52 Ancestors Week 27 – James E Heiser, Sr A Hard-working Family Man

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Ruth N. HEISER, my first cousin twice removed. Today I am writing about her father, James E. HEISER. James, my great grand uncle, was born about 1869 in Carroll County, Maryland. He was the fourth of eight children born to Daniel Christopher HEISER and Susan Matilda CUSHING.Brickwork


James had an average upbringing for the time. His father was a stone mason, and even though many of the Heiser men became stone masons as well James did not.

Pennsylvania welcome sign


At about 20 years of age, James went to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and started a nearly lifelong career as an iron worker. James lived in several locations in Harrisburg until he met and married Catherine S. (Katie) BALDWIN in 1897. The couple and their first three children moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1901.

Within a few years’ time they were living at 9 North Third Street in Lebanon, the home where they would raise their entire family of 7 children. Click here to see a google maps view of this house. Iron works fire

Besides being an iron worker, James belonged to the Improved Order of the Red Men, America’s oldest fraternal organization. Learn more about them here.

James kept modern with the times by purchasing an automobile. The entire family was in a car accident in 1917 ‘when the steering gear became displaced or something else happened’ according to James. The Lebanon Daily News reported on the accident and said that all were thrown from the vehicle, but amazingly no one suffered any serious injuries.Metal toy car

Sometime in the 1920’s, James went to work for the city of Lebanon. He was probably glad to get away from the backbreaking iron work he’d been doing for decades.

The family was close. According to the 1925 Lebanon City Directory, all the children (ages 10-22) were living with James and Katie on Third Street. And once grown, only one of the children moved more than a few hours away from Lebanon.

On 14 October 1928, James and Katie joined the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Harrisburg, Katie by transfer of membership from an unknown church and James by profession of faith. Twelve days later, on 26 October 1928, Katie died from a heart attack and was buried at Middletown Cemetery in Middletown, Pennsylvania.Church steeple

About six months after Katie’s passing, James was in another auto accident. According the Lebanon Semi-Weekly News, James was crossing Cumberland Street and was within a stone’s throw of his home when he was struck by a speeding Hudson sedan. Benjamin TERRY, the driver of the sedan, attended to James by carrying him into a nearby doctor’s office. James didn’t appear to be fatally injured, although he did have a broken leg and was admitted to the hospital.

Taken at Fairfield Waters Shopping Centre TownsvilleQld.I retain copywrite.

1926 Dodge Sedan, typical car of that era

A few days later, James appeared delirious during night time checks, and the next day ‘he complained of inward pains, but the surgeons at the hospital did not operate because of the danger involved to the patient. It was hoped internal complications would pass without subjecting the man to the ordeal of drastic measures.’

The complications did not pass on their own, and James died that day, 3 April 1929. An autopsy revealed he died of internal bleeding from a punctured liver. James was buried alongside Katie at Middletown Cemetery.

Two of their children continued to live on Third Street for a few years, but eventually moved from that address. I will tell some of their stories in the coming weeks.



52 Ancestors Week 26 – Boy vs. Train

THOMAS Charles T photo

Photo of Charley courtesy of Mary Grainger Harper

Charles T. THOMAS, known as Charley, was the son of Jeremiah M. THOMAS (1852-1930) and Mary Ann AUGHTRY THOMAS (1858-1936). He was my 1st cousin, thrice removed. The Thomas family lived in Dentsville which is now a part of Columbia, South Carolina.

One morning in February 1908, 15- year old Charley was bringing his older sister, Susie THOMAS, to their parents’ house so she could nurse their sick mother. They traveled along in a buggy at a steady gait with a mule doing the pulling.Train tracks

As they crossed the railroad tracks near Waddell, South Carolina, they were hit by the Florida Limited train of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Witnesses said the train did not blow a whistle or ring the bell. Susie confirmed that later.


The buggy was almost completely demolished on impact, according to a newspaper clipping I found about the tragedy. The mule was thrown about 65 feet and died instantly.

Charley and Susie were both thrown several feet. Charley died at the scene, and Susie was wounded internally.

THOMAS Susie and her husband Jim LOCKLIER

Susie and her husband, Jim Locklier, courtesy of Mary Grainger Harper

There were concerns she might not recover, but she did. She married, but never had any children. Perhaps she was unable to because of injuries sustained in the accident.

Charley was buried at the Thomas burial ground, now known as the Thomas cemetery. I visited there a few years ago, and didn’t see a stone for him, but now I know he is there.

