Saturday, February 22, 2014

What speed do you read?

Staples has a  Reading Speed Test on their website that is really fun to take. I read 465 words per minute which was 86% faster than the average. At the end of the test it also tells you based on your reading time how many books you can read on eight different eReaders before the batteries needed recharging.

This reminds me of the olden days - in seventh/eighth grade I read 367 books in one calendar year.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

52 Ancestors - #7 Spencer Mitchell Jr. - A Family Divided by the Civil War

Spencer Stirling Mitchell Junior was the 5th generation born in the United States while I am the 10th.  The information I have on him was provided to me by my great Aunt Veron Mitchell Holden and cousin Bonnie Wiggins.

Spencer Junior was born in the former Pendleton District of South Carolina on April 8, 1804. It is now Anderson County, South Carolina. 

The Mitchell family moved to White County, Tennessee in about 1806 and he grew up on acreage just south of Sparta, on the north bank of the Caney Fork. This area was known as Hickory Valley.  

Spencer Jr. and Mary Polly Malinda Lewis married on August 9, 1825. She was the daughter of Elijah Lewis of Leesburg, Virginia and Judith Sherrill. They were the parents of ten children. Their eldest child Philander Davis Mitchell (June 1, 1827- July 2, 1900) was my Great Great Grandfather.  While living in Hickory Valley they also had Martha Emeline (February 17, 1829-April 20, 1915), Louisa Catherine, Sherrill Lewis (August 10, 1832-June 26, 1908).

According to the family bible birth and death records Spencer Jr. moved his family to Crawford County, Missouri sometime between August 1832 and July 1834 and most probably in 1833 according to reliable records. Born there was Spencer Halbert and Stashe Ann. They moved to Licking, Texas County, Missouri in 1837 because Stashe Ann is buried at the Licking Cemetery after her death on January 21, 1837 at eight months of age. There is some confusion over David Linn since some people are confusing this David Linn who died during the war with a David Linn who died after the war in 1880. The last of the children were born in Licking – William Pickney (March 31, 1840- June 21, 1908), Reuah Eveline, Clarinda Elzada (January 20, 1852- September 4, 1852), and Rufus. (Researching birth and death date discrepancies is for a later time.)

Spencer was appointed as Commissioner of Schools for Texas County in 1847 and he served as the third Sheriff of Texas County form 1851-1854.

During the Civil War two of the brothers, Sherrill Lewis (Company D, 32 Regiment, Missouri Infantry-Corporal) and David Linn fought for the Union. They both were in the same regiment as was Sherrill’s brother in law Josiah Bradford. Sherrill Lewis kept a diary of his time in the war but I was only able to find official records for Josiah Bradford and Sherrill. It is possible that David Linn’s records were destroyed as it was reported by family members that he was killed in action possibly not long after he joined. (There were no official records of another grandfather’s service in the Indian Wars except for sworn affidavits that he had served 28 days – two days short of getting a pension.)

 Three sons fought for the confederacy – Philander Davis (Company D, Slayback’s Regiment, Missouri Calvary-2nd Lieutenant), Spencer Halbert (Company C, Mitchell’s Regiment, Missouri Infantry-4 Sergeant who was also killed in action), and William Pinkley (Company C, Mitchell’s Regiment, Missouri Infantry-Private). I remember asking my father Lionell Burris Mitchell in the late 1970’s about how the Civil War had affected families. He had left the Licking and Raymondville areas of Missouri in the 1930’s. He said that you didn’t dare mentioned to some Mitchells that they were related to another group of Mitchells if the families had fought on opposing sides. The Civil War had split families permanently apart.

Through life, Spencer Jr. was a farmer but in 1873 he operated a store in Houston, Missouri. He was a Democrat, a Mason and a Presbyterian in belief. Mary Polly Malinda Lewis was a member of the Methodist Church.

When their health failed, they went to live with their daughter, Martha Orchard, at Salem, Missouri. Spencer Jr. died on July 12, 1892 and Mary Polly Malinda died January 12, 1893.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It is Hard Getter Older

Well, actually it is not difficult to do - frighteningly easy in fact - it just happens to you. Dealing with the results can be difficult. The knee and hand joints that disintegrate which I finally dealt with in the past year and a half (best decisions I ever made - waited far to long.) The new pair of glasses that I just picked up (the wear all the time kind.) The latest issue - my hair! It grows at least 1/4 inch  per week so I have to touch up my white roots at least every three weeks. The white is getting whiter and the red roots are getter fewer and farther between and some areas on the sides and in my bangs are not taking the color any more. Add to that the ache in my left elbow where I broke the upper bone in five pieces and pulverized one piece (3 large plates and 21 screws.) It is getting more and more difficult to dye my hair myself and I can't afford to have someone do it every month. I have a lot of use of that arm thanks to my brilliant surgeon Dr. Alexis Falicov, but my hair is so super thick that it takes me about 45 minutes just to pin my hair up and get it ready to dye - and although it just takes one package of dye if I just use the touch up stuff - it takes two packages.

