Thursday, December 17, 2009

Samuel and Mary Ann Holt, My Great Grandparents

It was a chilly, snowy, November 21, 1834 When Mary (Noss) Holt gave birth to twins, Samuel Jacob and John C, in the small cabin that she and her husband had built on their tiny farm in Mudlick Hollow, Brighton Twp., Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Sadly, John C lived only a few short hours. Mary and her husband, William Humphrey Holt and their two children, Mary Jane and Thomas Fritz, had migrated from McVeytown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania c1830.
Unfortunately I do not have a picture of Samuel Jacob. I'd really like to have one.

Four years later, 1838, in the 8th Ward, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Eliza Jane (Hunter) Taylor, gave birth to her second child, Mary Ann. Eliza Jane and her husband, William B. Taylor, had migrated from County Down, Ireland to the south side of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh in 1830 where their seven children were born and raised. Mary Ann has been described as being petite, very nice looking, lively and in-charge.

Mary Ann (Taylor) Holt
I have little on the childhood of Mary Ann or Samuel Jacob. The Holt farm where Samuel grew up was too small to provide employment so Samuel sought work in the nearest community, Vanport. He found a job transporting bricks from a brickyard south of Vanport to Beaver. The bricks were to build a new school called Fort Macintosh School. I went to 8th grade in that school in 1939. I had no idea that my Great Grandfather Samuel Holt had helped haul the bricks to build it and that my Gr-Gr-Grandfather, the Irishman William Taylor, helped make those bricks. It was during this period that Samuel met and fell in love with William Taylor's daughter, Mary Ann. They were married 12 November, 1857 by the Rev. Joshua Monroe, in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Beaver.

Photo below is Mary Ann Taylor Holt with her children Thomas and Mary Elizabeth (Mamie), c. 1871.

Samuel and Mary Ann soon moved into a small home along Sebring Road that runs northwest out of the town of Vanport. They later purchased a small farm and home (Kaufman or Hereford farm) just off that road where their eight children were born:

  1. 1. William Humphrey, 18 Sep., 1858
  2. 2. Smith Richard, 15 Dec., 1860
  3. 3. Thomas Fritz, 1863
  4. 4. Elizabeth Jane, 1865
  5. 5. Jefferson, 1867
  6. 6. Mary Elizabeth, 5 June, 1870
  7. 7. Franklin Raymond, 14 Feb., 1875
  8. 8. Clyde, 18 Dec. 1877.

Two of the children, Elizabeth Jane and Jefferson, died one day apart in the summer of 1873. Janie died of Diphtheria and Jeffie died of Cholera Morbis—what ever that was. They were buried together in the same casket in the Beaver Cemetery. I can’t imagine such a tragedy. Just the thought brings tears to my eyes.

According to Grandad, his mother was insistent that all the children be educated. High School was the ultimate for most those days, but five of the living six children went on to receive college degrees. In her push to get her children educated the family left the little farm and moved out onto Tuscarawas Road several miles from town. She then decided that was still too far out so they bought a house on the south side of Fifth Street in Beaver, very near Sharon Road and not too far from the Christian Church the family regularly attended. Once the children were educated, she and Samuel moved back to the farm. She was only 60 when she died 9 June, 1898. She is buried in the Beaver Cemetery. Samuel lived on another eight years until 5 September, 1906 when he joined his beloved Mary Ann and was buried beside her in the Beaver Cemetery.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hunting Dogs at Holtdale

Dogs were a way of life on the farm, but three of them stand out above the others, Pat, Nick and Mugs. Pat was a large, Black and Tan, and other, reddish-brown, female, rabbit dog. She was, at least (mostly), a Black and Tan hound. She had long, dangling ears, a sad face and the most baleful howl you ever heard when tracking game. She remained a fixture on the farm for at least eleven years because she was a rabbit dog of the highest caliber. She had to have been good, for about every seven or eight months, she would blow up like a large sausage, with her feeding spigots practically dragging the ground, and present us with from eight to as many as fifteen pups at a time, to the complete delight of we kids. And, I am sure, to the complete annoyance of my long suffering mother.

Every neighbor, hunting buddy, friend of the family, itinerant salesman, and anyone who even had a fleeting thought of owning a dog, had one of her pups. During hunting season, the month of November, pups or not, when anyone emerged from the house with a shotgun old Pat would come running, sometimes with pups hanging on to the spigots or trailing behind. It mattered not, she was going hunting. How we all loved that old hound dog.

Nick was also a, mostly, Black and Tan hound hunting dog we owned at the time. He, presumably, was Mug’s father. No one could be sure of that though because Pat was not exactly the most faithful of wives. When she was in heat, the crowd following her about in her wanderings was something to behold. At least Mugs was hound like old Nick and very few of Pat’s many suitors could claim that exalted distinction. Nick was a bit surly, but an outstanding rabbit dog, so he too, earned a place at the scrap feeding pans at the back door that Mother kept generously filled for our dog family.

During the tail end of Pat's productive years she produced a black, male pup that won the hearts of everyone, but most importantly, my Mother's. Even before he was fully mature Mugs was running rabbits. He was born in early spring and during that fall's hunting season he was next only to Pat in finding rabbits. He quickly became "Mr. Rabbit Hound Supreme." He was the hunting Icon of the neighborhood and his offspring--if we could be sure they were his offspring--were in great demand by all the local rabbit hunters in the area.

Theoretically we owned him. Mugs, at best, could only be described as a "rake." He had a regular calling list and grooved trails between the many homes that he called upon. He had no peer in the garbage consumption and strewing profession. Ordinary lidded garbage cans, even if they had a latch, were absolutely no challenge for him. All the neighbors claimed a part of him. Indeed, they did help feed him. His rabbit hunting prowess was legendary and every one took turns using him. He had two great loves; Mom because she fed him most, and Grandad, because he hunted with him the most. There are probably more posed pictures with more people with Mugs than anyone else in
the neighborhood at that time.

Mugs and Me, 1939

I suspect he also could brag of more offspring than any other dog of his day. He was a true canine Casanova. To get to his intended paramour, he climbed fences, dug under fences, tore down fences, went through screen doors, crawled through windows and,----- oh well, you get the idea: He was a world class, canine Lothario. We all loved Mugs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Great Grandparents, John and Fanny Bell Thornhill

On the 27th of January, 1860 in Fayetteville, Virginia, George Washington Thornhill was wearing out the carpet as he paraded back and forth waiting when he was told that his beloved wife, Martha Ann (Blake), had given birth to their second child John Newton. The young family would soon be caught up in the throes of the Civil War. The family lived in the mountainous part of Virginia that remained loyal to the United States and was soon renamed West Virginia. The family moved sometime after John was born but before Nov 1864 when their daughter was born in Cadiz, Ohio.

Jeremiah E Smith, an Irish immigrant then residing in New Cumberland, West Virginia,, was elated when his wife, Rebecca (Evans) presented him with his very first daughter, Frances Rebecca , later known by everyone as Fanny Bell. Jeremiah and Rebecca had ten children in all.

