Tag Archives: prohibition

“Wisdom Wednesday: It is what it is, it aint what it aint

As I dig into my family history I’ve run into things that have made me uncomfortable. I have at least six direct ancestors that fought for the Confederacy.  As my niece exclaimed when I told her of this fact: “But that is the wrong side!”

And there is more: the Jim Crow south, attitudes toward women, slavery,  just to name a few. It would be lovely if I could sanitize history and ignore these things.  But the more I dig into the history of the times my ancestors lived in and begin to write it up, well, it is just not all pretty. It is not all comfortable. But I have to write about what was.

But I want to put my ancestors in the context of the time they lived in.  I can’t know what they thought, but I can do my best to understand the events that shaped their lives and indirectly mine.

As we say in my family: It is what it is, it ain’t what it ain’t.

Here is my first draft of my grandfather in the 1910′s and 1920′s.

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Gilbert Gillespie in his early teens

Gilbert was born on March 20, 1914 in Lexington, Virginia.  His father, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, was almost 49 years old and his mother, Laura Cecile DONALD, was 37 years old.  He had six older brothers and sisters when he was born, the oldest, Minnie was 17 years old.1

In 1914, Woodrow Wilson was president and WWI was on the horizon.   The family had purchased a lot at 108 Houston Street in 1907 and I imagine by the time Gilbert was born, they were living in the house that Wyatt had built. The address of the house was listed as either 22 and 108 Houston Street.2

By 1920, WWI was over.  On January 17th of that year, prohibition had begun.   Women were granted the right to vote in 1920 by the Federal Government, but Virginia did not ratify the law until 1952; women had been voting  and holding elected office in Virginia since 1920.3

By 1930, The eighth and final child had arrived in the Gillespie household; Helen Mae was born on November 1st, 1918. Wyatt, 54, and Laura, 43, were living with all of their children: Minnie, Ashby, Eva, Clinton, Louise, Fred, Gilbert and Ellen.  Also living with them was Harriet, Wyatt’s older sister who was 69.  Eva, Clinton, Louise and Fred all attended school.4

In 1923, Warren G Harding, died of a Heart Attack in San Francisco, California. Calvin Coolidge assumed the presidency until 1929, when Herbert Hoover became president. In October of 1929, the US Stock Market had crashed. By March of 1930, 3.2 million people were unemployed.5

I know my grandfather completed four years of high school, he probably attended Lexington High School.

Morgan Riley, “Image of the Old Lexington High School” (http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LexingtonVA_HighSchool.JPG, accessed : 10 Jul 2012), Creative Commons Attribution

In 1930, They owned the farm they were living on, and Wyatt worked as both a Carpenter building houses and as a farmer on presumably his own farm.  Wyatt also employed two other people.  Minnie was a Saleslady in a Dry Goods Store and Ashby was an Electrician in a Power Plant.  They lived in a neighborhood where most people earned their living working for local merchants.6

Gilbert was known to say that jobs were hard to find, you should hang on to them. And I imagine that the family was glad to have 3 family members employed in 1930.


Footnotes

1. 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Rockbridge County, Virginia, population schedule, Lexington, p. 133, (stamped),enumeration district (ED) 121, sheet 1-A, dwelling 6, family 6, Gilbert M Gillespie; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed : 3 Jul 2012 ); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 1906.
2. Rockbridge County, Virginia, photo copy, J A and Nora F Champe to W P Gillespie, 14 Nov 1907, Lexington; copy privately held by Anne Mitchell inherited from father, Gilbert McClung Gillespie; the family story that has been handed down is that Wyatt built the house the family lived in and given that Wyatt was a carpenter I have no reason to doubt this.
3. Encyclopedia Virginia, (http://http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/woman_suffrage_in_virginia : accessed 8 Jul 2012), “Woman Suffrage in Virginia.”
4. 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Rockbridge County, Virginia, population schedule, Lexington, p. 68,(stamped),enumeration district (ED) 82-6, sheet 10-A, dwelling 208, family 251, Gilbert M Gillespie; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed : 3 Jul 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2458.
5. American Experience, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/rails-timeline/ : accessed 8 Jul 2012), “Timeline of the Great Depression.”
6. 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Rockbridge Co., Va., Lexington, p. 68,(stamped),ED 82-6, sheet 10-A, dwell. 208, fam. 251, Gilbert M Gillespie; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed : 3 Jul 2012).

North Carolina in the 1920′s

Life in the 1920 is not life in the 2010′s.  I went searching for information in the 1920′s, specifically about North Carolina, to try and gather some perspective about the life of Jennie Elizabeth Payne and how her life was different than mine.

I know that prohibition began in the 1920′s and women were given the right to vote.   I wonder if my grandmother voted in the 20′s? Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge were the presidents in the 1920′s.  What did she think of them?  And did the family respect prohibition or was it just something they had to work around?

I found an interesting site NCpedia which had a article Women in the 1920s.  It is interesting to note that NCSU began accepting women in 1921 but didn’t actually have one graduate until 1926.  UNC also allowed women to attend in 1921, but “the student newspaper headlined, Women Not Wanted Here. ” Yikes!  I know that grandmother worked as a nurse at one point, so she probably had some education.

Crowder Mountain was a rural area, and electricity was not the norm and bathrooms were usually outhouses.  I would not have done well.1 Life could not have been easy on the farm.

I know that I saw that some people were working in Mills in the 1930s in the surrounding houses. I need to do a survey of the census and see what people did for a living and how that changed from 1920 to 1930s. Another task for the to-do list.

The Library of Congress does not have any North Carolina newspapers digitized.  I’ve had a lot of luck with Virginia newspapers.

GenealogyBank has digitized images of the Charlotte Observer in the 1920′s.  I doubt I’ll find any of my Payne’s in there, but it would be good just to get a feel for what was important.  I’ll put that on the list for another day.

I’m going to tackle the survey of the census next to try and understand the neighborhoods they live in.  And I think it is time for a timeline.  Nothing puts details together like putting them in chronological order.

Footnote
1. Government and Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina,”Women in the 1920s in North Carolina, NCpedia.org (http://www.ncpedia.org : accessed 3 Jun 2012).