Monday, January 26, 2009

Aunt Lucy & Aunt Annie Early 1900s

Automobiles and Train Stations

I love this old photograph. From left to right is Aunt Lucy Webb Bieber, Sarah Hamby Webb, Virgie Grimes Webb and John "Spoony" Webb. The children are Reba (my mother) and Buddy Webb.
My mother was born in 1930 and Buddy in 1931; and given that Buddy looks to be about four, I'd mark this picture as having been taken in 1935. I'm not certain of the setting, but it looks to be the old rail yard in Ludlow, Kentucky, during the height of the Great Depression.
I know that my grandfather did not have a car, because I have heard my mother talk about how Pop had to pay to walk across the railroad bridge to get to Cincinnati in order to look for work. I've never heard mention Spoony Webb having an automobile; although it is quite possible that Aunt Lucy's husband, Fred Bieber, may have had one. It is entirely possible, even probable, that they merely had their pictures taken in front of these cars because they were "just there."
Every picture I have ever seen of Spoony Webb, he is wearing a tie. Sarah is always wearing what appears to be a cotton house dress. "Presentable" is a word that comes to mind. The Webbs were poor during the depression, but the entire family had moved from the farm in Glenmary, Tennessee to Ludlow, Kentucky. Being in the city provided comforts not afforded to them in Tennessee; so the little they had was more than they had left behind.
Having said that, they must have longed for the farm and the old home place. Sarah and Spoony are buried in the Webb Cemetery in Glenmary, Tennessee, where four of their children rest nearby. When the railroad came through Glenmary, it opened the world for the Webb family. They left Tennessee on a train; and when they took their last ride home again... well... it was on a train.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grandma Webb

This is one of my favorite pictures. It's about 30 years old and probably taken at Christmas. This is my Grandma Virgie with four of her grandchildren. That's Virgie Grimes Webb on the left. Seated on the floor are Rhonda Webb and me. Jeff and Steve Webb are seated on the couch. Jeff was in from the service; Rhonda was still in middle school; Steve was married to Sandi, but I don't think Brian and Jonathan were here yet. I was home from college at Morehead State.

I love the innocence on our faces. We weren't shackled by mortgages, tuition, jobs we didn't like. We still understood what it meant to live in the moment.

Holidays found us gathered around the table for a huge meal, followed by presents, and usually, games. We played lots of games like Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Euchre and Pictionary. If Grandma played, she usually won. Grandma Virgie taught us all how to play Chinese Checkers. To this day, nobody in my family will let me play Chinese Checkers because, just like Grandma always won, well, let's just say, she taught me very well.

This picture was taken when I still felt close to my cousins. I idolized Steve, and Jeff was more like a brother. I miss those days, but I'm so grateful to have had them. I miss Grandma Virgie more than words can say. She would have been exceedingly happy today, watching history unfold as we usher in a new era for American democracy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Southern Authors

I am going to take the time to write about something other than family history today. I'm going to use my blog as a place to vent about a trend that is bothering me. Southern Writers.
I long for southern writers like Eudora Welty, Jesse Stuart or William Faulkner. I don't understand why so many southern fiction writers go out of their way to make southern people look silly. Most of the southern people I know are wonderful. They are smart, funny, educated. Even the ones who aren't particularly well educated are perfectly delightful people whom I am proud to call family and friends. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about some of the characters in some of the books I've read lately.
I was reading Margaret Maron's book, Death's Half Acre, and found rum runners, white folk who live in the big house and black folk who live in the sharecropper house. I realize this may have been the way it was even 50 years ago, but is this truly the way the south should be depicted now? I am reading Sandra Brown's book, Witness, and it is filled with racist creatures who won't invite the town "colored folk" to a wedding, hill jacks who take to vigilante justice when the courts don't suit their liking. This last one is a filled with suspense, and I think there is at least a repudiation of that backward way of living; and the protagonist is a southerner herself. Thus, Brown's book has a redeeming quality.
Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I love the south. My family hails from the south! But for crying out loud! The war is over. The powder is no longer burning! Every state that tried to succeed from the union has had full representation in government since the day Lee signed the surrender at Appomattox! Can't we please move on?
I want to read about the struggles of the southern people, but I don't want to read the stereotypes that for far too long we have allowed to remain part of our daily education. I want to read about the descendant of slaves who became a stalwart of the community. I want to read about the white/black conciliation, and the journey toward understanding. I don't want to read anymore about rum runners who are powerful because folks are still afraid of them! I don't want to read a chapter about how to fry pork chops unless I'm reading a cookbook. I want to read about southerners from an author, an wordsmith, who truly respects the culture, where it has been, where it is now and where it is going.
Thank you ever so much for allowing me to use this forum to vent. I welcome comments and discussion.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Margaret Stewart Webb

