Thursday, April 30, 2015

Interrupting this program

Here we are descending the family branch of Hiram and Estella Smith to highlight their children. You have met Merroll, Neva, Ardea, and Myrtice. The three remaining children are Nina, the oldest, Dale and Leah, the two youngest.  Their posts will come, but for now I have some more organizing, researching, and some traveling to do. So, I am interrupting this program to bring you some random thoughts and a post on a famous relative. Watch for these amazing features coming soon. :-)

Since I seem to be in the "teasing" mood, I need to tell you about a treasure trove I am about to come upon.  I received a letter from a friend of my grandmother's first cousin. Are you with me? My grandmother's first cousin was into genealogy and much of the information on the Vorhies side came from this first cousin three times removed. She passed away several years ago leaving no descendants. She had one brother but he died in the 1930's.

The friend who wrote to me has a couple of boxes of letters, documents, scrapbooks, etc. that she has kept that belonged to this cousin. This is such a lucky break. I can hardly contain myself.

More to come on this to be sure.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Myrtice Averil Smith (1913-1913)

From different genealogy classes I have taken, I have learned to question long spaces between children.  There is an expected closeness between Neva and Ardea.  Neva and Ardea were only about 20 months apart in age.  Hiram and Stella's first child, Nina, and her next sibling, Merroll, were only about 17 months apart.  These are the usual spacings in families of the time.  However, from Merroll to Neva, approximately eight years elapsed. I am unaware of any miscarriages and am not sure I would ever be able to find this out.

Hiram and Stella did lose one child. Her name was Myrtice Averil. She was born January 1, 1913 on their 13th anniversary.  She died seven days later on January 7, 1913. When I was first sharing some of my genealogy records a few years ago, I had an uncle who said he never realized he had another aunt.  I have a paper called a Cradle Call from the Scranton Church of Christ in which the Smiths were very active. I have seen the thank you note in an old newspaper written by Hiram thanking the community for their kindness at the time of the loss of their baby. Myrtice is buried right next to Hiram and Stella in the Scranton Cemetery. 


At some later date, I will review this record for clarity. This record is not currently with me but in storage at another site.

Attention: Has anyone caught my error?  I have a terrific live-in proof reader, and he brought it to my attention.   Leave me a note if you see the mistake I have made.  I will admit to it and try to find the correct information.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ardea Agnes Smith Stevens (1910-1998)

Again, I am referring to a great aunt but one I called Aunt Ardee.  She was born approximately 20 months after her sister, Neva.  In my growing up years, she lived across the road from great grandma Smith's house. She had beautiful flowers in her yard and harvested bowls full of strawberries from her garden. I was quite afraid of her garden because she said she often saw snakes there.  I loved going to her house because she was so fun loving. She was grandmother to my second cousins. I was always a little jealous. She was so cool.

Ardee was married to Uncle Steve. His name was really Clarence Stevens and he had piles of Reader's Digest Condensed books in his living room.  They had two children, James Robert and Dorothy Jean, but lost their son in 1935 to pneumonia when he was only seven years old. As a kid I remember my mother telling me that another family named Stevens (no relation) lost a child to the same malady.  This families' son was name Gene Stevens. So there was confusion in the community when Steve and Ardee lost their Jimmie. Some people thought they had lost both children.  Their daughter's name was Jean Stevens.

While looking through the Jefferson Newspaper archives, I found a piece about Jean coming home from the hospital.  It was in The Jefferson Herald on January 24, 1935. It was a Thursday.
     "Jeanne [sic] Stevens was brought home from St. Anthony hospital at Carroll on Wednesday afternoon slowly recovering in health.  Her brother, Jimmie, who was seriously ill for more than a week of pneumonia, died early Saturday morning at the home of his grandmother, Mrs. H. L. Smith.  The funeral services were held Monday at 3:30."

     I did not know that Jimmie had died in G Grandma Smith's house or that Jean was in the hospital at the time. What profound sadness for young parents.

     While looking for more clues about the other Stevens' family loss, I happened upon an article that I can not believe had ever been told to me. It seems that the Calvin Stevens family (the not related one, but friends of my parents) after having lost their five year old son, Gene, in 1935 also lost their seven year old daughter.  She died in October of that year from complications resulting from an illness early in the year which was thought to be scarlet fever.  Sorry about the interrupting paragraph in my Ardea post, I am just overwhelmed with this new knowledge.

