Cove Fort

Having taken work all over the western United States during the great depression, David Delos Donaldson finally landed employment at the Ogden Depot in 1937 as Supervisor of Maintenance.  In 1939, he took his wife, Berendena Van Leeuwen Donaldson, back to California for an extended trip to visit family on both the Donaldson and Van Leeuwen family lines.

David and Dena hit the 1939 San Francisco World Fair and then wound their way over to Phoenix and up through Utah back home to Ogden.  A number of photos exist from this trip, including these two from Cove Fort, Utah.

David and Dena Donaldson at Cove Fort, Utah

 

David and Dave Donaldson at Cove Fort, Utah

On 4 November 2017, our little Ross family traveled to Cedar City, Utah for the Cedar City Temple Open House.

We immensely enjoyed our visit.  Well worth the trip.  Beautiful temple in every regard.

Cedar City Temple

 

Paul, Amanda, Aliza, Hiram, Lillian, and James Ross at the Cedar City Temple Open House

 

Jill Hemsley with Aliza, Hiram, Lillian, and James Ross at Cedar City Temple Open House

After we drove past Cove Fort on the way down, I kept thinking of the picture of my Great Grandfather David Donaldson and Grand Uncle Dave Donaldson from 1939.  I knew on the way back I wanted to stop and see if I could find the same site.

We stopped and had a great visit with the missionaries who serve at the site.  They also helped us find the spot of the picture from 1939 and we took the following picture.

Paul, Amanda, Aliza, Hiram, Lillian, and James Ross with Jill Hemsley recreating a 1939 photo of David and Dave Donaldson.

Here is the photo again for comparison.  The door behind Uncle Dave is the one behind Aliza and Jill.  The grey rock at the right of the bottom window behind me is the same to the right of Dave.

David and Dave Donaldson at Cove Fort, Utah

The missionaries had to visit with others about the history of Cove Fort.  The large tree in the old picture was only removed a few years ago, along with the well that David and Dave are standing in front.  We were able to figure out which side of the fort from the shadows (both sides look the same).  The fort was restored in the 1990s, so you can see the improvements in the windows, mortar, and the top of the walls above the roof.    But the photo is roughly the same area and vicinity.

I literally stood on the ground where my Great Grandfather David Donaldson walked some 78 years earlier.  Thanks to my family for indulging me.

The fort was an interesting place to learn and stop as well.  I recommend any passing through to stop.

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Edna Coley Neilson

With the recent passing of Ivan Blaine Neilson, I decided to prepare a history for his mother Edna Coley Neilson.  Especially since I just recently came in possession of a number of new photographs of the family.  Some day I will write a history of her parents, my Great Great Grandparents, but I am hoping some more photos of them will appear in the upcoming months.

Edna Coley was born 23 November 1900 in Lewiston, Cache, Utah.  She was the second of ten children, my Great Grandmother Lillian being the oldest, born to Martha Christiansen and Herbert Coley.

I don’t know much about Edna’s personality.  I have been told by numerous people that Edna was the preferred child of Martha and was often doted on to the the dismay of the siblings.  I don’t know that tells me much of her personality though.

Edna married Gerold Andrus (1903-1984) 17 April 1921 in Richmond, Cache, Utah.  The next month, 15 March 1921, Harold Christian Andrus was born.  Gerold and Edna were only married for a very short time, a shotgun wedding and a shotgun divorce.

Edna married Olof Alma Neilson (1891-1960) 23 July 1923 in Logan, Cache, Utah.  They were sealed 30 July 1924 in the Logan LDS Temple.  I don’t know if Harold was adopted legally or not, but Harold went by Harold Christian Neilson the rest of his life.  The only father he knew was Olof and Olof treated Harold as if he was his own son.

Olof and Edna would have what appears to be ten children together.  The records certainly show ten children, but I believe one of them is a duplicate, or mistakes in names leading to a duplicate child.  Nobody is alive to confirm either so I will list all ten but point out where I believe the duplication exists.

Alma Russell “Russell” Neilson born 23 Jun 1924 in Richmond.  He married Gloria May Olson on 9 Oct 1946 in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.  He passed away 13 September 2017 in Washington Terrace, Weber, Utah and buried 19 September at Washington Heights.

