Treasure Chest Thursday: A Stitch in Time

Previously, I wrote about my mother’s sewing basket and how I love to go through it and relive memories associated with some of the items inside. Well, I’ve recently come to possess still another sewing basket, this one once belonging to my Great-Grandmother (CROW) HAYES.

After the passing of Great-Uncle Ben Hayes earlier this year, his sister Ruth was tasked with going through his personal effects. Ben lived in Tennessess and Ruth lives in Arizona. Shortly after she received his possessions and started going through them, I received a call from her.

Ruth informed me that she would be sending me a quantity of scarves and doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother because I would be able to clean, starch, iron and sort them. She asked me to then split them with my sister.

She mentioned in passing that Ben also had a lot of family photographs that needed sorting, but that she intended to send them to one of my aunts to handle that instead. It was all I could do to keep myself from asking for the photos too. I didn’t want to be greedy.

Well, a couple of weeks later, a large box was waiting for me at the post office. When I got it home and started going through the contents, I realized I had a treasure chest indeed. Many of the items are quite stained and since my great-uncle smoked, they all need to be cleaned thoroughly. But the package Ruth sent had much more than doilies and scarves in need of a washing:

My Great-Grandmother's Sewing Basket

Note From Great-Aunt Ruth

The basket held several crocheted doilies, in addition to scarves, hankerchiefs and other items.

Roll of Handmade Lace

RIP “Uncle Ben” HAYES

Yesterday I received a call from my Great-Aunt Ruth, who had sad news — her brother, my Great-Uncle Ben, had passed away earlier in the week. He was 77. The news was, quite frankly, startling. My sister and I just visited Ben over the winter holidays and he drove us all over Carter County, Tenn. He took us to the house where he and his siblings were raised, to the grave site of his parents and then took us out for barbecue. He gave my sister car advice.

But he did confess to us that he had triple bypass surgery in the fall (and hadn’t told anyone in the family). Of course, we immediately tattled on him to our aunts, who in turn told Ruth. Turns out, that bypass was in preparation for an even trickier surgery a week ago to operate on an aneurysm on his aorta (and again, he hadn’t warned anyone in the family). The surgery was not successful.

Ben’s wishes were that during his funeral he didn’t want “anyone standing around my grave crying.” So his good friend called my great-aunt on Tuesday, after Ben passed away. But she couldn’t call anyone else in the family until yesterday, after the funeral. I was the first person she reached yesterday and it fell to me to try and contact my sister and aunts with the news. I found his obituary online and shared that too.

I learned a lot from the obituary. His nickname was “Blink.” He was a basketball referee and served on the board of his church. I already knew he was a classic car fan, but that was about it.

The number of times I got to see Uncle Ben could be counted on one hand. I remember visiting with him at my Great-Grandma’s house and he ordered me to finish my green beans (I was five years old and I hated green beans). This prompted me to run away though I was gone for so short a time, I wasn’t even missed. During another visit with him at my grandma’s, I remember noting that his socks didn’t match. He didn’t care. He was a bachelor to the end.

I didn’t know Ben very well, but my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit with him. We were the last members of the family to see him and as I spoke with my relatives yesterday, they all remarked on the timing of our visit. My sister and I count ourselves lucky for the chance to see him and learn from him before he passed away. While we were at the graves of my great-grandparents, I noticed there was a marker there for Ben already. It comforts me that I now know exactly where to go to visit him. Thank you and rest in peace, Uncle Ben.

Tricky Valentine

I had originally meant for this to be last week’s Treasure Chest Thursday post, but the snow interrupted my plans. This being Valentine’s Day though, it all worked out. Below is a Valentine’s Day card I found among my mom’s things several years ago:

The butterfly’s wing pops up and everything. The card was still in its original envelope with a postmark that appears to read Feb 12 1950 — my mom would have been a month shy of her first birthday on Valentine’s Day of that year. On the back of the card is the following inscription:

The above reads “To Marcia with love from Grandmother Hayes.” But the return address on the envelope is in El Paso, Texas. That doesn’t make any sense because my Great-Grandmother Hayes lived in Tennessee and, so far as I know, never set foot in Texas (let alone El Paso, which is so far west in Texas, it’s practically in Mexico/New Mexico).

I’ve got my work cut out for me to try and solve this mystery!