When my great grandma Stella Smith died in 1959, there was a sale of her household goods. As loving and generous as she was, not all of her children took after her.  There was controversy as can happen when numerous siblings are involved. So, to keep everything fair, no one was to take anything. Everything would be sold on the household sale. If a family member wanted something, they could purchase it. Grandma always sat in a rocking chair and since she was a little heavy, the rockers were slightly flat on the bottom. I had spent so much time with her, and she was usually in that chair that I decided I wanted my dad to buy it for me. Somehow, Aunt Ardee found this out and said to my dad. "If Margie wants that rocker, she can have it". I don't know if it is true or not but I was always lead to believe that the only item not sold of Grandma Smith's was that rocker.  You can see why I thought Aunt Ardee was the greatest.

Ardea, Steve, Jean

I would like to do more on Aunt Ardee, but I would need some help from her granddaughters. What do you think, girls?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ginevra Mary "Neva" Smith Walker (1909-1975)

Great Aunt Neva was the third child born to Hiram and Estella Smith. She was born in Scranton Township in Greene County, Iowa on February 18, 1909.   Recently, I wrote about the second child, Merroll.  Some family members might wonder why I haven't written about, Nina, the first child. Nina was my grandmother, and I have lots to tell about her. I decided I would introduce her siblings first. When I write about Neva and Bert one should know they were my great aunt and uncle. I always just called them aunt and uncle and will continue the title in this post.

One of my first memories of Aunt Neva was in great-grandma Smith's house. She and her husband, Bert, lived in Illinois and had come for a family visit. She immediately hugged me, folding me into her arms, and almost smothering me in her fur coat. It is that fuzzy black coat that must have made the memory so vivid because I was very young. As an adult, I learned more about why they had moved to Illinois.  For several years, Bert, farmed Estella's ( great-grandma Smith) farm. Evidently, things weren't going so well and he was terminated. I understand there was family fall out as one might expect. There are other family skeletons linked to this aunt and uncle but for now let's just let them rest.

Uncle Bert and Aunt Neva never had children. I always felt like they considered my mom as their daughter and in turn, I was like a granddaughter. These realizations affected me strongly as a kid. I was very young when I determined that as a grown-up, I wanted my own family. I wanted children and grandchildren of my own. As special as we were to her, we belonged to her sister.

Bert and Neva drove my mom to the hospital when I was born. The story goes that there was a bad snowstorm. Dad had to stay behind to milk the cows but came later. I have always loved snow and believe the excitement of the occasion coursed its way  through mom's umbilical cord and reached me as an unborn child. O.K. Laugh if you must, but I actually did a study on this once.

Neva wanted Mom to name me Sarah Jane. This did not happen but through my study of my third great-grandmother Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow, I feel like I have become very close to her.  It would have been an honor.  Aunt Neva also gave me a necklace that she always wore. I believe it belonged to her grandmother, Ginevra for whom she was named. (She is wearing it in the picture at the end of this page)

Aunt Neva's birthday was 3 days before mine. She wanted me to be born on her birthday, but instead I was born on John's birthday, February 21. John was brother to my mother and they were Aunt Neva's niece and nephew. When I was eleven John's first child was born. Oh, how I hoped the new baby would be born on February 21. Well, the new baby made Aunt Neva very happy because she arrived on February 18. On February 18, 2008 another family member was born. This time the baby born on Aunt Neva's birthday in 1956 was thrilled to welcome into the world her own first grandchild. Aunt Neva's wish came true a couple of times.

I have many, many memories of Aunt Neva.  I am not sure when they moved back to Greene County from Illinois.  Uncle John said she was his favorite cook in the family. When I was in high school, I would stay at Bert and Neva's house if Mom and Dad went somewhere overnight. In fact, I was staying with them when I was dropped off from a New Year's Night party that to this day is a momentous anniversary. (First date with the guy who would become my husband several years later)

Aunt Neva died in July of 1975 just two weeks after the husband of her sister, Nina. Of course, that was my grandfather, Bert Grisso, of whom I am speaking. I thought how hard it must be to lose a husband and then a sister so close together.

Neva and Bert Walker

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Merroll M. Smith (1902-1949)

Growing up I was really too young to know Merroll although I am in a few family pictures with him. I was only four when he died in an automobile accident. Too young to remember anything except stories of him.  I do remember his widow, Dorothy. She was beautiful. They had a daughter, Marilyn, who was a dead ringer for Natalie Wood (at least I thought so).  Merroll, Dorothy and Marilyn came from their home 150 miles away on occasion for family dinners and get togethers  We went to their home in Cedar Rapids when I was five to buy 'going to school clothes' for me.  It is one of my special memories probably because I loved the dresses Mom bought for me.

