River of Years
You stuck with it when there were
no such words as "lifestyles" and
"Motherhood" with apple pies
and fried chicken on Sunday --
that was your bag.
Those were early ancient years
before man-made air -- and the
attic fan gave little relief
from Texas heat and you with
your dreams not yet.
Then from Houston to Mexico --
I remember long rides in the
back seat of the Desoto and
the deep green mountains with their
narrow hairpin roads as we
climbed closer to heaven
frequent stops in small towns and
you reading your romance books.
Nine fun months in Mexico --
every other day a holiday:
"Pancho Villa Day"
"Day-off Day" and
"Just for the heck of it day".
Then our return to Houston, a
small brick house on Eleanor Street --
you the cook, maid, the only
doctor in the house and nurse
without the R.N.
With your remedy for all known
diseases we received our daily
mutant children for life.
The radio, your constant companion
with Stella Dallas, Amos and
Andy, The Shadow, Fibber Magee
and Molly --
all those faded relics
of the past -- their shadows
Then came the "boob tube" and you
taken hostage by the soaps and
At last you found true meaning
Rivers of years have come and gone
with its passengers of dreams
losses, successes, children
and grandchildren and now
nothing much has changed --
as you sit there
reading your books of romance.
This was mostly when I was under ten years of age, so Aunt Reat was in her early to mid-seventies at the time. She was on her own then, and her home was about a ten-minute drive from Grandmother's house in Lindale Park. If grandmother needed her, she'd hop in her pale-gray 1975-ish Toyota Corolla and come over to keep an eye on me for a bit.
Marguerite was the sister of Julia Mae Maraman ("Mimi"), the mother of my grandmother Margaret Dunaway. She was born on March 13, 1904 in Union County, Kentucky. Her parents were Albert Abraham Maraman and Edna Pearl Allen. Besides Julia, she had one other sister named Annice Viola, born in 1896. The family moved down to Anderson County, Texas in 1905. Four years later, Albert passed away. He is buried in Neches Cemetery in Neches, Texas just outside of Palestine. Marguerite was just five years old.
The 1910 federal census shows the three girls living with their mother as head of the house, a house that apparently was freely owned by Edna. She married Charles Doss later that year.
Not a lot of information is at my disposal regarding Aunt Reat's life between childhood and her early years as an adult. I've been told that she and Julia were fiercely independent, perhaps even outspokenly feminist during a period in history when the suffrage movement was gaining traction in the States. She was married at least twice. Though probably not the first husband, Francis Aubert took Marguerite as his bride in 1945. This union took place in Lucas County, Ohio. Both were residing in the Detroit area. I have no idea what drew her back up to the northern states. Here is their marriage certificate.
Still, Marguerite was supposedly married before the above-mentioned union. She had a son named Garland, who was already in elementary school in the 1930s. I'll touch on this in a separate post.
And so Aunt Reat eventually moved down to Houston. Mimi was ill and living with my grandmother, and there were times when Mimi's sister would come to check on her. I only remember seeing them fussing at each other one day. I get the feeling that Mimi was sometimes stubborn when it came to receiving help from others.
After Mimi passed away in 1980, Aunt Reat was a dependably present figure in my life. There are a couple distinct memories I have from the times when she would come to Grandmother's house to look after me. It was usually mornings when I would see her. Grandmother headed out to run errands. Breakfast had already been served. But one particular day I guess Aunt Reat figured I was still hungry. She then proceeded to prepare for me a simple piece of buttered toast. There was something about the way she made it. The warm bread was saturated with butter. From that day forward, I craved this simple snack every time she came over. Sometimes she was a little reluctant to give in to my begging. I think all mothers have that one special something that they know their children enjoy, and perhaps they hold it back just a little in order to ensure a child's dedicated affection. But in the end, she would turn on the toaster oven and commence to converting a slice of Ms. Baird's bread into something magical. And to this day, I cannot have a piece of buttered bread or toast without thinking of Aunt Reat.
