Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

For the past two years we have celebrated a "blended" Thanksgiving, and it's been wonderful both years. The Paul Goffs and the Buddy Webbs gathered, and The Phil Christy's gathered; In-laws and out-laws around one table. Miranda and David came in from Nashville to join us. It was special.

This marked the first year that Uncle Buddy wasn't with us. I suppose he's gathered with the great cloud of witnesses, happy that we are still together. I can't say it wasn't difficult, though, to look over at the blue leather recliner in the corner and not see him sitting there. As hard as that was for me, I'm sure it was even harder for Aunt Dorothy and Rhonda. We missed him, but we know where he is, and for that assurance, we gave thanks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Helen Elizabeth Houston Goff

Helen Elizabeth Houston Goff was born on February 6, 1920. She was married to my father's oldest brother, John Milton Goff. This post is solely for the purpose of remembering one of the finest ladies I have ever known.
Aunt Helen was perfect for riding shotgun to my Uncle Johnny. Neither of them ever met a stranger, nor did they ever meet a person they couldn't like. I cannot recall a time when I walked into a room occupied by Aunt Helen when she didn't greet me with, "I love you, Paula Kay. Where have you been?" I never left her presence that she didn't say, "I love you, Paula Kay. Come and see me."
Uncle Johnny died in April of 1972 when I was 13 years old. I have fond memories of him playing the guitar and singing. My parents always told me that Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen traveled all over Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky singing in churches. I remember Aunt Helen's lilting alto, and I have to say that besides my father, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen were the first to encourage my love for music. Uncle Johnny used to lift me up onto the piano bench and say, "Now, sing, Paula Kay, just sing." That was when I was four years old.
I stayed with Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen when my mom's father was in the hospital dying of a cerebral hemorrhage. I remember sitting at the piano and pounding the keys like I'd seen Liberace do; then I'd turn around and say, "Clap everybody." The strange thing is that everybody would, and if I drove them crazy, nobody let on.
Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen had four children; Tommy, Ronnie, Darlene and Donna Sue. I loved going to their house when I was little because Donna Sue was so utterly beautiful. She let me get away with nearly anything. Tommy was the photographer, always taking pictures of family events. I always loved Tommy too. (He's the one person I know who actually read the Encyclopedia Brittanica! Who does that?) We didn't have enough of those family events.
Aunt Thelma had a gathering at her house in Ohio in the fall of 1971. That particular gathering marked the last time the entire Goff clan would be together in one place. It was the last time Uncle Johnny and Gramma Goff would be with us. Uncle Johnny played a 12 string guitar, THE instrument of the early 70s. We were gathered around the dining room table, and Aunt Thelma had an old Broadman Hymnal, and Dad had brought along an old singing convention songbook with the shaped notes. Of course the only ones who could read the shaped notes were Grampa and Aunt Helen! Anyway, we had our own little singing convention, and Dad kept getting on me about staying on my part. Aunt Helen stopped everything and said, "Paulie, leave her alone. She'll figure it out." I don't know that I ever did, but I'll never forget how loved I felt at that particular moment. I remember leaving Aunt Thelma's house that night, and Uncle Johnny told Dad that he probably wouldn't be around at the next reunion, but he surely enjoyed this one. Dad never got over that, because Uncle Johnny died a few months later. Aunt Helen continued to come to all the Goff gatherings. It wouldn't have been the same without her. She called on every holiday just to tell us that she loved us.
Aunt Helen continued to be active in New Banklick Baptist Church. She and Darlene loved going to gospel music concerts, and she loved the Gaither Homecomings. When I gave a concert at my own church in the mid-90s, Aunt Helen brought her whole family! I looked out and half the sanctuary was filled with my family all because of Aunt Helen. Then she made sure that I was invited to her church to do a concert, and yep, once again, her family filled the pews. She was like that for everybody though. I wasn't special. Everybody in her life was special to her.
Aunt Helen went home to be with the Lord on September 17, 2008. Heaven welcomed the gentlest soul and kindest heart that ever lived. Although we'll miss her, she is no doubt singing alto in that Heavenly choir. The years that stole her legs, hearing and eyesight are long behind her now. She's already reunited with Uncle Johnny, her children, Ronnie and Darlene, my dad, Gramma and Grampa Goff, Uncle Able and Aunt Thelma. I know without a doubt that we'll see Aunt Helen Goff again. Until then, we'll go on singing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Rebecca Ann Gover was born November 1, 1835 in Pulaski County, Kentucky. She was the first of eight children born to Samuel D. Gover and Elizabeth Jasper, a family that settled along Pittman Creek at the turn of the 18th century. Brothers, John and Samuel, moved their family from Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Samuel D. Gover's grandfather, John came to America from England in 1750. According to Immigrant John Gover and Wife Elizabeth Duvall and Descendants, written by Rose and Bess Gover, published in 1982, the Govers are of Scotch-Irish descent. The family were devout Methodists, and according to the Gover sisters, freedom of religion was the primary reason for the Govers move to the new world.
Land records indicate that John Gover and his wife, Polly Dyer, bought land from Francis McWilliams in Elihu, Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1819. "Old timers do remember that John and family lived in a two-room dry cave for a time after moving to Pulaski County, presumably while a home was being built." (Gover, 1982) John and two sons, James and William drowned in Pittman Creek on July 1, 1821. Surviving sons were John Jr., Samuel and Wesley.
Samuel married Elizabeth Jasper on December 30, 1834. Elizabeth gave birth to Rebecca Ann, Mary Catherine, John Thomas, James William, Samuel Wesley, George Alford, Elizabeth Polly and Milton Parker. Samuel Gover was a farmer who accumulated a modicum of wealth, as property records show that the Govers owned approximately six slaves. The records do not indicate what the slaves were used for, but it can be surmised that they were used in the tobacco fields as well as in the house.
Rebecca married William Monty Goff on November 20, 1853. Legend has it that the Govers were not pleased about this union. It is known that William Goff's family was not as well to do as the Govers, but that is probably not the reason for the grief. Rebecca would have been 18, and it may have been her youth that gave her family pause.
Rebecca gave birth to three children, Richard in 1855, a daughter in 1856 who was stillborn, and Samuel in 1857. Rebecca never recovered from giving birth to Samuel. Her death record indicates the cause of death was "a cold," however, it was very likely complications from childbirth. Rebecca died August 20, 1857, just three months shy of 22 years old. Her infant son died five days later. Presumably, Rebecca is buried in the Gover Cemetery in Elihu, Kentucky, however, there is no record to prove this.
Rebecca Ann Gover was my great-great grandmother. There are no surviving pictures of her. We don't know if her Scotch-Irish descent manifested itself in fair skin and strawberry blond hair. We don't know if she was musical or otherwise artistic. All we know about Rebecca is that she lived and died.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