My 35 year old son has also said that it is getting weird for him to stand beside me when his hair is getting so gray (and boy, is it!) As the years go by, time is getting more and more precious and I am really starting to resent the time I have to spend dying my hair. My two oldest female cousins Rita and Chris have gorgeous, perfect white hair. The next cousin Cheryl has beautiful white and gray with a hint of the black it once was.  If my hair would look like the three of theirs, I wouldn't mind as much. Now with that being said, my mind is also screaming at me, "you've always been a red head!"

Some of my earliest memories are of total strangers coming up to my mother in public and saying as they looked at me and my 18 months younger sister, "Just look at their red hair! Are they twins? Where did they get that red hair?" And my mother replying, "From the red-headed milkman." I didn't understand that response until much, much later. I mean, does anyone even ask that stupid question any more? As you can tell, a lot of people did ask it back in the 1950's and 1960's and my mom got really, really tired of it.

I going to do it. I think. Well, I did make an appointment with my hairdresser  - 4:15 Wednesday, February 12th. She said that I might have to go to a brown shade before going lighter (or whiter) so it may take awhile to get there. My sister said something about it may have been easier for her when she starting going gray 23 years ago to just let it happen. She rather firmly said that she is certainly not going to go white in her 60th year. If it takes me awhile then technically, I won't either.

Here is an interesting blog article about Red hair genes directly inherited from the world’s first Redheads 70,000 years ago.

The following is from the blog (who obtained the information from

"Between 2% and 6% of northwestern Europeans have red hair, compared with an average of around 0.6% of the world’s population as a whole.  In the British Isles the numbers are much higher.  In Scotland around 13% of the population have red hair, but over 30% are unknowing carriers of the redhead gene.  In Ireland about 10% have red hair, but as many as 46% are carriers.  Scottish and Irish emigration have made the USA the home of the largest population of redheads in the world at between 6 million and 18 million, with many millions more carrying the gene variants."

I always thought that Ireland had the most redheads - I guess, I was wrong.

The information below is from where you can buy a test to see if you carry the gene for red hair. Unfortunately, the test is only available as an add on to their DNA tests which are out of my price range. They do an extensive historical analysis to go with the test results and it does come all the way from Scotland - which will add to the price.

Punnett Square for red-head Mother and carrier FatherThe Punnett Square to the left shows the recessive inheritance of red-head genes. In this graphic, both parents carry one copy of a red-head variant, represented by the lowercase, red r. There is a 25% chance that their offspring will have red hair (rr) and a 50% chance that their offspring will also carry a red-head variant (Rr). There is also a 25% chance that their offspring will not carry a red-head variant (RR). For a child to have red hair, both parents must be carriers of a red-head variant - if a red-head has children with a non-carrier, then their offspring will only carry the redhead variants, not be red haired. Everyone who carries one of the variants is a direct descendant of the first person ever to have it.

Punnett Square for one weak, one strong red-head Mother and carrier FatherRed-heads must carry two red-head variants, represented by rr. But there are both strong (represented by a dark red r) and weak (represented by a light red r, with a w) red-head variants. A strong variant increases the chance of having red hair about 50-fold. In contrast a weak variant only increases the risk of red hair by 5-fold and often results in light or strawberry blond hair.

Here is a link to various combinations possible.

Image credits:

Frequency of Red Hair in the US

Sunday, February 9, 2014

52 Ancestors - #6 Spencer Mitchell Sr. of North Carolina and Tennessee (1775-1849)

The first Mitchells immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1721 from Ireland. They had emigrated from Scotland, most probably, sometime before 1611. In 1737 they moved to the “Valley of Virginia.”

Spencer Senior was the 4th generation born in the United States while I am the 10th.  His generation is the farthest back that I have reliable research provided by my great Aunt Veron Mitchell Holden. Spencer Senior was born in Orange County, North Carolina on June 4, 1775 and was the son of Arthur and Elizabeth Linn Mitchell. Orange County was divided into Orange/Caswell Counties in 1777 and then Caswell County was divided into Caswell/Person Counties in 1791.

