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.

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

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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)

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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.

Surname Saturday: HAYES (Tennessee, North Carolina)

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Yesterday, I came to the realization that a framed photo I thought pictured my great-grandparents was really too old to be depicting them. Luckily, when I slipped the photo from the frame, the real names of the couple were written on the back — Joseph Smith Hayes and his wife, “Mollie” Taylor Hayes. The helpful relative who labeled the photo also wrote that the couple were the parents of my great-grandfather William Hayes — I had never known his parents names before.

Armed with this new information, I went to Ancestry.com and found the couple listed in the 1930 U.S. census living in Carter County, Tennessee. This is the same county where I remember visiting my Great-Grandmother Hayes (Della, William’s wife) in the town of Elizabethton. The 1930 census listed Joseph and Mollie on Powder Branch Pike, but I don’t think a road by that name exists there any more.

Here is what information could be divined from the 1930 census listing:

  • They owned a home worth $4,000 (not a farm).
  • Joseph was two years younger than Mollie; they were 63 and 65 respectively in 1930.
  • They were married when he was 19 and she was 21. That would have been ~1886.
  • Her parents were both from Tennessee.
  • His father was from North Carolina and his mother from Tennessee.
  • He worked as a laborer doing odd jobs. She stayed at home.
  • He was not a veteran.

But that is the only clear mention of Joseph and Mollie that I can find in census records — at least after an initial search. Part of my challenge is that Joseph Hayes is a very common name, so I haven’t followed up on all possibilities. However, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the Hayeses left Carter County and there are no other sure mentions of them living there in earlier or subsequent censuses.

I did find two possibilities (searching the census on HeritageQuest Online), but the age information doesn’t match up. I found a 29yo Joseph S. Hayes in the 1900 census with his wife Mary (36yo) and several children (including a William E. — that is my great-grandfather’s name). Both of Joseph’s parents are listed as from North Carolina.

I also found a 9yo Joseph S. Hayes in 1880 — his age would match that of the one found in 1900 — so perhaps those two are the same Joseph, but I’m not convinced he’s *my* Joseph. Still, the inconsistencies are subtle enough to leave room for the possibility that one or perhaps all of these census records had errors in them.

I’m assuming that Mollie wasn’t my great-great-grandmother’s real name, otherwise it wouldn’t be in quotes like that on the back of the photo. I understand that Mollie can be a nickname for Mary. I am tempted to assume that Taylor may have been her maiden name, but there is no guarantee.