James Lonnie Webb

James Lonnie Webb was born March, 1931, in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee. He was the only son of John Henry Webb and Virgie Belle Grimes, the middle child. The Webbs moved to Ludlow, Kentucky shortly after Buddy was born. Although he was named after his parents' brothers, his sister called him Buddy, and that's what stuck.
Buddy lettered in varsity football, but he wasn't a particularly great student in school. He graduated from Ludlow High School in 1950, and shortly thereafter, he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Reeves. He joined the U.S. Marine Corp right after high school and served his country in the Korean conflict.
Buddy and Dorothy had three children; Steve, Jeff and Rhonda. After Buddy got out of the Marines, the family settled in their hometown of Ludlow, Kentucky. Buddy took a job on the N&W Railroad where he worked until he retired some thirty years later, true to his railroading heritage.
Buddy was a member of the First Baptist Church of Ludlow. He was a very well read man and loved a great debate. Sometimes he would take a position just to get everybody riled up, and then he'd walk away laughing. He was always something of a prankster.
Following a tornado that damaged his sister's house in 1972, Buddy was the first person on the scene. He was the first person the following morning to start with the clean-up. He remained close to both his sisters, Reba and Shelba.
Buddy was my uncle and in many ways, my second father. He died from complications that followed a stroke on April 6, 2008. He is interred in the Hebron Lutheran Church Cemetery, Hebron, Kentucky.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sam Dodson

Sam Dodson was my great-great grandfather. He was born in White County, Tennessee, June 2, 1831. He was married twice, the second time to Emily Bolin. Together they produced my grandmother, Belle.
Sam is the son of Jesse Dodson of White County. The Dodson clan goes back to the Jamestown Settlement, or so legend has it. Actually, it does go back deep into the foundation of Virginia, but much has not been documented.
Another such legend is that Sam was 3/4 Cherokee. From 1895 until 1903, Sam ran a boarding house in what was Oklahoma (Indian) Territory. My grandmother, Belle, spoke often about her days living next to "the reservation," and it was there that she met her first husband, Lonnie Grimes. However, at this point, our Cherokee heritage has not been documented. It isn't hard to imagine it, though, when one looks at his deep set dark eyes and enormously high cheekbones.
To date, we have not found any documentation as to where Sam was during the Civil War, although, he would have been of age to have served. Sam had a son, Frank, from a previous marriage, and Belle and Frank were close until his death in the 1970s. Emily Bolin Dodson raised her children in the Baptist tradition. It is not known whether Sam Dodson had any tradition of religion. Sam Dodson died on June 22, 1908 and is buried in the Bon Air Cemetery, White County, Tennessee.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Aunt Lucy!

This is a picture of Aunt Lucy and Aunt Annie. Lucy is on the left and Annie is on the right. It's amazing how these faces keep repeating themselves. I have two cousins, one who is spitting image of Lucy and the other, Annie. My mom looks exactly like Annie.
They are great-aunts on my mother's side, sisters to my grandfather, John Henry Webb. I think every family in the south has an Aunt Lucy! Lucy was born March 17, 1906 in Glenmary, Tennessee. She died on May 10, 1978 in Holiday, Florida.
Aunt Lucy was a character! She could do anything. She sewed beautiful clothing. She could knit and crochet and was an avid quilter. I have some beautiful quilts that she made. I don't know anything about quilts, except that they are beautiful.
Lucy married Fred Bieber in 1937. Fred was a widower and 13 years her senior. Lucy had never been married. Fred was the perfect uncle! He was a talented painter, and in his later years, he made jewelery. He used to make necklaces and earrings our of sea shells. I have so many of them in my jewelery box, but none of the earrings are for pierced ears.
Lucy moved to Northern Kentucky in the 1930s with her mom and dad. It was there that she met Fred. They lived in Erlanger, Kentucky, where Lucy raised chickens. Legend has it that she supplied several restaurants with fresh chickens. She loved dogs and hated cats, a trait that I did not inherit. (I love cats.) The Biebers moved to Florida in 1955.
We visited Lucy's house every summer. My mother and I took the train from Union Station in Cincinnati to Columbia, South Carolina. My aunt Shelba would meet us at the station and we'd spend a week at her house in Charleston. Then my dad would come down and we drove down to Tampa and onto Lucy's house in Plant City. Lucy would have supper waiting, and she always had watermelon! That was the main thing.
I didn't see as much of Aunt Lucy in her later years after I got up into high school. She died when I was in college, and I didn't get to go to her funeral. She left me a ring that I wear on my right hand and will someday pass down to one of her great-great nieces. Lucy is interred beside Fred in Hillsborough Gardens in Brandon, Florida.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wealth Is In the Spirit

It has occurred to me on several occassions that Belle Dodson Grimes McCloud Cole may never have realized how impoverished her family truly was. If ever there was a spirit filled with love, grace and joy, it was Belle.
You can see the little ramshackeled shack where she lived. Notice the windows had no glass! This was in Cumberland County, Tennessee; Winters do not pass over Crossville.
However, there was a wood stove in the middle of her living room and in the winter time, it provided just enough warmth. The stove in the kitchen was archaic, and used wood in its belly to heat the top. The wood stove in the living room was used for baking pies or cakes. Cornbread was usually fried in a cast iron skillet on top of the stove. If you got baked cornbread, you were very special company.
The bed linens were heavy cotton; the quilts were all handmade by Belle or her mother, Emily. The blankets were made from the wool of a neighbor's sheep. The shaving stand in the bedroom was where a person bathed for every day. On Saturday nights, the boys would carry enough water from the well so everyone could take a bath in a tub that was hidden away for the rest of the week.
The well water was ladened with iron and turned everything yellow. It tasted of sulfur and smelled like rotten eggs. It tainted nearly everything that came in contact with it, everything except her food. For some reason, her pinto beans were always mountain perfect, no doubt from all the salt and pure lard. The iced tea was loaded with sugar to camoflage the sulfur. Bottled cokes were usually on hand.
She did have electricity, because she had a Zenith console television in the corner of her living room. One had to look around the stove to see it, but it didn't matter because it was never turned on. There was a huge picture of her youngest daughter, Rilda Dean, hanging over it. Rilda was beautiful, and Belle was immensely proud of her.
The inside of Belle's house was always spotless clean. She swept her house daily and dusted habitually. Dishes were always washed and put away immediately following a meal. Clothes were always clean. The smell of clothes drying on the clothesline in the noonday sun could make one forget the outhouse which was at least 50 yards away from the house, but in the summer time, when the wind blew just right, sittin' on the front porch, one could get a wiff of it. It stunk to high Heaven! It was made of pine with three ports, two tall and one small.
Belle loved children, and there were always plenty around. From three marriages, Belle had five children, twelve grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren. She loved being around the children, and she would coddle and feed them. She'd laugh out loud, and when there was music, she would dance a jig. Literally, it was a jig, something never seen on Dancing With the Stars.
When Belle was 90, she moved into Crossville's City Limits, into a house that her son, Hubert, owned, not far from the hospital. It was the first time in her life that she had hot and cold running water, which meant an indoor bathroom. She left the farm and her little ramshackeled shack with her cornfields, chicken coop and outhouse; and she traded it for the modern conveniences of an electric stove and windows with glass.
If Belle knew how poor she was, it never showed. If she knew there was no money, her grandchildren who stayed with her in the summer time never knew it. We ate more than our share. We went to church on Sundays. We played in the cornfields and ran through the house with abandon. We used the outhouse and complained, but we still used it.
Grandma Virgie was Belle's first born, and she rarely spoke of her early life in Tennesee. She never wanted to go back and cried her eyes out when I moved to Nashville. Her memories of abject poverty stuck in her mind like peanut butter on a horse's tongue. When those memories surfaced, it took genuine fortitude for her to swallow them. She knew poverty. Virgie understood how hard she had worked to escape it, and Virgie always feared having to back.
Yet, she did go back every summer, often with me in tow. When I visited Great-Grandma Belle, I always slept with Grandma Virgie. When we were going off to sleep, Grandma would ask, "Did you have fun today?" For me, going to Belle's was an adventure. I loved riding the pony, chasing the chickens and running back and forth to the outhouse. I loved pumping water from the well and carrying it into the house. I loved sleeping in a bedroom where the windows were completely opened.
I didn't know Grandma Belle was so poor. It wasn't until she died that I really understood that. She didn't represent povery for me. She represented an adventure. Now, in my memories, she represents a very wealthy spirit. When she met the Lord, she knew that she had lived a very full life, measured by the love she had in her heart. She had children who had children, and all the children loved her. What's so poor about that?

