Oct 13, 2019

Missisinawa 1812: There is more to see than the Re-enactment.

It has been four years since I last visited La Fontaine, Indiana for the annual Missisinawa War of 1812 Re-enactment weekend. 

It is the largest living museum of the War of 1812, which includes a military encampment, Indian Village, and a wilderness area.  Rivertown offers reproductions of many 1812 reproductions from that era including fine yard goods, silver, tinware, pottery, muskets, and candles. 

 There were rows and rows of vendors selling their wares.
 But one caught my eye.

I came upon a tent with a man outside chipping away at a piece of marble.  I didn't know that you could chip away at this dense stone so easily.  It was the portrait of the first white man to go to the state of Kentucky.  His name escapes me right now. I stood there and watched a while. On the ground, I noticed that there was a headstone for a grave. Then I flooded the artist with questions about his craft. 

He answered my questions in a sweet Southern drawl. My favorite of all the American accents.  David Gillespie, a native and resident of South Carolina has been carving tombstones for over ten years and demonstrating at Eighteenth Century Re-enactments to bring to life the lost art of stone-cutting.  David and his wife Renee demonstrate all across the Eastern U.S. If you would like to read more about the art of tomb and grave stones check out the book above that Mr. Gillespie wrote. I brought a copy home with me. By the way, the new trend of putting a portrait on a grave stone is not new. This was done back in the 1700's. Click on the Link for purchasing options. Now I want to visit Charleston, South Carolina to see the stones that are found in the book.  David Gillespie and his wife have a web site called Pumpkintown Primitives. They do more than just cut stones. 

I couldn't resist the Williamsburg style fabric that would make a great tablecloth for the kitchen and possibly curtains to match. 

History doesn't have to be boring.  There is more to it than names and dates. Researching my family history has caused a love of history to well up within me that never existed before.  Now I try to get out and learn as much as I can about the country in which I live. Going to this kind of thing is not for everyone. But try it as least once. You may change your mind. 

Apr 29, 2019

The Hiwassee Meeting House in Reliance, Tennessee

My cousin, his wife, and I spent the day driving around in the Cherokee National Forest. We came upon The Hiwassee Meeting House. As we drove up to the building there was a woman standing on the porch and she was getting ready to open the door.  I grabbed my camera and ran up the steps.  When I came to the door, I asked the woman if we could take a look inside. She said that we could.  It was our lucky day. 

The Hiwassee Meeting House dates back to 1899 and is located along the bank of the Hiwassee River in Polk County, Reliance, TN.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Reliance Historic District.

 Here is the text of the historic marker provided by the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association from their Religious Heritage Trail:

Erected about 1899 through the joint effort of the Hiwassee Union Missionary Baptist Church and the local Masonic Lodge, this two-story, frame structure served as a multi-use community building. The upper floor was for Lodge meetings while the first floor served as the church meeting hall. The first floor was also used as a schoolhouse for a brief time. 

Originally the first floor had a full front porch. The porch was enclosed in 1927 when the church added two small meeting rooms, leaving a narrow entry way into the main hall. The church and the lodge moved to new facilities less than one mile to the east on Highway 30. 

It was founded on October 8, 1848 as Hiwassee Union Baptist, and then in 1859 as Sweetwater Baptist Association. In 1861 the Ocoee Baptist Association was formed, so they asked to be released from Sweetwater's Association and joined the Ocoee Baptist Association. Hiwassee Union Baptist went on the join Eastanallee Baptist Association in 1871 and finally it joined the Polk Baptist Association in 1921.

I have never seen a building held up with stacked rocks like this before. The whole thing was fascinating to me.

A lot of questions went through my mind as I wandered outside of this old building. How in the world does it keep from blowing over in a gust of wind?  What keeps those rocks firmly in place?  On and on the questions rolled through my mind. I will never know the answer.

They have weddings and special occasions here and I believe one can rent a house a little bit down the road from the Meeting House.  Tennessee is an amazing place to visit and I would recommend that you visit at least once in your life.  You will enjoy the all of the spectacular views. 

Apr 14, 2019

I am a Smith, without a doubt!

