My maternal grandmother, Littie Alene (Gray) Taylor was the youngest child born to Seaborn and Mary Ann (Medlin) Gray. Seaborn and Mary had 11 daughters and 1 son, but only 8 daughters survived to adulthood. The 2 oldest daughters married brothers, and the 3 middle daughters also married brothers.
My great-aunts, Fannie and Nannie, married brothers, Nick and Click Jarrett. Fannie married Nick in 1898 in Texas when she was 18 years old and Nick was 25 years old. Four years later, Nannie married Click in Oklahoma on Valentine’s Day when she was 17 years old and Click was 24 years old. All 4 of them, Fannie and Nick, Nannie and Click were born in Texas and moved to Oklahoma.
My great-aunts, Minnie, Jo Anna and Nellie, also married brothers in Oklahoma. Minnie married Stonewall Jackson Barnes in 1910 at the age of 20 and Stonewall was 31 years old. Six months later Jo Anna age 18, married Lindsey Barnes age 21. A year later Nellie age 15, married Thomas Stapleton Barnes age 28. These were first marriages for all of them. Picture below is Minnie, Nellie and Nellie’s son, Robert Allen Barnes.
All of the 8 Gray daughters outlived their first husbands, except one, Omie died before her husband, Cecil Blaylock. Three of them, Nannie, Jo Anna and Nellie married a second time. Picture below is my maternal grandmother, Littie and her sister, Jo Anna with second husband, Allen Baker.
Continuing with the theme “Multiples”, twin boys, Monroe and Albert, were born to Jo Anna and Lindsey Barnes in the first year of their marriage. Unfortunately, Lindsey died just one month after the twins were born. Jo Anna married Allen Baker several years later and they had a daughter together. All of them moved to Longview, Washington for the remainder of their lives.
During the mid 20th century (1930-1960) coal was the fuel used most for generating electricity in the United States. From 1927-1973 West Virginia was the top coal producing state in the country. West Virginia also had the highest death rate of miners during 1890-1912. Coal mining was a dangerous and difficult job. My husband Mike’s biological grandfather, Daniel J King, was a coal miner in Kanawha County, West Virginia in 1920.
Daniel Joshua King was born 14 August 1885 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. His parents Noah B and Marietta (Bray) King could not read or write according to the 1900 U.S. Census, but Daniel could. Daniel’s father, Noah was listed as a ‘laborer’ for his occupation in the 1900 U.S. Census and so was Daniel at the age of 14. A ‘laborer’ in this case must mean someone who does not have a specific job because the instructions given to the census enumerators were very clear to avoid recording just ‘laborer’ and to be specific about the kind of work done. Several of their neighbors were listed as coal miners and farm labor, so Daniel and his father definitely did not do either of these types of work. But whatever type of general labor it was, they both reported ‘0’ months without work in the prior year.
By 1910, Daniel was 24 years old and had been married to Lucy Knapp for 6 years. Of their 3 children born only 2 were living, Annie 4 years old and Reba 2 years old. They lived with Daniel’s parents and his maternal grandmother in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Both Daniel and his father are still laborers, but the 1910 U.S. Census lists Daniel as a railroad laborer and his father doing ‘odd jobs’, but was currently out of work. Many of their neighbors were coal miners.
Daniel’s father and his maternal grandmother died about 1915, so by the 1920 U.S. Census he was living with his wife Lucy, 5 children and his mother. In the previous 2 censuses, Daniel lived in the Marmet Precinct of Kanawha County, but in 1920 he lived in Dry Branch where all of his neighbors were coal miners and so was Daniel.
Company coal towns, like Dry Branch were built by the mining companies to attract and house workers. By 1922, 80% of all West Virginia coal miners lived in company towns. The mining companies also owned the only store in these towns, so they could charge high prices for everything the coal miner families needed to buy. Once cars became more available and the miners saved enough money to buy one, they had access to other places besides the company stores to make their purchases.
It is difficult to know how long Daniel J King worked as a coal miner since there is no indication of how long he had lived and worked in Dry Branch prior to 1920, but it could have been for 10 years or more. By 1930, Daniel and his family had moved to Belle, Kanawha, West Virginia where he and most of his neighbors worked at a chemical company. This area of Kanawha was known as ‘Chemical Valley’ because of its many chemical manufacturing plants located there.
By 1940, Daniel J King was a widower and had moved to Wyandotte, Michigan where all 8 of his children and their families lived. He was fortunate to survive working in the West Virginia coal mines during the 1920’s and lived out the rest of his life in Wyandotte, Michigan where he died 21 March 1956.