The Future That Was?

Do you have one of these in your town? This little machine has its home inside of Dean's Pharmacy in the heart of Brooksville, Kentucky. For a quarter, you can get a character reading and at the same time find out about your future.
I haven't dropped my quarter into it. What if it says I don't have any character? That wouldn't be good.
I don't know how old this machine is, and neither does the pharmacist. It was here before he took over the store, and he just kept it, probably because he didn't know what else to do with it. It'll probably be in the building for another 85 years. Things change very slowly in Bracken County, Kentucky, USA.

Knowing that, I wonder if this little machine ever predicted the end of the Cold War, or the Beijing Olympics? I wonder what the future was that it predicted? I wonder... but I'm really afraid to ask.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Aunt Annie & Uncle Doc

Aunt Annie was born in 1908 and was the youngest daughter of John "Spoony" Webb and Sarah Hamby. She was the second to the last baby, born when Sarah was 43. That may not sound very old, considering women are now having babies well into their late forties. However, Sarah still had one to go!
Annie married Doc Beatty, but I have not confirmed the year yet. They married in Glenmary, and Doc was older than she by twelve years.
Family legend has it that Uncle Doc was big into the KKK, but he also considered himself a devout Southern Baptist. He attended church on a regular basis, using a mule and carriage to often take the family over a rising creek and down the mountain to get there. Now, I am sure the latter tale is true, because my mother often accompanied them in that carriage. However, I'm not sure I could ever find tangible proof that Uncle Doc was in the KKK; I thought that was a secret society.
This brings me to the point of this post: When you find out something about a family member that is this atrocious, do you hit it head on, as I just did? Or do you sweep it under a rug and look for evidence of his life elsewhere?
From what I've gleaned from family members, Uncle Doc is sort of a legend unto himself. He was the sheriff of Scott County at one time, which mean he had been sworn to uphold the law. Does that correlate to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan; or was that a normal occurrence for that part of the country? Oh my God! Did I just ask if that was normal? I hate it when historians make allowances for bad behavior by saying, "that was the way it was at the time." Have I now just had to confront my worst fear by uncovering that which I would prefer not to know?
Uncle Doc died in May, 1958, the same month I was born. Aunt Annie came to stay with us for a while when I was very little. I remember her as being very gentle, and I think I was very much a brat for her. Annie suffered from dementia in her later life. She was found hiding under the church steps, homeless, and a parishioner took her in and gave her a room. It's the family's understanding that Annie lived out her days here in the care of a stranger.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

At Home in Glenmary

At first I thought this picture was taken around the turn of the century because of the dress that my great-grandmother, Sarah, is wearing. However, the younger daughter in this picture is my great-aunt, Lucy, who was born in 1906; and she appears to be about ten in this picture. Thus, I'd say it was taken around 1916.
I love this picture because this is the only picture I have found that shows Grandma Webb at a relatively young age. Since she was born in 1865, if this was taken in or around 1916, she and Grandpa (John "Spoony" Webb,) both, would have been 50 (ish.) Standing on the porch above and behind Spoony and Sarah are my great-aunt Laura and my great-aunt Lucy.
The back of this photograph says, "At Home in Glenmary," so it's safe to assume it was taken at the old home place. One can see the knots in the old chestnut logs, used to build the house. I would love to have the rocking chair and can visualize my great-grandfather sitting in it and looking out across the land.
The Webb farm, in Tennessee, was in the family for nearly a hundred years. It is the same property that John and Nancy Webb settled in what was Roane County. Then Willis, my ggg-grandfather, built his house on the farm. By that time, Morgan County came into being. When John "Spoony" Webb married Sarah Hamby, they moved in with Willis and Margaret. Willis died in 1890, and Margaret remained in the family home until her death in 1912.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brenda Jean & Tom

I don't know why my dad called Brenda "Jeanie;" he just did. Jeanie is my first cousin, the daughter of my dad's sister, Thelma. She is a little older than I am but not by much.
I remember when I was in grade school, Jeanie came out to my house and helped me with my algebra homework. A lot of the answers were wrong. Whatever! So math wasn't her strong suit either.
I also recall her and her brother, Al, throwing darts with me and playing with me. Al used to call me brat all the time and sometimes still does, but Jeanie always took up for me. If I was a brat, she'd never tell on me. Jeanie gave me a hamster once. It died of old age.
Jeanie is married to Tom. He's a great guy, smart and soft-spoken. He teaches Sunday School, and they're both devout Christians. They love cats and have two beautiful black "Halloween" cats. They also have a son, Todd, who is married to Mindy. Jasmine is a beautiful little granddaughter.
Jeanie and I may have the most in common of all the Goff cousins. We have many of the same afflictions, bad kidneys, arthritis, fibromyalgia. We can talk for hours laughing - that's right! laughing - about our pain. Nobody wants to hear us complain. God has been good to both of us, and we have a huge family that loves us. I'm thankful Jeanie is in my life though.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My First Pet

I don't think I was two years old yet, but I remember my first cat. My dad brought it home from the railroad; he had it under his coat. He pulled it out and held it up, and it was the neatest thing I'd seen up to that point. That started my love affair with the cat.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

All Aboard!