Thomas Cemetery-5

My turn as the storyteller

Last Friday I blogged about the Griffin family and how beauty came from the ashes of tragedy. Today, I stood in front of the gravestone for Catherine (Katie) Griffin Grant and her husband Zechariah Taylor (Jack) Grant.

GRANT Zechariah and Catherine headstone

Jack and Katie Grant headstone at Mt. Olivet Methodist Church Cemetery in Cheraw, SC

It was gratifying and startling at the same time. The last time I visited this cemetery was over 30 years ago. I was with my mother and some of her cousins who knew some stories about our people buried there. It was overwhelming hearing them talk about the people and not being sure how anyone was related to me.

Looking at Jack and Katie’s gravestones brought back those memories.

But today I was the storyteller, and I had the delight and satisfaction of telling about our great-grandparents and grand aunts and uncles and more…the delight and satisfaction of keeping them all alive.

52 Ancestors Week 25 – The rest of Henrietta’s story

Last week I said that the horrific death of Tom GRIFFIN wasn’t the end of the story concerning his wife, Henrietta, and their four children. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Tom’s brother, John

First I want to back up a little in time. Tom had a brother named John Newberry GRIFFIN. John was born 19 Feb 1862, just 11 months after Tom. I expect Tom and John were close, almost like twins.

John worked in turpentine farming, like Tom, but I don’t know or not if he was working at the same place as Tom when the accident happened that took Tom’s life.

When John was 19, he married Flora Henrietta GRANT who went by Henrietta. The next year, 1882, John’s Henrietta gave birth to Catherine Henrietta GRIFFIN, who was called Katie.


Their little family was off to a good start, but tragedy struck soon after – a tornado outbreak.



According to Wikipedia,’ the Enigma tornado outbreak of February 1884 is thought to be among the largest and most widespread tornado outbreaks in American history.’ Read more about it here if you’d like.


Another young life lost

The Farmer and Mechanic newspaper of Raleigh, North Carolina, listed John’s wife, Henrietta, amongst those killed in the tornado outbreak.

John survived the tornado, and Katie did, too. The paper said that Katie was found unhurt in her dead mother’s arms. Family folklore says that during the tornado, either Katie’s grandmother or aunt held on to Katie with one arm and to a tree with the other.lone_tree_2_bw

John was still mourning the loss of his wife when his brother, Tom, died in 1887. John and Tom’s Henrietta consoled each other in their grief, and you probably know what happened next.


Beauty from ashes

According to Cindy, a great-granddaughter of John, ‘With the death of both their spouses, they found new love with each other.’ John and Henrietta married and combined their families and went on to have four children together.Heart candies

John and Henrietta left South Carolina about 1899 for Coffee County, Alabama to work in the turpentine forests there. John was working as a distiller. I wonder if that worried Henrietta after what happened to Tom.

In 1910, John was a general farmer, but in 1920 he was back to turpentine farming. At some point, John and Henrietta moved to Opp, in Covington County, Alabama where John built and operated a service station on the Florala Highway.


Gas station-1


The couple lived in Opp and worked John’s service station until both passed away in Manatee, Florida; Henrietta passed on 9 January 1927, and John passed 11 days later on 20 January 1927. Curious that they died so close together and not at home in Alabama, isn’t it?

John and Henrietta were buried at Friendship United Methodist Church in Covington County, Alabama. They suffered tragedies at a young age, but went on to find love again and to live full lives together.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 24 – Tom’s Griffin’s Horrific Death

Thomas Pearson GRIFFIN, known as Tom, was the son of William Harris GRIFFIN, Sr, and Margaret PEARSON GRIFFIN. Tom was born 16 March 1861 in Marlboro County, South Carolina. He’s my 2nd great grand uncle.Pine Misty forest

Tom attended school and started his work life as a farm laborer, probably on a turpentine farm. Episode four of Welcome to River Town is all about turpentine farming. River Town is a mini-series about live in rural North Carolina in the mid-1850’s.  Click here to watch.

In November 1882, he married Henrietta STANTON, also a Marlboro County native. Tom and Henrietta had four children over the next five years. The fourth one, Thomas Jr (called Tomie), was born in March 1887.

Tom was working as a distiller on a turpentine farm in the Sandy Run Township of Lexington County in the summer of 1887. All of the children had been born in either Marlboro or Chesterfield Counties. I’m thinking that Tom had gone ahead of the family and was waiting for Tomie to get a little age on him before Henrietta and the children joined him.


