Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Sarah Ann Geer McIntyre: The Courage to Carry On

Only child, orphan, traitor’s daughter, bride, step-mother, widow, single mom, bff, cook, housekeeper, caretaker, Christ follower—all these names fit my maternal great-grandmother, Sarah A. Geer McIntyre. My mother called her Mammy McIntyre. She died many years before I was born, but I heard stories.


Sarah A. Geer1 was born on January 4, 18602 in Smyth County, Virginia, to Margaret Ann Moore Geer (1838-1860), daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Moore3, and William E. Geer (1830-1913).4 Though the couple had been married five years, Sarah was their first known child.5 The couple’s joy at Sarah’s birth turned much too soon to sorrow, for Margaret died just eight days later of “child bed fever.”6 The early loss of her mother was the first in a number of tragedies Sarah would face throughout her life. 


By April 1860, Sarah, age 4 months, lived at Seven Mile Ford with her father, William E. Geer, age 29, a wagoner, and with her grandmother, Celia Geer, age 57. They lived in the home of Henry L. McLure, his wife Lear, and their two children.7 The relationship between the McLures and the Geers is unknown.8


Sarah’s grandmother Celia was herself a single mother. Whether she was widowed or not is a mystery, as is the identity of her children’s father. In 1850 Celia and her two sons, William, age 19 and Thomas, age 12, lived in Washington County, Virginia. Celia was farming.9 Perhaps some of Celia’s resourcefulness in the face of difficult circumstances was passed on to her granddaughter, Sarah.


On June 20, 1861,10 when Sarah was eighteen months old, her father left her with his mother and traveled to Abingdon, Virginia, with his brother-in-law, Theophilus Moore,11 and signed with the 48th Virginia Infantry, Confederate States of America. In 1863 he was captured on the retreat from Gettysburg and imprisoned at Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, Delaware. After ten weeks, William signed the “yellow dog contract,” as the Rebels called the oath of allegiance, and he was assigned to the United States Army’s 1st Regiment Connecticut Cavalry,12 Company G.13 When the war ended, William’s mother wrote to him that it was unsafe for him to return home.14 Consequently, when he was mustered out of the service in Minnesota where he was stationed in October 1865, William stayed there, eventually making his home in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.15 


Back home in Smyth County during the war, Celia took care of little Sarah. Family tradition suggests that Sarah’s maternal aunt, Hannah Moore Allison, wife of John P. Allison, Civil War veteran and farmer, probably kept Sarah after Celia’s death, prior to 1870. During the war, Smyth County endured two battles, one at Saltville (1864), resulting in the destruction of the salt works, and another battle at Marion. How these events affected Sarah and her family can only be imagined. Although specific events of Sarah’s childhood are unknown, it is easy to surmise that a little girl whose father was considered a traitor faced scorn.16

More to come. . .
Sarah A. Geer, c. 1900

1 Sarah’s birth certificate states her name as Sarah A. Gear. In the 1860 census, her name is listed as Sarah Ann, and it is recorded as Sarah Ann in the McIntyre Family Bible, but the name on her tombstone, chiseled by her son, John Martin McIntyre, is Sarah Alice. As for the spelling of her last name, in documents prior to and during the Civil War, the name is spelled G-e-a-r. After the war, it is spelled G-e-e-r. So too, the spelling of McIntyre varies in records: McIntire, McEntire, MacEntire, and McIntyre.

2 Smyth County (Virginia) Register of Births Book 1, p. 15. The spelling of the name in the record is Gear.

3 For Margaret death date: U. S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule, 1850-1880, Smyth Co, Virginia, p. 571, l. 22, citing Margaret A. Geer, 12 Jan 1860; Ancestry (NARA, T1132 Roll 5).

4 The year of William’s birth is unconfirmed. The 1850 census records his age as 19, and the 1860 census records his age as 29, which would indicate that he was born in 1831. However, his enlistment in the U.S. army on October 1, 1863, records his age as 33, and the newspaper in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, reports that his wife, Julia, threw him a 75th birthday party on January 31, 1905, his birthday, both of which would indicate that he was born in 1830.

5 The marriage date of Margaret Moore and William E. Geer is unconfirmed. The only record of their marriage I have found to date is actually a record of their application for a marriage license dated Jan. 4, 1855, located at the Washington County Historical Society, Abingdon, Virginia, STA VA WA 3.1, p. 22.

