Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random Thoughts About My Father

This is a picture of my dad, Paul Martin Goff, born June 12, 1927. Dad was the fifth of six children, born to Andrew M. Goff and Nellie Hughes. The back of this picture says 1950, and I think it may be in front of the cabin in the Smokies where Mum and Dad stayed on their honeymoon. It appears he was reading a map, something of a foreign concept to the man I knew.
My dad was always neat. He wore only certain kinds of clothes, and the only time he wore blue jeans was when he was working. He has more hair in this picture than he ever had after I came along. There are more pictures of his wavy auburn hair, but I remember that he kept it very short.
Dad was one of a kind. I'm sure everybody says that about their parents, and I'm certain that in all cases it is true. Dad was a strict Southern Baptist. My parents insisted that I was in church every time the doors were opened, and as a teenager, I balked consistently and was consistently overpowered!
Dad loved his bluegrass music. He would drag me around to bluegrass festivals, and I didn't really learn to appreciate the music until I was up into college and recognized what an art it truly is. Since my grandfather played several different instruments, dad always encouraged my music. He bought me a guitar when I was about seven and a 5-string banjo when I was 9. He bought me a flute when I was old enough to join the school band. He paid for voice lessons. Ha, I think if I had just listened to Dad more often, I could have learned how to sing just from hearing him do it. He was an awesome singer, even if the only song he ever sang all the way through was, Froggie Went A-Courtin'!
Dad worked for the railroad for 37 years! The longest I've ever been on a job is five. He loved trains, and after he retired, he would buy and watch all these videos of different trains around the country. I used to tease him that the trains weren't really moving, they just moved the background. He'd get so ticked, and I'd laugh and laugh.
I was an only child, and I was definitely Daddy's little girl in every sense of the concept. Dad brought home my first cat when I was two! It was a black and white cat that he brought in under his railroad jacket. It had a litter of kittens, and he took all of them off, including the mother, except for two little grey ones. Then he accidentally ran over one of those with his car!
He also raised collies. We had one collie that he named Boy, and Boy was my buddy. One time I made my mom really angry, and I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. Well, I knew my mom was going to spank me, so I let Boy loose, and he cornered my mom between the propane gas tanks and the back wall of our house! I was standing back saying, "Good Boy! Yeah!" My mom was yelling at the dog and me, and when Dad got home from work, he was pretty livid. I remember that particular spanking, and I never tried that trick again. (It is pretty funny though, isn't it?) We had lots of different dogs, including a beagle named, Peanuts, and a toy poodle named Trampy.
I miss my dad more than I could ever express. When he passed away on August 13, 2005, time stood still for a long while for me. Paul Martin Goff had fought a twenty year battle against cancer. He had lost his voice to carcinoma in 1986. He fought diabetes, skin and prostate cancer. In 2002, we thought we were losing him to congestive heart failure, when a wonderful doctor finally suggested sending him to the University of Kentucky for an experimental defibrillator. By God's grace, that defibrillator bought him five more years of life. In fact, Dad used to tell people, "I've got the kind of defibrillator Dick Cheney's got, only mine is better, on account it came from the University of Kentucky!"
He fought small cell and non-small cell lung cancer valiantly and with great strength and dignity, not that there is much dignity in dying. When he breathed his last breath, Mum and I were both at his side. I remember telling him in those final hours, "Dad, when you meet your gg-grandfather, (whom we call Richard 1810,) will you tell him to send me some clues?" He was really sick and in a lot of pain, but he laughed and promised to do it. I'm still waiting for the clues, so maybe he hasn't met him yet. Maybe he's still at the feet of Jesus praising Him for the fact that Paul Martin Goff has his voice back.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Poignant Story Dying to Be Told