In that area, I had ample space to play with my hot wheel cars without causing damage to any of Grandmother's precious antiques inside. One day, Aunt Reat was puffing away while sitting on those concrete steps. She located a little hole in the pavement in which she could tap off her cigarette ashes. Being curious, I got close to the hole for closer examination. She finally extinguished what was left and promptly warned me not to place my finger where the ashes lay.
Now, I don't know about you, but when a little boy hears the words "don't touch that", it is incumbent upon him as a little boy to set aside that admonition and proceed with his curiosity. I think all I really heard was, "Look! It's glowing red stuff. Touch it!" While I don't recall the specific level of pain thirty-some-odd years after the fact , I do remember jerking my hand back in a state of shock. What resulted from this experience was a lifelong abstention from tobacco in any form. Well, done Aunt Reat. Well done!
I also recall going to Marguerite's house on a few occasions. If I could sum it up as a color, I would say it was gray. Just like her old Corolla, just like her ashy curled hair. And it probably was a gray house - a duplex, if I'm not mistaken. The living room was a museum, though a different sort from that of Grandmother's piano room. An old recliner was situated next to a tray that served as a makeshift coffee table for her TV guide, glasses and utility bills. Simple enough. But against the wall just before the kitchen entrance, there were two glass hutch-like cabinets. They were filled with an abundance of figurines, glass dishes and collectible trinkets. I knew I was to keep my distance based on my experience at Grandmother's house.
Put these few and fleeting memories together with a recollection of her flowered blouses, and there you have an imperfect portrait of my Aunt Reat. Towards the end of her years, she too became ill. She wore one of those push-button devices around her neck to alert a medical professional if she needed assistance. On June 11, 1988, she pressed that button. My grandmother quickly drove over to her house and found Aunt Reat still hanging on. She held her in her arms as she breathed her last breath, later recounting the sadness that filled her heart at that moment. Personally, I think the experience brought back memories of her of own mother Julia and grandmother Edna. The bitter and the sweet with which we must all come to terms.
My 2nd great aunt Marguerite Nell Maraman is buried at Hill of Rest Cemetery in Baytown, Texas - plot 136. The surname Perkins was apparently from one of her marriages.
Think back to the days of your youth. What kinds of family photographs did your parents have stationed around the house? If you're anything like me, you'll remember these frozen fragments of your family's past calling out to you. Hanging on hallway walls like a museum exhibit, situated in well-chosen frames on a pine coffee table, or placed within the stiff pages of an album inviting visitors to take it into their laps to peruse its contents. There they were, waiting to tell us stories of how things really were, waiting for us to listen.
once as to the identity of these two "ancient" figures staring out at me each time I passed the oval on the wall. I have fairly palpable memories of my great grandmother from the two or three times I got to visit Indiana when I was in elementary school. But Vernon had passed away in 1977. I was three at the time. Sad to say, I never got to be around him, although he probably was able to see me as an infant. The old portrait that once rested patiently on the wall as a mere curiosity now speaks volumes to me as a student of my ancestral story.
Vernon was the son of a carpenter and farmer named David Andrew Tanksley (1866-1943) and Hattie Belle Daniels (1872-1950). He was the youngest of four brothers, born on April 20, 1901 in Mitchell, Indiana. His brother Clyde died as an infant. The other two were named Fred and Ralph. The 1910 federal census shows the family assembled in Lawrence County with the older boys already involved in manual labor.
When Vernon was sixteen years of age, the Great War was already well underway. It was not uncommon for young men to be less than honest about their age in order to be accepted into the service. And this is what Vernon did. Declaring himself to be eighteen, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 1, 1917. According to Aunt Wanda, he was on "a troop train ready for deployment overseas when the Armistice was signed." She says he was abundantly proud of his status as a veteran, and I assume he would happily have fulfilled his duty if the war had carried on. Thankfully, it didn't, and Vernon was discharged on January 18, 1919.
