Ross – Sharp Wedding

Jack and Ethel Ross holding June Streeter about 1920 in Paul, Idaho.

Milo Riley and Mary Ann “Lilly” Sharp are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Ethel to John William “Jack” Ross, son of James Thomas and Damey Catherine Graham Ross.  They were married at Fort Logan, Arapahoe, Colorado by an Army Chaplain (Julius J Babst) on 11 January 1920.

Jack is currently employed with the US Army as a cook at Fort Logan, Colorado.

The couple will return to make their home in Plain City, Utah as soon as he completes his enlistment with the Army.

Jack Ross was born 2 September 1890 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  He was the second of four children born to James Thomas Ross and Damey Catherine Graham.  Read more about Jack’s parents here.  We really do not know much of Jack’s childhood.  His mother joined the LDS church on 27 February 1898 and his father on 17 April 1898 in an unknown location.  Jack and his older brother Robert Leonard joined on 30 July 1900.  I have been unable to find the Ross family on the 1900 Census.  By July 1906, the family was living in or near Welch, McDowell, West Virginia working in the coal mines when Fanny and James were baptized.  Jack married Nannie May Day (she went by May) on 6 July 1910 in Squire Jim, McDowell, West Virginia.  To this marriage was born Hobart Day Ross (who later went by Hobart Day) on 1 Jun 1911 in McDowell County, West Virginia.

James and May Ross holding Hobart about 1912

Jack’s younger sister, Fanny Elizabeth married Calvin Dickerson Phibbs on 22 December 1906 (listed as a miner) and then moved to Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho in 1912.  Initially Calvin and Fanny moved to Rupert and purchased 80 acres to the northeast of Rupert.  He dabbled with cattle and real estate while also working as an electrician.  (He was eventually elected as Rupert City Clerk and in 1918 as Minidoka County Probate Judge.  He was admitted as an attorney to the Idaho bar 15 December 1919.)  At any rate, in 1911 the construction of a new sugar factory in Burley, Cassia, Idaho was drawing a number of potential workers.  Word reached the remaining Ross clan in West Virginia, probably from Fanny, of the upcoming opening.  The remaining Ross family rode a train of coal from McDowell County directly to southern Idaho.

Jack’s wife, May, did not come with him for one reason or another.  She divorced him shortly afterward and remarried to Andrew Cleveland Parson(s?) on 22 November 1913 in Gary, McDowell, West Virginia.  We do not know anything of the Ross family between 1913 and 1917 other than they were working at Amalgamated Sugar in Burley.  Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army on 23 April 1917 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and served in Battery E, 4th FA Rec Ser; Co. C, 21st Bn USG; 5 Rct Co (I do not know what any of that means) at Fort Logan, Arapahoe, Colorado, until 6 June 1919 when he was permitted leave.  He had obtained the rank of Sargent and was awarded the WWI Victory Button and Medal.  As far as I can tell, he never left U.S. soil.

Jack’s parents were working on farms around the area during the summers and then at the factories during the winter.  Robert listed his parents as living in Idahome, Cassia, Idaho in September 1918 when registered for the World War I Draft.  Jack’s parents moved to Paul, Minidoka, Idaho and started working on the first beet campaign in 1918 at the new Paul Amalgamated sugar factory.  Jack visited his parents in Paul on leave (starting 6 Jun 1919) and it was there he met Ethel Streeter running a store on Main Street, now Idaho Street, only a block or two from where his parents lived.  Jack reported back at Fort Logan on 13 August 1919 to 12 August 1920 when he was discharged from Fort Logan.

Ethel Sharp was born 9 April 1898 in Plain City, Weber, Utah.  She was the 11th child (8 siblings living by the time of her birth) of 12 children born to Milo Riley Sharp and Mary Ann Stoker, AKA Lillian “Lilly” Musgrave.  I have written about this family at this link: Sharp-Stoker Wedding.

Ethel was confirmed in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Plain City 15 May 1912.  Somewhere during this decade she was involved in a train accident on the Utah-Idaho Central Railway line between Plain City and Ogden, Weber, Utah.  I have been unable to locate any newspaper clippings or other information on this accident.  Anyhow, she obtained a settlement for her injuries.

She married Mark Lewis Streeter of West Weber, Weber, Utah on 7 May 1917 in Ogden.

Mark and Ethel Streeter

She made large deposits at Ogden First National Bank in June 1917, potentially her settlement.  We have checks from not long after that through August 1918 written out from Paul State Bank.  Interestingly, the checks state, “Paul is the Cream of the Minidoka Project, We Have the Cream of Paul.”

I have written about the photos recently found which include two photos of the Streeter Ice Cream & Confection Parlor.  Ethel Sharp and Streeter Confection.

Ethelyn June Streeter was born 4 June 1918 in Paul (she died in 2012).  Pictures of June are at the link in the preceding paragraph.  The divorce of Mark and Ethel was final after Mark had enlisted in the Army 3 March 1919.  Mark indicates in his autobiography that after he enlisted and left Ethel fell in love with Jack and that was the reason for their divorce.  Jack did not meet Ethel until June 1919, three months after Mark enlisted in the army.  Jack returned from his leave in Paul to Fort Logan in August 1919.  Ethel ventured to Fort Logan in January to marry Jack.  The 1920 Census lists him as a cook just days before Ethel arrived and the two were married.  She left little June with the Streeter family in Ogden.  We do not know much about the short dating period, but she traveled all the way to Colorado to marry him.  Whether she was head over heels for a poor military boy or something else, we do not know.  We do not know how long she stayed in Colorado or even if they came back together after his discharge.  We assume Ethel sold the store before going to Colorado.  After his discharge, Jack and Ethel moved to Plain City and he worked for Amalgamated Sugar Company at the Wilson Lane factory.  This was roughly a 7 mile walk to work one direction.  Milo James Ross was born 4 February 1921 in Plain City in a little log home just to the west and north of about 2971 N. 4200 W.  I have written of Milo James Ross at this link: Ross-Donaldson Wedding.  Here is a picture of the little log cabin in about 2005, shortly before it was torn down.

