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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Women's History Month - #13


March 13 — Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

Again, my mother is at the top of my list on this one!

My parents were raising their three little girls in the coal camps of West Virginia when Dad was drafted into the Navy.  He was the only one in the coal camps to be drafted.

This left my mom and my three older sisters to fend for themselves while Dad was away at Pearl Harbor.  Fern, Jean and Betty would have been around the ages of 7, 5 and 2 years old.

They were poor to begin with, and even poorer after Dad left.  Mom managed to keep everyone fed, mostly with beans.  Occasionally, the local butcher would see Mom coming and put back a nice piece of meat for her, assuring her that it wasn't horsemeat.

During this time, Mom also became very sick.  Her father heard about it and came over from Kentucky to help care for her.  When it became apparent that she was   indeed, very, very sick, he made arrangements to have her taken to Columbus, Ohio and he brought the girls back home to Kentucky.  Mom had a very serious goiter that was wrapping itself around her throat, threatening to strangle her.  She lost a tremendous amount of weight, and it took a long time to recover.  

For the remainder of her life, her neck bore a large scar that went from one side to the other where they had to operate to save her life.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Women's History Month - #12


March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

Mom stayed home.

Her mom stayed home.

For a time period, she did work at cleaning houses.  She named me after one of the women whose home she cleaned - Peggy Sternbaum. 

She also worked for awhile in the cafeteria of my grade school.  I was always secretly excited when I would see her working, for it was a part-time job.  She worked when she was called in.  It always bothered her to see the amount of food wasted.
Image from Google, not my mother

Mom was always at home when I was at home.  She was there to get me off to school in the mornings, and was there when I returned afterward.  She kept the home running, just like her own mother had done.

Women's History Month - #11


March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

Dad always talked about his little sister, Betty, who died when she was 3 1/2 years old.  

Betty was born when Dad was two years old.  She was the sixth child out of eleven that would come to that family.

One day, older sister Mary was rocking little Betty by a pot bellied stove that had a pot of beans cooking and bubbling away on the top of it.  As she rocked Betty, she would "push off" with her foot against the stove.  Each time she pushed, the pot of beans would move a little closer to the edge.
It eventually moved too close to the edge and fell right on to baby Betty and Mary.  It mostly covered Betty, scalding her severely.

It took Betty three, agonizing days to die from the burns.  What a terrible death!  And, the terrible feelings that Mary must have had running through her 11 year old mind.  The helplessness of her parents hearing her cries must have haunted them throughout their lives.

One of my sisters is named Betty in honor of this sweet little aunt that died so many years ago.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Women's History Month - #10


March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

I don't believe religion played a big part in too many of my ancestors' lives.  My sisters have told me that they did go to a few churches when they were growing up in both Kentucky and West Virginia.  Mom did mind them going, but she drew the line when it came to visiting a snake handling church.  That was off-limits in her book.

Again, I quote from mom's journal:

"So now I have grown older now and have started to go too church by my self and  with neighbors to the church nowon as the Jesus only church.  And there where I met my husband to be I was 16 year old when I met him we all went to church at the same place he was baptized at one time in the Jesus only church before we were married my mom & dad didn’t wants us to get married for I was the only girl at time that had and very younge I had several girls friends and was very happy Just staying at home and helping my mother with house work."

Church was a place for socializing.  It was a place to commit oneself to the Lord. But, mom knew there was something missing in her life.

In 1948, two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on my mother's door, and her life was changed forever.  She read the Book of Mormon, had some very spiritual and sacred dreams, and made her decision to be baptized with my three sisters, who were 9, 12 and 14 years old.

They were baptized in the Guyan River near Logan, West Virginia.  The above picture shows them attending church at Mud Fork close to the time they were baptized.

Dad wanted nothing to do with the church.  He also felt the missionaries were getting a bit too pushy with him.  So, on New Year's Day of 1950, he moved the family to Mansfield, Ohio.  He found a better job, better educational opportunities for his girls, and...no Mormon church.

Four months later, the area opened up for missionary work.  Mom and my sisters were found, and the beginnings of the church in Mansfield began.

