Monday, March 12, 2018

'Lucky' to Have Him

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Week 11 (two for me)

While I prefer ‘blessed’ to ‘lucky’, I understand the application of lucky in the everyday manner. In that light, my Uncle Bob comes to mind.

When the Spanish-American War ended, Spain ceded the colony of the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. That was followed by a period of turmoil as the Philippines sought and won their independence. At the time my uncle was stationed there in WWII, the Philippines had become an important ally.
During those tumultuous times with the Philippines and the U.S., William Hall Barnett and Arabelle Nancy Covert Barnett welcomed the birth of their second son, Robert Earl on July 18, 1913.  Sad to say Uncle Bob had a twin sibling who died at birth.  The births took place in the city of Butler, Pennsylvania and were in all likelihood, home births as were their brothers and sisters. Their father, William was in the grocery business with his step-brother at 370 Center Ave. in a section of the city called Springdale. Mother, Arabelle, would have been nearby at their residence along with their first son, William
In two years, Bill and Bob were joined by another brother, James followed in 1918 by the birth of another set of twins, Ralph and Ruth. With a rapidly growing family, Will and Belle made the decision to move out of the city. In 1918 they were renting a two-story farm house in Connoquenessing and in 1920 they began a small truck farm of primarily berries on property about a half mile away. The access to this property was located up a long lane that was subject to drifting snow and spring flooding.
Knowing the Barnetts as neighbors and being aware of the condition of the lane, a little Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer neighbor with a big heart offered them an acre of land at the bottom of the lane. The young family was soon settled into their new home and over time added a barn, chicken coop and shed to the homestead; along with a cow, chickens and a mule or two. Transportation was by wagon and Uncle Bob and his siblings remembered their mother coming home from town in the wagon after a day of selling or trading the berries they had harvested.
Family stories reveal a lively bunch and insight into Uncle Bob’s personality. As the tale goes Grandpa Will was heard to say at the supper table “Bob must you be so ornery?”.  
As he grew into his teens along came motor vehicles and a lifelong passion for mechanics. Once again, there are many family stories about trucks, cars and escapades.
Then came along WWII and young American men being sent around the world. For Uncle Bob this was service with the Army Air Corps and to no surprise, the motor pool, while stationed in the Philippines.
It was on the voyage across the Pacific that ‘lucky’ came into play in the form of surviving a kamikaze attack on the troop ship.
Uncle Bob’s recollection was of the explosion causing two ship decks to disappear around him in the blink of an eye.
The letter of commendation he received revealed a little more of his involvement.

“Corporal Robert E. Barnett . . . Your valiant action in the rescue work following an enemy air attack on the Liberty Ship “Thomas Nelson” off Dulag, Leyte, on 12 November 1944, has been brought to my attention. I wish to commend you for your splendid performance.
Your magnificent efforts in extricating your wounded colleagues and getting them to medical aid represents the highest traditions of the service. At great personal hazard, you have demonstrated that no enemy action, however daring and disastrous, can deter us from our objective of ultimate victory.”

Two years later, January 2, 1946 he was honorably discharged having served with the 498th Bombardment Squadron 345th Bombardment Group and received the World War II Victory Medal with Bar and Lapel Bar.
Following the war, he returned to his family and married his girlfriend Irene, also a WWII veteran. Uncle Bob with the help of his dad and brothers built his first home in the nearby village of Meridian. About ten years late he came back to his roots and replaced the early home of his parents with a new one. 
Sadly, their only child Karen, was stillborn in 1949. Happily, their many nieces and nephews were loved by both of them.  And I might add teased unmercifully by the once ‘ornery’ Uncle Bob. Many of us remember his approach to life and the way in which his mechanical mind could fix anything and put many things to use in inventive ways.
He and Irene had been married fifty-one years when he died at his home June 11, 1997.
We, his nieces and nephews were the 'lucky' ones to have had our Uncle Bob.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Woman of Strength

Revision of an earlier post for 
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Week 11 (week 1 for me)

So where does this woman fit into my family research experience? She falls under the column of facts received from a reliable third party source. In her case for me that would be many conversations with  my father, who even though he did not meet her until her late years, knew much of her life story as told to him by his father, Maggie's brother. For me this is a reliable source of information unless further research proves otherwise.

