Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Quick Visits to Bessemer & Jasper

Recently my brother Richard and I took one of our annual trips together seeking Alabama and family history. Last year's July trip took us to several places that I've written about: Aberfoil, Brundidge, Camp Hill, Tallassee and Union Springs. Once I scan some photos I have earlier years to discuss as well.

We've decided we're probably going to stop taking these trips in July. We're thinking more along the lines of January or February next time. 

As is usually the case, we started our trip this year on Friday with the Alabama Numismatic Society's annual show at the Bessemer Civic Center. Richard is the coin and currency collector in the family, an interest he picked up from dad. I've always been curious about coins and currency, though, and learn a few things each time we go. 

I have fond memories of dad's collecting in the days before he became interested in archaeology. He would often come home from work on Fridays with large bags of coins he'd gotten at the bank, and the three of us would go through them looking for goodies. 

The show also has dealers selling other items, and I've picked up old maps of Birmingham and Alabama there in the past. This year I spent some time going through numerous old Alabama postcards.

We left the coin show around 4 pm and headed on surface roads through Bessemer, Midfield, and Birmingham toward Jasper. We were looking for Green Top Bar-B-Q in Dora, where Richard remembered eating back in the 1970's. We had wonderful bar-b-q plates there; we always manage to enjoy such places on our trips. The restaurant has some history of its own, having opened when "Truman was President" as their web site proclaims.

Then we left for Oak Hill Cemetery in Jasper. My comments about that portion of the trip are below. The city of Jasper is not named after the semi-precious gemstone, by the way, but after a Revolutionary War hero from South Carolina named William Jasper

In the weeks to come I'll be posting more on places we visited on this trip. 

We have some ancestors buried in the cemetery, but we found a few other interesting markers first. Near the cemetery entrance is the gravestone above that marks the final resting place of William Haynes Bankhead Perry. Born in South Carolina, he died in Jasper in November 1915. His wife was Louise Bankhead; as we'll see Perry married into a prominent family in Jasper and Alabama.

His stone was carved by Giuseppe Moretti, the Italian sculpture responsible for promoting Sylacauga marble in many works and the iron Vulcan on Red Mountain. Moretti created only 14 cemetery memorials. 

The graves above and below mark various members of the Bankhead family, prominent in Jasper, Alabama, and beyond. A number of them are buried in Oak Hill.

 Below is the impressive stone for John Hollis Bankhead and his wife Tallulah. A Civil War veteran, Bankhead was variously a farmer, warden of the state penitentiary at Wetumpka, businessman, and a U.S. Representative for 20 years. His son John became a U.S. Senator, son William Speaker of the U.S. House, and daughter Marie director of the state archives for many years. Granddaughter and actress Tallulah was named after his wife. 

Some of our Shores and Samford ancestors can be found in a more modest section of the cemetery. The other side of this stone reads "Samford".

This area brother Richard is walking has a number of our Shores and Samford ancestors. 

My maternal grandparents Tempe and John Miller Shores are both buried in this family plot. My grandmother died two months after I was born; mom says she got to see me before her death. 

My grandfather served many years as a minister in the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church. 

Another Shores ancestor practiced medicine in Alabama for many years. 

Lydia Ann Edwards [1833-1879] was the first wife of James Wilson Shores [1828-1918], another long-serving Methodist minister in the family. In the early part of his career he was a circuit rider, and the state archives has his journal for the 1850's. An excerpt can be read here. He and his second wife are buried in Montgomery.

Lydia was originally buried in a Dallas County cemetery that in recent years had been abandoned and become overgrown. Eventually several members of the family and an archaeologist disinterred her remains and moved them to this location in Jasper. Very little actually survived, but the broken gravestone came with them. That's another story I may tell one day.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Beulah Vee's Cedar Chest (5)

To recap: in a series of five posts I'm exploring the contents of a cedar chest belonging to my aunt Beulah Vee Wright, who died in 1939 at the age of 18. Background on her and this project can be found in part 1.

Part 2 is here, part 3 here, and part 4 here

Here's the title page from Beulah Vee's high school yearbook for her senior year. I've included several pages below where she appears in various organizational photos. 

She was the business manager for the yearbook that year. Her pose on the left of this photo was seen in the previous post, extracted and framed. 

In this montage Beulah Vee is at the very top right of the "K".

Here's the cover of the Etowah High School yearbook for 1939.

They had colorful lunch tins in the 1930's. 

The case for Beulah Vee's glasses give us the name of her Gadsden optometrist. Taylor was President of the Alabama Optometrists Association in 1914-16. 

Her cedar chest was made by the Cavalier Corporation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In addition to these cedar hope chests, they made various exclusive products for Coca Cola. After many corporate changes, the firm closed in 2000. Many examples of their hope chests are available on eBay

Here's that famous "Keepsafe Dial Lock".

The chest contained a number of valentines from elementary school in the late 1920's. Daughter Becca framed some of them to hang on the wall of the Beulah Vee Guest Room in Oklahoma. 

The chest holds some fascinating family items. These typed invitations are to Beulah Vee's parents' wedding on December 19, 1915. My grandmother Rosa Mae turned 16 the following month. 

