Speaking of roots, I had a dental appointment on Friday. Due to Measles as a baby, I have ameliogenesis imperfecta with several of my teeth. Basically, some of my teeth have deformities. One of which is that the nerve in one tooth reaches quite a bit higher than normal. Also linked with the deformity of the drugs (legal!) I took in the early 80′s, those teeth are weaker and more susceptible to problems. Many, many years ago I had a filling put in the tooth that touched on that high reaching nerve. Over the years that nerve touching the filling, in addition to a slight tapping from the tooth having moved (from squash racket trauma about 2000), and just normal advancement of time that root has decided to pass away. Yes, I am the owner of a slowly dying tooth. I have been placed on antibiotics to keep the nerve from getting infected as it decays. In the next few weeks I will experience my first root canal.
On an interesting note, once Dr. Spitzer saw my x-ray of the teeth he quickly noted how long the roots are on my teeth. Amanda confirmed to me later that during the freak show discussion that ensued my teeth roots were measured at 25 mm long. Amanda tells me that the normal individual has roots approximately 15 mm long. The dentist commented how he may have to order some longer tools to work on the tooth. Whether it was in jest or not, I have come to appreciate how different I really am. Deep down inside I always knew I was special. Now I know it is a good 10 mm deeper why I am special.
So we have frantically tried to figure out how we would pay for what a root canal and crown would cost without insurance. When in the mail today I received an invitation to join the insurance for my work. As generous as they are, I will now have dental insurance. Now I just have to find how long of a waiting period I will have with a tooth that has become highly sensitive to hot and cold with slight throbbing from time to time.
Anyhow, on to the story of Pulaski County, Virginia. My Ross line left Pulaski County about 1912 and headed to settle in Rupert, Idaho. The daughter, Fannie had married a Phibbs from Pulaski and Carroll County and moved out previously. Her husband was the Minidoka County Judge in Rupert. With the opening of the new Sugar Factory at Paul, the rapid expansion of irrigateable farm land, and an economic downturn in Pulaski it was time to move. James Thomas Meredith Ross who I have written about before followed his daughter Fannie. His other three children would follow to the west. James would later settle in the Vernal area. The Phibbs would eventually end up north of Sacramento, California. John would roam for many years marrying in West Virginia, Colorado, and Wyoming. He would die in Alameda County, California. Robert we don’t really know what happened to other than he died in California about 1944.
While I have written about all of that previously, James Thomas Meredith Ross would leave behind his half brother William Andrew Ross. William would marry and move to West Virginia. He lived in Gary, WV most of his life and raised his family there. He worked in the mines coal mines. He and Sarah (Sallie) had 12 children. The youngest of which is Howard Ross born in 1925.
It was Howard we went to visit this weekend.
Howard is the only remaining individual of his family. He was born in Thorpe, West Virginia and moved to Bluefield, West Virginia many years ago. He lives in a home perched on the side of a hill on Essex St. He had 3 children, and a step child he helped raised. He worked in or with the mines all his life. His wife past away a few years back and he lives in the home with his grandson and future granddaughter-in-law.
I knew of Howard because he had spent so much of his life pursuing family history. Grandpa gave me a copy of one of his books he had written about 1972 on the Ross family. That is how I knew who he was and that he was related. By the time I came home from my mission I did not expect him to be alive anymore until one day in Twin Falls I was visiting with a missionary who had served in the West Virginia Mission. I told him of Howard (I knew he was LDS) and the missionary not only knew of Howard, he had his address and phone number. He gave it to me and I called Howard.
I have looked forward to meeting Howard for several years and of visiting the famous Pulaski County. The valleys surrounding Pulaski County had already been home to the Graham and other families for over a hundred years by the time Pulaski County was formed in 1839. There Meredith, Martin, Booth, Shepherd, and other families were well entrenched. But my main interest was in going to the area where my family left before heading west.
Friday we drove out to Pulaski County and arrived after dark. We spent the night in a hotel at Claytor Lake just over the border into the county. The next morning we drove into Pulaski and just got a feel for the town and then headed for the hour and half drive to Bluefield to see Howard.
Bluefield turned out to be what you would imagine a town 50 years ago. The little streets, little yards, flags on every house, and a good percentage of people sitting on their porch. It was a lazy, hazy, day in summer. We wound through the streets of Bluefield following our directions to Essex St. Wow, as if we were not impressed. One side of the street was wood and the other side of the street were homes perched on the side of a hill probably 75 to 100 feet up. This hillside was probably at a 45 degree angle. We found the home and climbed the steep stairs to the rickety old porch.
I don’t mean to sound negative, but we had entered what you joke about with rednecks. These homes sat precariously sitting on the side of this hill and had not had any care in the last 40 years. There was a hand made 2X4 railing up this terribly steep hike and at the top the porch wood buckled with every step. Howard met us in the open door and invited us in. We sat there in a relic of the 1930′s with only the television and sofa to remind us we were actually not in the mid 20th century.
Howard sat there talking with us in a most happy manner with his eye patch and asking for us to repeat often what we said. Moreover, he spoke with that thick gentleman manner which so permeates the old confederate ideal. His joking ways were jovial and we had quite the good conversation.
I took him with my computer through all the descendants of William Andrew Ross and he updated quite a bit of my information. We also showed him a number of pictures I thought he would be interested in from my side of the family. He then told us a few stories.