Once I asked Mom where she was when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. She said she was on her way home from Cedar Rapids with her Uncle Steve and Aunt Ardea. They had gone there to see Merroll and family and do some shopping. Mom bought her wedding blouse there. (I think she was married in a suit.)  Uncle Steve stopped for gas and when he came out of the station, he told them the news.

I think Grandma Estella went to visit her son and family regularly. As a little girl, I remember standing at the Jefferson Railroad Depot waiting for Grandma to get on the passenger train going east.  In the August 13, 1946 newspaper, I found an article that said she had just returned home from a three week visit in the home of her son, Merroll and family of Cedar Rapids. I have found many records of other visits as well.

Merroll attended Iowa State University but I have never found out any more about his education.  He is listed as a real estate salesman in the 1940 census.  In the 1930 census is not yet married but living in Cedar Rapids involved in insurance. By 1934, he was married to Dorothy because their name appears in the City Directory.  I did finally find their marriage date of November 24, 1932. Merroll was exactly 30 years old that day. 

Merroll died unexpectedly from an automobile accident only twenty years after his father died unexpectedly as a result of that horse kick.  Grandma Estella sat at the bedside of each of her beloved men.

Add caption

Merroll M. Smith
Services Held Wednesday

     Funeral services were held Friday, November 25 at Cedar Rapids for Merroll M. Smith who passed away the preceding Wednesday from injuries received in an auto accident on November 18.  His mother, Mrs. Estella Smith had been at his bedside since the accident.
     Besides his wife, Dorothy and daughter, Marilyn Mae he leaves his mother, Mrs. Estella Smith of Scranton and one brother and four sisters.
     Those from Scranton who attended the funeral were Mrs. Estella Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Stevens, Mr. and Mrs. Beryl Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Walker and Mr. and Mrs. Roy Boulward and Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Vorhies of Jefferson.

Card of Thanks

      We wish to thank all the friends and neighbors for flowers, cards and expression of sympathy during the illness and loss of our son and brother.

                                  Mrs. Estella Smith
                         and family
I have no idea why my parents didn't attend the funeral. Merroll's sister, my grandma Nina, was probably living in California but I don't know that for certain.  So many questions and no one to ask.   

Another picture I love.
Merroll and Dorothy are in the back. Grandma Smith is easy to identify. Marvin is shirtless. The little blonde girl is me and my great aunt Ardea has her arms around me. Next to us is Marilyn, daughter of Merroll and Dorothy. To Marilyn's left is my grandma Nina followed by Jean Stevens Johnson holding two year old, Kathy.  My mom, Mary, comes next and behind her is a gaggle of goofy men. To Dorothy's left is Uncle Steve, then Donald. In the far back from left to right is Beryl, Jean's husband, my dad Vern, and Uncle Bert Walker. The photographer must be Aunt Neva since her husband is in the picture but she is not.


Monday, April 20, 2015


The sad news that our small community lost another special resident just reached me.  Priscilla Nickolson Still was the inspiration for my study of foreign language, my neighbor while I was growing up, and she was a childhood playmate of my mother and her sister.

Like many of Scranton's high school graduates, Priscilla was my high school Spanish teacher. She inspired me. She loved the language and passed that love along to me. Over the years I have studied several languages, taught French and Spanish, and have had students of my own go on to teach foreign language. Priscilla did not realize how far her influence would someday reach.

As a small girl growing up, we lived just down the road from the Still family. Her Nickolson childhood home stood on the corner between our houses. I often walked to the grove north of that house to pick violets in the spring. Picking violets in that grove is one of my all time favorite memories. My first babysitting job was for Priscilla. Actually, it was sort of a shared responsiblilty with her oldest daughter, Marcia.  I liked hanging out with the Still kids, but I hated the mask that hung on the wall.

In 2004, my husband and I returned to our hometown where I again was able to spend time with Priscilla. I joined a discussion group at her invitation and enjoyed her visits to our home whenever one of her kids happened to visit. In 2009, a first cousin of mine from Maui came for a visit to discover a little of his mother's heritage. His mother and mine were sisters. We stopped in for a chat with Priscilla. He was delighted to meet someone with whom his mother had played with as a child.

