Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans’ Day Began as Armistice Day

On June 28, 1914 Gavrilo Princip, a young Bosnian student who was living in Serbia, leaped on the car of the Archduke Ferdinand (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) and began firing a gun.  The Archduke and his wife, Sophie, died immediately.  By autumn, the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire) were at war with the Allies (Belgium, France, Great Britain, Russia and Serbia.)
The United States attempted to remain neutral during the early part of the War.  American attitudes changed with the sinking of the Lusitania and Germany’s announcement that they would begin unrestricted submarine warfare on all ships, including passenger ships.
Although President Woodrow Wilson had declared his intention to keep America neutral in this conflict, the nation declared war on April 17, 1917.  Before the war ended, more than four million “doughboys” had served in the U.S. Army with American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), U.S. Navy, or Marines.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. corresponding with the time the Armitice began.
Congress passed a resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words: Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
On May 13, 1938, Congress made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”  The name of the holiday was changed in 1954 to Veterans’ Day and became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Louis Ernest Leffew was born on the 22nd of November 1884 in Elkton, Todd county, Kentucky. His parents were Elijah and M. Almeda Leffew.  The family moved to Robertson county just one year later.  Louis joined the United States regular Army in the early part of 1913, and served in the Philippines, Mexico and France. He left the U.S. with his command 14 June 1917 and was among the first U.S. troops to arrive in France. Louis entered the battle zones for the first time on 3 February 1918 in the Toul sector of the St. Mihiel front. On the morning of 1 March 1918, his company gave out of ammunition and the German army was making continual counter attacks.  Louis volunteered his services to secure ammunition for his company. Facing death he went to the rear and brought up a supply of ammunition that beat off the German attack at Toul, and soon after this heroic deed, he was killed by a high explosive shell.
The Springfield Register reported the following headline: Springfield Soldier is Killed in France.
“News has been received in Springfield of the death of Louis Ernest Leffew, who was killed in action at the front. The following telegram has been received by his mother:  ‘Washington DC Mrs M. A. Leffew,  Springfield, Tenn. – Deeply regret to inform you that Sergt. Louis E. Leffew, Infantry, is officially reported as killed in action March 1. McCain, the adjutant general.’”
According to letters and reports, Leffew was loved by all who knew him, and was loved for his bravery by each member of his company, and was one of the bravest soldiers of his command.
The local newspaper reported, “It is glorious to die for one’s country, for if the body mingles with the clods and dust, the soul goes marching on, and just eight hours before Sergeant Leffew left the United States for France, he gave his life to God. The price of liberty is the pain and sacrifice, and the reward of sacrifice is the happiness of endless generations. Out of heroes and services of men like Sergeant Leffew comes the health of all nations.”
Sergeant Leffew was originally buried in grave no 221, French Military Cemetery.  In a 1918 letter to Leffew’s mother, Adjutant General Austin Parker explained that it was not possible to remove the bodies of the dead back to the states before the close of the War. He also stated such removal by individuals would be impossible during the emergency, but the grave was carefully marked and location recorded so there will be no difficulty in removal once the action became practicable.  He was buried in the French Military Cemetery in Mandred on the 9th of March 1918 with a service by Chaplain William A. Aiken.
Louis E. Leffew was laid to rest on 26 June of 1921 in Elmwood Cemetery by Robertson Post 48, American Legion and 60 ex-servicemen from Robertson County. It was said that the largest crowd ever assembled in Elmwood witnessed the burial. He was buried with full military honors.

Louis E. Leffew holds the distinction of being the first Robertson county citizen killed in World War I. Let us remember both the heroes who preserved and those who currently protect our freedom. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Meeting Potential Family Members