At some point, Jack and Ethel found their way back to Paul where Jack worked in the fields and at the sugar factory.  Paul Ross was born 14 February 1922 in Paul.  Work took Jack back to the Burley sugar factory and John Harold Ross (who went by Harold) was born 7 November 1923 in Burley and then moved back to Paul.  By 1924, Jack and Ethel were living with Jack’s parents and trying to make enough to get by.  Milo remembers walking to church in Paul before his mother died, he thinks a Presbyterian or Episcopal church.

To ease the load on his parents, the family moved back to Plain City.  Ethel gave birth to her last child, Earnest Jackson Ross, on 16 July 1925 in Plain City.

Sadly, Ethel passed away 21 days later on 6 August of puerperal septicemia (Blood poisoning from obstetric delivery).  Earnest lived to 20 September and he passed away in Idaho from malnutrition.  Jack is listed as the informant on the death certificate for Ethel.  Jack could not afford burial plots so Edward Sharp, Ethel’s brother, provided the burial plots where Ethel and Ernest are buried in Plain City.

Milo tells the story of the funeral for his mother.  He remembered that he was not permitted to look into the casket to see his mother.  The casket was up on the table and he could not see a thing and all he wanted to see was his mother.  Within days Jack took the four children back to Idaho and dropped them off with his parents.  Milo remembers his father riding the train holding baby Earnest in his arms.  Earnest passed away in Rupert.  James and Damey Ross took care of the remaining children through the winter of 1925-26.  June and Milo do not remember their father being there for the winter.  June’s only real memory of this period was of creamy buttered potatoes that were common and that she acquired a great love for.

By the time spring rolled around, Jack or his family had contacted Ethel’s family in Plain City and indicated they could not afford to feed and take care of the children anymore.  Os Richardson, Ethel’s brother-in-law drove to Idaho to pick up the four children.  Milo remembers the drive from Paul along the poplar lined highway from Paul past the sugar factory down into Heyburn, across the old river bridge through to Declo, Malta, Strevell, and back to Plain City.  The children were “farmed” out to family.  Milo was raised by his Uncle Ed Sharp, Paul by his Aunt Vic Hunt, and Harold by his Uncle Del Sharp.

We have very little information on what occurred in the life of Jack from this point on.  He found his way back to West Virginia where he tried to convince May to remarry him.  She had remarried and was having none of that.  This is the last time Hobart Day Ross ever saw his father.  Hobart went on to become a preacher.  He awoke blind one morning after being kicked in the head by a horse.

Jack found his way to Rock Springs, Sweetwater, Wyoming where he married a lady named Zana Cogdill on 29 November 1926.  She was previously married to Frank Coffey and was going by his name.  I have been unable to determine what happened to Frank.  She had a son already named Orval A Coffey. The 1930 Census on 2 April 1930 finds the two of them in Crawford, Delta, Colorado where he is working as a foreman in a battery shop and living with the brother of Zana’s first husband (?!?).

We do not believe this marriage lasted very long either.  Jack made several visits back to Plain City to see his children.  He would take a taxi out to Plain City, pick up Betty Booth, and the two would ride over to the fields where Milo was working.  We assume the same happened with Harold.  Paul died from a concussion in 1932 after falling out of a barn.  The car would pull up at the end of the field and would toot its horn and Milo could see the occupants wave.  It was not until he visited his father in 1948 that he realized this was his father waving at him across the way and that the lady was Betty Booth.  (Interestingly, Milo had given assistance to Betty Booth in the form of coal and helped pay some of her Dr.’s bills before she passed).

Jack reappears for the mandatory draft registration for World War II living in Stockton, San Joaquin, California working for Werl Zuckerman on McDonald Island with a Stockton mailing address.  He lists his nearest kin as his sister Ms. C. D. Phibbs (Fanny) living at 529 S. California Street in Stockton.

Milo received a telegram in 1948 telling him that his father was dying in a Veteran’s Hospital in Livermore, Alameda, California and that he was requested to come.  Milo tried to convince his brother Harold to go with him but Harold wanted nothing to do with his father.  Milo took the bus to Livermore and found the hospital. He arrived somewhere around midnight and found his way into the building and climbed up a couple of floors and found a corner he could sleep in until morning.  He heard coughs from a room and somebody in the room ask for the time.  He poked his head in and asked if anyone knew of Jack Ross.  Jack indicated he was in the room and wanted to know if it was Milo or Harold at the door.

They visited until an orderly came in and kicked him out.  He slept in a corner for a while and then told an orderly that he had come all the way from Utah to see his father and that his father was dying.  The orderly then let him stay with his father until he passed.

Fortunately, Milo and Jack were able to visit.  Milo asked why his father never came to visit and his father insisted that he wrote letters, sent gifts, and that the Sharp family kept the children from him.  He did not believe him at the time.  Vic Hunt, Ethel’s sister, had received the letters and told Milo about them after her husband and son were electrocuted in 1960 (thinking it was a form of punishment for her keeping them secret) but still did not give them to him. They passed to her son Harold in 1987, and to her grandson Archie in 2005.  Archie turned them over to Milo in 2010.

We know very little of his time in Wyoming, Colorado, or California before his passing.  Jack indicated in 1948 that life had been hard and he never had much.  So little is known of these years, hopefully some more of the story will come out in the future.

John Ross Tombstone

James & Damey Ross

I came upon this photo of James & Damey Ross and thought I would share.  It is pixellated and I hope I can get a better copy in the future.  I have an e-mail sent to the person who made it available on FamilySearch.

I have written a bit more on James & Damey at this link.  I even added this photo to that post.  I find it interesting how much resemblance exists between Damey and their daughter Fanny.