Dewy Pine needles

According to The Intelligencer newspaper out of Anderson, South Carolina, ‘a frightful accident occurred at the turpentine distillery of Hilliard Goodwin in the upper part of Sandy Run Township’ on 18 July 1887.


The paper went on to say, ‘The stiller, a white man named Thomas Griffin, and a negro, were rolling some spirit barrels away from the fire, when one of the barrels exploded in their hands, and instantly enveloped them in flames. Both men were literally burnt to ashes.’Fire

A more detailed report a few days later in the same paper said, “All the stock about the building and Griffin and the entire establishment was burned up in sight of Mr. Godwin and several others who were powerless to render any assistance to the burning man, or stay the progress of the flames.’

Tom was buried at Gaston First Baptist Church Cemetery in Gaston, Lexington County, South Carolina.

But this isn’t the end of this story for Henrietta and the children. Next week I’ll tell you the rest.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 23 – Ruth N. Heiser, a modern woman

Many of my male ancestors were farmers, and most of the women were farm wives or were ‘keeping house’. Not Ruth, though. She was a modern woman for her time.

Ruth Naomi HEISER was the fifth of seven children born to James E. HEISER, Sr. and Catherine (Katie) BALDWIN HEISER. Her grandfather, Daniel Christopher HEISER is my 2nd great-grandfather which makes her my first cousin twice removed.

Ruth was born 5 Apr 1905, and she and her siblings attended school in her hometown of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Ruth is listed several times in Lebanon newspapers in the school attendance rolls. But school didn’t last long.

Ruth: working girl

In 1920, at age 14, Ruth was working as an operator in a handkerchief factory and still living at home with her parents. City directories show her as a machine operator throughout the 1920’s.Handkerchiefs old ones

Katie, Ruth’s mother, passed away in 1928; James, her father, in 1929. In the 1930 census, Ruth and her younger brother, James E. HEISER, Jr, are living together with Ruth as the head of the house. She was a machine operator with the power company. James was a bookkeeper for a screw company.

The working girl becomes the working woman

Ruth was fortunate to have employment throughout the Great Depression. It was all factory work as a machine operator, mostly in clothing manufacturing, but it was steady work.Factory old and in ruins

In 1940, Ruth was renting at 764 Willow Street in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. She continued with machine operator work through the 1940’s. She didn’t marry in the war years or soon afterwards as many women did.

In 1951, the city directory shows Ruth living on Willow Street still, but at 750 Willow Street instead. Here is a link to 750 Willow. It’s probably the same building that Ruth lived in.

Ruth gets married

In 1955, Ruth married Andrew KOLAR (1918-1999). Andrew was an attendant at the VA Hospital in Lebanaon.a-pair-of-pears

According to city directories, Andrew and Ruth lived at Ridgeway Trailer Park for many years. Also, she began working for Barrymaid Mills, still as an operator. She was at that same job in 1960. In 1969, Andrew was awarded a 25-year pin for his work at the VA Hospital.


What else I know about Ruth

The records become more difficult to locate, and newspaper archives haven’t caught up to current times. Plus, Pennsylvania has a tighter control on their records than some states, so I couldn’t find much else.

I do know that Ruth passed away on 2 Oct 1988 in Lebanon, Pennsylvania at 83 years of age. Andrew lived on 11 years without her. Ruth and Andrew are buried together at Mount Airy Cemetery in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania.

If Ruth hadn’t married Andrew, I imagine she would have kept on working and supporting herself, and hopefully putting money aside. Most of Ruth’s siblings lived in Lebanon, too, and they all seemed close. She probably would have had nieces and nephews to look after her.


52 Ancestors Week 22 – Joseph Futrell, murdered on the Sand Hills

Joseph FUTRELL, my 3rd great grandfather, was born in 1812 in one of the Carolinas. At age 18, he was living in Richland County, South Carolina, and soon after he married Agnes Irene (Aggie)  MILES.

Margaret Futrell Martin

Margaret Futrell Martin, my 2nd great grandmother

Joseph and Aggie started their family right away, and had at least 10 children by 1850, one of which was my 2nd great grandmother, Margaret FUTRELL MARTIN.

In the 1840 and 1850 censuses, Joseph and Aggie were still in Richland County and the 1850 census listed his occupation as planter.

He had real estate valued at $300. It’s hard to say what that would equal in today’s economy.

Later in the 1870 census, the widowed Aggie had 180 acres of land valued at $180 to give you an idea of land value in those days.