6 Smyth County Register of Deaths, Book 1, 1857-1896.

7 1860 U. S. census, Smyth Co, VA, p. 888, dwelling 165, family 165, Henry S. McLure, see Sarah Ann Gear; Ancestry (NARA, M653, Roll 1377).

8 Some family researchers have assumed that Lear McLure was William’s sister, but further research of the McLure family revealed no relationship. Henry and Lear were both born in North Carolina, and Lear’s maiden name was most likely

9 1850 U. S. census Washington Co, VA, p. 70B, family 35, Celia Geer; Ancestry (NARA, M432 Roll 980)

10 John D. Chapla, 48th Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1989), p. 124.

11 Ibid., p. 142.

12 Ibid.

13 Veterans Records, Union, Ist Connecticut Cavalry, Company G, Muster Roll, 1 Oct. 1863.

14 “An Old Soldier’s Romance,” Maiden Rock Press, Dec. 1905, n. pag.

15 Ibid.

16 Several years ago, I met a descendant of Thomas Geer, William’s brother. When I told her I was descended from William, she said, “Oh! He was the traitor.” That remark made 120 years after the fact opened my eyes to how difficult it must have been for Sarah to have grown up in a community where people viewed her father to be a traitor.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Answering Liberty's Call: A Colonial Woman's Perspective on War

Historical fiction has captured my imagination since childhood--especially if based in early American history. As we dive into Women's History Month, I'm delighted to introduce guest writer, Tracy Lawson, author of Answering Liberty's Call: Anna Stone's Daring Ride to Valley Forge.

From Tracy Lawson:

Women played no formal role in the American Revolution, yet they were hardly passive observers in the conflict. They took part in public demonstrations against British policies alongside their husbands and brothers and were elemental in the most important protest of all—boycotting British manufactured goods.

The American Revolution changed these women’s lives irrevocably. With their men off to battle, many shouldered the responsibility of running family farms and businesses. They managed their homes, raised children, and mobilized on the home front.


Eschewing manufactured cloth from England, women brought their spinning wheels out of storage, and spinning bees became so popular that they drew spectators. The Boston Evening Post reported on one such event, saying, “the ladies…may vie with the men in contributing to the preservation and prosperity of their country and equally share in the honor of it.”

If honor and glory drove men to the battlefield, the fight for independence must also have ignited women’s pride, tempered thought it was by the pain of loneliness and loss. 


Anna Stone, the protagonist of Answering Liberty’s Call, dislikes the long separation from her soldier husband, Benjamin, even as she shares his desire for independence. It is her faith in him, in the cause of liberty, and in the military’s leadership that bolster her sense of duty and patriotism:


I didn’t protest when Benjamin joined the Culpeper Minutemen in the fall of 1775, for it was every able-bodied man’s duty to serve in the militia. He was delighted—far more than I, to be honest—when the Virginia Assembly called the Minutemen to defend the arsenal at Williamsburg just before Christmastide. When he returned three months later, he was restless. Even though Governor Dunmore’s expulsion from the colony restored peace to Virginia, Benjamin would not be content until the unrest in all the colonies was resolved. 


Though he spent long days in the fields or the orchards, he often rode off after supper to spend a few hours at Edwards’ Ordinary in nearby Fauquier Court House. There, he and his fellows followed the news of the continuing rebellion in the north and rejoiced in the daring exploits of the Sons of Liberty. 


Unsure how to make him understand my worry, I settled for pointing out it did not look well when a preacher spent more time in the ordinary than in church. 


Between Benjamin’s return from the Culpeper Minutemen’s triumph at the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775 and his departure with the Third Virginia in October 1776, the focus of the conflict shifted. Once the Continental Congress declared the colonies’ independence from Great Britain, a return to the status quo was no longer an option. The prospect of fighting to establish an independent new nation must have been both exhilarating and terrifying. Anna recalls her range of emotions on the Sunday Benjamin read the Declaration of Independence aloud to his congregation: 


“Brothers and sisters, surely there is more that binds us as Americans than drives us apart. I ask you, what would you be willing to sacrifice to secure a future free from Crown rule for yourselves and your children?


“It is written, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, ‘For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.’


“In Thomas Paine’s Epistle to the Quakers, he asserts that all men dislike violence and want peace, but there comes a time when violence is inevitable.”


He unrolled the parchment. “This is a copy of our Continental Congress’s Declaration of Independence. The original is on its way to England and King George. I am privileged to be the one to share this message with you. 