I look forward to sharing this photo with Grandpa.  He knew his grandparents pretty well and only lived blocks from them in Paul, Minidoka, Idaho.  After his mother passed away, he lived with them through the winter of 1925-26.  He speaks fondly of them.

James & Damey Ross

James & Damey Ross

Rupert 4th of July Parade

We attended the Rupert 4th of July Parade this year and enjoyed it.  I thought it was interesting to attend the Minidoka County Centennial Celebration in conjunction with the festivities this year.  I wonder what Aunt Fanny Ross Phibbs and Calvin Dickerson Phibbs thought when they arrived in the area on 21 March 1913 and witnessed the creation of Minidoka County that same year.  Calvin would go on to become a Judge in Minidoka County in 1918 and served for over 10 years.

While the Ross Clan has been in and out of Minidoka County for the past 100 years, we have left our mark for good or ill.

My thoughts turned to my own involvement in the Rupert 4th of July parade.  Here are a couple of the photos I could find.

Riding my trusty horse Mack, probably around 1991, for 4-H

Riding my trusty horse Mack, probably around 1991, for 4-H

Marching with the Minico Spartans Marching Bank, probably in 1996

Marching with the Minico Spartans Marching Band probably in 1996

Riding Dad's 1948 Ford 8N about 2001

Riding Dad’s 1948 Ford 8N about 2002

1948 Ford 8N about 2001

1948 Ford 8N about 2002

Just for fun because I do not know when else I would share them, a couple of pictures from the old Paul, Idaho parade.  I can still remember climbing up the ladder on the back of the pup to get into the trailer filled with gravel for us to stand on.  I remember looking down out of the trailer for the photo below.  This first photo has the Fenton Apartments in the back (still there and improved).

Circle A Construction Truck in Paul Parade about 1985

Circle A Construction Truck in Paul Parade about 1985

Andra and me with Grandma (Colleen Andra Elliott) in Paul Parade about 1985

Andra and me with Grandma (Colleen Andra Elliott at the time) in Paul Parade about 1985

 

 

 

 

 

Meredith – Graham Wedding

William and Mary Graham are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Damey Catherine Graham to James Thomas Ross, son of James Meredith and Nancy Shepherd.  James and Damey were married 9 August 1887 in Snowville, Pulaski, Virginia.

I am stepping into a bit of a minefield in writing this biography because there is such a wide variety of opinions on the history of this family.  The stories I have were handed down and cannot be verified.  Some claim to have documents but I have been unable to obtain copies of these documents for various reasons.  These purported documents are family records and the public records I cannot find.  Therefore, hopefully documentation will come forward and this post will be altered as that information presents itself.  Poor Damey, not much conversation is available about her because there is so little controversy.

The picture above is of James Ross Meredith, or I assume he was called that at that time.  James Thomas Meredith was born to Nancy Adeline Shepherd 22 September 1869 in Snowville, Virginia.

In 1951, a few months before his death, James was interviewed by his granddaughter, Donna Beachell.  She indicated his mind was very clear.  He indicated to Donna that he was born out of wedlock and that his real father was James Meredith.  He said he was born in Snowville, Virginia.   He also said this James Meredith adopted him when he was about 4 years old and raised him.  He said the courts gave him the name James Thomas Ross Meredith.

The records of Pulaski County indicate this:

“Order Book 5, page 25
September 2, 1873
On the motion of Anderson Linkous, Overseer of the Poor for High Wassie Township for an order to bind James Ross aged 3 years son of Nancy Ross who has become a county charge and it appearing to the Court that said James Ross is now a county charge.  It is ordered that said Overseer of the Poor bind out according to Law to James Meredith the said James Ross son of Nancy Ross aged 3 years until he attains the age of 21 years and besides teaching him reading, writing and arithmetic said Meredith shall be required to pay the said James Ross upon his attaining the age of 21 years the sum of 100 dollars.”

The courts recognized him as James Ross, probably after his mother’s married name.  I have been unable to locate a birth record for him under either name.

He was almost 5 years old when Nancy Ross went into the poorhouse, or at least when the county gave little James to old James Meredith.  I am not sure why they thought he was 3.  Although some records have him born in 1869, and if this was correct, he was just shy of his 4th birthday.  But I will stick with the birthday that he gave during his life.

The county placed James Ross into the charge of James Meredith until he was 21 years of age.  Unfortunately, nobody seemed to ask when this James Meredith was born.  We also do not know when this old James Meredith died, or if he raised him until he was 21 (and paid the $100).  After James and Damey married, John Phibbs (brother-in-law to Fanny Ross) remembered visiting the family in West Virginia and that James’ mother, Nancy lived with her son and daughter-in-law, James and Damey, for much of the time the family lived in West Virginia.    Apparently Nancy was strong enough to carry in heavy sacks of coal and potatoes by herself.  This probably would have been the turn of the 20th century since they were in West Virginia.  No mention is made of old James Meredith who was the father and supposedly raised him.  Nancy must have kept contact through the years, lived close enough, or even got little James back.   We have so many holes to fill with information that we will likely never have.

Clarita Morgan, a researcher in Pulaski County in the 1970’s wrote to Donna and told her it was not uncommon for ladies to be placed in the poorhouse for having a child out of wedlock.  These women were considered a menace and a burden to the community.  At any rate, Nancy Shepherd Ross lived an especially hard life.  It is hard to put ourselves into their scene or time without many more facts.

When James married Damey, the marriage certificate has J. R. Mearideth.  Yet, when all the children were born, James and Damey gave them each the Ross name (or so it seems).  Damey died under the Ross name and no records indicate she ever went by the Meredith name.  James is listed as a farmer.

When James went to the LDS temple on 20 June 1935, he gave his name as James Thomas Ross born 22 September at Snowville, Pulaski, Virginia.  He gave his father as James Thomas Ross and mother as Nancy Shepard.  He also gave his baptismal date as 17 April 1898.  Nothing in any of the records provide any evidence of a James Thomas Ross to be his father, and either the recorder at the Temple put the wrong last name, or James made a mistake because he seems to have clearly known his father was James Meredith (was his father’s middle name really Thomas?).  When Fanny went to the LDS temple on 20 June 1923 she said her parents were James F Ross (misread?) and Damy C Graham.