Joseph seemed to have disappeared from the records after the 1850 census, like he fell off the face of the earth. This article from The Camden Journal dated 12 Oct 1852 told me why:

We understand that on Friday last (8 Oct 1852), a man by the name of Joseph Futerell was killed by Isaac MEDLIN. They had been at a barbecue somewhere on the Sand Hills. At another barbeque, give the same day, or the day previous, a difficulty occurred between two men, in which both were injured, one of them, it is though, fatally.Pork BBcue

Barbecues in the 1800’s weren’t much different than barbecues now. There was pork to eat.

Corn, too, I imagine.  Probably card playing and maybe horseshoes, and plenty of whiskey.Whiskey bottles

Sometimes all that was a recipe for ugly behavior.

I have no idea what the difficulty was between Joseph and Isaac. But the Medlin family was known for getting into trouble, so it isn’t surprising one of them was involved in Joseph’s death.

In March of 1853, The Camden Journal reported this:

Isaac Medlin was put on his trial before our Court yesterday for the murder of Joseph Futrell, sometime in the fall of last year. After a patient hearing of the case, to which the whole day was devoted, the jury was charged by his Honor Judge WARDLAW, and retired to their room. After the lapse of ten or fifteen minutes, they returned with a verdict of manslaughter.Jail-2


Fifteen years later, Joseph’s son (or possibly nephew) William MILES would be murdered on the Sand Hills, too. 52ancestors-2015

The thread that binds me to others

Positive Writer is hosting a writing contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life. Here’s my response:


I come from a family of creative women. My grandmother made patchwork quilts, and my mother painted in oil and acrylic. Me? I write. Writing is my creative outlet.writingdesk

I can sew, but I need a pattern for that and the end result is already planned. Writing is where I can be in charge. I decide the end result. Writing is the way I express what can only be expressed by me.


I don’t think fast on my feet. Never have. I prefer to hash out facts and feelings on paper before prematurely speaking them out loud and thus hurting someone or sounding like an idiot because I can’t put my thoughts together in an understandable way.

Writing provides me the opportunity to make sense of the world around me and to think before acting or speaking.


Better Portrait Rev Phillip Martin 18311901

Phillip Martin, my 2nd great grandfather and Kevin’s 3rd great grandfather

Writing introduces me to people I may not have known any other way. For example, this past weekend a stranger named Kevin emailed me after reading a blog I wrote about my 2nd great grandfather, Phillip Martin.

This ‘stranger’ was not a stranger for long. Phillip Martin is Kevin’s 3rd great grandfather. We are Facebook friends now, and we’ve been emailing to get to know each other and share family stories.


Finally, my gift of writing allows me to bless others. Sometimes I write letters – you know, old fashioned friendly letters. People always appreciate a good letter.Little Girl at mailbox

I have written homeschool curriculum, appeal letters to insurance companies for others, news releases for a service organization, thank you notes, and more. I’ve been a proofreader for a seminary student, some friends, my sister, and other family members. And I am a writing tutor for middle and high school students.


I hear people say writing is a lonely pursuit, but it’s not. Writing keeps me connected to people whether I’m composing something important for a friend, sharing information with my tribe, helping someone learn to write better, or entertaining with a story.  Writing keeps me grounded to who and what matters most.


52 Ancestors Week 21 – Alonzo E Pyles, a Good Man With a Sad Ending

Alonzo E. PYLES, my great grand uncle, was the son of William Wallace PYLES and Emeline PRICE PYLES. He was also the brother of my great-grandmother Sally PYLES PRICE.

Alonzo Pyles with wife and 3 oldest children circa 1894

Alonzo Pyles with wife Malinda and 3 oldest chidren – Jesse, Laura and Hulda. Abt 1894. http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/17754562/family

Alonzo was born in Dickerson, Maryland in August 1864. He went to school and learned to read and write and eventually left Maryland for Pennsylvania sometime between 1880 and 1887. In 1887, Alonzo married Malinda BURKETT in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

In 1900 36-year old Alonzo, wife Malinda, and their four children were living in the Londonderry Township of Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Jesse Roy was born in 1888, Laura in 1889, Hulda Belle in 1893, and Everett in 1895. Alonzo was working at a tannery, but the census record is difficult to read so I don’t know exactly what his job was. Train toy

Alonzo was an ambitious man, it seems. In 1910, he was a railroad foreman, and he owned a house free and clear. The family was living in Garrett, Somerset County, Pennsylvania which borders Bedford County to the west.

