Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rodney Clark of Northern Kentucky

Born in Mason County, Kentucky on the 20th day of September 1820, Rodney spent his childhood in the same area of his birth.  His parents were likely Joseph and Polly Clark, although this has never been proven.  On September 26, 1844, at the age of twenty-four, he and Susan Pierce crossed the Ohio River to Aberdeen and were married by Squire Thomas Shelton.

Rodney and Susan lived in Mason County for at least fifteen years before moving their family to neighboring Bracken County.  The majority of their ten children were born in Mason County while the others began their life in Bracken.  By 1880, the family was living in Grants Lick, Campbell County, Kentucky.

In 1893, Susan Clark died in New Richmond, Clermont County, Ohio.  It is not known if she and Rodney were living there to be near their daughter, Mary Lydia Clark Peck, or if Susan was, perhaps, just visiting, but in 1900, Rodney was back in Kentucky living in the Alexandria Voting Precinct of Campbell County with the family of his son, William.

The death of Rodney must have occurred between the years 1900 and 1910 as he is not found in the 1910 census, but an actual date or burial place has not been found.  If any readers can help locate proof of Rodney's death or parents, this writer would be truly appreciative!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Noble Stairs

One hundred twelve years ago in the town of Johnsville, Kentucky, Noble Stairs died at the age of eighty-nine.  He was last surviving child in a family of eight children.  Born on 15 October 1811 in New Sewickley, Pennsylvania in Allegheny County, his father brought the family to Higginsport, Ohio on a flatboat down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh when Noble was two years old.  The family eventually settled in Clermont County.

On 22 May 1836, Noble and Mary Holmes Wilson were married.  The family would grow to include thirteen children.  In 1870, a move was made to Bracken County, Kentucky where Noble would farm the land.  He died 2 September 1900 and is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Johnsville.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Wayson Family in the Prohibition Years

When I think of the 1920's and Prohibition in this country I tend to think about Chicago, Al Capone, and Eliot Ness.  In my mind, Al Capone looks a lot like Robert DeNiro and Eliot Ness could be Kevin Costner's twin brother!  Like most people today, my perception is totally influenced by television, Hollywood, and movies such as The Untouchables.  Little did I know that my family was a lot closer to that illegal liquor, gangster filled underworld than just documentaries and reruns of gangster movies on television!

During Prohibition, in a country governed by the 18th Amendment which prohibited the production, sale, and transport of intoxicating liquors, the city of Newport, Kentucky which rests on the banks of the Ohio River, was the home of illegal backyard stills, the smuggling and selling of the product of those stills, and, yes, even organized crime.  It is said that the country's major crime syndicates, including that of Al Capone, depended on Newport for some of their illegal liquor supply.  Newport, Kentucky was known as Sin City.

The year was 1926.  The place was Sin City.  The house at 840 Dayton Street was the home of my great-great grandfather, William Wayson and his family.  He was in his mid to late 50's and on the 18th day of November, he found himself standing before Oscar H. Roetken, U.S. Commissioner, in Covington, Kentucky being arraigned on a charge of conspiracy to violate the Volstead Act or, as it is better known, The Prohibition Act.  Standing with him were George Green and James Wade Russell, both of Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Green and Russell were the owners of an oil station in Bowling Green, and William  admitted that the night before, at a house at 332 Isabella Street, he sold them 16 gallons of moonshine whiskey.

The three men were arrested by Newport patrolmen, Michael Cassidy and Morris Hodesh, after placing the illegal substance into an automobile.  After the arrest, federal agents, James Wood and Rodman Russell, were called.  William told the agents that he worked for Edward Becker, the "big boss", selling liquor in Newport from 5:00 pm until 7:30 am when another man would come and relieve him taking the "business" during the day.  William was told that he, along with the other two men, would be given a preliminary hearing the following Tuesday.

At the preliminary hearing, George Green and James Wade Russell, were dismissed.  Becker, a man named Milton Roll, and my great-great grandfather were held to the April term of court.  I have not found anything that tells me what happened to William the following April, but I do know that in 1930, he, his wife Ada, and youngest son, William Jennings, were living in the small town of Gubser, very near Newport and, at the age of 89, William passed away right there in the heart of Sin City in his home at 614 Central Avenue just a hop, skip, and a jump from Isabella Street and his brush with the law.

I found the story of William and his arrest in the Kentucky Post newspapers dated 18 and 24 November 1926.  Both articles, "Trio Held After Whisky Sale" and "Three Are Held", were on the front page.  Copies of the articles can be requested from the Kenton County Public Library.  I found many interesting web sites about Newport and her infamous reputation on the Internet.  The one I used for this post can be found at Northern Kentucky Views: A Broad Collection of Images and Texts on the History of Northern Kentucky.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Juanita Clark and William Wayson Marriage Records

I finally received a copy of the Mason County, Kentucky marriage license and register of marriage for my paternal grandparents, Juanita Ruth Clark and William Wesley Wayson.  Thanks, Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Bob!

