Whose land was that? (part 1)


Last week I wrote about my great uncle Herbert B. THOMAS (1889-1964). I wrote that the last place he lived was on property owned by my uncle, Tommy MARTIN.

After I shared that story, Uncle Tommy’s daughter told me that he didn’t acquire the land like I thought. The land had belonged to Alice, Herbert’s wife, or someone in her family. So, whose land was it, I wanted to know. Not only did I find out who owned the land, but I found the story of a family that stuck together during happy and sad times.

German flag photo from flickr member fdecomite. Click photo for info.





First things first

Henry BEDECKER, a German immigrant born in 1842, came to the states before the civil war. He married Louisa OSA before 1870.

In 1900, Henry and Louisa lived in the Harrisonville area of Baltimore County. Henry worked as a laborer while Louisa kept house and took care of their four children; Louis, 20, Carrie, 17, Annie, 15, and May, 11. Henry was paying a mortgage on a house according to this census.

Where these places are

Harrisonville is on present-day Liberty Road (Route 26) between the Liberty Reservoir and Randallstown, Maryland.

Wards Chapel Methodist Church is on Liberty Road, too, between these same two landmarks, but much closer to the reservoir than to Randallstown. Wards Chapel Road crosses Liberty Road at the church.

If you go south on Wards Chapel Road a mile or so, you come to the Hopkins community. Go another six miles and you come to Marriottsville. Hopkins and Marriottsville come into play as the story goes along.

Carrie marries and starts a family

Carrie BEDECKER, oldest daughter of Henry and Louisa, married Herman EWARTOFSKI, a German immigrant, about 1901.Their first daughter, Louisa, was born in 1902.


In 1903, there was a 4th of July party at Henry and Louisa’s place that was grand enough to be noted in the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Neighbors and family attended. This party was said to be ‘near Marriottsville’ according the article, so I think Henry and Louisa had moved to Hopkins between 1900 and 1903.

a generic farm…NOT Herman’s or Henry’s

In 1904, Herman and Carrie bought 9-10 acres of land in the Holbrook area. (This is the land whose ownership started this entire exploration!). In 1905, Carrie gave birth to a second daughter, Hilda.

Where they were in 1910

In 1910, Herman and Carrie were farming the land they purchased in 1904. They owned the land free and clear. They had a small two-story farmhouse.

Henry and Louisa were farming in Baltimore County, too, in 1910. They are a few pages over from Carrie and Herman in the census which lends to my conclusion that they had moved from Harrisonville to the Hopkins community.

Also, Henry and Louisa have another child in the 1910 census: 17-year old Elizabeth, called Lizzie, who was born in 1893. I don’t know why she wasn’t on the 1900 census.

In 1910, Lizzie married Melvin George OREM, a laborer. Their only child, Alice, was born in 1911. (Yes, this is the Alice who will marry my great uncle Herbert later in the story.)

photo from flickr member Barbara M. Click on photo for more info.

Life is good

Life seems good for the family. The girls appear to all be married and having babies. Some of them live close to each other, and they farm together including Louis who lives with Henry and Louisa. From research I’ve done, I know Hopkins was a community of predominately German immigrants and first generation German Americans. Many in the community attended the same church: Wards Chapel Methodist.

As we all know, bad times come, and they did for this family in 1915 when two family members are lost. I’ll pick up the story there next week.

Copyright © 2017  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


Herbert B. Thomas: a nice man


My grandmother’s brother, Herbert Batie THOMAS, was born 11 March 1889 in South Carolina.

Early life

Dan and Maggie Thomas, my great-grandparents and Herbert’s parents

Herbert’s parents, Dan THOMAS (1858-1946) and Maggie GRANT THOMAS (1870-1948) met in Chesterfield County when Dan came to Chesterfield to help his sister who’d been recently widowed and left to raise five young children on her own. Maggie was the sister of Dan’s deceased brother-in-law.

