A whale for Christmas

Newspaper research is one of my favorite parts of family history research. Not only do I find interesting and sometimes sad stories about family members, but I get to read crazy and fun articles that have nothing to do with my family history. Today I am sharing one of those stories with you; it happens to be a Christmas story.

South Carolina_public domain





This most unusual event was written about in The State newspaper from Columbia, South Carolina on 24 Dec 1937.


Now, I know what you’re thinking. Who sent that whale? How big was the whale? What kind of whale was it? Was it actually used for fertilizer?whale-drawing-public-domain

I’m sad to say that I haven’t found a follow up story, so I can’t answer any of those questions. Like me, you’ll just have to imagine the scene in your mind and smile, knowing that crazy stuff has been going on forever. Enjoy!

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


NOT the one with cheddar cheese

Celebrating Traditions is the topic of this month’s Genealogy Blog Party. I decided to write about a holiday side dish that became a tradition in our family.Genealogy Blog Party Badge







“What are you having for Thanksgiving?” is a common question. When asked, I usually name off the usuals like turkey and ham, but whenever I get to the pineapple casserole I am interrupted by:  “The one with cheddar cheese?”


My parents in the 1980’s

“No,” I say, “this one does not have cheddar cheese.” This is always followed by a look of disbelief and a conversation about my pineapple casserole and what’s in it. Every year I have this conversation with at least one person.

My family’s traditional pineapple casserole, entitled Pineapple Bake, came into my family around 1970. My mom, Gladys MARTIN HEISER, saw a recipe in a magazine or newspaper and decided to give it a try one Thanksgiving. It’s a simple recipe, too, which I’m sure was part of the draw for my mom.

I don’t remember the exact year we had this yummy pineapple casserole for the first time, but I know that it immediately became a staple at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners. We always had extended family visiting for these holidays, and everyone loved this casserole and came to expect it. It goes well with ham and with the cranberry sauce of a turkey dinner.

The recipe eventually became part of my holiday dinners, too. This year, my daughter brought it as part of her contribution to our Thanksgiving feast. And even though we didn’t do a traditional meal this year, this pineapple casserole was still a must on the table.pineapple-public-domain

As I took photos of the casserole for this blog post (which wordpress refused to upload) I thought of my parents and my grandmother and the others who’ve passed away. I can still see us around a long table (sometimes more than one) passing dishes and platters, talking and laughing, and appreciating having food to eat and willing hands to prepare it.

Who would have thought that my mom’s desire for something different one Thanksgiving would become a 3-generation strong tradition?

Here’s the recipe in case you’re interested.

Pineapple Bake (4 – 6 servings)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • 4 slices white bread, crumbled*
  • 1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • ½ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 425°.  Beat eggs.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix well; pour into and ungreased 2-quart baking dish.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Serve hot, warm or cold.

*4 slices of bread is equivalent to 4 oz. of bread, so use whatever bread you like…just use 4 oz.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

Allie Dinkins: another Christmas tragedy

Allie Magnolia DINKINS was the sister of Woodrow DINKINS (1912-1931) who I wrote about last week. She was the daughter of John W. DINKINS (1879-1960) and Mary Jane MARTIN DINKINS (1878-1942). Like Woodrow and me, Allie and I, have the same 3rd great-grandfather, Joel E. MARTIN (1793-1877). This makes us 3rd cousins, once removed.South Carolina_public domain


Early life

Allie was born in 1908 in South Carolina, probably Richland County. Allie’s father was a farmer in the Pontiac area of Richland County which is north east of Columbia.

In 1920 Allie, her parents, and her siblings were farming in Pontiac on Old Charleston Road. Allie’s sister, Hattie, and her husband lived on the farm next door. Two farms away in the other direction was the MEDLIN family, including Eddie MEDLIN.

Cotton mill photo

Allie marries

In 1925, Allie married Eddie MEDLIN. Allie was about 16, and Eddie about 18.

In 1930, Eddie and Allie and their two children, Ruby and Junior, lived in Winnsboro Mills Village in Fairfield County, South Carolina.  Eddie was a drawing hand at a cotton mill. According to the census, both Eddie and Allie could read and write.