Now, having said all that, one of the difficulties is that there are tons of James Merediths who lived in Pulaski County, Virginia.  In the 1880 Census, little James Meredith is living with elder James Meredith who was born in 1804 and the family lived in Hiwassie.  It is not uncommon for a 65 year old man to have a child.  However, elder James Meredith has a family of 10 children with his wife.  In that census, only elder and little James are shown as living together.  Elder James’ wife, Sarah (Sallie) Jane Bell Meredith, is “ill” and living with their daughter Sarah Jane Meredith Elkins.  I want to speculate but will not.

For years it was thought that James and Sarah Meredith’s son, James Anderson Meredith, was the father of our James Thomas Meredith.  But this was easily resolved in that James Anderson Meredith died in 1864 in a battle at Lexington, Lexington, Virginia, four or five years before little James Meredith was born.  Others thought that James Meredith, the son of Hugh Meredith Jr elder James Meredith’s brother, was the father.  He is four years older than Nancy and their ages seem more conducive to a relationship.  But, we are unable to track him down and prove anything for certain.  But one thing is sure, elder James Meredith told the census taker in 1880 that little James Meredith was his son.  I guess we have to move forward with that record as the basis for our assumptions.  Would the Uncle (elder James Meredith) of James Meredith (Hugh Jr’s son) ruin his good name by claiming little James Meredith as his own to save the name of his nephew?  I just do not know, but the census gives documentation of a relationship (we all know how terrible the census records are for accuracy other than names of family members and location of living).  (Some of my original research and ruminating on these issues can be found here.)

This begs the question of why 27 year old Nancy would have intimate relations with 65 year old and married elder James.  Ms. Morgan above said it was not uncommon for servants living in the home to be taken advantage of by the homeowner.  But we have no evidence that Nancy was a servant in their home.  If he did this and kicked her out, it could account for her being in the poorhouse and his reclaiming the child in court.  But we have nothing to support the notion Ms. Morgan suggests.

Well, if this is not enough to confuse the matter, lets jump back in time before James was born to where Nancy married Harvy D Ross 7 June 1860 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  She married Harvy at 19 years old. On 9 September 1861, Harvy enlisted in Company F, 54th Infantry Regiment Virginia for the Confederacy.  He left for military service and we have few details of when he returned.  She bore James Meredith in 1868 and as far as we know, Harvy had not yet returned from the war.   By 1870 Harvy was back living in Alum Ridge, Floyd, Virginia after the Civil War. We do not know when he left Virginia for the “west”.  William Andrew Ross was born on 10 October 1873 in Snowville.  The birth index for Pulaski County lists William as a bastard, but his death certificate lists Harvy Ross as the father!  (Death certificates are highly unreliable for parental information.)  But why they were not back living together in 1870, we do not know.  He was back in the area and could very well be the father of William.  I just wish we had more information.  He supposedly moved to Tennessee or Kentucky and passed away there, never having anything to do with his son William, if he really is the father.  William was raised by Nancy and was told by her that Harvy was his father.  William never had a memory of meeting his father.

Now that I have given more history of Nancy Adeline Shepherd in this biography of her son and daughter-in-law, we can move on.  Our documentation is weak of who little James Meredith’s father is and where he was until he married Damey.  Although, I should mention that a cousin who claims he is in possession of the journals of James Meredith (or Ross) indicates that he was raised by elder James Meredith to believe that elder James was actually his father.  Well, rephrased, he never had any doubt elder James Meredith was his father.  Therefore, we move forward on that assumption even though I have only hearsay from a cousin (as I cannot get a copy of the book) and an 1880 census record.

Damey Catherine Graham was born 25 November 1874 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia to William and Mary Graham.  William, her father, was a laborer on farms who moved to the mines.  As a miner he moved where the best paying jobs for mining were located.  In Virginia, the family worked in the iron mines.  Damey met James and probably knew him and his family growing up.  Hiwassie appears to be a very small town, even today.  I cannot imagine that James and Damey did not know each other growing up.    The two married in 1887 and began to raise their family.  All four children were born in Virginia.

Robert Leonard Ross was born 25 April 1888 in Draper, Pulaski, Virginia.

John “Jack” William Ross was born 2 September 1890 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  Read more about John at this link: Ross-Sharp Wedding

Fanny Elizabeth Ross was born 18 November 1893 in Reed Island, Pulaski, Virginia.  Read more about Fanny at this link: Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

James Thomas Ross was born 19 October 1895 in Radford, Montgomery, Virginia.

Damey chose to be baptized into the LDS faith 27 February 1898 (a few months before James).  Family tradition holds it was in West Virginia but does not seem to hold up with the rest of the story.  James and Damey were supposed to have followed her family to West Virginia to the mines.  James and Damey do not seem to appear on the 1900 Census but Damey’s family were still in Hiwassie on the 15 June 1900.  Damey’s family moved shortly after 1900 to West Virginia to work in the coal mines of McDowell County.  James and Damey (and James’ brother, William) followed and were living in McDowell County, West Virginia for sure in 1906 when Fanny married Calvin Dickerson Phibbs in Welch, McDowell, West Virginia.  The first three children all married in McDowell County.  James Jr returned to Mayberry, Carroll, Virginia in 1913 to marry his wife.  On 10 May 1910, James and Damey were living in Big Creek, McDowell, West Virginia.

James and Damey Ross left Pulaski County about 1913 or 1914 and headed to settle in Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho.  James confirmed his brother a member of the LDS church 26 October 1913, so it had to be after that date.  As mentioned above, Fanny had married Calvin Phibbs and most of the Phibbs family of Virginia had moved out to Rupert in 1912.  The opening of the new farm land in Minidoka and Cassia Counties, a new sugar factory at Burley, Cassia, Idaho, and an economic downturn in McDowell County propelled the move for both families. Robert, John, and James Jr followed later as it does not appear any of the children went with James and Damey when they left.

James & Damey Ross

James & Damey Ross

James and Damey set up house in Rupert for a time probably living with Calvin and Fanny until they could find and afford a suitable place to live.  We do not know exactly where James and Damey lived for much of their time in Idaho because they appear to have rented.  Robert listed his parents as living in Idahome, Cassia, Idaho when he registered for the World War I draft in 1918.  That fall, James and Damey apparently moved to Paul, Minidoka, Idaho to work on the first sugar beet campaign of the newly built sugar factory in Paul.  They remained there until about 1926.  Robert married Rose Sanders (nee Clawson?) in Burley, Cassia, Idaho in 1919.  John met Ethel Sharp Streeter in Paul while visiting his parents in 1919 and married her in early 1920.  James and Damey somehow fail to appear on the 1920 Census, or their names are transcribed incorrectly.  James settled in Vernal, Uintah, Utah and attempted a short move to Rupert in 1922-23 to be closer to family before moving back to Vernal.  Milo Ross, James and Damey’s grandson, remembers his grandparents living on the north side of the tracks in Paul when he lived there 1925-1926.

In 1925, James and Damey’s daughter-in-law, Ethel Sharp Ross passed away.  John, their son, sought work and James and Damey took in all four of the children of Ethel.  The baby, Earnest Jackson Ross, died in September in Rupert, where he was being tended by the Phibbs.  By the spring of 1926, James and Damey were impoverished enough that they asked Ethel’s family to come get the children from Paul.  Apparently shortly after, the family moved again.

By 2 April1930, James and Damey had moved to Bend, Deschutes, Oregon.  Robert apparently lived in the area and Robert’s son, Orson Lee Ross, was also living with James and Damey.  Robert is in Portland but appears to not live there, so this home in Bend may have been Robert’s or James and Damey were tending Orson, who was 9.  Robert later died in Bend in 1944.

James’ journals indicate they lived in Merced, Merced, California for most of the 1930’s.  Damey passed away in Marysville, Yuba, California 3 February 1933 of colon cancer.  Her death notice in Rupert indicates she died after an operation for cancer of the stomach.  She had been in the hospital for five months previous to that.  The obituary also mentions that John lived in Manteca, San Joaquin, California, James in Lapoint, Uintah, Utah, and Robert in Marysville.  Fanny was still living in Rupert.

James returned to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and on 20 June 1935 he was endowed, saw Damey’s proxy ordinance work was completed, and was sealed to her.

By about 1936, James was back visiting family in the east.  He spoke at a Conference of the LDS church that had met in Grundy County, Tennessee.  James spoke that morning to the assembled crowd.  That same day, James’ nephew, Howard Ross was baptized.  These conferences were a big deal because it was an all day event for James’ brother’s family to travel all the way from Gary, West Virginia to Tennessee, spend the day in meetings, and then go home.  Howard remembers meeting “Uncle Jim” for the first time that day.  Many people enjoyed the sermon he gave and came up to give their commendation to William and Sarah on his fine speech.  William’s wife, Sarah, had to set them right, that it was William’s brother, James who delivered the sermon.  Howard did not hear the sermon because in those days unbaptized children were not allowed into the meetings and even though he was to be baptized that day, he was not baptized yet.

“Uncle Jim” returned with the family to West Virginia and stayed for a couple of weeks.  James was so disappointed that the family did not have a cow for milk that he went out and purchased one for the family while he was there.  When James left, he took and sold the cow too.  The family recalled how rare it was for them to have milk, and it was many years before they would have it again.  James was also noted by the family for his girth and the sheer capacity to each large amounts of food.  Howard thought he must have pushed to near 300 pounds.  Howard also remembers that Uncle Jim was missing a finger and upon asking, James indicated that he had been bit by a spider and that the Dr. took off the finger to save his life because the finger had started to rot.

The story goes that James married while he was visiting the family in West Virginia.  Family history records have James marrying Etta on 6 June 1936 in Snowville, Virginia.  However, later information indicates this was Henrietta Fountain who was born in Sacramento, Sacramento, California and died in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.  How she met James and why they would have married in Virginia does not add up, especially where she was from the west.  A cousin has the marriage in Sacramento which seems much more accurate.  A death certificate at some point will rest the case.  Her full maiden name was Henrietta Fountain and she was a widow of Charles Henry Lowell in 1925.  She died in 1946 according to the memories of Milo Ross and he is accurate.

James and Etta relocated to Lakeport, Lake, California after their marriage.  Lakeport was a town for the wealthy and Ms. Etta must have brought the money into the marriage.  It was here that James applied for Social Security 4 November 1937.  Due to the requirements he use his legal name, James went by James Ross Meredith the remainder of his life.  He began receiving his benefits 6 January 1938.  On 21 April 1938 he received a letter indicating he would have to have been a resident of California 15 years to receive the payments and no further payments were made.

James then married a widow by the name of Nora Brewer.  Her full maiden name was Martha Elnora Cackler and her late husband, Daniel Gordon Brewer, had passed away in 1943.  James and Martha were married in Fresno, Fresno, California 14 July 1947.  She had been born in 1877 in Iowa and died in Fresno in 1974, just short of 100 years old.

James lived until 13 April 1951 when he passed away in Fresno.  He was buried in Belmont Memorial in Fresno.  The last few years of his life, he took back the Meredith name.  Milo Ross, his grandson, indicates this was for Social Security benefits which had to be claimed under the birth name.  Either way, his tombstone reads James R Meredith.  His last letter to Donna Beachell was signed James Ross Meredith.