This label is on the back of the mirror seen in the photo below. I presume the entire bedroom suite came from this company in Georgia, and my grandparents bought it at Ross Granling Furniture Company in Gadsden. 

Here's the bedroom at my daughter's house in Oklahoma where Beulah Vee's cedar chest and bedroom furniture are now located. A nightstand to the right of the bed is not visible. You can see the framed valentines hanging on the wall. 

The cedar chest contains many other remnants of Beulah Vee's life not shown in these blog posts. I feel I've come to know her, a woman who died over 12 years before I was born, better than many people I've actually met in my life.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beulah Vee's Cedar Chest (4)

To recap: in a series of five posts I'm exploring the contents of a cedar chest belonging to my aunt Beulah Vee Wright, who died in 1939 at the age of 18. Background on her and this project can be found in part 1.

You can find part 2 here and part 3 here and part 5 here

Beulah Vee's funeral service was held the day after her death at John S. Jones Elementary School. She had attended this school, as one of her certificates of attendance shown in a previous post demonstrates. However, the location may have been chosen because a crowd was expected. The school is now located in Rainbow City. 

As this notice says, Beulah Vee was buried in the cemetery at Old Harmony Baptist Church on Rainbow Drive, then located outside Gadsden and in the town of Rainbow City today. She died at home; the family lived just down the road and attended this church. Many of our ancestors are buried there. However, her remains were later moved by her parents to Forrest Cemetery in Gadsden, where they are also buried. Jerry B. Jones, Jr., published Old Harmony Cemetery: A History, Rainbow City, Alabama in 2009.

Beulah Vee and her parents Rosa Mae Wright and Amos J. Wright, Sr., are buried in Forrest Cemetery in Gadsden. In the photo above the back of the cemetery's iconic chapel can be seen. 

I've recently obtained a copy of Beulah Vee's death certificate. We see that she died at 9:30 a.m. on December 10, 1939. She was attended by Dr. J.W. Ford, who was the family physician. Cause of death is listed as bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis, which explains why her funeral was held the next day. 

Some years later my mother's obstetrician in Gadsden, Dr. Ford's son, told her his father decided after her death that Beulah Vee may have died of leukemia. People can live for years with tuberculosis, but Beulah Vee's sickness began in March 1939 and she deteriorated rapidly until her death. 

My grandmother filled a scrapbook with these sympathy cards. 

I can proudly say my aunt had a connection to Auburn University.  Her brother and my mother met and married at Auburn. I attended Auburn and met wife Dianne there. My daughter Becca met her husband Matt Leon there also. Beulah Vee's father did his World War I military training at Auburn. Seems the family has a connection to Auburn. War Eagle! 

Newspapers have historically been a source of information about many people, not just the famous or infamous. I wonder if the trip mentioned above was the one where the photo of Beulah Vee and my dad in part 1 of this series was taken. I presume these notices appeared in the Gadsden Times. 

Unfortunately this charming note is undated. I wonder if they ever did go to another picnic--or smiling contest. Remember that memory book Beulah Vee received on her 17th birthday and shown in part 2? Here's that boyfriend Joe Lane again. 

This page and the three below are from the extensive notebook my grandmother kept during Beulah Vee's illness from March until December 1939. There are daily notes for temperature and medicines taken, doctor visits, costs, etc. 

Quite a few folks turned out for this "delightful lawn party" held at the Wright home on Rainbow Drive. 

This photograph will be explained in the final post!

The final post will take an extensive look into Beulah Vee's presence in her last high school yearbook. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Beulah Vee's Cedar Chest (3)

To recap: in a series of five posts I'm exploring the contents of a cedar chest belonging to my aunt Beulah Vee Wright, who died in 1939 at the age of 18. Background on her and this project can be found in part 1.

Part 2 of the series can be found here, part 4 here and part 5 here

My aunt seemed to have pretty good grades in most elementary and high school subjects. Geometry and English gave her trouble as a junior in high school, but music and history must have kept her interest. That would explain the number of song and music books in the cedar chest.

This driver's license issued just two months before she died presents a puzzle. This item is the only place any family members have seen her middle name as "Victoria". We also learn she was five feet six and a half inches tall, had brown hair and blue eyes and weighed 120 pounds. 

I wonder how this renewal came about while she was in the middle of a serious illness. You'll see below in her journal "First steps in 7 weeks Oct. 27". 

My grandmother saved lots of materials related to her daughter's funeral. 

These are only some of the pages from the flower list booklet.

This notice probably appeared in the Gadsden Times on December 10, 1940. I've seen similar notices in newspapers in recent years, although such things have mostly migrated to Facebook and other social media today. The "A.J. Wright" is my father. 

During Beulah Vee's ultimately fatal illness both she and her mother kept journals. Pages from my grandmother's notebook will appear in a subsequent post. These pages show Beulah Vee as alternating between high spirits and fatalism. In the page above she says "The ride was swell!" about her trip in an ambulance to Holy Name of Jesus Hospital in Gadsden on September 7, 1939.

This postcard of the hospital is dated in May 1947. 

Source: Ala. Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections 

Beulah Vee seems to have had an interest in numerology. That last note is chilling. 

These are the first and last pages from a long senior essay written by Beulah Vee.