Herbert was the oldest of seven children born to Dan and Maggie: Herbert, Wilford, a unnamed son, Florrie (my grandmother), Aggie, Daniel, and Griffin. Wilford, Daniel, and Griffin died as children. I wrote about Wilford here. The unnamed son was likely stillborn.

Dan farmed turpentine, and more, in Chesterfield County. He and Maggie owned property in Chesterfield County, too. Between 1900 and 1905, Dan and Maggie moved to Richland County, where Dan was from. There, he took care of his parents, and he farmed on their property.

Herbert starts a family

In 1910 Herbert appears in the census twice. On 18 April he was with his uncle, Zack Grant, in Chesterfield County. On 24 April he was with his parents and siblings in Richland County.

Herbert and Leila

He is listed as single on both of these, and sometime between then and the end of 1019 he married Leila Hulda DAVIS (1894-1970) in Chesterfield County. Their first child, Eletha Mae, was born there in 1912.

According to his WW1 draft registration in 1917, Herbert, Leila, and Eletha Mae lived in Chesterfield County. Herbert was a farmer. Herbert was tall and had a medium build. He had light brown hair and light brown eyes.

The 1920’s and 30’s

I couldn’t find Herbert and his family in the 1920 census but he was likely still farming in Chesterfield County. In 1921 their second child, Orrin Rudolph (called Son), was born.

In 1930, Herbert was the keeper of the county home on Scotch Road in Chesterfield, South Carolina. He and his family were still in Chesterfield in 1935 as well.

Herbert leaves South Carolina

During the Depression work was hard to find. Between 1935 and 1940, Herbert and Leila moved to Fairfax County, Virginia, where Herbert worked as a farm laborer. Son and Eletha Mae stayed behind in Chesterfield County.

By 1942, Herbert had moved in with his sister, Florrie, and her family, in Foneswood, Richmond County, Virginia. Florrie’s husband was Herbert’s contact person on his WW2 draft registration. For reasons unknown, Leila went back to Chesterfield County. She and Herbert never reunited.

On his own…for a while anyway

Florrie (my grandmother), Herbert, unknown person, Alice (Herbert’s wife)

Herbert eventually moved to Howard County, Maryland, where he likely worked as a farm laborer. There he met Alice OREM (1911-1984), a sweet single lady. He and Alice eventually married.

My grandparents, and their children still at home, moved to Maryland, too. Their youngest son, my Uncle Tommy, went to work in Prince George’s County.

Eventually Uncle Tommy bought a mini-farm in Marriottsville, Howard County, Maryland. He built a small 2-bedroom single level house for Herbert and Alice on the property. I expect Herbert helped Tommy on the farm as much as he could.

Herbert passes away

Herbert died 7 Dec 1964. I was 4. I don’t remember much about my Uncle Herbert. I remember a picnic at Uncle Tommy’s when I was 3, probably because there are photos from the picnic.

I don’t remember his voice, but I remember his smile and how he moved. I remember how my grandmother, his sister, laughed with him. And I remember how joyful the day was.



Family members say Herbert was soft-spoken and a nice man. I can believe that.

Herbert is buried in Randallstown, Baltimore County, Maryland, at Wards Chapel Methodist Church where he was a member. Alice continued living in the little house. Uncle Tommy and his wife, Hazel, took care of her until she passed away. She is buried next to Herbert.

Copyright © 2017  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


The 1930’s world of Maggie Sullivan


NOT a pic of Maggie, but Maggie probably wore a hat like this

Maggie Sullivan is a 1930’s private investigator in Dayton, Ohio. Maggie drives a De Soto, and she has a love for hats which were common attire for women in the 1930’s.

She’s smart and brave (sometimes too brave for her own good), wise about people, and not afraid to speak her mind when necessary.  She’s also protective of those she loves and of her clients. As you can tell, I like Maggie Sullivan; and I have enjoyed reading the five books in the Maggie Sullivan series by M. Ruth Myers.

This series is a grand example of how historical fiction can teach us about a time period by letting us immerse ourselves in it through the eyes of the story characters.