I've posted this picture before, but I'm bringing it back because I have recently become acquainted with a lady who had information about Margaret Stewart Webb that I didn't have. Although I have not documented this, and I am trusting her that documentation exists within the Morgan Co./Scott Co., TN Historical Societies, I am posting it anyway. The reason I do so is because her story rings true to what has been handed down through the generations from my family.
Margaret Stewart was born around 1828 in what is now Morgan County, Tennessee. Her family was of very humble means. She met Willis Webb while in school, and they married in 1941. Willis and Margaret moved from the Webb homestead to a hillside where they Willis built her their first home, wherein she gave birth to her first five children, William, Samuel, Hiram, Martha and Nancy. (Martha is my gg-grandmother.)
She had a sheep that she kept for wool. She would shear the sheep herself to make clothes. One night she spent all evening carding wool, and the next morning all her wool was gone. She finally found it under the floor of the house where a pack rat had carried it. She had to dig a place under the floor so she could crawl under and get her wool. She could not afford to lose it. (Flo Zimmer)
My great grandfather was known for his sheep and the wool from it. I have several blankets that were made from carded sheep that were raised on the Webb farm.
In 1853, Willis built the family a home made from chestnut logs. The house in this picture is that old homeplace. The Webbs lived here until the the farm was sold in the 1970s.
During the Civil War they lived on the borderline between Yanks and Rebels. Willis left to join the Anion Army. He had their home nearly finished (this must be the house you were talking about of chestnut logs) except for the doors and windows and the neighbors helped her put them in. Then eldest son Samuel was 18 and he and some neighbors sons hid out in a cave in the hills to avoid being forced into the Rebel Army. At night when her other children were asleep, Margaret would slip out, get on an old white work horse and ride through the woods to take food to the boys. She had to be careful and not run into any Rebel soldiers, who would raid the farmers for food, clothes, cows and horses. When the Rebels were in the area she would hang her red petticoat on the line to show the boys there was danger. When it was safe she would hang her tablecloth on the line to invite the boys for food. She had to keep her horse hidden. (Flo Zimmer)
My family has stories identical to this one that have been handed down from generation to generation. It is known by the Webbs that Margaret kept her children safe, but the cost of the war on her family was tremendous.
One experience she had was with a neighbor (last name was either Redman or Hinchae). (I looked and in the census that lists Willis Webb...there also in that area was Redman's and Hinchae's). This neighbor was too old for the Army and was told that the Rebels killed men too old for conscription. When he heard they were coming this neighbor and his wife hid out in caves. When the Rebels found them gone, they told a negro slave of theirs that if they were not back by morning their home and barn would be burned. The slave didn't know what to do and came to Margaret Webb for help. She went and got her old white horse from it's hiding place and was able to bring the neighbor home just before sun-up. The Rebels let him go and didn't burn his house because he had came back. Another time when Rebels came to burn Margaret's house, she invited them in and offered them what little food she had. They searched her home and took what they wanted, but didn't burn it because of her kindness. (Flo Zimmer)
Up until this time, I did not know of the Webbs having slaves. This is something new to me, particularly since Willis chose to fight for the Yankees. I had heard stories, however, from my family in Tennessee about how the Rebels would come through and kill anybody they thought might be hiding people from the war.
When anyone died they used grandma Margaret's parlor to "lay out" the body. It did not seem to bother grandma and she'd go right to sleep, but to Siddie the thought of a dead person in the next room terrified her for weeks after --giving her nightmares.Even at 84 years of age her (Margaret's) mind was clear and bright as when she was young. On her death bed, she was able to recall for her neighbor the date her neighbor had bought his own farm and what he had paid for it. This neighbor was about to lose his farm, as the heirs of the former owner were trying to take it. She died three hours later, so to the very end of her life she served and helped her fellow man. (Flo Zimmer)
There have also been stories of funerals that took place inside the old homeplace handed down through the Webb generations. My grandma Virgie, often told of how they would "dress" the body for viewing, then "lay it out" on a table in the parlor. Somebody would have to stay up with it all night, although I'm not sure why, and if anybody knows, please enlighten me.
Margaret died when she 84 years old on her bed in the old homeplace. The year was 1912. She is buried next to Willis in Carpenter's Cemetery in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee. She surrounded by her children.
I loved learning this about my ggg-grandmother. It rings true with the legends handed down through my family, and I cannot wait to start documenting these very things.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ram Shackle Paradise