Eddie dies

1931 was bittersweet for Allie. In June, Allie gave birth to a third child, a son named Allen. About a month later, Eddie committed suicide by putting a gun to his head while standing near his parked Ford roadster ‘on the Kelly’s mill pond bridge between Pontiac and Blythewood near the Richland-Fairfield County line’ according to The State newspaper.


1931 Ford Lo-boy roadster…perhaps Eddie’s roadster was like this

Curiously, Eddie ‘was with Maggie JACOBS, a 17-year old girl, until after midnight’ the night before he killed himself.



Maggie ‘told the coroner, as did others, that Medlin had said several times recently that he would take his own life. Despondency was given as his motive.’ It was also reported that he was intoxicated the evening before his death.

Allie goes on with life

From what I can tell, Allie moved back home with her parents. What choice did she have? She had three young children, one of them a newborn, and no job of her own. She likely went to work once she was recovered from childbirth, if she was able to find work.

According to the 1940 census, Allie’s three children were living with her parents in Winnsboro, Fairfield County. Allie likely was, too, but I can’t be sure. Keep reading to find out why.


from an 1899 book titled Wedding Bells


A second chance & the other Christmas tragedy

In the mid 1930’s Allie married Johnny LEE (1914-1976). I was glad to see Allie remarry.

In late 1937, Allie and Johnny lived in Dentsville, Richland County.  Allie became ill with what  was likely an abscessed tooth or a sinus infection. The infection spread to her brain causing a brain abscess.

A brain abscess can develop over a few weeks’ time or can develop suddenly. It could be successfully treated now, but not in 1937. Allie died at Columbia Hospital on 25 December 1937. Such sadness for Allie’s parents and children.

Allie is buried at Spring Valley Pentecostal Holiness Church cemetery in Pontiac, Richland County, South Carolina.

What happened to Allie’s children and her husband, Johnny?

Allie’s parents raised her three children. They grew to adulthood and each lived to about 70 years of age.

Johnny married again a few years after Allie’s death. He married Laconia DINKINS (1916-1980), Allie’s sister. Johnny and Laconia were married for many years and had two children together.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

Woodrow Dinkins: Christmas tragedy number one

Woodrow DINKINS was born about 1912 in Richland County, South Carolina. His parents were John W. DINKINS (1879-1960) and Mary Jane MARTIN DINKINS (1878-1942). Woodrow and I have the same 3rd great-grandfather, Joel E. MARTIN (1793-1877). This makes us 3rd cousins, once removed.South Carolina_public domain

Early life


Not their farm…just A farm

Woodrow’s father was a farmer in the Pontiac area of Richland County which is north east of Columbia. In 1920 Woodrow, his parents, and his siblings were farming in Pontiac on Old Charleston Road.

Woodrow’s sister, Hattie, and her husband lived on the farm next door. Two farms away in the other direction was the MEDLIN family, one of whom (Eddie) would later marry Woodrow’s sister, Allie.

In 1930, 17-year old Woodrow lived with his mother and three siblings on Green Street in Columbia. Woodrow and his siblings all were textile workers at a cotton mill. Mother Mary is listed as married, but father John wasn’t listed on the census. I don’t know where he was.


1930 Model A Ford, typical car at the time

A tragic accident

On Thursday, 24 Dec 1931, Woodrow was in a car accident at 11 a.m. He was driving alone on ‘the Blythewood highway’ in Richland County according the The State, and he struck a sandbed. ‘The car turned over, the hub of the left front wheel crushing his skull and pinning him underneath the automobile.’ It was reported that he died instantly.

Woodrow was buried at Salem Methodist Church cemetery on Ft. Jackson in Richland County on 26 December 1931. His gravestone reads: gone but not forgotten

With all the safety features on modern cars, Woodrow probably would have survived a car roll like this today. But in 1931, driving a car was dangerous business. No speed limits once out of cities and towns, few safety features on cars, probably still sharing roads with horses and wagons in rural areas, and questionable road conditions.

Woodrow wasn’t the only Christmas tragedy for the Dinkins family. I’ll write about the other one in the next week or two.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

The lantern in the cemetery

The month’s Genealogy Blog Party is all about the strange…the question being ‘What is the strangest thing you’ve found in your genealogy research?’

For me, it would have to be the story of the lantern in the cemetery.