Spencer posted a marriage bond on December 22, 1796 to obtain a license to marry Rachel Roberts in Person County, North Carolina. Spencer bought land in the former Pendleton District of South Carolina on April 2, 1799 from a Shadrack Nowling. It is now Anderson County, South Carolina. 

Daughter Elizabeth was born in September 1797 and sons Arthur in October 20, 1799 and John in October 3, 1802.  My ancestor Spencer Stirling Mitchell Jr. was born here on April 8, 1804 followed by William Linn Mitchell on June 10, 1806.

Spencer Sr. and wife Rachel, along with their family, moved to White County, Tennessee in about 1806. “Rachel told her grandchildren that the family came across the Smoky Mountains on horseback. She carried her youngest child, William Linn on her lap in the saddle, he was wearing a red Lindsey dress and as they passed through the Cherokee Indian villages the Indians would take him down from her and go into rapture over that red dress.”  Four more children were born to Spencer Sr. and Rachel in White County, Tennessee – son Robert Sergeant born April 5, 1808, daughter Stacy born December 20, 1809, son Barnett born August 3, 1811 and son Tom born either early 1811 or 1812.

1809 land grant records show that Spencer was granted 170 acres just south of Sparta, on the north bank of the Caney Fork. This area was known as Hickory Valley. This was in addition to land granted in 1807 and 1808.

Spencer died March 20, 1849 after becoming sick on March 1st.  The day after he was taken sick, he arranged his temporal business, and then remarked that he could die satisfied. 

"He has left an aged companion, eight sons, and one daughter.  In this dispensation of the wise Providence of God the church has lost one of its brightest ornaments, the bereaved widow an affectionate husband the children a kind father and the neighborhood one of its best members"

"Spence Mitchell's (unmarked) grave is by the [Old Union] church house, near the grave of Rufus White.  There's a rock sticking out of the ground there where he is buried." Joe Wallace, Chairman of Union Cemetery Trust Fund July 22, 2002 Conversation with Wayne Haston.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

52 Ancestors – #5 Alva Ashbury Tucker – A Family Devastated by Loss

Alva Ashbury Tucker  (January 8, 1892 - May 25,1927)

My grandfather died far too young (35 years old) and his loss was keenly felt by four generations. When my Great Aunt Calla died in 1981 and I went to her house to go through her things – under the glass on her dresser I found an article cut out from an old newspaper telling about the sinking of his tugboat and the loss on all hands. Calla had adored her older brother and was the last family member to see him alive. She missed him for the rest of her life.  Alva’s older brother Henry died a couple of months after he did leaving his father William with only one son remaining, the youngest Edwin, of four boys. 

His widow Effa Belle (Graves) was left with a 10 year old daughter Stella Belle, a seven year old son Arnold Virgil, a four year old daughter Elva Rosalie (Alva had wanted her to be named after him and Effa fought him for four months) and a two month old daughter Vina Louise. Newspaper articles said that he had never seen Vina but my mother remembered him taking her to the nursing home to visit the new baby. He asked her if she would mind him holding Vina and she told him that she would sit on Daddy's lap and hold the baby for him.

Alva had always taken care of everything and Effa did not even know how to write a check. They were buying a home on contract and she was forced out.

 Arnold and Elva Rosalie in front of their Aberdeen home in 1927

Alva had also invented something with a couple of friends – Effa never saw a dime. She moved back home with her parents and the neighbors got together and built her a house on their property. Effa was determined though that her daughters would never face the same thing so she raised them to be very independent and to know how to take care of themselves. 

By all accounts, Alvie, as he was known, was a wonderful father. I interviewed all three of the oldest children a number of times before they died and one thing really stood out – they each, independent of the other, said that the day they got the news – their world ended. He managed to spend real quality time with each of them and to give them undivided attention.  Each of them felt extremely close to their father. Alvie managed the children with a look or by pointing his finger at them. He was stern and strict but nice about it.

My mother was very young but when her mother would get mad and try and fight with Alvie – the dishes would fly (a trait that I recently found out that Effa learned from her mother.) Mom said that her father would grab her hand and say, “Elva, let’s go for a walk to the store and get a treat. When we get back home, Momma will feel better.” He was the sun, moon and stars to her. They all told me that he loved the Fourth of July and would put on huge fireworks shows for the neighborhood kids. He bought his own camera (not that common) and developed his own pictures. He loved to study engineering and reading books. He passed his love of reading books on to his children.

