to give an overview.
Sunday I thought I would try and call a distant cousin of mine. My Great Great Grandfather was born in Pulaski County, Virginia. He had a half
brother, who was a few years younger who was born there as well and remained there for his whole life.
So, my Great Great Grandfather’s half brother had a son whose name is Howard Ross Sr. The only reason I knew all this is back in the 60′s and 70′s he wrote a book on the Ross family and my Grandfather was given a copy for some of his help with the book. I knew Howard was around 81 years old. It just happened a few years ago, I ran upon a missionary who served in the West Virginia mission. I asked if he ever served down around Bluefield, West Virginia and he told me he served in that ward. I asked if he knew a Howard Ross who was about 80. He laughed and confirmed that anyone who lived in Bluefield knew Howard Ross. That missionary was very helpful in securing his address for me. Well, I wrote ole Howard a letter and to my delight he called me one evening in Logan, Utah while at school (about 2004). I was in the middle of a party of sorts, so I told him I would call him back. Somehow I lost his number and could not call him back. Worst of all, I did not have his mailing address either. On top of that, I did not know how to contact the missionary who gave it to me. So I was where I had left off.
The only thing I remembered from that short conversation was that he personally knew my Great Grandfather and my Great Great Grandfather had visited his family when he was still a boy.
Since moving to Virginia, even while in DC last year, I tried to find Howard Ross. Ross is a common name, and there was not a Howard Ross in the phone book anywhere near the area I needed. I ended up calling several dozen Ross numbers in the book in Western Virginia, but not one knew who I was trying to get. So I had decided I would just have to drive out there and ask people on the street of Bluefield. I never got the courage to do so as it is several hours away and if I found him, I was sure he would be out of town.
Sunday, something came over me, and I thought to try and find him again. I went to my family history and tried to find a name I might be able to only have one or two hits on in West Virginia and Virginia. I decided maybe I would look through my file and see if there were some towns which were small and possibly a Ross might be in one. Well, I saw Naoma, West Virginia as the birthplace of a family. I searched it, and a Willie B Ross came up. I had a Willie B Ross in my file, and so I called. It was a little awkward as I had him as dead. I rang the number and I asked for Willie’s wife. Sure enough, it was her. I told her how I was related and she said she did not know as much about that as her husband and that I would have to talk to him. That was a little awkward knowing he was dead, a little more so when she went to fetch him!
In the conversation with Willie B Ross, he was indeed the person I had in my file (I did not tell him he was dead though). We went through all the
children, dates, birthplaces, and then he gave me his son’s phone number, John Ross. John is a physicians assistant in Beckley, West Virginia and
personally knows ole Howard Ross. Well, I thank them, hung up and called John. It was a good visit with him. He informed me it would have to be
short as his basement was flooding at that moment. He was kind enough to give me Howard Ross’s phone number, and his son, Howard Ross Jr, and his daughter’s number, Sally’s number, and then chatted on and on. I was feeling guilty since his basement was flooding and so I excused myself and let him go.
I then phoned Howard. Number disconnected. I called Howard Jr. Number disconnected. I thought and prayed for Sally to answer. Well, some old man answered and I knew I was at a dead end. I told him my name was Paul Ross. He asked if I was the son of Milo Paul Ross, grandson of Milo James Ross, great grandson of John William Ross, and great great grandson of James Thomas Meredith-Ross. I knew I must be have hit the mark.
He too was in the middle of a family crisis at the moment and visited with me only for a short 20 minutes. In the meantime, I gleaned this much
My Great Grandfather came to visit in the 1930′s. Howard remembered it because he was missing a finger. He asked what happened. Apparently he had a spider bite and because of what was happening to his finger, he dipped it in acid. Well, the doctor said he saved his life, but was going to have to lose his finger. I thought, what an interesting story. He then asked if I knew anything about my Great Great Grandfather. I said I did not. He told me he also came to visit in the 30′s from out California. Apparently he was a Bishop in Fresno, California. He came to visit the family and was upset they did not have a cow. He asked how they could be self-sufficient without a cow. Apparently he went out and purchased a cow for the family for the time he stayed there. Howard roared with laughter when he said then when he left, he went and sold the cow, and went back out west. We had a good little visit about life and where I was, and what he was doing, and then his crisis brought him back to reality and he excused himself. We set up an appointment for a meeting sometime in the spring, he said only if he lived, he was not going to be there if he was dead. I very much hope I can meet up with him, to learn some stories on the side I know so little about.