Dad joined two years later.

In 1948, women didn't usually strike out and do something like my mother did.  But, she realized what was presented to her was the truth, and she wasn't going to run from it.

She changed the lives of her family, her ancestors, and me - who came along in 1955.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Women's History Month - #9


March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

I had to really give this one some thought.

Gilbert Stephens was an ancestor of mine who fought in the Revolutionary War.  He served from Virginia, later moving his family to Morgan County, Kentucky.

Years ago, I sent for his pension file from the National Archives.  It was a large one, costing a total of $72!  The day it arrived was indeed a happy one.  And, nothing else got done in my house for several days as I read through it.

Gilbert was entitled to bounty land for his service in the Revolutionary War.  We were a country that was cash poor, but land rich.  The last years of his life was spent trying to secure the necessary proof needed for his land.

Then, he died.  Wife Nancy Osborn Stephens was left to continue on with the quest.  And, this quest went on for years.

She spent those years trying to produce the needed proof of her marriage to Gilbert.  Many, many documents are included in the pension file that attest to witnesses having known them all of their married life, and that they were indeed married.

It wasn't good enough.

Even their sons wrote that their parents were indeed married.

That wasn't good enough.

Nancy asked a man to go back to Virginia to see if anyone was alive that could remember the wedding, which took place at Thomas Leadingham's home, where she was a servant.

The man went, but died when he was there.  

One of the final pages in the pension file indicates the following:


Nancy states that after years of trying to prove she was indeed married to Gilbert Stephens, "she expects she will not be able to produce any public record of her marriage".

This absolutely touched my heart.  She was 88 years old and couldn't remember if she was married in 1796 or 1797.  Dozens of friends and relatives stated their knowledge of Gilbert and Nancy being husband and wife, including her own brother, Jesse.

But, none of it was good enough.

In the end, she actually was given the bounty land due to her and Gilbert.  

She died a very short time later.


Women's History Month - #8

A favorite subject of mine is the discovery of journals and diaries left by our ancestors.


March 8 — Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.

My mother was not an educated woman.  Her handwriting and spelling were sometimes a challenge to figure out. 

But, during the later years of her life she began writing down her memories.  I recently transcribed these journals, and have included the following:

Ida StevensClemens’ Personal Journal Writings
Written by her own hand during the later years of her life – probably 1970’s

"Chester Lee Clemens & Ida Stevens
Wedding Day   Feb 1 1932
We were married on a mondy in morehead Ky in Rowan co it was a cold day muddy& some Ice & Snow.  Richard Hill& his wife Alice took us to morehead in Clem Father old 27 chev car.  Clem put the Battery in the car and got acid in his eyes he look like he was crying all day. We had a late meal in Shouder Ky
When we got home it was dark the neighbors was there to bell us. That beat on dishpans shot off Guns and rode Clem on a pail down to the Store they fell down and Clem just sit on the rail and thay couldint get up.  We all finley arrived at the Store we Bought candy & cigar and treated ever one and thay Bought us a pair of pillows forour bed.  Chester walked to Olive Hill and got me a dress for the wedding & a Scarf he Started about 4 AM in the morning and was back before 8.AM.  My dress at  the neck line.  He wore a Navy Blue Surge Suit.  We stayed all night at my dads House in Lawton Ky a big 7 room house up the Hollow behind Watt Hillman Store.  We had a big dinner at my mom and Dads House the next day and we went down to Chester mom & Dad House the next day we Stayed at my mom and Dads House till we went to House Keeping the 29 of March 1932.  We builted us a nice too room House.  We had 1 bed 1 dresser a big pot belled Stove in one room.  The kitchen.  We had a cook Stove a big round table and a dish Shelf.  And Clem Bought us a big Sow Hog so we had our meat for the next winter. We had a garden & caned & dad give us a young Jersey cow.  Clem didn’t make much at that time he only made .20 pr Hr 12.00 a week to live on he worked 10 Hr a Day"
All of her original spelling has been retained.  She even drew a sketch of her first cookstove.