Olga Helen “Helen” Neilson born 28 July 1926 in Richmond.  She married LeRoy “Roy” Hulse Draper 25 May 1943.  She passed away 4 March 2015 and was buried 9 March at West Point, Davis, Utah.

Olof and Edna, Harold, Helen, and Russell Neilson

Olof and Edna, Harold, Russell, and Helen Neilson (14 May 1927)

To Lillian and Joe, when she was 10 months old.

To Lillian and Joe, when she (Helen) was 10 months old

Olof and Edna Neilson holding Russell

Olof and Edna Neilson holding Russell

Martbamary Neilson born and died 2 July 1927 in Richmond.  He does not have a tombstone if he is buried in Richmond.

Hebert Neilson born 25 November 1928 and died 26 November 1928 both in Richmond.  He has a tombstone in Richmond.

Aenotta Neilson born and died 1 September 1929 in Richmond.  This and the next child were either twins or just variations on a name.  Only a documentation exists for the next child.

Jennetta Neilson was born 1 September 1929 and died 2 September 1929 in Richmond.  Jennetta also has a tombstone where Aenotta does not, you would expect Aenotta would since they were supposedly twins.

Ole Neilson was born and died 19 October 1932 in Richmond.  He was buried 20 October 1932 in the Richmond Cemetery and has a tombstone.

Russell Neilson

Russell Neilson

Ivan Blaine Neilson was born 26 April 1935 in Richmond.  He died 16 January 2013 in Yuma, Yuma, Arizona.  He was buried 25 January 2013 in Smithfield, Cache, Utah.  He married Gloria Gilgen 8 June 1954 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.  They were later divorced.  He remarried to Rebecca Anne Pitcher 4 September 1981 in Smithfield.

Ivan Blaine Neilson

Ivan Blaine Neilson

Lastly, Martha Mary Neilson was born and died 6 July 1937 in Richmond.  She is buried in Richmond.

Lillian, Edna, Martha (sitting) Coley in the 1940's

Lillian, Edna, Martha (sitting) Coley in the 1940’s

Russell Neilson

Russell Neilson

Harold Christian Neilson

Harold Christian Neilson

Nelen Neilson

Helen Neilson

Russell and Gloria Neilson

Russell and Gloria Neilson

1955 Coley Reunion, Richmond, Utah

1955 Coley Reunion, Richmond, Utah

I named the people in the reunion photo here.

Olof passed away of a heart attack at about 9:30 am 13 April 1960 at home in Richmond.  He died almost instantly.  He was buried in Richmond on 15 April 1960.

Edna’s mother passed away 14 August 1961.  The family gathered for the funeral 17 August 1961 for the funeral.  The photo below was taken that day in the Richmond Cemetery.

Art, Golden, Wilford, Roland, Lloyd, Edna, Hannah, Carrie, Lillian, Ivan Coley at their mother’s funeral in 1961

Edna, Will Thomson, Lillian

Edna, Will Thomson, Lillian in the mid 1960’s

Edna lived close to her sister, Lillian Jonas, now Bowcutt, and Lillian makes regular reference to Edna in her journals.  The thing that stands out to me is how close they were in that Edna would regularly aid or stay with Lillian.  Also, Lillian makes regular reference to Edna’s attending the temple in Logan.

Harold took his own life 9 March 1966 in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.  His body was brought back to Richmond for burial.

Edna lived in Richmond until she passed away 6 April 1983 in Richmond.  Her funeral was held 9 April 1983.

Edna's funeral program

Edna’s funeral program

Sergene Andra Sorenson Jensen

With Aunt Sergene’s passing, I thought I would make some of the photographs I have of her and her life available.  I am wrapping this around the language of her obituary.

Sergene was born 2 February 1932 in Preston, Franklin, Idaho.  She is the sixth of twelve children born to Mary Louise Wanner and William Fredrick Andra.  My Grandmother, Colleen, is the fifth and was four years older than Sergene.

Sergene standing, Ross, Donald, Jon Wanner, unknown, Kay Wanner all kneeling, and Larry, Dennis, Sharon Johnson, and Dale Andra

Sergene standing, Ross, Donald, Jon Wanner, unknown, Kay Wanner all kneeling, and Larry, Dennis, Sharon Johnson, and Dale Andra

Sergene in school

Sergene in school

Colleen, Larry, Ross, Dale, Sergene about 1945

Sergene graduated from Preston High School in 1950.  She was a cheerleader and the Preston Night Rodeo Queen where she was pictured on Roy Roger’s horse, Trigger Jr., on the cover of the Preston Rodeo program in 1949.

Sergene in High School

Sergene in High School (I only have a scan of a copy, hopefully some day I can have a scan of an original)

Andra Family Portrait, 1947; back (l-r): Bill, Golden; middle: Sergene, Millie, Colleen, June; front: Don, Larry, Bill, Dale, Mary, Ross.

Andra Family Portrait, 1947; back (l-r): Bill, Golden; middle: Sergene, Millie, Colleen, June; front: Don, Larry, Bill, Dale, Mary, Ross.

Immediately after high school she married a guy from Malad who turned out to be quite abusive.  Sergene defended herself and quickly had the marriage annulled.

Sergene married Bert B Sorenson 22 August 1950 in Nampa, Canyon, Idaho.  Two children were born to the marriage, Scott B Sorenson (1951) and Andrew S Sorenson (1953).  Bert worked for Mountain Bell.

June, Millie, Mary, Colleen, Sergene, about 1956.

June, Millie, Mary, Colleen, Sergene, about 1956.

Sergene, Scott, Bert, Andrew Sorenson in Preston

Sergene, Scott, Bert, Andrew Sorenson in Preston about 1957

1959 Andra Reunion, Phyllis (Don), Utahna (Golden), Sergene, Mary, Colleen, Millie, Edith (Bill).

1959 Andra Reunion, Phyllis (Don), Utahna (Golden), Sergene, Mary, Colleen, Millie, Edith (Bill).

Bert, Andy, Jackie Jonas, Sergene about 1964

Bert, Andy, Jackie Jonas, Sergene about 1964

Bert, Sergene with Jackie Jonas in front, and Andy Sorenson about 1964

Bert, Sergene with Jackie Jonas in front, and Andy Sorenson about 1964

June, Millie, Colleen, Sergene mid 1960's

June, Millie, Colleen, Sergene mid 1960’s

Andra Reunion, 1967, Sergene, Colleen, Millie, June, Mary.

Andra Reunion, 1967, Sergene, Colleen, Millie, June, Mary.

Sergene purchased The Wig Wam in Burley in 1969.  She purchased the Ponderosa Beauty Salon in 1973 and the Merle Norman Cosmetics store in Twin Falls in 1976.  She only purchased the businesses, not the buildings in which they were located.  The Ponderosa closed in the 1980’s and the salon with it.  I don’t know when she sold or gave up the Twin Falls store.  She ran the Burley location until she retired from it in the early 1990’s.  It was a sort of forced retirement as the restaurant next door caught fire and Sergene not to make the repairs to her building but just close shop.

Times News, 18 May 1976

Times News, 18 May 1976

Sergene with her parents in the late 1970's

Sergene with her parents in the late 1970’s

Colleen, Millie, June, Sergene, 1977.

Colleen, Millie, June, Sergene, 1977.

Sergene and Bert in the 1980's

Sergene and Bert in the early 1980’s

Millie, Colleen, Sergene

Millie, Colleen, Sergene

Sergene had a knack for golf and bowling.  She participated in the Idaho State Amateur Golf Tournament for 53 consecutive years.  She was honored as the Burley Municipal Ladies Golf Association champion from 1956 to 1986.  She regularly participated on the Idaho Women’s and Chapman couple’s golf circuits.  She also served as a member of the Idaho Couples Golf Association.

Sergene Golf

Bert and Sergene in the late 1980's

Bert and Sergene in the late 1980’s

Bert passed away 4 March 1991 in Burley, Cassia, Idaho.

Sisters at a funeral, 9 March 1991, Burley, Idaho, Colleen, Sergene, June, Millie.

