Saturday, October 25, 2008

Heirloom of the Week

It is the sole survivor of a set of stemware brought to Texas from Georgia in 1872.

A lone crystal goblet that once belonged to Mary Caroline Mobley is spending its elder years in the corner of my china cabinet. It has not survived unscathed. There is a large chip in its foot.

The Joseph Mobley family left Georgia and moved to Texas in 1872. Their home had been Coweta County, not far from Atlanta. Joseph's brother Hezekiah lived just north of there in Carroll County and returned at the end of the Civil War to find his farm in tatters. I assume that Joseph also returned to a home that had been looted by soldiers. Hezekiah would remain a few more years, until after the death of their father Rezen, and then would join his brother Joseph in starting a new life in Bastrop County, Texas.

The Mobley family made most of the journey by train, leaving from either Atlanta or Savannah and traveling to New Orleans. At New Orleans they traveled by boat to Galveston and then by train to Paige.

Joseph brought with him a bushel of peach seeds, with which he started a peach orchard on their new farm. One wonders if there are descendants of those peach trees still growing on that farm land or if the orchard was destroyed when Camp Swift was formed. The land that belonged to Joseph and his son George was purchased by the government in the World War II years and became part of that installation.

You can imagine peach seeds making the long journey without problems. I can't help wondering how Mary Caroline managed to bring the more elegant comforts of home, like a set of crystal stemware, and have any of them survive the trip. I wonder if they were carefully packed among clothing in a trunk. Or maybe they weren't all that special to her and were casually packed in dish barrels and many of the pieces were broken when they arrived.

While I love antique furniture and treasure the pieces in my possession, it is these little objects that I know were once touched and used by my ancestors that are the more treasured in my collection.

A family upset by the ravages of war makes a new home in a rough land. Brothers of both Joseph and Mary Caroline had been lost to the war. Mary Caroline's first husband was killed and shortly afterward her only child with him also perished. It is not hard to imagine why they wanted to leave the familiar and strike out for a new life.

A little crystal goblet in the corner of the china cabinet whispers their story to me.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heritage Photos of the Week

These three photos were taken in April 1938. I am particularly fond of them. It shows a man proudly standing with his family - first with his children, then with his sons- and daughter-in-law, and finally with his wife. I'm sure the photos were taken somewhere near Wharton, Texas.

William Henry Frankum, far left, with his children from left to right:
Ivy Wilcoxen, Virgie McVay, Sam Frankum,
Ora Lamb, Ruby Johnston and Linnie Brown.

William Henry Frankum with his kids-in-law, left to right:
Shorty Lamb, Arthur Wilcoxen, Herman Brown,
Bill Johnston, and Nancy Cox Frankum.

William Henry Frankum and his second wife Ada.

The only one missing here is son-in-law Lee McVay. Wonder where he was that day?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Heirloom of the Week

This item will strike a chord of memory with any one in the Hodge family. This little blackboard has been around, I'm guessing, almost 50 years. It started off as a Christmas present to my aunt, who is a mere 3 years older than me. It became the family's instant messaging tool. Back before Blackberries and the Internet, when you arrived at my grandparents' house and they weren't at home, you knew to go check the blackboard. My grandmother would almost always have left a note there to let whoever arrived know where they could be found. "At the peanut field" or "Gone to town".

It's fairly beat up nowadays and it almost made the trash heap when the family was clearing out the house after my grandmother died. I couldn't let this vital piece of Hodge family history go in the dumpster, so I rescued it, brought it home and hung it in my utility room where it remains. Every so often I'm tempted to write a message to let whoever comes in know where I've gone.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Heritage Photo of the Week

This week's photo came to me from my late cousin Beulah McAfee Martin. We were double cousins, actually. Her grandparents, Albert and Mary (Brock) McAfee, the couple on the left, had a child they named Albert Henry. Albert Sr's daughter Nettie by his first wife Johney Elizabeth married Burl Mason. Burl was a widower with several children, one of whom was daughter Susie.

