Thursday, April 28, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: Sons of a Trackless Forest

I am the very fortunate owner of a fairly rare hardback book "Sons of a Trackless Forest - The Cumberland Long Hunters of the Eighteenth Century" by Mark A. Baker. To quote Mohican Press: "'Sons of a Trackless Forest' is a 6 1/4" x 9 1/4", 992 page, 8 chapter work that includes a foreword by artist David Wright (who also created the cover illustration), a preface, an introduction, 10 appendices including original document transcripts, interesting end notes, and an index. There are 159 illustrations including 18th century maps, 19th century letters and illustrations, and various items from the Morgan collection. This extensively researched tale of the Cumberland long hunters is an impressive work on an integral element of the colonial era; those "sons of a trackless forest" who are deeply ingrained in the American psych."

So, why am I so fortunate? "Sons of a Trackless Forest", as of July 2002 and after only two print runs, is out of print. Despite a plan stated by the author in September of 2005 to first revise and then reprint the book in mass market format by 2006, that has not yet happened even though Baker has a very large audience impatiently waiting in line for it. The hardback book originally sold for $60 but a used copy up for auction on eBay earlier this year sold for a whopping $350! My fortune happened back in 2005 when I placed a bid on a copy of this book on eBay. My top bid was $190. The bidding quickly went up to over $260 and I was outbid past my comfort zone. As luck would have it, the person who won the bid decided not to pay and the seller immediately relisted. I watched and bids. The starting price was $60 and free shipping. In the last seconds I placed a bid, again for $190. To my complete amazement, no one bid against me and I became the new owner for a mere $60! When the book arrived I saw it was in near mint condition except for a tear in the dust jacket. I was elated!  

Daniel Boone
"Sons of a Trackless Forest" tells about the early Long Hunters such as Daniel Boone and several others who are lesser known. Among it's pages is the fascinating story of the long hunter Elisha Wallen (b. 1732), brother of my 6th great grandfather, Thomas Wallen. This book has a larger compilation of facts about Elisha Wallen than any other publication that I'm aware of. The author, Mark A. Baker, is also a living history re-enactor and a regular columnist for Muzzleloader Magazine. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on 18th century woodsmanship, and he had the distinct honor of teaching actor Daniel Day-Lewis how to load and shoot a musket while on the run, for the 1992 film "The Last of the Mohicans". 

Daniel Day-Lewis in "The Last of the Mohicans"

My treasured copy of "Sons" is NOT for sale!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sula (Wallen) Splitek - Our Family History Trailblazer

Sula (Wallen) Splitek
Sula was born July 7, 1903 in Wabd, Rockcastle Co., Kentucky. She was the daughter of Oliver Morton and Sarah Frances (Davis) Wallen, the wife of Frank Fulton Splitek, the mother of Blossom Joanne, the twin to Thomas Miller Wallen and sister to three other brothers: my grandfather William and the twins, Homer and Hobart. She was an Educator at Elsinore Navy and Military School in Elsinore, California, a member of the Order of The Eastern Star for 50 years and a member of Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar

Sula was the first that I know of in our family to become interested in genealogy. She was the first to reproduce her father's diary although she took many liberties with it by leaving out parts and making minor changes. She made many copies of her typewritten work and sent them around to various family members and it was my father's copy that sparked my interest in genealogy. My father's first cousin Charles was also inspired by the copy he received from his Aunt Sula and he and I would later team up and become inseparable cohorts in the Wallen family quest for nearly a dozen years.

Sula's family group sheets were, and still are, priceless. She wrote letters and traveled all over the country to get information from family members about their spouses and children, information that paved the way into some of the family that I would never have known existed otherwise.

Sula died October 7, 1994 at the age of 91 and is buried in Elsinor Valley Cemetery in Lake Elsinor, Riverside Co., California alongside her husband Frank who preceded her in death in 1977.

Frank Fulton and Sula Susan (Wallen) Splitek


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hardship in Christoval - 1905/06

My paternal great grandparents, Oliver and Sarah Wallen, left Kentucky for Kempner, Texas in early January 1905. They stayed in Kempner from January to mid November of the same year and then headed westward again to Christoval, Texas. Oliver took the buggy and went on ahead of the rest of the family in order to secure a place to live. The others would come by train when he sent for them. As he traveled, Oliver noted in his diary each and every town he came to and the distance between them. I recently clicked my way down the roads he took to Christoval via Google Earth street view. Everything was flat, dry, brown...and desolate looking, and I'm sure the road wasn't paved in 1905.