My sister, Joyce, and I were fortunate that our maternal grandmother, Florrie Jane THOMAS MARTIN, lived with our family when we were growing up. Subsequently, everyone visited at our house. My mom’s seven siblings and their families, her great aunts and uncles, and cousins galore were in and out of our home all year round.

Joyce and I heard many stories again and again which we never tired of. One of the most memorable is the one about the lantern in the cemetery.


Not THE cemetery…just an old cemetery

My grandfather, Joel Daniel MARTIN, was a tenant farmer, and there was a cemetery down the hill from one of the houses they lived in while tenant farming in Virginia. The cemetery could be seen from the front porch. I don’t know the size of the cemetery, but it was probably a small one since it was a family cemetery on private land.

My mom and her siblings said that sometimes their dogs would get to barking and carrying on, and then take off running to the cemetery. About the same time a lantern could be seen going through the cemetery, swinging back and forth as if someone was carrying it. But there was no person to be seen.Lantern

Once in the cemetery the dogs yelped and cried like someone was beating them with a stick. Then they would run back home like something was chasing them. The dogs looked pretty panicked when they came back, according to my mom and her siblings.

This happened more than once, too. I never heard of my mom or her siblings going to the cemetery to see what was going on down there. From what I know about my grandfather, I’m sure he forbade them to go. He would have believed it was best left alone.

This story is one of favorites, and it still gives me chills.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

Genealogy Blog Party Badge


Laura and Amy Thomas: spinster sisters

Jessie “Jess” THOMAS (1843-1932) and his wife, Mary Ann DAVIS THOMAS (1840-1919), had eight children, mostly daughters. Jess was a younger brother of my 2nd great-grandfather, James S. THOMAS (1828-1912) which makes Jess my 3rd great uncle. His children are my first cousins, thrice removed.

As was common in those days, Jess’ daughters all lived at home until they married. But two of the daughters never married.South Carolina_public domain

Early lives

Laura Ellen THOMAS was born 14 Nov 1874. Her sister, Mary Amy THOMAS, was born 22 Oct 1877. Laura and Amy, as Mary Amy was called, lived at home with their parents and siblings in 1900. Jess was a planter, and the family lived in the Columbia Township of Richland County, South Carolina. He was also a planter in 1880, also in Richland County.


NOT Laura…just an average housewife

In 1910, the girls were still living with Jess and Mary. Jess was a butcher in a market now, and they rented a house at 116 Gervais Street in Columbia. Laura didn’t work outside the home, but Amy was a saleslady at a dry goods store. According to the census, both girls could read and write. Mary was 70 now; Jess was 67.

Mother passes away

Come 1920, Mary had passed away, and Laura (now 46) had become the ‘lady of the house’ taking over maintaining the household and looking after everyone else including Jess. Jess wasn’t only housing the spinster sisters, but also daughters Corrie and Maud and their families. Amy (now 43) was a fitter in a store. The family rented at 1102 Oak Street in Columbia; two other daughters of Jess, Nannie and Susan, lived close by at 1106 Oak Street with their own families.

In 1930, Jess and the same children and grandchildren from the 1920 census were still renting at 1102 Oak Street. Nannie and Susan and their families continued to reside at 1106 Oak Street. Laura continued on as the manager of the home while Amy now worked as a seamstress at a department store. I’m sure she was thrilled just to have a job during in the Depression.seamstress_cropped

A close family

Jess passed away in 1932. The close knit family continued to rent the same houses with the same people living in them except that one of Nannie’s children was living with Laura and Amy, or at least she was at their house when the 1940 census taker came by. Laura continued on as the home manager and was named as head of the household on the 1940 census. Amy continued working as a seamstress.

Sometime between 1940 and 1945, Laura and Amy and the crowd moved to 1525 Maple Street in Columbia. On 14 June 1945, Laura passed away suddenly at home from an acute coronary occlusion. She was 70. Her death certificate listed her occupation as housewife. Her family clearly recognized her contributions as the home manager.

The sisters pass away

On 15 May 1951, Amy passed away at home (1525 Maple Street) from Stokes-Adam syndrome, a heart arrhythmia problem she’d suffered with for 10 years. She was 73.


The Thomas’ stuck together like these meerkats

Laura and Amy were both members of Washington Street Methodist Church in Columbia. Both are buried at Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Columbia.