From reading this series, I’ve gained a better understanding of the world my father lived in. He and Maggie would have been born about the same time. He grew up in a small city, too: Frederick, Maryland. I imagine that the same sort of society existed in Frederick as in Dayton: the rich, the poor, and the in between. Maggie helps people in each of these classes, so there is opportunity to see how each lives through descriptions of homes, clothes, cars, mannerisms, jobs, and more.

1938 De Soto, akin to the one Maggie drove

Maggie’s personal world is predominately Irish. Her father came to Ohio from Ireland and became a policeman. From him, Maggie learned a lot about investigating and about people. Her parents have passed at the time of the stories. Maggie’s father’s best friends, Billy Leary and Seamus Hanlon, (also Irish and policemen) are her ‘home’. She frequents Finn’s Pub, a regular destination for Dayton’s finest. The stories describe the pub itself, the patrons, the owners, the beers and liquor served, the food, and the music.

Maggie lives in a boarding house with other young single working women, like my mother did for a time when she was a government girl during World War 2. Details are provided about the house, the other residents, the owner, and the owner’s devilish cat. Boarding house living was common in cities then, and I was glad to learn more about them.

The stories drive home the everyday treatment of working women of that time, especially those in male-dominated professions. Maggie is doubted by some policemen, especially Detective Freeze. And she often hears that she should be home tending house and having babies. She is doubted by some people she encounters on her job, too, and seen as incapable and too delicate for the job. Still, tough-guy characters had no trouble roughing her up when necessary, and she gets into more than one life-threatening situation.

Maggie and other professional women drank just like the professional men they encountered. Photo by doctyper. http://tinyurl.com/jqxnan2










Maggie encounters other career women like Rachel Minsky, a Jewess, who runs a construction company. Maggie and these women have a sisterhood of sorts as they face the same opposition from the men they encounter personally and professionally.

Reading this series immersed me in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. The most recent book in the series takes place in November and December of 1941. The clothes, the language, the cars, and the way life all came to life for me. If you want to learn about this time period, give this series a try.

Copyright © 2017  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


New Year’s Day 1914: a letter written that day


my grandmother, Florrie Thomas Martin, when she was a schoolteacher, before she married my grandfather

My grandmother, Florrie THOMAS MARTIN saved all the letters she and my grandfather, Joel Daniel MARTIN, sent to each other. After my grandma died in 1979, my mom gave some of the letters to her own siblings who asked for them, but I have the lion’s share.




Below is the letter Grandma wrote to Grandpop on New Year’s Day 1914. She talks about a vacation. She was a schoolteacher so she must have been on Christmas break.







Then she talks about what she did on New Year’s Eve. It hard for me to imagine my old grandma doing that!  She talks about the Jeffords boys being there. (Her sister, Aggie, would marry one of the Jeffords boys, Charles Michael JEFFORDS, in 1915.)








At the end of the letter Grandma says she has something to talk to Grandpop about the following Sunday.















Sound important? It is. Below is a page from Daniel’s letter to Florrie on December 14th.


There must have been talk of married sometime before the December 14th letter. Florrie and Daniel married June 15th, 1914 In Richland County, South Carolina.



Joel Daniel Martin, my grandfather, as a young man









Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


My Christmas cactus heirloom


My grandmother circa 1918

When my grandparents, Joel Daniel MARTIN and Florrie THOMAS MARTIN, left South Carolina for Virginia in the mid 1920’s, they didn’t take much with them. There wasn’t much room in their vehicle after loading up themselves and five children!

One thing my grandma did bring was a Christmas cactus. Was it a cutting from a plant belonging to someone dear to her? Was it her own plant? I don’t know, but I know it was important enough to her that she cared for it during that trip and beyond.

Grandma lived with my family when I was growing up. Her Christmas cactus was always there. Below is a photo of it from the 1960’s.

When Grandma passed away in 1979 her cactus went home with my Uncle Bobby and his wife, Dot. They took good care of the cactus for many years until Uncle Bobby offered it to my sister who gladly took it. My sister cared for it for many years, too, but it died as plants eventually do.

That’s not the end of the story, though.