Humphrey B. Twitchell, born April 1833 in Erie County, New York and died 6 November 1900 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, is my husband Mike’s biological 2nd great-grandfather. Humphrey B. Twitchell is the 10th generation Mayflower descendant of Stephen Hopkins. Before I get to his story, the latest update on the Mayflower Society lineage submission review shows that it has not moved up and still remains #29 in the review queue.
Of all of the generations in Mike’s Mayflower lineage, Humphrey B. Twitchell was the most challenging ancestor to find acceptable, required documentation of relationship to the prior generation, Humphrey’s father, Royal Twitchell. The main source I found that showed this relationship was a genealogical website for Blackwell genealogy. Humphrey’s sister, Lois Clarinda Twichell married George Blackwell and their descendant, Ron Blackwell, has built and maintains this wonderful website. Unfortunately, the Mayflower Society does not accept online genealogies or websites as part of their required documentation. Humphrey’s relationship to Royal Twitchell is also supported by DNA evidence, but the Mayflower Society does not accept DNA results either. So I began an extensive search for acceptable proof that Humphrey was the son of Royal Twichell.
After finding the newspaper article in The Princeton Union about Humphrey Twitchell being conveyed to the insane asylum at St. Peter, I researched the St. Peter Insane Asylum and found the Minnesota Historical Society has online indexes of admissions and discharges available to search. I discovered this was not Humphrey’s first time at St. Peter Hospital for the Insane, but his second admission. He was first admitted to St. Peter’s Hospital for the Insane on 5 January 1867 and discharged 10 months later. I immediately ordered copies of the original records for both of his admissions with high hopes that the records would include something about his father, Royal Twichell. After all, Royal Twichell was a well-known preacher and Humphrey’s insanity was caused by ‘religious excitement’.
Interesting to note that St. Peter Hospital for the Insane opened in December 1866, so Humphrey was among the first patients admitted to the asylum. According to an article at www.twincities.com “In those early years, many of the patients who came here had been literally driven out of their minds by exhausting work and malnutrition. For them, successful treatment involved food and rest.”
I was so excited when the large manilla envelope arrived from The Minnesota Historical Society. It contained very interesting information and photocopies of records from both admissions and even a handwritten letter from Humphrey’s wife Eliza Jane. However, there was no mention of his father, Royal Twitchell.
Due to the handwriting it is difficult to read all of the words, but the admission information says: Humphrey B. Twitchell from Dayton, Hennepin Co. admitted on 5 January 1867 by a Probate Judge. He is 34 years old, married with 2 children and a farmer with a common education. He is Methodist with good habits, born in New York with predisposing causes not hereditary. Ill health and overwork caused acute mania that started 3 months prior to his admission.
Details of his illness are described in the next paragraphs. “Nothing worthy of note in history of case up to about three months ago when he ran his head against a post accidentally stunning him and rendering him insensible for a short time. Recovered from this injury and went about his work as usual. A few weeks after this he became greatly interested in a revival. He prayed and spoke with much zeal and emotion in the meetings. And in a week or so he informed his friends that he had been praying for them day and night. Soon after this he killed a lamb, built an alter and held a sacrifice. His wife tried to persuade him not to do this, when he informed her that God had told him to offer up his little girl, but afterwards provided the lamb. Soon after this he became Christ, God, an apostle, A. Lincoln, General Grant. Has been confined or restrained almost constantly from that time to the present.”
The two page letter from his wife, Eliza Jane, adds more details to Humphrey’s life prior to his admission. On April 6th, 1867 she writes to the Superintendent of the Insane Asylum inquiring “how is he a getting along, is he any better and does he improve, if he is a going to get well, when do you think that will be”.
She continues “I will tell you his story. He has been a soldier and he lived some time in Indiana. When he came out of the army he was quite run down by chronic diaorea and after staying some time in that state Indiana took the fever and ague and had it all the winter (1865) and spring til mid summer (1866) and he took a great deal of medicine quinine and other stuff which did him no good. Besides he got hurt by striking his head against a gate while driving his (??) and the shock knocked him senseless and I noticed after that he was not in his right mind from that time to the time he went crazy.”
She ends the letter saying “As it has been some time since I heard from him I began to feel anxious about him, I want you to write and tell me all about how he is doing as soon as you get this. Yours Respectfully E.J. Twichel”.
Humphrey’s second admission was over 10 years later on October 5, 1880. The medical record states ” He is now excited but not as violent as the first attack.” He was discharged one year later with the following notes. “Patient was very much excited until last July or August. Preaching, singing and garrulous. Would (??) the Superintendent for unjust treatment. Worked out with gardener nearly every day but would become very much excited from trivial causes. When he became better he said he remembered some thing that he had done or said but thought at the time it was all right but now could see he was wrong. Has always been a very religious man. He made a good recovery and was sent home today.”