The family sticks together

Other family members continued living together at 1525 Maple Street until at least  1964. I was struck by the closeness of these sisters whether married or unmarried. It looks like they supported each other through good times and bad times. Even though neither Laura nor Amy married and had their own families, they had extended family aplenty so they weren’t alone.

Note: the googlemap pages show a different address in the upper left, but I did enough checking to be sure the houses shown are the right ones.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

Living History: Turpentine Farming

My great-grandfather, Jeremiah Daniel Thomas (1858-1946); my 2nd great-grandfather, Daniel B. Grant (1846-1900); and my 3rd great-grandfather, Jeremiah Grant (1815-1892) were each turpentine farmers at some time in their lives. These men farmed turpentine in Chesterfield County, South Carolina.

my great-grandfather, Jeremiah Daniel Thomas

If you have southern roots from North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, or Georgia; then you may have ancestors who work on a turpentine farm, too.






Below is an excellent YouTube video about turpentine farming.



Set up for living history demonstration by Bryan Avery and his team of living historians.

The narrator, Bryan Avery, gives presentations about the turpentine industry with his “Greatest Naval Stores Show on Earth”.  At these shows, Bryan and his fellow historians demonstrate much about the turpentine industry that was once prominent in the south.

Watch the video and learn about the work our ancestors did on turpentine farms.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

Clagett Pyles: a most efficient and popular man

Clagett PYLES, my first cousin thrice removed, was born 27 December 1859 in Poolesville, Montgomery County, Maryland. His father was Richard T. PYLES, a successful merchant I wrote about here. I previously wrote about three of Clagett’s half-siblings as well: Joseph T. Pyles, Richard G. Pyles, and Lottie Pyles.Maryland sign






Clagett’s early life

Clagget’s mother, Laura HAWKINS PILES passed away when Clagett was five and his sister, Nannie, was four. Clagget’s father married again to Laura’s sister, Fannie, who raised Clagget as and Nannie as her own along with the five children she had with Clagett’s father.

Richard, Clagett’s father, made sure his children were educated. Clagett attended St. John’s Academy in Annapolis. According to his obituary in The Frederick Post, soon after graduation, Clagett ‘was appointed to the State Tobacco Warehouse in Baltimore. In 1884 he passed the Civil Service examination and received his appointment in the Custom House in Baltimore.’City of Baltimore sign

Friends in high places

Clagett was appointed to this position by the former governor of Maryland, Edwin Warfield, who was in charge of the Naval Office at the time of Clagett’s appointment. The Post reports that Clagett was intimate friends with Warfield. Clagett ‘also enjoyed the friendship of President Grover Cleveland.’ I imagine Clagett came to know the president through his association with Warfield.

Clagett worked as the chief liquidating clerk at the Naval Office at the U. S. Customs House in Baltimore for 27 years. The Post reports that ‘at the time of his death he was one of the most efficient and popular men in the service in the city.’

Family is important to Clagett

Clagett married Mary MIDDLEKAUF PYLES (1871-1937) in Baltimore in 1892. He was 32 years old. Clagett and Mary had two sons and a daughter between 1893 and 1898. I couldn’t find Clagett in the 1900 census, but I found him in 1910 living in Baltimore in a rented house on Lanvale Street.

Clagett loved his family and faithfully visited his family in Montgomery County including his stepmother, Fannie, and his half-siblings Percy and Lottie. Clagett’s sister, Nannie, and Nannie’s husband, Thomas O. White, owned the family home in Barnesville in Montgomery County.

Clagett takes ill

In late May, 1911, Clagett took a month’s leave of absence because of an unnamed illness. He went to Nannie and Thomas’ home to rest and recover, but ‘his illness took a turn for the worse and he died’ there on 30 July 1911. His address at the time of death was 1625 North Calvert Street, Baltimore. I believe his house is one of the ones behind the tree.

Clagett is buried at Monocacy Cemetery in Beallsville, Montgomery County, Maryland, along with his father, two sisters, and two brothers.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved

The young sons of Devann Brazell Strickland

A few weeks ago I wrote about Devann BRAZELL STRICKLAND’s death in 1925 from eclampsia following the c-section delivery of her son, James William STRICKLAND.