Sarah Jane Bailey Smith and her granddaughter Rachel
I have been trying to find confirmation that I am the great-great granddaughter of Pleasant Thomas Smith of Hamblen County, Tennessee for a very long time. I mean a really, really long time. Oh,  I have the names of the Smith's and their children it is just that there was a marriage issue, children being born before one actually took place, and a child changing his name from one census to another. 

On paper it didn't look promising that I was related to the man that all of my Smith relatives believed we were connected to because my great grandfather Joseph Rufus Smith was born when his mother wasn't married.  In those days, a woman was ostracized for having a child out of wedlock.  

Pleasant, who was called Tom, was married until 1880 when his first wife, Mary Jane, passed away.  In 1871, Joseph was born to Sarah Jane Bailey. Ironically, the Smith and Bailey family lived next door to each other in Hamblen County for a long time.  

The first time I found Joseph he was listed with his mother and her new husband Duke Manes on the 1880 Census for Hamblen County.  But Joseph was listed as a Bailey and he was 8 years old. Duke Manes and Sarah Bailey were married December 27, 1875. On the Next Census, in 1900, Joseph was now listed as a Smith. By this time Sarah had divorced Duke Manes and married Tom Smith on December 24, 1887 (I'm glad that they made things right).  Duke set fire to a John A. Overholt's barn and was sent to prison.  In April of 1887, when Duke was released, Sarah divorced him. A few month's later Sarah married Tom.  I stopped researching my Smith line because I was stuck.  I had no idea who Joseph's father really was.  

Joseph with his wife Bessie and son Oscar.
I took a DNA test through Ancestry last year.  I expected my Smith quandary to be resolved, but nothing happened.  I had a first cousin and second cousin show up as a match, but that was it. Shouldn't I have matches to Pleasant's siblings?  All of my DNA circles were for my mother's side of the family.  

I then asked another cousin, who is a male Smith, to take the DNA test and I compared our DNA matches. Not long ago, I heard that 4th cousins have a common great-great grandparent.  I focused mainly on those matches with 40 CM (centimorgans) or more.  I finally found several matches to my Smith relatives, but not all with the same testing company.

On Ancestry, I found Sarah Margaret Smith, daughter of James William Smith and Elizabeth Hickey, who was Pleasant's sister.  She married a John D. Mason and they moved to Bridgeport, Alabama the same time that Joseph and his mother Sarah lived there. We share 41 CM. The person that tested was a fourth cousin. 

Next, I found another 4th cousin, on Ancestry, who is related to my great uncle Jesse Smith. We share 69 CM and he is Joseph Smith's grandson. Pleasant is his 2nd great-grandfather. 

Last weekend,  I uploaded my raw DNA results to Family Tree DNA. Yesterday, I found a match to Clemintine Overholt, formerly Smith.  She was the daughter of Samuel Barton Smith and Perlina Soloman, who is Pleasant Thomas Smith brother.  Clemintine married John Overholt, the man whose barn was burnt down by Duke Manes (Sarah's first husband). This couple also lived in Bridgeport, Alabama at the same time that Sarah and Joseph was there. We share 81 CM. 

Clementine Smith Overholt
For me, this is enough proof to proudly say that I am, without a doubt, a Smith.  Now, I can confidently add those Smith's that I was afraid to, to my family history collection.  

Mar 3, 2019

Watch what you say, it can be crippling...

I came across this video today and it brought back memories of things that have been said to me over the years.  It is not always by strangers but those who are supposed to love us the most.  

Someone said to me once: You don't look like a woman that I would have picked for a wife, but you have a good heart and we all have to sacrifice.  I didn't know how to react.  I laughed it off but cried later.

What have people said to you that has never left you the same as you were before? 

Jan 13, 2019

DNA doesn't lie, People do.

Donna, Dad, and Me

My father lost the fight in the DNA test war, but won by being a great dad for my sister.  After all, he is the only one she ever knew. The other man, well, we were told who he was thirteen years ago and the test confirmed it.  Both men have gone to the other side and are not here to defend themselves.  My mother would have a lot to explain if she were here too. But sadly, we will never know why she chose to do what she did. I guess this shows that you never really know a person, especially what goes on in their mind. 

Mom in 1964
If my mother would have never "stepped out" then I would not have a sister, at least, not this one. And I really love her. Secrets were kept back in those days to save the guilty party's reputation and they stayed with them till the grave. Unlike the way things are now. So, what do we do?  We go on with life. The same as we have been doing all of these years.  

