Week 46: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: I Pack my Suitcase with…

Week 46: November 15, 2014

 I Pack my Suitcase with…

yellow suitcase

The yellow suitcase!

I’ll never forget the time my son and I landed at JFK with over 6 pieces of luggage – and just the two of us! He never grumbled as we made our way to the shuttle van, laughing all the way as we struggled to carry them all. The drivers in New York never complained about our weighty luggage, but the early morning shuttle driver in Georgia taking us to the airport always grumbled “what are you trying to do bring it all home with you” he’d say. We never liked seeing that “one” very overweight grumpy driver at 6 a.m. He never was without a comment, and I bet he doesn’t miss me either!

Just as the title of this story says, I did pretty much pack my suitcase with everything. Remember the old game, “I Pack my Suitcase” that you played as a child? For some reason I feel compelled to bring some of my South back home with me every year – and I still do today.

Holcombs Sign

Holcomb’s Bar-B-Q

Until I finally learned how to make Bar-B-Q sauce with Mama’s help of devising a recipe, I lugged three gallons of Holcomb’s special sauce home every year on the plane. The legal limit today of carrying liquid on-board is 4 oz! I would surely be arrested today if I tried to sneak that on! Recently I learned from the TSA that you’re allowed to bring frozen food on-board – as much as you want. I was excited to learn that and quickly packed my carry-on suitcase full of frozen BBQ and Brunswick Stew. I never breathe easy until I am past security; yes they always open it and probably think I’m crazy. I don’t care what they think, just as long as my BBQ makes it to the plane.

Even though I already have a yard full of mama’s flowers, I still bring plants home from her garden – I think she expects me to and always has flowers waiting for me to pack. She rooted hydrangeas for my daughter to bring home this year. I’ve never seen anyone with a green thumb like hers; she just sticks a root in the ground and presto, roots appear. Of course there’s a drawback to going anywhere with someone with a green thumb – everywhere we go she pinches off a piece of whatever she sees and takes a liking to. Sometimes I just look the other way and keep going – just waiting for the flower police to appear!

We now usually ship through the post office as the airlines are stricter and they x-ray everything that even goes under the plan. I’m not in the gardening mode as I once was, but I still enjoy when hubby drags out my treasured “Ola” lily and Elephant Ear plants.  I keep them in pots inside as they are more tropical and cannot weather through our winters outside.


The Ola Lily at Mama’s house

I recently discovered that my Ola lily is from the Crinum lily family and considered an heirloom Southern lily. They can only be bought on-line at special nurseries that continue to grow and reproduce them; you’ll never find them in local nurseries. In searching online I’ve discovered it’s actually called the milk and wine or confederate lily.

Driving around Georgia, you’ll see the Ola Lily occasionally, but usually only out in the country. We mostly see them around Siloam, and that’s where mama’s plants came from. It’s definitely one of the “pass along plants” – that you only have because someone has shared one with you from their garden. When someone shares a plant with you, feel truly honored – you’ll remember that person always when the plant blooms. I think of my grandmother Ola (McKinley) every time I look at my lily when it blooms. I even named it Ola, after her, because no one knew the name of the plant years ago, and I still call it my Ola Lily.


My favorite Tara House

My suitcases now come home packed with other Georgia treasures such as – bags of Georgia red clay soil scooped up from Lumpkin and Greene County, bricks from the home of Granddaddy Bryan and Granddaddy McKinley’s fallen chimneys, bricks that once held up the southern porch of my favorite Tara house – cuttings of country pink roses from the yard of my Civil War 4th-great grandfather’s log cabin across from Cane Creek in Lumpkin County, cast iron frying pans that belonged to my grandmother Ola and my mother. One year I even brought home a 14-inch cast iron frying pan I bought in an antique store; it arrived safe and sound!

It’s not easy leaving my mother’s house with light suitcases – no matter how hard we try. We shop in all our favorite antique stores there and can’t resist bringing home those Southern finds. You just always see something there that you know you will not find in Connecticut, and it must come with you.


Mama fussing around in her garden!

Besides bringing home antiques, there are other food things that I must find room for in my suitcase. Boxes of Luzianne Tea – like I can’t buy tea bags at home. Bags of green peanuts is always a must – have to make boiled peanuts upon returning home. White Lilly flour is another must have every year – and that comes in 5-pound bags – and there are often two or three of those packed somewhere! I just can’t make my biscuits without that flour – it’s always a must!

And do you know how hard it is to carry loaves of Sunbeam BBQ bread through the airport without squishing it? One man stopped to ask me why I was carrying that bread – he said he was just curious as to why. It’s another staple I can’t buy here. I contacted Sunbeam about it – their answer was  -no one would buy it here. How do they know, as they don’t even try. And it’s always one of those “asked for things” from my son when he doesn’t come.

BLOG-full-suitcase original


From one visit to the next, mama collects things – things that “she” thinks we might want – and expects us to bring them ‘all’ home – in our suitcases. The night before we leave mama’s we begin playing the game of – I pack my suitcase with….  We pack, unpack, repack – weigh the suitcases and start asking who has room in theirs, for what is not fitting in yours! Then after our suitcases are packed to the brim, here comes mama with more things – telling us to just – stick them somewhere….

On one trip, she had over fourteen baby dresses and books for me to bring home for the granddaughters and when I didn’t pack all the books, she seemed disappointed. Granted the dresses didn’t weigh much, but they still took up room.

On the last night I usually drag out the shopping bags for those last, hard-to-fit breakables that never make it into my suitcase. I carry them nonchalantly, pretending I just bought them at the airport. So far, my extra carry-on bags have not been discovered. When I tell you our bags are filled to every nook and cranny – believe me!

So you can see, besides packing my suitcase with Ancestor memories, I also include other strange items like flour, peanuts, bricks, plants, BBQ, Brunswick Stew, bread, peach pickles, cast iron pans and whatever goodies I found in the antique stores and hiding around mama’s house; Lots of  goodies always hiding there!

 “So, what do you pack in your suitcase?”

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Week 45: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Just When I thought I knew it all…

Week 45: November 8, 2014

 Just When I thought I knew it all…

piper cub

Did my mother fly in a piper cub plane like this one from the 1940’s?

Just when I thought I had heard all the stories from my mother, she comes out with this story one night about how she flew in a small two-seater plane in the early 1940’s – and landed at the airfield in Siloam; she was probably twelve years old. And no sooner after she told me – I had a thousand and one questions – of which most she couldn’t answer.

As I’d never heard my mother mention this story before, I wanted to learn a little history of what actually happened, hoping she was really remembering this right! Even though this story is not directly on birth or death dates of an ancestor – it’s the history of the area where my grandparents lived. It’s another piece to my puzzle and memories of my mother’s life!

fb page greene co

Facebook Greene County History – photo taken by myself.

So where did I turn for answers – first to my Greene County, Georgia History Facebook page – what would we do without the social experience of Facebook?

The first thing I was told in the Greene County Facebook group by Brenda Tolbert was, “you need to call Mr. Comer Tolbert,” he wrote an article for the Greensboro Herald about that airfield years ago.” And that’s exactly what I did! Mr. Tolbert, in his 90’s, remembered it all, but unfortunately he didn’t keep a copy of the article he wrote with pictures. Yes he had photos of that airfield! I hope to post them, at some point when I obtain a copy, but I’ve decided not to hold my story any longer.

siloam map

Siloam and Greensboro, Ga. on map

Base Location Map

This map shows several similar airfields like the one in Siloam – maybe the smaller ones were never listed. But you can see the flight patterns and it definitely fit into the pattern.

From Mr. Tolbert I learned…”The land used for the training airfield was owned by Mr. Buddy Corry and was situated behind his house. The airfield was used for training new pilots – they flew small fighter planes, no bomber planes. There were usually two people in the plane, one being the pilot and the other, the instructor. They’d fly in, almost touching the ground and then go back up – that’s how they learned to land – this was their practice field. One of my first plane rides was there on a Sunday afternoon – they flew me over Greensboro and the Mill Town area, where I grew up.”

This airfield my mother spoke of came about right after WWII began. It was not an airfield as you’d think of today, but instead – just a dirt landing strip in someone’s field; I’m assuming it was leased by the government. It was located just a couple of miles out of Siloam, down Fuller Road.

Another question I had was “how and why was this humble town of Siloam picked to play such a part in the flight training of new pilots?” Location, Location, Location – maybe that was the answer! Siloam in Greene County, Georgia had wide open farm land and well situated away from other airports – this area was definitely secluded.


1963 aerial photo of Fuller Road area

I’m told the airstrip was only a dirt packed runway, and this 1963 aerial Google Map still shows the concrete directional landing circle in the cross-field. (Thanks to Jennings Kilgore) The field sat across from Mr. Maner Ellenberg’s farm in Siloam and he often told stories to his grandson, Keith, about how the British airmen buzzed his milking cows and how his wife even cooked for them. I’m sure that was a real treat for the boys being away from home. There really wasn’t enough room for them to actually land and take back off, but there was one time Mr. Ellenberg told about the jet fighter that had to make an emergency landing in the air field. He still remembers the sound it made coming in, he could tell something was wrong. That plane had to be somewhat disassembled later on and a truck was sent to transport it back to the airbase.


The remaining light tower – red beacons were once on top

Keith Ellenberg remembers…”In talking to my father about the airfield, he says the tower down at Mr. Copelan’s had the big revolving beacon light that would swing around with a bright light;  the one still standing there today would light up one of the two lights on it, depending on which runways they were supposed to use. He recalls two runways, one that started up by our house and went down toward Slip Rock Road, across from the Copelan place, and the other one went over behind what is now the Nathanael Greene Academy. All the runways were grass; the fields were so level that he used to ride his first bike around the fences. Later, folks would come and ride motorcycles around the fields since they were smoother than the road in front of our house. Mr. Copelan and my grandfather Maner Rice Ellenberg, Sr. were hired by the military to build that fence around the airfield. My father remember those two men could really work and they were paid several hundred dollars to build it. It was the most money my grandfather had had in his pocket at one time, in a long time. My grandmother Callie used to invite the boys up to the house for dinner and several wrote thank you letters to her for the great meals she served; sure wish we had kept those letters.

There were private airfields around that time which operated under a contract with the U. S. Government and it seems Siloam was one of them. Some that were larger, were later incorporated into the USAF when the war began, but this type of airfield was not.


The Vultee BT-13 was the basic trainer flown by most American pilots during World War II.

Lanelle Underwood LaRue remembers: “Mr. Jimmy Copeland was my uncle and the field was located directly across from his house on the road from Siloam to Fuller Crossing. I do remember the time when a large plane landed and couldn’t take back off. It sat there for a long time as the runway was too short for it to taxi off. One day my Uncle Jim, who also drove the local school bus, took us out there and let us board that plane. Uncle Jim also took care of the field, mowing the grass and keeping check on the pole lights, replacing any if needed. There was a tower and a couple of red beacon lights there but only the metal light tower remains today. This site was a training field for the Air Force for South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The pilots came for practice landings and take offs; they only just touched down, with each touch being recorded. There was a small building in the corner of the airport area where someone sat when the training took place – they recorded each touch down. In the winter Uncle Jim’s wife always made a big pot of coffee for the boys to warm them up a bit. In the summer they called him the “watermelon man” as he’d bring watermelons out to the field. They even called ahead to tell the “watermelon man” that they would be coming and landing – for those watermelons! Uncle Jim always had to drop what he was doing if they were coming in, as he also often helped to log the flights with another person. When the training wasn’t taking place, people who owned private planes also used the field. The government had to buy/lease the land from each owner for these type of air-strips, but when the airport closed, the land was given back to them.”

Siloam mention

Siloam mentioned in the book – The Arnold Scheme

Carroll Underwood remembers: “The trainees were English boys being trained under contract by a school I believe was over in Macon; there were several airstrips like this one in Georgia. These airstrips were installed and maintained by the U. S. military. Most of the guys flying were always accompanied by an instructor, except when a trainee progressed enough to be allowed, and required, to do cross-country practice. I believe, sometimes, there was someone parked in one corner of the strip, and he used the plane’s radio to make contact with the pilot – like they would have done from the control tower. Those rides for $5.00 were often offered by private pilots who could still get aviation gas and allowed to use the strip on Sundays, since there was no training on that day. One was Ben Apps from Athens who had a little two-seater. He’d buzz the neighborhood shortly after Sunday dinner to roust up a crowd to whom he would sell rides to, mostly just to carry them over their house and “downtown” Siloam. As I recall, there was no concrete, just grass on the runway. I always thought the U. S. Government built and graded it, along with the fence surrounding it and the short access road.”

The locals never knew when the boys were coming, some days they came and some days they didn’t. But when you heard the planes, you knew where they were headed.

Ennis Eaton, as a young boy, remembers the training airfield there in Siloam. “My uncle Fain Eaton lived a few miles down the road. There was a tower there, this was back in late ’49-50.”


Behind those trees – was an airfield!

Jack Jarrard remembers his grandfather also telling stories about the old aviation field. “You would have to know where it was, to even get a small glimpse of where it once was – and even though it’s pretty much impossible to determine from the road where it was once situated  – believe me, there was once an airfield back through those trees and tall grasses. I’ve been by the field a million times and if I didn’t know what happened there years ago from stories, I would have no clue just by looking at it today. It’s looked the same now for as long as I can remember. I also heard the story about the jet plane breaking down and having to be carried out of the field.”

James Oliver Smith remembers the “air shows” there after the war. “My daddy paid $5.00 for me to ride in a Piper Cub propeller airplane one Sunday afternoon.”


The Arnold Scheme

Nick Wynne searched around for history on this airfield in Siloam and we finally found a slight mention of it in The Arnold Scheme: British Pilots, the American South, and the Allies … By Gilbert Sumter Guinn. I heard several different stories – some saying these boys were British soldiers and learning how to fly our planes, while others said they were only our GI’s – American boys, just enlisted and new in flight school; all this took place right after Pearl Harbor and during the war years. Whether they were one or the other or both – what happened there in Siloam needs to be remembered for future generations – it is Siloam’s history.

Ray Marchman remembers the air field in Siloam; “I was going to school in Siloam when this was built and the planes took off right over our school, it was about 1940 or 41. The airfield was behind the houses that face the road from Siloam to Fuller’s School.”

mule plowing

A scene similar like of my grandfather plowing

My mother tells me – “I remember many planes flying over daddy’s farm in the afternoons. They loved to buzz my father when he was plowing and make the horse buck. That made him so mad – and he often swore at them, raising his fist toward their plane! There was one time when they actually touched down in daddy’s wheat field and I still remember that just like it was yesterday. I was sitting outside on the front porch and as the pilot touched down – he looked over, saw me, and gave a wave as he took back off. That was so exciting, seeing that plane almost landing so close to me, but my daddy didn’t like it!”

“The first time I saw one of the planes fly over, I went running to the field where my father was plowing – yelling “the Germans are coming!” I thought for sure that they were German planes coming to drop bombs on us. This was a first for me as I’d never seen a plane before – at least never one in actual flight. I had only saw them the movies; and with the war going on and hearing about planes dropping bombs, I thought for sure they were the Germans! My father used to always say, “The government should take all the old men in the Army, as we aren’t worth nothing anyway, and leave the young boys at home.” My brother Leroy was drafted at age 18 and died in the war; he was shot by enemy fire not long after landing in Metz, Germany.”

After the war the locals often held “air shows” at the airfield; that is where my mother probably had her first ride in a piper cub propeller plane – cost was about $5.00. They usually flew you over where you lived and over the town of Siloam.

On a recent trip to Georgia I drove down Fuller Road again to exactly see this area I myself have driven by countless times – and never once did my mother mention it. What did I say that night on the phone to make her remember this?


Now U.S. Post Office – Once was Mr. Johnny Jackson’s store

It was erie thinking that this area once experienced all that – you’d have to know this area Mr. Johnny Jackson 1 to truly understand. Siloam is one of those small “eye blink” country towns that doesn’t even have a traffic light – although they do have a blinking light now. The small town area itself has quite dwindled down to only one original building left still in use; the older brick general store, that once was Mr. Johnny Jackson’s store, is now the United States Post Office. My mother walked by Mr. Johnny Jackson’s store every morning to catch the bus; he lined up bruised apples on the window ledge. Mr. Johnny would stand in the doorway and say, “I bet some little girl would like one of those apples.” Those apples quickly disappeared with the children who walked by!

The line of brick buildings that once sat directly across from the now Post Office are slowly falling in, two are already gone from the line. The end building that originally was the Bank of Siloam in the early 1930’s, was a general store owned by my mother’s uncle and aunt – James Lawson and Ulma McKinley. I have many fond memories of this store whenever I visited my grandparents; the bank vault from the Bank of Siloam is still inside the store! I remember being fascinated by it when I was young and visited there – I loved to buy a Baby Ruth candy bar or an ice cream and have it put on my grandfather’s tab!

johnsons pharmacy

Left: Johnson’s Pharmacy: Right: Bank of Siloam until 1930’s – later to become general store owned by  Lawson and Ulma McKinley

img135The town of Siloam also boasted a pharmacy next door, Johnson’s Pharmacy – I bought many a comic book in there. Next door was an older general store, you know the ones from many years ago that boasted those oak counters with glass in front and an old cast-iron pot belly stove to warm you in the winter. When I think about how it looked in the 60’s, still looking right out of the 1940’s. I see many of those same type of oak general-store counters in the antique stores now and I’m reminded of the one from Siloam. As no one ever inhabited the buildings again after closing, they all slowly began to fall in – the one still standing complete today is where the bank once was. Sad to see – as I once walked that short strip of sidewalk, from store to store and they were all open for business – now it’s a ghost strip full of memories.