Sisters at a funeral, 9 March 1991, Burley, Idaho, Colleen, Sergene, June, Millie.

Sergene and Colleen in San Diego

Sergene and Colleen in San Diego

Sergene married Harlan Brent Jensen 13 November 1991 in Elko, Elko, Nevada.

Harlan and Sergene Jensen in the mid 1990's

Harlan and Sergene Jensen in the mid 1990’s

Millie, Sergene, and puppies

Millie, Sergene, and puppies

1998 Andra Reunion, Milie and Vance Beck, Sergene Jensen, Colleen Lloyd.

1998 Andra Reunion, Milie and Vance Beck, Sergene Jensen, Colleen Lloyd.

Harlan passed away 4 February 2002 in Burley.

Sergene then spent considerable time with her dear friend and companion Edward Neil Dean from that point forward.  They were close friends and golfing buddies.

Sergene, Neil, and Vance Beck in 2007

Sergene, Neil, and Vance Beck in 2007

Sergene and Neil in 2008

Sergene and Neil at Lava Hot Springs in 2008

Ross, Don, Larry, Sergene, Neil Dean at 2010 Andra Reunion

Ross, Don, Larry, Sergene, Neil Dean at 2010 Andra Reunion

Sergene passed 14 February 2013 in Lake Havasu, Mohave, Arizona.

Sergene's Funeral Program

1952, 1957 Utah American Legion State Champions

1957 Utah State Baseball Champions

1957 Utah American Legion Baseball Champions. Back(l-r): Ellis Jonas, Lionel Benson, Jed Pitcher, Ken Chambers, Larry Federico, Bruce Pitcher, R.L. Pitcher, Joe Watts, Richard Lamb, George “Dutch” Reese. Front: John Hale, Glade Mather, Robert Eliason, Jim Mack, Doug Brinley, Vernon Rice, Brian Thornley, Lee Burke.

This is a photo that was handed out at Uncle Ellis Jonas‘ funeral.  I thought I would make it available.  The photo is of the 1957 Smithfield American Legion Team.  This photo was taken at the Regional Tournament in Winslow, Arizona. The 1957 Smithfield American Legion Team had won the Utah State Championship.

Ellis Jonas is listed as the manager and George Reese is the American Legion Representative.

Absent from the photo are Terry Griffen, Brian Toolson, Todd Peterson, Ferris Groll, Charles Wood, Mark McCraken, Ned Gylenskog, and Claire Nielsen.

The following photo is of the 1952 Smithfield American Legion Team.  This photo was taken at the National Tournament in Wichita, Kansas.  The 1952 Smithfield American Legion Team had won the Utah State Championship as well as the Regional Tournament.

L-R

1952 Utah American Legion Baseball Champions.  Back(l-r): DeVon Britenbeeker, Royce Lumberg, Jon Hyde, Erle Reese, Reese Naegle, Jerry Hansen, Richard Hodges, Hal Jensen, Ellis Jonas.  Front: Darold Whatcott, Ralph Tresedor, Cleon Hodges, Ross Godderidge, Jerry Coleman, Ferrell Karren, Ralph Roylance, Kay Inglet, Jack Reese.

Ellis Jonas is listed as the manager and Jerry Coleman as the bat boy.

Lastly, here is a little insert regarding Ellis as the coach.  I think it speaks for itself and his regard in Smithfield.

Ellis Commendation

Andra/Wanner Vacations

Mary and Bill Andra, Unknown Couple, Verna and Willard Wanner

I thought I would make these two pictures available to start making more of the Andra/Wanner line available online.  I do not know who the couple in the middle are above, but the other four individuals I do know.  Mary and Willard are siblings.

William “Bill” Fredrick Andra (1898 – 1990)

Mary Louise Wanner (1901 – 1991) married to Bill Andra

Willard John Wanner (1899 – 1979)

Gladys Laverna “Verna” Thompson (1902-1985) married to Willard Wanner.

It is believed that this photo was taken on vacation in Queen Creek, Maricopa, Arizona.

Mary Andra, Unknown Couple, Verna Wanner, Bill Andra, Willard Wanner, Norma and Kenneth Bodrero, Wilhelmina Bodrero.