Uncle Jim (my great great grandfather who went west) had come to visit in the 1930′s where they lived in Gary, West Virginia. It was the late 1930′s because the family had all gone to attend a Conference of the church in Grundy County, Tennessee. One of the speakers that morning was Jim Ross, Howard’s Uncle. The children did not attend but afterward all these people kept coming to his mother and commenting about how powerful Mr. Ross had been in his preaching. Howard’s mother had to set them all straight that it was not her husband but her brother-in-law. Howard remembers the day because it was the day he was baptized. They would meet for the morning meetings and then have a big meal and baptisms in the middle, and go back to conference in the afternoon.
They went back home after the conference and Uncle Jim came and stayed for a spell. Howard remembers Uncle Jim taking the wash basin out to the fields and coming back with a huge amount of corn. He then told Howard’s mother to cook all the corn and they would eat it for dinner. When Uncle Jim found out they did not have any milk, he went out and purchased a milk cow and brought it back for them to have milk. (This isn’t necessarily all the same night). Howard remembers that he was so thoroughly struck by how much Uncle Jim could eat. Howard swears Uncle Jim must have pushed near 300 pounds and that man could eat. Howard laughs and laughs about how when Uncle Jim left he went and sold the cow and they didn’t have milk for years afterward.
Howard remembers Uncle Jim was missing a finger. He doesn’t remember which one, but he did ask how he lost it. Apparently he had been bitten by a spider and as the finger started to rot and decay he finally just cut it off. The Dr. apparently told him he had saved his life by taking the finger off.
That was about all he remembered of Uncle Jim. He knew he moved to California after Idaho and Oregon. While in Fresno he served as a Bishop of an LDS ward for quite a few years. Uncle Jim was always a Ross to him even though he took the Meredith name back after moving to California. The timeline in relation to the name I have told previously.
John Ross, or Jack as he was known, also made a trip out to West Virginia to visit. He came out after his second wife had passed away (my great grandmother) and tried to convince his first wife to marry him again. She wasn’t having any of that and Jack left empty handed. Howard never met Hobart Day, Jack’s oldest child with his first wife.
Howard doesn’t remember ever meeting any of the rest of the family. Donna Phibbs Beachell came out to visit in the 1970′s and spent quite a bit of time with Howard. They wrote often over the years, some of which letters I mentioned were sent to me in the papers of Howard from John Ross.
Howard was very interested in what I had found out on the Meredith family and I told him what I was pretty sure to be correct. He related to me more of the stories of what he believed happened to his grandfather but until further information comes out to prove the James Meredith story of the Harvy Ross story, we still really don’t know for sure. I think mine is pinpointed quite a bit more firmly than his.
Howard then gave us a bit of the history of the LDS church in West Virginia. He had us drive him down to the Bluefield Ward Building over the border in Bluefield, Tazewell County, Virginia. He gave us a tour of the building. We met the Bishop and a few other people.
We went back to the house and he asked that I give a blessing to his daughter, Sarah who lives next door. She has MS and various other problems that come with smoking, MS, and the redneck lifestyle. I will tell you now, I was alarmed that 82 year old Howard regularly climbs and descends those stairs out front. They were so steep I didn’t feel safe especially with an old man struggling up them. I gave a blessing to a woman who didn’t want it but whose father insisted. Talk about a little awkward of a position. We then went next door where he asked I give his future granddaughter-in-law a blessing. Not only did he want a blessing for her, but the unborn child as well. That was my first experience I remember blessing a baby in the womb. Both turned out to be special events. I enjoyed them and Howard became choked up after the second of the two. My oil holder had become cracked and did not stay together any more and so we had to make due with a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small glass bowl. Under the circumstances it was the best we could do and we were richly blessed on the occasion.
Interestingly, the kitchen is exactly how you would have found it in the 1940′s. The sink, the ironator, cupboards, and more were all of proper vintage. Sadly, that was probably the last time they were cleaned. It was quite humbling to see the faith of this man in such humble circumstances.
We left with my promising to do the ordinance work for his son and him after he had passed away. He joked, part seriously, that through family history he had prepared the way for hundreds to enter heaven despite his own lack of achieving the same goal.
Amanda and I left and wound our way back to Pulaski County. There we wound our way through the desolate parts of county roads trying to cross the New River. We found our way across and went through the little towns of Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville. All towns of which were heavily populated by those of my ancestry. It was interesting to drive along and recognize names on mailboxes and say to Amanda, “They are probably related.”
We drove back across the river up to Newbern, past Dublin, and back to Pulaski. There we enjoyed our dinner, as we had our breakfast, at the Sonic Drive-In with gift cards that had been given to us for helping a lady move into the ward.
Afterward we hit the road to try and make Tennessee for some souvenirs and then across Southern Virginia to other ancestral locations. We realized we were too far from Tennessee too late in the day to make it so at Rural Retreat (how is that for a name?) we turned and headed east. We drove through Independence (Grayson County) and crashed for the night in Galax (Carroll County). Both counties are heavily tied to me as well. Sunday morning we awoke and made our way to Hillsville (Carroll County Seat), Martinsville (home of the Martins of which I am related), over to Danville, north to Keysville and Farmville, and home to Richmond.
It was a long weekend but very worthwhile. I really enjoyed getting to see Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville. Maybe someday we will get to go back. Maybe Howard will be around when it comes time for us to head back west in a year.