When my own mother died in 2003, Priscilla shared a very nice sentiment. She remembered my grandmother Nina as such a nice lady. She recalled whenever she and her brother would walk to their home, Grandma would look out the door and with delight exclaim to her children, "Oh, looky, who has come to play."

Many people have wonderful memories of Priscilla.  So many of her four children's friends are undoubtedly sharing my sadness. I just wanted her kids to know what a wonderful connection, I too, had with their mother.

Marcia, Nick, Cynthia, Halle. So sorry for your loss. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Looking Back (Part II)

The large family portrait of the last post must have been taken around 1912-13.  The woman holding the baby on the left side (when looking straight at the portrait) is Carrie Vorhies. She is the wife of Eugene Vorhies, brother to Great-Grandma Estella Smith.  Viola was born June 5, 1912.  How old does the baby look to you?  I am thinking she looks younger than six months.  On January 1, 1913, Estella and Hiram had their 5th child.  The baby was named Myrtice Averil. She died a week later on January 7, 1913.  As I was looking at the baby trying to approximate an age, I looked more closely at Estella. Notice the difference in her waistline between the family picture of Hiram and her with the oldest two children, and with the large family picture.  I am wondering if she is pregnant with Myrtice. Could this portrait's date be almost determined as late 1912?

Clifford "Dale" Smith was born November 23, 1914. His big brother, Merroll, would have been one day shy of 12 years old. I wonder if they liked their birthdays being so close.

Leah Olive Smith was their last born child. She arrived on January 22, 1917.  She was only about four years older than my mom (oldest child of Nina, Leah's oldest sister).

By 1929 when Hiram died, all of the older children were married. However, Dale and Leah were only 15 and 12 at the time.

Growing up I could never remember the names of my paternal grandfather's siblings. My paternal grandmother was an only child so that was easy. I didn't know too much about my maternal grandfather's family, but I sure didn't have any problems with my maternal grandmother's family. Grandma Nina's siblings were very much a part of my childhood. I intend to write about each of my grandmother's siblings starting with her brother Merroll and progressing to the youngest, Leah.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Looking Back

Grandpa Hiram Smith died in 1929 as has been discussed in the past three writings.  Grandma Stella lived another 30 years as a widow. They were married at the beginning of the century and had a loving marriage as indicated by her need to stay with him while he was hospitalized.  They had seven children burying one born on their 13th anniversary only a few days after her birth.

June 13, 1901 was the birthdate of the first born child.  She was named Nina Lorene (and became my grandmother).

Merroll M. was born November 24, 1902. It seems obvious that he was named for his paternal grandfather, George Merroll Smith. I have not pursued the M. of his middle name, but I imagine I will find it to be McLaughlin, the middle name of his maternal grandfather. I will get back to you on that one.

 The Young Smith Family
Merroll, Hiram, Stella, and Nina

Genevra Mary "Neva" was their third child born on February 18, 1909.  She was followed by Ardea Agnes Oct 21, 1910.  It seems obvious that great-aunt Neva was named for her maternal grandmother, Ginevra Withrow Vorhies. (Again, some problems with the Ginevra/Genevra spelling conflict). I think Aunt Neva probably was also named for her paternal grandmother as was Aunt Ardea.  Their paternal grandmother's name was Mary Agnes.

 This family portrait has been shown before but I just want to emphasize the addition of the two little girls in the center front. Ardea is on the left and Neva to the right.  Merroll and Nina are standing behind their great-grandmother, Sarah Jane. Hiram and Stella are behind and to each side of Nina.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Passing of Good Citizen