The woman in this photograph is my great grandmother, Belle Dodson Grimes McCloud Cole. The older child is my mother, Reba Webb Goff. The three children are my my second cousins.
My mother looks to be about nine or ten years old, so that dates the picture around 1940.
I love it because they look so happy. My great grandmother didn't have hot and cold running water in her house until she was 92, so this truly was what one might call a "ram shackled house." Yet, in the summers, I loved to visit her. This picture doesn't show the cornfield we had to go through to get to the privy. Nor does it show the chickens pecking around on the ground. In fact, what little Belle did have in material possessions is not seen in this picture, but when I look at it, I see love.

Aunt Thelma and Uncle Bud

Look back at the picture of Bill. Can you see why I say I always knew him? DNA really does matter.

My Cousin Bill

I didn't get to meet Bill until I was in my mid-thirties. We met at Todd's wedding. Todd is Bill's nephew and my first cousin once removed, the son of Bill's sister, Brenda.
Bill is the eldest son of my aunt Thelma Goff Buring Jeffers Buring. One could not deny that DNA matters when comparing a picture of my aunt with that of her son. I knew what Bill looked like as a child, because my father carried his picture around in his wallet all his life.
Bill was estranged from the family for most all my life. A product of divorce, Bill and his brother, Donnie, lived in the custody of their father. (I have not met Donnie to this day, although I am happy to say that my father was reunited with him prior to my father's passing in 2005.)
Having said all that, I have never not known Bill. I knew him before I knew that I knew him. Before being introduced, when I saw him across the room at Todd's wedding, I knew who he was. When he spoke, I had heard his voice before, and when he laughed, well, I you get the picture. I don't know how these things happen, whether it is the DNA that passes from one generation to the next that causes knowledge of such things, or if it was merely Bill's striking resemblance to his mother that sealed the acquaintance. Whatever it was, it was very special.
I see Bill now, if I'm lucky, about once a year. He's married to a beautiful woman, Jan, and they live not far from my mother. I love Bill. He is my cousin. He is my blood. I'm so thankful we met in this lifetime, but I would have known him in Heaven.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

John Milton Goff

John Milton Goff was born June 20, 1915 in Strawberry, Pulaski County, Kentucky. He was the second child born to Andrew Montgomery Goff and Nellie Hughes Goff.

When Johnny was seven years old, the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where Andrew became foreman for the Southern Railroad. Johnny grew up in Ludlow, Kenton County, Kentucky, the oldest of five surviving children. When Johnny was ten, he came down with rheumatic fever, and although it left scars on his heart, he would grow up to serve his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Johnny married Helen Elizabeth Houston on June 19, 1937. They had four children, Tommy, Ronnie, Darlene and Donna Sue. The family settled in Independence, Kenton County, Kentucky in a white frame house that Johnny built. His children went to Simon Kenton High School, and the family held membership at New Banklick Baptist Church, where Johnny served as deacon and lay minister. Johnny inherited his musical gene from his father, and he played the guitar and sang. Johnny and Helen traveled throughout Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana singing and preaching the Gospel.

