This picture was found in some of my dad’s things:
But who are these people and when was it taken?
The boy holding the dog is my father. The woman standing in the photo is my great aunt, Eva Gillespie. The girl on her left is my Aunt Madeline, my father’s sister.
I talk to my cousins, and the adorable girl sitting on bench looking at the dog is my Aunt Martha, my father’s sister. My cousin tells me she has a variation of this picture and on the back it says that Aunt Martha is 18 months old.
Martha Gillespie was born in December of 1942. This means this picture was taken in 1944, most likely in June. My father would have been almost 4 years old, and my Aunt Madeline would have been 7. My Great Aunt Eva, would have been almost 43.
I would guess that the other two girls are about 3, and 5 or 6, meaning that they were born in 1941 and 1939. They may be the youngest two girls of my Great Aunt Louis who married Milton Montgomery.
The children looked dressed up. Easter was in April 9th that year. Maybe it was just a Sunday. Maybe they just always dressed nicely; after all, my Great Aunt appears to be wearing a house dress.
Another cousin has identified this as the house at 108 Houston Street. It appears to be a lovely summer day in Lexington.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1907, my Great Grandfather, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, bought what I thought was a house at 108 Houston Street in Lexington, Virginia, but now that I reread the document, it appears that he bought the land, which lends credence to the family legend that he built the house.
I’m posting this so I can refer to in what I know will be many blog posts. Someone in the family lived here for most of the 1900’s.
This deed made this the 14 day of November in the year 1907, between
J A Champe, and Nora F Champe his wife, parties of the first part,
and W. P. Gillispie, part of the second part, all of the county of
That in consideration of $115.00 cash in hand paid, the receipt whereof
is hereby acknowledged, and the four bonds drawn by the W.P,
Gillispie, bearing date Oct 1st 1906, and payable to J. A. Champ, for the
sum of $100.00 each, payable in 1- 2- 3- and 4 years from date, said
bonds bearing interest from date, ( the interest being paid up to
Oct, 1 1907) the said parties of the first part doth grant and convey
unto the said part of the second part, with general warranty of title.,
a certain lot or parcel of land, situatied on Houston Street in the twon
of Lexington, Va, fronting on said street 141 feet, and running back the
full length of the lot owned by the sad J. A Champe, to 139 feet wide
in the rear. The lot conveyed adjoins a lot of John Sheridans,
on th eNorth west and J. A. Manspile on, on the sout east.
The said parties of the first part, hereby expressly retains a Vendor’s
lien on the said land hereby conveyed, as ultimate securety for the pay-
ment of the four bonds mentioned in this deed aggregating the sum of
Four hundred dollars, with all interest that may acrue thereon.
The said parties of the first part covenants, that they have the right
to convey the said lot, and have done nothing to encumber the same.
Witness the following signatures and seals.
J. A. Champe (signature) (seal)
Nora F Champe (signature) (seal)
1. 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 inherieted from father, Gilbert McClung Gillespie.
We called her Aunt Bebe. My cousin tells me that someone from our parents generation could not pronounce Eva and it came out as “bebe” and that’s how we knew her.
When my parents divorced she spent time with my Dad, sister and me making sure someone was there to take care of us. She sewed clothes for us and our baby dolls. And she taught in public schools for all her life.
She was born at the turn of the century on July 15, 1901, the third child of Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald. She never married and stayed at home taking care of her parents and older sister Minnie who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.
Her parents bought their house on 108 Houston Street, Lexington, Virginia in 1907 when she was six and she lived there for the rest of her life. Her brothers and sisters gave her the house in 1964 when her mother died.
She died on April 13, 1992 and was buried in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery next to her parents.
I am prepping for my first CG attempt, which I hope to start sometime this year. One of the requirements is to write Narrative Lineage. I’m going to practice writing one for my paternal paternal line.
Today, I’m going to write some informative paragraphs and a intro and end. I’m quite sure I’ll rewrite them but it’s time to start. I’ve got a lot more detail to fill in the middle here. but what I am realizing is how much of this is what I know I do not have sources. I need my grandfather’s birth certificate and marriage certificate, at the very least
So here goes.
My paternal grandfather, Gilbert McClung GILLESPIE, was born on March 20, 1914 in Lexington, Virginia.1 He was the seventh of eight children born to Wyatt Paul GILLESPIE and Laura Cecile DONALD. 2 His father was born at the end of the Civil War in 1865 3; his mother was the daughter of veteran of the Stonewall Brigade.4 Lexington, his hometown, was the burial place of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E Lee. He is buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.
Over his lifetime he lived through WWI and II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. The Civil Rights movement and 9/11. He raised 4 children and lived to see all 8 of his grandchildren. He had 12 great grandchildren, but he died in 2003 before most of them were born.
He died on November 21, 2003 at the age of 89 in Huddleston, Bedford, Virginia. His youngest son, Paul, was with him when he died. He was buried next to his wife, Ann Irene FEAZELL who had died twenty years earlier. 5
1. Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 Jul 2012), entry for Gilbert M Gillespie, SS no. 224-03-0395.