Large Congregation Gathers at Funeral to Pay Last Tribute to H.L. Smith

     "Hiram Lee Smith, son of George and Mary Smith, was born May 26, 1868 in Clark county, Missouri, and died at St. Anthony's hospital in Carroll on March 19, 1929 at the age of sixty years, ten months and twenty three days.  He came to Scranton about thirty-six years ago and has since that time made this community his home.  His life has been one of the noblest examples of industry, thrift and honesty to be found anywhere.  His passing leaves not only a broken home, but is the distinct loss of a highly respected and honored citizen of our community; an interested and faithful patron and official of our schools and a loyal and devoted Christian.  He became a member of the Church of Christ at an early age, and has not only been a member but an official of the same for almost a generation.  He has also served a full term of rich service as a member of the board of directors of the Scranton Consolidated school district, and has only recently (since his accident) been reelected for second term.  He was united in marriage to Estella Vorhies on Jan. 1, 1900 and to this union seven children were born, one having died in infancy.  The living children are: Mrs. Nina Grisso, of Scranton, Iowa; Merroll M. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Mrs. Neva Walker, Mrs. Ardea Stevens, Dale and Leah, all of Scranton, Iowa.  He leaves to mourn his decease besides his devoted companion and loving children, also his aged father and brother, Jesse B., of Tucumcari, New Mexico; his brother, James W., of Owen, Wisconsin, and a sister, Mrs. Melissa Stewart, of Strickler, Arkansas; five grand children and a number of nieces and nephews, besides a host of admiring neighbors and friends.
     The funeral services were conducted on Friday, March 23rd at the Christian church in Scranton by the pastor, Rev. E.E. Griggs.  The public schools were closed for the services and an overflow gathering paid its last high and loving tribute of respect to an honored citizen who wrought well among them.  Interment was in the Scranton cemetery by the following pall bearers: William Dunivan, Chris LeGore, John MacDonald Sr., Newman Shaw, S.M. Hall and G.D. MacDonald."

From the obituary title to its subtitled and then on to the article,  I was awed by the kind words and tribute given to my great grandfather, Hiram. I was especially stunned to read that the public schools were closed for the services. My amazement could be because I am a retired teacher and can't imagine such a tribute, but that was long ago and life was different. I am so proud to be his great-granddaughter.  I think he would be proud to know he had at least three great-granddaughters who became teachers. Can anyone name them?

I also noticed a discrepancy in Grandpa Hiram's age from the second newspaper article to the third. The obituary is the correct age.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Found Dead

I find the second week article reporting the death of Great Grandpa Hiram Smith to be somewhat odd in its wording. I have used this as the title of this post.  It begins, "Hiram L. Smith was found dead in bed at the hospital in Carroll by a nurse at about 5 a.m. Tuesday morning". The next sentence is difficult to discern because of a wrinkle in the microfilm copy.  It includes the words "broken leg" and " his surgeons on Monday". The rest is clear and reads, "Mr. Smith had apparently stood this operation well and was improving following it.  A hospital nurse had given him a drink of water just a few minutes previous to the time he was found dead.  The nurse saw no cause for alarm and he was supposed to be progressing as well as friends could hope.  The news of the death of this good citizen spread a pall over the community.  Although the accident which caused his death had occurred more than ten days previous, details of which were recorded in this paper last week, the home community, where he was best known, loved and respected, was in no way prepared for the schocking [sic] news which came early Tuesday morning.  The surgeons had delayed the setting of his broken leg for fully ten days on account of a cold with which Mr. Smith was suffering.  It is probable that during this period some insidious ailment was forming which finally reached the heart and brought about his sudden death.  Mrs. Smith had spent all the time with him at the hospital and was sleeping in a guest room at the time of his death, not being permitted to remain with her husband during the night.  He was nearly sixty-three years of age and leaves a widow and six children.  Funeral services will be conducted from the Christian church in Scranton on Friday at 2:30 p.m.  The Journal joins the entire community in extending the most heartfelt sympathy to his grief stricken family.  Their inestimable loss seems to have peculiar sadness.  The obituary of Mr. Smith will appear in these columns next week.

Having known and loved Great Grandma Smith, my heart is sad to think of how hard this life event would have been for her.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Terrible Accident

In a previous post, I said the only thing I had ever known about Hiram L. Smith, my great grandfather, was that he had been kicked by a horse and died in 1929.  I had always just assumed he was kicked, died, end of story. While searching the microfilm of The Scranton Journal, I learned much more.  Great Grandpa Smith was in the newspaper weekly for three weeks. In the March 7, 1929 newspaper there was a report of his accident.  The following week detailed his death and the third week the paper printed his obituary. Guess what my next three posts will be.

From the Scranton Journal

"H.L. Smith was the victim of a terrible accident last Saturday, having been kicked by a horse which he was treating for a wire cut.  The kick must have been a vicious one, as it resulted in the breaking of a leg and two ribs for Mr. Smith.  Hiram was taken at once to the hospital in Carroll and the break in his thigh bone has not been set as yet, on account of a severe cold with which he is suffering.  This fracture is reported as a very bad one.  Friends are at a loss to find words with which to extend the deep sympathy they feel for Mr. Smith at this time, as this sad affair is a continuance of a long line of hospital experiences which have brought sadness and much expense to the Smith home.  If the good wishes of this community could prevail, this accident, which is near tragedy, would be the last, and Mr. Smith would be speedily restored to strength and usefulness."