Johnson’s Pharmacy roof has now fallen in – you see the sky looking in.

Driving down Fuller Road today, you look over at the tall pines in passing by and think, just pine trees, never knowing the history that once took place there in the 1940’s! If my mother hadn’t told me about flying in a plane that landed at the airfield in Siloam, it would have just been another lost piece of history. Actually this piece of land is not far from where my mother was born – in a log cabin – on Fuller Road.

Recent Addition:

Original photos of the plane that landed on the airfield due to problems was a Bell Aircraft PS-640 X5 – the X designates it was an experimental plane (thanks to Gary Madden). These photos were taken by Comer Tolbert during the 1940’s and from his personal collection. Special thanks go to Leigh Wood Thompson for retrieving and scanning them to me. What great photos and I’m truly honored to be able to preserve them. Leigh tells me that her grandfather, Hughes Tolbert and cousins’ husband, Walter Scoggins, were headed out to hunt squirrels that day when it landed. He said it circled several times before landing. This was a huge deal in Siloam in the 1940’s to be able to get up-close and personal with a plane of this type.

From Carroll Underwood: This airfield was located about a mile south on the East side of the Siloam-Fuller School road, the south end of the strip just opposite the Jimmy Copelan house. Built for the use of a flight training school out of Macon; just a grass strip with something like cattle wire fence around it with two gates, the main one on the west fence near the north end. They trained English students.


Local Siloam residents eager to check out this plane that landed and somewhat grounded in their small town!


Hughes Tolbert (smoking cigarette) grandfather of Leigh Wood Thompson. Lewis Copelan – with back to camera.


The locals enjoying their new oddity in Siloam, Georgia. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of my grandfather in these photos but I guess he wasn’t going to leave his plowing to go see one of these flying “fangled” things that buzzed his cows and horses.


PS-640 USAF plane


Everyone was eager to come and see – most had never seen a plane this close up


What were they thinking about this?


Hughs Tolbert with white shirt on front edge of plane – grandfather of Leigh Wood Thomspon; someone is enjoying the pilot seat inside. Wonder what the names are on there, I see the name Crew Chief but can’t read anything else. All planes have their own crew chief, as my husband was crew chief on a B-52 when he was in the USAF.

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Week 44: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: North Carolina McKinleys head into Georgia…

Week 44: November 1, 2014

 North Carolina McKinley’s head into Georgia…

mckinley crestMy earliest McKinley line is Robert and Elizabeth (maiden unknown) McKinley in Mecklenburg County, N.C. Robert was born circa 1710-1720 and died circa 1775 from his dated will; I have no birth or death dates on Elizabeth. Although I have not found a definite burial for Robert or Elizabeth, most researchers on this line believe them to also be buried in Steele Creek Church, Charlotte, Mecklenburg Co., N.C. in unmarked graves.


Land Grant to Robert McKinley

The first mention I’ve found of Robert McKinley in Mecklenburg Co., N.C. is when he purchased four hundred acres on Long and Paw Creeks from Mathew and Jean Patton in 1764. I’m not quite understanding the grant – was it for service? It’s listed as a Plantation, Grant no. 47, containing 100 acres. I find it comical in reading how they describe the exact location of the land, no GPS then. The location is spelled out as – measured from the white oak tree from one end of the line to a black oak on another property line with mentioning of poles in between. The deed described Robert as “being from said county.”


Land Survey of land Robert McKinley purchased on Paw and Long Creek

The first permanent settlers of North Carolina came from England in 1665 and settled in the Eastern part of the state. Coulda, Woulda, Maybe… were my early McKinley’s part of this group? Wishful thinking! The next wave of immigrants came from Scotland and Germany and spread to the other parts of the state. The Scotch from Ulster chose the central and western areas, and it’s this group who settled in Mecklenburg County. The settlers who traveled along the Fall Line Road into Mecklenburg County, N.C. were listed predominately as being Scots-Irish. The continuation of the Fall Line Road into Georgia was not open to most white settlers until after a series of treaties took place with the Catawba Indians and other tribes – by 1831 the last treaty opened the road for settlers to travel all the way through Georgia into Alabama. This is probably when Robert McKinley’s son William Sr. decided to move his family into Georgia.

The listing of Robert and Elizabeth’s children were taken from the order listed in Robert’s will, dated January 21, 1775. Being he did not appear in land records until 1764, I can not say if any, or all of his children were born in Mecklenburg Co., N.C.

Robert McKinley children2

Children of Robert and Elizabeth McKinley

Robert’s will of 1775 bequeathed unto his beloved wife, Elizabeth, one third of his plantation. I love this part – it mentions he leaves the use of the dwelling and outhouse for her disposal – Really! What funny wording. To his beloved daughter, Sarah M. Thomas, he left one cow. To beloved son William McKinley, a cow or the value of one. To Elizabeth, my daughter, one bay mare and three cows. To son Joseph, a cow or the price of one. To daughter, Martha, I give a black mare and two cows. And at my wife’s decease, I will that the plantation above mentioned, whereon I now live, be divided equally between my three youngest daughters, Jane, Elizabeth and Martha.


Robert McKinley “signature”

My line continues with Robert and Elizabeth’s son William McKinley born August 10, 1743. William marries Margaret – again, no maiden name found. I do not believe William was born in Mecklenburg as the first record I found of his father was in the purchase of his plantation in 1764. I believe the same land listed here is what Robert sells to son William: The Mecklenburg Co. Land Survey Index (1763-1768) lists Robert McKinley as Grantee – the First Chain-bearer as Mathew Patton – the Second Chain-bearer as William McKinley – grant date at 1765, File No. 494 and Watershed as Paw Creek. I’m assuming he is selling to his son here?

William McKinley 1843 children

Children of William and Margaret McKinley


Steele Creek Presbyterian Church

It has been stated that the Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, of which my McKinley’s, as well as their children’s in-laws and friends, obtained its original congregation from a group who followed the Reverends’ Elihu Spencer and Alexander McWhorter; they were the ministers sent by the synod to the back parts of North Carolina in 1764 – the same year that my Robert was first recorded in a purchase of land. IMG

Worth S. Ray wrote in his book on the Mecklenburg County “signers” that the founders of Steele Creekchurch had originally come from Charlotte County, Virginia. Mr. Ray also published the names of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence: most were members of the Steele Creek Church or neighbors of the McKinley’s, including “David Crockett and his wife, Elizabeth, (Betsy) for whom he named his rifle for. Unfortunately not one McKinley was found listed as a signer; something I have always found hard to believe.

meckDec08 (1)

The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

The Declaration was created about the time of Robert’s death, supposedly adopted on May 20, 1775, at a meeting in which the citizens declared themselves to be a free and independent people, wanting to be sovereign and self-governing. Most historians discount the entire story of the “Mecklenburg Declaration” but May 20th was considered a legal holiday in the state of North Carolina and quite celebrated; even today this “Meck Dec” is strongly supported and celebrated. More information on this can be found at http://www.cmstory.org/meckdec/md.htm

It’s argued that the “Mecklenburg Resolves“, a list of statements adopted at Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on May 31, 1775, was actually indeed the true document,  but due to a fire in the early 1800’s, the original text of the “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence”  was lost.

Later in the mid 1800’s, the “Meck Dec” was recreated and published, but many historians claimed the text and borrowed wording was now actually from the United States Declaration of Independence.

Declaration placque

Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence Marker, State Capitol, Raleigh

Was the documented “Mecklenburg Resolves” mistaken for the unproven “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence?” This debate took up the question: did Thomas Jefferson borrow the wording for the United States Declaration of Independence from the Mecklenburg Declaration – or was it the other way around? You decide!

In 1775 Robert McKinley sold land to son William McKin(d)ley, but what’s the most interesting part of the actual deed to me is that it listed Robert’s occupation as being a “cooper” (barrel maker). Finally a new occupation other than farmer! (Their name was recorded as McKindley)

1781 to 1800 saw much growth in the area – several stores, a flour mill and saw mill were opened; a post office was established in 1792 and a stagecoach service formed in 1794. The only religious denomination in the area at that time seemed to remain at Presbyterian.

William (1743 – 1815) married Margaret (unknown) in Mecklenburg Co., N.C. circa 1779. Her birth is listed as 1734 from her gravestone, which puts her seven years senior on her husband. William and Margaret had seven children in this marriage. In later census, son William Jr. McKinley listed both parents as being born in North Carolina.

There are two other graves in same area – a John McKinley (1776 – 1797) and James McKinley (1783 – 1797). They are listed on Find a Grave as their sons, but I had never actually added them into this family. They are buried in the same area as my William and Margaret, and not sure why I never included them in their family until I began preparing this story. I need to explore more on these two probable sons and “why they died in the same year?” Now I’m feeling a little sad that I ignored these two boys and I feel compelled to try and discover what happened to them, having died in the same year?

I plan to search more on a malaria epidemic I’ve discovered near the end of my research that seemed to have swept over the area from 1797-1800 – could this have been the cause of John and James McKinley’s death? It’s written that many families moved away from the Steele Creek area during those years.


William and Margaret in background – John and James McKinley in foreground

Census: 1800, Mecklenburg Co., N.C.
William McKindley (two spellings – McKinley and McKindley found in records)
2 males 16 under 26,
1 male 45 up,
1 female 16 under 26,
1 female 45 up.
Occupation: Plantation owner


Margaret McKinley

William McKinley’s wife Margaret died in 1806 and was buried in the family plot at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery. This family clearly weren’t paupers as their gravestones were quite large – Margaret had quite the lengthy epitaph which shows she was truly a loved wife and mother.

Margaret’s tombstone reads:

Her life was without reproach.
And death we believe to her was Gain,
And she left to her children the richest of all legacies
A good name
Why should we mourn departed friends
Or shake at death’s alarms.
It’s but the voice that Jesus sends to call us to his arms
The Graves of all the Saints he blessed
And softened every bed.
Where should the dying members rest
But with the dying Head
Here she shall slumber in the ground
Til the last trumpets joyful sound, then
Burst the chains with sweet surprise
And in her Savior’s image rise.

The 1810 Census lists a Capt. Wm. McKinley and Robert McKinley in Mecklenburg Co., N.C. (I need to strongly pursue more information on this William McKinley listed as a captain; is this the William who fought in the Rev. War? A William McKinley is listed as a Revolutionary Soldier in the history of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church (pg. 180).

When William McKinley Sr. died on May 29, 1815, he had already been a widower for nine years as Margaret predeceased him in 1806. Robert and William Jr. were executors of their father’s last will and both shared in the plantation land in Mecklenburg County, N.C. while the daughters only received the sum of one dollar. Boy did they get the blunt end of the deal! Funny how you find many wills written like that – if they didn’t marry husbands who could provide for them, they seemed to be out of luck. And that must have been some drawing knife he left Robert, to have mentioned it in the will specifically to him. Actually it seems Robert was left the largest share of the estate, also receiving the home. Maybe he wasn’t married like William – and still lived at home? I can see that I need more research into these early families for a clearer picture of their lives.

Also written in the History of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church is the suggestion that the local historian claims that my William McKinley (Rev. War) is the ancestor of President William McKinley. In as much as I’d like to say “yes” he is – I can not lay claim to him as my ancestor – maybe one day, but today is not the day!

Will of William McKinley Sr.
To the name of God Amen…
I, William McKinley, just being weak of body but of a perfect sound mind and memory do make and ordain and constitute this to be my Last Will and Testament:

Imprimis – I will and allow that all my just debts be paid by my Executors hereafter to be named. (Imprimis means “firstly”)

Secondly, I devise my lands in the following manner and term – – To my Son, Robert McKinley, I will and bequeath one hundred acres of land of the upper end of my plantation joining the lands of Joseph Hudson and William Flin, including his improvements, beginning at a ‘Red Oak Saplin’, newly blazed, on the Dividing Line between Mr. Flin and myself and running a northward direction to a Red Oak and Gum stump so as to include one hundred acres of land and no more – I also will and allow my son, Robert McKinley, aforementioned, my home, my drawing knife, to him and his heirs forever. – – – – –

Thirdly, to my youngest son, William McKinley, I will and bequeath the remainder part of my land including all my improvements to him and his heirs forever, and also all my personal estate of every kind, to be for his use and at his disposal by first paying each of my daughters, one dollar.

Fourthly, to my eldest daughter, Nancy Stinson, I will and bequeath one dollar – – –
Fifthly, to my daughter, Betsy Stinson, I will and allow one dollar – – –
Sixthly, I will and allow my daughter, Peggy Whiteside, one dollar – – –
Seventhly, I will and allow my daughter, Sally Calkey (Cathey / Cauthey) one dollar – – –
Eightly, I will and allow my youngest daughter, Jane Swan, one dollar – – –

Ninthly, I do hereby ordain appoint and constitute my two sons, Robert McKinley and William McKinley, my executors of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and dis-annulling all former and other making and appointing this and this only as my “Last Will and Testament.” Given under my hand and seal the 2nd day of April 1810.

William McKinley (his signature)
Probated in August term of court: 1815, Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina


Signature of William McKinley


William McKinley

William’s tombstone reads:

He was a true Patriot and a kind husband. A tender parent. He died in hopes of a Glorious Resurrection.


This older section of Steele Creek cemetery bears the names of the old families who had formed the band of immigrants that originally settled in the area. Also in this section lie thirteen Revolutionary War soldiers – William McKinley is again listed as such in The history of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. The early stone markers in the cemetery are of soap-stone, old stones of marble and hand hewn stones from a nearby quarry. Before the practice of common burial grounds in church yards, the first burial grounds were usually plots set aside by families on their own farms. Steele Creek cemetery once had a wooden rail fence for protection against the free range cattle that roamed. Later a wall of stone replaced the rails to surround and protect the cemetery.

My family line of McKinley’s have dwindled from the Steele Creek Church records and area, but many of the early family names from that time are still among the congregation there today.

William McKinley Jr. (1779-1854) continues my line and marries Sarah Beaty (1778-1860) circa 1803 in Mecklenburg Co., N. C. Sarah is the daughter of John and Mary Beaty, also of Mecklenburg Co., N.C. – another prominent family.  By 1830 William and Sarah left N.C., moving their family to Putnam Co., GA. – that is where William is first found listed in the Putnam County deed books.

William and Margaret children

Children of William and Sarah McKinley


 William seems to be one of the first of the McKinley’s of Mecklenburg Co., N.C. to pursue purchasing land elsewhere – the opening of the Fall River Line Road into Georgia created those opportunities. Makes me wonder – why? You had family where you lived, you already owned land – and now you take the chance of moving your family into unknown areas with no family around. These people were strong willed to do all they did.

My line continues on with William and Sarah’s son, Hugh Lawson McKinley (1824-1902) marrying Ann Elizabeth Dickerson on September 4, 1855 in Putnam Co., Georgia. Ann (1835-1904) was born in Hancock Co., Ga., the daughter of Alpheus and Penelope (Askew) Dickerson. (At times you also find the name spelled Dickinson) Hugh was a twin to brother Joseph Lee McKinley. Even in today’s world having twins is not easy, I can only imagine how it was in those times – and not having disposable diapers and pre-made formula! I have twin granddaughters and having to do and buy everything in “two’s” can be overwhelming at times and expensive.

Hugh L McKinley children

Children of Hugh L. and Ann McKinley

Hugh Lawson McKinley being of age 37, was still young enough to fight in the Civil War, and joined the 27th Georgia Battalion, Co. A. of the Confederacy on September 11, 1863 in Augusta, Ga., and served a total of three years. This information was shared by a cousin who requested his records from the National Archives in Atlanta. They only returned a document stating his regiment company and wrote that no other information on his records could be found. I searched Fold3.com in preparing to write this story, and from that search, I’m questioning now what was sent to her. I found a H. L. McKinley enlisting in Eatonton, Putnam Co., as a private on August 4, 1863 in Capt. John T. Bowdoin’s Co., the Putnam Vols. of Ga. He was recruited by Col. W. T. Young and signed up for six months of service. Further research on Hugh will hopefully discover the correct company that he served in during the Civil War – at the moment time is not on my side to hold this story for further research – so with that said, another story will surface on Hugh L. McKinley.

Hugh and Ann have eight children, one being Edgar Lawson McKinley (1863 – 1944) which continues my McKinley line. Edgar L. McKinley, my great grandfather, and he was featured in Week No. 25 https://jinsalacoblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/52-week-52-ancester-challenge/

Edgar L McKinley children

Children of Edgar L. and Rosie McKinley


Edgar T. and Ola (Askew) McKinley with children, Leroy and Helen McKinley (my mother)

My last McKinley male line from these Mecklenburg County McKinley’s of North Carolina into Georgia, ends with Edgar Lawson and Rosie (Sharp) Mckinley’s son Edgar Thomas McKinley (1894 – 1972) – my grandfather. Edgar T. McKinley, married Ola Askew (1907 – 1970) in 1923 and was featured in Week No. 8. https://jinsalacoblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/116/

After searching  my records in preparing Week 44 story, I see that I will need to revisit these families again at a later date. My records were from years ago research – much done on-site at local libraries and the LDS church library. In as much as I felt like I had found important and valuable family records, I definitely see I don’t have all the records for a complete picture of my early families and the story I wanted to write.