After hanging up the phone, I called my Grandfather to confirm and pick his brain a little. Grandpa is usually pretty tightlipped about the family, but he opened up about quite a few things last night. Here is some of what I got (combined with what I already know).
He was born in 1921 to John and Ethel Ross in Plain City. Ethel had been in an accident on the old train line that used to go out to Plain City. She
had received some type of settlement from the railroad (documentation I will have to try and find) and then moved to Paul, Idaho and bought a
confectionary. It was on what is now Idaho Street. Dad has a good stash of checks, paperwork, and other stuff from the old confectionary. It was
there, running the confectionery, that she met Mark Streeter after he returned from military service. I don’t know where or how much he served in WWI, but they were married. I don’t know that either, but they had a daughter, June Streeter who now lives in Adelanto, California. Grandpa said Mark Streeter ran off on her.
She kept busy at the confectionery until she met John William Ross. He and all his family had lived in West Virginia in the 1910 Census. I think his
sister, Fanny Ross Phibbs (her husband was Judge Calvin Dickerson Phibbs in Rupert) was the first one out. I think she came first(between 1912 and 1916), and then convinced the rest of her family to come out. Especially with the opening of the new sugar factory at Paul, and the building of the new city for all the employees. Fanny obviously lived in Rupert, and the rest of her family came out. I don’t know when John met Ethel, but he served in the Army. While he was stationed at Fort Logan, Colorado he was a cook. She went to meet him, and in 1920 they were married at Fort Logan. I assume they had met at some time previous to his military service. I don’t know the dates of his military service, and where all he served. Grandpa said he thought his father had been gassed, but was not sure about that. The 1920 Census has him in Colorado as an army cook.
On a side note, John had been married in 1910 in West Virginia. He had a son in 1911 named Hobart. I will get to some stories about Hobart in a
Grandpa was born in Plain City in 1921. Paul was born in Paul, Idaho in 1922. Harold in Burley, Idaho in 1923. Then Ethel had Ernest in 1925 in
Plain City. Ernest was born in July, Ethel died in August, and Ernest died in September.
Grandpa does not remember living in Idaho. Of course, he was probably too young. He does remember his mother’s death. He was terribly upset because they would not let him see his mother in the casket. They said he was too young. He said he was old enough to know his mother was dead and wanted to see her.
He remembers his father afterward bundling them up, they went to Ogden, and caught a train to Idaho. They then lived with James and Damey Ross in Rupert, Idaho. He doesn’t remember his father being around during this time. James and Damey contacted the Sharp’s (Ethel’s maiden name) and had them come get the boys. They could not afford to feet them anymore. Sometime in the early spring, he said Os (Oscar) Richardson and Dale Sharp drove up to Rupert in Os’ Hudson and picked them up. He remembers the drive past the poplar trees from the old town outside the Paul factory through Heyburn, over the river bridge there, through Declo, Malta, and all the way back to Plain City. He lived with Ed Sharp, whose wife was an East; Paul lived with Fred and Vic (Sharp) Hunt, and Harold lived with Delwyn Sharp. Paul in 1922 fell from a barn and died of a concussion a few days later.
From that point on, he never saw his father until 1948. So from 1925 until 1948. Apparently the Sharp’s forbid him from coming to visit. Grandpa has a whole bunch of letters from his father that were sent to Vic Hunt, but they were never given to the boys. Only after she died, did Grandpa and the others find out about the letters. They are actually very tender. Grandpa said his father had told him the reasons why the Sharp’s forbid him from coming to visit, but he did not want to disclose them. He said he was going to say nothing against the Sharp family who were so good to him. (I took that to mean it was not so much John’s fault, but the Sharp’s.)
Grandpa said he got a letter in early June 1948 saying his father was in Livermore Hospital and would only live a few more days. His sons were
requested to come and visit him. Great Grandpa Donaldson, Grandma’s Dad, gave Grandpa the money to go see his father. Harold did not want to go. Grandpa went to Livermore, Alameda County to the hospital. He walked in the building, up the stairs, and right to the room where his father was. He just knew where it was at. He sat down there and saw his Dad in pretty bad shape. This was a veteran’s hospital.
They started to talk. The hospital staff escorted him out because he was to have no visitors. He explained the position, showed them the letter from the Red Cross, and they let him go back in. He stayed there through the night talking with his Dad until he passed away. He said he learned quite a few things. I could tell Grandpa was crying over the phone. He would not tell me most of what he said. He just said he sat there and held his hand while talking through the night.