Now I have no idea what the "continuance of a long line of hospital experiences" means.  Looks like I will need to take a trip to the genealogy library and look through earlier editions of the local newspaper. I will let you know what I find out.  

In the past few years, I have come to learn that the horse that kicked Grandpa was named "Buckskin Sally". My uncle who was only around three remembers that Buckskin Sally was supposed to someday be his horse. I think as a child he felt responsible.

Don't forget to talk often with your older relatives.  Their memories make our family stories come alive. As our family has experienced  this year, time is precious. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 1945

Our hometown weekly newspaper publishes a section called A Glance Into the Past from the files of The Scranton Journal.  I love reading this section. Sometimes I see my own name in the columns from fifty or sixty years ago. Sometimes I got a perfect spelling score if we are looking at sixty years ago or the fifty year old column might have some high school reference. Wow! Am I old or what!

This week's column featured an article from 70 years ago.  It begins: "The five sons of Mr. and Mrs. Jess Ray are in the armed forces. One of them is a prisoner of war in Germany".  Jess and Elsie (Tolsdorf) Ray were my husband's aunt and uncle.  The article goes on to tell where each son was serving.  Jess W. Ray, 29, was a boatswain's mate first class with the Navy sea bees overseas. George H. Ray, 26, was serving with the 6th marine division.  Calvin Lee Ray, 25, also a boatswain's mate first class serving on an overseas ship. Cpl. Dale F. Ray, age 25, was captured at Faid Pass February 17, 1943, and was in a  German prison camp.  Howard, age 21, was a machinist's mate first class stationed at Melbourne, Florida.

Over the years I heard comparisons of the Ray boys to the Sullivan Brothers. The Sullivan Brothers were five young men also from Iowa. Thankfully, my husband's cousins all came home from the war to lead long full lives. Sadly, this was not the case for the sons of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan.  Imagine hearing the statement, "The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your sons Albert, Francis, George, Joseph and Madison Sullivan are missing in action in the South Pacific." Theirs is a very moving story, and one I hope you will read at or google The Sullivan Brothers. There are many articles written about this tragedy.  From the site their legacy is outlined. In addition to ships, a convention center, a Japanese school, a park, a street, a song, and maybe more named for the Sullivan Brothers, the US War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy.



Oh, I hate making mistakes. Do not hesitate to point them out to me. If you took my advice and looked at A Family Tapestry blog you might have not been directed there easily. You still might have found it in a listing of Tapestry related items. However, if I had written the URL correctly it would have been much more direct.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Random thoughts

 If  you read my first post Getting Started  or About Me  under the tab at the top of this blog,  you know that I promised some random thoughts. The phrase "Random Thoughts and Other Related Pieces of Useless Information" came to me in a freshman class in college. The class was a general science class covering a little astronomy, a little chemistry and very little physics. The instructor used this phrase as well as  "Useless Facts and Other Related Information" whenever he went off topic just a little. This was my favorite part of the class. My notes rarely reflected information on astronomy, chemistry or physics, but I never failed to record his useless facts and other related information.

When using this phrase I am simply highlighting something other than my family story. The facts are not useless and really not all that random. Well, you can be the judge.

I have now been a "blogger" for slightly over one month. I also think I might be addicted. I have badgered my cousins, kids, assorted relatives and friends into reading my ramblings.  However, I am now listed on GeneaBloggers and was a featured new blog in the week of March 28.  Pretty cool.  (The symbol of a hand holding a pen will take you there directly. Just click on it.)

The author of mentioned my post about asking questions of your ancestors. The author of  highlighted my post Twice Glad. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The author of A Family Tapestry says many things that I would like to tell my cousins, kids, assorted relatives and friends. It answers the question: Why Do You Do This?  She also says, "I write because I can't keep for myself the gifts others have entrusted to me". One of her posts is entitled Remembering is Honoring. These words just seem to speak to me.

 She explains in another entry how a tapestry is two threads, woven vertically, like two people joined as husband and wife. "Each pairing produces an effect on the next generation."  She goes into far more detail. It is a very nice read and even though it is used as an analogy, it makes me think about the handiwork of my own family.