“‘In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another …’” 


As he read, I scanned the faces of the people in the congregation and saw the dawning excitement I experienced a few months before. But now, fear overshadowed my excitement. What would independence from England and Crown rule mean? What would it cost to gain it?


As I watched my husband stand before his congregation, I could almost see the fresh flames burst forth from the smoldering coals of his ideals.


Now, as then, a military spouse clings to a sense of patriotism to make a loved one’s service and sacrifice more tolerable. As Anna journeys from her home in Virginia to Valley Forge, she sees firsthand disorganization and corruption within Congress and the army, forcing her to confront complex issues that threaten her sense of patriotism and her support for the cause. 


If you wish to purchase Tracy's book Answering Liberty’s Call: Anna Stone’s Daring Ride to Valley Forge,  here are a few links:


Unison Books online:


Barnes & Noble online store:


Books A Million! online store:




For more information about Tracy’s research:


Also a bonus! Tracy has created a series of six short videos about colonial cooking, music, and fashion. Four of them are demonstrations you'll love of Tracy creating Anna's 1767 wedding ensemble. Here's the link to the playlist:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Appalachian Speech

With a nod to a fellow blogger, Troy D. Smith, Tennessee Wordsmith, I am posting a link to a thorough explanation of southern Appalachian speech patterns. This is the best! Even the comments add to the fun. Love, love, love this!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

1920 Vintage Christmas Cards: So Fun!

Enjoy a few vintage Christmas post cards, mostly from my maternal step-grandmother's collection. They were addressed to Mayo Moses, some sent to Battle Creek, Michigan where she worked for a time. One was sent to her in 1923 at Elliston,VA, c/o Mr. E. J. Grice, and one was sent to her in Tennessee. One card comes from the collection of my father-in-law, Ethod Noble. Merry Christmas, 1920s style!


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Lessons from My Dad: Hand Washing

My father taught me to wash my hands. I spent my formative years living on a farm in northeast Nebraska in the late 1940s and 1950s. If you’ve never seen or smelled farmers in from cultivating or planting or feeding cattle or harvesting, then you need to know, they are often covered in dust and grime of all sorts and they smell like sweat and hay and maybe grease or manure, and there's also an aroma, or aura, of the outdoors.

Dad’s washing routine sticks in my mind. At the Stanton farm, we had a basement with an outdoor entrance and a mud sink. Dad would trot down the steps, doff his coveralls and boots, and roll up his sleeves. Then he would bend over the sink, turn on the water and grab a bar of soap. He would lather his hands until soap bubbles dripped from them, then he would hold them under the running water and rub them together, fronts and backs in a swiping, rotating motion, and scrub his arms up to his elbows. Next he would cup his hands under the flowing water and splash it on his face, washing off the dust from his face and ears and neck. Then he would straightened up, grab a towel and dry his face and neck, swipe the towel through his hair, and dry his hands and arms. Now he was presentable for the table. I learned my hand washing techniques from him.

He also taught me to wash my hands and face first thing in the morning. He would say, “Wash the sandman out of your eyes.” The Sandman came to visit us in the night, you see. We knew because he left sand deposits in the corners of our eyes. So my morning bathroom routine, after relieving myself, has forever been to wash my hands and splash water on my face, Dad's method.

For many years, I thought everyone did that. Children often think what happens in their own homes is the way everyone does it. We learn later from visiting friends that not everyone does the same as we do.

Imagine my surprise a few years ago, while traveling, when I began seeing signs in restaurant and gas station restrooms with instructions on how to wash hands. Don’t people know that? I wondered. I guess not.

Now in this COVID19 crisis, we are given detailed instructions on how to wash our hands. I look at those instructions and think, thank you, Dad.

Dad with three of us children on the farm, Winside, NE, summer 1947.

Dad with pigs on the Winside farm, 1947.

Dad with his cattle on the Stanton, NE farm, about 1955.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Wisdom From My Mother

For over a year, I have neglected my blog. But life happens. For one, my husband retired and we pulled up our thirty-five-year stakes in Indiana and moved to Pennsylvania to live closer to our children and grandchildren.

Moving is an exhausting adventure. It took months to find a house to buy and settle into. Then there was adjusting to our new place: finding a new church (a happy find), new doctors (iffy on this one), new barber/hairdresser (always a problem); getting new license plates, new drivers licenses (ugh!); making new friends and finding our niche in our new community (fun times). Living near our grandchildren meant giving time to them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, something we didn’t have to think about in Indiana because they were so far away. Then I agreed to proofread and edit a manuscript my brother was writing, which turned out to be a monumental, time-consuming project. On and on it goes. Thus, the blog went by the wayside.

