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.