My family is a railroad family. The railroad is "in the blood," so to speak, on both maternal and paternal sides of my family.
My mother's parents moved to Northern Kentucky for the railroad. My father's parents moved to Northern Kentucky for the railroad. My uncles worked for the railroad, and I have cousins who work for the railroad.
My grandpa Goff was a foreman on the Southern Railroad. My grandpa Webb was a yardman on the Southern Railroad. My father was a pipe fitter for the Southern and then the B&O Railroad, which eventually became the Chessie System, which eventually became CSX. My uncle, Buddy, was a yardman for the N&W Railroad, which later became part of Conrail. My cousin works for CSX in Jacksonville, Florida.
When my father retired from the railroad, he began building an N-gauge model railroad. It takes up half of my mom's basement! We don't know what to do with it. My dad loved the railroad. He used to buy video tapes of railroad history. I used to tease him that the train wasn't really moving; it was really the backdrop. He'd get really mad.
Many of my dad's friends were also railroaders, and they often travelled together to visit railroad museums and displays. Whenever I see a train, I think about my family - a true railroad family in every sense of the word.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mary Ellen Stephens

Mary Ellen Stephens was born on the 11th of June, 1861, the first child of Andrew Jackson Stephens and Susan Smiley of Pulaski County, Kentucky. Mary Ellen is my great-grandmother on my father's side. Her son was my grandfather, Andrew Montgomery Goff.
The Stephens family is an interesting one to study, because the Stephens and the Smileys appear to be so different. Susan's father was a Baptist preacher, Eliphalet Smiley. Her mother, Eleanor (nee Holmes,) must have been the classic preacher's wife, moving with him from Virginia to Kentucky to plant churches and spread the Gospel.
Andrew's father, Ebenezer Stephens, however, was entirely different. Ebenezer apparently couldn't be without a wife. He married often and always younger. On his deathbed, Ebenezer sent a letter to the Justice Of the Peace to hurry on to his house so they could get the marriage on with, because he was too tired to make the trek into town. I'm not entirely sure yet who Andrew's mother is. I'm still working on that one.
Andrew, however, by all indications was a strict disciplinarian with the children who came after Mary Ellen; however, the war would take him away the following year, and he would not return to Somerset until the Civil War was over. By that time, his one and only child, Mary Ellen, would have been five years old. From that point on, family lore has it that Mary Ellen was demonstrably spoiled.
Mary Ellen was married a first time to a man from New Jersey, an apparent travelling salesman. This was a shotgun wedding, but I have not been able to document what exactly happened to her son. I do believe that Andrew and Susan reared him but as yet cannot prove it. The family is also not sure what happened to her husband. She left the state for awhile, but she came back and married again. That marriage ended in divorce.
Mary Ellen married my great-grandfather, Richard Goff, in 1891. She gave birth to Andrew Montgomery on June 28, 1892 and Icy May in 1984. I remember my grandfather talking about his mother. His father, Richard, died on November 23, 1906, when he was 14. Mary Ellen moved back in with Andrew and Susan. Andrew played the fiddle, and he's the one who taught my grandfather to play. They were very poor, and that was their only form of entertainment.
At some point, Mary Ellen started taking her children to church at Pittman Creek Baptist Church. The lived in a little patch of dirt called Strawberry, Kentucky. When Andrew turned 16, he got work on the barges moving on the Cumberland River. Icy married Colonel Heath in 1910. Andrew married Nellie Hughes on April 29, 1913. I know from my father's recollection that Mary Ellen became ill in the fall of 1917 and died on January 3, 1918.
I have only superficial documentation of her death, at this point, but she is interred in Love's Cemetery next to her mother and father. However, this is a detail that puzzles me. The only reason I can think of why she isn't buried along side of her husband is that he is buried along side of his first wife. This would be reasonable if we knew that Richard's first wife, Dicey, had died and was buried in Rushbranch Cemetery. This throws a wrench into the idea that Dicey divorced Richard and moved to Iowa. Regardless, Mary Ellen is interred in Love's, and the name on her tombstone says, Stephens, not Goff. I can only suppose that since her mother outlived her, Susan put her name on the stone, not thinking it should have said Goff. I can't really be sure until I find more documentation. The last time I visited Love's Cemetery, however, Mary Ellen's tombstone had been damaged by a falling tree. Sadly, I'm certain it has not been repaired.
Mary Ellen, by all indications, was a head strong woman with a mind of her own. Andrew and Susan spoiled her, and she probably spent more time that most building her Christian testimony. Legend has it that she was musical like her father and son, and she could also read and write. I can also see that Mary Ellen is where Dad got his square jaw and ears that stick out at the top. I can't wait to meet her someday soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

That DNA Thing

I'm a little blogging challenged today in that I could not seem to get three pictures into one post. I'd go to move one around and then lose it. When you get past 45 it happens.
Anyway, the point I was going to make in one post is this: That DNA thing sure is something, isn't it? I was looking at these pictures and was suddenly shocked to see the face that kept repeating itself.
I never knew my great-grandfather, and I was four when my grandfather died. I do remember him. He sat in what seemed like a big comfy chair by the door of grandma's living room. Grandma kept magazines inside the footstool that went with the chair. We called him Pop! Whenever I would run in the door and try to run past his chair, he would always grab me and kiss my face. He'd turn me upside down, and I remember laughing and screaming.
Uncle Buddy was a wonderful uncle. He would always talk politics or history with me, and he never ever made feel bad if I disagreed with him, unlike a couple of his kids. I always knew he cared deeply for my mom and her family. Our families always spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together, and when I was younger, we would always try to get together several times during the summer. I always felt close to his children; his daughter, Rhonda, was the matron of honor at my wedding. I would post a picture of Steve, Buddy's oldest son, but I haven't asked him for permission yet. That Webb face continues to repeat itself.
That DNA thing surely is amazing.


John "Spoony" Webb, father to John Henry Webb, grandfather to Buddy Webb.

John Henry Webb

Uncle Buddy

James Lonnie (Buddy) Webb, son of John Henry Webb.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where Is Dicey?