In my Webb research, I have confirming documentation as far back as my ggg-grandmother, Margaret Stewart Webb, born in 1826 in Morgan County, Tennessee. Margaret's mother, Nancy Stewart, is listed in the 1830 US Census for Tennessee as head of household with one son and one daughter. Nancy shows again in the 1840 census, also listed as HOH, with her name spelled "STUART," and living with a son, Hiram, and a daughter, Lindsey. While there are many family legends surrounding Margaret and her "Molly Brown" type strength living in perilous times of civil war, famine and disease, very little else has been found on her mother, Nancy, who may have been the among the strongest women on the planet. I'm starting to think that Nancy's is a poignant story that is dying to be told.
I received an email from a very nice woman in California who is also a descendant of my ggg-grandfather, Willis Webb, Margaret's husband. What she has learned through other "Webb cousins" is that Nancy arrived in Tennessee alone except for her son, Hiram, and was very likely pregant with Margaret during the voyage. She believes, but offers no documentation, that Nancy and son arrived in America through the port at Philadelphia. She does not know if Nancy embarked upon the ship across the Atlantic alone with her son or if she had a husband who either perished at sea or simply did not make the voyage at all. I do not have a name for a potential husband, but this very nice woman did tell me that Nancy's maiden name was Davidson. What would have been reasons a woman would migrate to lands unknown without a male chaperone? Was that done in the early 1800s? Could her husband have already been here, and could he have perished before Nancy and his son arrived? It's fun to conjecture all sorts of things such as this, but there is no shred of proof... only questions with no answers.
I have found a couple of Nancy Stewarts on ship manifest indexes published on OliveTreeGenealogy.com, but the ages don't really fit. Is it possible that I have a preconceived notion as to what was common in the early 1800s? Is it possible that Nancy could have been in her forties when she migrated to America? I don't think this is really plausible since the 1840s Census lists yet another daughter. She would have been in her late fifties! I'm in my fifties, and I'm way too tired to be having a baby!
If anybody who may read this has any suggestions on how to narrow my search, please share. I would be very grateful, because I think this lady has a story that needs to be told. From what little I have on her, it shaping up to be quite poignant.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cousin Martha & Aunt Lucy

These are pictures of my cousin Martha and my Aunt Lucy. I have a picture of Martha's grandmother, also named Martha, who was an older sister to Aunt Lucy. I can't get the clarity I want when I crop Aunt Martha's picture to a head shot, but we can still see the Webb DNA marching on through time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Lucy Webb Bieber was born March 17, 1906, the fifth child of John (Spoony) Webb and Sarah Hamby. Lucy was quite possibly the strongest woman I've ever known and way ahead of her time.
Lucy was born in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee. The Webbs were a strong, self-contained family on a large farm where the hill dropped off drastically on one side, but the views were magnificent as the land ran adjacent to the Emory River. They raised their own garden and canned vegetables to sustain them through the winter. The Webbs raised their own hogs, and slaughtered and butchered their own pork. Like their ancestors before them, they also raised their own sheep, carded their own wool and made their own blankets. The Webbs were always well dressed, and yes, they sewed and tailored their own clothes.
Lucy learned all these life-sustaining chores very young, but Lucy excelled at all of them, a quality that would make her self-sufficient in an age long before women went into the workforce.
When Lucy was 15, she went with a boy from Glenmary by the name of Roger Human. Family lore has it that she had a baby out of wedlock, and the boy refused her. The baby died of unknown causes, and Lucy thought her life was over. She blamed Mr. Human for "ruining her life" and said she would never marry. She would take care of herself!
Lucy migrated to Erlanger, Kenton County, Kentucky in 1932, following her brothers, Will, Jim and John. She settled into a little house on Kentaboo and proceeded to raise chickens in the back yard. Lucy had quite a list of clients who bought her chickens, and she peddled them to restaurants up and down the Dixie Highway. My uncle Buddy remembered being in grade school and spending weekends with Aunt Lucy because she put him to work. He said she always paid him, but she demanded a lot of work!
Lucy sewed for people too. She made beautiful clothes and had steady clientele. She made blankets and quilts that the city people bought. Yes, my aunt Lucy seemed to be able to do it all. During the height of the depression, she was able to help her brothers by sewing clothes for their children and canning vegetables and drying beans.
Even with all these money making ventures of her own, Lucy also worked a job at Holiday Cleaners in downtown Cincinnati. She rode the Greenline bus from her house on Kentaboo into the Dixie Terminal and walked to the cleaners. It was at Holiday that she met her husband, Fred Bieber, a retired postal worker. She and Fred married in 1933, when Lucy was 36 years old. Fred had a son and daughter and was a widower. His son was a medical doctor.
Lucy and Fred lived in her house on Kentaboo for a number of years, but in 1950, they moved to Florida to enjoy their retirement. They lived in and around the Tampa area. I recall visiting them in Plant City, and the last place they lived was in a house in Holiday, Florida.
Uncle Fred preceded Lucy in death. Aunt Lucy died on May 10, 1978. She was 72. She is interred at Hillsborough Gardens in Brandon, Florida.
I loved my aunt Lucy. I thought she could just do anything! She was a snarly old woman by the time I came along, but for some reason, she loved me. She tried to teach me how to knit, but that never stuck. She used to crochet vests, hats and sweaters for me. In fact, even when I was up into high school, Aunt Lucy was still using colors she used when I was in grade school. I didn't appreciate them when I was sixteen as I had when I was six. I still loved her though!
Aunt Lucy embroidered by hand all the tea towels my mom had when I was little. She made these beautiful quilts that kept me warm, and she made clothes for my Barbie dolls that nobody else had! Whenever we visited her and Uncle Fred in Florida, Aunt Lucy always had watermelon for me. I remember how we used to play Yahtzee!
When we would go to the beach, Aunt Lucy would always go along, and I knew she didn't want to be there. She went because family do things for and with one another just so they can be together. She would pack lunch and make a day of it. I was less interested in spending time with her then, as I wanted to be in the ocean. Uncle Fred would walk out to the water's edge with me and show me how to look for shells. Together, they made beautiful seashell jewelry that I still treasure to this day. I never wear it, as it's too fragile, but I take it out of its box every so often and just look at how intricate the artwork is.
Uncle Fred also painted. I thought he was wonderful! He painted churches and barns. I guess that's where I learned to love taking pictures of churches and barns. My mom got all his paintings after Lucy died, but I'm not sure whatever happened to them. I inherited Aunt Lucy's diamond ring. I've worn it everyday since May 21, 1978 when my mother let me have it on my twentieth birthday.
Aunt Lucy was a wonderful woman, full of life and mischief. Hers was a life of extreme highs and plundering lows, but she never seemed to have a bad attitude. She was always jovial and happy to see us. She was a woman of faith, but she didn't wear it on her sleeve. She believed faith had to manifest itself in works, and she worked hard in life. I expect I will see her again someday. I hope she reads this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Linda Buring