I am not certain where or how John and Fanny Bell met but on the 6th of October, 1881, they married. Jessie Virginia, their first child and oldest daughter. was born in now, long abandoned, Rocky Side, West Virginia. She was followed by two other daughters, Bessie and Ivy May, both of whom died in infancy, and lastly, in New Cumberland, Claudis Earl. See Blog

In the ensuing years, John and Fanny Bell purchased a home on College Avenue in Beaver, Pennsylvania. . In 1924 John and Fanny Bell joined Claud in California. The Thornhill family was very close knit and in that same year they were joined by Jessie Virginia and her husband Albert Davis and their daughter Naomi and husband John Holt. Albert. and Jessie’s son, Cleo, had followed Claude out in 1922 to go to college. Albert and Jessie and Naomi and John returned to Pennsylvania the following spring of 1925.

Fanny Bell died at their home in Redondo December 3rd, 1924 and was buried in Inglewood Cemetery, Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California. John lived on in California another seven years before joining Fanny Bell on the 6th of February, 1931. As an interesting aside, in 2000 my brother Rodney and I purchased a stone for John’s, until then, unmarked grave.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Headquarters, Holtdale

The earliest memories of home of my syblings and I were of the original family home at Holtdale. The house sat in the middle of three acres of beautiful lawn dotted with numerous flower gardens and many shade trees. I remember large, red-maple trees, a mulberry tree, hickory nut trees, sweet cherry trees and several wild cherry trees. Hanging from many of these trees were bird boxes. Other bird boxes perched on large poles placed about the yard, some of which were made especially to attract a bird called a Purple Martin that came to the area every summer. I can recall the delight of the adults when the first purple martin was sighted in the spring that chose one of our boxes for its home.

I can name only a few of the great variety of flowers that provided beautiful blooms from early spring well into late fall. In the flower garden itself were peonies, iris, hollyhock, sweet William, many species of roses, gladiolus and so many others. Many of them were aromatic and a walk through the lawn could be like a walk in a perfume factory. Placed here and there throughout the lawn/garden area were benches where one could sit quietly and just enjoy the serenity of the place. On Sundays, it was common to have complete strangers drive up to the house and ask if they could walk through the gardens.

We always had a vegetable garden large enough to supply much of the year’s vegetable needs. The orchards took care of our fruit needs and were on the hilltops. The "hollow" between the hilltops, was fenced off from the orchards and functioned as pasture for the two to five cows we usually had for our milk and beef. We occasionally had a pig or two, always chickens and frequently turkeys. It was a reasonably self sufficient operation. It had to be during those depression times when we kids were growing up.

Dad and Mother worked long hard hours on the farm. Dad and, sometimes, Uncle Frank, performed most all of the required physical labor and Mom helped harvest the fruit to some extent, but she mainly took care of the home and stand. Her big area of responsibility was the family. She kept house, prepared all the meals, canned everything in sight, did everyone's laundry, including ironing white shirts for Grandfather's office work, and took exceptional, loving care of four wild, runny-nose kids. All in all, it was a pretty hard life for both of them, but they felt they were securing their future, and it was worth it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

John and Agnes Childs, my paternal Gr Grandparents

John Worrell Marshall Childs entered this world January 1, 1838 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, second son of Lorenzo and Ann Caroline (Marshall) Childs. He was given his maternal gandfather’s full name, John Worrell Marshall, to honor Ann Caroline’s recently deceased father (d. 1833). Brooklyn remained Lorenzo’s home for the next few years until the family moved to Pittsburgh and then to Fallston, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Agnes Baxter Ecoff was born 28 January 1848 in Rochester, Beaver County, Pennsylvania to Margaret (Alman) and Ralph Ecoff, both long time Pennsylvanians. I have no knowledge of Agnes’s childhood. As an aside, my sister Miriam’s casket lies immediately on top of Margaret (Alman) Ecoff’s casket. The plan was to move Miriam when the family purchased a burial plot. Three months later, Grandmother Holt died, a plot was purchased and here we are, 88 years later, and Miriam is still with Gr-Gr-Grandmother Ecoff. May they both rest in eternal peace.

On the 30th of September, 1869 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, John and Agnes married. Why Pittsburgh, I’m really not sure. John joined his father, Lorenzo, in the machinery business in Smith’s Ferry, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. One year later, 30 September 1870, John Worrell Marshall Childs, Jr. arrived on the scene followed by daughter Grace in January, 1875, Agnes Gertrude, my Grandmother, 6 December 1879, and finally, Blanche in July, 1883. The family was now complete

The business prospered and John built a lovely home there for his family on the banks of the beautiful Ohio River. This was before all the dams were built on the river and each spring during run-off the river could be very treacherous as witnessed by this picture of John’s and Agnes’s home after one of those rambunctious spring floods.

John, working closely with his father, Lorenzo, over the few short years before Lorenzo's untimely death in 1864, acquired Lorenzo's highly developed entrepreneurial bent. The business grew exponentially during the years of his stewardship. The business exists to this day, although much diminished in scope. John died February 5, 1920 and his beloved wife, Agnes, survived him living until June 25, 1931. They are buried in the Childs plot in Beaver Cemetery, Beaver, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spoofing Grandad Holt

Grandad Holt-middle, Clyde Holt, right.
Grandad Holt had two Hobbies that he pursued
avidly almost until his death, fishing and hunting. I can’t prove it, but I believe he was born with a fishing pole in one hand and a gun in the other. He was without a doubt one of the most accomplished squirrel hunters ever to lift a gun. His marksmanship was legendary. His favorite weapon for squirrels and rabbits was a small, Fox, 20 gauge, double barreled shotgun. Rarely did any of us who hunted with him bring home more game. When he and his younger brother, Clyde, were in their eighties, each bought a beagle rabbit hound so they would have a dog to hunt with in the morning and another fresh one in the afternoon. He shot his last deer when he was ninety-one. In his last few years of hunting, he was a little hesitant and a bit unstable on uneven ground so Uncle Frank would walk with him to a tree or stump then leave him for awhile. If Frank heard a shot or after a half hour or so had elapsed he would return and they would move to another vantage point.

One Thanksgiving, in the mid-1930's, the family was sitting around digesting one of Mom’s wonderful holiday dinners and talking about the morning’s hunt. Rabbit hunting Thanksgiving morning was a ritual with the males of our family. The season would end on the last day of November and Thanksgiving was most likely the last day we could hunt together. That day the subject got around to whom could shoot best and whose gun patterned best. In typical Holt argument mode, each stoutly defended his weapon and prowess.