Devann left behind her husband, Wylie STRICKLAND (1879-1957), and five children including the new baby, called William.

Sixteen-year old Mary (1909-1968) and ten-year old Oscar (1915-1981) could look after themselves, but newborn William and his 4-year old brothers, Willis and Wylie, could not. Perhaps Wylie, Mary, and Oscar tried to take care of the young ones. Perhaps extended family did, too.South Carolina_public domain

The boys apart from the family


Whatever was tried, the magnitude of the effort overwhelmed the family. On the 1930 census, the three young ones were living at the Columbia Children’s Home in Columbia, South Carolina. Father Wylie, Mary, and Oscar were together, and Wylie was a produce salesman in Columbia.vegetables-1

I don’t know what transpired between 1925 and 1930 or how long the boys had been at the children’s home, but this wasn’t the end of their family story.

And back home again

I was happy to see that in 1940, the entire family was together again in one home. The 1940 census indicated that they were together in 1935, too. In 1940, Willis was an inspector at a bottling plant while Wylie, the son, and William attended school.

Full lives for each young son

The three young sons each went on to live full lives. Each one fought during WW2: Willis in the Army, Wylie in the Army Air Force, and William in the Navy.world-war-2

Willis Melton STRICKLAND married Margaret LEWIS, and they had three children together. Willis worked several jobs but mostly worked as a truck driver. He lived in Columbia all of his life, and he died at the VA hospital in Columbia on 31 Jan 1977. I don’t know where he’s buried.

Wylie Langford STRICKLAND was in and out of the military several times, serving during WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. He lived in many places over the years. Wylie married Eva Lena GOODING (1923-2008), and they had one child. They last lived in Hardin County, Kentucky. Wylie died there on 11 Feb 1998. He is buried next to his wife at North Hardin Memorial Gardens in Radcliff, Kentucky.

I know the least about James William. STRICKLAND Aside from serving in the Navy, I don’t know what work William did. I know he was living in Charlotte in 1977 when Willis passed, and I know he was married to a woman named Jean. I also know that William passed on 23 March 1994 in Valdese, Burke County, North Carolina. I don’t know where he is buried, though.

What about the others?

Reading through the 1930 census list of children in the Columbia Children’s Home saddened me. Some of the children there were babies, and several were sibling groups like Willis, Wylie, and William. Probably Wylie, the father, had no choice but to take the boys there, and I want to believe that he visited them while they were there. He obviously didn’t abandon them since they were living back with him in 1935. Some of the other children in the home weren’t so fortunate. I think I’ll write about a few of them later this year.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


Lula Martin: bullet or typhoid?

Lula Devere MARTIN is my 2nd cousin, twice removed. She was the daughter of Hack MARTIN (1851-1932) and Charlotte HARRISON MARTIN (1854-1913). Her grandfather, William MARTIN, was the brother of my 2nd great-grandfather, Phillip MARTIN.South Carolina_public domain

Early life

Lula was born in October 1887 in South Carolina. In 1900, she lived with her parents and siblings in Wateree Township, Kershaw County, South Carolina. Lula’s father was a farmer who owned his farm free and clear. Lula and her siblings attended school and all could read and write.

MARTIN Lula Devere nee Martin_cropped from group shot

Lula Martin, photo courtesy of Glenna Kinnard

Lula marries

In 1907, when Lula was 20, she married Jesse Allen MARTIN, Jr. Jesse was her first cousin. They were married at the Edgewood parsonage by preacher Peel.

The two lived at 1906 Taylor Street, Columbia, South Carolina. 1906 Taylor Street is now commercial property.

Lula passes away

On 29 December 1907, Lula died. Below is the death notice from The State newspaper entitled Sad Death of Bride.

Martin Lula MARTIN death notice cropped


South Carolina didn’t issue death certificates in 1907. Two family versions exist about Lula’s death. According to someone in the Harrison family, Lula was cleaning house and swept a bullet into the fireplace. It exploded and killed her. The other family version claims she died of typhoid. Both versions are believable.

Lula is buried at Salem Methodist Church Cemetery on Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.

Several years later, Jesse married Addie Mae CARMAN, and they had four children together.

A special thanks to Glenna KINNARD, distant cousin and fellow Martin family researcher, for telling me the story of Lula and sharing photos of Lula with me.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved