Thursday, October 27, 2016

Toppled, broken, and eroded gravestones

In nearly every cemetery, there is a distressingly large number of toppled and broken stones, in addition to those whose inscriptions are not very legible. Vandalism is rife, and mowing accidents are frequent. Weather conditions cause erosion, and ice can crack off large portions of the surface.
There’s not much that can be done about the stones suffering from the effects of nature. The elements will continue to destroy the inscriptions; however, a photograph of them now will definitely be better than a photograph taken several years in the future. The ones that are not standing may very likely be left on the ground, soon to have overgrown grass hiding them totally. If not that, they may be carted away. Cemeteries don’t always have funds to reset stones, and family members who might pay often cannot be located or will be disinterested.

"A picture is worth a thousand words." Even if the inscription can be read only partially, someone who knows about the memorialized person might be able to decipher it. And a photo of an ancestor's gravestone might be the only tangible link to the past. Photograph those stones before it's too late and post the photos online.

Think of it as historic preservation! 

All photos from Buffalogen's collection. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ancestral Buildings

Jefferson Park Circle, Charlottesville, Virginia

Jefferson Park Circle, Charlottesville VA, circa 1932

    There used to be a site on the Internet about old houses (former family dwellings), but it has been taken down.  The hope of the owner was that people would post a photograph of a house, along with its address, a brief description of the building, and some information about who had lived there and when.  What a terrific idea!
    Unfortunately, many addresses had no accompanying picture, no description, and no house history.  Had contributors adhered to the guidelines, this site could have become a valuable resource for family historians who have no picture of an ancestor’s dwelling.
    Current images of extant dwellings are easy to find, thanks to Google, Bing, and others, but there is no history associated with them.  Realtors’ listings can be helpful, but they are random and temporary.  Land records will provide the names of buyers and sellers, with dates and a legal description of the property, but they will not include photographs and reveal interesting stories,  In any case, it’s the pictures of abodes that are no longer standing that family historians and genealogists are most eager to find.
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone created a new website so volunteers could contribute their photos of old dwellings with names, addresses, and dates of occupancy.  Pictures of other buildings of ancestral significance (churches, family-owned businesses, schools, etc.) could be included. To prevent useless contributions, as happened with the site mentioned above, it would have to have strict guidelines and be monitored closely.

    Won’t someone take on this project?

Photograph from Buffalogen's collection
Note:  On April 23, 2014, Google announced that its archives of past street views will be made available online (on Google Earth).  The views will go back to 2007, when Google first began its street views. Present-day
2686 Jefferson Park Circle is the only house that even remotely resembles the one pictured above.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Buffalo's "October Surprise"

Back yard
   We were in Toronto in October 2006 to visit with our out-of-state daughter who was attending a medical conference. Early in the morning of Friday the 13th, we got a call from our son who was house and dog sitting for us. Barely able to hear him above the loud cracks and thuds in the background, we learned that Buffalo, Amherst, and other areas of Western New York, were in the midst of a devasting early "lake effect" snow storm that had begun the night before.
   The noises were tree branches and limbs snapping off and crashing to the ground. The weight of the snow accumulating on the still leafy trees was too much and down came the limbs.
   Power was out, and with it the furnace, but the landline phone still worked. Our son and dog were safe inside. A huge limb, some 10-feet in diameter, was across our driveway. No one could come or go, anyway, since there was a driving ban in the area. We opted to stay in Toronto until the next day..
   We arrived home Saturday afternoon to an incredible landscape. The destruction was unbelievable. Our beautiful tree-shaded street was now largely open to the sky. Limbs and branches clogged the street, although a single traffic lane had opened up down the middle.
   We parked in a neighbor's drive, climbed over the limb across the driveway and went into the house to be greeted by son and dog. With no place to leave the car overnight, we gathered up a few items and all departed for our summer cottage about 50 miles to the south.
   When we returned home Tuesday, it was bright and sunny and the snow was melting. Some of the debris had been removed from the street and piled up on the tree lawns, but the limb was still across our driveway. After we got that sawed up and out of the way, we could park the car off the street and stay home.
   There was still no power, but we did have plenty of flashlights. Luckily, it was about 54o in and out and we could have a fire in the family room. Thanks to a manual can opener and a propane grill in the back yard, we even had some decent meals (food in the freezer remained almost frozen).
   The worst - the melting snow was too much for the water-logged ground, and water began pouring into our basement. No power meant no sump pump.We were fortunate that nearly everything was in plastic totes or on raised pallets and  we lost nothing of value.
   Our power was off for nine days. Our son, five minutes away, had power after three days, so we saved most of our food in his fridge. I could even charge my laptop at his house and get back to genealogy.
   The Town of Amherst went into panic mode. Citing possible lawsuits for tree-caused mishaps, the highway department began cutting down all the damaged trees in the town. Although one of the three trees in front of our house was marked for removal, ultimately it was spared.
   Ten years later, the old trees left on our street have recovered somewhat and the new ones are no longer spindly saplings. But the tree cover will never be what it once was.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My mother always wondered . . . about Louis Philippe Dougherty