Vernon appears to have been stationed at Fort Custer (Custer Camp) in Battle Creek, Michigan. At present, I have no documents confirming this as his location for training, but
Beyond this, I can't say what the reason for their separation was. Could it have been that the death of both children was too much of an emotional strain on Vernon's and Blanche's relationship? Whatever the case, by 1930 Vernon was living in Illinois with his second wife Frances. From this union came my grandmother Annis and her sister Wanda. We'll continue from there in the next post. Stay tuned!
I'm assuming Mary got her first name from Pearl's mother, Mary Roxanna Serber. And she shared the middle name Barclay with Cleveland's mother, Julia Barclay McCord.
Mary was born in Kentucky on December 26, 1909, making her the second eldest after her brother Wilford. I imagine Pearl was happy to have another female around to help deal with all the boys in the house. There were loads of them. It wasn't until 1916 that little sister Eleanor came along.
She was married to William Peak. Together they had three sons: Bennie, William, and Buford. Mary's second marriage was to Robert Potter. The 1940 census lists all three boys as Robert's step-sons.
Mary is buried next to Robert in Moffet Cemetery. She passed away in Madison, Indiana on February 13, 1981.
Four months after the war between the North and South had ended, Larkin Harned of Christian County, Kentucky submitted a petition for pardon to then President Andrew Johnson.
Larkin was around 53 years of age when the war began. At some point during the conflict, it came to the attention of certain higher ups in the Confederacy that he was adept at intercepting crucial intelligence pertaining to the North. Although Kentucky was technically a slave state that maintained a stance of neutrality, Larkin was sympathetic towards the idea of states rights and felt that the Lincoln administration was violating the constitution in its use of military compulsion.
There were several articles written surrounding Larkin's death on or around July 22, 1899, most of them appearing in The Hopkinsville Kentuckian. One such piece on August 11th refers to the aforementioned belt:
It would, of course, be great if we could have an authentic photograph of the belt and pouch. Better still, what if we could locate some of the actual letters Larkin was toting about!
Another article printed just a few days after his passing emphasizes his prominent position in the community.
After the swords ceased to clash and the bullets stopped flying, the survivors of this bloody war returned to their homes, some of them far away. Larkin also came safely back to his farmland in southern Kentucky, only to discover that Louisville was attempting to confiscate his property as a consequence of his ardent and active support for the Gray States.
Though solid in his convictions, he knew that he would have to tread softly in his response. So Larkin set to writing a letter to President Johnson, firmly detailing his reasons for being involved with the South. He was careful to include a healthy dose of humility in the tone of the correspondence, expressing his desire to support the U.S. constitution and rebuilding of the nation through whatever humble means were at his disposal.
The letter not only serves as a great primary source for Civil War and military history buffs, but also demonstrates Larkin's penmanship, language facility as well as a keen understanding of the issues at stake for limited government in America.
Above: the first two pages of the correspondence as written in Larkin Harned's own hand. Examine the full document on the Kentucky Historical Society's website by clicking here.
Below is a transcript of the two pages presented above:
To the President of the United States
There is more to say about Larkin Harned, particularly concerning his assets and the distribution thereof as noted in his will. Expect to see another article detailing this equally interesting story soon.
In the meantime, I should close by sharing a snippet from my personal pedigree chart. It shows that my granddad Clarence Otho White was descended from Larkin Harned through Eulah Peyton Williams. This makes him one of my 4th great grandfathers.
Is this character from Civil War history perhaps one of the forgotten leaves in your family tree? Let us know in the comments section below.
Speaking of allergies, she believed with all her heart that she was allergic to cat hair. And maybe she really was. One Christmas morning, Grandmother and Granddad visited our house, as was the custom, before heading over to Aunt Gloria's. After we were all sitting happily in the living room for about half an hour, our tabby named "Hi-Kitty" woke up from a nap he had been taking behind the sofa and lazily strolled into plain sight. Immediately, Grandmother started to cough lightly. With a hoarse voice she said, "I just knew there was a cat in here. I felt something itchy in my throat." We all had a good laugh, then promptly placed Hi-Kitty outside, much to Grandmother's relief!