Albert Jr. and Susie married, which made their children the half-nieces of my grandmother Lucy and also her half-first cousins. (One of those children was Beulah.) It has made for quite a tangle of relationships in my Mason and McAfee lines.

The two young people on the right are Albert's and Mary's children Florence and Jessie. The photo is presumed to have been taken at their home in Grassyville, Texas. I estimate the time period to be between 1900 and 1906.

I love this snapshot of family life at the turn of the century. I love the vine covering the porch post. I love the ladder leaning against the side of the house. I love the delapidated shakes on the roof. I love the picket gate, with the shaped peak. This picture is of a real family from a century ago.

This was my great-great-grandfather who fought during the Indian Wars in Kansas with Custer's 7th Cavalry. (More about that in a future post.) This was my great-granduncle Jessie who lived through World War I, only to die from typhoid shortly after he returned home. This was my great-great-step-grandmother who took care of my great-grandmother Nettie when her mother died from a miscarriage. I don't yet have a mental image for great-grandaunt Florence, but I hope one of her family will surface one day to tell me a little of her life story.

The McAfees. My claim to a Scots bloodline.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Heirloom of the Week

On to a new regular feature - Family Heirloom of the Week.

Let's start with one of the more weird in my collection of heirlooms and that is saying a lot. I have quite a few odd items in my family archives.

This heirloom is affectionately known as the Ghost Rock. It has been around as long as I can remember and when I was a child, its facial characteristics freaked me out a bit. It currently resides on a table in my family room and it occurred to me the other day that I wasn't sure where we had acquired it.

When I asked Mother, she immediately replied that my grandparents had plowed it up in the peanut field, but could not remember when. She said we had taken possession of it sometime during the Smiley years and told a story about it having been a mouse condo at one point. The "eyes" were a convenient entry and exit point for the small critters into the hollow interior.

The question remains whether this rock is a natural formation or if it was fashioned by human intervention. Was it used by an Indian medicine man, perhaps? Or did it just quietly form deep in the earth and coincidentally take on the appearance of a face over the years?

This is the kind of heirloom that is hard to categorize. I have two additional rocks with family significance, but they live outside due to their size. It's a little hard to come up with the proper archival methods for preservation of these examples of family history.

But as long as I'm around, they will be honored parts of my home.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Family Legacy

Today I attended the annual Cattlemen for Cancer Research auction in Hills Prairie. Part of the day's festivities includes a silent auction. One of the items today was a plaque that gave a definition of the word "legacy". I liked the sentiment very much and considered putting in a bid, but it was already a popular item and had reached a price I wasn't willing to try to beat. But, I made a point to snap a photo so I wouldn't forget the thought.

Before I settled on the name "Building Blocks", this blog was initially entitled "Family Legacy". This definition expresses the idea very well.

The cumulative effects of an individual's life
which have the potential to influence future generations,
manifested in those beliefs, attitudes, philosophies, talents, and traits
that were impactful enough during the course of a lifetime to
have continuing sway

Genealogy is all about legacy.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Four Older Girls

Over on Woolgathering today I wrote about my Aunt O and her love of bright colors. This is the same Ora who was the baby in the photo posted here a couple of days ago. I remembered I had a photo that showed Aunt O in one of her signature pink outfits.

Sisters (left to right) Ruby, Ivy, Virgie and Ora

I believe the occasion of this photo was my grandmother Ivy's 80th or 85th birthday. I never got to know my Aunt Virgie or Aunt Linnie very well. I'm not sure why. They and their brother Sam lived down close to the Texas coast and we just didn't go that way very often. We would occasionally run into Uncle Sam's family when we were visiting my grandparents, so I did get to know him a little.

But Aunt Ruby and Aunt O were very familiar to me. They both lived in Austin and were especially close to my father, so we saw them often. I loved them both very much and though it's been several years since we lost them, I still miss them. I adored Aunt Ruby, but I always had a special fondness for Aunt O. She and I loved those bright colors.

I'm so glad she wore pink the day of this picture. Whenever I think of her, I always imagine her in pink.