Oliver Mack TERRY was one of 12 children born to John D. TERRY (1874-?) and Mariah MARTIN TERRY (about 1873-1950). Oliver is my first cousin, twice removed. His mother was the sister of my great-grandfather, Adolphus Burdine MARTIN, Sr.
Oliver was born 5 Aug 1898 in Richland County, South Carolina, on what is now part of Fort Jackson. His father was a farmer who owned his own land. Oliver continued to live and work on the farm during his growing up years, and he completed the 8th grade in school.
In August 1918, when he was 20, Oliver registered for the World War 1 draft. His registration says he was tall with a medium build and that he had blue eyes and light hair. In November, he reported to Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I don’t know anything about his time in the army, though.
In 1920, Oliver was a painter for the railroad, and he boarded at 1724 Thomson Avenue in Columbia, South Carolina. According to city directories, he lived there at least until 1925. From 1926 to at least 1928, Oliver lived in Spartanburg where he worked as a painter for the railroad. But in 1930, at age 32, he was again living at home on Old Camden Road in Richland County. He continued to paint for the railroad as a coach painter.
Moves to Virginia
Oliver’s brother, Lester, died in 1933. In the obituary, Oliver is listed as living in Portsmouth, Virginia. Oliver was 35 in 1933. The Portsmouth city directory and the 1940 census show Oliver boarding at 201 North Street in Portsmouth from 1935 to about 1953. His occupation never changes: painter for the railroad. (Be sure to click on the link for the North Street house. It’s beautiful!)
According to a story found on Ancestry.com written by user kenwiley15, “Captain” Terry worked as a painter for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad in Portsmouth Virginia. Click here to learn more about the Seaboard RR. He was issued passes which allowed him to travel “between all stations” served by Seaboard, three of which exist, for 1943-44, 1947-48, and for 1950-51.” Seaboard had stations all over the south at this time including Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.
In 1953, 55-year old Oliver married 47-year old Lillian Margaret VANN FAIN, a widow who literally lived next door at 203 North Street. Lillian had lost her first husband in a coal mining accident in West Virginia many years earlier. She raised their six children by herself following his death. I don’t know how she came to live in Portsmouth from her home in West Virginia. When she and Oliver married, her children were all grown.
According to the same story above from kenwiley15, after retiring from the railroad, “Captain Terry lived with his wife Lillian (known to her grandchildren as “Bubbie”) off Jolliff Road in Nansemond County (later Chesapeake), and on California Street in Portsmouth, Virginia.”
Oliver passed away at his home on California Street on 9 Oct 1982 at 84 years of age. He died from cardiovascular and respiratory failure. He is buried at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Something on his death certificate made me smile. His last occupation was not listed as coach painter for the railroad, but as interior decorator. Oliver worked his job for decades, and this description makes me think he took great pride in his work and in how the coaches looked.
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