But as Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind, “after all… tomorrow is another day.”
I will revisit these families in more detail in the New Year…


© 2014, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Responses to Week 44: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: North Carolina McKinleys head into Georgia…

Helen Holshouser says: November 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm

This is an amazingly well documented article and lengthy for someone also working full time and writing a novel! My gracious, I’m impressed! My husband grew up near Charlotte with his German ancestors settling there in the late 1700’s like you say, when many were moving that way. This was a great read, and I am looking forward to comparing it to my husband’s family history. Thanks for a lot of history!

Jeanne Bryan InsalacoNovember 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Helen, Thank You for your kind words. Yes I’m like a dog always chasing my tail, between work, weekly stories, and now the 30 day novel! Thank Heavens for my husband, who is retired and takes over everything else do I have time to write! I honestly don’t know how I pulled this story off! I have much more but had to call a halt for another day!

Lyn SmithNovember 8, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Impressively good! Whenever I think of our Scottish/ Irish heritage, I remember how irate Papa CE would get. He always said we were not Scottish. Unfortunately, my research did not get to the proof until after he passed. I asked Uncle J.W. about it and he said he never could understand why Erle would get so upset at being Scottish. I still laugh about it.

I need to get with you on the children of William and Margaret’s children. You said they had 7 children, I credit them with 9? Of course, the Census records back then did not list anyone but head of house. I’ve also wondered why James and John died the same year. Ireland. I’ll look up the pages I printed. I’m like you; my information is never where I can lay my hands on it when I need it. James was only 14 but John was 21. Could it have been malaria- interesting? More research. That’s what we do. Thanks for the information that I didn’t already have or wasn’t aware of.

I have some information from another site; I believe you led me to it. I’ll have to look it up because I can’t remember it off the top of my head. It was about the McKinley’s from Scotland and Ireland. I’ll look up the pages I printed. I’m like you; my information is never where I can lay my hands on it when I need it.

Lyn SmithNovember 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm

By the way, that site is A History of the McKinley Family in Ireland. http://irishmckinleys.blogspot.com/p/from-scotland-to-ulster.html

Jeff LaneApril 22, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Hello, great webpage. I am researching Lanes and came across the following deed: Mecklenburg Deed: 4044, p. 342. 15 Oct 1800. David & Christopher Lane to Michael McCleary for $400, 110a on Paw Cr adj Robt. McKinley & Jas. Neel. Wit: David Kennedy, Jurat, & Wm. McCord. Proven at Feb. Court 1818, test Isaac Alexander, CMC. Reg 3 Apr. 1818.

I am trying to determine how David and Christopher came into possession of the land in the first place. I’ve searched and don’t find any Lanes that received/bought land on Paw Cr. Do you by chance know who owned 110a adj Robt McKinley? I also don’t see a James Neel getting land there either. I did find the Pattons, Carruths, and Beattys there though.

Posted in 52 Ancestor Stories | 10 Comments

Week 43: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Granddaddy was a Pack Rat…. Maybe no

Week 43: October 25, 2014

Granddaddy was a Pack Rat…. Maybe not….

McKinley paper photo

Heirloom papers from my Treasure Trunk

Urban Dictionary: Pack Rat… One who is unable to throw away a single thing with the most minuscule amount of sentimental value. A person who collects or hoards, especially unneeded items.

My grandfather Edgar McKinley was a farmer in the small Southern town of Siloam, Georgia; a saver of many things, or was he a pack rat by the way he lived and all he saved? But even though I might call him a pack rat in jest, most things were saved out of necessity. His generation may well have been the first true “green” generation; they saved – but they used what they saved!

I became interested in stamp collecting when I was young and in my hunt for stamps, I soon discovered my grandparents had a trunk full of correspondence – and all those letters had stamps! I had hit pay dirt! It wasn’t long before I took possession of those envelopes, with not a care in the world as to what was inside. My mom later told me that her parents had kept every letter and card sent to them – and in just one short weekend – I confiscated all those stamps and my mom discarded all those letters. What a genealogy tragedy! I should have kept the contents and discarded the stamps. I threw away the gold! A few did survive… letters from their son Leroy in the Army and a couple of cards from Aunt Lena in Atlanta; writing to tell her brother how much she enjoyed the cured hams he sent her.

My grandfather saved everything for a purpose – to reuse. The Prince Albert tobacco he used for rolling cigarettes came in a muslin pouch – grandmamma saved those for quilt backings. She painfully took them apart to sew into squares.

All shapes and sizes of bottles were saved – that was their Tupperware. Why throw away what you can reuse. Even barbwire was saved – mama remembers helping her father wind it on a wooden pole to store for another use. She was always afraid of getting stabbed with those sharp points, if she didn’t hold the pole tight enough, as he rolled.


Granddaddy Bryan’s pocketwatch – Grandmamma McKinleys thimble – Granddaddy’s cotton sewing needle – quartz rocks Granddaddy McKinley found while fox hunting- jewelry from Aunt Lena – Arrowhead that Granddaddy McKinley found plowing

He fashioned a long sewing needing to sew his cotton bags from part of a metal rib of an umbrella. One end was cut into a sharp point for sewing and an opening was formed on the top to secure the heavy thread. My mother remembers sitting on the back stoop as she watched him sew the bags. She kept that simple object for years as it held dear memories of her father – and now it’s become part of my heirlooms. He often made what he needed – that’s how they lived in those days; they were truly self sufficient people.

kettleIt was my Grandfather Paul Bryan who cooked in this cast iron pot, but yet it actually belonged to my Granddaddy McKinley. He liked his smaller one, so he always borrowed it when it was time to make Brunswick Stew and BBQ. And what do you stir a big pot like this with? A home-made wooden paddle – made by Granddaddy Bryan; another pack rat item for me.


The famous “Brunswick Stew” paddle of Granddaddy Bryan’s


Grandmamma McKinley’s McCormick Tea Co. teapot that came in one of those sugar sacks

Flour and sugar sacks were saved and reused into clothing. The manufactures designed their bags with pretty prints just so they could be reused. My ceramic tea pot, which belonged to my Grandmother McKinley, came nestled in one of those flour or sugar bags, and she saved it – and now it’s mine. Several pieces of my depression glass are from both of my grandmother’s. They once were the good Sunday pieces – and they treasured them.

Again I ask. was this type of saving a real “rat pack” obsession or a way of life in those days? They lived a frugal life; items were not wasted and they also became other money-makers for them. Granddaddy McKinley knew how to make a buck. He never rode by a discarded tire on the side of the road – he had a stockpile of tires to sell on weekends at five dollars each. My mother remembers many locals stopping on Sunday afternoons, needing a tire – and granddaddy always had one waiting for them – which resulted in five dollars for him.

Bottles – another item saved – all shapes and sizes – for what you ask? Not to display as pretty colors in a window. He lived in a dry county – no liquor was sold. When he visited his brother, who lived in a ‘wet” county, Granddaddy always stopped to buy whiskey. Saturday nights brought thirsty patrons to his farm. For sure the local “law” knew that he sold liquor, and he was visited more than once – late at night – looking to discover his cache of hidden whiskey; I called it friskey, but that’s another story! Wherever he hid those bottles of white lighting was definitely a mystery – and they were never found! My mother often laughs today as she remembers those visits by the local law – and wishes she’d thought to ask her father exactly “where were your hiding spots.”

Edgar McKinley was a man with no more than a fourth grade education – he wasn’t proficient at writing and couldn’t read that well, but he was a businessman and knew how to make a buck and save it. And my mother inherited that trait from him – she always talks about being frugal – and she is.

Granddaddy bought his farm of 117 acres for $1500 dollars from the government. It was overgrown, but rich in timber; he watched and walked that land. After only a few years, he cut the timber and paid off the promissory note. The government office tried telling him it wasn’t legal – they were losing money. He quickly turned the tables on them, saying “would you like my lawyer to cross the street and tell you I can!” He then owned his farm free and clear, while many lost their farms. And you ask, “did he save that original land deed?” You bet he did, and I have it today, and what a piece of history it tells.

He raised his family by working that farm and saving – not wanting. He lived his life by saving not wasting. One of my mother’s favorite Southern expressions is “you won’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out” if you don’t save. She believes in saving for a rainy day – she learned from the best!


My mother’s tea set – at least what has survived…

I’ve always been a saver too – just look around my house… my grandmothers’ worn butter churn sits in the corner of my kitchen, showing its age. The last few pieces of my mother’s porcelain tea set, she played with as a little girl, now sits alongside other treasures in my antique oak china cabinet, which was also hers.

Most of the glassware inside that oak cabinet is family heirlooms – the carnival goblets are from my Grandmamma Bryan. I remember hearing the stories of how whenever  my parents went to the fairs, they brought her home a new piece of glassware.


The “famous” oak table and chairs that have survived many generations.

My oak kitchen table was originally my mother’s – I grew up eating at this very table. My grandfather bought it with four chairs for ten dollars; he found it sitting in someone’s front yard – thrown away for the newest style at the time. Mama remembers it painted with several different colors, each hiding under the other. Granddaddy soon stripped it back to its original oak wood. My husband has redone it a few times over the years – my children have colored, put together puzzles and did their homework at this same very table, and I’m still using it today.

A small dome trunk sits in my living room, full of family history and mementos. Inside you’ll find Grandmamma McKinley’s eyeglasses, thimble and her worn bible – her treasures! I love how she wrote the births and deaths on the pages of the bible. It was one book that she knew would never be lost. Her thimble pieced many quilts, and often by only the light of granddaddy’s fox hunting lantern – and yes I have that too! It accompanied him every Friday night when he went fox hunting.


Granddaddy McKinley’s Prince Albert tobacco tin

Just seeing Granddaddy’s “Prince Albert” tobacco tin sitting on a shelf reminds me of watching him roll a cigarette. He would never buy a pack of cigarettes – unthinkable – wasteful! He’d often roll a few extras and tuck inside the tin if he was going to the local “filling” station; that was his Saturday afternoon place to talk politics. The name on the tin always reminds me of when I’d call the local store and ask “do you have Prince Albert in the can.” Of course when they said “yes” – I told them that they better let him out. I’d hang up laughing! It wasn’t my only phone prank when I was at the farm, and I’m sure I received a switching or two when I was caught. I had to amuse myself when I stayed there, and sometimes at a price – when I was caught.


Cupid and Venus pressed glass pitcher found under Great Granddaddy W. C. Bryan’s car shed

My mother actually dug up this Cupid & Venus Depression glass pitcher when she helped to clean out my great grandfather’s house after his death. She saw the lip protruding out of the dirt under the car shelter – and with only a spoon – she dug it up and found it in perfect condition – no cracks or chips.

A few pieces of quartz also sit among my crystal – granddaddy McKinley brought them home one Friday night after fox hunting for me. He found them when the light from his lantern picked up the sparkle on the ground – and they soon became my treasure. Another odd piece in my cabinet is a pocket watch worn by Granddaddy Bryan. I remember the day I sat next to him admiring it – and said “I like that.” One day it showed up in my mailbox – he gave it to my father and said, “send this to Jeanne.” Sad to say I only have one lonesome arrowhead left given to me by Granddaddy McKinley – he picked them up in the field as he plowed. I remember having a box full of them, but over the years… It saddens me that I didn’t treasure them enough to hang on to all of them. His land was Creek Indian land in previous years; many living in that area of Greene County dug up Indian artifacts.

Who doesn’t have one of these ceramic Xmas trees – at least at one time? I had always wanted one and my father must have overheard me as he asked someone to paint one for him – he packed it up carefully in Georgia and mailed it to me in Connecticut. I was so excited when it showed up at my door. I get that same feeling when I unpack it every year.

One item passed to me from my father, which I’ll never know the meaning of, is his Mason ring and box of ivory tools. Being a girl, I can’t join the Mason Society, but they still mean a lot to me knowing they were treasured by my father and he left them to me.

The more I’ve dug in my trunk of treasures, the more I’ve found – things I’d forgotten – almost. There is Uncle Leroy’s Rifle Marksmanship pin from WWII, the purple heart he received as well as the flag that draped his coffin.

These memories of my pack rat treasures are what my children and grandchildren need to know. They aren’t just objects to be put out at the family tag sale. They represent stories to be passed down to the next generation. They say stories only last two generations before they are lost – so take the time to pull them out of your mind and put to paper. Tell the stories you’ve been told – be a pack rat of stories, as well as family heirlooms.

So was granddaddy a pack rat or a penny pincher? If I’m known as a pack rat like my grandfather – then I’m in good company. Whether he was a pack rat, survivalist, entrepreneur or realist, he left an inheritance to my mother. He always said if you have land – you have something – and if you take care of it, it will take care of you. He kept his land by the way he lived – never living beyond his means.

So if you are lucky to inherit family treasures – preserve them and tell the next generation their stories – this will keep the family alive.

Posted in 52 Ancestor Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Week 42: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: William Pinkney Turner and Laura A. Gooch

Turner crest

Turner Crest

Week 42: October 18, 2014

William Pinkney Turner and Laura A. Gooch

One of my many questions on William Pinkney Turner is – for whom or where did the name of Pinkney come from? My grandfather, Paul Pinkney Bryan, was also given that same middle name of his grandfather; that is what led me to believe that his mother knew something and was possibly passing on a family name – or did the name intrigue her? But where did it originally come from? Many men were given their mother’s maiden names, and that was my first thought as I didn’t have names of William’s parents – and in as much as I have searched – I’ve come up empty handed – but there is always hope…

Back to basic 101… of what I do know!

William Pinkney Turner (1846 -1899) was born in Georgia – all the census I’ve viewed agree on that one point, but finding his parents now is my main priority – and then maybe I’ll discover where the unusual middle name of Pinkney is from.

Let’s discuss Turner speculations:
1850 Lumpkin County census: I find a John (b. abt. 1824) and Hannah Turner (b. abt. 1820) with sons Oliver Perry, born S.C., age 9 and William, born Ga., age 4 – making him born 1846. I have been in touch with a Roz West McLelland on this Turner family – Oliver Perry is her direct line. (By using the 1880 census and believing that this info was given correctly – this can’t be my William’s family as they all list born in S.C. except for William – he being the only one listed in this family as born in Georgia. William so stated, he along with his parents, were born in Ga. – but can I believe all I’ve found on the census. Shouldn’t he know where he was born and possibly his parents?) But we all know about census!

Clip 1850 John Hannah Turner

1850 Lumpkin Co., Ga. John and Hannah Turner. Could this William here be mine?

1850: Living next to John and Hannah Turner (both born in S.C.) are John and Malinda (Turner) Gamblin with a Francis Turner (40) in their household. She is listed as mother-in-law. I found the marriage certificate for John and Malinda – her surname is Turner so that proves their family is correct. From a recent contact on Ancestry, I’m told John and Malinda (b. S.C.) Gamblin lived in the Nimblewill area and Malinda Turner’s mother, Francis Turner, lived with them. She did not have a maiden name for Francis but her husband was Andrew P. Turner. Hmmm… now what does that “P” initial stand for? This researcher also told me that she has seen the “P” written as possibly Pickens but she thought it might be Pinkney? Another Hmmm….They are all buried in Nimblewill Church cemetery in Lumpkin Co., Ga., except for Andrew P. Turner – I’m thinking he is buried in S.C. (Francis Turner’s gravestone reads 1810 – 1911)

1850: Berryman Turner b. 1830 S.C., wife Rebecca, with two children, Eliza (1) and William, age 3. (I found Berry Turner in Lumpkin County as early as 1834.) Could this be my William? Another Hmmm – maybe they gave the wrong age?

1860: In the Frogtown District of Lumpkin Co., I find a Jesse Turner, age 52, with wife Elizabeth Turner, age 47. Children: John Turner (24), Jesse L. Turner (22), Sarah J. J. Turner (29), James C Turner (18), Hiram Turner (16), William F. Turner (14), Nancy E Turner (12), Selia M. Turner (9), Hariet L Turner (4), Patsey Turner (70), and Emily Turner (5). Quite a large family here – Patsey Turner must be Jesse’s mother. The William F. Turner – could this be my William P. Turner? I can’t quite definitely say that its an F or a P on the census – looks like it could be a “P” to me! Is this wishful thinking – YES!!! The age of 14 means born 1844/45 – that’s pretty close to his later 1846. We all know that their birth years were not given or recorded correctly on census. Even individuals gave their own birthdays incorrectly back then.

1860: Also in Frogtown District was a Nancy Turner, age 31, widower (seamstress), born in Ga. with children of: Andrew J., (12), Sarah C. (11), George H. (16), Micagoh (8), and Martha E. (6). Another Lumpkin County Turner family.

1869: Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 – In 1869 William P. Turner is listed as a voter.

1870: First census year I found William P. Turner with wife Laura (Gooch) in Dahlonega – he is listed as Pinkney Turner. They have one son, Barney, age three months; I find it odd that they list a baby as having real estate of 1000 and personal estate of 650. What’s with that? Pinkney Turner only lists 150 for real estate and 150 for personal estate. Pinkney states that he can not read or write.