These are priceless!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Women's History Month - #7

Here comes a yummy challenge for today!


March 7 — Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.

Mom was an excellent cook, as well as her mother.  She wrote down recipes, but more often than not, she cooked by "feel" and by "sight".  When I was cooking along right beside her, I'd ask her if I was doing it right.  She would take the spoon or the dough and say, "Here, let me feel it."  She could just tell.

By far, my favorite of her dishes was chicken and dumplings, one that I try to fix today.  But, it never quite tastes like hers.
This is a photo I found on a Google search that is as close-looking to hers as I could find.

Chicken and Dumplings
1 whole chicken, cut up

Stick it in a pot of water and boil it till it's done.

Take it out, let it cool.  Tear it off the bone.

To the broth, add:
Some cut up carrots
Some cut up celery
One big old onion cut up
Salt and pepper

Start making the dumplings:  
Flour  (I think about 2 cups)
Crisco  (I think about 1/2 cup)
Salt
Cold water

Start mixing up the dumplings, but add the water just a spoonful at a time till it feels right.  Roll it out on the counter with some flour on it.  Cut the dumplings out with a can smaller than a Pet milk can.  Or you can leave the dough in a ball and drop them in by the spoonful.

Add the torn up chicken back in.  Let it boil.

Start dropping the dumplings in.  Cover them up and cook them till they're done.  (About 20 minutes).  

Sit down and eat.

In her later years, she often just used Bisquick or a can of biscuits that she cut up.  But, I liked the homemade ones the best.

Today, I fix them a little differently.  I add frozen peas, a can of light chicken broth, sometimes a can of light cream of chicken soup, parsley, and I trim off any fat and skin.  But, each bite makes me think of mom.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Women's History Month - #6

On a cold a snowy Ohio morning, I'm thinking of the women in my family...


March 6 — Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)

It is unfortunate that a fire occurred about a year and a half after my mom died.  Many of the items in that house fire would have come to me, for none of my sisters like old things.

Me...I love old things.  Perhaps I love them too much!  I treasure them.  I think of how they were used, how they were made, how they were worn.

But, two things stand out in the possessions I do own:
My sister found a cast iron skillet in my dad's possessions when she was cleaning out her garage.  It is similar to the one above.  I cleaned up the rust that was on it, re-seasoned it, and now use it every day.

I can't help but think of the many pans of cornbread, biscuits, fried potatoes, fried chicken, fried pies, fried anything that must have come from that skillet.  It has "Wegner's 1891" imprinted on the bottom.  It's one of the best.

The next items are just as dear:
I inherited three bonnets that my mother and grandmother wore.  Mom's favorite is on the far right.  How well I remember the days she wore it as she tended her magnificent flowerbed, pulled weeds, and worked in the garden under blistering sun.  I believe I still have the pattern she used to make it.

These mementos take me back to a time when I can envision the people who used them, and they allow me to cherish them even more!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Women's History Month - #5

Onward we go with the lives of valiant women!


March 5 — How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?

My mom used to tell me that she and dad met at church.  Then, she would later say that they didn't really grow up going to church.  So, I'm not sure how they met, other than the fact that Dad worked at the limestone quarry where Mom's father, Corb Stevens, was the foreman.
The old limestone quarry at Lawton, KY.  It was later a mushroom factory, where the conditions were perfect for growing mushrooms.


My dad's parents, Richard Lee and Fannie Collier Clemens.  The story about how they met is unknown to me.  
My mom's parents, Corb and Bertha Gearheart Stevens.  The story about how they met is unknown to me.

How sad it is that these people that I knew so well in my life have stories that will never be known to me.  I can only surmise that their love story echoes that of my parents; they married because there wasn't anything else to do.

In eastern Kentucky, opportunities for going beyond the few counties around one's home were few.  You married who you knew; those your parents knew, those you went to school with, those you saw at church, those that lived up the holler.

Oh, if I could just have about five minutes more with each of them!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Women's History Month - #4

And, the fun continues...


March 4 — Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

My good parents, shortly after their marriage in 1932.

My parents lived in eastern Kentucky.  Mom told me they got married because there wasn't anything else to do.