When he passed away in 1951, he was living at 344 Theta Street in Fresno the home of his widow.  One last thing, apparently while living in Fresno, he served as a Bishop of the LDS church.  We do not know when or where, but several lines of the family were all aware of this.  More information will be needed to share more.  The fact he was called upon to speak at a conference of the church in Tennessee seems to show he held some position but we don’t know anything more.

Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

Calvin and Fanny Phibbs with (l-r) Evelyn, Florence, and Catherine in Idaho in 1912.

I had heard a rumor a couple of years ago that Calvin Phibbs had committed suicide but could not confirm the story.  Now that I am back in Idaho, I stopped by the Rupert Library to see if they had some old newspapers.  Sure enough, I found the following obituary which reads more like the local gossip column.  I will include some of the family history after the obituary.

“Judge Phibbs Ends Life; Ill Health Cause
“Well Known Rupert Attorney Meets Instant Death By Own Hand at Home Thursday.
“Four months of sleeplessness, a body racked with pain and mind grown despondent through belief of the utter hopelessness of physical recovery, led to the tragic, but carefully planned suicide of Judge C. D. Phibbs, well known Rupert attorney who ended his life at his home Thursday.
Seated before a mirror in his bedroom at three o’clock in the afternoon, when no one was in the house but his wife and himself, the distraught man placed the muzzle of a 22-caliber hammerless revolver to his right temple, and with a firm unswerving hand sent a bullet through his brain, death being instantaneous.  The leaden missile passed through the head and lodged in the wall, near the ceiling.
“Startled by the sharp explosion of the gun, Mrs. Phibbs rushed in from an adjoining room to find her husband’s body crumpled on the floor with his life extinct.
“That the rash act was premeditated and carried out as planned is shown by excerpts from a letter written the previous Saturday, addressed to his wife and left where she could not fail to find it.
“I do not feel that I can get well.  I have suffered for four months.  So much that I cannot endure it.  If anything happens to me, know that I love you and have never loved anyone but you.  Tell the children to be good children, as it is best for them.  It is the only way to be happy.  I have failed to do as much for them as I wanted to but have not been able.”
“Following the introductory explanation foreshadowing the tragedy that was to take place, the letter continued with detailed instructions of what to do in regard to business that would arise, told where his life insurance policies were, how to plan the funeral, left words of encouragement to the children to continue their education and even advised about planting a garden.
“After a farewell sent the children and the brief words of assurance for their future, the final paragraph concludes: “God bless you all till we meet again.  I do not believe God will blame me for what I am doing for there is no other way.”
“The letter was found by Mrs. Phibbs soon after the tragic shooting occurred.  It was dated March 20.  Although she knew he suffered much from stomach trouble for many weeks and was discouraged over his health, no hint of self-destruction was ever suggested by her husband, she said, and in the past week it seemed to be somewhat improved, and had been to his office only a few days before the appalling act.  He had suffered intensely from stomach trouble and it is thought he believed himself a victim of cancer.
“When a youth of 13 years, while in the mountains of Virginia, at Fancy Gap, Carroll county where he was reared, in 1899 Calvin D. Phibbs, whose father worked in the mines there, hopped on a coal car and received injury to his left leg that later caused infection, making amputation necessary and left him crippled for life.
“In 1906 when twenty years of age he married Fanny Elizabeth Ross in Welch, West Virginia, and on March 21, 1913, they came to Idaho and to Rupert, making there (sic) home here since then.
“Although he had little opportunity for attending school, he received his education by private study.  Securing books and texts of the International Correspondence school he studied law and was admitted to the Idaho state bar in 1919.
“For ten years he held the position of probate judge of Minidoka county, being elected on the Republican ticket and served in that capacity until four years ago.  He served also as justice of the peace for two years and in 1918 was city clerk of Rupert.
“His friends and business associates, of whom he had many, were shocked and grieved at his tragic act.  He had a kindly disposition and a cheerfulness of manner that in no way can be reconciled with his fatal deed.  At the time of his death he was engaged in the practice of law but since last November had been unable to be in his office much of the time.
“Besides his grief-stricken wife he is survived by eleven children, five boys and six girls, their father being the first of the family to pass away.  The children in order of their ages are Mrs. Florence Biles, 23, of Gridley, California; Mrs. Evelyn Collier, Rupert; Mrs. Catherine Beachel, of Filer, Idaho; Virginia, James, Viola, William, Orville, Arthur, Albert and Phyllis, the youngest, age three, all of whom live at home.
Three brothers, Frank Phibbs of Twin Falls, Robert of Oakland, California, and John of Salt Lake City, and twin sisters, Mrs. Ardena Christensen, San Francisco and Mrs. Mary Hiatt of Paul, also survive.
“Largely attended funeral service were conducted Monday at one o’clock in the Second ward L.D.S. church with Albert Harrison, first counselor to Bishop O. J. Bateman in charge.
“Speakers included David J Borup, former bishop of the Second ward, who came from Boise where he now resides to be present at the funeral.  Judge Hugh A. Baker, an attorney friend, and David Hyde and A. H. Jensen, churchmen and friends of the deceased.
“Music was rendered by a chorus of nine voices under direction of Arthur Humphries, singing three selections “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Sometime We’ll Understand” and “Oh, My Father.”
“Prayers were offered by L.D. Hyde and R.C. May.  Interment was in Rupert cemetery with Goodman Mortuary in charge.

Here is a biography of Judge Phibbs from an old Idaho directory of prominent people.

“Judge Calvin Dickerson Phibbs. since 1912 a resident of Rupert, where in 1918 he was elected judge of the probate court of Minidoka county, was born at Hillsville, Virginia, June 12, 1886, a son of James and Elizabeth (Bolt) Phibbs. The parents are also natives of the Old Dominion, where they were reared and educated. Subsequent to his marriage the father there followed farming and stock raising and during his early life also engaged in the profession of teaching. In 1910 he removed westward to Rupert, Idaho, and purchased a farm northeast of the town, becoming owner of eighty acres. At times he has owned various farms, but his holdings at the present time embrace just eighty acres. He and his wife have become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in his political views Mr. Phibbs is a republican.

“Calvin D. Phibbs spent his boyhood in his native state and pursued his education in Fairview Academy. He was reared to the occupation of farming, early becoming familiar with the best methods of tilling the soil and caring for the crops. Later he took up electrical engineering and worked along that line until he came to Rupert, Idaho, in 1912. Here he entered the real estate field and after a time he was called upon for public service, being made city clerk of Rupert, which position he filled for a brief period. In 1918 he was elected to the office of probate judge of Minidoka county, which position he is now acceptably filling, being most careful, prompt, systematic and accurate in the discharge of his official duties. On the 15th of December, 1919, he was admitted as an attorney at law in the supreme court of the state of Idaho.

“In 1907 Judge Phibbs was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Ross, a native of Pulaski, Virginia, and a daughter of J. T. and Catherine (Graham) Ross, the former a farmer and stockman. Judge and Mrs. Phibbs have become parents of six children: Florence, Evelyn, Catherine, Virginia, James and Viola. The religious belief of the family is that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in politics Judge Phibbs is a stalwart republican, giving unfaltering allegiance to the party and its principles. He stands for advancement and improvement in all things that have to do with citizenship and is among that class who are putting forth every effort to spread the principles of true democracy and make one hundred per cent Americanism the rule of this land.

I do not usually place that much quoted material in my histories, but there is so much extra information I probably would not otherwise include, I thought I better just leave them how they were printed.

Calvin Dickerson Phibbs was born 12 June 1886 in Hillsville, Carroll, Virginia.  He died 30 March 1933 in Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho.  He was buried 4 days later on 3 April 1933 in the Rupert Cemetery.

Now that I have given so much on Calvin, I probably should fill out the life of Fanny a little more, my Great Great Aunt.

Fanny Elizabeth Ross was born 18 November 1893 in Reed Island, Pulaski, Virginia to James Thomas and Damey Catherine Graham Ross.  Read more about here parents and family here.  She married Calvin Phibbs 22 December 1906 in Welch, McDowell, West Virginia.  As mentioned 11 children were born to the marriage.  I believe she moved fairly quickly to California after Calvin’s death.  While in Rupert, the Phibbs family lived at 96 B Street (unless the streets have been renumbered, this home does not exist any more.  Grandpa, Milo Ross, visited her in Salt Lake City before World War II.  I do not know if she was living there or just visiting, he does not remember either.  She died 23 January 1943 in Daly City, San Francisco, California.  She is buried at Cypress Law in Colma, San Francisco, California in an unmarked grave.

Calvin and Fanny’s children are as follows, without spouses.

Florence Geneva Phibbs born 21 June 1907 in Gary, McDowell, West Virginia and died 9 February 1987 in Gridley, Butte, California.

Evelyn Adaway Phibbs born 8 October 1909 in Eckman, McDowell, West Virginia and died 7 January 1961 in San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Catherine Elizabeth Phibbs born 1 January 1912 in Thorpe, McDowell, West Virginia and died 7 September 1989 in Fall River Mills, Shasta, California.

Virginia Ardena Phibbs born 3 March 1914 in Rupert and died 25 September 1969 in San Francisco County, California.

James Calvin Phibbs born 22 April 1916 in Rupert and died 10 July 1977 in San Francisco.

Viola Belle Phibbs born 21 July 1918 in Rupert and died 11 June 2008.

William Robert Phibbs born 3 October 1920 in Rupert and died 16 September 2010 in Redding, Shasta, California.

Orville Leonard Phibbs born 20 October 1922 in Rupert and died 25 December 1985 in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, California.

Arthur Lee Phibbs born 15 October 1925 in Rupert and died 22 June 1983 in San Francisco.

Richard Albert Phibbs born 25 December 1927 in Rupert and died 27 January 1983 in Clearlake, Lake, California.

Phyllis Elaine Phibbs born 24 February 1930 in Rupert and died 6 July 1972 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

Of course I am always looking for more information on the family since we do not have contact with any of the descendants.