Clip 1870 William and Laura Turner

William P. & Laura A. Turner – 1870 Lumpkin Co. Census

1878 – 1883: William P. Turner in Nimblewill – Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892: In taking a complete look at this page, I have to note the columns on this page as I found their descriptions very interesting. They listed specific columns just for Lawyers, Doctors and Dentist! Even back then, they classified people on record as to hierarchy of importance. Total acres of land was 160 – Value of land was $125.00. Land Lot No.’s were 310, 311, 371 and 303. Other columns I took note of were listed as “Plantation and Mechanical tools, Law or other Library books, Pictures, etc.” William had $5.00 in column. “Horses, Mules, Hogs, Sheep, Cattle and all other Livestock” William had $40.00 in column. “Watches, Silver Plate and Jewelry of all kinds, worn by owner or not.” William had zero amount. “Value of Household and Kitchen Furniture, Piano, Organs, Etc.” William had $10.00 in column. “Aggregate of whole property” William had $155.00 in final column. I found it very interesting how they listed certain items in this property tax book – who decided what should be taxed and why?

Clip Personal Estate P Turner

William P. Turner in Nimblewill – Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892:

1880: William is listed as William Turner with wife Laura, son Barney (10), daughters Missouria (8), Mary (5) Sarah E. (2). Two farms over, I find a William and Missouria Gooch (Laura Gooch Turner’s brother), and living in their household is a William Turner, age 9. He’s listed as a servant and working on farm. Who does he belong to? Why is this child, at age 9, a servant on a farm and not in school? (This census lists my Sarah at age 2, born in 1878, but her gravestone says 1881 – she had to be there if they were listing her on the census – but all my other records show her born September 15, 1881. (I have since solved the question on the Sarah Turner, age 2 here… see my post Family Stories: Sarah E. (Turner) Bryan.)

1880 Clip William and Laura Turner

1880 Lumpkin County, Ga. Census – William P. and Laura Turner. William Gooch and George Turner living nearby.

1880: George Turner (b.1853) age 27, wife Caroline, age 25, with sons Milliard (4) and Mattie (1); transcribed at Wattie on Ancestry. They lived one farm over from my William P. Turner in this census – are they brothers? Both George and William are born in Ga. and list their parents as also born in Georgia. William’s father-in-law, Samuel Gooch, lives two families away. (This George Turner lives between William P. Turner and Laura’s brother William Gooch – George must be a relative!

1884 – 1887: William P. Turner in Nimblewill: Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892 uses post office of Jay in Lumpkin Co., Ga. – Listed property of 160 acres, $100.00 value of land.

Franklin Co., Ga: William S. Turner in the years 1800 – 1850 Ga. Property Tax Digests of 1793-1892. Also found a marriage listing of William S. Turner to Susan Stow in 1847. From a little more digging I discovered that this William Samuel “Bill” Turner is the son of John “Berry” and Rebecca (Etris) Turner that I  found in Lumpkin Co. They were married in 1820 in Habersham Co., Ga. Their family listed on Ancestry did not have a William listed – their first child was born in 1848. This John “Berry” Turner was b. 1798 S.C. and died 1886 in White Co., Ga. (Doesn’t seem to be my direct line but in some way they might be connected)

Having no other early family information on my William other than speculations pushed me to search for war records in hopes of….

I immediately went against a brick wall on this until I discovered pension records for both William and wife Laura; then I found a Civil War record on William. In as much as I searched for his complete Civil War records – I came up empty handed until I posted a query on the “Your Genealogy Brick Walls” Facebook group. Many members there searched their sources for me and concluded that the war record card I had posted was actually a “Union” Civil War card, not a “Confederate” Civil War card! Who Knew my 4th great grandfather fought for the North! How could that be???

I proceeded over to Fold3.com and quickly found him in the Co. F, 5 Tenn. Mtd. Inf.; he served in the Mounted Infantry unit. William enlisted and was mustered in Cleveland, Tennessee – for whatever reasons – on October 20, 1864; which was almost at the end of the war. He is the only ancestor I have found in my lines that fought for the North!

I probably would have never given a thought to check Civil War “Union” records if someone hadn’t mentioned it to me. I’ve read that at least half of Lumpkin County wascivil union pic pulled in different directions on their allegiance to the South – pitting father against son and brother against brother; many even moved away because of those reasons and never returned. But my William did return to Lumpkin County. How did it affect his loved ones when he left – maybe no one knew – maybe that’s why he went to Tenn. to join so no one would know. Indeed I do have many maybe’s – but it seems like all I can say is – “maybe.”

After discovering he did indeed fight for the “Union” I turned to the National Archives and ordered his Civil War records and wife Laura’s pension records. Often you find gems in those records and those gems do come at a price – but I took a chance. I ordered them before I went on vacation and found them waiting for me upon my return home.

I quickly sat down with those documents, but it was soon apparent that I wasn’t going to discover the answers I was searching for – who were his parents?

What I did learn was…

William P Turner Clip Tenn Infpension recordThe “Union” Civil War records stated he signed up as a volunteer on Oct. 20, 1864 in Cleveland, Tenn. and was discharged on July 17, 1865 in Nashville, Tenn. By that recruit record, he listed he was born in Franklin County, Georgia and at age eighteen he was already a farmer; was he on his own at an early age? His description of himself was written as having blue eyes, sandy hair with a light complexion and average height of 5 ft. 6″. His time of enlistment was noted as one year of service. William could not write but made an “x” on his declaration of recruit as a volunteer. He was eighteen years and three months of age – old enough to sign on his own as he was born in July of 1846. (His gravestone states born April 6, 1846)

Turner pension

William Pinkney Turner

The first pension request records of 1890 listed him as living in Jay, Lumpkin Co., Georgia – later the pension records listed the town of Randa, in the Nimberwill area; maybe they never even moved but the early communities dissolved. From my search online, they were very small communities and I think they have been non-existent for a long time. (I possibly believe that Jay and Randa were only post office names – not quite sure if there ever was a community, but they are non-existent today)

The more I searched for his parents – the more disillusioned I became. Have I overlooked something – is he hiding right in front of me? I searched in Franklin Co., as he so stated on his declaration papers – but I found nothing – yet. There were many Turner families in Franklin from a search on Ancestry. I have not searched for wills to see if I might find a William Pinkney Turner inheriting;  that will be something I will look into at another time.

William P. Turner’s father-in-law, Samuel Gooch, stated he was present at their wedding and knew William from a youth. He also stated that neither William or Laura had been previously married and they both remained in marriage until William’s death. That, at least, tells me that their families stayed close together from around the 1850’s. William continued to live near his father-in-law in Lumpkin County after marrying Laura. (Samuel Gooch gave land to the Nimberwill Church to build the church)

Clip Marriage of William P and Laura Gooch Turner

Marriage record of William P. Turner & Laura A. Gooch

William P. Turner and Laura A. Gooch were married on November 14, 1867 in Lumpkin County, Georgia; their marriage was performed by Rev. M. M. Roberts.

There were five children in this marriage; Barney (1870-1923), Missouria (1873-1954), Mary (1875-?), Sarah (1878 – died bef 1881), Sara E. (1881-1939), and Dolly A. (1882-?). My line continues with the marriage of Sara E. Turner to William Clark Bryan on January 6, 1898 in Lumpkin County, Georgia. William and Laura Turner made home across from the Nimberwill Baptist Church in the Nimberwill area of Lumpkin County and are both buried in the cemetery; also buried there is daughter Missouri Turner. (I don’t have death dates on daughters, Mary or Dolly Turner – they possibly married, but I did not pursue their lines. I have death dates on son Barney but I don’t know what happened to him or where he was buried. – I have added now added a second Sarah to this family – see link to blog on Sarah E. (Turner) Bryan.

Pink Turner obit

William Pink Turner 1846-1889

William farmed during his lifetime until he became in poor health and applied for a soldier’s pension beginning in 1890. His pension applications state he was now not in good health and disabled with a weak back and kidney disease. He collected a pension up until his death on March 6, 1899. His obituary listed him as Pink Turner – it seems he went by a nickname from that unusual middle name of Pinkney.

After William’s death, Laura was accessed $75.00 dollars in taxes on Land Lots 303, 310, 311 and 371 in Dist. 5, Sect. 11 for the year 1899. There were also debts of $40.00, taxes on household and kitchen furniture of $20.00, livestock taxes of $24.00 and tools and ……. taxes for $27.00 – for a total tax due of $186.00. I find it so odd that they taxed them on household and kitchen furniture – even then they taxed you to death!

On Laura’s widow application for a pension after his death on May 27,1889, she stated that she owned the house and land left to her by her husband William. A general affidavit stated that she had no income but the real estate of $160 from the household and other property located in a mountain area and awarded to her by a verdict of the court ordinary for a few months support at the death of William. (I didn’t quite understand the wording on the last part of that verdict as it was written, and I never found out what property was located in a mountain area) She stated that she had no one to support her. Property consisted of 160 acres and value was listed at $1.00 per acre – other property was valued at about $35.00. Laura’s pension was listed as $8.00 a month, while William’s was for $12.00 – even in those times, it seems hardly enough to live on.

Turner bill receipts_0002

Itemized burial bill for Laura A. Turner Coffin 15.00, shoes 1.50, gloves .25, 2 yards ribbon .50.

After Laura died on July 29, 1914, her son Barney applied to keep the last pension to help with final expenses, but it was rejected. Their reason was that the real estate of $200.00 was sufficient to take care of her final sickness and burial expenses. He even submitted the undertaker and doctor bill to them in trying to keep the pension. I found the undertaker itemized bill quite interesting.

Obit in Dahlonega Nugget – July 31, 1914: Mrs. Laura Turner, the widow of Pink Turner, died suddenly in this county on Tuesday night. (Even in her obit, her husband was referred to as Pink Turner) Obit: “She was fixing to retire for the night in good health when the summons of death came and in a short while she lay a corpse.” (Talk about getting to the point!)

Nimberwill Church_0002

Nimblewill Church

William Pinkney and Laura A. (Gooch) Turner are both buried in the Nimblewill Church Cemetery in Nimblewill, Lumpkin County, Ga.

Nimberwill Church_0003

Nimblewill Baptist Church

Directions to Nimblewill Church and Cemetery: Take GA Highway 52-West from the Dahlonega courthouse square for about 8 miles. You will see a road sign directing you to the community of Nimblewill on the right. Take that paved road about two miles to the cross roads where the church is; the cemetery is located beside it.

Laura A Turner gravestone

Laura A. (Gooch) Turner Died July 23, 1914

I had high expectations of finding more interesting information to add from the Civil War pension records I sent for on William Pinkney Turner, but every little piece breaks down the brick wall – although his brick wall seems very solid – but maybe one day…

Nimberwill Church_0001

William P. Turner: Born April 6, 1846 – Died Mar 6, 1899

Nimberwill Church cem

Nimblewill Church and cemetery


© 2014, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Week 41: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Rosa L. Sharp McKinley (1869-1902)

Week 41: October 11, 2014

Rosa L. Sharp (Sharpe) McKinley (1869-1902)


Rosa L. Sharp McKinley

Rosa L. Sharp was my great grandmother – and has always been a mystery to me as I grew up seeing photographs of her at my grandfather’s house. I have a vivid memory of this huge picture I found rolled up in a closet there – and as curious as I was – I pulled it out and opened – it was Rosa! It must have been in a very large frame at one time; later removed and stored away. It sadly disappeared over time but we do have smaller photos of this very picture, which is featured here in this story.

Rosa L. Sharp (Sharpe) was born November 16, 1869 in Taliaferro County, Georgia to parents Joseph Thomas Sharp and Narcissa C. Meadows.

Clip 1860 Sharp

Joseph T. & Narcissa C. (Meadows) Sharp: 1860 Hancock Co., Ga. Census

It took much searching to discover Rosa’s mothers name of Narcissa Meadows; the family talked about her father but no one knew anything about her mother. In searching for Rosa’s mother, I first began with the 1880 Hancock Census – she was not there. The children were listed with only their father Joseph T. Sharp. I searched again in 1870 and could not find the family at all. It was only when I searched in 1860 did I finally find Joseph with a wife and one child. Not finding them nowhere in 1870 still haunts me…

1880 Clip Sharp Census

1880 Hancock Co., Ga. Census – Rosa L. Sharp with father Joseph T. Sharp and siblings. (We assume mother Narcissa died between 1873-1880)

(I believe Rosa’s last name to be spelled Sharp, but also find it spelled Sharpe – could the “e” be written by the person writing the name or the original name be Sharpe and they later dropped the “e”? I have found it spelled Sharpe on some of her siblings gravestones.

I’ve found Rosa listed with many first name variations – Rosa, Rossie, Rosie – I guess it depended on what spelling the census taker wrote. Her marriage record used Rosa and it was spelled as such on the 1880 census, so that is how I believe it to be spelled; although it’s spelled Rossie on her gravestone – go figure! But the middle initial of “L” is a mystery – and I hate mysteries. I think it’s going to be many sleepless nights for me on this one! I’m thinking it was possibly Lee – as her son, my grandfather, gave his first child, the name of Leeroy – that could have been for his mother. My grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley was only six years old when his mother died.

Rosa was the fourth of five children born to Joseph T. and Narcissa C. (Meadows) Sharp. Her siblings were James T. (1859), Edwin L. (1864), Emma (1896) and William (1872).

Rosa Sharp McKinley marriage

On September 30, 1885, Rosa L. Sharp(e) married Edgar L. McKinley in the county of Taliaferro, Georgia.

Source: “M” Index: Georgia Virtual Vault; Taliaferro County Marriage Book, 1870 – 1888: Georgia Virtual Vault, Taliaferro County Marriage Book, 1870 – 1888, page 176

Rosie & Edgar Lawson McKinley

Rosa L. Sharp & Edgar L. McKinley – Could this be their wedding photo?

Rosa married Edgar Lawson McKinley on September 30, 1885. I believe this photo to be the earliest photo of them – possible wedding photo?

Taliafarro front pageTranscription of text in marriage document: State of Georgia: To any minister of the gospel, judge, JP or any person authorized to celebrate. Taliaferro County These are to authorize and permit you to join in the honorable State of Matrimony Edgar L McKinley of the one part and Miss Rosa L Sharpe of the other part according to the rites of your church provided there be no lawful cause to obstruct the same and this shall be your authority for so doing. Given unto my hand and as ordinary for the County aforesaid this September 28th 1885 Signed: Charles A Beazley, Ordinary I hereby certify that Edgar L McKinley and Rosa L Sharpe were joined together in the Holy Bonds of Matrimony by me on the 30th day of September 1885. Signed: William W Andrews (?) N.P. Justice of the Peace – Recorded October 17th 1885.

There were eight children born to Edgar Lawson and Rosa L. McKinley: Lena 1886-1969; Cora 1888-1910; Emma 1892-1955; Joseph L. 1892-1955; Richard E. 1896-1994; Edgar T. 1896-1972; Nevilla C. 1899-1902; Lonnie 1901-1902.

Lonnie McKinley gravestone

Lonnie McKinley 1901-1902

Rosie Sharp McKinley gravestone

Rossie L. McKinley – Gravestone Inscription: wife of E.L. McKinley. Asleep in Jesus blessed sleep, From which none ever want to weep. Find a grave entry by Jack Johnson with picture by Patty Shreve

I haven’t found a record of what her youngest son, Lonnie, died from at one year of age; very sad to know that she lost a child just turning one. There are no death certificates from that time frame so we can only assume it was sickness or disease. Just one year later on July 8, 1902, Rosa died and was buried next to her son in the Powelton Community Cemetery, Hancock, Georgia. (I have been to this cemetery and walked the graves – no other McKinley’s are there; there are some Sharp’s, who I have now found to be her father’s brothers, but her parents grave-sites have yet to be found.) Rosa’s husband remarried and is buried with his second wife in the Baptist Church Cemetery in White Plains, Greene Co.

There are still a few items on my “bucket list” for Narcissa. What does her middle initial  “L” stand for? When did her mother die and where was she buried? Possibly one day I’ll be able to add those to make Rosa’s story complete.

Family Week Stories that tie into this story can be found at:

Week 3: January 18, 2014: Joseph Thomas Sharp https://jinsalacoblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/week-3-jan-18-2014/

Week 8: February 22, 2014: Edgar Thomas McKinley https://jinsalacoblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/116/

Week 25: June 21, 2014: Edgar “Lawson” McKinley https://jinsalacoblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/52-week-52-ancester-challenge/

Week 34: August 23, 2014: Narcissa C. Meadows Sharp https://jinsalacoblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/week-34-august-23-2014-52-ancestor-52-week-blog-narcissa-c-meadows-sharp/

Location of Powelton Community Cemetery:  From the Hancock County Court House, go 2.6 miles northeast on Hwy 22/15 to the split and then go right on Hwy 22 for another 9.9 miles to the cemetery. The cemetery will be on the left side of Hwy 22.


© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


Posted in 52 Ancestor Stories | 3 Comments

Week 40: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Helen Rebecca McKinley Bryan

Helen McKinley Bryan Grad Pic

Week 40: October 6, 2014

My Mother – Helen Rebecca McKinley Bryan

What better week to write on my mother than week No. 40 – the week I spend with                         Mama in Georgia. And what I don’t know, I’ll know by weeks end –                               I’ll be drilling her daily…

My mother, Helen Rebecca Bryan, was born in the small rural town of Siloam, Georgia in 1930 to parents Edgar and Ola (Askew) McKinley. As she tells me, she was born on a straw mattress in a log cabin on Fuller Road and delivered by Lena Credille, Dr. Hill Lewis’s midwife.