My great-grandfather, Richard Goff, was born in 1855, the only surviving child of William Monty Goff and Rebecca Gover. Rebecca died in 1857, five days before her infant son, Samuel died. Rebecca's death certificate says that she died of a cold, but since she died five days after Samuel's birth, in today's vernacular, we might say that she died of complications from childbirth. Rebecca is presumably buried in the Gover cemetery outside of Somerset, Kentucky. However, there is no marker and no way to pin point where she is interred.
Richard was two when William married Lucinda Cash, and from all indications from family members, he grew up a healthy, happy person. Richard married Dicey sometime around 1872; he would have been 17. They had five children, Barbara Ann, b. 1874, Mary (Mollie,) b. 1876, William G. (Willie,) b. 1877, Rebecca, b. 1880 and Oscar Eli, b. 1882. The 1880 U.S. Census, shows Richard as head of household, with wife, Dicey, and four children. The 1890 Census shows Richard with five children. Richard married Mary Ellen Stephens in 1891. Mary Ellen gave birth to Andrew Montgomery in 1892, and Icy in 1894.
The burning question is what happened to Dicey, and who was she really? One family historian says she was Dicey Stephens, but the only records I have found on Dicey Stephens were one born in 1830 who would be too old, and one born in 1875, who would be quite young. Although the latter Dicey Stephens would be a possible mate, it is unlikely, because she was the younger sister of Mary Ellen, Richard's second wife, and she would have been 15 at the time Richard and Mary Ellen were married.
Another family historian says emphatically that she was not Dicey Stephens. She was Dicey Emeline Ping. I tend to believe this historian who says Dicey left Richard for another man and migrated with him to Iowa, never to be seen nor heard from again. This is a plausible theory, but it's only that, culled from old legends as to what might have actually happened.
Andrew Goff was, of course, my grandfather. He remained somewhat close to Eli until Eli's death. My father, Paul, remained on terms with Charles, Eli's son, until my father died in 2005. My father and Uncle Richard had vivid memories of Willie paying visits to their home in Ludlow when they were younger. Yet in all their memories, none of them knew anything about Dicey. Charles knows nothing about Dicey, and she was his grandmother. He'd like to know.
There is no marriage record or divorce record for Richard and Dicey. There is, however, a marriage record for Richard and Mary Ellen. I asked my father if he thought it was possible that the travelling preacher just never made it through Burnside to "legally" marry Richard and Dicey. My father thought that was possible but not likely, since at that time, the Goffs were members of the Central Christian Church in Somerset. When Richard married Mary Ellen, the Goffs entered the Pittman Creek Baptist Church. Neither church has records of Richard and Dicey, but Pittman Creek has records of Richard and Mary Ellen.
The Goffs and the Pings are intertwined throughout family history. Two of Richard's aunts were married to Ping brothers. Richard's great-grandmother, Matilda, married a Ping following her divorce from John Pointer. (That must have been a scandal!) I do believe Dicey was a Ping. I believe that, however, with no shred of legitimate proof! Fortunately, for my line, it doesn't really matter, as my great-grandmother was Mary Ellen. I just want to know!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Olympic Games Are Open

How many of you watched the opening of the Olympic games in Beijing? I admit I was glued from beginning to end. The site of all those young people with the ancient drums mesmerized me with their synchronization. I loved the ballet artists painting as they danced, and the artistry of the Tao chi. I loved the costuming and fireworks. It was all amazing, and I found myself being sincerely happy for the Chinese people.
I was fortunate to have been able to attend an Olympic event outside of Atlanta back in 1996, the kayak and whitewater events in Chattanooga. I remember how genuinely connected the people were, yet from all over the world. We all sat there as one audience. When one athlete suffered a mishap, it didn't matter where he or she was from, what mattered was their safety. Were they okay?
A group of Slovenian nationals sat immediately behind my friends and me. Slovenia had recently separated from Czechoslovakia, and there were Czech Republic nationals near us as well. The Slovenians couldn't remember their national anthem, so they sang the old Czech anthem. The Czech visitors joined them, and it was truly a moving moment, that transcended the long security checks that had preceded the start of the games and the $5.00 Cokes!
For a brief moment, the world seemed very small. Not small in the way the Internet makes it small, but small in the way God made it small. The same God that I worship here in the United States is the same God that created the rest of the world, and some would say, long before He created this little part of it. What I am trying to say is, that in that moment, that brief little moment, the brotherhood of man was not just a noble idea, but it was reality. If only that reality existed between Olympic games, wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

William Monty Goff 1833 - 1900

William Monty Goff was born August 17, 1833 to Richard Goff and Nancy Goff (nee Pointer.) Pulaski County had been carved out of Lincoln and Green Counties in 1799. The frontier was still untamed, and the Goffs lived on the south side of the Cumberland River, in the little village of Burnside.
The Goffs were farmers, and William was taught to work the land. William was the first of seven children. The family was probably not poor but was certainly not wealthy. They eked out an existence, and the children were educated at least to the sixth grade.
William married Rebecca Ann Gover on the 20th of November, 1853 when he was 20 years old, and Rebecca was two years his junior. Their first child, Richard, was born in November, 1854, but he lived for only a few months. One year later, Rebecca gave birth to another son, whom they also named Richard. The couple had one more child, Samuel, who died five days after his mother, on August 25, 1857. William was alone with a two year old little boy.
The Cash family lived north of the Cumberland River, closer to what became the Rockcastle County line. It is unknown how William made the acquaintance of one Lucinda Cash, but he did; and they were married on February 14, 1859. Lucinda gave William twelve more children; Andrew, Elvira, Nancy "Nanny," Malvina "Vinnie," Alice Belle, Wiley Addison, Amanda Sophia, Cordelia, Johnny, Elizabeth, Harvey and Sarah.
William and Lucinda worked the land that lies just south of the Rockcastle County line. Goff descendants still reside on their farm, and the footprint of their log cabin remains. William Monty Goff can be found in the U.S. Census from 1860 through 1890. Evidence of his life is also available through birth records, marriage records, tax records and death records.
William died on September 13, 1900 and is interred in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery. Lucinda rests beside him. Their son Andrew lies beside Lucinda. All of William's children are interred in cemeteries in Pulaski County. Richard Goff is buried in Rushbranch Cemetery outside of Burnside. However, there was no tombstone, and his grave has not been located.
William's descendants are farmers, bankers, railroaders, machinists, doctors, lawyers and college professors. Although he lived a modest life, that was tragic in many respects, he gave his children a proud and noble heritage. The Goff family is scattered across the lower 48 states, but Kentucky will always be home.

Webb Ancestors at Home Reprise

I love to visit cemeteries, especially old cemeteries. The Webb Cemetery is not easy to get to, it's on the side of a mountain in Scott County, Tennessee, in the heart of the Cumberland Mountains. I couldn't begin to tell you where Carpenter's Cemetery is, but it's close to the Webb Cemetery. I've been there, but my father was driving. If I had to, I might be able to get there again.

My great-grandparents are buried in the Webb Cemetery, as are my great-aunts Laura, Martha and Annie. My great-uncles, Wil, Jim and Benny are also buried in the Webb Cemetery.

My great-great-grandparent, Martha Webb is buried in Carpenter's Cemetery.
She's actually buried in an old-style top of the ground crypt, with this lonely marker at the head of her grave. It simply says, Martha Webb, born, April 10, 1845, died 1876. The exact date is not decipherable. We know, however, that this is Martha the Mysterious because she is buried next to Willis and Margaret, her parents.

It was sad to find the graves of my ancestors in such disrepair. The stones are falling away from the walls. The pompous grass planted at the foot of each grave adds an element of hope, an exclamation mark that proudly says, "We are not here!"
I hold to that promise that I will meet them in the by and by, and we will know one another as family. All those things that fall away and decay will no longer stand in the way. Praise God! I can't wait to give them all big warm hugs and tell them how I do love them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Morgan's Raiders Historical Marker

Welcome to Augusta!

I thought I'd take a moment and write about my hometown, Augusta, Kentucky. Augusta is located on the Ohio River, 35 miles to the east of Northern Kentucky, and 12 miles from Maysville, Kentucky. Although it's the largest city in Bracken County, it is not the county seat, that would be Brooksville.