Meeting Potential Family Members
J. Mark Lowe

I headed to Adams,Tennessee today to have lunch with my brother, and his sons. It is always a pleasure to visit with them and learn what they have been up to lately.  As I pulled into the driveway, I saw the older nephew leaned against the truck on his cell phone.  He is a busy man, who is a full-time farmer, or should I say 24-hour-a-day farmer.  He was taking this free moment to check on some equipment parts he ordered last week.  While he finished the call, my brother and other son walked out to the truck. 
We headed into Moss's Restaurant for lunch and were greeted by many of the folks around also there for lunch. We all ordered and I included corn-on-the-cob, which was raised by the younger nephew sitting at our table.  Since we are needing rain, the discussion of gathering all of the sweet corn orders today, and discussing the next round. In fact, one of the reasons I was there was to pick up the corn order of our sister-in-law. We were joined by the local Fire Chief, two EMTs from the County Ambulance Service, and a young man who works for the local water department. 
As usual, we had an outstanding meal, including the great sweet white corn raised by my nephew. We had a discussion of the weather and what we might expect over the next month. August is always an interesting month, and the typical heat of Summer brings on the "Dog Days of August."  Visiting in Adams is always a pleasant occasion, as I get to see many folks who have been friends for many years, including some who were friends of my siblings even longer. 
After finishing my meal, and enjoying my caramel pie, we headed outside.  Our first perch was near the porch, where the discussion continued for a few moments, then we headed to the second perch, which was the truck where we all started.  Some unknown gentlemen to me came out of the restaurant and walked near our perch.  My brother and nephew spoke to them and walked nearer to talk with these gentlemen.  As they spoke, I noticed my brother point in my direction, and then motioned for me to come near. 
Walking over to this discussion, my brother continued to tell them that I was a Genealogist.  One of the gentlemen explained that he was married to a Lowe.  I asked him from where did she grow up, and he replied Knox County, Kentucky.  Now my joking side came out, even when I had not officially met this gentlemen - So you really married a girl from Barbourville?  He said what do you know about Barbourville and Knox County - to which I shared that I had been there many times and visited often.  He then asked me if I knew if we were related to any Lowes from that area. 
This is a very common occurrence when a group of genealogists gather or Southerners try to connect families.  I told him I was familiar with some families who were connected to Bird Lowe, who lived in West Virginia.  That sounded familiar to him.  We eventually agreed to share information, so I could compare my family to hers. 
I'm proud to say that he is our new Superintendent of Schools for this County, and came here from Scott County, Kentucky. [Georgetown]  It amazes me how often my normal days become Genealogy Days, when I am with my Family.  It is usual for folks to ask me questions about their family or local history events.  Today, I will note that I ate great white sweet corn and caramel pie, met a potential family member [by marriage] and enjoyed the company of my brother, nephews and a few friends.  A great time was had by all. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Two Delish Grape Sodas Remembered with Banana Pudding

Two Delish Grape Sodas Remembered with Banana Pudding
J. Mark Lowe

Something happened today that reminded me of a great kindness 55 years ago.   On a bright sunny morning, my Mom and I went to the grocery store in the little town where I grew up.  The store was called Gossett’s General Store and it was a very typical store in many small towns across this country.  It was very unlike the grocery stores where I shop today, and probably had more hardware and dry goods than food.

On this particular day, we completed our business at the store and as usual, I left with a piece or two of penny candy given to me by Mr. Cecil Gossett.  Actually, the candy was probably more like 2 pieces for a nickel by then.   Either way, I always loved going to the store, and they were all so friendly and lovable folk.  I’m sure I always got several hugs from the ladies who worked there.

We loaded all of our groceries in the car, and headed back towards home.  We lived in the lower level of a two story house owned by Dr. and Mrs. Elder.  It was very close to my Dad’s feed mill.  Mom crossed the railroad track and headed over the hill and we could soon see the Cedar Hill Baptist Church on the left and the Cedar Hill Methodist Church on the right.   Lowe’s Feed Mill was also on the left past the Baptist Church and my Mom pulled the car toward the hill to park in front of the feed mill. 

I loved that feed mill, although I was so small that the wooden front steps, left me too short to even reach the knob to open the door.  My Dad had added a storm door to the large wooden door, and the storm door opened out.  Perhaps he saw that choice as a measure to block his youngest son from entering the business without warning.  It worked most of the time.  Although my Mom was not too far behind, I ran ahead and tried to open the door. Fortunately, I looked up and Mr. Fred Haley, who worked with my Dad, was there to let me into the office and make me feel like a Prince.  Of course, all 2-1/2 year old children get special treatment, but Mr. Fred made me feel so special.  Just to make you understand how wonderful it was to be here, my Dad spoiled me with my favorite soft drink in the world – Delish Grape Soda.  It was locally bottled by the Coca-Cola Bottling Works in Springfield, TN, but being this young, I had not grown to enjoy the cola like this stout grape drink.   As I headed for the soft drink cooler, my Mom said, “We are heading home, and he needs to eat lunch.”

Devastated, I’m sure my jaw dropped to the floor and my eyes sunk into the backward reach of my depression.  I sat down on one of the three-legged stools and could imagine the very touch of that Delish Grape Drink bottle on my tongue.  Oh well, I actually sat quietly and listened to my Mom talk with my Dad.   It seemed like a long time, but was only a few seconds or even a minute, and she indicated we were ready to leave.