He found out that he used to take a taxi from Ogden, pick up Betty Booth, and they would ride out to the Sharp farm. John would sit in the taxi while Betty did whatever she was doing there. Grandpa remembers the taxi sitting there by the side of the field and the man and woman waving at him. He never knew that was his father or Betty Booth. Later in life, he said Betty was an old widow who could not take care of herself. Grandpa and Grandma would pay for her coal and Grandpa did repair work for her home. He even reshingled it one year, and Betty’s family made him sign an agreement that she did owe him anything. Her family did not know Grandpa and Grandma were paying for the coal. They thought it was the Maw family, who delivered the coal. Grandpa found it very moving to find out that he had supported the woman who had made it possible for his father to see his children. He thought it was a fitting service.
Grandpa would tell me nothing about what they visited about that night other than his father talked about life. Apparently he married an old widow in California who was wealthy and that took care of him the rest of his days. Grandpa did not know if the widow was still living when his father passed away.
Grandpa then took me through some of his war stories. He dwelt mostly on a recent deal where he had been honored at some stadium for being so decorated during WWII. He said the announcer interviewed him first and this was some of the things he told the announcer.
Those who were decorated during WWII were only the lucky ones who lived through the battle. He said the more that died around you, the more
decorated you became. He said his awards are not for his bravery, but a symbol of how many more died around him and he was fortunate to not have fallen. Grandpa was wounded 4 times during the war. He said they were all part of doing the job just like you smash your thumb once and a while with a hammer while working. He found it terribly disappointing that the longer time goes on, the more we honor the living who made it through the war. He points out that it is the dead who need remembered, not the living. What about those who never had family? Grandpa has a family who will remember him. What of those whose lives were snuffed out and have not family to remember them?
He pointed out to the announcer that a bar of soap was his best friend. He lived for weeks at a time in a foxhole. He even brushed his teeth when he had extra water with a bar of soap. On more than one occasion, a man would jump into his foxhole for cover, and by morning the man was dead. He had spent a couple days with a dead man because they could not get him out. One man he buried there by the foxhole and later told others where he was buried when the battle was over so they could go back for him. He said we don’t understand war. He said do we realize that in a foxhole for days, weeks you have to go to the bathroom. You put some dirt in your helmet, do your duty and set your helmet out of the hole until morning so you could bury it and hope your head was safe uncovered in the meantime. You always hoped you had enough water to rinse out the dust and whatever else so it didn’t stink too bad. The same clothes for weeks at a time, in a very humid, wet environment.
He said his awards for bravery were because he did what needed to be done because he was tired of the foxholes. He wanted to move forward. He was lucky that artillery and others gave enough cover that they were able to take the high ground.
Anyhow, it was a great conversation. I enjoyed the time. He cut it off, said he appreciated the phone call, and to call again some time. He then
hung up. (In usual Ross fashion, we are not much for telephone etiquette)
It was an interesting conversation. A man who never knew his father really, then had a crash course for a day until he died. His mother is only a
memory of younger childhood. Ed Sharp from what I understand was very hard worker and worked his children just as hard. I need to talk to Dean and get some more information about his parents before he gets too old.
Well, that story pretty much ends there. But there is another one that goes with it.
I started looking at applying for University of Virginia Law when I noticed it asked for family members who had gone to UVA. I remembered Evelyn Hoogland (who is a first cousin of my Grandma Ross through the Van Leeuwen family) telling me her daughter graduated from UVA. I needed to know what year she graduated. I called Evelyn and she gave me Kay’s phone number and told me to call her. So I called my cousin, Kay Hoogland. She graduated in 1981 from UVA and I remember Evelyn showing me a magazine or two with Kay on the front page. I knew Kay had made a name for herself. I phoned her at home outside Chicago. We had a wonderful visit and like we were old friends, I enjoyed our talk. She gave me encouragement, offered help, proofreading, even a letter of introduction. I was thrilled. She gave me one professor to contact and get to know who apparently is from Northern Utah. His name is Richard Merrill, and with a name like that, I would assume is related to Marriner Wood Merrill and his family comes from Cache Valley. I guess I could even be related to him! We will have to pursue that end.
It is time to wind down, and I am over my time limit. I learned a whole heap on Sunday. Made some new connections, and I hope opened some doors. I only scored average on the LSAT (only those who were diligent to read this far will get this news) so I am going to need a miracle to get into UVA or any other wonderful law school. Kay could be the unlocking of that miracle. More importantly, I unlocked a great number of doors to my own history and family on Sunday. The Spirit of Elijah is alive and well. An effectual door has been opened, and there are many more yet to come!
Time for rest and FHE. Love to you all. I love you, I know the church is true!