All in all, she just didn't seem to want or need much on her birthday. Sometimes we bought her a pair of slippers or a muu-muu nightgown. She was, in fact, just happy to be remembered and to have us around her. In truth, it was us who benefitted from our time with her.
Happy 98th birthday, Margaret Virginia Dunaway. Though you are no longer with us now, my life is and always has been better for having you as a part of it!
June 4, 1905 - That is the day Cleveland Martin Bayne and Pearl Green were joined in holy matrimony. Marriages were not registered nationally in the U.S. For the most part, we find marriage certificates authorized at the state level. Understandably, there is some variation in the requirements from state to state, most notably for issues such as parental consent. The minimal age was generally 21 for males and 18 for females.
Cleveland and Pearl were wedded in Trimble County, Kentucky. The following is their marriage certificate.
Notice at the top left the handwritten portion from Pearl's father Stout B. Green. This served as a sufficient consent affidavit.
This all seems strict to us today. Still, I can't help but wonder if greater parent involvement in the early union of a couple might increase the chances of a long-lived marriage. After all, Cleveland and Pearl stuck it out for well over fifty years, all the way until her death in 1959. And they had a household full of children to show for it.
Below is the wedding photograph I received from the son of James Horace Bayne, who was one of Cleveland's sons. Cleveland is standing in the back with the white shirt. On his left are his parents, Julia Barclay McCord and James Wesley Bayne. Pearl Green is in the back to the left with the dotted dress. She is standing between her mother Mary Roxie Serber and her father Stout B. Green. Are you curious about the four people in the front? So am I! Both of Pearl's grandmothers had passed away by this time. But Cleveland's grandmothers were both living well past the wedding in 1905. James' mother was named Sarah Gibbons, and Julia's mother was named Rebecca Nichols. Food for thought...
*Cleveland Martin Bayne and Pearl P. Green were my great grandparents on my mother's paternal side.
In the summer of 2016, I returned home to Texas for a two-week visit. Aside from visiting friends and family, I naturally wanted to dedicate some time to searching for links to my family history. My mother was so kind to go out with me in the June heat to visit Palestine and Neches, not once but twice, in search of grave sites pertaining to my father's side of the family. Towards the end of my stay, I convinced Mom and my cousin (Cleve's brother's grandson) to ride with me to Navasota to see if we could locate her father Cleve Joy Bayne.
I looked up Grandpa's name linked with his last known address on Washington Ave., and thus we headed out to find him. We were doubtful that he would still be alive, but for some reason I felt compelled to get some closure on his status. After all, Cleve was potentially the last of my four grandparents to still be living.
We arrived in Navasota around 11AM and located his house. It's a historic home, which I'll try to talk about at another time. No one was there, so we checked with a neighbor who just happened to be home from work that day. She informed us that he drove down in his white pick-up truck to one of the local nursing homes every day. It was hard to imagine him behind the wheel, being that he was 88 years old. After getting directions to the retirement center, we went there. Lo and behold, there was the white pick-up truck as described sitting in the parking lot.
We entered the facilities, and the staff directed us to his room. He was lying on the bed sleeping next to his wife (This is his third wife). The story is actually quite touching. Technically, Cleve wasn't admitted as a resident at the nursing home. Every single day since his wife had been admitted, he would get up there early in the morning to be with her. Of course, he got some meals while he was there. But it was hard for him to be torn from her side when he had to go home each evening.
We spent some time with them, talking more about their present circumstances rather than the years we had missed. Being in good spirits, he had the same vibrant "eh-hee-hee-hee" laugh that I knew so well, though weakened considerably. The nurses said that he really shouldn't have been driving. On occasion, he would back out of the parking space, bumping into other cars. It's a miracle that he made it down that road in one piece day after day.
Over the next several months, Grandpa Bayne's health steadily declined. He was finally admitted into the retirement home. It took some convincing on the part of my mom and his nephew. After a couple weeks of fading in and out of sleep, Grandpa passed away more or less peacefully on Friday March 31st at the age of 89. He was the last of his twelve or thirteen siblings to go.