I can now safely research my sister's biological family without fear that I am overstepping my boundary and my sister is Ok with it.  We already have a head start. 

Jan 5, 2019

The Secret

I read the book, "The Stranger in my Genes" by Bill Griffeth over Christmas weekend.  It was a moving story about discovering that the man who raised Bill was not his father. Bill took a DNA test at the request of his cousin. When the results came back, Bill's whole world turned upside down.  

I highly recommend reading this book because it focused on the unwelcome results of a DNA test. This is a short but intense read.  Family is the most important part of our lives and when a wrench is thrown in that we are not expecting, well, it can be so shocking that our whole existence shifts. 

Now for our story. 

Last year I had a DNA test done and I didn't expect anything to be different from what I already knew about my family history. Since that time, I have begun to attend a DNA class that meets once a month at the local library.  There are several regulars who attend that have the same story as Bill Griffeth. Sometimes the newly discovered family are welcoming and on the other hand the news is devastating. No one really knows how they would react until they are in the situation. The teacher always says: DNA never lies, people do.  

My sister sent in her sample three weeks ago. Now we must wait for the DNA to be processed.  Donna secretly hopes for different results. To be honest, I do too.

We already knew about the family secret. One evening in December 2004, my aunt called.  We chatted as usual and spent about an hour catching up on the lost years that we hadn’t heard from one another.  At one point, my sister became the topic of conversation.  Jokingly, I told her that we used to tease Donna when she was young and tell her that she was adopted. She didn’t look like me at all.  My sister has a cute little turned up nose, mine comes to a point. She has a high forehead and her shape is more like a pear while I resemble an apple (more like a pumpkin) and the hair, she has more than I ever had. 

After a somewhat long silence my aunt said, “Gina, I have something to tell you about your sister. Donna is not Charles’ daughter.” She went into great detail about my mother’s affair and then revealed the name of the man. As I listened to my aunt tell me about my mother and another man, I wept inside.  Truth had a tongue that day and my aunt was the messenger.  I listened intently as she told me the story of my mother’s infidelity.  “Don’t tell your sister, it will hurt her” was the last thing my aunt said to me before I hung up the phone.

I sat on the sofa stunned, finding it hard to let the news sink into my head.  I was 44 years old when I found out that Donna is really my half sister.  I felt betrayed by my parents, even if they meant well.  After the initial shock, the tears came and I wept for a long time. What will I say to my brother? I asked myself.  Oh God! How will I ever be able to tell my sister?  This news will break her heart. It surely has broken mine. My mind raced all night and well into the next day.  All I kept thinking about was how we were duped. How many more secrets did they keep from us?

I called my brother right away; My hands trembled as I dialed his number. When he picked up the phone, I was shaking so hard that I could barely speak. 

“Mom had an affair and Donna is not one of Dad’s children.” I told my brother.  I could tell by the gasping sound he made on the other end that he was shocked.  He asked me to repeat what our aunt said, as if he didn’t hear me the first time.  I repeated verbatim every detail.

 “Are you going to tell Donna?” he asked. “I have to,” was my reply.  “She needs to know this.  It is her right to know who her biological father is.  I just don’t know how I am going to tell her this dreadful news. God knows when the right time will be; I need to get over the shock of this myself. “ 

Many days passed, then weeks, eventually months went by without speaking a word to my sister.  I could not bring myself to upset Donna with the truth just yet.  I’m not sure if I had the strength to tell her. This task is going to be so hard for me.  My mother let us down and she was someone that we trusted with our secrets, while all along she had one herself. 

I spent many nights crying, swearing, and calling mom names.  “Why did you do this?”  I spoke into the darkness, expecting a reply, but it was strangely quiet as I listened for an answer. 

I called my cousin and she confirmed what my aunt had told me and they wondered why we didn't figure it out sooner. To be honest, we never questioned our parents. It seemed like all of our relatives knew the secret but us.  

In late August of 2005, my sister came over to spend some time with me.  We sat and chatted in the living room while drinking sweet iced tea. She told me that the children were all out of the house that evening and would be returning in a couple of days.  I thought this moment would be as good a time as any to tell my sister the news that she would not want to hear. 