I have written on both of her parents and brother – she is my only living ancestor that I have never written on.

In my early research, I never knew who my mother, Helen, was named after or for. The name of Helen is Greek and means light. Was it a new name in that time period of 1930, although in 1950 Helen became one of the most popular names – but that was twenty years later. So my question is – who could she have been named after? Through years of family research, I never found one Helen in the early years of my family lines. In order to try and figure out why, maybe I need to look at her mother and discover if she listened to music –who was her favorite singer – what was her favorite song? Did my grandmother enjoy reading – did she read “The Miracle” written by Helen Keller? My grandmother did read as Mama remembers her reading to them nightly. It was usually a real book – reading a chapter every night and often her father enjoyed sitting nearby to listen to those nightly stories; my grandfather didn’t read or write very well, but he loved listening to her read.

Maybe she was named after a movie actress, as there was no television at that time in the home. In searching the internet, I found Helen O’Connell, a singer with the Jimmy Dorsey bettyboopband – Helen Kane, an actress and vaudeville singer and also the inspiration for cartoon character Betty Boop – Helen Broderick. There was also the actress Helen Keller, author and teacher – and Helen Hayes, also an actress. So there were plenty of “Helen” names around that time period which may have influenced my grandmother in the choosing of her name – or it could even have been my grandfather who chose it. What I do know, is that my grandmother enjoyed reading and listening to the radio on Saturday nights.

My mother grew up in a time when everyone was struggling out of the depression, especially the hard-hit farming community of Greene County. This area of Georgia was struggling to survive from the Boll Weevil plight which destroyed their biggest crop – cotton!


Mama in center with cousins

Mama remembers growing up on the farm as the best years of her life, often now saying she wishes she could twitch her nose and be right back there – on the farm. I have heard her stories all my life – and heard so many times that I wrote them in a book I named “Down on the Farm.”

1930: My mother, Helen Rebecca McKinley, was born to parents Edgar and Ola (Askew) McKinley in the small town of Siloam, Greene County, Georgia. As she tells it, she was born on a straw mattress in a log cabin on Fuller Road and delivered by Lena Credille, Dr. Hill Lewis’s midwife and county nurse. They lived on land owned by Dr. Lewis; granddaddy farmed on his land and shared back part of what he farmed in return for living on the property. That was the way people lived in those times – they farmed on other people’s land and shared the profits in return for living quarters.

Mama remembered Lena Credille: “I crocheted and knitted square blocks when I was young after Lena Credille taught me how and gave me the yarn. I made the blocks for a community project that she involved me in. Someone else sewed them together and they were sent to the boys overseas. I remember learning to knit with string saved from things around the house; I probably had sticks I made into knitting needles. If I didn’t make them, then probably Daddy made them for me. He made everything we needed. I kept the long sewing needle he made from a piece of an umbrella – he sewed his cotton sacks with it. (Mama gave me that needle) I never could follow any directions in crochet or knitting – but if you showed me the finished item, I could figure it out my own; I can’t follow written directions. and my mother couldn’t either, but she could copy it by looking at it.”

starspangledbanner1931: Before my mother turned one-year old, the United States officially first named “The Star Spangled Banner” as their National Anthem (March 3, 1931). I never even knew we never had one before this discovery – did you?


Bonnie & Clyde

1934: Mama turned four and out West the “Dust Bowl” were destroying crops on the Great Plains. The well known bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde”, were killed by police in that year.

1935: Mama turns five and starts first grade in Siloam school. She met her best friend there, Willie Mae Sisson, and they have remained friends for over eighty years. They met on that very first day of school when they both looked at each other and said “I don’t think I”m going to like it here.” All through school they did everything together, shared clothes, fought over boys and clothes, and married men that were best friends – and both divorced those very men. The well known “Monopoly” board game was also first released that same year, but the biggest event in 1935 that would affect her life in years to come was the beginning of Social Security, which was signed on August 14, 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Two years later in 1937, the first Social Security cards were issued by post offices – over 20 million were issued in that first year.

Helen on Siloam School Steps

Helen McKinley sitting on steps of Siloam School

School Memories… “When I went to school in Siloam there was a small store not far from the school called Mr. Mooneyham’s. The owners lived next door to the store – it was a very tiny building, and sat just through the cotton field on the side of the school. We’d take turns crawling through the cotton field on our hands and knees to go and buy penny candy for everyone. It was a really small one-room store where he sold penny candy and a few odds and ends. While one person went, the others sat at the edge of the school yard to wait. The one day that it was my turn, I found our principal, Mr. Burke, waiting for me when I came back. He didn’t do anything to me, he just told us girls to not do that anymore. If it had been the boys caught, they probably would have gotten paddled. One time Kendrick Lewis put a book in his pants before he was paddled, but he got in even more trouble for doing it; he was the doctors son and we were good friends.”

“We never had “trick or treat” when I was young, but we always had a Halloween party at school. No one came in any type of costume though, they had no money for that and probably didn’t even know what a costume for Halloween was. I never remember dressing up, we just came in regular clothes. It was a party that included your family; I remember my parents attending with me. We bobbed for apples, had haunted houses to walk through and most of our father’s even bobbed for apples. I remember seeing my father bob for apples one time. Many mothers baked home-made cakes for the cakewalk, although my mother never made one to bring, it was usually just certain mothers who baked them. My Mama didn’t socialize with too many people, she was a loner. While the parents stayed inside, the kids played out in the schoolyard until way after dark. Then we hid and jumped out from behind the bushes trying to scare everyone and yelling boo.”

I entertained myself…“I liked to pile bricks around ant hills to make them a home; we had both black and red ants on the farm. I could lay for hours watching the ants work – they would drag flies back to their nest and I’d watch as they took them apart – piece by piece – and carry them down into their nest. And when I was bored, I’d put some red ants over in the black ants home and watch them fight.”

“If I was really bored, I’d climb up in the tree and hang by my feet – Daddy would be out in the field plowing – he never told me to get down. I guess, back then, they didn’t think about kids hurting themselves. I did some pretty dangerous things when I grew up and would never have allowed my daughter to do them.”

“I loved to to climb up on the roof of the barns and slide down to the ground. The roofs were made of tin – and if your pants were slippery, it was just like a slide; it was a long drop to the ground, and if the sun was out – that tin roof was HOT!”


Aunt Marie & Uncle Walter McKinley

“Back in the old days, people held dances in their homes. I remember dances at my Granddaddy McKinley’s house near Slip Rock. Uncle J.W. McKinley, Uncle Walter McKinley and his wife, Aunt Marie played musical instruments and she sang. They also played in other people’s homes. I remember seeing them when I was a little girl and watching as they moved all the furniture out of the dining room to make a dance floor – they had big rooms in those old homes. They sang and square danced all night.”

Remembering my mother….

“When I was a young girl on the farm I liked to dress up with my mother’s old clothes I found in her closet. She had a skinny flapper-style dress with a hat that you wore pulled down on one side. I loved those clothes! Whenever I watch one of my favorite movies “Oh Brother Where Art Thou – the clothes the women wore always reminds me of my mother’s dress-up clothes. I never saw her wear the dress or the hat, but it was always in the hallway closet. I loved playing dress-up and wearing the hat pulled down to the side – slicked down to my head just like she told me she wore it. She told me they were hers and she had to have had been from the 1920’s; I guess it was a flapper-style dress. Maybe it was the dress she courted or married in, but she never said.”

Did Mama believe in ghosts…“I’ll never forget the night I spent at Aunt Annie and Uncle Lewis McKinley’s house and got really scared. As I lay there on the bed I saw a coat hanging up and the shadow it made on the wall looked just like my Daddy’s profile. It scared me so much that I started crying and wanted to go home. The pine walls at our farmhouse had shapes of faces and animal look-a-likes if you took a good look at them – especially at nighttime.” If you’d like to read more on ghostly happenings see story Week 14: Siloam Hauntings on the McKinley Farm


Edgar McKinley with Walker Fox Hunting Dogs

Remembering her father… “Daddy always wore overalls and his Stetson hat unless he had somewhere special to go. He didn’t like to wear dress-up clothes – and he didn’t look like Daddy unless he had his overalls on.”

“When I was a little girl I remember my father rolling his own cigarettes. He had a special cigarette roller – I don’t know what ever happened to it. He’d lay down a tobacco leaf, sprinkle tobacco over it and when he pulled or cranked the handle, it rolled up nice and tight and then he’d seal it at the end. I only remember him using it when I was really young; I liked when he let me roll them for him. Always, before going to town, he’d roll a few and put them in a pack so he wouldn’t have to roll any by hand while out. I don’t ever remember him buying cigarettes. He used Prince Albert tobacco in a tin and he also chewed Red Crow tobacco. When he was older and did buy cigarettes, I remember him saving all the empty packs; he’d bundle them up and tuck them away in the drawer. I don’t know why – he didn’t like to throw anything away. I sure wish I knew what happened to that roller of his.”


The Hindenburg

1937: There were three big events – Amelia Earhart vanished – the Golden Gate bridge opened – and the Hindenburg crashed in flames. How did these United States events affect a young seven year old girl in the small town of Siloam, Ga.? I don’t think they affected her at all as she didn’t remember them – there was no radio in their farmhouse – but she remembered her chores…

“One of my chores was to wash my daddy’s feet every night when he came in from the fields; I never minded doing that either. He’d sit on the back granite steps and I’d have the water all warm and ready. I’d take off his shoes and wash his feet. I also liked to brush his hair when I was small – he used to always say that he didn’t have much hair later on because I brushed it all off. He let you brush his hair once when you were small until you popped him in the head with the brush – that was the last time he let you brush his hair.”

“I also had to keep the buckets on the back porch full of water – that meant I had to use the water pump at the well. Even though the well was just outside the back porch, I hated to fill those buckets and lug them to the porch.”

1938: The year “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released – the 1st full-length animated cartoon. Mama loved going to the movies, but didn’t remember this. The first movie she was ever was taken to – was a western – granddaddy loved westerns.

“Daddy plowed from early morning till dinnertime, he’d then come in and eat lunch – lay down for awhile – then go back and plow till dark. From the field you would hear, “gee, haw, you son of a bitch, turn around,” as he walked behind the horse or mule. My father usually wore two shirts and two pairs of overalls so the sweat kept him cool. Sometimes he even poured water on himself to keep cool during the hot afternoon. That meant I had to lug a bucket of water to the edge of the field.”

“I remember seeing an oily skim on the creek surface that ran through the field back behind the barns. It was a marshy area where the cows liked to gather, but Daddy never let his cows drink from that creek. There was also another stream, across from our house, on the other side of the road that Leroy and I often played in, and many times I’d find the water there too having an oily skim on top. Daddy knew the oil was there – he never let the animals drink from there either. I’ve always said, that one day, someone will find oil on Daddy’s land – but I hope not during my lifetime! I’d hate to know I sold the land, only to let someone else discover oil! Leroy found a white bullfrog there once in that small stream where we played. I liked to catch tadpoles and bring them home to put in a pot and watch them grow legs and become frogs.”

Bathtime… “I only remember taking a tub bath once a week when I was young and that was usually on Saturday; during the week I took a daily “cat bath.” I often took my Saturday bath outside in a tin tub my mother used just for our baths. The sun warmed the water for me in the summer so I didn’t have to heat and carry it out from the kitchen.”

Animals on the farm… “I had a pet pig that I raised from a bottle – it had been the runt of a litter – I fed and raised it. At night I’d bring her into the house and she slept in a box under the kitchen stove; the stove stayed warm pretty much all night. I don’t remember having a name for her – she was just called “pig.” She grew up to be a big sow and even had a litter. One day my mother went into the pen with her and the piglets and when mama picked up one of her babies, the mama pig grunted loudly and charged toward Mama – who jumped over the fence to get away. I’d never seen my mother jump over anything- but that day she cleared the fence. Since “pig” had always been a pet we never thought she’d go after any of us, but she definitely went after Mama. It wasn’t long after that before Daddy sold her.”

“Daddy had a rooster on the farm that he called “limber neck.” He was called that because he couldn’t hold his neck straight up to eat; eventually he would die because of that. One day Daddy took “limber neck” behind the barn and threw him out in the woods before we went to town. After returning from Siloam, Mama took the bucket of chicken feed and threw it out in the yard to feed the chickens and…. She couldn’t believe her eyes when the first one to come running was “limber neck” – with his neck standing as straight as any other chicken there. The very one that Daddy had thrown in the woods, seemed to now be alive and well! Daddy couldn’t believe his eyes and whenever he told that story, no one believed him! We could only surmise that when Daddy threw him, he must have hit something and knocked his neck back in joint – who knows – but that rooster lived a long time!”

“My brother Leroy had a chicken called “necked.” The chicken had no feathers, why I never knew, unless the other chickens had pecked them off! Leroy felt sorry for him and that chicken followed him all around just like a pet. If Leroy came in the house, that chicken ran right behind him before the screen door slammed shut. One day the chicken didn’t make the door and the door caught his neck and…. “

The farm… “I can still vividly remember the day that I was almost bit by a mad dog. I was out in the field with Mama and Daddy and I wanted a drink of water. After whining awhile, Daddy yelled at me to go to the house and get my drink, but the problem was I didn’t want to go by myself. He eventually chased me away and told me I better go on. I finally began walking back to the house and when I got in the yard I saw a strange dog standing there – I began yelling “mad dog, “mad dog.” Daddy came running toward the house and yelled for me to jump up on the wood pile – he ran in the front door and came out the back with his shotgun and shot the dog. We were taught about mad dogs roaming around because many dogs did roam back then. After that, he always walked me to the house if no one was home.”


Helen Rebecca McKinley Bryan

“I often made my father mad when I wanted to sunbathe in his wheat field. I would stomp out a path to the middle of the field and then stomp down a place to lay – I’d take off  all my clothes and sunbathe in the nude. I can still hear Daddy yelling at me now – that I better put my clothes back on! We lived out in the middle of nowhere – who was going to see me?”

“Daddy only liked pork – so he raised pigs for our meat, very seldom did we ever have beef on the table. Every fall he spent a day killing a few pigs and with the help of his father and others, they prepared the meat by packing it in salt to preserve and cure. But the funny part was he kept it packed in salt, in big trays on top of the tin roof! I guess so the animals couldn’t get at it. I remember seeing him take the ladder every week and check it, adding more salt and turning it over?” All I know is, it was said that Daddy had the best cured hams around the county. When his sister Lena came from Atlanta to stay, she always wanted to bring ham home and often had orders from her friends. One time Daddy sold all his ham, without realizing it – boy was he mad!!!”


Leroy and Helen McKinley on left

Remembering her brother… “Leroy played baseball and was really good; he played in Siloam and was also on the Greensboro high school baseball team. Leroy’s friends often called him “corncob” and me “little corncob,” – it would make me so mad. I remember Leroy was also prom king once in high school.”

“I was about thirteen when Leroy died, so sometimes it’s hard to really remember what he did when he was older. I’ll never forget when he got his high school senior ring though. Mama saved and saved by selling eggs and butter to pay for his ring – then he gave it to some girl he was seeing and she wouldn’t give it back later on.”


Helen and Leroy McKinley by Edgar McKinley’s old Model T – the one Leroy loved to dismantle.

“Leroy loved taking apart Daddy’s old Model T Ford that sat in the yard after buying the newer Model A. He’d take it apart and have all the parts laying out on a sheet – it would make Daddy so mad; but Leroy always put it back together. We would pull all the brass wire out of some of the parts to string across the road – to catch people walking. Once we caught the preachers horse and buggy in it and we both got a licking. I loved to squeeze the “ooga horn” on that car, sure wish I had kept that old horn. Daddy courted mama in the Model T that we loved to play in – I can close my eyes now and still see it sitting under the car shelter. It was sad the day Daddy sold it for “junk” for fifteen dollars.”

Medicinal Remedies… There’s a stream on the old White Plains back road from Siloam that Daddy often rode through with the wagon to wet the wheels – it kept the dust down as we drove along. Somewhere off this road was where the root doctor lived that Mama used to buy medicinal roots from. She’d boil them and make us drink the liquid when we were sick. I always hated that liquid – it tasted really bad, but I think it worked.”

“I remember Daddy mixing a medicinal drink with alcohol when we were sick; one day my brother made it for me while our parents were in the field. When they came back to the house, I was drunk! I’m sure my brother was taken out behind the barn that day!”

“My mother always put an egg shell in the coffee grounds whenever she made coffee. I never asked why, I just assumed it was how you made coffee. Maybe it was to add potassium or iron in your body – natural vitamins I guess.”

1939: The year of a family changing event – WWII began! The United States was at war – that was frightening to a young girl. Mama thought, at any moment, that the German’s would drop bombs on her in America. The first time she saw planes come over the farm she went running to the field where her father was plowing, yelling “the German’s are coming, the German’s are coming.” She had never saw a plane fly over before – remember she lived very isolated on a farm; there was no airport around.