Augusta was settled in 1781 as part of a Revolutionary War Grant by Virginia to Captain Philip Buckner. Buckner returned to Virginia, however, but came back to Augusta in 1796 with 40 families. In 1795, the Kentucky Legislature incorporated the City of Augusta, and trustees were established. Buckner deeded the City 600 acres.
Augusta was the county seat of Bracken County until 1830, when it was moved to Brooksville. The original courthouse is still standing and currently inhabited. In the early 1800s Augusta became a popular river port, with hemp, tobacco, corn, livestock and wine being its top trading commodities. The ferry service is one of the oldest operating ferries in the country, having been in operation since April 2, 1798.
In September 1862, Colonel Basil Duke led 350 of Morgan's Raiders against the city of Augusta with Colonel Joshua Bradford leading 150 of the home guard and three gunboats in the harbor. The gunboats, however, abandoned their posts, leaving Augusta vulnerable to the raiders. A hand to hand battle ensued in the middle of town where 35 men lost their lives. A monument to the 11 unknown Confederate Soldiers was erected in town.
More recently, Augusta has been a sleepy rural town. The ferry still operates, but it is no longer the trading port it once was. Agriculture is still king in the county, but tourism accounts for the largest part of the city's annual revenues. Clopay owns a manufacturing plant in Augusta and is a major employer.
As much as the river has aided in the development of Augusta, it has also been detrimental. The floods of 1937 and 1997 are far from memories. While many homes were washed away, the city held onto its character, turning much of the remaining green space into parks. The old southern architecture along Riverside Drive has been restored. The Rosemary Clooney Museum has been opened to the public since 2006 and draws thousands of tourists each year.
This is my hometown, Augusta, Kentucky.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sarah Hamby Webb

Sarah Hamby Webb was my great-grandmother, although I never knew her. She was born in 1865 and died in 1938.

Sarah was born to Elizabeth Cromwell Hamby and William Hamby at the end of the Civil War. She married John "Spoony" Webb about 1883, and she gave birth to Will, Jim, Martha, Laura, Lucy, Bertha, Annie and John Henry. John Henry Webb was my grandfather, my mother's father.

Sarah is described by the people who knew her as "a gentle soul" filled with grace and kindness. Not much is known about her childhood, except that she was raised on Hamby Mountain, and was probably no better or worse off than any of the neighbors around them. Bill Hamby was a farmer and Eliza was a homemaker. Sarah moved into the Webb family home when she and "Spoony" were married, and it was there that all her children were born.

Sarah & Spoony moved to Ludlow, Kentucky in 1930 to be closer to their children who had already migrated in search of work. Sarah moved on to be with the Lord in the spring of 1938, and she boarded a train one final time. The Southern Railroad that brought Sarah to Northern Kentucky took her home. Sarah lies in repose in the Webb Cemetery in Glenmary, Tennessee.

New Look For an Old Soul

It had never occurred to me that white print on a dark blue page would be difficult to read, and for that I do apologize. Sometimes I forget myself when I see something that resembles Kentucky Blue.
I may change the look some more before I get something that I really like, but ya'll, please hang in there with me. I got plenty more to say about the Goffs, Webbs, Grimes, Dodsons, Hambys, Cromwells, Stephens... oh my... I just might get back to Abraham iffin I keeps this up!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Webb Ancestors at Home in Glenmary

Glenmary, Tennessee is a small patch in the road. Located in the Cumberland Mountains, drive too fast, blink and you will miss it. I've only been there once in my life, but let me tell you, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Visiting the cemeteries where my ancestors are interred has to be one of the more emotional moments in my quest for family history. Standing there in Carpenter's Cemetery, looking at the graves of my gg-grandmother and ggg-grandparents, distant cousins, I had this sense that they knew I was there. No, I'm not talking about hearing voices or disassociating from my self. I'm talking about this serene feeling that I was standing in the presence of that great cloud of witnesses, and they were pleased that I paid them a visit.

This photograph is of my family in front of the old Webb home place in Glenmary. I haven't been able to date the picture yet, although I'm working on it. My mother and my aunts believe this is the only remaining picture of Margaret Webb (nee Stewart.) For that to be true, the picture must date back to the turn of the 20th Century, because she died in 1912. That would have been two years after my grandfather was born, and my mother believes that her aunts and uncles knew their grandmother, for she raised their father. My own grandfather would have been too young, of course, but his siblings were were much older than he.

My hope and prayer is that by putting this picture out there on the Internet, my extended Webb family, whom I've never known, may recognized someone in the photograph and get in touch with me. I want to know more, and I can't know enough or too much about these people who watch me run my own race.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


The one think that makes for a love/hate relationship when researching ancestors is a legend. Every family has legends that surface every time there is a reunion. Sometimes legends have more than one protagonist, several antagonists, and several sub-plots and plot twists.
One such legend that always surfaces among the Goffs is, "When the pilgrims were landing on the Mayflower, the Goffs were already here." This is probably true, but proving it is another matter. Since nobody has actually documented the parentage of my ggg-grandfather, Richard Goff, it is pretty hard to document how we get back to the Jamestown Settlement from here.
Another such legend is that of my gg-grandmother, Martha Webb. Martha was born to Willis and Margaret Webb (nee Stewart) in 1845. My great-grandfather, John "Spoony" Webb, was born in 1865. There are all sorts of tales about how Margaret Webb hid her children away inside of caves so that the Yankees wouldn't shoot her boys or rape her daughters. The east Tennessee hills must have been a horrible place during the war, particularly since the volunteer state was the first to fall to the Yankee juggernaut. However, legend has it that Martha was raped by a soldier boy of Cherokee descent who had worked for her father as a farm laborer prior to the war. After his treacherous deed, the boy went off to war, and did not return to make an honest woman out of Miss Martha. Consequently, the legend says that Martha willed herself to die after her son was born, leaving John "Spoony" to be reared by her parents.
Now, none of this story can be documented. Even though it is the story that has been told since 1865! We know the Civil War ended in 1865. John "Spoony" was born in May of that year. It is possible that his father went off to enlist. It is also possible that such a story was invented so as to disguise the promiscuity of Miss Martha. The only thing we can know for certain, is that Martha died and is interred in Carpenter's Cemetery outside of Glenmary, Tennessee, resting quietly next to her parents. Her tombstone displays only her name, Martha Webb, and the word "daughter."
Legends have no place in serious genealogy, unless, of course, they can be proven by documentation. Legends, however, are the very things that make family history exciting. They give poignancy to otherwise very ordinary existences. History is written by scolars while ordinary everyday people are making it every single day. We need the legends and the oral histories of our parents and grandparents, because we need to know the people who made the way for us. It would just be a whole lot better if they could be easily proven.