Alvie enjoyed good music and bought a hand wound Victrola and records. He loved to take his children to the movies. My mother remembers sitting on his lap and at scary parts she would hide her face under the lapel of his jacket and then she would peek out when he would tell her it was alright to look. Stella and Arnold both remembered going to see Charlie Chaplin in "The Tramp" and Stella also remembered a trip to the circus. Alva loved the beach and the mountains and going camping. I found an article in the Seattle Times where he had participated with a Swiss guide and four other climbers in the first climb of the season for Mt. Rainier on July 6.1921. They encountered exceptional quantities of snow and ice and there was a storm at the summit.

Alvie has been described as tall (6'1"), handsome and blue eyed with long dark lashes and brown hair. He was very soft spoken and hard to anger. He was very much his own man and did not kowtow to anyone and yet he was very kindly. Alvie  always loved to be going places and doing things.

Effa and Alva Tucker on their wedding day

Alvie had been farming with his father and Effa had been working as a teacher in Coulee City in Eastern Washington when they married on March 20, 1915 in Coulee City. Her parents Jefferson Thomas and Mattie (Riches) Graves were their witnesses. Alvie and Effa took the train and honeymooned in Tacoma with another newly married couple they had met on the train.

 The Tinkers and the Tuckers

Alvie was working as a rancher in January 16, 1916 in Coulee City when their first child Vera Louise was born dead with a broken neck - the doctor was leaving on a trip and was in a hurry. They had moved to Aberdeen by the time Stella was born on December 6, 1916.

The United States entered World War I on April 2, 1917. Alva enlisted in the army on June 5, 1917. 

He was sent to Texas after a stay in Vancouver, Washington to be shipped overseas. Before he could ship out he became sick and had to stay behind. The army had its first squadron in 1913 of nine planes and when they first entered the war they did not use planes. The army learned that he was very mechanically inclined so instead of sending him overseas they assigned him to the Aviation Section, US Signal Corps 866th Aero Squadron and had him working on building airplanes and then testing what he worked on.  

When Arnold was born they were living in North River out of Grays Harbor. Alvie was running a stage line between North River and Aberdeen and had a big Studebaker Touring car.

In October 1921 he build a gas station and garage at Mary’s Corner in Lewis County, Washington. In September of 1924 he and Effa purchased a home in Chehalis, Washington.

c1926 - Rosalie, Arnold and Stella

At the time of his death he was living with his family in Aberdeen, Washington and he was working as Chief Engineer on the tugboat Warren. Alvie was not even scheduled to work that night but his brother-in-law Vern talked him into taking his shift.  According to family, they had been testing a new type of 170 hp diesel engine.
Alvie is inside the pilot house

They left Seattle on Monday, May 23rd at 3:15 pm for Victoria, British Columbia. The Warren was towing a gravel barge from Victoria for building the ‘new’ Federal Building in downtown Seattle. It was a stormy and horrible night in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as they headed toward Puget Sound and Seattle.  In spite of the warnings, the captain insisted that they make the trip. A woman in Port Townsend, Washington happened to be awake at 2 am on Wednesday the 25th of May 1927. She heard one long shrill whistle, saw lights on the water, and then the lights went out and the whistle quit as the Warren sunk.  In the days preceding Alvie’s death the newspaper front pages were covered with the news of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight.  The news of the sinking knocked it off the front page.  It was reported that the rope towing the barge had been cut – many different theories abounded about the Warren being deliberately sunk. The Coast Guard began the investigation which was, for some reason, then taken over by a Seattle tugboat company.  Five men died that night and the only body which was every recovered was that of the cook and it was found with a Giant Pacific Octopus, the largest of the octopus species, by a diver investigating the ‘accident’.

Upon hearing the news each of the children reacted differently -
Stella, age ten. She screamed and screamed - my mother could remember the sound 60 years later.
Arnold, age seven. "The whole world tumbled down around me. From then on I lived in fear, always of something. I had lost my hero"
Rosalie, my mother, was only four years old. She simply stopped speaking and didn’t say a word for over four months.
Vina, age two months. She grew up hearing stories about him and seeing his picture on the wall - and that was the only way she knew him. She was the only child, though, to get his beautiful, distinctive blue eyes and lashes.

The only items that washed ashore were my grandfather’s Mackintosh coat, two life preservers, and a food chest - and later on Whidbey Island some of the captain's papers. Stella remembered that someone hung the coat on the clothes line and her mother just couldn't deal with it so Stella went outside and pulled the pockets out and watched the sand fall to the ground. The pockets were just filled with sand. They had found a notebook in one of the pockets and the night before he died he had written something in it to each of his children.

Growing up I always missed not having a grandfather and by all accounts Alvie would have been a wonderful grandfather. In talking with my cousins, I discovered that they felt the same way.