Meet, my great aunt, Maggie
Margaret Davis Barnett

Just as her mother's, era of the civil war draws my interest so does Maggie's albeit, a few decades later.

I am drawn to Maggie's story by her apparent courageous and adventurous spirit. I have no way of knowing if she felt that in her spirit or if her decision to leave her home and travel across the continent was directed toward a commitment to her family and their care. Either way she took a journey I'm not sure I would have considered at that date and time.

At the age of thirty-four she embarked on a life changing journey. She, two of her brothers and a first cousin boarded a train for Wallowa County, Oregon as homesteaders. Her obituary gives this insight into early years there.

"Miss Barnett was an early settler of Wallowa County coming to the county in 1903... She was also a pioneer school teacher."

The rest of the story, as related by my father, is that she never married and that her life was plagued with financial woes. One of her brother's, Joseph, died twelve years after their arrival and her younger brother was reported to have become an alcoholic. And then of course there was the 'Great Depression'. These and other unknown factors lead her to heavily mortgage her properties (two hundred plus acres as a homesteader) which she struggled with up until she died.

At some point after my father returned from serving in the Army in WWII in 1945, he and his father traveled to Oregon at which time he took these pictures of the two homes she owned at that time.

This post wouldn't be complete without relating the 'other' family story about Maggie.
Family lore has it that Aunt Maggie carried a gun in her apron pocket and that on one occasion for an unknown reason it discharged and wounded her in the leg.
           Note: The story grew as time went by and another relative tells that after being injured she lay by the kitchen door until being discovered some time later.

As a child who grew up watching multiple 'cowboy' and 'pioneer' t.v. series and movies this story of course made Aunt Maggie appear to be bigger than life.

As an older adult I now appreciate that as a result of this character in the family novel, I was able to spend time in the my father's company hearing his voice and experiencing his wonderful sense of humor.

Those memories along with Aunt Maggie's portrait hanging in my home contribute to my ongoing interest in researching our family and passing on what I come to find to others.

This portrait rested in the attic of my childhood home. How it ever survived is amazing. It must have been covered by glass for at least part of that time or it would have been easily destroyed since I believe it is either pastels or chalk.

with Amy Johnson Crow

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Maggie's Adventure Comes to a Close

Margaret Davis Barnett - "Aunt Maggie"

  • second child of Robert Francis Barnett and Mary Elizabeth Turner
  • born April 25, 1869; 
  • Riner, Virginia
  • died June 26, 1947; 
  • Wallowa, Oregon

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trials & Tribulations for Maggie

I meant to post these letters before the business letter from Wallowa County. They were written ten years prior to the official one.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Discouraging News for Will

Grandpa Will received this letter in February 1947 and may be what prompted he and my Dad to travel west in April.
Note that Maggie had put her houses in Grandpa Will's name.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

More Real Estate for Maggie

My dad, took these pictures and wrote on the back they were Aunt Maggie's houses. This was on the trip he and Grandpa Will made to visit Aunt Maggie in 1947, a few months before she died.

Not sure of the location on this.  Possibly 5th St. or Holmes St.

The 1940 Census has Maggie living on 2nd St. and renting but with the numerous records of failed mortgages she may have owned it and the mortgage holder allowed her to rent it after foreclosure. That's one hypothesis.

I found this on a Google Map of 2nd St. It is from in 2012. Looks like it might be the place. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Back East

Today we are going to divert back to Pennsylvania and the Cooverts.
A fellow researcher from Texas who has ties to the West Liberty, Brady Twp. area of Butler County found this new article.

To refresh memories or introduce for the first time. W.C. Covert 'uncle Will' was Grandma Belle Barnett's brother. Della was his wife.
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I had read in news of his death that Uncle Will was known in the Butler area for his horses but this article really reveals a lot more about that.

Does anyone have any idea where the Coovert Farm in Connoq. Twp. was?  Grandma and Grandpa's farm would have been know as the Barnett Farm. A new mystery to solve.

I can't help but wonder if it was the Holt Farm. Grandma and Grandpa rented there around the same time as this article. And it was the first home we bought in 1973.

Ironically Vivian recently mentioned remembering visiting Aunt Della in her older years. She lived at the Almira Home in New Castle.