, Beckham, was one of the best storytellers in the family. Jimmy's Dad, Jimmie, always seemed so much like Uncle Beck and had a big personality himself. This younger Jimmy has that same contagious grin and laughter and seems to have been blessed with the storytelling gift himself.
Thanks to an earlier discussion with Jimmy, I found the pension record I mentioned in my earlier post. I sat down on the sofa and looked through the old pictures Jimmy had layed out. The only thing genealogists like better than old pictures is gravestones. There were many wonderful pictures of the family some old, some new.
In a few minutes, Kris came home. Jimmy asked her about the pictures she had used earlier in the week for a Scout presentation. Kris handed Jimmy an envelope. He pulled out an interesting tintype of an older African-American gentleman. He explained that Kris' parents found it at an antique shop. Unfortunately, there was no identification or even location. He pulled another photograph of a family out of the envelope and handed it to me. The lady in this photograph reminded me of my Lowe Great-Grandmother. When I flipped the picture over, the words on the back said Jim Martin's family. This was a photograph of my Great-Grandfather, Great-Grandmother and their oldest children, including my Grandmother. I had never viewed this photograph before. The resemblance is even more interesting because my Lowe Great-Grandmother and Martin Great-Grandmother were first cousins. I made a photograph of this picture and promised Jimmy to identify all of the children in order.
Kris had brought in some Bar-B-Q from Dad's in Gadsden for our lunch. What a great choice, the three of us had a great visit and discussed their sons - who are wonderful BTW. As we finished our conversation and Bar-B-Q sandwiches, a phone call told them schools were dismissing early because of the approaching storms. I realized I was late for the Library and headed back to Gadsden. Visiting with Kris and Jimmy was just like family visits should be. I felt like was I back in Kentucky visiting with my Martin family and sharing the same stories I heard growing up.
Friday afternoon was filled with one-on-one consultations with patrons of the Nichols Memorial Library before a presentation on my favorite online resources. Heavy rains and winds kept a few people home, but fortunately the major storm bypassed us.
Feeling a bit weary and feel some rest will give me enough energy to share the rest of the weekend, some great genealogical tips, and maybe the picture Jimmy shared. We all worked at Keeping the Story Alive by sharing the stories of our families.
Read Rosemary Jones Hyatt blog for the North East Alabama Genealogical Society.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
This photograph was taken at Granny Martin's house in Edmonson Co. Kentucky. My Dad, Joseph Wyatt Lowe, is marked with a blue square and the other square is above his Grandmother - Granny Martin - Clara Black Smith Martin.
J. Mark Lowe
Although I don't define myself as a 'Perfect Genealogist,' I do teach across the country sharing my experience as a Professional Researcher. It is only fair to share this new discovery of a record regarding my family, which seems so obvious to me now.
Let's talk about my beginning years. My genealogical search began when I was 7 years old. My family had just left a Martin Family Reunion in Smiths Grove, Kentucky. As soon as we drove away from the reunion, I began asking my Dad about that other Lowe family who attended the reunion - Who are they? How are they related to us?
He explained that they were related to us on the Martin side of our family and the Lowe side of our family. As a 7-year-old this was not clear to me, so I continued to quiz Dad. It was a hot July afternoon and we were packed like sardines in the car, but my Dad made a left turn and then a right turn and then a left turn. He stopped the car and hopped out. I quickly climbed into the seat and hopped out with him. We were in a cemetery.
We stood at the foot of the gravestone of my Dad's Martin grandparents. 'This is my Grandmother. We called her Granny Martin, he name was Clara Smith Martin." He told me other stories about her, and I remembered seeing some pictures of Granny Martin. Next to Granny Martin was buried her husband, James Wyatt Martin. My Dad told me that he was named for his Grandfather Martin (Wyatt) and his Great Grandfather Lowe (Joseph) - he also told me that Papa Martin died about 5 years before he was born. I had heard my Dad tell me many stories about Granny Martin and her family. My Dad was born at Granny Martin's house on the hill in Rocky Hill Station in Edmonson County. (and many that I don't have time to recollect here.)
Going back to the cemetery -->
My Dad pointed to the stones in the next row by his Grandparents. This is Rebecca James Martin, we called her Aunt Jim. She was Granny's sister and married Uncle Mike Martin. In the next row, is Martha Margaret Ann Gilmore Potter Smith Martin. She was Granny's and Aunt Jim's mother and married Uncle John Martin. So you see, a Mom and her two daughters married three brothers.
This 7-year-old needed more information and a genealogist was hatched.