To settle the question, Dad proposed we drape a newspaper over the wire fence that set off the back yard from the cow pasture, back off and pattern each weapon. Dad went first and did real well. Uncle Frank was up next and duplicated Dad’s prowess. Dad, who had carried Grandad’s weapon out for him, snapped the gun open, inserted a shell then handed him his trusted 20 gauge. Grandad stepped up to the toed mark in the dirt, quickly mounted the gun and shot. Both Frank and Dad hurried to the newspaper and with much fanfare announced that Grandad had missed the entire newspaper. Grandad frowned in total disbelief, then hurried to the target certain that his two sons were spoofing him. They weren’t. "What the devil?" Must have been the dang shell, "I’ll try again," he said. Back we all trooped to the line. Dad gave him another shell and he reloaded. Again, only this time with great deliberation, he mounted the gun, and did something he never did--carefully aimed--and fired. The whole gang excitedly trooped down to the target. Not a single pellet in the paper. Then the laughter exploded as Uncle frank and Dad literally had to sit down they were laughing so hard. They had taken the shot out of several of Grandad’s shells and then carefully replaced the end wad. We laughed heartily about that incident every Thanksgiving for years. Such wonderful memories.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meet My Parents: John & Naomi (Davis) Holt

My father, John Childs Holt, had to have been a wonderful Christmas present for his parents, Frank Raymond Holt and Agnus Gertrude (Childs) when he arrived that cold, snowy, 23rd day of December, 1900 in Butler, Pennsylvania. The family didn't remain in Butler very long and soon moved back to their home territory, settling in Rochester, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Fourteen months later, minus six days, on an equally cold and snowy day, the 17th of February, 1902, in Fallston, Pennsylvania, Jessie Virginia (Thornhill) presented her husband, Herbert Albert Davis, with a beautiful daughter whom they named Naomi Alberta. Can't you just see the pride and love in his eyes? After all, not only was she his first (and only) daughter, she was named for him.

According to Grandad Holt, Dad was always a very curious, mischievous, into everything, youngster. Even during his toddling stage he was a handful so it is incongruous to see him as grandmother dressed him for his 1903 or 1904 trip to the photographer. But I guess that was the way it was done. Grandfather was a very successful dentist those days and provided a comfortable living for his family. And, I've been told, Grandmother was one who always wanted things done "just right." As with all the Holts I've known, hunting and fishing was an important part of male family socialization as is amply demonstrated by this picture of Dad taken c1914.

Athletics played a large role with Dad in school. According to my Uncle Cleo Davis, who went to school with him, Dad was an outstanding football player. His kicking prowess was apparently legendary and he could, even under pressure, kick a football consistently + 70 yards in the air. His reputation was such that his picture and one of the footballs he kicked was still on display in Rochester High School in the 1970's when Uncle Cleo Davis visited the school.

Mother's childhood was quite different. The family moved constantly though staying within, roughly, a 30 mile radius of Beaver Valley where Grandmother's parents, John and Fanny Bell Thornhill lived. Mother's brother, Cleo, stoutly maintained that he had gone to twenty different schools by the time he entered Rochester High School. Because Grandad frequently had jobs in remote places Mother usely stayed with the Thornhills in Beaver. This picture of her in 1909 at 7 years old in first grade in Beaver, was taken one of those times. One of the many places the family lived that was fairly remote was Lime Kiln Hollow. The children attended school there for several years. In 1936 when Uncle Cleo and his family visited from California we visited then completely abandoned Lime Kiln Hollow School and took a picture of Mother and Uncle Cleo in its long-abandoned remnant.
One of the more permanent jobs Grandfather Davis had was managing the very large swimming pool at Rock Springs Park (no longer in existence) at Chester, West Virginia where the photo of him on the moon was taken. (see Blog # ) This is a picture of Grandmother and Uncle Cleo, the first two in the back row. in that pool. While living there the family attended the Christian Church and this picture of mother, 12 or 13 years old, was lifted from a group picture taken of her Sunday School class.

The family had moved to Rochester, Pa. by 1918 when Mother started her Freshman year in Rochester High School where she was soon glamor struck by the school's rising, athletic star, Sophomore, John Childs Holt. Two years later, the two eloped and married in Cumberland, West Virginia, Sept 15, 1920. Dad played football that fall but the two never completed their High School education.

My sister, Miriam Ruth, was born 2 1/2 months prematurely, 7 March, 1921. She lived just 2 months and 4 days and died 11 May, 1921. That was an exceptionally tragic year for the family, Grandmother Holt died of an aneurysm on September 6, 1921. Mother contracted pneumonia that fall and they moved to the farm where, on the family Doctor's orders, they slept outdoors for the next two years. My brother, John Childs Holt, Jr. (Jackie) was born August 15, 1924. Shortly after he was born, Dad left by train for Stanford, California, where, by invitation from legendary Coach Glen "Pop" Warner, Dad was recruited to play football for Stanford University.

I must add here that the Offensive line Coach at Stanford then, was Claude Thornhill, an equally famous coach, who had also been an All American football player at the University of Pittsburgh, was my Mother's uncle. Predictably, because Dad had failed to complete his High School graduation requirements in 1921, the Stanford Office of Administration officials informed him he could not continue at Stanford. By then Mother, and their new son, John Jr. ("Jackie,") had joined him in Stanford. John and Fanny Bell (Smith)Thornhill, Claud's parents and Mother's Grandparents as well as her parents, Virginia (Thornhill) and Herbert Davis, were living there at the time so the little family stayed with them until the following spring when they returned to Pennsylvania.

There is a tragic climax to this chain of events. My brother, Jack, while playing around a barn being built on the farm, fell and struck his head on the head of a nail protruding from a discarded board, and died that night, the 15th of August, 1924, of a brain hemorrhage. Dad completed his High School requirements in 1925 but never returned to Stanford. I have his High School Diploma.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Life and Death on the Farm

The stretch of Tuscarawas road extending from our neighbor on the East, John Gillespie, to the West edge of our property was maybe a half-mile long and relatively straight. For whatever reason, it attracted speeding and was very dangerous for both us kids and animals.

I can't remember the number of dogs and cats we owned that were killed on that particular stretch of road. Some were killed outright, but the most devastating were those that were badly injured and had to be shot. Their loud, screaming howls of pain seemed to penetrate your very existence. Those anguished screams, which held we kids transfixed, would go on until usually either Dad or Grandad would come running with a shotgun. At the bang of the gun those anguished screams of pain abruptly stopped but were followed by equally heart wrenching sobs and tears for a dear friend lost. No one wasted money on veterinarians for dogs in those tough financial times. We kids learned about paved roads, fast traffic and life and death at a very young age.