Here in Garrett, Alonzo joined the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. The Knights of Pythias ran camps for underprivileged youths, worked to raise money for medical research, and had homes for their aged members. It is an active fraternal organization still today.

In 1920, Alonzo and Malinda were back in Londonderry Township and on their own, but now Alonzo was farming on land he owned free and clear. I don’t know what Alonzo was farming, but at 56 years of age it may have been just enough for himself and Malinda…a gentleman’s farm perhaps.Masonic symbol

For reasons unknown, in 1930 Alonzo and Malinda were living at the Masonic Home of Right Worshipful Grand Lodge in West Donegal, Pennsylvania. Alonzo was 66, and Malinda was 61. They didn’t stay there long after that, though.

In 1932, Alonzo again bought property in Londonderry Township, and he and Malinda went to live there.

Throughout his adult life, Alonzo visited his family in Maryland. In June of 1934, Alonzo and Malinda took a final trip together to see his sisters in Washington, DC and Frederick, MD; and their son, Everett, in Meyersville, MD. Alonzo never made it home.

One June 20th, Alonzo and Malinda started for home around 7 o’clock, according to Alonzo’s obituary. At the foot of Sideling Hill, Mr. Pyles was stricken with paralysis and died at a nearby garage a few hours later.


Not THE garage that Alonzo stopped at but maybe one similar to it.

His death notice said, Word was immediately dispatched to Everett Pyles, but the father died before he arrived.

Alonzo was buried at Hyndman Cemetery in Hyndman, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.


After some years Malinda left Bedford County for her daughter’s home in Ohio, and she lived out her life there.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 20 – Henry D Griffin, Bright’s disease sufferer

Flora Ann Griffin Grant

Flora Ann Griffin Grant, sister of Henry David Griffin and my 2nd great-grandmother

Henry David GRIFFIN was the brother of my 2nd great-grandmother, Flora Ann GRIFFIN GRANT. This makes him my 2nd great grand uncle.

Henry was born 23 Jan 1858 in Marlboro County, South Carolina to William H GRIFFIN, Sr and Margaret PEARSON GRIFFIN. He attended school in Marlboro County and learned to read and write.

Moving out

Sometime in the mid to late 1870’s, Henry left Marlboro County and headed to Columbia, the state capitol. In 1880, he was working as a teamster – someone who drove a team of draft animals, usually a wagon drawn by oxen, horses or mules. Also in 1880, 22-year old Henry married 18-year old Ann M. (Annie) WATTS.Horses for pulling

Time marches on

Twenty years later, in 1900, Henry and Annie were farming in Sandy Run, Lexington County, South Carolina. Nine of their 10 children had been born, with the last to come in 1903.Barn and farm equipment

Henry and Annie continued to farm in Lexington County through the next 20 years. The census shows them as owning a farm in Platt Springs in January 1920. Owned and free of a mortgage, even. Henry and Annie’s son, Bogan M. GRIFFIN, lived next door.

Henry takes sick

A few days after Thanksgiving that same year, Henry took sick with Bright’s disease. Bright’s disease is an old term used for kidney disease now called nephritis. KidneySymptoms were severe back pain, elevated blood pressure, vomiting, fever, edema due to fluid retention causing restricted breathing, smoky or bloody urine, and high levels of albumin in urine.

Another of my 2nd great grand uncles, Jesse THOMAS, provided a prescription for Bright’s to my grandmother, Florrie THOMAS MARTIN in 1932: 1 half ounce of oil of cubabs. and one ounce of balsam copiava. Take one-half teaspoon before meals. Sounds pretty tasty to me…NOT.Cure for Brights disease

(Balsam copaiba is a sap-like substance collected from trees belonging to the copaifera species. They are flowering plants in the legume family. The oil is useful for production of oil products like lacquers and biodiesel. Medicinally acts as a diuretic and it reduces inflammation.

Oil of cubebs or cubeba comes from the dried unripe berry of a tropical shrub of the pepper family (piper cubeba or tailed pepper). The oil causes a marked diuretic action and is an efficient disinfectant of the urinary passage.) 

Henry passes away

Perhaps Henry’s doctor prescribed this same remedy for him, but whatever the doctor did, it didn’t help. Henry passed away early on 12 Dec 1920, just a few weeks after becoming ill. He was 62 years old. Henry was buried at Gaston First Baptist Church in Gaston, Lexington County, South Carolina.