Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday – Nancy Maness

My great-great-grandfather's third wife, Nancy Pool Maness, had a bit of mystery about her. Her son-in-law, the informant on her death certificate, didn't know her date of birth and she's missing in the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Despite her dramatic death — having been killed by a train — I couldn't find any mention of the accident or an obituary in the regional papers. Perhaps her tombstone would at least fill in a date.

Nancy's death certificate clearly states that she was buried in Brown Cemetery. I found modern transcriptions online through Find A Grave and RootsWeb, but no Nancy. Although there are several hundred graves listed, I couldn't find a management office for the cemetery. So I added the cemetery to my Virginia itinerary, hoping it wouldn't be so large that I couldn't find anything.

Directions and GPS led me north of Radford, along a winding road in the low mountains with glimpses of a parallel railroad track.

As I turned into a steep drive, I laughed at myself, realizing why I hadn't been able to find an "office." Brown was a family cemetery that grew into a community cemetery. On top of a hill in the countryside, the stones stand out in dramatic outline against the evening sky. The cemetery looks down on the railroad track to the east and a large pasture with cows to the west.

The sun cast a burst of rays through the clouds as I walked, row after row, reading the names. I never found Nancy, or Fannie (who was also buried there), or Nancy's parents. A few stones were completely obscured by a black mold. Patterns in the grass told me there are many unmarked graves. Sadly, I saw a few from this century that still have temporary markers – future unmarked graves for those either too poor or too alone to afford a permanent gravestone.

At least I saw the cemetery, in some way paying my respects. Perhaps there's a book or a file somewhere that has an older list, including stones that aren't there anymore.

After a good dinner and a night's rest in Radford, I returned to the courthouse in Pulaski to finish looking through the chancery file. Before heading back to North Carolina, I stopped in the old courthouse and then the Ratcliffe Transportation Museum. The latter has a scaled model of the town of Pulaski in the 1950s, as well as a museum of local history.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Nancy Pool Maness – part 2

Since finding my great-great-grandfather's third wife, Nancy Pool Maness, who had a daughter (Fannie B. Maness Sifford) and later died in a tragic accident, I wanted to know more about her life. I don't find Nancy until the 1920 census, which leaves a huge gap since 1880. I've never found Thomas in any census, except 1870 with his first wife and children. Did he stick around a few years, or did his wanderlust take him away before Fannie ever knew him (like in his second marriage)?

The 1920 census gave me a clue: Nancy owned her own home in the Dublin Magisterial District, Pulaski County, Va. Perhaps a deed or a will would mention Thomas. So I traveled to Virginia a few weeks ago for a short research vacation.

I started looking in the Pulaski County Courthouse in the town of Pulaski. The only index reference I found listed Nancy Poole Manes [sic] estate as grantor.

Nancy actually lived in Belspring, not the city of Dublin. The deed book mentioned property sold in a case of Mrs. Agnes Maness, plaintiff, against Charles P. Sifford. I recognized Charles as Nancy's son-in-law, Fannie's husband. There were no details.

More information was in the Chancery Court records, those large tomes similar to deed books. Entries spanned several years in the 1920s. The court ordered Nancy's house to be sold at auction. "Infant defendants" — minors — were mentioned without names. Were they Charles' and Fannie's children, or others? Who was this Agnes Maness?

The answers were in the Chancery Court files. All of the papers related to the case, from the initial complaint around 1924, were tied together and filed under the case closing date of 1932. And what treasure they contained!

Agnes Manes had been married to Thomas Cleveland Manes (this branch of the family dropped an "s"). As the complaint states: "the said Cleveland Manes and Mrs. Nannie Sifford were the only two children of Mrs. Nancy Manes who died at Belspring, in said county, several years ago, intestate, and leaving the said Cleveland Manes and Nannie Sifford as her [sole] heirs at law." Both children died soon after their mother, and this case was between in-laws.

After the house was sold in 1926 and the assigned commissioner and guardians agreed on distribution, each grandchild received $16 to $25 dollars, with a larger amounts of $105 going to Charles and $36 to Agnes.

I can imagine the situation from my own experience: Charles, who still lived in the vicinity and had grown children with one boy at home, was in no hurry to clean out and sell his mother-in-law's house. Perhaps he thought one of the grandchildren would live in it, someday. Agnes, who lived in Pennsylvania and had no sentimental ties to the home, and whose coal-miner husband's death left her with six small children and no income, needed whatever she could get to survive. The case doesn't seem too contentious, as Agnes did not require anyone to be bonded and Charles signed a paper agreeing to sell the house. But I imagine these two families, living in different states, did not remain close. Both spouses eventually remarried.

The more I find, the more questions arise. Cleveland was born in 1886, nine years after his sister. Does that mean that my Thomas Maness stayed in one place for a decade, fathering that second child? Did he wander off, but come back to Nancy later? Or did Nancy meet some other man after Thomas left? With her husband missing, she would not have been able to remarry.

Cleveland's obituary doesn't mention his parents, and I haven't yet found a death certificate or any other record that does.

Thomas' next known whereabouts was in 1895, when he married wife number four in Moore County, N.C.