More of the same; Life

Time keeps ticking by too quickly sometimes.  I have so much to write but not as much time as I would like to do it in.  Such is the limitations in the probationary game.  There are plenty of achievements to report though in the past week or two.
This evening I spoke with Gerald Neuffer in Columbia, Missouri.  In a most random turn of events, I noticed that a Jenna Neuffer became friends with my friend, Kami Lowe on Facebook.  With a name as rare as Neuffer, I knew all odds were in my favor of having a near shared ancestry.  I sent Miss Neuffer a message and asked for her Grandfather’s name and phone number.  Which she supplied.  Come to find out, I even had Gerald already in my family history.  I just had his first name Myron (Gerald is his middle name but he goes by it.  Probably due to remove confusion with his father’s name being Myron).  He knew the Andra’s well and said he remembered Millie, who was just younger than him.  Funny how small a world it is.  He went to get his PhD and never left Columbia after moving there in 1947.  We conversed for a little while he dug for information verifying I was not this total stranger calling for his family history for some other sinister reason.  He sounds like a good guy.  He asked if I was doing genealogy.  I confirmed I was and that I was the family historian.  He then happily related he was basically that for the Neuffer/Nuffer family.  I was definitely glad to hear that.  What is the chances of the Andra historian running into the Nuffer historian in Columbia Missouri?  Very far removed from Preston, Idaho!
I received a phone call from Jacqui yesterday about the Phibbs/Ross/Beachell family.  I tried returning her call and spoke with her mother for a few minutes.  I am glad she finally returned my message.  I only left it in May!  That was before we moved!
In other news, there was an e-mail that found its way to me from Robert in Fresno, California.  A most interesting question.  He asked if I knew of any of the siblings of my Constance Jorgensen.  I always felt Constance most likely had siblings but was never able to find any.  Between her parents marriage and Constance’s birth, there is twelve years.  I was sure there were other siblings.  Olavus and Hanna Mathea Jorgensen immigrated with Constance and settled in Richmond, Utah.  Constance married Ole Christiansen and gave birth to my Great Great Grandmother Martha Christiansen who is the mother of my Lillian Coley.  Constance died in Portland, Oregon while visiting and was buried there.  In the whole episode, I knew some day I would have to do some research in Norway to find the rest of this family.  Well, Robert e-mailed me asking me if his grandmother, Amanda Jorgensen Swensen could be a child of Olavus and Hanna.  He produced a copy of a hand written copy pedigree she had produced in 1935.  Sure enough, everything lined up.  Well, Amanda was born another 12 years after my Constance (24 after the marriage of the parents).  She immigrated to Utah a good 10 years after her parents and sibling came over and settled in Logan, Utah.  By the time she arrived her parents were both deceased and her sister had married.  It seems that she never knew she was only 15 miles from her parent’s graves and her sister.  The exciting news is that Amanda gave us the names of her siblings, none of which made it to America to her knowledge.  We added the 5 siblings.  Don’t know their ages, but definitely gives some more to go from.  That will give us much more to go from when the time for the Norway research begins.
I am happy to report I completed the New Testament this evening.  I am one day late.  If I had read the one chapter a day, I would have finished yesterday.  Last weekend put me just off enough that I did not catch up in time.  I completed the Book of Mormon on schedule this year on August 27th.  Now I can go through some General Conference talks and some other reading for the year.  Next year is the Doctrine and Covenants which you can almost read three times in a year.  I think I will just do it twice though.
The ward continues to blossom when it comes to family history.  It seems like people are doing their homework, research, and compiling regularly.  I have e-mails at least once or twice a week for help on something.  That is an indication something is going on.  That is definitely something which is a good thing.
Online the family history work continues to reveal new and interesting things.  I received an e-mail from a Homer Mason.  He was inquiring concerning the Jonas family in Washington State.  Come to find out, Anna Jonas is his Grandmother.  Anna was the daughter of William Jonas who was the brother to my Joseph Jonas; father to my great grandfather Joseph Nelson Jonas.  He knows very little so it has been fun introducing him to the family.  I have especially enjoyed his research on a line of the family I have not been able to crack.  It has proved not to be an easy line for him, but with his living in Yakima, he is much closer and capable of doing the work than I can.  I really hope I am accepted to the University of Idaho for Law School.  Then I could work on the Jonas, Ross, and Sharp lines in Washington State.
Stepping back to the Andra family.  This past weekend Amanda and I took a trip to Washington DC for our monthly temple visit.  But a new aspect as emerged.  My Great Uncle and Aunt, Donald and Lolane Andra, are now serving a mission in the temple.  We went up Friday night and stayed with Amanda’s Uncle and Aunt in Springfield.  Saturday we picked up Don and Lolane and made our way to Mt. Vernon.  They thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  It was the 18th Century Fair so there were masses of people.  Don and Lolane are good and quick on their feet.  Despite being in their 60’s they move well.  Don reminds me so much of my Great Grandpa.  I get a kick out of both of them.  We were limited on time as they had to be to the temple to work later in the afternoon.  We did probably the fastest walking tour of Mt. Vernon I can imagine.  We zoomed all over the grounds, through the fair, and then back up to their apartment to change and attend the temple.
On a side note, as I went into the endowment room, I noticed the officiator’s name was John Whatcott.  I looked at him and asked if he was from Kanosh.  He looked a bit surprised at me and said he grew up there.  I told him of the Whatcott’s I knew.  After the session he asked me to remain in the celestial room so we could visit.  We had a great visit.  Come to find out he knows Don and Lolane from St. George.  Small world.  Don knew which session we were on and waited for us to leave the celestial room.  He walked us down to the next floor and we parted again.  I met Don’s Home Teaching companion, Elder Toronto, while picking up Amanda’s Aunt’s glasses from the temple lost and found.  Funny how interlinked the world is, at least in the church.
I have not made mention of it yet, but I am going from contractor status to full associate status at Bank of America.  Meaning, I will be an employee of Bank of America and not an at will person filling a seat.  Many companies now do the contractor business as they can then hire on employees after they have shown their worth.  I must have done well enough for them to offer me employment starting October 1.  I am excited.  Business has been picking up.  I don’t know if it is from the crunch in the market or what.  Bank of America definitely stands on higher ground than those feeling the squeeze or sinking under the housing market.  One thing is for sure, with this rate cut, we are expecting the next month to be hectic.
My birthday came and went just like every other day or the year.  I am back to being congratulated for it being my unbirthday.  I received all sorts of e-mails (which will take me a good week to respond to them all), many messages on Facebook, and a couple of cards and gifts.  Amanda and I enjoyed a nice big meal at Chili’s for dinner.  We joked about it being our triannual beef night.  It is birthdays or anniversary that I get to eat a steak.  Monday was a 12 oz Ribeye.  Mmmm, so good.  That is of course not mentioning the Idaho potatos.  Amanda got me a shirt, a jump drive, and something else which slips me at the moment.  I also received a journal, a few checks, and some other random memorabilia.  I honestly don’t feel any different now than I think I did when I was 19.  Except the fact my knee was reconstructed in 2004 and doesn’t give me the issues it did at 19.  So I guess I feel better than at 19.  I have filled out in stature, even added a little padding in the middle,  and perhaps a little wiser.  Life is good.
My blessings continue to flow despite my inept nature.  I continue to be given the little peaceable things of the kingdom from time to time.  They make the living and endurance all worth it.  Line upon line right?  Sometimes I wish it was more page upon page, but alas, I am not the one running the show.  Church goes well.  I feel spiritually well.  Not the muscular behemoth I would like to be spiritually, but I feel strong enough to do what needs to be done and any forseeable adventure.

Pulaski Roots

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.