Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Making Connections in Southwest Virginia

One last blog post for 2014. This one is for my niece, Sonya, because she wanted to know.

Despite my absorption with researching ancestors—“the dead ones,” as my daughter once said—I cherish good times with the live ones. Sunday, December 21, 2014, a lovely day of sunshine and blue skies in Smyth County, Virginia, was a day of connecting with living family members.
In the morning, Myron and I drove to Rich Valley Presbyterian Church, one of my favorite places in Smyth County. Established in 1836, this red brick and white stucco church’s significance to my father’s side of the family goes back about 120 years. Usually when I go there, I wander through the cemetery, snap pictures of tombstones, and peer inside the sanctuary at its original dark oak woodwork and pews angled toward the pulpit front and center. 
Beautiful doors at RVPC.

Inside the sanctuary at RVPC.

But this day was the first time I had attended a worship service there.
Being the Sunday before Christmas, we sang old favorite carols—“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” the best. Two little girls sang a duet, lost their place and giggled, gathered their composure and sang on. A young mom told the children a story about Mary. The pastor preached that being favored (or chosen), as Mary was, results not because we are worthy, but we are worthy because we are favored, the same theme as my morning Advent reading.

After church, we stayed for a pitch-in dinner. The best part was meeting Pratt descendants: Greg Pratt and his daughter, Lauren Grace, named for Grayson Pratt; Champ Clark and his mother, a Pratt: Hal and Lynn Campbell and their sons, Will and Patrick. Hal is a mover and shaker at that church, not to mention Southern States cooperative in Marion, where my nephew-in-law, Andy, is the manager. The Pratt descendants compared notes on which Pratt we called 3rd great-grandfather or grandmother.
In the afternoon, we visited with my aunt Noby, who is recovering from a fall, and her son Garry. My brother from Connecticut and my sister and her husband from Missouri joined us. We have all commenced upon the area for the wedding of my brother’s granddaughter.
In the evening, the wedding of my grandniece, Brandi McCall and her groom, Allen Fry, took place at Emory & Henry College Chapel. Warm hugs for a frazzled but lovely mother of the bride, my niece Teri, and her ever calm and wryly smiling husband, Andy. I spotted sister of the bride, Cassie, at the end of a hallway sitting on the floor in her maid-of-honor dress, her high-heeled feet stretched out in front of her—typically Cassie. “These heels hurt my feet; I had to sit,” she said. Entering the sanctuary, we took seats with another niece and her family and my brother’s wife.
The groom stood tall in his Navy uniform, the bride smiled on the arm of her father, who handed her over to the groom. There were candle-lighting and vows; they kissed and strolled down the aisle, husband and wife. The bride came back for her paternal grandmother and pushed her in her wheelchair out of the sanctuary. It was all over in a hummingbird sighting! All that preparation and anxiety became history. The reception was a brief and sweet family reunion.
Wedding of Brandi and Allen.

Monday, December 22, 2014
I’m back on the trail of the “dead ones.” By mid-morning, the sun broke though the December sky laced with angel hair clouds. My husband and I drove through the valley on highway 42 snaking alongside the North Fork Holston, passing familiar cites: Tate Moore’s store (boarded up and empty), my parents’ first home after they married in 1940 (still occupied), the location of my dad’s service station, all in Broadford; Ralph Spencer’s store at Chatham Hill, now closed. Our destination: Ceres, Bethany Rd., and the Bethany United Methodist Church and cemetery. We found it! No problems!
Standing on the grounds of the church my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Waggoner, helped found in 1867,[1] I felt awestruck. It’s a plain building, erected in 1880, lacking the beauty and grace of Rich Valley Presbyterian, but nonetheless historically significant. The original church, Doak’s Chapel, built by Jacob Waggoner, Elias Repass, and Felix Buck, trustees, was replaced by this building. Stark white, two front doors, an evergreen tree next to one corner, an outhouse at the back, his and hers. 

Pulling my coat tightly around me against a cold, brisk wind, I ambled among tombstones in the cemetery. I was hoping to find the grave of Anna F. Harman Waggoner, but it was not to be. “Anna, are you here?” I whispered. Tears filled my eyes. (Why? I wonder.) Anna died so young, in 1871 at age 37 after giving birth to her ninth child. The earliest death date I could find on a tombstone was 1880. If she is there, her marker is unreadable or her grave is unmarked. I felt sure she was there, but where?
This seems to be the oldest section of the cemetery. Several unreadable tombstones dot this corner.

Later, in Marion inside the courthouse, I found a deed that helped answer a question, but also raised another one. Such was my on site research day!