I hopped off my three-legged stool and headed for the door, with my head still hung in loss.  I hugged my Dad, and turned to hug Mr. Fred, and there he stood with two bottles of Delish Grape Soda in his hand.  He said, “I’m sure these will keep until later this afternoon.”  He handed the bottles to me and I held them one in each hand, as though I was carrying gold.  I’m sure my gloom turned into smiles and sunshine and I bounded to the door like I had hit a Grand Slam.  The door was still an obstacle and my Mom opened the door, and before I could step out of the door, I was lifted up in the arms of an angel.  Mr. Fred carefully picked me up and carried me and my treasure safely down to the car.

I sat in the car, contemplating the wonderful treat that Mr. Fred had bestowed upon me.   My Mom backed the car into the street and we headed the very short distance to our house.   Our porch was a wide concrete porch with one step from the ground to door level.   I held those bottles as though they contained life-giving serum for the world.  I stood while my Mom opened the big screen door and reached to open the inner door, when the world stopped.  The screen door bumped me and I lost my grip in both hands.  Ohhhh!  The bottles fell from my hands and hit that concrete porch.  I’ve heard folks talking about how there are moments time stands still and then moves forward very slowly.  I still remember watching the bottles head downward and appearing to bounce, as fountains of deep purple and blue liquid danced in the air as the bottle burst on the concrete porch.  My hands were still held as though I was holding the bottles in my hands, but alas I had lost the sweet nectar.   I didn’t cry, because I realized the gift had been in my hands, and Mr. Fred had given me a special gift that day.

We went into the house, my Mom had me start eating my lunch, while she cleaned up the porch and removed the glass.  Evidently, Mom must have telephoned my Dad at the Feed Mill and explained what happened.  When he came home that evening, he told me he had brought something for me from Mr. Fred.   My Dad was holding two bottles of Delish Grape Soda.  It still touches my heart.

Let’s come forward to 2014.  Today, I was in Adams for the Annual Kentucky-Tennessee Threshermens’ Show helping my brother in his craft booth with Gourds.  Moss’s Restaurant is located in the same place. I asked Christy was kind of dessert she ended up making for this weekend event.   She was telling me about these wonderful desserts, when she mentioned banana pudding.   Christy’s mom, Brenda Moss, makes the best banana pudding in the world, among many other great things.  I told Christy I would stop by to get me two bowls of banana pudding to go, since I would be heading out-of-town tomorrow.   About an hour later, Christy showed up with a covered cup.  She said this is the last of the banana pudding, and I knew you would be gone tomorrow and wouldn’t be here to get any.   It still touches my heart.  I safely carried this cup of pudding to my house, up my steps and into the house without dropping it on my concrete porch.  I carefully selected a spoon and wandered over to my rocking chair, ripped off the top and savored every bite.   Thanks Christy.  I think what makes this even more special to me is that Christy is the granddaughter of Mr. Fred.  Her Mom, Brenda, is Mr. Fred’s youngest daughter.

Thanks Mr. Fred for everything – for the first two bottles of Delish Grape Soda, for safely carrying me to the car, for the second two bottles, and for raising a daughter who carries your heart, and for a granddaughter who embodies a caring soul.  How blessed are we all!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nels Oleson [Richard Bull] closes the Mercantile

J. Mark Lowe

I've enjoyed watching the show, Little House on the Prairie for years.  I learned this morning, Richard Bull,  known to most of us as Nels Oleson,  passed away. Obituary  Remembering
It is amazing how a show that originally aired in my youth still speaks to so many people today. The story of homesteaders and others surviving as they sought a better life for their family speaks especially to those of us who research families.  It makes me laugh to watch the interaction with his wife, Harriett, on the show and remember my years of growing up.

A quick glances showed Richard Bull, born 26 June 1924 in Zion, Lake County, Illinois to Ralph W. and Pearl, both also from Illinois [Enumeration of Ralph W. Bull, Dwelling 134, Household 150, 1930 US Census, Zion, Lake, Illinois; NARA T626,Roll: 528; ED 9, Page: 12A; Stamped 89,  FHL microfilm: 2340263.]  His father, Ralph W. was a compositor in an Office Supply Business. Although I'm drawn to learn more about his family, I know that I have other stories to tell. If you have access, check out Find-a-Grave and other basic records and news reports.

His father and grandparents were buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.  His father's gravestone shares Ralph W. Bull, 1903-1944.  The simple design of this stone reminds me of a stone Nels Oleson might place on a family member's grave. Our ability to collect so many details about our family should lead us to learn more.  Thanks to Richard Bull for keeping the story alive of the folks of Walnut Grove, etc found in the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What story can you build today?

J. Mark Lowe
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