For months, I have debated with myself on how to resume. Shall I take up where I left off or start a new direction? The dilemma has left me at a standstill. Yep. Writer’s block--or rather, blogger's block.

Today, I am cautiously resuming my family history blog on a different tic—for the time being. Part of a family history is the spiritual heritage. Where did my parents' strong faith originate? I've wondered. I have found hints from the far past and have reflected often on the example of faith they set for us.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about my mother, Lois McIntyre Troutman, who died August 6, 2008, ten years ago today. If she were still living, she would have celebrated her 96th birthday last month on July 16. So she has been on my mind, especially a few days ago as I read this post on Facebook:

“Always PRAY to have
 eyes that see the
best in people,
a heart that forgives the worst,
a mind that forgets the bad,
and a soul that never loses
faith in God.

Mom would have embraced this motto. Whether she ever saw the idea expressed exactly in that way, I do not know, but she lived it. She particularly applied it to family. Her fierce loyalty to all of us—her siblings, especially—no matter what we did is legendary in the family. If you said anything negative to her about a family member, she would jump to that person’s defense—even if she knew you were right.

What would happen if one of your family members slighted you and your brothers and sisters? An act that might have been lawsuit worthy, even? And you probably would have won. This happened in my mom’s family. What did my mother and her brothers and sisters do? They forgave and forgot. Never heard them mention the incident again. They went on with life as if it had never happened. Family unity and loving relationships were of utmost importance to them.

What better legacy could a mother give her children? Proverbs 19:11 asserts, “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Mom, you are glory. Thank you for seeing the best, forgiving the worst, forgetting the bad, and never losing faith in God.
My mother (standing 2nd from r.), her mother and her siblings.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Nebraska Farm Girl in Puerto Rico, 1940

Even the drive from the hotel in San Juan to a home in Arecibo intrigued Virginia. The ride in a car with two other teachers cost her $1.00, but she had to send her trunk and another bag by express, so she was expecting a bill for that, too. The road, lined with trees on both sides, wound through the hills and valleys. Along the way, she saw “people walking everywhere, some carrying things on their head, some pushing a wheelbarrow filled with avocados, payayas, etc. some leading a skinny old horse loaded down with green bananas.” She saw dilapidated looking “houses built up on stilts, pineapple and sugar cane fields—double yokes of oxen pulling walking plows.”1 Nothing looked like Nebraska.

The home where she stayed was spacious and comfortable, however. She wrote to her parents: “What a lucky girl am I! I came over to Arecibo yesterday morning and am now comfortably settled in a nice Puerto Rican home,” the home of Juan and Carmen Garcia who owned a store in town. Others in the home included the Garcia’s two teenage daughters Rina and Zorita; their niece, also named Virginia, a home demonstration agent who worked with 4-H clubs; and a married couple, also Puerto Rican.2

Besides our Virginia, the “Americanos” in the house included Alexander “Al” Sullivan, an English teacher from Worcester, Massachusetts who was entering his second year of teaching on the island.3 The Garcias were expecting two additional teachers and a social worker to arrive soon to add to the number of boarders. “And if that isn’t enough,” Virginia writes, “I might mention the colored servants,” four of them. The house was large enough that it didn’t seem crowded.4

The piazza in front of the house particularly fascinated Virginia. It teemed with “little ragged dark-skinned urchins running everywhere playing in the narrow dirty streets – beggars and street venders going up and down in front of open shacks crying out in Spanish. Some of them barefooted with big straw hats and some of the urchins absolutely naked. Then again you see Puerto Rican men and women very well dressed carrying their umbrellas, going shopping, etc.”5 It was a mixed bag.

Virginia Troutman in Puerto Rico, 1940.
She described her first breakfast with the Garcias: “Puerto Rican cheese and crackers and a big soup bowl full of oatmeal, but you would never recognize it as oatmeal.” She took time to find out how it was made: “They take oats, soak them, pound them up and run them through a sieve until they get a starchy juice. Then they add sugar and milk and cook it. It tastes like custard with an oatmeal flavor.” She liked it better than oatmeal at home. To top it off she was served “a tall glass of iced peach juice and a cup of hot chocolate.”6 Not bad at all.