Johnny was my uncle; my father, Paul, and he were brothers. I remember being at Uncle Johnny's when I was young. I can remember Uncle Johnny standing me up on the piano bench and saying, "Sing, Paula Kay. Sing." I can remember him playing the twelve-string guitar and he and my dad and I sang convention songs from what we called the Red Back Hymnbook. Aunt Helen always had a Broadman Hymnbook, and occasionally we'd sing from that.

Johnny died in April, 1972, at the age of 56. He joined his brother, Herbert, who had died in infancy a year before Johnny was born. They are together in that great cloud of witnesses watching the rest of us finish the race. Sometimes, I think I can almost hear the strum of the twelve-string and a far away fiddle making joyful noises to the Lord.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Photo by Paula Goff Christy, 2002
Somewhere in Texas

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thelma, the Prodigal Daughter

Thelma Goff was born in Somerset, Kentucky on February 12, 1920, the third child and only daughter to Andy and Nellie Goff.

Night had not yet come to the Cumberlands in 1920, so the Cumberland River had not yet been damned. The family lived on the outskirts of town, where Andy worked for the Southern Railroad, and Nellie kept house. When Andy accepted a foreman's position, the family moved, by train, to Cincinnati, Ohio, eventually settling into the section house, owned by the Railroad in Ludlow, Kentucky.

By all indications, Thelma was the wild child of the family, head strong and beautiful enough to keep the family in turmoil. Although Andy and Nellie were both short and Irish in appearance, Thelma inherited the Dutch Irish genes. She was tall, with coal black hair, skin like porcelain and black eyes that could look through a person, no doubt she could stop traffic.

Thelma ran away from home when she was 14, which would have been 1934, the height of the Great Depression. Knowledge of her "lost years" is practically non-existent, but when she came back to Kentucky, she was married. Her daughter, Linda, was born during her lost years. Linda was a beautiful child with dark hair, like her mothers and piercing eyes. When Thelma and her husband divorced, Linda went to California to live with her father.

Thelma, later remarried and had two children, Donnie and Bill, by her second husband, William Jeffers. That marriage was short lived, and Thelma remarried. Her third husband was Albert "Bud" Buring, a cousin to her first husband. She married February 28, 1946 in New York City. Bud was in the U.S. Army, and Thelma lived the military life until her daughter, Brenda Jean, was born on April 5, 1947. Upon Bud's discharge from the service, the family settled in Ludlow, Kenton County, Kentucky. Albert Jr. was born on February 22, 1952.

The marriage couldn't have been easy, as Bud suffered from tuberculosis and underwent a stay in a sanitarium in Phoenix. Bud suffered an aneurysm in 1968, and remained incapacitated until he passed away in 1975. This, however, was the marriage that lasted for better or worse, and literally, in sickness and in health. For Thelma cared for Bud all his life.

Thelma Goff Buring Jeffers Buring was certainly worrisome for Andy and Nellie. They were strict Southern Baptists, and Thelma was their prodigal child. She returned to the fold in her later years, however, having made her profession of faith in Jesus Christ at the Covenant Christian Church in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky. When Bud passed away, Thelma moved into Andy and Nellie's home in Covington, where she remained until her own health forced her into a senior citizen's apartment in Florence, Kentucky. Thelma suffered from lung cancer, and moved in with her daughter, Brenda, in Florence until she passed in September, 1986.

Thelma remained estranged from her daughter, Linda, and son, Donnie; they never reconciled in her lifetime. Bill and Thelma, however, had reconciled prior to her death. Brenda and Albert remained devoted to her throughout her life.

Thelma is the perfect example of Nellie Goff's understanding of child rearing, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart." Proverbs 22:6. She did come back to the Lord. She did come back to her family. She was a wonderful aunt! She always had a warm hug for everybody. She was strikingly beautiful, but in her later years, it was an inner strength that made her radiant. She is among that great cloud of witnesses watching us run our race, and she will be among the first to greet us at the gates of Heaven and tell us all about it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Andrew & Nellie Goff