Although I did not find the evidence I was searching for in these St Peter State Hospital for the Insane medical records, I did discover a fascinating, detailed glimpse into the difficult life of Mike’s 2nd great-grandfather and Mayflower descendent, Humphrey B. Twitchell, from this most unusual source.
Now that I know for sure that the Bennett family surname was Schnittke prior to immigration from Latvia to the United States, I have been puzzled by the first name of Benjamin L Bennett’s father, Yehuda Leib, as it appears in the Bennett family siddur. I found the record below at JewishGen.org which matches some of the people recorded in the siddur, so I thought this could be the correct Schnittke family, except there is not a Yehuda Leib. There is a Lewin that was born in 1822 which is close to Yehuda Leib’s birthday, 8 April 1821, but I couldn’t ignore the discrepancy, so I wasn’t sure this was the correct Schnittke family after all.
Then after some internet searching, I realized the answer is all in the translation. The above record was originally handwritten in German and then translated to English and entered into the database. The siddur entries were handwritten in Hebrew with some Yiddish, then translated to English. Even the dates in the siddur are a mixture of Hebrew calendar dates and Gregorian calendar dates, with the possibility of Julian calendar dates, too. All of this translation can certainly cause mismatches of exact information.
I believe the key to the translation of Benjamin’s father’s first name is it’s meaning related to a lion. The biblical Tribe of Judah (in Hebrew: Yehuda) is traditionally symbolized as a lion (in Yiddish: Leib), which leads to the common Jewish name, Yehuda Leib. The Polish word for lion is lew, Russian is lev and German is lowe. So depending on how the name was originally written and how it was translated, Yehuda Leib can be interpreted to be the name Lewin or Levin. I also found a discussion on the Facebook group Tracing the Tribe where someone else had an ancestor by the name of Yehuda Leib, that had been translated as Lewin. Then I was convinced that Lewin is Yehuda Leib and the above record is for Benjamin L Bennett’s father’s family.
Valentine Hatfield was born 1789 in Russell County, Virginia and moved to the Tug Valley region of Kentucky with his father, step-mother and siblings in the early 1800’s. He was the grandfather of William Anderson Hatfield, also know as “Devil Anse”. “Devil Anse” was the leader of the Hatfield clan during the Hatfield-McCoy feud which started about 1860 and lasted for 30 years.
Valentine Hatfield is not one of my ancestors, but he lived next door to my 4th great-grandparents, Obediah and Mary Polly (McCoy) Blankenship in 1820.
By 1830, Peter Cline had moved in between Valentine Hatfield and Obediah Blankenship. Peter Cline was the grandfather of Perry Cline, who played an important part in the Hatfield-McCoy feud. According to http://www.tourpikecounty.com Perry Cline “remains one of feud lore’s’ most controversial characters. It is believed that at a young age, Cline was robbed of 5,000 acres of land by Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield in a court ruling. Some claim that Cline flamed the anger of the McCoys against the Hatfields for revenge.
By 1840, Valentine Hatfield had moved his family to Logan County, Virginia which would become Mingo County, West Virginia in 1895 and would set up the stage for the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud. The Hatfields lived mainly on the Mingo County, West Virginia side of the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River and the McCoys lived mainly on the opposite side of Tug Fork in Pike County, Kentucky.
This is the first post about my ancestor’s connection to the Hatfield-McCoy feuding families. There is a lot more information to share in future posts, not only about my connection, but also about my son-in-laws family connection, which makes my granddaughter ‘a real McCoy’ from both sides of her family.
When thinking about ‘in the kitchen’ I’m sure everyone in my family would think of my mother, Norma. She loved to cook and loved to feed people.
When I was a child, my mother would make biscuits and gravy for my dad most every weekend. The biscuits were made by scratch and the gravy was made with bacon grease and pieces of bacon. She always kept a small bowl of leftover bacon grease by the stove for cooking. I don’t think my sister and I would eat the biscuits and gravy, we would have something else for breakfast. Even though I may not have liked biscuits and gravy then, it is certainly one of my favorite breakfasts now.
The pan she used to bake the biscuits was made by her oldest brother, David, in his R. A. Long High School shop class. David gave it to her to put in her hope chest and it was one of her most loved possessions. Below is a picture of my mother, Norma and her brother, David Taylor.
I could see the word at the bottom of the stamp is “Schnittke”, but I wanted to know what the Hebrew words at the top said, so I posted this picture to the Genealogical Translations Facebook group for translation. It says “Yehuda Leib son of Menachem Mendel Schnittke” which we have seen before on the note found inside the siddur.
I’ve been puzzled by the Schnittke names in the Bennett family siddur, wondering why the family name Bennett does not appear anywhere. After much pondering and internet searching, I had a conversation with my husband about it yesterday afternoon, which prompted more internet searching. I finally found something on-line that could make a connection between the two names.