I have so much documentation on Granny Martin and her family, I have original land documents, mortgages, cards, letters, etc. With the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, a cousin asked me about our Civil War Ancestors. I knew that Granny Martin's father, Moses M. Smith, served in the Union Army. He died when she was a young girl and is buried in Berea Christian Church cemetery in Polkville. However, I had never looked for a pension for Moses M. Smith, since he died a young man and his widow remarried in a reasonable time after his death. I decided to do a search for Moses M. Smith in the new records offered on the Civil War. Within the list of available records there was a listing in "Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934." Suddenly, I realized he had a young daughter living at this time - my GGrandmother Clara Smith. The pension index card indicated an application for a minor was filed in 1883 and the Guardian was F.M. Hardcastle. I knew that Mr. Hardcastle was married to Clara's Mother's sister (Aunt). This Moses M. Smith served in the 52d Kentucky Mounted Infantry.
Remember this index is titled by NARA as "General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. T288" As a good researcher, read the appropriate finding aids and explanations.
I now have a new record to review about my Great-Grandmother Clara Smith Martin and hopefully her father. This is a testament to a regular review of your previous genealogical research. A review may prompt a search in an additional area or encourage further research in a focused area. In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, Ancestry.com is offering free access to these records.
I'm still learning about my family and enjoy sharing the stories my Dad told me along the way. Consider a review of your research, focusing on the Civil War era. Are there additional records that will shed light on your Ancestors? Whatever your choice, tell their stories and keep their story alive. I'm doing my part.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Photo of the old railroad depot in Rocky Hill Station, Kentucky.
I recently attended the funeral of a wonderful lady who was aged 99 years and the next day attended a funeral of a high school classmate who was aged 54. One of the lessons I learned from attending these two memorial services was the need to prioritize life.
My calendar is always full of tasks with articles, books, and lectures. What happened to those times when I filled my calendar with driving visits to relatives. Those times when I learned that my Great Aunt Grace loved collecting Avon bottles. [She shared a bottle with me.] I also learned about her family history and wonderful stories of growing up in the Bee Springs community in Kentucky. Or the visits with my Great Aunt Jen where I learned about my Great Grandmother Clara or my Aunt Jen's in-laws.
This past weekend my sister and brother-in-law trekked into Beckton, Kentucky to visit our oldest nephew, Brett, and his wife, Becky. They have recently moved to Kentucky from Texas. After checking out their new home located on the banks of Barren River, they told me about a small family cemetery located across the road. In a moment, we went cemetery hunting. We found a typical burial ground surround by an iron fence. Filled with briers and tall grass, we were able to read a few stones and identify the family. More about this on another day.
After this exciting cemetery visit, we headed to Mammoth Cave National Park for lunch. Brett also loves history and takes every opportunity to pull stories out of me. Our Martin family held many, many reunions in the Old Hotel at Mammoth Cave. [Edmonson County, KY]
They have recently completed a wonderful new Visitors Center at the Cave, which adds even more opportunities for visitors to gain an understanding of this historic place and the people who lived and visited here. If you get a chance to visit, be sure to try the Peach Cobbler with Chaney's Dairy Barn ice cream. Once we had this great lunch including conversation, we walked around on the grounds and enjoyed the beautiful (pre-Spring) day.
As we drove back to Park City from the Cave, my nephew asked me about Rocky Hill [Station] just up the road. I told him that my Dad, his Granddad, was born. The explanation included information about Granny and Papa Martin's farm, and that although the house was now bricked, it was the house where Dad was born. We drove by the house and up the road past where Aunt Jen lived, and where her in-laws lived next door. I also told him that Dad's cousin owns the farm now and lives about 2 miles up the road.
We turn at the crossroad and went through the town of Rocky Hill [Edmonson Co. KY - There is a Rocky Hill in Barren County, too.] We stopped so I could take a picture of the old depot. My nephew is the manager of the natural gas system in the area, so he showed us their work area there.
As we talked, I remembered coming to this town cemetery for a burial. My nephew suggested we drive up this other crossroad by the railroad and see if the cemetery was near. I spotted the Rocky Hill Cemetery with a large sign on our right. We slowly drove through this well-kept cemetery until we began to recognize names. I hopped out of the truck with my nephew right behind me. I walked toward a family surname, and there was the grave of my Great Aunt Jen and Uncle Hubert. More stories followed as we returned to the truck and headed back to the house.
What's the Most Important Task in Genealogy? Sharing the stories and spending time with family. As we share the discoveries we've made in our family history, the people and places in that story come alive for those new 'hearers.'