Sewing, quilting, embroidery, needlepoint, tatting, crocheting, knitting and probably more are very much a part of my own families' history.  You can see why I might be drawn to the writings titled  A Family Tapestry.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hiram Smith (1868-1929)

     All I ever knew about my great grandfather, Hiram Smith (1868  -1929) was that he died from being kicked by a horse and that his body was laid out in the living room of Great Grandma Smith's house.  As a little girl, I found this to be very spooky.  I spent a great amount of time at my great grandmother's house in that very room practicing my piano lessons.
     I had found some family notes that said he came from Oklahoma Indian Country. This was also what my mother told me. Official records show he was born in Clark County, Missouri.
     In the winter of 2007-08 (or maybe the winter before), I found Hiram's name on a family tree on  I communicated the dates and facts which I had and discovered that I'd connected to a great granddaughter of Hiram Smith's sister.

     Since then I have found out a little more.

     1868 May 26. Hiram Lee Smith was born to George Merroll (1842-1932) and Mary Agnes Ford (1847-1924) in Missouri.  He was their second child.  His older brother was named James W. and was about a year older than Hiram.
     1870  Hiram was age 2 at the time of the 1870 census. The family lived in Hurricane, Carroll County, Missouri. George was a farmer.
     1880  Now age 12, Hiram and family live in Keota, Keokuk County, Iowa.  Brother James is 13 and his sister, Melissa, is 7.

     1884  The census of 1920 indicates that Jesse, the fourth child of George and Mary, was born in South Dakota in 1884. I knew about Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. But South Dakota?  Wow! New information. Hiram would have been about 16 at this time. He was probably still with his family.  His obituary indicates that he came to Greene County around 1893.  He would have been around 25 at that time.

George, Jesse, Mary Smith

     1900 This census indicates Hiram's parents and younger brother, Jesse, were living in South Creek, Lincoln County, Oklahoma.  Now I see why my mom thought Great Grandpa might have come from Oklahoma Territory.
      1920 The 1920 census shows that George, age 76, and Mary, age 73, lived in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Their son, Jesse, was married with three children. It appears they all lived at the same residence. Jesse-36, Rosa-29, Beulah-13, John-10, and Carl-4.

     1924 I found this newpaper article from April 3, 1924.

              " Hiram L. Smith was called to New Mexico by telegram last Friday, the message announcing the very serious illness of his mother.  He left at once, but found the good mother dead upon his arrival.  Mr. Smith attended the funeral and arrived home Tuesday night."

     1929  Hiram died March 19

     1930  Mary has now been gone about 6 years and George is still living in the home of his son, Jesse. Jesse's son,Carl, is now age 14, but also living in the Smith household was their son,  John, age 20 and his wife, Viola.

      1932 George, Hiram's father, died in July about 90 years of age.

                   Fast forward about 80 years.

      2013 When driving to Arizona in January of 2013, we tried to find the cemetery in Tucumcari, New Mexico.  Find a Grave does not show George and Mary buried there, but I thought they must be. However, we could not find their graves because we couldn't even find the cemetery.

     2014 In January we drove right by Tucumcari, New Mexico. Rats, I really had hoped we could stop.

     2014 Finally, success. December 29, 2014, we found the grave of my great great grandparents, George and Mary Smith.  Only a few years ago, I didn't even know their names.  As I stood there looking at their stone, I suddenly wondered if my mother, Mary, had been named for this ancestor, her great grandmother.





Monday, April 6, 2015

Moving On

     My first blog series featured the family of Sarah Jane Withrow (1834-1922). I am not done with Sarah Jane nor with her daughters, Ginevra (1855-1922) and Anna Josephine (1857-1920).  I am still searching for their niece, Nellie Frederick (abt1881-?). After spotting the news article about her visiting her cousin, my Great Great Uncle Gene Vorhies (1877-1964 ) See post On the Track of  Nellie. I am happy to report that I have found a couple more references to her. She is listed as an out of town attendee of Anna Josephine's funeral. Anna was her aunt.  I have also found her as a teacher in Jefferson around 1900. These are clues for me to follow. But, I want to move on.  I think it might have been easier to write about the older ancestors. Moving down the family tree means more branches going in multiple ways. Which one will we take? I am leaning toward Hiram Lee Smith. ( 1868-1929)  Most of my second and first cousins remember his wife, our Great Grandma Estella Smith(1876-1959).  I spoke of her on the About Me page.

     On January 1, 1900, Estella married Hiram. Their marriage announcement is in the blog post titled  January 1, 1900.  
      They are very nice looking young people. The back of Grandpa Hiram's photo says 1899. There is only a name on Grandma's but it looks like it might be around the same time.
Estella Mae Vorhies Smith

Hiram Lee Smith

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

     I just finished reading a post that is perfect for today. It is called The Significance of Memories Lost.  It  can be found at I hope you will read it and especially the last paragraph. I am inspired.