Andrew Montgomery Goff was born June 28, 1892 in Burnside, Pulaski County, Kentucky. Richard Goff was married to Mary Ellen Stephens, and Andy was their first child. Richard had five other children by a previous marriage.
Andrew was born into a family of farmers. His father farmed; his grandfather farmed; and his great-grandfather farmed. The family was not one that was well to do, and when Andy came into the world, the Tennessee Valley Authority had not yet damned the Cumberland River. Power was still a luxury in the Cumberlands, and the railroad was still young.
Nellie Hughes was born July 10, 1892, also in Burnside, Pulaski County, Kentucky. Nellie had a twin sister, Ida, but the girls were separated at the age of eight when their mother, whose true identity is currently unknown, died of a snake bite.
It is known, through tax and property records, as well as census records, that the Hughes' farm and the Goff's homestead were in close proximity. It is unknown how they met, but Andrew Goff and Nellie Hughes were married in Huntsville, Tennessee on the 29th day of April, 1913, by Justice of the Peace, James McDonald. They returned to Burnside where they set up housekeeping and Andy got a job with the railroad.
Andy and Nellie had six children. Herbert Goff was born February 28, 1914 and died March 21, of the same year. On the 20th day of June, 1915, John Milton Goff was born in Strawberry, Pulaski County, Kentucky. Thelma was born on February 12, 1920 in Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky.
By 1923, Andy was established in his job with the Southern Railroad. Andrew accepted a job as foreman for the company, and that required a move to the Cincinnati area. Richard Goff was born November 17, 1924, in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. By the time Paul Martin was born on June 2, 1927, the family had moved into what was called "the section house," in Ludlow, Kenton County, Kentucky. The section house was owned by the Southern Railroad, and it was there that Abel was born on April 2, 1930.
Andy's job required him to be away from the family a great deal. Nellie had only a second grade education, and her method of child rearing came straight from the Book of Proverbs, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6, KJV) She adapted her methodology straight from the King James Bible. It is safe to say that execution of her methodology would probably not be tolerated in today's society. She was tough, and she meant what she said.
Even though Andy did have steady work, the family was among dirt poor. Nellie took in laundry and ironing to help offset the expenses of a large family. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Nellie watched her sons, one by one, go off to war. Richard served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Morrison which was struck by a kamikaze. Richard spent a great deal of time in the VA Hospital in Columbus, Ohio before being honorably discharged for his service to his country. Paul enlisted shortly after Richard was injured. He served in the U.S. Army in the military police at the fall of Italy. Abel enlisted and served in the Korean conflict. The Goff brothers never spoke of their military service except in the context of family history.
Andy and Nellie were active members of the First Baptist Church of Ludlow, Kentucky. Andy wore a Sunday School for 30 some odd years of perfect attendance. Each of their children came to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
When Andy retired from the railroad, they bought a house on East 18th Street in Covington, Kentucky. The house is still standing to this day, although, the years have not been kind to it. If the grandchildren could walk inside, they could still probably remember the aroma of Andy's pipe, or feel the hunger pains from the smell of Nellie's chicken and dumplings on the stove. They might even feel the warmth emanating from the wood stove that took up half the living room or the coolness of Gramma's venetian blinds masked by the softness of the white curtains that hung in front of them. They could probably hear the willowy whine of the fiddle strings being tuned up and primed for a little Ragtime Annie, or the tinny clang of the claw string banjo as Andy plucked out choruses of Cotton-eyed Joe.
Nellie's health was poor throughout her autumn/winter years. She succumbed to colon cancer on December 4, 1972. Nellie was interred on December 6, 1972 in Floral Hills Cemetery, Kenton County, Kentucky, to be joined by Andy on May 16, 1976. Reuniting with Herbert, they have since been joined in Heaven by John, Thelma, Paul and Abel, as well as two of their grandchildren, Ronny and Darlene.
Perhaps the greatest lesson derived from the lives of Andy and Nellie is to live in the moment. They were contented to be in the moment and each had a deep abiding joy in the depths of their souls. Knowing this world is temporary, their treasures were surely laid up in Heaven. Perhaps their greatest reward is knowing their whole family will someday be reunited.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year!

I promise to return to this blog! I know it has been since Thanksgiving since I posted anything, but if you'll bear with me until I can get my scanner fixed, I promise to return to telling the stories of our family members, those still here and those already gone to be with the Lord.
Happy New Year! 2009 is going to be a great year!