One of those days that taught us a first-hand lesson occurred when we kids were watching the fruit stand for Mom. We were out in front of it playing---not on, but very close to, the pavement. All of a sudden we were literally frozen in place by a blaring auto horn and the screaming, screeching of tires. Our heads whirled to face a barreling, rocking, skidding automobile almost upon us. We were frozen in fright where we stood. The driver, going much too fast, had swerved to miss a bunch of dogs that had tumbled out of the weeds alongside the road, milling around a bitch in heat. As you can imagine, we were transfixed with fear where we stood. The careening vehicle, with horn screaming, hit my brother Rod, slamming him down and running over him. It stopped with him under the back axel. By then, we all were screaming and crying in abject fear. Sis ran for Mother and I ran to Rod. The driver was totally devastated and couldn't even get out of the car. I heard Rod screaming from underneath, toward the back of the car. Just as I started to crawl under to get him Mom arrived, yanked me out of the way and dived under the car to where Rod was laying. She pulled Rod out from under the vehicle and, except for a few serious bruises and scratches, he was just fine. Terrified, as we all were, but fine.

We also learned about birth and life there on the farm. Mom always raised chickens and turkeys. Eggs were cheaper than peeps, and we had plenty of eggs, so Dad purchased several incubators for hatching them. Also, many an old hen hid her nest out in the weeds and would eventually come in clucking proudly, leading her little brood of running fuzz balls. I enjoyed watching the hatching process in the incubators best. Several times during the incubation period, each egg was "candled," to determine whether it contained a fetus, or was still alive and well. Candling--actually looking through the shell using a light source to silhouette the fetus--was done by cutting a small oval hole in the base of a round Quaker Oats cereal box and putting either a candle or low wattage light bulb under it. An egg would be taken from the incubator and placed on the lighted oval hole. It always seemed like a miracle to me to watch the changing fetus until the baby chick pecked it's way through the confining shell and emerged all wet, gooey and hungry.

There have been a hundred or so folks visit the blog but only two have commented. I really would appreciate your comments as to the blog's focus and content, good or bad, or suggestions as to where you think it could be improved. There is a link providing an avenue for your comments just beneath the last sentence of each blog. Hope to hear from you. B.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Henry and Dorcas Holt to America--1730

Henry Holt emigrated c1730 from Ireland with his new wife, Dorcas and her parents William and Jane Armstrong. This information is from Dorcas's obituary, however, it did not name either Henry or her parents, saying just, "with her husband and parents." A Mrs. Vashti Seaman, a descendant through their grandson, John Holt, gave data to the DAR suggesting that Henry came from Thames, England and was the son of Rowland Holt (and Priscilla Ballow) brother of Sir John Holt, Lord Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court, both sons of Sir Thomas Holt. There are two christening's recorded for the Henry Holt who is definitely of the the English family: Source, IGI Index c302, Event: Father: Rowland Holt, Mother, Lucretia, Christening 12 Oct 1701, Saint Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, England. #2: Event: Father. Rowland Holt, Mother, Presca or Persca, Christening, 12 Oct, 1701, Charterhouse Chapel, Finsbury, London, England. I have no explanation for the different names cited for the mother. There is no firm documentation linking our Henry to this Henry, but the circumstantial evidence is exceptionally strong.

Rowland, Henry's father, had Estates in both London and near Dublin, Ireland. The Armstrong family lived in County Monaghan, Ireland, so there was no more than 40 miles between them. And, as the story handed down through successive generation's goes, Dorcas was either working for the Holt family or living nearby when Henry and she married. Some believe they eloped. At least that story is extant within the family lore of their more modern descendants. Dorcas must have been both exceptionally beautiful and bright, as she could neither read nor write and Henry, wealthy and educated, had attended prestigious Cambridge University, and according to University records, matriculating there in 1720 at age nineteen. There is no record of his graduating, however.

Several family researchers, over the 280 years since their arrival in Colonial America, have made the statement that Henry was indeed an English gentleman. He is also supposed to have been a silversmith in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The first documentation I have of the family in America was the 27 September 1733 Christening of Henry's and Dorcas's son, Thomas, in the Episcopal Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As an interesting aside, Benjamin Franklin and his family were attending members of that church then. Franklin and wife are buried there.

Family lore indicates that, sometime between 1733 and 1735, Henry disappeared while on a business trip. There is no confirmation of that either. Another speculation is that Henry might have gotten tired of the frontier and looked for greener pastures elsewhere. It has also been speculated that he learned of his brother's death and realized that the home estate in England was now his and headed for England but his ship was lost at sea. Who knows. All we know is that in 1735, Dorcas was hauled into court in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and scolded for beating up a male who had beat up one of her female friends. Henry was not mentioned.The next documented incident in her life was her marriage to Arthur Buchanan, another Irish immigrant, in 1738 in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Consumate Prankster Grandaddy Holt

My Grandfather Holt use to regale we kids with the antics of his youth. One particular tale he would tell was an incident with his Grandfather Taylor, an old, very overweight, Irish immigrant from County Down. Grandfather Taylor enjoyed sitting in front of the fireplace smoking his pipe. Occasionally, the pipe would either die out if the old fellow fell asleep, or just burn out. When this would happen he would usually get whomever was near to either bring his tobacco or have them refill his pipe. This particular time Granddad and his brother Clyde and sister Mamie were handy and offered to refill the pipe. The entire procedure was hatched before hand and the conspirators had a small container of black gunpowder stashed in the next room where the tobacco was kept. They alternated layers of gunpowder and tobacco, tamping the last layer of tobacco nicely into the bowl, and then gave the pipe to the old man.

Grandaddy Taylor leaned back in his chair, carefully tamped the tobacco down, lit it and comfortably relaxed. After a few puffs, the pipe gave little "piffft" and a few sparks flew out. The old gentleman grunted, re-lit the pipe and leaned back again to enjoy his smoke. "Pffft" again. He took the pipe out of his mouth, looked at it, tamped it down even harder, and again leaned back to enjoy. This happened several more times to the annoyance of the old fellow but he would just re-tamp it and continue enjoying his smoke. Of course, all the while Grandad and his co-conspirators watched, giggling quietly. All of a sudden, the pipe literally exploded with a loud bang, singeing Grandad Taylor’s eyebrows and blackening his face from the lips up. I guess pandemonium broke loose in the Holt household and Grandad, Clyde and Mamie headed for the hills. He never did tell us the final outcome of this shenanigan. He couldn't, the memory was still so vivid he couldn't stop laughing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

End of the Line?

My great grandfather, Joseph Leman/Lehman/Davis, born c1840 in Pennsylvania, is a family conundrum of sizable proportions. In thirty years of searching I find him only in two records, the 1880 census for East Deer Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and in his father-in-law William Kennedy's Bible. In the Bible he is listed as Joseph Leeman (sic). Joseph is the end-of-the-line progenitor in my research on my Mother's (Naomi Alberta (Davis) Holt), male family line. His mother, it is believed, is Agnus/Agnes Leman, born in Ireland c1820. My Davis grandparents always maintained that Joseph's mother's name was Agnus Leman. There is only that and the entry in his father-in-law's Bible, cited above, as to the validity of the name Leman.