[1] Bland County, Virginia, Deed Book 1: 296-97, Robert and Margaret Doak to Elias Repass, Felix Buck, and Jacob Waggoner, Trustees, 4 November 1867; County Clerk’s Office, Bland. Though the deed shows Jacob Waggoner among the original trustees of Doak’s Chapel, the history published by the Bethany UMC omits his name: “Bethany United Methodist Church, Ceres, Virginia, 1880-1980,” 100th Anniversary celebration pamphlet published by the church; digital copy sent to the author by the Bland County Historical Society, 2 July 2014.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

D. A. and America Troutman: More Children, 1880-1891

After the trauma of losing three children during 1879 and 1880, my great-grandparents Daniel and America Troutman’s next eleven years seem to have been somewhat better—in terms of more children to fill the house, anyway. About six weeks after the census taker visited their house on 2 June 1880,[1] America, or “Merky,” as she was called, gave birth on 14 July to her sixth child, a boy they named James Henry after Daniel’s father—the Henry part, anyway. This was the first of five more children that filled the emptiness left by the deaths of Clifton, Bessie, and Mary Ellen.
Two years later, on 27 September 1882, along came another boy they named Daniel Clark.[2] In January 1884, a tiny girl named Daisy Virginia was born,[3] and on 16 December 1886, my grandfather, blue-eyed Walter Clinton arrived—better know as Clint.[4] About four years later on 8 July 1891, just one month and two days before her 46th birthday, Merky gave birth to her last child a dark-haired boy named Lee Roy.[5] With all those children, I’m sure Merky’s life was beyond hectic.
Until 1887, Daniel seems to have farmed rented land,[6] perhaps never having enough money to buy his own farm.[7] During this time, they lived in Long Hollow, a section of Rich Valley.[8] Their Long Hollow house is probably the one that burned. The family story goes that when the house caught fire, Merky got herself and all the children out before flames engulfed everything. Apparently, Daniel was not home at the time. He quizzed Merky later about whether she had saved the photos, which she did not appreciate. Their lives were more important, she let him know in no uncertain terms: “There you stand with your behind as bare as a bird, and you want to know about picture albums!” Never one to mince words, Merky's temper was legendary. Daniel’s and Merky’s children told their children that their father sometimes sighed during her tirades and said, “If only I’d never crossed those mountains!”
America's parents, Nicholas and Sarah Pratt, perhaps because of the fire, decided to help. On 25 April 1887, they deeded 116 acres of land on the north side of Walker Mountain to America Troutman for the sum of $1.00.[9] On this land, Daniel and America built a new house and finished raising their children. Despite the deed being in America’s name, a 1998 topographical map of Smyth County showing the names of landowners, credits the land to D. A. Troutman. The husband, too often, gets the credit.
This is my map of Smyth County showing locations significant to the Daniel A. Troutman Family. As for distance, it's about 6 miles from Saltville to Broadford; 10 miles from Broadford to Chatham Hill; 12 miles from Chatham Hill to Ceres in Bland Co. (remember, that's where Jacob and Ann Waggoner lived); 9 miles from Chatham Hill to Marion. The Valley Rd. (610) was the road off which the Troutman's lived. Grandma Mary's family lived somewhere along the river in the vicinity of Broadford.

[1] Smyth County, Virginia, Register of Births, Book 1: 158; entry for James H. Troutman; County Clerk’s Office, Marion.

[2] “U. S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images (http://www., accessed 2 December 2014), card for Daniel Clark Troutman, serial number 3142, Local Draft Board, Washington County, Virginia.

[3] 1900 U. S. census, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, Broadford Precinct, sheet 1-B, enumeration district [ED] 84, dwelling 13, family 13, Daisy Troutman; digital image ( : accessed 2 Dec. 2014); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1728.

[4] Smyth County, Virginia, Register of Births, Book D1: 19; entry for Clinton Troutman; County Clerk’s Office, Marion. Note: This book records the year of Clint’s birth as 1887, but all other records for him record the year as 1886. See also, “U. S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images (http://www., accessed 2 December 2014), card for Clint Walter Troutman, serial number 261-61-A, Local Draft Board, Wayne County, Nebraska.

[5] Smyth County, Virginia, Register of Births, Book D1: 47; entry for Lee Roy Troutman; County Clerk’s Office, Marion. Note: Other records place Lee Roy’s birth in August instead of July of 1891: “U. S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images (http://www., accessed 2 December 2014), card for Lee Roy Troutman, serial number 1426, Local Draft Board, Smyth County, Virginia.

[6] 1880 U.S. census, 84th District, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 84, p. 2 (penned), dwelling 32, family 32, D. A. Troutman; digital image, ( : accessed 14 August 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication T9, roll 1390. This census says occupation is “Tenant.”

[7] A search of Smyth County deeds at the courthouse in Marion, Virginia, revealed no records for him.

[8] James Henry’s 1880 birth record states that he was born in Long Hollow.

[9] Smyth County, Virginia, Deed Book 17, p. 202, Nicholas H. Pratt and Sarah Pratt to America A. Troutman, Smyth County Courthouse, Marion, Virginia.

© 2014, Z. T. Noble.