    My mother always wondered what became of her second cousin, Louis Philippe Dougherty, born in New Jersey in 1911, son of Louis Dougherty and Catherine 'Katie' Belcher and grandson of Daniel F. Dougherty and Mary Kiley, her grandmother’s sister. My mother knew Louis when they were children and their families exchanged postcards until Katie died in 1937. My mother thought, erroneously, that Louis was one of the Dougherty boys whose mother died when they were young. They, however, were his first cousins, sons of his uncle Charles.

    Louis became famous in horse racing circles, living most of his working life in Lexington, Kentucky. He established the Stallion Station, a well-known and successful breeding farm and ran his horses in some of America’s most prestigious races.
    Louis was married to Jane Hutchinson Rose, with whom he had a son Daniel, who is married but has no children. Louis and Jane divorced in 1969. Louis died in Florida in 1988.

    Ironically, there was an article in a Richmond, Virginia, newspaper in June 1957 about Lou’s purchase of a winning horse. My parents subscribed to this paper, but it is doubtful that either of them read the sports section very thoroughly, if at all. In any case, my mother probably would not have recognized Louis P. Doherty as her long-lost cousin - his family had dropped the “ug” from their surname many years before.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Randolph-Macon Woman's College - now Randolph College

   The finale of a seven-month celebration is today!

   Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, was founded 125 years ago. Until 2002, when it became co-educational and changed its name, it was Randolph-Macon Woman's College. It's motto - Vita Abundantior.
Main Hall
   The celebration began on March 10, 2016, with the ringing of Conway, the bell in Main Hall tower. A Founder's Day observation, a special exhibit of the "top 125" works in the Maier Museum of Art's permanent collection, various awards ceremonies, and several presentations on the college's history are just some of the celebratory events throughout the intervening months.
   The festivities end today (October 8, 2016) with a formal convocation featuring an academic procession recognizing graduation classes through the years and a keynote address on "The Liberal Arts." Also on the agenda is a production in the Dell of Aristophanes' The Frogs, a homecoming tailgate party, men's and women's soccer games, and an evening birthday bash with desserts and dancing. The Greek play in the outdoor amphitheater is a 107-year tradition.
   R-MWC was founded in 1891 by William Waugh Smith as "a college where our young women may obtain an education equal to that given in our best colleges for young men and under environments in harmony with the highest ideals of womanhood." Smith, president of Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, was distressed that women were not admitted to his all-male institution.
   The 125-year-old college still provides women—and now men—with a liberal arts education that prepares them to live the “life more abundant.”

Monday, October 3, 2016

A miniature photo album

   Inagine a photo album 3" x 1 3/4"  x 1". How big can the photos be? Not very big, especially when there are two on a page. There are 12 leaves with 46 photos (two were removed). The oval frames are 5/8" x 7/8". The spine is missing and some of the pages are torn. The album came from Abraham Taber & Brother, book dealer and stationer of New Bedford, Massachusetts.
   I inherited this album filled with tintypes. Miniature tintypes, "gems," date from 1863. They were about 1" x 1" and were often put in albums. Some of the tintypes are slightly tinted - rosy cheeks. Some are in good condition; others are flaking or darkened. 
   I don't know who owned the album. And I have no idea who the subjects are. Relatives of the owner? Or maybe friends? Most of the subjects are young men, so perhaps they were students at a prep school or college. But there are also a few women. Their attire is that of the 1860s.

   Does anyone recognize the nine people in the "gems"? A wild guess is that the album belonged to someone in the Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth  (Wingate) Clark family of Stratham, Rockingham County, New Hampshire.