It Is Well With My Soul

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Richard Goff (b. 1810)

Richard Goff was born in 1810 in Pulaski County, Kentucky. He married Nancy Pointer in Pulaski County, on March 25, 1831. Nancy's mother, Matilda Bradley Ping, put up the bond. This is the only record that's been found of Richard Goff's existence. There are several possibilities as to whom his parents might have been, but the stone that holds the Excalibur of knowledge has not yet been revealed.
Richard and Nancy had seven children, William Monty, Andrew Jackson, Alvin, Almira, Fountain, George and Matilda Frances. Records exist for all of Richard's children. Tax records, land records, births, marriages and deaths, all testify to the fact that Richard Goff's children were here. Andrew died in Missouri at the start of the War Between the States. George could have been a victim in an Agatha Christie novel; "George Goff disappears following the death of his wife. What happened to him? Is he alive? Is he dead?" Nevertheless, there is a record of George having been born, living and being wed. William married twice and spawned twelve children. His descendants are sprawled across the continent. Fountain also married, as did Almira, Alvin and Matilda. There are records proving they were here.
Richard (1810) is how this man is known among his descendants. We know he died in 1865, but we don't know where or how. We know this because of one reference in an old family Bible. We know that he and Nancy were buried side by side in a cemetery that no longer exists today. It was among many whose residents were disinterred by the Tennessee Valley Authority to make way for Lake Cumberland. Many of those were re- interred in other cemeteries, but we suspect that Richard was probably buried in a pine casket with no vault. There was likely no tombstone, and identification of remains from an unmarked grave would have been impossible in those days.
He was a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather. He was loved, possibly hated. He was a farmer. Richard (1810) truly belongs to the ages, but he did exist.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Rebecca Belle Dodson Grimes McCloud Cole, better known as Belle, was born May 15, 1889, and died March 25, 1986. Belle was my great-grandmother on my mother's side. By the time I came along, Belle was already an old 69 years, a hard fiery Cherokee woman with a heart as big as Oklahoma. This is her story.
Belle was born in White County, Tennessee, the first child of Emily Bowlin Dodson and the seventh child of Sam Dodson. Legend has it that Sam was 3/4 Cherokee, and judging by Belle's dark piercing eyes, high cheekbones and porcelain skin, there was probably an element of truth to it. Growing up poor on the plateau of the Cumberland Mountains, Belle's education was sparse. She did, however, finish grammar school, which at that time, was the sixth grade.
By the time she was 15, Belle was living in Oklahoma Indian Territory where Sam Dodson was running a boarding house. It was there, outside of Broken Bow, that she met the rogue and rounder, Lonnie Grimes. Being that it meant one less mouth to feed, Sam and Emily, gave their blessing to a marriage that sent Belle back to Tennessee.
In 1907, Belle boarded a train with her new husband and travelled to Whitwell, Tennessee. Lonnie Grimes was a player, however, and it didn't take long for Belle to figure out that he still had some running around to get out of his system. Lonnie travelled around by horse and carriage or by train, going from one depot to another, one poker game to another, and Belle had had enough. Belle used to say, "That Lonnie Grimes gambled away half of White County before he finally give it up."
Belle was hanging laundry outside on the clothes line, when one day, out of nowhere, her husband showed up at her gate. All set to ask for an annulment of her marriage, a storm blew up, and they went inside their little shack. Lonnie Grimes never left home again until he died of typhoid in February 1914.
Belle gave birth to her first child, Virgie Belle in 1910. Lena Mae came along in 1912. Lonnie Edward was born in June 1914, four months following the death of his father. Alone with no money, Belle boarded the train back to White County, where her mother, Emily, was now living. She moved in with Emily and set about doing odd jobs - ironing clothes, baking pies, cleaning houses - to make a little money. She married Casto McCloud sometime around 1918 and gave birth to Hubert in 1919.
Casto worked in the coal mines all along the Cumberland Plateau. He drank heavily and often took out his rage on Belle and her children. Belle and Casto divorced sometime around 1935. It was the height of the Great Depression, but for Belle, that would not have meant anything, because she had known no other way but dirt poor. In 1938, she met Elmer Cole, a widower with a six month old daugther. Belle and Elmer married, and Belle suddenly had another daughter, Rilda Dean.
Elmer Cole gave Belle the one thing in life she had never had, a peaceful home. Elmer was a quiet mountain of a man who worked in the coal mines. He moved his family to Crossville, Cumberland County, to a little asbestos shingled house on the outskirts of town.
I spent many summers at Grandma Belle's house in Tennessee. Her home is a series of snapshots in the my mind that I'll never lose. That little blue-green house had a front porch with a rocking chair. Out in front of the house was a little vegetable garden, to the side, chickens pecked the ground. A cornfield was in the back of the house and beyond that was the outhouse, a tiny building of aged pine, with three depositories. That outhouse stunk to high heaven, which is why it was so far away from the house!
Upon entering the front door, was the living room, small and painted an olive green. A long couch was against the front wall, while Elmer's brownish red vinyl recliner (usually with Elmer in it) was positioned immediately across from it. A coal stove took up a huge part of the living room, but it rarely burned in the summer time or early fall. There was an old Zenith console television that was never turned on, and just above the rabbit ears was a picture of Rilda Dean hanging on the wall.
Off to the right were bedrooms and to the back was the kitchen. There was a picture of Sam Dodson over the kitchen table. In Lena's bedroom, which became the guest bedroom whenever Grandma Virgie and I would visit, hung a portrait of Lonnie Grimes. The walls in the bedrooms were papered by newspaper, but the beds were pure feather down with heavy wool blankets and homemade quilts.
I remember the smells that emanated from Grandma Belle's kitchen. She always had a pot of pinto beans on the stove, sometimes cooking with a ham in them, other times just a slab of fatback, but they always tasted as good as they smelled. Since Belle's family went to the bed with the chickens and got up with the roosters, breakfast was the big meal of the day, but all the meals were meant to sustain a person through the work that needed doing.
Elmer Cole died in the early part of 1979, and Belle left her little farm and moved into the Crossville city limits. At 90 years old, Belle finally had hot and cold running water. She had three bedrooms and an indoor bathroom, but she wouldn't enjoy it long. In 1982, Belle broke her hip and never recovered. Her memory slowly but surely faded away as did her strength and zest for life.
Belle died on March 25, 1986 at Cumberland Medical Center, leaving behind, two sons and three daughters, 12 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren, and six great great grandchildren. Belle lies beside Elmer at the Green Acres Memory Gardens in Crossville, Cumberland County, Tennessee. In spite of the hard times that Belle knew all her life, she remained a devout Christian. She is undoubtedly among the Great Cloud of Witnesses watching her descendants run our races and cheering us home.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Andy & Nellie

Andrew Montgomery Goff was born, July 23, 1892, and Nellie Hughes Goff was born, July 10, 1892. Andy was the son of Richard and Mary Ellen Goff (nee Stephens,) of Somerset, Kentucky. Nellie was the daughter of Bud and Mattie Hughes, also of Somerset.

Andy used to talk about the first time he saw Nellie in almost fairy-tale prose. She was running across the meadow with her long red hair blowing in the wind, and she was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen. They eloped to Huntsville, Tennessee and were married by Justice of the Peace, James McDonald, on April 29, 1913.