Children and grandchildren of my grandma had taken cuttings off her cactus for years, and grew their own cactus plants.  All of those plants died except for the one grown by my cousin, Chet, and his wife, Carolyn.

In August 2014 I had the opportunity to visit Chet and Carolyn, who live in another state. They kindly let me take a few cuttings from their Christmas cactus. I was determined to keep it alive. I can be a plant killer, so this was a challenge.

I’m happy to say that my cuttings have grown into a large plant, and it has blooms for the first time this year. It’s like my grandma is visiting me for Christmas.






Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


What I want from Santa’s elves


For the December Genealogy Blog Party, we are to share our Christmas wish list.Genealogy Blog Party Badge

What would I like from Genea-Santa this year?

It’s hard to choose. So many things come to mind. But I think I know.


I’d like Santa to send someone who will sort, label, scan, and preserve all the family photographs I haven’t gotten to yet…and there are plenty of them. Below are two photos of my closet. All of the boxes and the accordion folder have photos in them.














And there are more that aren’t even in my closet!


Dear Genea-Santa,

Please send your elves to process these photos for me. I’ve been a good girl this year…mostly.



Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


Pearl Harbor Day: 1941 & 1998


On December 7, 1941, my mother, and the couple she rented a room from, were listening to the radio.

Mom said in her memoir, ‘We heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and we would be going to war. Needless to say, it had a very sobering effect. Our minds raced trying to figure out the many changes our lives would take.’


The Japanese hadn’t just blown up ships in Pearl Harbor, but essentially the lives of everyone in every city and town and burg in the country. Life would never be the same again, ever. Tears were shed as she and others thought about those at Pearl Harbor and as they anticipated the changes to come.

A Pearl Harbor moment again 57 years later

I had never faced anything truly catastrophic in my life until Monday, December 7, 1998. As I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office with my two daughters waiting for the nurse, Sarah, to check my 10-year old’s fasting blood sugar, I cherished my last moments of purposeful blissful ignorance. I pushed the possibility of diabetes out of my mind for just a few more minutes.

I’d had a phone call the Friday afternoon before that Katie’s non-fasting blood sugar was elevated. I was told to bring her in Monday for a fasting blood sugar. I got off the phone and cried and prayed that it was a mistake. I let Katie eat whatever she wanted that weekend, knowing in the back of my mind that life would likely change on Monday.

Sarah pricked Katie’s finger, and sure enough, her fasting blood sugar was elevated. Katie had type 1 diabetes. I sent both of my daughters to the waiting room so I could talk to Sarah alone.insulin-syringe-public-domain

My Pearl Harbor moment

Like the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, this news had a sobering effect on me. My mind raced trying to figure out how life would change and what Katie’s future would hold. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried some tears while talking to Sarah.

I pulled myself together enough to leave the doctor’s office with instructions of what to do next. Katie could see I’d been crying. She said later that she knew it must be serious if I was crying. She even wondered if she was dying, but she didn’t ask.

Why we need to know our family history

Life change forever for all our family, just like everyone’s lives changed in 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. My mom and her friends and family got tough and overcame their fears so they could face their new lives. They proved themselves worthy of being called The Greatest Generation.

I cried off and on but I got tough, too, on that Pearl Harbor Day in 1998. I was blessed to be the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of resilient and determined people. I’d seen their toughness lived out and heard stories of those who’d already passed; and I followed suit. And so did Katie.



Life goes on

First I learned to manage Katie’s diabetes and then she did. Type 1 diabetes is autoimmune disease that requires insulin every day. The body no longer makes insulin.  There is no pill to fix it and no cure yet. Blood sugar has to be checked several times a day and carbohydrate intake has to be monitored. Illness and exercise and stress can make the blood sugar crazy. It takes constant vigilance to live with type 1 diabetes.

Hence our lives were changed forever.

Every year on Pearl Harbor Day, I remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor and how it changed everyone’s lives forever in 194. And I remember my child’s life, and mine, being changed forever in 1998.

Copyright © 2016  Nancy H. Vest   All Rights Reserved


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