“Donna, I have some bad news for you.” I said, and then I recounted the story with as much detail that I knew of the affair. She could hardly believe what I was telling her.  Her chin began to quiver as I spoke then tears filled her eyes and streamed down her cheeks. “Dad will always be my dad. Charles is my real dad.” she cried, “The other man was just a sperm donor.”  I asked her if she needed a hug.  She nodded. We embraced each other and cried for a long time. I couldn’t give her much comfort, but I could give her the truth even though it was hard for her to hear it. 

Shortly thereafter, she went home and dealt with the news in her own way.  Much like me, there was some swearing and crying, and she kept telling the man that she knew as Dad that she loved him, even if he was there only in spirit.  I am sure that he heard her and maybe cried a little himself.  After all, he stayed when he had every reason to leave but he loved his family and Dad always treated Donna like she was his daughter.

Now we wait for the DNA results...To be continued. 

Dec 26, 2018

The Art of Writing Letters

After watching the movie "Becoming Jane" about Jane Austen, I started thinking about letters. A lot of letter writing went on back in those days. The internet was nowhere to be found. But paper, pen and ink were in abundance. 

 My thoughts went back to my younger years, to the times when I used to write letters. I had pen pals from overseas, letters came from family members that lived far away, and I used to write to a man in prison for at least 20 years or more before we gradually stopped writing to each other. Those gems are now in a plastic tote in the back of a closet that haven't been looked at for a long time until today.  

I pulled out the totes, wiped off the dust and poured out the contents onto the floor. I sorted through the cards and letters, then bundled according to the sender. I read many, plus cried lots of tears. There is something special about handwritten letters. It is said that there is an art to it. I don't know about that. Letters were written when people actually took the time to sit down and think about the recipient. Then pick up a pen and write out their thoughts on paper.

What brought up this nostalgic feeling for letter writing? I miss it. I miss going to the mailbox and discovering a letter. Now, I only find a bill or an advertisement. But letters are singular in the respect that they come from one heart to another saying you mean something to me and I must write it down for you to see. How often have you pulled out a letter and read it over and over again?  Tracing your finger over the words that were written and trying to imagine the person as they wrote it. I am willing to write letters to someone who is of the same mind. Would you find it thrilling or burdensome to re-discover this lost art of communication?   

Oct 28, 2018

The street where Halloween is an all out occasion

A cousin of ours told us about Third Street here in Fort Wayne that went all out for Halloween. I have lived here for a long time and never knew about it. 

For several weeks I have tried to come out on a weekend and look at all of the yards that the neighborhood decorated.  I think that they secretly have a contest going on.  

There were totems of ghouls and goblins that I wouldn't want to bump into in the daylight much less at night.

There was an evil joker hanging in a tree. 

And car crash victims. 

The rain finally eased enough for me to grab my camera and photograph in between the raindrops. There were others photographing the neighborhood along with me.   

Here is the cowboy I asked Santa for a few years ago for Christmas.  But I think he made it here too late.

If you have time before Halloween, drive over to Third Street in Fort Wayne and enjoy the lawns of the residents who took so much trouble to decorate.  I really enjoyed walking up and down the street admiring what I saw. 

Oct 21, 2018

Making memories at the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Yesterday morning I went to breakfast with some friends. We talked of my travels, especially to Morocco.  Afterwards it was my plan to pick up my little niece and have a fun day together. The sunshine charged my positive mood meter to the full and I thought that it was a good day to go somewhere. I had been wanting to visit a particular city since I heard about it in the spring. 

I listen to NPR (National Public Radio) as often as I can. On April 16th this year I tuned in to listen to All Things Considered with Ari Shiparo. The story of the day was about a bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Literati.  

Hillary and Michael Gustafson (husband and wife) opened the bookstore in April 2013 basing their name on a Literati typewriter. Ann Arbor is a college town, the University of Michigan met us as we rolled in to town. The bookstore is located in the heart of downtown. The top floor is a coffee shop with room to sit down and chat or read with children's books located in the middle or the room. The street level is where all of the fiction is located and in the lower level is books on travel, history, gardening and cooking. But most of all the typewriter is there.  It is old and sits on a small table with a chair for the patron to sit comfortably and leave a message.  Thousands of messages have been left over the few years that the store has opened.  

Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti put together a book called, Notes from a Public Typewriter, taken from the many notes that patrons wrote on the antiquated typing machine in the basement. They call these notes, "Diary of a town happening in a bookstore."   

I searched for the book locally and ended up ordering it on line. The day I received the book, I read it from cover to cover.  It's funny how some books butt in line demanding to be read right then and there like rude people do cutting in front of you hoping that they will not be noticed. But you do.  

Below are a few of my favorite quotes: 

                             Maybe were were brought here
            to explore other worlds. 
            Reading allows us to do so. 

                    I just want to push your buttons.

                    I spent 22 years telling her
            to do great things. Now that she has 
            gone to do them I am sad. 

            Avoid identity theft. Use a typewriter.
            They are much harder to hack. 

I picked up my niece and we headed to Michigan.  The weather was cool and windy with lots of sunshine when we left.  The trip took two and a half hours.  The further north we traveled the colder it became and rain settled in like an unwanted friend.  My camera was safely tucked into the trunk, hoping that the rain lets up so that I can take some pictures. 

When we arrived it was 38 degrees and the rain was pouring down.  I was not about to let this get me down. After the fiasco with the parking meter (not wanting to read my credit card) we went inside to wander around.  After picking out a book for my niece we headed downstairs. The typewriter was located directly at the bottom of the stairs. By the time we arrived the page was nearly full with notes. 

My niece sat down and contributed to the nearly full page of writing. I, too, tried to leave my message but the keys kept sticking and eventually I gave up.  The thought of just being there was satisfying to me.  It is like seeing a place in pictures but when you experience the place for yourself it takes you to another level. Maybe I am too philosophical and try to make things what they are not supposed to be.  After all it was just a bookstore. Or was it?  

There were quotes taped to the door just past the typewriter.  

Eventually the rain eased enough to be able to allow us to venture outside. One of the walls have a few of the quotes painted on and my niece decided to pose in front of a couple of them. 

On the way home, we laughed, sang songs, and most of all a memory was created on not such a beautiful blue sky kind of day in a not so ordinary bookstore. When my niece asked to live with me. I knew that I had accomplished what I set out to do. 

Sep 16, 2018

Garden Whimsy

I've spent most of my summer in my backyard making it look beautiful. And I have discovered how to make glass art for the garden.  It seems to be the thing now to go to a thrift shop and buy discarded vases, plates, cups, fancy wine glasses, etc and make one of a kind creations to put in the garden.  I guess that I have joined the masses in trying to come up with unique ideas.   

The piece above was my first project, I say was because it broke shortly after I took this picture. Using the right glue is the key to glass projects. I am glad that I can use the base and the topper on a future project, everything in between shattered. 

I found a tall dome at the Goodwill and a large resin ball.  I thought that it would look good in the garden with things filling the dome to the top and then gluing a small plate underneath for protection from the weather. There are bowl fillers that can be used for this. I was lucky and got a bag on clearance at Menard's. Then I found a large base to attach it to.  (notice the colorful glass bottom from the shattered project) 

My next project that I worked on all day yesterday and was very easy to do. I found a couple of vases similar in height and secured them together with a plate in between for added stability and strength with the heaviest piece on the bottom.  I like those glass pieces from the Dollar Store and used them for embellishing the project.  Then I glued on the topper (also from the shattered project) and waited for the glue to cure. 

The little garden ornament above I put together with a vase and an odd piece that I found but loved the colors in it.  All it took to put together is glue and you are done. I would suggest that you let your mind wander when it comes to a project like this and not be afraid of experimenting. 

Let's talk glue. A friend told me to use Silicone for outdoor use. I bought GE Silicone waterproof. It was a complete disaster.  Because it takes so long to set up the project was unstable for a long period of time. That is why my first project was ruined. It shouldn't take weeks to put together.  Next I used Lexel, this product takes 2-4 days to cure.  I had read about E6000 adhesive.  Now this is glue that I love! The piece was sticking together in about 10 minutes or less. Once I had the project glued together, I used Lexel around the seams for waterproofing and extra strength.  You shouldn't have to wait days or weeks in order to put a project together. But I would allow 3-7 days for the glue to cure and then set it outside. Read the directions on the glue label.