In closing for now, I was able to talk to my Grandpa on the phone one last time about a couple of weeks before his death. Separated by thousands of miles, I did my best to communicate my hopes of seeing him when we would return to Texas. He told me he loved me and was looking forward to seeing me and my family. I said 'goodbye'. And he repeated his words. "We sure are looking forward to seeing you here." We both said 'goodbye' again. And then I waited for the phone to disconnect, but it didn't. Just the ambient background noise at the nursing home. A strange pause for what the future held, flowing between and within our two souls at that moment, half a world apart.
Frustration is a fact of life when researching parts of one's family tree. The most challenging branch for me thus far has been my grandmother Margaret Virginia Dunaway's paternal side. As I showed in one of my earliest posts, her father's (Dewey) life story is a foggy one. Five months later it remains the same, though I hope to make a breakthrough when I return to Texas. My frustration is compounded by the fact that Margaret was my closest grandparent. Having spent so much time with her from childhood up through my late 30's, I could kick myself for not being more inquisitive. Oh well...spilled milk!
Looking into the backgrounds of Dewey's parents has been no easier. I have made some progress. But these are the sorts of ancestors whose supporting records only lead to more questions than answers. Their names are John A. Dunaway and Mary Savilla Rayburn (sometimes spelled Rayborn, Raiborn or Raborn). Dewey's death certificate seems to confirm their names as well as their home state of Mississippi (See my first post on Dewey.)
The 1910 census record places them in Pike County, Mississippi with one of their sons Sidney.
At 17, he was the only child listed, although there were three others as noted in the two right columns of the census above. One of these I should assume was my great grandfather. Dewey would have been around 10 years old at this time, but there is nothing at present to indicate why he was not listed with the family.
John and Mary had a daughter named Dolly (1886-1963). According to the 1910 census, Dolly was married to James Clifton Owens. The very next year they are listed in a town directory for Palestine, Texas.
Both Sidney and Dewey were clearly in Palestine by 1917/1918 based on their World War I registration cards. They were also both married.
Back to John and Mary. Their marriage took place on October 28, 1885, so Dollie's birth in 1886 sounds about right. Yet, we are lacking any concrete data on either of them for a stretch of about twenty-five years. As most of the 1890 census records were destroyed by fire damage, we lose that decade.
Also, I have had no success in locating their names in the 1900 census records. The truth is, that whole part of Pike County, Mississippi was (still is) flooded with Dunaways and Rayburns (as well as another relevant surname, Boyd). There are instances of members of one nuclear family being adopted into other nuclear families, and they all seem to have been neighbors of sorts. Then, there is the issue of my grandmother's line migrating to Texas. It will be a major undertaking to sift through and piece together accurate relationships under these circumstances. Not impossible, though. Dear reader, perhaps you could offer some insight?
Lastly, I'll close today's post by sharing the obituaries for both John and Mary. They are supposed to be interred in the New Addition section of the Palestine City Cemetery, but I have yet to locate their plots.
*Special thanks to Karla at the Palestine Public Library for helping me find these two obituaries.
**John A. Dunaway and Mary Savilla Rayburn were my 2nd great grandparents on the Dunaway branch.
More information on Mary's parents (Isaac Rayburn and Susan Moore) to come in a future post.
My granddad Clarence would from time to time make mention of his four brothers. A couple of them, Uncle Benny and Ross, I had spent some time with on a few occasions. But Granddad had two sisters as well, both of them the youngest of seven siblings. Growing up, I didn't hear a lot about them. This is mostly like the result of their hometowns being so far from where I lived in Houston. The older sister's name is Ollie Dell, and the youngest of the bunch was Joyce Adelle White. Granddad did mention her once, though the context I cannot recall. I only remember him affectionately calling her "Joycie".
Based on the photographs and research information I have through the Williams family collection, Joyce seems to have spent a good deal of time with her niece Bernice White. Bernice was the daughter of Joyce's oldest brother Herbert, but they themselves were only about five years apart in age.