Joseph married Sarah Ann Kennedy in 1869 bringing with him his daughter, Laura, b1861, from a previous marriage, possibly to with Susan E. Potts, an immigrant from England. In the 1880 census cited above, he said his name was Davis, that he was born in Pennsylvania, that his father was born in Pennsylvania and his mother born in Ireland. Children listed were Laura 19, Martha 10, Annie 4 and Albert 3. Living next door was a Samuel Davis, born Pennsylvania and wife, Agnus, born in Ireland. Moving back in time on Samuel we find his wife's name to be Nancy in 1870 and 1860, both times shown as born in Ireland. In 1850, living with Samuel, 50, is an Agnus Leman, 20, born in Ireland, and Margareta Davis, 63, born in Ireland. In 1881, Samuel's wife Nancy is buried in Samuel's cemetery plot. In 1886, buried in Samuel's plot are a Rebecca Lehman 2, and two weeks later, a J. R. Lehman 46. Remember now, in 1880, the entire family was listed as Davis.

In the 1900 census, Sarah Ann is living with her now married daughter, Annie Wills, in New Brighton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Sarah states she had 6 children and 5 were living. Remember, Laura is only her stepchild. We know of William Stevick (Wee Willie), a child born out of wedlock in 1865, Martha, Annie, Amy (lived only a few short months) and Albert. My guess is she must have been referring to Laura as one of her children also.

Now in 2007, the plot really thickened. A direct male descendant of Joseph's, a great grandson, had his DNA done and low and behold, most of the 37 marker individuals in that testing program have the surname Boyd. In the 1850 census living next door to Samuel Davis and Agnus Leman was the large family of John Boyd 83. John hailed from Ireland. And interestingly, Agnus's son Joseph, who would have been 9 or 10, is nowhere to be found. Indeed, I know of him only in the Kennedy family Bible, 1869, and in the 1880 census in Pennsylvania. I have no idea where Agnus was living in 1839 when she became pregnant. It could have been in Ireland or Pennsylvania or any place in between.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blog's Chief Jackanape

That jackanape you see to the immediate left, me, Robert E. Holt, is the person responsible for the information you will read in this blog. I started my family research some thirty years ago out of a growing curiosity about who I really was and where did I come from. My Geological work was taking me all over the world and the location of my roots became of interest to me. Maybe I could visit the places my ancestor's came from. First, though, I needed to know who they were and where did they come from.

History provides the information that permits us to know who we are and where we have been. By studying our ancestors within the context of history we learn of the many dynamic cultural forces that impinged upon them and helped shape whom they became and where they lived. Extended family, familiarity and place have an enormous magnetism consequently, a major relocation, even within a country, let alone a continent away, constitutes a major life and culture change. Thus it is fascinating to study our ancestral tracks and the forces that brought them to the American shores and how we, their descendants, arrived at where we are.

I'll begin, in turn, with my four principal lines of family, Holt, Childs, Davis and Thornhill. As we move along in my research on the various family lines you will see that I have not always been successful in finding the immigrating individual or indiviiduals. Indeed, in one case, Davis, I have gotten back just three generations beyond myself. It is my hope that as we go along interested readers of my data will fill in the gaps and there are gaps. Also, do not hesitate to pass on constructive criticism or suggestions. Pictures of ancestral family members would be greatly appreciated. In short, I want you to join me in making this blog into a discover-our-extended-historical-family enterprise. Some of the family lines won't be of interest to you, but join me in those that do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One of Grandad's Stories

My memories of Grandfather Holt are all positive and brimming over with warmth. He was a warm, loving and caring person. His sense of humor was outrageous and his talent for practical joking was rivaled by few. When we were all living together there on the farm Grandad,"POP" or "DOC" as we called him, frequently functioned as a baby sitter when Mom and Dad went to town. He would gather all four of us kids around the big fireplace in the living room, which from mid-fall to mid-spring always had a warm welcoming fire flickering and glowing in it, and tell us stories. And what stories they were.
One of the stories I remember very vividly occurred on one of those baby-sitting evenings long ago. The lights were out and only the flickering fireplace silhouetted the closer objects in the room. We five were as one in his big overstuffed chair. Soon, very quietly at first, came a muffled tumm, de-tumm, de-tumm, then, clump clump clump, the sound slowly increasing in intensity and finally featuring the clattering and clanking of chains amid the now very loud clop, clop of horse’s hooves announcing the coming out of a dark, misty night of a rider on a tall, black horse. "Look Look," was rendered in a low, hoarse, quivering whisper, "he doesn’t have a head!" What’s that he’s cradling tight against his left hip with his left hand? Oh NO! Its his head! Look, looook at those dark,glistening, staring eyes and that long, stringy, black hair blowing in the wind at his side." By then, as you might imagine,we had snuggled and hugged in even closer for his protective presence. Then, almost imperceptably, came a long, hissing moan that rose in intensity then trailed off ending with a groaning, moaning sigh . Long before the moaning trailed off, we had all squeezed so close to him we were literally pushing him into his chair, as we knew full well that bloody apparition was going to appear somewhere in that room in person. A long, very pregnant silence ensued accompanied only by a faint, wheezing, slightly-hissing sound. Then, loudly, "Oh Yuck POP!" as a brown, warm, stream of tobacco juice slithered between Rod’s toes from a well aimed splitooe. Grandad chewed and/or smoked a wiry tobacco called "Five Brothers," whose slimy, oily, pretty-brown juice now was slithering over the top of Rod’s toes and down over his foot which was sticking straight out from the chair.

I could go on and on with shenanigan after shenanigan such as this that our very much loved grandfather Holt played on us kids there on the farm as we were growing up. Indeed, I do intend to get back to you from time to time with more of his fun-loving shenanigans involding others as well as us kids .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eulogy for John

6 November 1955---19 October 2008
October 18, 2009
Evergreen Cemetery, Tucson, Arizona

I come here today, not to mourn John’s passing but to honor a wonderful, loving and productive son. I clearly remember John’s coming into our life in Radford, Virginia, around 2:30AM the morning of November 6, 1955. We were expecting him to be born sometime within the coming week. But certainly not that day, let alone 2:30 in the morning.

About 1:45AM, Frances shook me awake with the startling news she thought the baby was about to be born. I was completely fuzzed out but managed to get dressed and helped Frances get into the car and took off for the hospital. Several times along the way Frances, in a very worried and almost desperate voice informed me she was sure the baby was coming right there and then. Of course, I was already a-dither and merely drove faster. The hospital finally hove into view and we came to a screeching halt in front of the door. I threw my door open, ran around to her door to help. A nurse came running out, shoved me, a mere discombobulated male, out of the way and helped Frances into the hospital.

I hurriedly parked the car and came running. When I got inside, I was informed Frances was in the delivery room. A few minutes later, a smiling nurse came out and informed me that I had a beautiful new son. For the next fifty-two and a half years I had the joy and pride of watching a wonderful, successful and happy life unfold.