It was also the year that the “Wizard of Oz” premiered. She didn’t remember it playing in the Greensboro theater but saw it many years later at the movies. But she did remember…“I remember a medicine man coming around a few times a year. He drove a big truck and sold medicine. At night, to encourage more people to come and listen to his speeches and buy medicine, he’d set up a big tent and show movies outside. I always enjoyed going to see the old movies. I often wished there was a big tent showing movies in our field so I could go there every night to see them.”

1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt remained in an unprecedented 3rd term as president because of the on-going war. There would be no new election at this time; the country had other issues that needed its attention. Her father was very involved, like most men, in politics. She remembers whenever there was an election, he’d listen to the results at Jarrard’s Gas Station in Siloam. All the men gathered there to listen on the radio – talking, yelling and lots of yelling back at the radio. Granddaddy was a true blue Democrat – but I wouldn’t hesitate to say he would not be one today!

School Shenanigans and Remembrances… “I was sent to the principal’s office one morning from an incident on the bus coming to school. The bus driver wouldn’t make the boys roll up the windows and the air was ruining my hair and the other’s girls on the bus – so I began singing this song, “John Jacob Jingle Hiemer Smith, his name is my name too. Whenever we go out, the people always shout, ‘There Goes John Jacob Jingle Hiemer Smith.” As you sing the verses, each verse is suppose to become louder than the last. I sang it all the way to school and drove the bus driver crazy that morning – he sent me directly to Principle C.C. Wills office. I went in and told him I was sent there, and after he asked my name and I told him I was Leroy McKinley’s sister – he looked at me and gave me ten cents and told me to go get myself a coke and sit down for awhile before going back to class.”

“There was mud everywhere when it rained hard, so muddy that our bus often became stuck in that Georgia red mud. Sometimes when the bus driver got to syrup mill crossing, he’d stop the bus and let us off to get a drink of sorghum syrup – that was a nice treat. My father hauled his cane there to make syrup – he’d carry jugs to bring it home in. Often the owner would give us a small sip in a tin can and sometimes he’d even sit us up on top of the horse or mule that walked ‘round and ‘round as the cane crushed into syrup. My father grew two types of cane – one was called ribbon cane – it was what was used for the syrup; a very thick cane stalk. The other was grown to feed the animals.”

Mama was very thick headed!… “We had a horse apple tree in the field that had the best apples – they were so good! Leroy and I hid them when they were green and waited for them to mellow – turning golden. He loved to try and find my hidden apples and eat them, which made me so mad. I don’t ever remember eating an apple that tasted as good as Daddy’s horse apples. One day I found the most perfect mellow apple on the tree, but it was all the way at the top – that didn’t stop me because I wanted that apple really bad. Daddy had told me not to climb the tree, but I never listened. He was plowing in the field as I was trying to get that apple. I climbed all the way up, got the apple, but then the limb broke and down I came – I straddled across the barb wire fence. Daddy didn’t say anything, but I ran crying all the way back to the house where I sat on the back steps crying – but eating my apple!”

“I remember a girl in Siloam bringing pomegranates to school and we’d eat them. I always brought my lunch to school in a brown paper bag – and I had to save it to reuse again or Mama wouldn’t pack me a lunch. Inside my bag was usually one of mama’s biscuits with a piece of ham, a piece of fruit and a slice of pie or Mama’s home made cake. But I really wanted a lunch brought in a tin pail like some of the other girls had; they brought a sandwich with store bought sliced white bread. When I think back now, that was probably why my lunch sack was often stolen. At that time I never understood why it was always my lunch bag stolen, but as much as I wished to have a sandwich, they wanted my biscuit and ham and the piece of home-made pie or cake. My mother did make the best pies and cakes I’ve ever eaten.”

When Mama was in the 5th or 6th grade in Siloam, she remembers Coca-Cola costing 3-cents a bottle and candy was only bought by the pound. In Mr. Johnny’s general store in Siloam, candy was scooped out of barrels and weighed – then put in a sack. She also remembers that ice cream cones and comic books were a whopping 5-cents.

1941: Attack on Pearl Harbor of our Navy ships and sailors. She had no direct memory of the attack but remembers her father talking about war coming and it scared her.

1943: Mama’s brother, Edgar Leroy McKinley, was drafted in WWII – a very dramatic event in her life and her family. He was her only brother and sibling – and the only son to carry the family McKinley name; she was only twelve years old when he left.

1945: The Army arrived at the farm to deliver the news of her brother Leroy’s death. He had been killed by a sniper in Metz, Germany; only being there for a short time. Mama was in Greensboro with her father when someone told him that the Army had stopped to ask where his farm was. Granddaddy told them to call over to Siloam at Jarrard’s gas station and hold them in town so he could get home. They rushed back to the farm only to find the Army arriving ahead of him – mama found her mother standing in the yard saying “I knew Leroy was dead when my package I mailed him was returned.” My grandmother mailed Leroy cakes in the mail every month; his favorite was Jam Cake and when that last package was returned, she knew in her heart that her son was gone. My mother was now an only child – her playmate would never return as she believed when he left – her mother was never the same person – life would never be the same.

Mama’s Sayings and more… One of her many sayings – “lately I’ve been as ill as a hornet and mean as a junkyard dog.” Sounds like people better keep out of her way! For more sayings see…19: McKinley and Bryan – Southern Family sayings…

Who taught you to sew?…“I first sewed on my mother’s pedal sewing machine and after I married, your father bought me a Singer sewing machine – still with a foot pedal; later we put a motor on it to make it electric. I made all my dresses on that first pedal machine and yours too. I wish I had kept that sewing machine today and feel sad that I eventually let it go, thinking a newer one would be better – it wasn’t! My old Singer was much more reliable.”

“I remember one time, while Mama was working in the field, I found some brand new material in a closet. While they worked in the field, I made curtains for my room and even a skirt for my make-up table. When Mama came back to the house and saw that I had sewed all her material – she cried! Daddy told her not to cry, he’d buy her more cloth. Back then, material was hard to come by and she often reused cloth over again, along with the sacks that the flour and fertilizer came in; which was often printed cloth. She even saved every muslin bag the Prince Albert tobacco came in – they were sewed together to make a sheet to back a quilt; nothing was thrown out! Having brand new material was precious and that’s why she was so upset when she saw that I used it.”

“I didn’t use patterns when I first began sewing – and didn’t even know how to use one at that time. When I lived in Perry, and finally knew how to really sew, I sewed with patterns. I remember at night I’d lay in bed thinking about what I wanted to sew, then the next morning I’d get up and make it. I could sit up all night with a cup of coffee and a cigarette and sew. You would get up in the morning and I’d have a new dress all made and ready for you – and you didn’t even want it! That made me so mad…”

What was Christmas like?… “I remember that Daddy hid our box of goodies in the barn he bought for Xmas Eve; inside that box would be apples, oranges, bananas, nuts and candy. Those items were a treat, as we only had them on special occasions. Sometimes he’d tease us that he didn’t get any, but before we knew it, he’d be back with that box! Leroy and I usually sat there and ate ourselves silly.”

Everyone always has a few favorite aunts and… “Aunt Liza Askew McKinley was one of my favorites – my mother’s sister. I can still remember how stern she was. If she saw her boys coming home drunk, she’d lock them out of the house, sometimes even throwing rocks at them – and then they had to sleep in the cornfield. They even took their dog, Bo-weevil, with them when they went drinking – and the dog would come home drunk too! Later when they went to the bars to drink, they’d still take Bo-weevil with them.”

“Often my father’s sister, Aunt Lena came and stayed two weeks with us in the summer. She and daddy didn’t get along well, or at least it seemed that way. She pretty much raised him from a baby as his mother died when he was about three. They fussed all the time and she’d call him a “corn-bred lawyer” and he would tell her that she was so mean that she’d still be killing piss ants up and down the road long after they had all died.”

“We had no camera at our house but Aunt Lena had a camera – she and Aunt Emma  were the only ones in our family who did. She would bring it when she came down to our farm in the summer; she came on the train. Daddy and I would pick her up in Greensboro. I never wanted her to take my picture though, I thought that camera would bite me! I still remember standing there twisting my dress not wanting my picture taken. I sure wish I could go back and walk around and see myself as I grew up.”

Daddy’s cars...“I probably never even saw a car until I was about thirteen years old (1943). We went everywhere in Daddy’s wagon until he bought his first car, which was a Model T Ford. I feel I grew up ignorant living on the farm because I only went to school and came home; I wasn’t allowed to stay after school and participate in sports or other activities – that would have meant Daddy had to come and get me – he wasn’t going to do that, he had work to do.”

1947: My mother met her future husband – Clayton Bryan from Union Point while he was home on leave from the Navy. They must have hit it off, as after many letters, and weekend leaves, he asked her to marry him. And on one of those weekend leaves, they married on a Friday night with their best friends as witnesses. There was no honeymoon as it was only a weekend leave.

Helen Mckinley Grad Pic

1948 Greensboro High School Class

1948: Two big events this year – Mama graduated from Greensboro High School and she was married on May 29, 1948. Did they plan a wedding date or did it just happen on that weekend; she didn’t really remember it being planned. There was no family in attendance at their wedding, just their two best friends, who happened to also marry each other. Daddy had to return back to Memphis, Tenn. to the Navy base and he left Mama to live with his parents so she could work in the local Mill. She didn’t like working in the mill and soon went back to live on the farm with her parents until enough money was saved and a place found for them to live near the base. While living in Memphis she swears she saw Elvis Presley standing in front of the Army-Navy store playing his guitar. She says she can still close her eyes and see him as that young good-looking guy with his foot propped up on the lamp post playing a guitar. I’m sure at that time she never thought she’d later see him in 1956 and watch him gyrate his hips on the Ed Sullivan show – telling everyone – “I saw him on the street”!

1949: Mama’s first daughter was born, Monica Yvonne Bryan; she was born with Spina Bifida and wasn’t expected to live. This was a very traumatic event in her life and she struggled with much depression as she took care of Monica with her parents support. Her father even built a special bed to support Monica’s back and her mother helped with all the washing of diapers and baby bottles. I can’t even imagine caring for your child, your very first, knowing that there was no chance of them living more than a few months. Monica lived for eight months and after her death my mother had a nervous breakdown.

1952: I’m born! No matter what the doctors told her – that I was a perfect baby girl with ten fingers and ten toes -my mother did not want to get close to me. She couldn’t believe that I would live and that I really had no health issues, no matter what the doctors told her. My Aunt Chris, who was my grandmothers sister and lived next door to us at that time, took over much of my care as a baby for several months. It took time for my mother to overcome her fear and believe that I was really going to live before she could come to love me and take over my everyday care. Eventually she believed I was healthy and began the mother – daughter bond.

“Mama and Daddy never had an icebox or refrigerator until after you were born (1952). Anything that needed to be kept cold was put under the sawdust pile with a block of ice. Daddy kept the milk and cream in the well – you had to pull up the bucket to get the milk or cream bottle when needed.”



Mama as a storyteller... “I worked at the Holiday Inn as a bartender after my divorce and loved telling this story, especially to the men who tried to ask me out. I told them about my pet alligator named Clyde who lived in the pond on the farm – and how Clyde loved when men came to visit. There were many who really believed this tall tale! Whenever someone tried to ask me out and wanted to come to the farm, I’d say, “sure come on down, we’ll walk out to the pond and I’ll show you Clyde – then when you put your arms around me you’ll hear a big thump, and I’ll walk away singing, “another man gone!” That story of what Clyde did to my dates, who dared come to the farm, was what I always told. Often in conversation, as I served drinks, the regulars would ask, “how’s Clyde doing?” They loved to ask when “newbies” were sitting at the bar! Those were good times when I bar-tendered at Holiday Inn. I had a great time working there; in fact, I had such a good time that it mostly didn’t even seem like work. It was my social life, and I had many friends that were there almost every night just to talk to me and hear about Clyde.” A story on Clyde and more whimsical stories can be found here at: http://jinsalaco2013.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/mamas-whimsical-stories/

Mama and father

Mama with her father Edgar McKinley and “Flizzy”…

Mama drove home late at night back to the farm and on one night….“When I worked at Nathaniel Restaurant in Greensboro, there was a cop who used to come in and always say he’d get me one day for speeding as I drove home at night. He’d say, “I’ll get you Missy, just wait.” I always knew where he parked as I drove home, so I’d slow up and wave to him as I rode by. It would make him so mad. One day he came after me, but I cut through a side street and lost him.” He never forgot to remind me that one day he would get me, but he never did. I drove Daddy’s old Ford I called “Old Flizzy” – and she could fly!”

Mama’s life always fascinated me… I certainly don’t have the stories or lived through what she lived through in those life events. My mother was born in 1930, during depression-era times, growing up poor on a Southern farm in rural Georgia. World War II began when she was a teenager; her brother, Leroy, was drafted and died shortly after landing in Germany. She was then left an only child – and with a mother grieving for her son. Times were tough during the war years, people barely scraped by, but from her stories, her father kept the family well fed and clothed; food was always on the table.

Many of these stories and remembrances are from “Conversations with Mama” – written from our nightly phone chats. Often, as she chatted, and she can be long-winded, I scribbled and asked questions. Sometimes I even initiated the conversation to draw more information out of her – and once in awhile she’d ask, what are you doing, writing down everything I say!

Her stories will never be forgotten – it’s all written down in “Conversations with Mama.”

But I still haven’t learned why she was named Helen!!!”


© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Week 39: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Two Sisters Married Two Brothers…

Week 39: September 27, 2014

 Two Sisters Married Two Brothers…

Nancy Bryan and George Winston Bruce – Did Nancy and George bury Gold?

Parthena Bryan and Aquilla Bruce – Did Parthena bury her Husband?

Nancy and George Bruce

George Winston and Nancy (Bryan) Bruce

Two very strong sisters – Nancy Caroline Bryan, my 4th great aunt, daughter of James Bryan, was born on July 23, 1828 in Habersham County, Georgia. Within a few years, James Bryan moved his family to Lumpkin County where most of the family married, died and were buried.

Nancy was well known in the area as a weaver, even dying her own wool from natural herbs, berries, plants and leaves. At that time, you inherited the knowledge of what made the colors you needed – it was as common as knowing what was needed to make a pan of biscuits. There were no stores to buy your dyes – you learned from the older generation – and you passed your knowledge down to the younger generation. It was quite a process from the dying, carding and spinning cotton into thread, then weaving into cloth and finally the making of it into clothing.

Times have changed now, as now you would buy your colors for dying wool, but I’m sure there are many that still enjoy the old-style way of brewing your own colors. It sounds very fascinating and maybe another day I’ll venture a try.

Parthena Bryan Bruce

A blanket woven by Nancy Bryan Bruce – It is in the possession today of a Bryan researcher.

I can picture Nancy in her log cabin, a spinning wheel in the corner with baskets of wool nearby waiting to be dyed. It sounds like such an art – a lost art! Did she learn from her mother Elizabeth Cain Bryan? You often learned from someone else – and as her mother was the closest woman to her in the family, she most likely had experience. Their clothes were all homemade in those times – these women were the first true craftswomen. Maybe I can now claim to have inherited my love of crafts from the early Bryan’s as well as my McKinley line! I always wanted a spinning wheel – it looks so peaceful to sit and spin wool into a finished product that could be knitted; I do knit, so I’d be able to use the wool. At one time I contemplated on having my Samoyed dogs hair turned into wool – and after saving bags of it – finally threw it all away – and moved on – to another project.


A spinning wheel similar to one that Nancy Bryan Bruce may have sat at.

The building of a spinning wheel is a true art, it’s not just a wheel turning to produce wool – the wheel must be precisely made or it will not spin evenly.

Nancy married George Winston Bruce on February 11, 1850 in Lumpkin County, Ga. and both George and Nancy are listed on the 1850 census – living in Yahoola, Lumpkin County. George was born abt. 1826 in Habersham Co.  – both parents were listed as born in S.C. from census; his occupation was miner and Nancy a homekeeper; they lived next door to Nancy’s parents, James and Elizabeth Bryan.

Between 1850 and 1855 George and Nancy Bruce made a westward move to Saltcreek, Lincoln Co., Kansas. They are now living next door to her sister Rausey Melinda (Bryan) and Josiah Askew Woody. Rausey and Josiah previously had left for Missouri before finally settling in Kansas; I believe that is when George and Nancy followed them out West. Mining in Georgia was no longer profitable at that time, so maybe a better life was offered them in Kansas – and as they had no children, it was easy to pack and move.

I did not find them listed in 1860, but at some point George Winston Bruce enlisted in the Army. I did not find a military record for him but early information given to me is a letter written by him to his wife Nancy while serving. The original letter is in possession of Bruce Bryan.

Dear Wife: April 17, 1863 – We may be starting for home in a few days. We have corn bread and rice to eat – we have to bake the bread without sifting. We drawed two quarters of beef the other day but it looked so bad that we could not eat it; we dragged it off and buried it. I think that if that is the best they can do, they had better begin to wind up this war. There is a great many troops about this place. There is six regiments stationed in sight of us. I can inform you that we have just got orders to cook rations and be ready to start to Georgia at a minute’s warning. I suppose we are going to Savannah. I will not have time to write as much as I want to. Clarke and Calaway (her brother was Marion Calaway Bryan – could Clarke would be her father Berrien Clark Bryan) are well. I hope you will make enough to do you if I can’t be permitted to help you. (He wrote from camp near Charleston, S.C.)

Civil War part of letter

Letter and drawing of the execution George Winston Bruce was forced to witness.