As a bonus, I also found out the location of my grandmother's birth which had been a mystery to me and other members of my family for years!  We knew it was Indiana, but did not know the town.  It turns out that she was born in New Trenton, Franklin County which was one idea in my list of "Juanita's likely to be born locations".  Juanita's parents, Frank and Myrtle (Nower) Clark and son Richard were in the Kansas City, Missouri 1910 census which was taken early that year.  My grandmother was born that following September.  By 1920, the family was back in their native Kentucky.  In 1910, two of Frank's brothers were living in Franklin County, Indiana.  My theory was/is that their journey from Missouri to Kentucky began shortly after the census was taken and that Frank and Myrtle stopped in Franklin County where my grandmother just happened to be born.  I don't know why or for how long they were in Indiana, but now my theory makes sense.  Anyway, at least I have a birth location and maybe now I can find something that is actual proof.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Walking in Samuel Nower's Footsteps

My husband and I just returned from a great trip to San Francisco.  We enjoyed the food, the sights, and the relief from our 90+ degree South Carolina weather. San Francisco has so much to offer, however, one of the highlights of my trip was our visit to Fort Point which sits on the point where San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean meet, tucked below the steel girders of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I doubt that this little fort is one of the big attractions to most tourists, outside of history buffs, but it was at the top my list of "must sees" right up there with Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz long before we ever purchased plane tickets or booked the hotel room.  Why the big fascination with Fort Point?  Well, that little red brick building, built long before the famous bridge, is where my great, great grandfather, Samuel Jackson Nower, was stationed during his Civil War service! 

Samuel registered for the draft in 1863 as a miner living in St. Helena, Sonoma County, California.  He enlisted on November 15, 1864 and was stationed at Fort Point.  His stay there was just short of a year as he was mustered out on October 24, 1865.  During his time at the fort, he fell from a ladder, breaking his hip, while painting barrack walls which earned him a military pension later in his life. 

We decided to walk to Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge from our hotel on a beautiful blue skied, but windy, day.  The concierge seemed a little mystified as to why we would want to go there instead of the Golden Gate Park that she deemed a better place to spend time.  In her opinion, the art and science museums along with the outdoor band music which the park offered would be a much better choice, but I was not going to be persuaded.  We didn't fly all that way to hear music or see artwork so she showed us a route on our map that would take about an hour and a half to walk.  And a beautiful, but cold and windy, walk along the bay it was!  Worth every bit of time and strength against what seemed like hurricane force winds that it took!

Once we reached Fort Point, we were so excited to see that it was open to the public.  I had been told much earlier in the year that it wasn't always open so to see the park ranger standing next to the open gates, motioning for us to enter, was beyond all my expectations.  I had been prepared to be satisfied looking at the outside, snapping pictures of the walls and peering through a closed gate.

The fort is very small and I cannot describe the feeling I experienced knowing that I was walking on the same ground and seeing the same walls, rooms, and scenery that my great great grandfather walked on and saw almost 150 years ago!  I saw the area where he must have stood straight and tall while drilling with his fellow soldiers.  I stood in the rooms where the privates, of which he was one, slept.  I imagined him on a ladder painting the walls that still had remnants of what looked to be whitewash.  I looked into the larger room that served as his mess hall.  I felt the cold and strong wind which he must have felt as he looked upon San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean just as I did that beautiful Sunday afternoon.  At the end of our visit, I walked out of the gates of Fort Point understanding a bit of Samuel's life so much more than the documents and dates that make up my research of him allow.   I am so so thankful that I was able to experience this small part of San Francisco's charm and beauty.  Even if I hadn't walked on the Golden Gate, strolled along Fisherman's Wharf, eaten sour dough bread (more than once!) at Boudin Bakery, visited Alcatraz, or experienced any of the other wonderful things that San Francisco is known for, I would have returned to South Carolina a very happy person!

Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge

This is me standing in the private's quarters next to one of the beds that was used during the Civil War.  I could just imagine Samuel painting those walls!

The inside of the fort showing the three levels.  The private's quarters and mess hall were on the third floor.  The ground area was the place where the soldiers would gather to march and drill.

On the top level of the fort, the wind was so ferocious that it left me wondering did Samuel fall or did the wind blow him off his ladder!

the Pacific Ocean as seen from the top level 

The lighthouse is on the top level.  The girders of the Golden Gate Bridge are just above the fort.  Of course, Samuel never saw, or even imagined, those huge structures or the bridge itself!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Talented Tuesday - A Needle and Some Thread

With a needle and some thread, my grandmother could take scraps of fabric and create a quilt that would cover a bed with color and warmth.

With a needle and some thread, my great aunt could take an ordinary item made of fabric and turn it into something unique and personal.

The Clark girls were talented with a needle and some thread.  My grandmother, Juanita Clark Wayson made numerous quilts that she gave to her children and grandchildren.  Her sister, Irma Clark O'Dowd embroidered all types of things.  I have her pillowcases, dresser scarves, and baby blankets to which she added her personal touch.  Their sister, Evelyn, who tragically died in 1936 at the young age of twenty-one, was said to have been able to look at a dress or other article of clothing and recreate it using the fabric of her choice.  

I am thankful for these talented women for I inherited their love of a needle and some thread.  To create something beautiful using these two simple everyday items is a talent worth having!  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Family Resemblances

One reason I love looking at old pictures of family members is to see if there is any resemblance to living family members.  I like the idea that those genes just keep appearing to connect us to one another in a visual way.

Now, I don't know much more than the science behind genetics other than Gregor Mendel and his pea plants that I remember from high school biology, but in the genetic pool that we all come from, I know the possibility is there that an ancestor's nose, eyes, or hair color will find its way into one of my grandchildren.  In looking for these visual connections, I didn't have to look too far to find one such case that tells me that my father, my son, my grandson, and I all descend from my great-grandfather, Frank Clark.  That same gene is floating around in each of us.  I only wish I had a photograph of Frank's parents so I could tell if that gene came from the Clark's or from Frank's mother, Belle Stairs.  

Frank Clark
Me with my cousin Mike  - about 1959
Timothy Koehler - 1984 - age 4

My dad, Bob Wayson,
 with my grandson, Liam, who is Timothy's son.