Keeping the Story Alive is the goal of every family historian. Time to get back to those deadlines.
Friday, July 9, 2010
J. Mark Lowe
Robertson County Historical Society
As my Dad continued his story, we headed toward a picnic table with our dessert from JELLIS. [J. Ellis Drug Store, Glasgow, KY] Towards the river, a large round stone stood with water flowing from the top and sides. My Dad said when he was a little boy and they stopped here, he would go to that stone and drink as much water as he could hold. He said the water contained minerals and was good for one's health. I walked to the stone and saw the water shooting about 3 or 4 inches above the stone. I bent over and began drinking the cool water flowing above the stone. Just like many of the springs where I have tasted water, this water was very cold. I swallowed a big drink from the stone and stood up. Suddenly, I realized the water had a peculiar taste. Not only did the water now have a taste, I began to notice an odor much like rotten eggs. I was drinking from a old sulphur spring. As I began to belch the sulphur gas, my Dad began to laugh.
He related the story of the Sulphur Well. They would stop here for a rest during the all-day journey to the house of his Aunt Maude and Uncle Leonard. The ladies would begin to spread linens across the picnic tables, while the men and children washed their hands at the big stone.
I could only imagine the lunch these relatives prepared. Growing up attending family reunions, these relatives made the most scrumptious fried chicken, cathead biscuits, and sweet corn pudding. The ladies were recognized as the best cooks in southern Kentucky. There were three sisters called Annie,Nannie and Clara. As everyone else unloaded their prepared feasts, Annie and Nannie were spying out what they might carry home for supper.
We sat down at the picnic table, and I asked my Dad what they did while they rode along during this journey. He told me they sang songs, told stories, played games, and watched the sites along the road. His Uncles had to bring gasoline along to fill the tanks. Although there were some gas refueling stations or service stations, my Dad said there were few in the country.
He said the family gathered around the picnic feast, which was now covered with a large tablecloth. One of his Uncles would lead a prayer of blessing and the cloth covering the food would be removed.
When my Dad visited the White Sulphur Well as a boy, he remembered a swinging bridge crossing the water to the hotel and grounds. On the site of the sulphur well is a Kentucky Historical Society roadside marker:
This artesian well was discovered in 1845 by Ezekiel Neal, who was drilling for salt water. When he reached 180 ft. depth, pressure shot water, auger, and shafting over top of large sycamore tree. Besides salt, water contained sulphur, magnesium, and iron; used by many for its medicinal value. Constant water supply not affected by cold, heat, rain, or draught.
Beula Villa Hotel - Built in 1903 by Catlett W. Thompson, across from sulphur well. Two main buildings with guest rooms were noted for spacious, wide verandas. A swinging bridge was erected from the main veranda to the well. Next owner was King C. Crenshaw. Business thrived until 1960, when Crenshaw's health failed. After 65 years of serving the community, this popular hotel closed in 1968
My Dad did not remember ever staying at the hotel, but he did remember eating there on one occasion. He remembered the wide porches with rocking chairs, the smell of country ham and hot biscuits. My two most vivid flashbacks of the visit are seeing my Dad laugh as I continued to burp the taste of sulphur on our journey.
Martha Neal Cooke shared her memories of the Sulphur Well Hotel called the Beula Vista from her childhood.
“The smells from the Beula Vista met us as we made the turn toward the grand hotel in Sulphur Well. This was th eone Sunday ritual I looked forward to as a child. We got out of our car and headed for the enormous porch which semi-circled the hotel, and each adult and child found a high-backed flat-armed rocking chair in which to rock and talk for at least 30 minutes before dinner.
At the stroke of noon, King Crenshaw would come out on the porch and ring the biggest brass bell I’ve ever seen. He then led us through the parlor, with its Gone With the Wind lamps and their awesome prisms, to the dining room. There, round tables to seat 12 were ready with starched linen, heavy flatware, and the precious cargo of Sunday-dinner: fried county ham still steaming with the smell of coffee in the red-eye gravy, mashed potatoes with butter melting from the peaks, fried chicken and accompanying bowls of cream gravy, green beans visibly bolstered with ham chunks, and those silver dollar biscuits that would fog your glasses when you pulled them apart. How could they keep everything so hot! I don’t remember salads, except maybe cole slaw, but dessert! I can still taste the mixture of hot apple cobbler and cold ice-cream coming together in my mouth.” Sources: Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, in History, Egerton, 1993, Kentucky Historical Society