As a youngster, he had more scratches, bruises and tumbles than any kid in the neighborhood. He was, in many ways, shy. But he was also, in his own way, gregarious and had lots of friends. He became a Boy Scout and almost attained his Eagle Scout badge. However, he discovered girls and the badge faded away.

His first year in college at the University of Arizona was, academically, an unmitigated disaster although he managed to pass most of his classes. The problem? Girls, Girls and more Girls. We put him on his own and told him we would reimburse him, semester by semester, only if he successfully passed all his classes. He did and we did.

After a discover-the-world junket in Europe he arrived home, broke and unemployed. I owned the Owl Head Ranch at the time and was traveling considerably in my job so I put John in charge of the Ranch. Cattle ranching then was a distinctive and different way of life. In many ways harking back in time a hundred years. John quickly adapted to moving between the past on the Ranch and the present when away, clearly preferring the former.

During his tenure there, he hired, fell in love with and married, Suzellen Young. She had two wonderful children, Michele and Justin whom he instantly considered his own. Michele lived at the ranch permanently and their relationship was so extraordinary and loving that John soon made of her his by legally adopting her. Indeed, to him, both were his children and so remained all his life.

To John and his family the Ranch was not only home, it was a way of life. They literally moved in and out of the past to the present and back again almost on a daily basis. To me, they all seemed to enjoy round-up, branding and shipping the most. Round up of between 500 and a 1000 half-wild cattle and their calves and/or a 1000 or more steers on 120 square miles (76,800 acres), even though fenced, is no small undertaking. The largest pasture was 45 square miles and the smallest, 10. The work could be hard, dangerous and fun all at the same time. I remember a truculent, sour tempered, old Brahma bull John had nicknamed "Gotcha" that would charge you at the slightest provocation, especially if you were a-foot. We were on horseback, weaning calves from their mothers, and when we put the last calf in the smaller corral, I got down from my horse and started to close the gate. John yelled "Dad, ‘Gotcha’." I whirled around and saw charging me, the meanest, tail-high, head down, ill-tempered old range-grouch around. Up and over the corral fence I went, landing in a heap in a large pile of cow dung on the other side. Poor John and Suzellen could hardly stay mounted they were laughing so hard. And so it was on the ranch, hard work, low pay, danger and joy all wrapped up in a wonderful way of life. But, good things all come to an end and we had to sell the Ranch.

After leaving the Ranch John moved to Tucson and began teaching at Mountain View High School and taught the rest of his life. It was in his teaching career that he positively touched so many lives. So as to better counsel them he got his Master’s degree at Northern Arizona University and was just one year short of attaining his Doctorate at the University of Arizona. Student after student after student has written wonderful letters attesting to his positive influence on them and how time after time, he selflessly helped them overcome, either or both, their academic or personal problems. They attested to the fact that he was never too busy to stop whatever he was doing and listen to them. Nor did he ever belittle them or their problem. He always tried to help.

To me, he gave great pleasure because he was my son. He also gave me another daughter, Suzellen, three wonderful grandchildren, Michele, Michael and Justin, and three absolutely delightful, great grandchildren, Jordan, JohnAlan and Joshua. Loving memories of him will be with me until we meet again and meet again we shall.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My First Steps at Holtdale

I have many good memories of the first ten years of my life which were lived in that old frame house. Even though it was in the middle of the depression, we never felt deprived. Life was normal to us children even though the adults were acutely aware of the difficulties of the times.
I'm never certain where true memories begin and repeated telling of incidents by family members either fortifies or provides memories for pre-retention times in young people. Some of the things I will relate, particularly about my preschool days, have to be provided memories. Others, I'm sure are true memories, however, I won't attempt to differentiate, I'll just relate the incidents.
On my nine-month birthday a neighbor, Jap Groscrost, was visiting and all were sitting around the living room talking. My father was holding me up and moving me about in a practice walk when Jap' got on his knees and coaxed me to come to him. They tell me that after several false starts, I took my first unassisted steps and toddled to him. A monster had been freed from its tether and nothing down low was safe thereafter.
Late in my toddling stage, I’m told, I would run about the yard sucking a bottle-nipple as a pacifier, which I called a "tipple." On the farm we had chickens, ducks, turkeys, cows and pigs. The chickens, ducks and turkeys had the run of the place and one old gobbler considered himself the yard major-domo and lord-protector of the harem. It seems that I was in the habit of chousing the hen birds to see them run and squawk. Old Mr. Gobbler decided one day that enough was enough and caught me in mid-chouse, downed me, and took the tipple out of my mouth and ran off. I guess my new found courage "got up and went" for off I ran to Mom screeching that the mean old gobbler had taken my tipple. The moral of this little tale is, no matter how big and self important we become, there is always someone just a little bigger and more important.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Uncle Frank--at Holtdale

Frank Raymond Holt II--now there was an uncle to brag about. Frank was born 19 March 1911 in Rochester, Pennsylvania to Agnes Gertrude Childs and Frank Raymond Holt Sr. According to Grandad, Frank was an absolute joy around the house. He was mischievous, bubbly, in to everything, and on the farm no Indian was known to yell louder, run faster, or poke his nose into more things or places. Somewhere around 1919 or 1920, he contracted polio and it settled in his right, lower leg leaving him crippled for life. But that didn't slow Frank down even one little bit. He use to say that he passed high school---"through the front door and out the back," so his formal education was minimal at best.

Sometimes Uncle Frank, who was an unrelenting practical joker and tease, would help with spraying the fruit trees. One of my earliest memories of Uncle Frank was when Dad, Grandad and Uncle Frank were spraying in the orchard. Dad had built a seat for me up on top of the sprayer tank so I could ride along. The sprayer was wheeled and pulled by the farm's Fordson tractor. Frank was always full of the old nick. This time, Dad was driving the tractor and Frank and Grandad were spraying the trees on their respective side of the sprayer. Somehow Frank always managed to spray me with the stinking lime-sulfur spray. More than once, I went screaming to Mom who, in turn, gave all three a tongue lashing for soaking me. In spite of that, Frank and I became great friends and constantly played practical jokes on each other.

One time, when I was eight or nine years old, Uncle Frank was painting the chicken coop, which was near the “three-holer” outhouse. Always the practical joker, he painted a ring around each seat in the outhouse. Shortly thereafter, I came down to bug him a bit and while there, needed to take care of the call of nature. I popped into the half-moon house, dropped my drawers and sat down. Squish! Arrgh! I had been had. I heard Uncle Frank howling with delight at my plight. He made sure, to my great annoyance, that everyone else knew about it too. What to do to even the score? I had been assigned to pull weeds in the garden and I remembered some nice big Scottish thistles that had given me trouble in the weeding chore. I pulled the heads of some and carefully placed them in Frank's bed. He, as usual, had gone sparking (courting the ladies) that evening. I was sound asleep when a loud and explosive curse awakened everyone. Uncle Frank had found my thistles. Oh, what sweet revenge.