According to researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel, Benet and Benett belong to the large group of Jewish surnames based on the biblical Baruch, which means “blessed” in Hebrew. Is it just a coincidence that Benjamin, son of Yehuda Leib Schnittke, married Mary Jaffe, daughter of Baruch, and then left Latvia to go to the United States shortly after, and that’s when the name Bennett first appears? Or did they decide to leave the Schnittke name behind and start their new life in the United States with the “blessed” name of Mary’s father? I think this is too much to be just a coincidence, but this is also total speculation on my part. I don’t think we will ever know for sure, but it is an interesting explanation to consider.
I hope you enjoy seeing this photograph from 1961 of me (in front) with my best friend Kerry (behind me in middle), and my sister Cheryl (on right), with her best friend Vickie (on left). It is one of my favorite childhood photos and the only one I know of that is of the four of us together. I believe this picture was taken on the playground of Columbia Valley Gardens Elementary School in Longview, Washington where we all attended grade school.
We will all become someone’s ancestor someday, so don’t forget to capture your history today.
As I was compiling all of the information I have on the Bennett family line in hopes of finding more clues to the name of the owner and author of the entries in the Bennett Family Siddur , I came across this photograph of Benjamin L and Mary (Jaffe) Bennett’s gravestone. Jan Phillips, a Jaffe family descendant, sent this picture to me, along with several other gravestone pictures, some time ago. I had either totally forgotten about it or it was buried in my e-mail which tends to hide attachments and makes it difficult to access them.
I was very excited to find this picture and discover what the Hebrew inscriptions said, so I posted it to the Genealogical Translations FaceBook group. Very quickly a translation was posted and the inscriptions read:
Here lies Benjamin son of Yehuda Leib who died on Rosh Hodesh Shevat.
Here lies Mariam daughter of Mr. Baruch who died on the 21st of Heshvan.
Both have the acronym for: May his/her soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.
A handwritten note was found in the Bennett Family Siddur which reads “Yehudah Leib son of our teacher, the master Menachem Mendel Schnittke from Libau.” (Libau is located in Liepaja, Latvia, north of Lithuania.)
The first entry on the first page submitted for translation was simply a date, 7th day of Pesach 5581 which converts to 8 April 1821 and a location, Dzurben (aka Durbe, Liepaja, Latvia). This date matches a much later entry that reads: Our father was born in 1821 on the 7th day of Pesach. Our father died on 28 Adar II in the year 1902 at 81 years old.
On the first page, there is also a list of children born which includes “my son Binyamin Wednesday 6 Teveth 5625 Durbeli – 23 December 1864.” Later there is an entry which reads “my son Binyamin travelled with his wife Miriam with Mazel tov (good fortune) to Memel (today Klaipeda) Miriam daughter of Baruch Yafe’ on 24 June 1886.
It is very clear that the information on Binyamin in the siddur is the same person as Benjamin L Bennett and his father Yehudah Leib son of Menachem Mendel Schnittke, was the original owner of the siddur in which he recorded the important life events of his family.
I just gave my first genealogy presentation on the benefits of blogging your family history! Even though I have only been writing this blog for about 5 months now and definitely no expert, but just a newby, I hoped I could inspire others to give it a try. If I can write a blog, I think anyone can do it.
Leslie Reyes of the Jefferson County Genealogy Society (JCGS) asked me if I would be willing to give a presentation about blogging and I accepted. Leslie is the person who worked on my Brick Wall Ancestor last year and she has seen the posts I have done related to that family line. I told her I only knew the basics about blogging, but I was willing to share what I did know.
I started thinking about what I could tell others about blogging and why did I say I would do it when I don’t really know much about it. I realized then that there are so many cool things that have happened because of my blog, even if it is basic and I’m not much of a writer. I thought that the benefits of blogging your family history is worth sharing with others.
Before long I was asked what the title of my presentation would be and a little about it so it could be included in the newsletter. The outline began forming in my mind and I started making notes. Fortunately, when my techie daughter, Amanda, was here for Christmas and I told her about the presentation, she showed me how to use PowerPoint to make the presentation slides and I was on my way!
Then my husband, Mike set up a Zoom meeting for us so I could practice sharing the PowerPoint slides on my laptop screen. I continued making notes about what I would say, so I was all ready to go when the JCGS ‘Resource Corner’ meeting started this morning.
Although sharing my screen did not go as smoothly as during my practice, I think everything else went better than I could expect. The people attending the on-line Zoom meeting were very nice and welcoming. I am very happy with the positive responses and grateful for the opportunity to become more involved with the local genealogical society.