On Sunday, she attended high mass with the Garcia women and Al Sullivan. Afterward, they went to the casino. Back at the house, guests filtered in and out all afternoon, and two of the anticipated boarders arrived. Later in the evening they went dancing where drinks were served. “Imagine me getting away with a Cuba Libre / Coca Cola and rum. And then ready for school. Oh me! Oh my!” she wrote in a daily diary.7 She wouldn’t dare put that in a letter to her parents.

She met Mr. Andras, her superintendent who assured her that if she got homesick for American food, she could come to his house and bake her favorite pie. Andras explained that there were two schools, Jefferson and Roosevelt, but they didn’t know for sure which would be her assignment.8

The day before Virginia was to start teaching in Arecibo, she didn’t know what school, what grade, what subjects, nor even the time of day school started. She felt apprehensive. Sullivan tried to reassure her that there wasn’t much to do the first week and “as much as you see fit to do thereafter.”9

The next day, she faced her students. “Imagin[e] . . . my feeling of helplessness,” she writes, “being led into a room with eighty black eyes peering at you and being told, ‘This is your room.’ No paper, no pencils, no books, no chalk and pupils whose knowledge of English is limited . . . to a few nouns. Well one must start someplace. . . .” Later she went to the store and purchased notebooks, ink pens, and a clock. After supper, she worked on her class roster. “My heart goes out to the poor little creatures . . .,” she writes, “and I’m afraid I’m falling for a little fellow who is very striking in black and white, Victor by name.”10

The next day went a little more smoothly. She had one boy in the class, Raymond Cliville, who had lived in New York and spoke English well. At 3:30, Sullivan stopped by and they walked to the Garcia home together. Her books arrived that evening and she began making plans to teach English vocabulary building. She was teaching the slower learners and they were rowdy. Other teachers told her there wasn’t much she could do with them. That was discouraging, but Virginia was determined.11 Even visiting Sullivan’s classroom was discouraging. It was much nicer than hers, and he seemed to be taking everything in stride.12 On Friday, she lost her self-control with the children. She didn’t tell exactly what happened, but she was hoping nothing came of it, and she was she very glad it was Friday.13

That evening, Gallega, a new friend, invited her on a planned weekend trip to El Yungue, a popular mountain recreation area. “It should be an experience,” she writes. “100 sandwiches, 72 bottles of Coca Cola, and 9 quarts of rum which all adds up to ??”14 That should be a great stress reliever.

On Saturday, after laundry and ironing, the group left for the mountain in two cars. She rode in Felix’s car with the other Virginia, Marian, and Sullivan. In the second car, with Gallega driving, rode Julio, Paco, Thelma, Willie, and Margot. They arrived after dark and hauled their gear using flashlights along a path and across a river. They spread out a blanket and shared their food and drinks. At a restaurant nearby, they enjoyed more drinking and dancing. Exhausted and a little tipsy, they finally went to their cabins, one for the men and one for the women, and slept.15

On Sunday, they swam and socialized in much the same way.16 On Monday, they piled into their cars and drove back down the mountain. They stopped at Luguillo Beach, where Virginia swam in the ocean for the first time in her life.17 All in all, it was a rowdy and refreshing weekend for a Nebraska farm girl in Puerto Rico.

Post Card depicting El Yungue (from booklet)
Virginia's note on back of post card.

1 Virginia Troutman, Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to Mrs. Clint Troutman, letter, 24 August 1940; relates news from her adventures in Puerto Rico, her new home, people she met, and teaching responsibilities; Troutman Letters, CD compiled by Leo W. Nelsen, Jr., copy privately held by Z. T. Noble, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Virginia Troutman, Record, diary, 25 August 1940; contains daily entries from 10 August 1940 through December 1940; original privately held by L. W. Nelsen [ADDRESS FOR PRIVAE USE], St. Louis, Missouri; scanned copy sent to the author.
8 Virginia Troutman, Arecibo, P. R., to Mrs. Clint Troutman, letter, 24 August 1940.
9 Ibid.
10 Virginia Troutman, Record, 26 Aug. 1940.
11 Ibid., 28 Aug. 1940.
12 Ibid., 29 Aug. 1940.
13 Ibid., 30 Aug. 1940.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid., 31 Aug. 1940.
16 Ibid. 1 Sep. 1940.
17 Ibid., 2 Sep. 1940

© 2017, Z. T. Noble