In Frank's early twenties, Grandad helped him purchase an airplane, a two seater, bi-wing Waco. He kept it at the airport in Patterson Height's, up on the mountain top behind Fallston. His instructor, Vic Berge, became a family friend. Because of his crippled leg, Frank could never get his pilot's license even though he was proficient at flying his plane. He would frequently fly over the farm and buzz the place as well as the neighbor's homes. On one of those sassy, buzzing jaunts, he knocked a brick out of our neighbor Jack Engle's chimney. Now that was the talk of the neighborhood for awhile. All we kids, as well as Dad and Mom, rode in the thing with him from time to time. I have a great memory of him in that airplane, pulling up to park after a flight, with his tight, leather helmet strapped snugly under his chin with the big goggles and his nice, white, flowing-in-the-breeze scarf. He survived his airplane phase in grand style.

Some time in the late 1920's or early 1930's Uncle Frank left the farm. Then in 1934 and out of work he returned but was now married to Mildred (Crumrine) Walter's, who had a child, Mickey, from a previous marriage. Grandad gave him an acre and helped him financially to build a home on it. The family moved into their only partially finished home which was adjacent to Grandad's house.
Mother and Dad had lived in the house that came with the farm since their marriage in 1920 and Grandad lived with them after Grandmother died. Dad had been told the farm would eventually be his if he stayed and help make it into a viable entity. It had been a tough fourteen or so years but it had started to pay off. Then, when Frank returned, Grandad decreed that Frank would be a full partner with Dad on the farm. That arrangement, flawed at best, lasted until the late summer of 1936 when Dad, after an argument with Grandad about the money situation, abruptly quit the partnership. That very day he moved Mother and us kids into the unfinished home he was building on the other side of the farm. He found a job as a wire drawer in the J&L steel mills. Frank also left the farm and started his welding career which in time, led to a very successful career for him.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Growing up on the Farm

My mother, Naomi Davis Holt, myself, and Sandy at left
Growing up on that farm during the depression years of the late twenties and thirties of the twentieth century was an exceptional experience. This was a rural community in transition from the horse and buggy past, to modern times. Many of the local farmers, such as our nearest neighbors John and Ada Gillespie, still used horses for their farm work. By then, though, most folks used automobiles to get back and forth to town and for their social lives. Not everyone had electricity, but interestingly, just about everyone had an old crank telephone hooked up to a twelve or fifteen party line. If I remember correctly, you could ring others on the line by ringing, for instance, two longs and four shorts for a certain individual, or one long for the operator. Not too classy or convenient, but real neighborly. The favorite pastime, of course, was eavesdropping which, with every extra ear, caused the volume to decrease sometimes to an almost inaudible level.

Homes ranged from those with all modern conveniences including running water, septic system and electricity such as ours, to those without anything, not even running water. But everyone got along just fine and we learned to make allowances for each other. Just by being there and interacting with the neighbors was participating in the past. I was actively involved in neighbor helping neighbor, learning how to use tools which were remnants of the past, some already found in museums. I used horses just as my ancestors had done, learned to harness them and what to call the various harness parts. I actually drove horse-drawn wagons in work situations and rode in buggies. I pumped the blacksmith’s bellows, and used his tools. I was involved on a daily basis either at home or at a neighbors in the care and handling of cattle, sheep, chickens, butchering, harvesting and even subsistence and sport hunting and fishing. However, at the same time I learned to take modern conveniences such as electricity, telephones, radio and airplanes for granted. It was all there, the new and the old, and like the sponges we are as children, I soaked up every tiny tidbit and made of it my character.

The community at large was like an extended family. Every one knew every one else or were at least aware of whom they were. In one sense, I was raised in a huge, warm, fuzzy cocoon. A youngester acting up in that community would be reminded, by a complete stranger to him, that if he didn't straighten up his parents, by name, would be told. I could walk down any street or along any road at night and be perfectly safe. It was big band time. Our major means of being in touch with the world was the radio and out of it flowed some of the greatest music ever heard. It was our communicator on the world as well. It brought the world, for the very first time, together. The first commercial radio broadcast was made by KDKA Pittsburgh in 1926, the year I was born. Silent "Cal" Coolidge was President. Just over the horizon, unseen yet, was the greatest depression our country ever experienced. In was in those soon to be depression years that I was raised.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Ramblin' Davis Grandparents

No two people were more peripatetic in life than they, Herbert Albert (Hooker?) Davis and his beloved wife, Jessie Virginia Thornhill. In fact, their youngest son, Cleo Francis Davis, always claimed he had gone to over twenty different schools before entering Rochester High School in Rochester, Pennsylvania. Interestingly, most of that shuffling about took place in two counties, Hancock in West Virginia and Beaver in Pennsylvania. In the mid 1920's Grandmother's young brother, Claudis Earl Thornhill, was an All American football player at Pitt University. Claud (Tiny) became an assistant coach under "Pop" Warner and finally, Head Coach at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The family including her parents, John Newton Thornhill and Fanny Bell Smith, moved to California.

Herbert (Grandmother called him Bert) and Jessie married the 30th of April 1897. She was just fifteen years old and he not quite nineteen. They had a family of four children which was complete with the birth of Cleo Francis in Sharon, Beaver County, Pennsylvania the 25 of March, 1904. Not one of their four children, Guy Earl, Harold Newton, Naomi Alberta and Cleo Francis, had been born in the same place, but all were born within a fifty mile radius of each other.

Granddad began life as Hooker Albert Davis, 20 August 1878, the only son of Joseph Davis and Sarah Ann Kennedy. Sarah Ann in the 1880 census stated she had six children , five living. We can only find records for five. Much more on Joseph and Sarah Ann in a later entry. Granddad was not at all happy with the name Hooker. Oh, it might have been okay as his middle name, well, not really. After several stabs at renaming himself, he ended up finally as Herbert Albert Davis. Where Herbert came from no one knows but Hooker was definitely discarded. But now the big question is, where did the name Hooker come from? I have Sarah Ann's family back quite a ways and no Hooker there. Was it a name from Joseph's family? Maybe, but Joseph's lineage is a bit muddled as you will learn in a later blog entry.

Grandad Davis was a small man, 5' 3" or 4'' inches tall and no more than 140 pounds soaking wet and with a few rocks in his pocket. His countenance was very gentle. His soft, almost sparkly, blue eyes, well-positioned in his nicely shaped and well-tanned face, were always welcoming. He was so soft spoken that if you weren't looking at him you would never have known he had spoken. He was so fastidious when eating he drove Grandmother crazy. When he ate, each item on his plate had a separate spot and each item was eaten separately and slowly. He was always the last to finish. Long before he would finish it was not unusual for the dishes of those who were eating with him to already be in the sink and washed. But oh how we kids loved him. He fit the old appellation "a jack of all trades" perfectly: He had run a bath-house in an amusement park, was an accomplished stonemason, carpenter, farmer, dairy farmer and--well you get the idea.