Next time: Searching for Nancy's grave

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Searching for wife number three – part 1

In trying to fill in the life of my colorful ancestor, Thomas Swain Maness, I found out his third marriage was in Virginia, to Nancy Pool in 1876. They married in Giles County, which is right next to Pulaski County, which seemed to confirm our family's oral history that he left home to find a job at the Bertha Zinc Mine.

The 1880 census lists Nancy by her maiden name, living with her parents. Thinking that she might have found out about Thomas' other marriages and considered herself single, and not finding her in a later census (1890 missing), I'd stopped looking.

Then last year I ran across Nancy's death record. Her name had been horribly mistranscribed in Ancestry as Nannie Mares, but it popped up while researching her father, Moses Pool. Like Thomas' other wives who never knew what happened to him, she considered herself a widow. It's a sad record, as the informant didn't know her birthdate or much about her, and she was "Accidentally killed by train."

Not only did Nancy keep her married name, but the informant's name led me to a child. Fannie B. Maness, daughter of Nancy and Thomas Maness, married railroad engineer Charles P. Sifford. I have more cousins in Virginia!

Next time: Finding a surprise in the Virginia court records!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Civil War illustrations from Harper's Weekly

Several single-page illustrations from Harper's Weekly have arrived in the bookshop. These pages, over 150 years old, depict events just a few weeks after they happened.

From the June 7, 1862 issue: General McClellan's Army on the March Through the Woods from Williamsburg Toward Richmond - Sketched by Mr. F. Meyer.

July 19, 1862: The Army of the Potomac—Captain De Hart's Battery Shelling the Rebel Advance at the Battle of Gaines's Mills

August 6, 1864: General Sherman's Advance. This illustration shows the "View of Atlanta from the Signal Station," sketched by Theodore R. Davis.

These and more are at the bookshop in Archdale, but you can e-mail me if you live elsewhere. My favorite is in the online shop: a two-page spread of the Civil War (northern) ironclad navy from September 13, 1862. You can see more detail here.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Happy 50 Years of Star Trek!

50 Years of Star Trek

Today (Sept. 8) is the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek: "The Man Trap." The sixth episode filmed (including two pilots), the story of the salt-hungry shape-shifter was the first one aired as a "sneak preview" of the new series in 1966.

I was too young to remember the first season, but I vaguely remember watching the series on our small black-and-white TV in the kitchen. My imagination merged with those early viewings until it took me years to accept that the Orion slave girl wasn't blue (oh, green is easy for you NOW).

Growing up with Star Trek (especially in syndication), with its co-ed, multicultural cast of characters, plus the early space shuttle program, influenced my love of space and aviation. I studied aerospace engineering in college and worked in that field for nearly two decades.

Looking back at the series, now, the pilots and first season evolved characters and props so quickly — like Spock's deeply slashed eyebrows and velour uniforms, Sulu changing from science officer to helmsman, Majel Barrett changing from "Number One" to Nurse Chapel. To see the changes, I was trying to decide whether to watch it in production order or as-aired.

The salt-eating creature impersonates Dr. McCoy.
Netflix made the decision for me: they sequence episodes in the order in which they aired.

I'm going to enjoy watching how the now-famous characters grow in these early episodes. In "The Man Trap," Lt. Uhura starts out at the helm or nav station, and later tries to flirt with Spock as he mans the captain's chair. The first casualty is...a blue shirt! Then another blue, and a gold (no red shirts!). Missing from this episode: there's no sign of James Doohan or Majel Barrett.

Will you celebrate Star Trek's anniversary by watching episodes, watching movies, reading fan fiction, or any other way?

Source: Allan Asherman, The Star Trek Compendium, Pocket Books, 1993.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Shirley Deane — entertainer, world traveler, world changer

I got to meet Shirley Deane!

Who is Shirley Deane? — you ask. I didn't know until a couple of years ago. Her book, An Unreasonable Woman: In Search of Meaning Around the Globe, sat on a shelf in my bookshop for at least a year. The title was intriguing, but the cover illustration just didn't grab me. I kept moving it from place to place, until one day I read the blurb, flipped through a few pages, and I was hooked.

Amidst a successful career in music and entertainment, Shirley dropped all that and drove half-way around the world in a Land Rover, by herself except where forced to travel with armed guards.

After a stormy romance in the Middle East, she gave up all her worldy possessions as part of a spiritual journey in India.

Her adventures continued as she edited and published a book on Black South Africans, despite break-ins and death threats from an Apartheid regime.

Shirley Deane and Elizabeth Saunders
Shirley writes her story in simple, quick-moving prose. It's rare to find a nonfiction book that races along like a novel. I devoured the book, then passed it on to a friend.

I was delighted to attend Shirley's recent booksigning at Scuppernong Books.

At "nearly 80," she exuded life and feistiness as she recounted some of her stories.

Take $10 Off Your Purchase of $100 Or More On New & Used Textbooks With Code BNTXTBK10! Shop BN.com

Friday, August 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, Gene Roddenberry!

One of the items in the Star Trek collection is an envelope of Gene Roddenberry's birth records. He would have been 95 years old today!

These are copies printed around 2002 and signed by the county clerk of El Paso, Texas. The map shows the 1921 location of Roddenberry's house.

After I listed the documents on eBay, I looked in the envelope and found something else: a photo of a florist shop in a little shopping center, on the former site of the house.

A modest beginning for the creator of a fantastic phenomenon!