Another letter sent: Dear wife, I hope the time will soon come when all men will be permitted to return home to their families where they can feel as free people again. We don’t have the privilege of a Negro, though the time will come when all men will get justice and I thank the Lord for it. If we never meet again on earth, I hope we will meet in Heaven where we will never part again. There was a man shot at Savannah the day before we left there. He was shot for desertion. We was all marched out to see him shot. He wrote and drew a diagram for her. (Quite a horrific event to have witnessed.)

George W. Bruce was one of the lucky ones who returned home from the war. As they were living in Kansas before the Civil War began, I can only conclude, without my own research, that he came home to join and fight for the South alongside her father and brother. His brother-in-law, Josiah Askew Woody, had left Georgia for the very opposite reason – he would not fight for the South! Maybe George left Kansas before the war broke out to keep Nancy safe;  Maybe he had hesitations on which side he would fight for – but it seems the South was where his heart lay.

The 1875 and 1885 census still finds them as residents of Saltcreek, Kansas – and still living alongside her sister Rausey and husband Josiah A. Woody. They are all listed as farmers.

By 1900 George and Nancy are found residing back in Dahlonega, Lumpkin Co., Georgia. George is now farming – they are married forty-four years and still with no children.

BryanBruce Gravestone Cane Creek Cem

Gravestone of Nancy Bryan and George Winston Bruce at Cane Creek Cemetery Church, Dahlonega, Ga.

Nancy died on March 25, 1907 and is buried in Cane Creek Cemetery, Lumpkin Co., Georgia; George soon followed on June 29th. They have the largest and most elaborate headstone in this cemetery. I’m assuming he placed the headstone there when she died.

From the History of Lumpkin County by Andrew W. Cain page 376, newspaper exert; July -12-1907.  Those who know – say that Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Bruce, who passed away recently, had a lot of gold coin before they died, something like $1500, but no one knows now where it is. When they lived in the West, Mrs. Bruce hid this gold under the hearth of the house in which they lived. The house was sold and the money undisturbed until they got ready to come back to Georgia. Then Mrs. Bruce went to the owners of the house and told them she wanted to get a package she had put under the hearth. Permission was granted and she brought it away. After Mrs. Bruce died here in April her husband was asked by relatives where this money was. His reply was “it’s around.” Mr. Bruce died without telling anyone about the gold – it is our opinion, and quite likely buried and may never be found.

It seems that many residents of Lumpkin County thought the Bruce’s were always well off – just maybe there was something to that gold theory. Remember he was once a miner! Maybe he never cashed in all the gold he mined and kept some for a rainy day. And just maybe some unsuspecting person in Lumpkin County found that package she retrieved from the hearth – and if they did – I bet they will never tell…

Second Sister:

Parthena Bryan Rausey B Woody

Left: Parthena Bryan Bruce-Ray, Rausey M. Bryan Woody – Two Sisters

Parthena Ann Elizabeth Bryan, born May 15, 1840 to parents James and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan married Nancy’s brother-in-law Aquilla Bruce on September 6, 1855 in Lumpkin Co., Georgia. Two sons were born in this marriage before the Civil War and one after it began; Aquilla enlisted in 1861 Co. C. (Calvery Battalion), Cobbs Legion. From viewing the enlistment papers on Ancestry.com I’ve found conflicting information on his death – the Muster rolls list him as dying Aug. 24, 1862 in Hanover County, West Virginia (from what I can decipher). Another document in same file reports “Receiving and Wayside Hospital”or General Hospital No. 9., Richmond Virginia as admitted Dec. 14, 1863 and disposition on Dec. 15, 1863.  What does that mean? Did he die in battle and the body held until it could be returned home?

Aquillla 8

Can I assume he died in battle and not at home by bush-whackers?

But there’s another story.

The family story that was been passed to me from my earlier research was that Parthena’s husband, Aquilla Bruce, was killed while home on leave by bushwhackers. It’s told that she dug her husband’s grave with her bare hands as there was no one to help her. At this point, regardless of what is correct, I do believe her husband died during the war. This left her a widow at age twenty-three with three small children.

Aquilla and Parthena had two sons before the Civil War broke out – but it’s the third son who caught my eye – Gaston D. Bruce born October 13, 1861. Parthena was home alone when this child was born as the Civil War was in full swing and most likely Aquilla had gone to war. I hadn’t planned on adding the children into my story-line until I discovered the D. initial stood for Dahlonega – that quickly peeked my interest into Gaston. Parthena must have had a great love for her hometown in giving her son its name. I have not come across anyone else using the name of Dahlonega – quite interesting. I also have a great love for that name from the very first time I heard it and finally learning how to even pronounce it. Gaston seemed to be known as “Lon Bruce” from many written accounts I’ve found.

Lon Bruce's art gallery

Gaston D. Bruce’s art gallery in Dahlonega, Ga. Circa 1890

Alice Bruce

Alice Anderson Bruce with sister Nancy Anderson – Circa 1890 Was photo taken by Gaston D. Bruce in his Art Studio? Photograph scanned from I Love Dahlonega book by Anne Amerson

To sidetrack here a bit…

Gaston Dahlonega Bruce grew up to become a photographer. He first married Alice G. Anderson in 1883 and by the 1890’s I find record of him owning an art photography studio in Dahlonega; he’s listed as an artist and photographer. Quite impressive for that time period and I plan to search out some of his work.

By 1910 Gaston’s wife dies and for whatever reason, he travels to New Mexico and is found listed on the 1910 census as a widow and  photographer. By 1920 he has moved again and now his sister, Vanie King, is listed with him on the Kentucky census – along with seven boarders in the household. His occupation is photographer; all the boarders are laborers working on the railroad. Why is there a sister living with him now? (I personally can not identify this Vany King as his sister, but its listed on the census as such.) He had two brothers and none of the half siblings match that name – again there could be many reasons and we won’t mention them here… Gaston returned back to Georgia by 1921 ; but what happened to Vany King?

G Dahlonega Bruce

Gaston D. Bruce

Cain Bruce photographer

Amanda Cain Bruce – her photo was found hanging in the Gold Museum in Dahlonega, Ga.

Gaston soon met Amanda Cain and married her in 1921; now living in Davis, Lumpkin County, Georgia on the 1930 census. I believe he returned home shortly after 1920 and met her in Lumpkin County, as she is also from the area. Her photo was found on display in the Gold Museum in Dahlonega – can we assume Gaston took the photograph? He seemed be a prominent citizen in the area as it’s listed on his headstone that he “represented Lumpkin Co., in the general assembly of the Georgia Legislature for five consecutive years” – no years are given anywhere. Gaston died Nov. 28, 1932 in Dahlonega and is buried in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery.

As I looked more closely into Gaston’s first wife Alice, I noticed speculations which caused me to second guess if he really was a widow – which he so stated on the 1910 census in New Mexico.  Did he leave Alice to pursue his work – did they divorce – was Vany King his real sister? The 1910 Lumpkin County census shows an Alice Bruce, married, and residing with daughter Pearl in Lumpkin Co; by 1920 and 1930 Alice Bruce is still listed as residing with a now married daughter Pearl in Atlanta, Fulton Co., Ga. I’m closing the door on this, but I have found it very interesting –  I love playing Nancy Drew!  It does make you wonder? Notice – she listed married – and he listed widow? You can draw your own conclusions on this one….

Back on track with the Bryan sister Parthena…

Parthena married again in 1865 to John D. Ray and seven more children were added to the family – a total of ten children to raise. John had also served in the Civil War as a volunteer in the 5th. Reg. Tenn. Inf. Co. H. I first wondered if he had fought for the Union, as Tennessee was very split, but after discovering he signed “the oath” after the war – that told me he fought for the Confederacy.

Parthena took care of her parents, James and Elizabeth Bryan, in their aging years. After the death of her mother in 1882, her father came to live with Parthena’s family in Hall County until his death on March 12, 1885; I, along with many researchers, have never found their grave-sites. There are still many unmarked graves in Cane Creek cemetery in Lumpkin County where his son Berrian Clark Bryan is buried; they lived most of their life near that area, so we might assume them to be buried in one of those unmarked stone graves. I have not found them listed in any church records of the surrounding area; we are still searching for them….


James Bryan, Parthena Bryan Bruce-Ray, Elizabeth Cain Bryan

Soon after Parthena’s father died, she and John moved their family to Coldwater, Comanche Co., Oklahoma, where he farmed until his death in 1888-89. Parthena later moved again at some point, possibly with her children, as she died on April 25, 1934 in Chickasha, Grady County, Oklahoma.

Parthena Ray Bruce

Parthena A. Bryan Bruce Ray

From research of a Mrs. Wesley Ferguson of Lakeland, Georgia who has done much Bruce research – she believes that George Winston Bruce and Aquilla Bruce, who married the two Bryan sisters – were sons of Acquilla and Betsy Eaton Bruce in Habersham County, Georgia; they were one of the earliest Bruce arrivals in Habersham. As the Bruce line is not my direct line, I’m not furthering my research other than the Bryan sisters.

Many of our Bryan lines from the Ray and Bruce marriages are now scattered throughout the West from these two Bryan sisters. Through Ancestry I’ve made contact with several of them researching their Georgia ancestors and I shared the lines back to Georgia that they were missing.

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Week 38: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: May I Have your Autograph Willie Mae, Catherine, Grace, Kendrick?

Week 38: September 20, 2014

Autograph book_0002

May I Have your Autograph Willie Mae, Catherine, Grace, Kendrick?

Mama’s autograph book – 1943-1945

This weeks story is one of those – you’re looking through drawers for one thing – and finding another. My attention soon switched to this story after pulling out my mother’s autograph book from 1943 – 1945 – and what soon followed – my autograph book from 1961!

Autograph books have been popular from way back in Victorian times up until maybe the sixties. I think they’ve died out now except for maybe vacation ones. I would say Disney is a very popular spot to see kids of all ages with them in hand – doesn’t every little girl want Cinderella, Snow White or Belle’s autograph? I’m sure my granddaughter Ella filled a book with all her favorite “princesses” autographs.

It was mostly the girls with the autograph books – I don’t remember any boys asking me to sign theirs! By the time I was in high school, the class yearbooks quickly became the official autograph book, with you asking everyone to sign. Girls and boys alike offered theirs for signing “words of remembrance.”

Autograph book_0008Girls were usually eager to pen a funny verse in your book – boys on the other hand – well they cringed when asked! Their verses had to be thought out – no lovey dovey words or the girl would think they liked her – and they just might! But they couldn’t let her know in written word for all to see. And who didn’t pen a famous autograph or two in their books – I think some of the Beatles signed in mine – just saying…

After reading through the verses in my mothers book – I called her. “Where did you get your autograph book at – who bought it for you?” She had no idea, but she remembered it very well.  As I went page by page, reading them out-loud to her and saying who wrote the verse, she quickly began telling tales. I think I’ll pass on writing most of those remembrances – some things better left – not written down.

Autograph book_0006Mama’s autograph book was entitled School Day Memories – Class of the 8th grade. She would have been about fourteen years of age. Mama listed her “favorite teacher” as Miss Snellings, “favorite friends” were Willie Mae and Joyce, “favorite study” was Health and “favorite sport” was basketball. She later played on the basketball team in high school.

Autograph book_0005

The first inside page was written by her sister-in-law who came to stay at the farm while her husband, Mama’s brother Leroy, was overseas in the Army.

Dear Sis,  March 12, 1945
You’ll have many a friend and many a lover but to give you room I’ll write on the cover. Your sister – in – law till my rich uncle gets out of the poor house.

Catherine DeRango McKinley
P.S. I’ll always remember the good times I had in Georgia (Catherine was from Racine, Wisconsin)

Autograph book_0007

Her BFF Willie Mae wrote…

Dear Helen, The river is high and I can’t step it. I love you and I can’t help it!
When you get old and married and along with life you have tarried – just turn back to this old page and remember me in your younger age.

Your school pal Willie Mae.

Autograph book_0011Kendrick was the local doctors son, and lived next door to mama for many years – they were more like brother and sister. His handwriting seemed to have determined that he would also one day become a doctor.

Dear Helen: “When you get married and soon have twins don’t come to me for safety pins.”

When I read his verse to Mama, she remembered stories.. “Kendrick always like to tease me like a brother would. Anytime I stood in front of the class and read, he’d be in the back of the class trying to make me laugh – I often got in trouble because I’d hit him on the head with my book when I went back to my seat.”

Autograph book_0012

My Autograph book from 1961 holds a few of my teachers autographs along with friends, parents and grandparents. Even though it’s twenty years later, some of the verses were still the same.

Autograph book_0015

Besides the silly verses, it also holds nostalgic memories of written words from my parents, as well as all of my grandparents.

Having a sample of their handwriting is not something you end up saving – and to have it all in one book – makes it special.

Mother’s always wrote sweet verses to you!

Autograph book_0016

And sometimes Daddy’s did too, but I remember the men taking longer to write!

I even see some of my own writing style in looking at their handwriting. If only I knew what I know today, I would have asked them more questions about their life and had them write about it on those pages…

Autograph book_0017

Ola Askew McKinley – My Grandmamma

My grandmother McKinley’s handwriting is very special to me as there is no other written words of her anywhere. I have very little memory of her and it’s nice seeing and reading the words she thought to write to me in her own handwriting. The name  grandmama and granddaddy are often only used in the South.

Autograph book_0018

Edgar Thomas McKinley – better known as “ET” – but I called him Granddaddy!

I’m sure it was difficult for Granddaddy McKinley to write on this page, and I bet he hedged until I pleaded. Mama told me he had no more than a fourth grade education, but very smart in business and making money. My grandmother mostly read everything to him but I guess this is proof he learned to write. He always signed E. T. McKinley

Autograph book_0019

Evelyn Little Bryan – my grandmother

I don’t know how it all came about, but all the grandchildren called my father’s mother “Mama Bryan.” And she never spelled my name right – no matter what – she always put an “I” in Jeanne!

Autograph book_0020

My Grandfather – Paul Pinkney Bryan

My grandfather Paul Bryan is who I remember the most – he lived the longest of all my grandparents so I had the most contact with him. He was a quiet, gentle and soft-spoken man – I never remember hearing him raise his voice. He loved a good cigar and a front porch swing after Sunday dinner. It also seems granddaddy spelled my name wrong too – spelling it here as Jennie.

Some always wanted to write on the cover and some on the back – it was always their style – or maybe to be seen or remembered more – who knows – but they have been fun to read one more time before placing back in the drawer to be discovered another day; maybe shared with the grandchildren in later years – and listen to them laugh at such silly words we wrote.

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Week 37: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Anchors Aweigh… U.S.N. Harold Clayton Bryan

Week 37: September 13, 2014

Anchors Aweigh… U.S.N. Harold “Clayton” Bryan

Clayton Navy ID

Daddy’s first Navy ID card – note his birthday says 1925 – he was born in 1928.

My father enlisted on September 4, 1945 in the United States Navy, but that wasn’t the first time he joined – how he originally joined is quite the interesting story! Daddy ran away from home at the age of fifteen and joined the Navy! How you ask? Somehow he managed to acquire a fake ID and it seemed to have gotten him quite far as he ended up joining – and even receiving a real navy ID! What I’d like to know is how was he caught? Boy he really pulled the wool over their eyes!

Clayton Bryan was a strong willed boy growing up, and from a young age he regularly skipped school – to play cards! Imagine a twelve year old boy playing cards with grown men? I can only assume he played very well – which leaves me to wonder – who taught him that skill? I’m told his father was called weekly – that he wasn’t at school. My grandfather would go find him, take him back to school – only to find him at home when he arrived there. It’s said he was a very good card player, and always had money in his pocket – the men even picked him up, bringing him to the mill or wherever they were playing. What were they thinking? They were allowing a young teen in poker games! Both his parents never played cards – again – who was the culprit that taught him – and taught him well!

I can’t imagine how my grandmother dealt with my father – I’m sure he received many a switching – if she could catch him. I know one day he received a big switching out behind the barn. Daddy and brother, Floyd, were left home for the afternoon – big mistake! Grandmama and granddaddy arrived back home to find all the chickens in the yard standing very, very still! Upon further investigation they found the reason – they had nailed their feet to the ground! The boys soon received a new job, killing and cleaning all those chickens. All the chickens had to be killed – I guess chicken was on the menu for days! Now who’s idea had that been – my father or his older brother? I’ll never know now, but knowing my father, well….

Daddy was not a scholar, but a bright scheming boy. By the time he was an adult, he’d become highly knowledgeable in the field of electronics – his expertise resulted him being highly sought after in his work at Warner Robins USAF Base. He was well known on base for those skills – one summer he was sent to Vermont to oversee the installation of security systems in planes. That on-the-road-job took him hundreds of miles from his home in Georgia – but closer to me – as I was now living in Connecticut. The work he performed there was all hush hush – he wouldn’t even divulge to me, his only daughter. No matter how hard I pleaded to know what he did – he always told me he had secret clearance and couldn’t divulge! I hated those secrets of his – and he’d pull those same answers out of his hat whenever I asked about his Mason Society also. Those answers never stopped my mother though – and one evening she crashed one of those secret society meetings. She and her girlfriend, Willie Mae, snuck up to their meeting site and mama, the brave one, shimmied up the pole by the window – on the second floor. She watched as they put on cloaks and hats and began walking and sometimes crawling around the room making gestures with their hands. Daddy happened to look out the window and saw her – well, down the pole she flew and the two ran all the way back home. When he arrived later, he was quite mad – but I’m sure Mama and Willie Mae had their laughs by then and didn’t care! Never tell my mother she can’t do something – as that’s an open invitation!