Chester Lee Clemens and Ida Stevens were young hillbillies living in Carter County, Kentucky.  Ida's father was the foreman at the local limestone quarry where Chester worked.  Dad married the boss's daughter.

On the morning of 1 Feb 1932, Dad was working on the car that would take them to neighboring Morehead in Rowan County.  Battery acid spilled into his eyes.  They flushed them out, but his eyes continued to tear up all day, and he spent the day wiping them.

The judge kept reassuring him that it wasn't going to be that bad.

They married during the Depression, but Mom always said they never knew there was a Depression going on.  They made do on very little.  They had $7 to their name, and bought a hog with that money.

Their long marriage survived economic bad times, illnesses, World War II, Dad's service in the Navy at Pearl Harbor, poverty, working in the coal mines and living in the coal camps.  

Through it all, Mom was a strong woman who raised four strong daughters.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Women's History Month - #3

This challenge has been exciting!  I am enjoying the rediscovery of the love of my ancestors who were women.


March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

Well, I wasn't named for anyone in my family tree - or so I thought.

I was actually named for the woman my mother worked for.  She cleaned house for a woman whose husband was a supermarket owner in my hometown.  I quote from mom's journal:

"I Ida Clemens lived at 294 East arch St in 1955 and that is where our baby Peggy Lynn was borned I was 41 years of age when she come to live with us.  Betty Lee was passed 16 years of age when Peggy Lynn was borned ever one sure was shocked.  I worked for Peggy & Dave Sternbaum when we learned we was going to have here the Saints here give us a Shower we just had every thing we needed.  She was borned on 8 July 1955  at 10 oclock inthe Mansfield Ohio General Hospitial in Richland co.  Dr Bonar was the Dr that delivered hir.  My Dr was out of towon on Vacation Dr Robert Allison.  We had to much company to seethe new baby.  And the weather was Hot."

Mom was actually about six months' along when she felt she should go to the doctor, where she was informed she had "Cupid's tumor."  All she heard was the word "tumor".  Then he informed her she would be having a baby in the middle of the summer.

However, I have now discovered several women named Peggy in my family tree.  Most were named Margaret, though I was not.  It really does seem to be a family name.

The most unusual name I have found is one that I have blogged about before - that of John Ellen Offill.  I just don't understand why in the world she was named John.  Her grandfather's name was John, as well as her husband's.  She's a beautiful woman.

But, her name is John...


Women's History Month - #2

In continuing on with Women's History Month, the following challenge question was issued:


March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?


This is my mother, Ida Stevens Clemens.  It was probably taken in the 1940's in either Kentucky or West Virginia.  Mom was born in 1913, so my best guest is that she was in her early 30's.

This photo has always been one of my favorites, because it shows a young and happy woman that seems so happy and vivacious.  It was post-Depression in the hills of Appalachia, yet she glows.

I did not know my mother when she was young.  I was born when she was 41 years old, and in 1955 that was considered "awfully old to be having a baby".  Most of my friends had grandparents that were the age of my parents.

But, this shows my mom just full of life.  What a beautiful young woman she was!

Women's History Month - #1

This month, I have decided to accept the challenge given by Lisa Alzo for Women's History Month.

Half of our pedigree belongs to our female ancestors.  They are just as important, yet many times remain silent entitites.  Many did not have voices in ownership of land and property, or even in choosing their own life partner.

Yet, they are ours.

For the first day of challenge, I include the following:


March 1 — Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.

I have thought a lot about this one, and decided that my favorite female ancestor is the unknown one.  We all have one.


The above photo came from a CD that contained many photos of my husband's ancestors.  Many, if not most of the photos are labeled.  This one is not.  It is simply entitled "Unknown Jensen Girl".

She's unknown to us, but perhaps someone knows who she is.  

She must have a story to tell.  She probably grew up with her family.  She was probably part of the early Mormon pioneers making the trek by handcart to the Salt Lake Valley.  She may have fallen in love, married and had a family.  

We just don't know.

Yet her story deserves to be told.  I just wish we knew what it was...