2. I need my grandfather’s birth certificate to document this.
3. Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 6 Aug 2010), memorial page for Wyatt Paul Gillespie (1865 – 1941), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56048050, citing Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia; the tombstone is for Wyatt Paul Gillespie and his wife Laura Cecile Donald.
4. This is actually a complicated footnote; leaving for later.
5. Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 6 Aug 2010), memorial page for Gilbert McClung Gillespie (1914 – 2003), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56069420, citing Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia; the tombstone is for Gilbert McClung and his wife Ann Irene Feazell.
My Uncle Paul loved Andy Griffith, especially the Andy Griffith show. He says all of life lessons could be learned from the show. It seemed to be a simpler time back then didn’t it? When we look back, life made more sense, people were more pleasant, life was easier. At least in our memories.
My sister was very young in this picture, she is sitting Uncle Paul’s lap. I’m guessing this was taken sometime in 1965, probably in South Carolina where we lived or North Carolina where Paul lived.
This one is for you Paul. And Andy. And all that lives only in our memories.
Every state and county handled vitals and other legal documents differently.
The state of Virginia in its infinite wisdom decided NOT to record births when my great great grandfather Charlton Wallace was born and also not to record deaths when he died. His parents are still my brick wall.
The Ancestry.com Wiki has put the entire contents of two books online that will help you understand what was recorded when:
The Red Book specifically will help you figure out what was available when. I do a lot research in Virginia. If I click on Virginia Family History on the Red Book main wiki page, I see information about the state.
If I click on Virginia Vital Records I see an overview of the what was recorded and when. It helps to know birth certificates were recorded in 1824 and that you need to prove a birth date some other way.
You can also drill down to the county level.
And all of this is free. You don’t need to be an Ancestry.com subscriber.
Every generation has their own maiden aunts and bachelor uncles who leave behind no children and often there is no one left to tell their story. They truly become forgotten stories. I will devote Sunday to those Aunts and Uncles.
Minnie Maude Gillespie was the oldest child of Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald and the oldest sister of my grandfather Gilbert M Gillespie. She was born on January 29th 1897 and died at the age of 61 on April 5th, 1958. She was outlived by her seven brothers and sisters and her mother.
This is the only picture I have of Minnie. Hopefully one of my cousins can supply me with a better one someday. Minnie is sitting on the right on the first row.
She suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis most of her life. Working at Adair-Hutton’s dry goods store as a clerk was such a struggle having to stand all day. My father remembered her coming home to the house on 108 Houston Street and have to soak her feet.
She was born in Lexington, Virgina, and moved with her parents to 108 Houston Street were she lived the rest of her life. She finished 4 years of high school. She was a member of the Trinity Methodist Church.
She was buried in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery which more or less in the backyard of her home. She is buried near her parents, many of her sisters and brothers and other generations of the family.
I have two obituaries for Minnie Maude Gillespie. And I am truly sad I don’t more about her.
1. Family of Wyatt Paul and Laura Cecile Donald Gillespie, digital image ca. 1925, photocopy privately held by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE]. Minnie Maude is in the lower right corner; Minnie would have been around 28 years old. My father, Gilbert Gillespie, had the original at one time, current location is unknown.
2. The City Directory of Lexington, Virgina (A.D. Smith, Inc., 1922), 80; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 Jul 2012)
3. “Ms. Minnie M Gillespie”, undated clipping, ca. 1958, from unidentified newspaper; privately held by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE]. Inherited from my father Gilbert Gillespie.
The land was originally conveyed to Samuel Campbell by W N Pendelton and his wife on October 22, 1870 and was recorded in Book SS, p. 328.
Samuel then conveyed the land to J B Dorman and Chas A Davidson by deed on March 12, 1872 and that can be found in Book MM, p. 155.
James B Dorman and Chas A Davidson pursuant to a decree in a Chancery Cause from April 10, 1873, offered the sale at public auction on June 11, 1873.
William A Anderson was the highest bidder and purchased the land for $1000 and this appears from a decree pronounced on September 15, 1873.
Another decree pronounced on March 11, 1878 that Samuel and his wife granted with general warranty to William A Anderson this particular six acres. This land that was located on the north side “Fair Grounds” road near Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia. The land was also adjacent to the lands of John Miller.
M L Cambpell, the wife of Samuel J Campbell submit a dowery release. 1
Who was Samuel J Campbell and his wife M L Campbell?
Who was W N Pendelton?
Who was William A Anderson?
I need to obtain the following:
The deed from Book SS, p. 328 which is from W N Pendelton to Samuel J Campbell
The deed from Book MM, p. 155 where Samuel conveys the land to J B Dorman and Chas A Davidson.
The chancery cause from September 15, 1873
The chancery cause or decree from March 11, 1878
1. Rockbridge County, Virginia, Deeds, Q: 212-216, Samuel J Campbell to William A Anderson, 19 March 1878, County Courthouse, Rockbridge.