I believe my father was newly home on leave here at age 16 or 17. The earliest photo I’ve seen of him in uniform.

Well you’ve had a little insight into my father’s character so let’s get back on track with the enlistment Navy story. The story I’m told is that he first ran away and enlisted in the Navy. Whatever papers and signatures he had – got him enlisted. I don’t know how long it was before his father was called to bring him home, but they eventually discovered that he was only fifteen! His fake ID added three years to his real birth date, so he showed as being eighteen years of age, weighing 150 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes. It seems I inherited my hair and eye color from him.


Floyd and Clayton Bryan with mom Evelyn Bryan.

Daddy hated school and when he turned sixteen – he quit! His parents were not happy over that and told him that if he wasn’t going back to school, then they’d sign for him to join the Navy. They weren’t going to allow him to quit school, stay home and just do nothing. No sooner than he signed up in Macon, Ga. – actually two days later – he said goodbye to his parents and was soon on-board a bus to boot camp in San Diego, California. And it wasn’t long after that – he called his parents and wanted to come home! They firmly told him No! I’m sure my father was one of the youngest in his unit, but he dug in and during the four years served, he worked also toward receiving his GED – remember he had quit school. Joining the Navy was probably the best thing that ever happened to him – they grew him up, taught him skills in electronics that carried him in throughout his life, and gave him the opportunity to see the world.

Uncle Sam

I Want You!

I’ve always wondered – Did my father want to enlist in the Navy because of older brother Floyd and his uncles already there in the Navy or because of Uncle Sam?

His classification when joining was “AS” – which meant – Aviation Support Equipment Technician – their job was to perform intermediate maintenance on aviation accessory equipment at naval air stations and aboard aircraft carriers. Boot Camp was in San Diego, California at the Naval Training Center – at the north end of San Diego Bay. He was there from September 11, 1945 through December 1, 1945 – his rating  soon changed to S2 upon entering – which meant Seaman second class. At the NTC, my father as a new recruit, underwent quite a transition from civilian to military life. It was there he learned the history, tradition customs. and regulations of the Navy – “You’re in the Navy Now.”

Daily Personal Diary washburn mar 13 1947

Clayton Bryan No. 540 listed on Personal Diary Roster of the USS Washburn

He first shipped out on the USS Washburn in September through October of 1945 on the ship rosters and the personal diary I found on Fold3.com

My father must have remained there for other schooling as he’s listed there until March 18, 1946. During his training he received two ten-day leaves, with the last one being right before shipping out on the USS Blue Ridge and now listed in the gunnery division.

clayton young

Clayton Bryan – Probably taken on an excursion into San Diego, Ca. (My favorite Photo)

I’m sure he didn’t go home as he was on the West Coast and a bus ride would not have gotten him home and back in time, and they didn’t fly back then, like today – So what did you do on that leave Daddy? I can only imagine you found a few card games and maybe were able to buy a couple of drinks at the many bars nearby, and there were always the young girls hanging around Navy yards. He was a small-town boy in a big city now – I can bet he lived it up – lots of drinking and gambling.

On March 22, 1946 daddy shipped out on the USS Blue Ridge (AGC-2) from San Diego, California. The Blue Ridge is named for the south-easternmost ridge of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina.

Clip Clayton Bryan Roaster

Ship Roster USS Blue Ridge – Harold “Clayton” Bryan

He was just a country boy from a small Southern town, and having no experience of ever being on the water – I wonder what was going through his mind when he learned he was shipping out! What were his thoughts when he first saw his ship? Why didn’t I have this interest when I was younger ? I could have asked my father so many questions on his Navy career – first being why he wanted to join the Navy at age fifteen  and how he accomplished that feat of joining with a fake ID! From the several photos I have of him with his Navy buddies – he sure looked like he had a good time. My father made friends easily and was very out-going. He could hold a conversation with anyone, having the gift of gab.

ship inder bridge

Photo of a ship sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in 1946, just like Daddy’s would have done.

As Daddy passed under the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time on June 12, 1946 leaving the San Francisco area; was he on deck taking in the scenery – thinking – I could be going to war – and worrying about his safety as well as his parents alone at home? I can only assume what might have been in his mind and visualize him standing there, looking up at the belly of that huge red bridge as he sailed underneath. He had no idea what loomed ahead for him – but his ship was headed for “Operation Crossroads.” Maybe they weren’t even told of the mission they would soon witness on July 1, 1946 – just two days before his 17th birthday. Wow – what a birthday present!

From other vets stories who served on-board ships at Bikini Atoll, I learned that they were not told of their mission until en-route there. Many mentioned their ships also left from San Francisco – heading West under the Golden Gate Bridge. Four to five days later, the USS Blue Ridge first touched base at Honolulu, Hawaii. It was there they picked up the general and flag officers of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps along with United Nations officials for transportation to Bikini Atoll. to observe the Atomic Bomb Tests. The USS Blue Ridge hoisted the flag of Vice Admiral Harry W. Hill for this trip.

Before they left Hawaii, they were told to turn in their dress clothes, Navy blues, and all their white pants. They were now given field clothes – that was an early sign that their mission was going to be dirty. It was during the voyage from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands, that most likely, my father learned about the bomb tests. I imagine they’d already heard inklings – secrets always get out from loose lips. Now what is the old saying – “loose lips sink ships” – well you can see how that would happen. They soon were en-route to Kwajalein Atoll – they arrived on June 28th.

The USS Blue Ridge was an amphibious communication and command flagship of the 7th Amphibious Force with always a flag officer on-board, and this was usually a Marine Brigadier General. There were only two ships in the Navy at that time designated as such. Their decks were specifically designed to accommodate the many types of communication antennas so the general could stay in touch with all the troops he commanded.

My father was now seeing the world – first the Golden Gate Bridge, which I’d love to see – Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and soon witness history in the making – the first atomic bomb tests. I never remember hearing my father talk about his Navy days – I do remember seeing his Navy pictures – and what I wouldn’t give to be able to have that talk now – to hear first hand of his account…


Daddy’s “swallow” tattoo

I do remember he had a tattoo of Navy origin – and I’m sure he acquired that while in the Navy. Most boys back then in the Navy came home with a tattoo – and there were probably a lot of angry mothers! I keep closing my eyes and trying to visualize Daddy’s tattoo – finally after much searching and distraction from writing, I found a couple of photo’s of his left arm. It looks to be a swallow, but the writing underneath I can’t identify at the moment, but it almost looks like his name – Clayton.

The swallow tattoo was a symbol used historically by sailors to show off their sailing experience. According to one legend, one swallow tattoo signified he had traveled over 5,000 nautical miles. Another legend is that since swallows return to the same location every year to nest and mate, the swallow would guarantee a safe return home for the sailor. Now where did he actually have that tattoo done? Home port or overseas? So many questions remain unanswered for me.

Back to Bikini Atoll…

Operation Crossroads was a series of two nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946 and the first to be publicly announced beforehand and observed by an invited audience, including a large press corp. The purpose of these tests was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on warships. To have witnessed that from a ship on the scene – what ran through daddy’s mind – did it make him feel we were closer to war?

The government chose Bikini Island, part of the Marshall Island chain, because of its location and sparse population – less than two hundred Bikinian’s in residence. They graciously agreed to relocate to another island from all I’ve read, but they felt they’d be allowed to return to their homeland at some point – but that never materialized. The government continued to test nuclear weapons there into the late 1950’s; the last weapon test was called Bravo. It became unfit for farming and fishing to ever return to that area. Bikini still remains today uninhabited due to radioactive contamination.

Things were soon to change in this quiet peaceful lagoon of Bikini…


USS Blue Ridge

The USS Blue Ridge arrived at Bikini Atoll on the 29th of June and took its place as one of the command and observation ships off Bikini for “Able” on July 1st. The island of Bikini is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which is the furthermost point from Union Point, Georgia he’d ever been – this would be my father’s first glimpse of life across the ocean. I’m sure he must have enjoyed a swim in the warm ocean waters before the tests as temperatures soared at 100 degrees and higher, which encouraged the sailors to enjoy time in the water. I do know he swam in the contaminated water afterward against orders and that caused him to permanently lose all his teeth a couple of years later.

Many of the sailors spent time on Bikini Island checking out the abandoned war planes, climbing the plentiful coconut trees and beer if available, and if he went on the island – he found it!

The first atomic bomb test was named Able and the bomb was called Gilda after Rita Hayworth’s character in the 1946 “Gilda” – a black and white film. Isn’t it strange how so many planes, and now I’ve learned even bombs were named after women during WWII. Bomb Gilda was dropped from a B-29 Super-fortress of the 509th Bombardment Group on July 1, 1946, It was an air burst bomb and detonated 520 feet high above the target fleet.

Bikini Atoll picA fleet of 95 target vessels were soon assembled in Bikini lagoon to test the results of dropping nuclear weapons in an area containing a fleets of ships. The Pacific ocean soon saw much traffic as they sailed and dragged those vessels – they placed four obsolete U.S. battleships, two aircraft carriers, two cruisers, eleven destroyers, eight submarines, numerous auxiliary and amphibious vessels, and three surrendered German and Japanese ships. That’s a substantial amount of ships to gather in just one area – I can’t even imagine how long it took to position them in place! The battleship USS Nevada was designated as the target point for Able and painted bright red to stand out in the center as the target ship.

Operation_Crossroads aerial view_-_Able_001

Atomic Bomb “Able” test

There must have been much excitement among the sailors as they prepared on-board to watch. From my research I found there were a few having camera’s that documented it for themselves, but unfortunately I found no photos among my fathers Navy pictures. The USS Blue Ridge took a safe position of at least 10 nautical miles east of the atoll. Test personnel were issues special dark glasses to view with, but they soon decided the glasses might not offer enough protection. They were then all instructed to turn away from the blast and shut their eyes. I’m sure many quickly turned on the countdown to 1 – to witness a once of a lifetime, giving disregard to their health at the moment. Knowing my father – he probably was one of those sailors who quickly turned – no matter the consequences – to witness the fiery mushroom growing on the Pacific horizon.


USS Nevada was painted red – she was the target!

At 9 a.m. on July 1, 1946 Gilda was dropped from the Boeing B-29 Superfortress – but they were soon disappointed. The bomb missed its aim point by 2,130 feet and caused only a small amount of ship damage. The battleship USS Nevada had been the aim point for Able – it had been painted red – and it failed to sink! Only five ships actually sunk – and not immediately.

So who was to blame? After much government investigation of the flight crew of the B-29 bomber and the bomb itself – they finally concluded that the miss was due to a miscalculation by the crew. Twenty four days later on July 25th, the second test Baker was scheduled.

The USS Blue Ridge did not remain for any clean-up and soon called at Ponape and Truk in the Caroline Islands. They didn’t precede back to Kwajalein Atoll for “Baker” until July 23rd. The USS Blue Ridge once again served as observation flagship for the second atomic bomb test on July 25th under the flag of Rear Admiral Glover – my father, once again witnessed history.

The bomb for this mission was known as Helen of Bikini and it was detonated 90 feet underwater and was barely seen. The radioactive sea spray caused extensive contamination. There was no blinding flash like Abel on this one. Ironically, Daddy would soon marry a woman named Helen and she wore many bikinis!


The large Wilson cloud in the Baker test.

The large “Wilson” cloud and the vertical water tunnel are distinctive of what was produced in the Baker test. The photos showed the battleship USS Arkansas and others uplifted in the water cloud tunnel. There were only nine surviving Baker target ships that were eventually decontaminated and sold for scrap – they sunk the rest at sea after decontamination efforts failed.


All hands on deck!

The sailors soon had their work cut out for them; even as far away as the viewing ships stood, the sea spray blew contamination on their decks. That is probably why all their uniforms had been confiscated in Pearl Harbor. They soon began scrubbing their ships – top to bottom. Every nook and cranny needed to be decontaminated – and it took multiple scrubbing’s.

The USS Blue Ridge hauled down Rear Admiral Glover’s flag on July 27th and set sail on July 30th. Once again, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco welcomed her home as she navigated underneath to berth at Terminal Island in the Naval Shipyard for inactivation overhaul. She decommissioned on March 14, 1947, but remained in reserve until January 1st, 1960 when her name was struck from the Navy List. She was then sold for scrapping on August 26th to Zidell Exploration Incorporated, Portland, Oregon.

After discovering my father’s Naval records several years ago, my dream was to be able to board one of the ships he served on. Needless to say, both of his ships were scrapped. I had hoped to have found at least one of them as a floating museum somewhere, but that did not happen for various reasons.

My father spent about five months aboard the Blue Ridge before leaving her on August 17, 1946 in San Diego. His records did not show another leave – he soon headed out again to sea on the USS Washburn on September 4th. On October 25th, his rating changed to S2RDM, which meant Seaman second class radar-man.


The USS Washburn – all ships nearby are ships onboard used for missions.

The USS Washburn (AKA-108) was a Tolland-class attack cargo ship of the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force of the United States Navy, and named after Washburn County, Wisconsin. She launched on 18 December 1944 and was designed to carry military cargo and landing craft; the latter would have been used to land weapons, supplies, and Marines on enemy shores during amphibious operations. She served as a commissioned ship for 24 years and 11 months. While he served on-board she mostly carried passengers and equipment between various locales in the western Pacific in continued support of the American occupation.


Sailors received certificates after crossing the Equator

Was it on one of those trips on the USS Washburn that his ship crossed the Equator? My mother remembers him talking about the crossing and all the shenanigans that took place on-board. When a ship crosses the equator, King Neptune comes aboard to exercise authority over his domain and to judge charges brought against the Pollywogs – the newbies. I’ve read it’s quite a ceremony, with them dressing in elaborate costumes and holding King Neptune’s court on deck. The sailors, after paying proper homage to the god of the sea, become Shellback’s, a trusted son or daughter of Neptune. Once initiated, they are then presented with a certificate to mark their transition from Tadpole to Shellback. I never found such certificate among daddy’s papers.

After leaving the USS Washburn, he was sent to Ground Control Approach School, Naval Air Technical Training Unit, Olathe, Kansas for radar training. After completing several weeks of training he was sent to Memphis, Tenn. to Millington Naval Base; at last he was closer to home. His first leave was on December 30, 1946 – he didn’t make it home for Christmas but he was there for New Years Day. I’m sure his mother made a special meal of all his favorite foods.

The USS Washburn continued in service until 16 May 1970 at which time she was decommissioned. Soon thereafter, she was placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, California, but then on September 1st, 1971, she was transferred permanently to the custody of the Maritime Administration. Later on October 1st, 1976, the USS Washburn’s name was struck from the Navy List, and she was sold for scrapping. The Washburn earned five battle stars during the Korean War and six battle stars for Vietnam service; she had a much longer life than the USS Blue Ridge.

Several shore leaves appear on his records in 1947 and on one of those leaves, and maybe while in uniform, he met my mother Helen McKinley – soon to be his bride. She was with her best friend and her boyfriend, which happened to be daddy’s best friend – and from that day forward they wrote to each other – dating while home – and shared many phone calls – when he could catch up with her. Phone calls were a hit and miss as she had no phone at home, so he called her at Willie Mae ‘s fathers hotel (City Hotel) on the weekend – in hopes of catching her.

It wasn’t long before they married one rainy Friday evening on May 28th, 1948 – just the two of them, no family – only their two best friends. They were married at the home of the minister just outside of Siloam. Then it was off to Richmond’s in Greensboro for a night of dancing and celebrating before the groom returned to the Navy Base, just outside of Memphis, Tenn – without his bride. It was several months before money could be saved so she could join him; she lived with his parents and worked at the mill in town – where everyone worked! She hated it and soon moved back home with her parents in Siloam. It wasn’t long before her father bought her a ticket and sent the new bride by bus to Tennessee; daddy had found a room to rent in a sailors home for them.

USN Silverware

First silverware my parents used – stolen pieces from the mess hall by daddy’s friends

Apartment life was started with barely nothing, but many of their married friends stepped up and gave them their extras. Mama said they didn’t even have the bare necessaries like silverware, but his buddies quickly remedied that by stealing utensils at the mess hall. A few pieces managed to survive the years and I still have them. Mums the word on that – hope no one tells the military police on me….

On July 1st, 1949 my father was honorably discharged form the Navy and they both returned to the small town where he was born in Union Point, Ga. to begin a new life together and start a family.

When I began searching for information on Bikini Atoll, I was intrigued with all I found in newspapers online – so much that I still haven’t had time to really sit and read. I’ve included a few articles here.

photo 3

Great story on how the government came to take the island – literally!

Clip Drones go to work Yuma Ariz paper june 26 1946

We had drones way back it seems! Quite interesting to know

Clip Physicist fears atom bomb drone cameras obscure Yuma Ariz paper june 26 1946

They were fearful that the drones would not be able to see from the clouds. Source: Yuma, Arizona, June 28, 1946

Clip After 50 years of blast

This was run in the Ind. PA Gazette on July 14, 1996

Clip Measuring Blast

McKinney Daily Courier Gazette – June 29, 1946 Measuring the effect of the atomic blast

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