Linda Buring was born in 1938, the first born child of my aunt Thelma Goff.
Linda was long gone by the time I came along, and I only met her once. My father carried this picture of her in his wallet most of his life, along with photos of her half-brothers, Billy and Donny. When Linda came to visit, I must have been in junior high school. She came to dinner with her sister, Brenda, and Brenda's first husband, Bob Kemp. I can't remember if Aunt Thelma was with her. In fact, I don't remember very much about the visit at all, other than the fact that Linda was very beautiful.
Linda looked just like Aunt Thelma. Her hair was coal black, and her skin was like ivory, a trait belonging to the Goffs. I don't think Linda ever identified with the Goffs, however, but she was never forgotten by them.
Linda was sent to California when she was a young girl to live with her father. My mother remembers how my dad cried when Aunt Thelma put her on the train. My parents would have only been dating at the time. I think (but don't recall for sure) that Linda was around ten years old when she left. So the one time I met her, she would have been in her forties.
I found what I believed to be Linda's death certificate online. I don't want to be too specific, because, I haven't sent for it yet, and if it isn't her, well... On the document, her mother was listed as Thelma Somerset, which of course, is wrong. Thelma Goff was born in Somerset, so her children filled in only what little bit Linda had told them about her life.
If anyone has any information about this first cousin, please feel free to share. Her children and grandchildren remain estranged and unknown to us. I would love to meet them if I only knew where they were.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Grandmother & Granddaughter

End of Summer Musings

I took a little sabbatical of sorts through the spring and summer months, but now, I find that I am ready to resume writing about my crazy family. The summer of 2009 has been relatively peaceful. I was able to visit with my cousin, Sherry Goff Turner, and her husband, Ron. My first cousin (once removed) on the Webb side was married earlier this month, and so, I was able to visit with many extended family members whom I only get to see on such rare occasions.
Amidst all the visiting, one thing struck me as very poignant, and that is how much my mother is beginning to look like my Great-Grandmother, Belle. I've written extensively about Belle here on this blog. I loved her dearly, as she always seemed the great paradox. On one hand, she was the epitome of strength and independence; yet on the other, she was very dependent on the men in her life.
My mother carries that trait. She has always been incredibly strong, with a mind of her own. Yet, she loved my dad more than life itself. Losing him changed her in ways she can't even see, but I can. She has developed a love for my dad's dog and cat. One of them sneezes, and off she goes to plunk down money that she really does not have to care for animals that she always said she would get rid of the first chance she got. Well, that didn't happen. My mother made a promise to my dad, as he lay on his death bed, that she would look after his pets, and keeping that promise is akin to keeping her wedding vows.
Belle always had a cat around her house. I remember how she would sit on her front porch with an old black cat in her lap, and how she used to talk to it and love on it. Watching my mother love on her cat is like watching history repeat itself. I've seen that movie before, and even though these women are three generations apart, they look nearly identical now. Their mannerisms, their voices (minus Belle's thick Tennessee hill country accent,) and even the way they can tell the same story over and over like it's the first time we've all heard it... just like Belle.
So, it's my desire to keep writing about the people whose DNA I carry. It's time to get to it, now, isn't it?