The four people in this photo I know are the same as above.  Hopefully I can get some more by putting this online.  But since it is the same people, you can reference above for information.  This photo is also believed to be in Queen Creek.

Kenneth LeGrand Bodrero (1915-2007) son of Wilhelmina Bodrero.

Norma Bingham (1921-2007) wife of Kenneth Bodrero

Wilhelmina Wanner (1887-1991) mother of Kenneth and aunt to Willard Wanner and Mary Andra.

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.

How to write an Obituary

I have done genealogy long enough that I have read thousands of obituaries.  Let me give you an idea about a few things you should include in an obituary and some things you should not.  This is my idea on how to write a proper obituary.

First and foremost, an obituary is a public service announcement.  You will say good-bye, or bid farewell, to your loved one at a funeral or grave-side service.  But an obituary is not just for you, it is an opportunity to put the public and creditors on notice about the death of an individual.  Next, it is an opportunity to invite friends, community, and distant family to grieve with you.  This is not just for people to come to the funeral, but for the community and others to rally around and give some service, emotional or pecuniary, to the deceased’s estate and to the family.  I have noticed the western United States tends to do better at their obituary writing where the east skimps on this important information.  Additionally, the more famous, the less vital information that is shared (I am unconvinced by their reasoning, but may be for good reasons).

Each week I roll through the obituaries of a half-dozen newspapers looking for names that catch my eye.  I am fortunate enough to have some fairly rare family names.  But I do have some family who marry into more common names so I often will look at an obituary to see if the individual is related or not.  Then I scan to see if they really are related, or just a similar name to an individual I know.

I also worked for a law firm at one time that had me keep an eye on obituaries to see if a client with a will had passed away.  Another firm dealing with public relations had me search the obituaries for family members of clients and we would send cards to the client if one appeared.  Lastly, in a service position, I often tried to track members of an organization who had disappeared and I looked first for the older people in the obituaries of the state in which they last lived before attempting other means.

I am just indicating that obituaries have a valid purpose beyond some sweet, potentially selfish, family reason to share their love of the decedent with others.

Therefore, here are a few items to include in every obituary.  These are the items the disinterested public wants to learn in an obituary.  I have included a copy of a good obituary below.

  • What is the individual’s full name?

Please include the full name, spell out the middle name.  You do not need to put the maiden name as the name will be listed with the parents.

  • What is the individual’s parent’s names?

Please include the full name of both parents.  This is where you do want to include the maiden name of the mother.  Usually, I will write the mother’s name first as a maiden name, and then the father’s name to not worry about determining what the real last name is.  Hence, something like, “Richard was the second son born to the marriage of Jane Ethel Jones and Harvey John Smith.”  Mention the marriage if it exists.  If one of the parents are dead, put ‘late’ in front of the parents name (if both are dead, you will mention that farther down and can drop the late).  If the deceased was adopted, please state this in the obituary.  You do not have to give the biological parents, if you know them, but just show, “Jane Ethel Jones and Harvey John Smith adopted Richard when he was 17 months old.”

  • What is the individual’s birth date?

Please include the entire birth date of the deceased.  This is especially important if it is a common name like John Henry Smith.  Even if it is not a common name, include it because uncommon names tend to repeat names in their families which could still muddy the waters.

  • Where was the individual born?

It is not uncommon for individuals to move in our society.  This is even more true of couples who retire to Florida or Arizona.  An obituary is published in Queen Creek, Arizona and not in their home in Montana, and the next thing we know we are searching for an obituary for someone and an apparent match appears in Arizona but we having nothing to confirm the connection.

  • Who did the individual marry?

I completely understand if you want to maintain some privacy to the spouse of an individual, especially if they are still living.  If so, just list the first name.  No matter how much you might hate that first wife, list them.  If you really want to spite them, put their whole name.  Just make a reference to their divorce and put the next marriage.  But please list it, some states still leave property to a spouse after death, even after divorce.  Do not cut yourself short.  If there are other children from such a marriage, list them.  This is a common courtesy if you are not on speaking terms to let them know of the death.  If a spouse has predeceased, just write something like, “Jim married Belinda Carlisle on 4 February 1920, she predeceased him on 23 March 1984.”