Andy found work on the river barges, moving coal up and down the Cumberland River, while Nellie set up housekeeping. Their first child, Herbert, came along on February 28, 1914, but died on March 21, 1914. John Milton Goff came along on June 20, 1915, followed by Thelma, born February 12, 1920.

By 1920, Andy was working for the Southern Railroad, and he moved his family to Ludlow, Kentucky to become a foreman. They moved into the section house, a home owned by the railroad. Nellie would give birth to three more children, Richard on November 17, 1924, Paul Martin on June 12, 1927 and Abel on April 2, 1930.

The child rearing and discipline fell to Nellie, as Andy's job took him away from home five days out of the week. The depression hit the Goff family hard, as they were beyond poor but still had it better than some, since Andy always had work. Five children tried the patience of the fiery redhead who was known for her Irish temper. Nellie sometimes took drastic measures to keep her children in line. One legend that surfaces at every family reunion is about the time she tied Johnny to a tree to teach him not to run away from home!

Andy and Nellie were strict Southern Baptists. That defined who they were and how they lived their lives. Andy believed in the cooperation of churches to advance missions. He believed in that old fashioned, soul saving grace. Members of the First Baptist Church of Ludlow, Kentucky, Nellie attended as often as she could when her health permitted. Andy sported a perfect attendance pin 35 years of faithful service. They reared their children in the church, and when they were grown, they too reared their families in the church.

Andy retired in 1955, and with all his children married and on their own, he and Nellie bought a little home in Covington, Kentucky. The house on 18th Street is where they were living when I would come to know them. I can remember walking up the steps and into the front door. On the left was their master bedroom. Walking past that, the living room was a big open room with two huge windows that Nellie had covered with venetian blinds and white lace curtains. There was a couch on the front wall, and two chairs on both side walls. The main attraction, though, was the huge black iron wood stove with the smell of Andy's cornbread emanating from within.

The kitchen was simple with linoleum floors, white walls. It was very utilitarian with a stove and refrigerator and a table with six chairs. Nellie's signature dish was chicken and dumplings, and that is what she served whenever the family gathered there for dinner. Dinner was often followed by Andy playing his fiddle or banjo.

Nellie died on December 4, 1972, five months shy of being married sixty years. After Nellie died, Andy moved in with his youngest son, Abel. Abel's wife, Cora, took care of Andy when Andy could no longer care for himself. In the four years following Nellie's death, Andy got weaker and weaker until congestive heart failure finally took him home in May, 1976.

Andy and Nellie are together now in Gloryland. They watched the big Goff Reunion of 2004 from the Great Cloud of Witnesses, and must have been overjoyed by those of us who came together. Strangers met at Appalachian Park in Renfro Valley and came away family. Relationships were made that will endure forever, despite distance and absence. The Goff legacy is well established.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Miranda is Phil's daughter and my step-daughter. When Phil and I met, she was still in college at KY Wesleyan. Then she went on to Vanderbilt for her MTS, and she eventually graduated from UT Law School. In 2006, Miranda married David Head, and they live in Tennessee, where Miranda practices law.
This young lady is one of the most focused, driven persons I've ever known, and she has her own mind with the courage to give it voice. She plays the piano quite well and continues to study. Apparently, she is also quite the golfer and plays regularly.
We are extremely proud of Miranda for the way she chooses to live her life and the light she brings to the world.

The Great River

This is the Rio Grande, the photo taken standing on the dam outside of Del Rio, Texas. The right side of the river is Mexico; the left is Texas.

Standing on the dam, it is easy to imagine standing on a bridge that crosses Jordan. Loved ones are on both sides, those we leave behind, and those standing in that great cloud of witnesses. The bridge across Jordan is a bridge built by love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us.

Kids Upstage the Preacher

This has to be every performer's worst nightmare, to be in the middle of a performance and be upstaged by a kid. Vacation Bible School began yesterday evening. Following the parade of classes and the pledges to the flags and Bible, Rev. Tony spoke to the children about Jesus. He used a "rubics" cube of sorts to explain the redemption story.
At the first the cube displayed a picture of a man in the dark and a very bright light, meant to be God. Then he showed Jesus on the cross. Then he showed the tomb with the stone in front of it and the Roman soldiers standing guard. Then he showed Jesus on the outside of the tomb.
Suddenly one of the boys shouted, "Wait a minute! How'd he get past those guards?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Time to Discuss Phil

Philip Andrew Christy is the one and only reason I would have ever moved to Bracken County. We met while I was leading the music at the fall revival of First Baptist Church of Augusta in October, 1999. Yes, that was the revival that would change the course of my life.
I didn't like Phil very much when I first met him. He was arrogant and something of a smart Alec. On our first date, we went to Tumbleweed in Florence. Dinner was awful, and we argued the entire time. Phil, being a pilot, kept telling me how I would eventually want to learn to fly, even though, I kept telling him that I had absolutely no more interest in flying a plane than running my fingernails down a chalkboard.
When he took me home, he told me he was going to Texas for a week, and would I call him while he was there. I remember saying to him, "Are you crazy? I wouldn't call you if you were in Kentucky, and I'm surely not going to call you in Texas." The week went by, and I didn't call him, nor did he call me. When he returned to Kentucky, however, he did call and asked if I'd like to get together. I told him I didn't think we had very much in common and we probably shouldn't pursue anything.
Then I had to get together with my friend, Susan, who proceeded to tell me that I was being a stubborn and spoiled brat; and if I wasn't going to call Phil back, she would! So, from Susan's house, I did call him back, and the rest, as they say, is history! Phil and I were married on January 9, 2000, at the First Baptist Church of Augusta. We moved into a really nice apartment in Florence, and I became Property Valuation Administrator for Boone County the very next day. Phil continued to work for Comair.
The first year of our marriage was tricky because we were both so busy. During that year, 2000, I got married for the first time, accepted a public job that would be scrutinized, (or so it seemed,) by the world, bought a house, and ran an unsuccessful political campaign. Phil accepted a new job, bought a house, and watched me run an unsuccessful campaign. Somehow, we got through it.
We've been married 8 1/2 years. Phil hated Boone County, so we bought a farm and built a house in Bracken County. I don't hate Bracken County, but it will never be home. All that aside, I love Phil with all my heart. There are times I really hate him, but thankfully, those times are few. Fundamentally, we are the same. We're both Christians. We both believe in the infallibility of the Bible, although we sometimes interpret it very differently. We laugh together, and Phil puts up with my "stuff."
He accepts that I fight with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Fybromyalgia. He accepts that I'm a diabetic and an asthmatic. He accepts my migraine headaches. He accepts my two dogs and five cats (although the cats come in and out of his grace.)
My house is something that Phil built with his own two hands. Every nail that's hammered in this house was put here by Phil or his brother, John. He is in the process of building a deck. Phil is second most talented man I've known, the first being my dad. He is intelligent beyond belief, although he was not so successful with his own education. He can read for a flight exam and pass it with a 99% grade! Currently, he drives a truck for a living, which he says he hates, but he works because I can no longer. That isn't something he signed on for, but he's here.