Wordy Wednesday: Genealogy Road Trip

As mentioned in this past weekend’s SNGF and yesterday’s Tombstone Tuesday post, my sister and I visited Elizabethton, Tenn., in the state’s northeast corner, during the holidays. Elizabethton is where my great-grandparents William E. HAYES and Della M. CROW raised my maternal grandmother and her siblings. The last time we were in Elizabethton, I was six years old. I have many memories of that trip and I was excited to revisit my great-grandmother’s home (since sold to a distant relation).

After meeting up with our great-uncle, Ben Hayes, he drove us to the old house on Poplar Branch Road. It was nothing like I remembered. First of all, everything seemed a lot smaller — of course, I was small myself the last time I was there. A creek passes through the front yard. Where once there was a wooden bridge (see below), there is now an asphalt walkway. We had always visited in the summer months, when everything was hot, green and thriving. When we visited last week, it was cold, gloomy and barren.

Sadly, the change in season is not the only reason the property seemed so different. It has fallen into disrepair. It desperately needs a new coat of paint and there was an accumulation of junk and vehicles in the back yard. The front porch, on which I remember playing in the shade during my visits to Grandma Hayes’ house, is blocked with a long piece of corrugated metal. The stone steps leading up to the porch appear to be crumbling. The attic window above the porch is busted.

Here is a photo of what the house looked like last week:

And here is photo taken of the house back in the 1980s:

I’m really sad to see the changes time and neglect have wrought on the property because I do have several fond memories from our visits there. I can still smell the aromas of bacon grease, green beans and biscuits that seemed to be ever-present in Grandma Hayes’ kitchen.

Grandma Grace, Me & (Great) Grandma Hayes (1981)

Back when my mom was working in miniatures, she created two tiny room boxes that were replicas of how Grandma Hayes’ kitchen looked, once upon a time. One is pictured below.

Despite the dilapidated state of the house, I was still glad to revisit Elizabethton and especially to catch up with our Uncle Ben. He drove us all over Carter County in search of good BBQ for lunch and filled us in on the history of the area. He drove us into the older section of downtown and showed us a preserved covered bridge and two of the town’s war memorials, including one where he’d purchased bricks to commemorate the service of some of our family members.

I still have more genealogical work to do in that area — I’d like to find the farm originally owned by William Hayes’ parents and also their grave sites. I’m also still trying to confirm the identities of William’s grandparents.

Luckily the FGS 2010 conference is in August in Knoxville, so I intend to turn that into a genealogy trip too.

Tombstone Tuesday: Della and William HAYES

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Over the holidays, my sister and I drove from Knoxville to the town of Elizabethton, Tenn. Elizabethton, and its surroundings in Carter County, is where generations of Hayeses grew up and where our great uncle, Ben Hayes, still resides. Ben took us to Elizabethton’s Happy Valley Memorial Park, where his parents, my great grandparents, are buried.

My great grandparents were William E. Hayes and his wife, Della M. CROW.

William E. Hayes (1892-1968) was listed as a mechanic at a silk mill on the 1930 U.S. census (found on Ancestry.com). In the 1920 census, he was listed as a laborer at a stone quarry in Tennessee. In between 1900 and 1910, William moved with his parents and siblings briefly to Oregon, where his father, Joseph, worked in a rock quarry. Prior to that time, Joseph was listed as a farmer in Tennessee.

Della (Crow) Hayes was my maternal grandmother’s mother. I remember going to visit her at her home in Elizabethton. She passed away when I was 9.

This is my great-grandmother, Della (Crow) Hayes, probably taken around 1981-82. I hope to post soon about visiting her house last week as well.

Surname Saturday: CROW/CROWE (Tennessee)

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

My great-grandmother Della HAYES’ maiden name was CROW (I’ve found alternative spellings of Crowe and Craw in various records so far). Her parents were:

30. Daniel B. Crow (1854-?)
31. Mary L. GOURLEY (1855-?)

Daniel’s parents are as yet unknown to me. He raised his family of seven kids in Carter County, Tennessee. That is where Della stayed to raise her fam as well — in Elizabethon/Elizabethtown, specifically. In the 1880 U.S. census, young Daniel and Mary, with their first child, Elizabeth (Bessie) H. Crow, can be found living with Mary’s mother and a few of her siblings.