  • When and where did the individual marry?

These items too can be useful for genealogy and legal research.  If married in a community property state, or even a state where family does not know of additional property, there can be implications.  An obituary may be one of the only ways this information will be out in the world on a free basis.  Working from obituaries, if a marriage date or location is not given, then a presumption arises that they were not or the family does not even know this information.

  • When did the individual die?

You would think an obituary might make this obvious.  However, let me tell you where this can become a problem.  Imagine you cut out an obituary and place it in a book somewhere.  20, 30, or even 100 years later someone is looking for that death date.  They do not want to walk down to the local library in another part of the world where the newspaper was published to spend a long time to find the exact page on which the obituary was located to figure out when exactly “last Friday” was on the calendar.  In our day and age with government records, it is much easier to ascertain the day that someone died.  But if you have John Henry Smith, with a hundred or so born in the US in a given year, that obituary with a date will be much more pleasing.

  • Where did the individual die?

This one might sound odd, but it also applies.  Let’s say I am a 2nd cousin who has not been in contact with Uncle George since 1978.  The last mailing address I have is in one town but I do not know if they still live there and I would like to search for their current address or a phone number.  Well, if they moved over just a few towns I will not find them, if they have a common name.  Most people die at a location fairly close to their home.  This will make it easier for the lawyer, governmental entity, or family member to contact you should they want to.  They will find you, but not listing it will just delay the inevitable.  Also, government entities often will list the location of last benefit, but that is not the same as death location for genealogical purposes.

  • When and where is the funeral?

This is one that many obituaries do not forget.  After all, we want people to come bearing love, condolences, and love.  Some even measure how great a person was by the number of individuals at a funeral.  However, I make mention because a few obituaries do not list this information.  I have read an obituary or two that I am left wondering where the funeral is at to send flowers or a card.  I only find out on the day of the service when the newspaper publishes it.  By that point it is too late to send flowers.  While cheaper for me, some people probably would not have minded attending the funeral.

Lastly, I do not mean to indicate that other things should not be included.  Military service, favorite hobbies, and special thanks should probably be included.  If a person has dedicated their lives to the Masons, a community, a church, or employment, that should probably be listed.  Please do not spend too much time on it though.  Some newspapers charge over a certain amount of lines too.

One last item that I would highly recommend, but understand for privacy reasons if you do not wish to do this.  List all the children of the decedent.  A little hint about the daughters, list them with the husband (if still alive) and married name.  Hence, “Jim is survived by 2 children, Molly (Kevin) Jenkins of Sacramento and Richard (Karen) Schmidt of San Francisco.  Jim was also predeceased by his daughter, Diane (Gary) Warner”

It is also common to list out the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Please do not name them.  Usually it takes space and the usual reader cannot tell which child belongs to whom, so it is just type we skim over.  Close family know who they are, the less-interested public will skim.  I read an obituary once that had like 11 children and they listed out all 42 grandchildren!!  They did not even give the last name of the grandchildren so even a person who does family history would have found the list useless (and if all the same last name, still just as useless).  List them in the funeral program, not the obituary.

Here I have to put in a note regarding our current society and identity theft.  The theft of a decedent’s information is somewhat limited in use.  First and foremost, report to the government immediately the death so that the Social Security Number and other relevant identification routes are stopped and that the government will be put on notice if someone attempts to use it later.  The probate court should take care of the rest.  Even if the hospital or funeral home is supposed to take care of it, make sure you check it out and report it yourself to both the state and federal government offices.  The information is not often independently valuable unless the government benefits are available.  Too often the family does not report it in time and the next thing they know someone else is using the information and even filing taxes under the decedent’s name and government identification numbers.  If you want closure with your loved one, do what you can to keep others from perpetuating their identity!  It will save you loads of heart ache to do a little effort immediately, like when you are writing the obituary!

I hope this helps some on how to write an obituary.  Keep it simple and do not put too much affection in.  After all, most of the public just wants the facts to determine if we know the person.  If we want sappy, we will come to the family, or send a card/flowers.  Or, if we have business, we now know we need to watch out for the probate notice.