Grandmother Davis and her family
Grammaw, as we kids lovingly called her, was another kettle of fish. She was several inches taller than Granddad, a few pounds heavier, very witty, sometimes to the point of being sharp-tongued as they use to say. She could toss a barb with the best of them and frequently did. She was ruddy complexioned and had almost-impish, wonderfully-twinkling, grayish-blue eyes. She began life July 27, 1882 in a now vanished village called Rockyside, Hancock County, West Virginia. There were four children, three girls, of whom only Grandmother survived, and one boy, Claudis Earl. Grandmother and Claud are shown above (center) with their parents, John Newton and Fanny Bell (Smith) Thornhill.

Grandmother not only kept house and cooked wonderful meals, she planted and cared for the family garden, helped milk the cows and cared for the milk that was a large part of their income in later life. Grammaw churned butter regularly and always filled four or five very fancy, one pound butter moulds. She took took the moulded butter to the Farkas Brother's grocery market in Beaver and traded it for groceries. Her butter was so well liked there was always a waiting list at the market for it. She was devoutly religious and rarely missed a Sunday at the Christian Church in Beaver. I guess you would say they both were Jacks of all trades. They were part of the tail-end of subsistence farming as it was practiced in the early part of the twentieth century, prior to WWll.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heartbreak and Tragedy

Grandmother, Agnes Gertrude Childs Holt, and son Franklin Raymond Holt, Jr.
The first decade and a half on the farm proved to be tragic almost beyond belief. First, I believe it was 1919, my Uncle Frank contracted polio, which at that time was deadly as they had no reliable medication for it. Fortunately he survived but had a crippled right leg for the remainder of his life.

My folks, John Childs Holt and Naomi Alberta Davis, in the passion of a high school love affair, eloped and were married in New Cumberland, West Virginia. Their first child, a lovely young daughter, Miriam Ruth, arrived on the scene the 7th of March, 1921, two and half months before she was due. Two months later Miriam contracted pneumonia. There were no respirators in those days so she lived only a few days before passing away.

Tragedy struck again on the 6th of September that year. Grandmother Holt had been working in the yard in the afternoon and came into the house with a severe headache. She suffered all evening long and at 12:30 A.M. died of an aneurysm.

On the 15th of August, 1924, my brother, John Childs (Jack) Holt, Jr., was born. Jackie, as they called him, was an alert, bright, little fellow and began walking when he was just ten months old. Father entered Stanford University that fall and Mother and Jackie moved to California with him. Mother's uncle, Claud Thornhill, was the assistant football coach at Stanford. Most of Claud's family moved to California at the same time: my Grandmother Davis (his sister), Grandfather Davis, as well as Grandmother Davis's parents, John Newton and Fannie Bell Smith Thornhill. The University, belatedly, discovered that Dad had not finished his senior year at Rochester High School, located in Rochester, Pennsylvania, and gave him his walking papers at the end of the fall semester. Dad, Mother, and Jackie returned to Rochester and moved into the house at Holtdale that spring. During that summer and fall they were building a large storage barn and garage adjacent to the house. On September 10, 1925, Jackie was playing alongside the new building . Dad heard him cry out and went to him. Jack was crying and rubbing the back of his head. He had fallen backwards striking the base of his skull on the head of a nail protruding from a discarded board. Dad took him into the house and told Mother what had happened. By then, Jack had quit crying and was playing around in the house. Late that evening he went into a coma and they rushed him to the Rochester Hospital where he died. It has always been my belief that a kind and benevolent God, knowing what was coming, had started the healing process as Mother was unaware yet that she was pregnant with me at the time of Jackie's death.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dr. and Mrs. Frank R. Holt

Dr. Frank Raymond Holt and Agnes Gertrude Childs Holt

My grandparents were the original owners of Holtdale Farm. Very few photographs of my grandmother exist, she thought she was ugly and destroyed all those she found. I have only three of her, this one and another a little later in her life and one when she was seven or eight. The photo of Grandfather was taken around 1896 when he graduated from the College of Dentistry at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. They were married in 1898 in Rochester, Pennsylvania and purchased the farm around 1910.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Things I intend to talk about

I am brand new at blogging and hope you will bear with me during my learning phase. I've spent the last 35 years or so working on the genealogy of my family and in doing so have uncovered some interesting family history along the way that I would like to share. I also want to relate to you how it was for me growing up in a rural community during the time of transition from the horse and buggy to the automobile, airplane and enhanced communication--the telephone. I must confess, too, I am totally addicted to national and international politics and have been known to bloviate (a favorite term of Mr. O'Reilly of Fox News) rather heatedly on current political affairs. I've been around on the planet a little over 83 years so it would be impossible for me not to give you an earful of my opinion on the political situation as I see it every now and then. I promise you though, I'll stick mostly to family history tales involving the multiple ancestral lines I've uncovered in my genealogical research and what it was like growing up on that farm. I welcome any and all comments, information, or corrections--better be sure of yourself, I've been known to "Harrumph" pretty loudly--on anything I publish here.

Some time around 1910 Grandfather (Franklin Raymond Holt, later shortened to Frank Raymond) and Grandmother (Agnes Gertrude Childs) purchased the 100 acre farm located on the south side of Tuscarawas (the Tuscy) road, about 2.5 miles west of the town of Beaver, Pennsylvania. At the time of purchase, there was a small two-story wooden-frame home located about a hundred yards south of the road on the east side of the farm. They soon named the place "Holtdale." Interestingly, near Leeds, England, there is a place called Holtdale. The name Holt is primarily of English origin, but it has also been in use in Ireland since the early 1200's. They later enhanced this place considerably making it into a very comfortable home in which to live. At the time though, they lived in down-town Rochester, on the same street but on the opposite side as the Oriental Theatre.

Grandfather, called Grampa, Grandad or Pop by us kids, set about clearing the place and putting in an orchard. He planted at least a half-dozen types of apples, cherries (both sweet and sour), plums, peaches and grapes. A Holt lived on that farm continuously from 1920 until 1995 when the last Holt, my brother Lee's daughter, Ellen and her family, moved away. Today, only my sister Virginia (Sis Holt) Hume and I together own two small pieces of the farm.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


This is the beginning of a blog intended to do several things: (1) Follow the first twenty years of my life spent on a small farm in Beaver County, Pennsylvania at the tail end of the transition from the horse and buggy to the more modern forms of travel and electronic communication, and (2), have you meet my family and ancestors as I have come to know them through research in the Holt, Childs, Davis, Thornhill and other family related lines such as Kennedy, Ecoff, Fry, Blake, Corley, Holmes, Smith, Critchlow, Windle and others. In some of the lines they have been traced to the immigrant, and occassionaly, to those who remained in the old country. My hope is that some of you who find your way to my blog can help me further my research into any and all of my family ancestral lines. Above all, I want your comments, critical, informative, identifying mistakes, adding to my research or telling me you like what I'm doing or don't and why. I look forward to hearing from you.