      My mind is flooded with memories of my cousin and me when we were about 5 and 8 donning our Easter dresses and Easter hats standing in the front yard of our farm home.

     Then, there is the Easter when I was in high school that it snowed. I had spent the night with my friend, Margo. You might remember that she is my third cousin once removed. However, we didn't really know that back then. We were just good friends. I often stayed with her the night before Easter so we could do our part of keeping vigil in the Methodist Church sanctuary through the night.  The Methodist Youth Fellowship kids signed up for one hour stints. We, of course, picked something like 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. This way we were able to be out in the night. She lived in town, and I lived in the country so we stayed at her house. Just so you know, there was nothing happening in Scranton, Iowa at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. the night before Easter or any other night for that matter (at least in the sixties).  One Easter we did our thing, returned home to sleep a few more hours before sunrise services, and when we woke up there it was...snow on the ground. Who wants to wear new spring clothes in the snow. So, Margo put on her favorite wool skirt and sweater and loaned me her sister's matching set. I idolized her older sister and here I was wearing her clothes. It was a memorable Easter for me, but maybe not for any of the right reasons.

     These stories are certainly not profound, but might give my grandchildren a glimpse into my younger days. When my kids run across that picture of two little girls in hats, they will understand the significance, and if for no other reason, this post has given me a chance to walk down memory lane and recall a couple of almost forgotten memories.

     Happy Easter


Friday, April 3, 2015

Back to Aunt Anna

     Anna Josephine Withrow Cromwell would be my great, great, great aunt. She was born at Farmersville, Ohio on Friday, January 16, 1857, and died in her home in Scranton, Iowa on Friday, July 16, 1920.  I wrote about her in the post Anna Josephine and  Ginevra.
     According to her obituary, she moved as a small child with her parents to Indiana before moving to Jasper County, Iowa. In the spring of 1876, they came to Greene County, Iowa,  settling on a farm southwest of Scranton, where she resided until her marriage to William J. Cromwell on October 3, 1876.
     I have some problems with this obituary. I corrected the date when the family moved to Greene County. The obituary said 1875. It was February 1876.  I had never heard or found anything about the family moving to Indiana from Ohio. However, this is very logical, and I accept it as the case.  Then, there is the matter of the wedding date. Was it October 3 or was it October 2? Look carefully at the Marriage Certificate at the end of this page. 
     I encourage you to read all of Anna Josephine's obituary at It can be found in The Jefferson Bee, July 20, 1920.  I especially found the listing of her pall bearers interesting. It states that they were all soldier boys to whom she had written during the late war.
     The issue for July 14 tells of two daughters coming to assist in her care and that her condition was causing much anxiety among her relatives and many friends. 
      She sounds like she was a wonderful woman.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


     If we were to climb the Vorhies family tree, we would probably get to Steven Coerte Van Voorhies born in 1600. Yes, I know the spelling is not the same. The Van Voorhies family spelling varies in a couple of dozen ways. This is addressed on the website This website is fun to browse and if you go to the 9th generation list, you will find our own John McLaughlin Vorhies (1850-1939). There is an abundance of information on this family.
     Before me, many Vorhies relatives have worked on this genealogy.  One of those was our grandma, Nina Smith Grisso.  I have found copies of letters, responses, charts, association applications and many other treasures in her papers including a book titled Historical Handbook of the Van Voorhees Family in
 the Netherlands and America.  She must have been really in to it in 1965.  Many envelopes as well as letters show this date.  Her first cousin, Verl L. Vorhies ( I thought it was spelled Verle but since this letter is in his handwriting, I guess I am wrong) supplied her with many names and dates as well.  She has a letter from the Van Voorhees Association telling her how to add additional descendants. I do not know if this was accomplished or not. This will give me something to research on rainy days when I can't go to my garden.       
      The Van Voorhees family is the largest Dutch family in the United States. Bet you didn't know that! Or that we had any Dutch genes at all.
     For now my purpose is storytelling and trying to make our grandparents and their grandparents and on back more real to us all.
     I was thinking that I will climb the Vorhies Tree in the future and that for now, I am just picking up the fruit (research I have already done) from the ground.

    P.S. After you check out, if you find something you wish to share or something you think others would find interesting, let me know.  YSAFH (your self-appointed family historian)