About two weeks after reaching Christoval the rest of the family was sent for and they arrived a few days later at the train station in San Angelo, 19 miles north of Christoval. There was Oliver's younger brother Jesse, Sarah, my 5 year old grandfather Willie, and the 2 year old twins Sula and Thomas. Sarah was about 5 months pregnant and I wonder if she knew at that time that she was going to give birth to another set of twins.

Christoval Baptist Church today
 via Google Earth
In Christoval, Oliver had searched in vain for a place to live. There was nothing available, or at least nothing they could afford. Mr. Ramsey, a kindly man from the Baptist Church where Oliver was to preach, offered them a one room "house" on his property. It was 12 feet by 14 feet, the size of a modern day bedroom. They pitched a 10 foot by 12 foot tent outside and that was their kitchen where Sarah would cook all their meals. Oliver doesn't say if the tiny house had any windows or if the floor was wood or dirt. I have a feeling it was never meant to be a house but rather a tool shed since the Ramseys had to clear it out before the family moved in. Oliver said: "It looks like living in a rail pen."  And I don't know what they did for heat in the Winter. Jesse didn't live with them, he had a place of his own. Maybe two adults and three little children slept all together in one bed to keep warm. 

Not the Ramsey "house",
but probably similar in size.
They lived in this house for 10 months, from November 29, 1905 to September 14, 1906, through winter, spring, and the heat of a Texas summer. It is where Sarah gave birth to the twins Homer and Hobart, and for the next six months after that there were seven sleeping in that little hovel. Once, they had to move out quickly as the river, just 30 feet away, flooded. Years later, Sarah told her daughter Myrtle that she picked cotton too, besides caring for the children and the constant sewing and washing of their clothing, and the cooking and keeping the small house up. She said she would be so tired after picking cotton that she would literally fall through the door into the house in sheer exhaustion.

The family attended Christoval Baptist church several times a week and Oliver preached there on a regular basis. Through all the hardship they never wavered from their faith in God, for that is where they found their strength.

Jesse, Sarah and the children
at Oliver's tomb.
In mid September 1906 Oliver moved his family to a two room house about 45 miles south of Christoval in Sonora, Texas. Even though his health was very poor, Oliver continued to preach in that town until he died just three and a half months later, in January 1907. He died almost exactly two years after leaving Kentucky, his twin boys having just turned 9 months old. Oliver was buried in Sonora and Sarah and the children returned to Kentucky a little later that same year.

Oliver's brother Jesse remained in Texas. He died there in 1917.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: The Runyans of Rose Hill

It's been 33 years since I've been out to the Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Tampa, Florida to see the tombstones of my maternal grandparents. I have no excuse for this neglect as I only live about 20 miles from there, and I dearly loved my grandmother and granddaddy. My mother's sister was buried with them, but I didn't know Aunt Lela. My brothers and I didn't even know she existed until we were in our 20s. But that's another story. 

I had photos of the stones taken by my mother after Aunt Lela died in 1996 but they were bad photos and I've wanted to get out there and get new ones to post to their memorials.  I finally did that yesterday. I called ahead to Rose Hill and they said they'd place an orange cone at the stones and to come into the office and someone would show us on the wall map where to go, maybe even lead us over if someone was available, but as soon as we drove through the entrance I knew where they were, even after 33 years. I knew all along that I would remember.

First, my grandmother died and I remember being at Rose Hill for the burial. I was not quite 20 years old and it was the first funeral I'd ever been to. Then, I was a new mother and my granddad died. My son was 7 months old. I was glad Granddaddy got to see and hold (and nearly drop) his first great grandchild. I remember going to the funeral home and seeing him there in the casket and thinking..."This is the first dead person I've ever actually seen."...and I squeezed his hand. I don't remember his burial for some reason, but I know I was there.

Lawrence Everett Runyan
born St. Patrick's Day 1893 - died Thanksgiving Day 1978

Then, 18 years later, my mother got the call that her sister Lela had passed away. Mom had to be responsible for having Lela's cremains shipped to Tampa from Indiana and all the arrangements for her burial. There was no one to help her with the decision making. No one to discuss Lela with. Not even Dad really, because he never knew Lela either.

I don't remember what my grandmother's original stone looked like. Maybe it wasn't much. I'm not sure why Mom decided to have a new stone made with her mother and sister together. I wish I could ask her about that, but I guess I'll never know that story.

Mary Fern Runyan 1893-1972 ~ Lela Custer Runyan 1918-1996

I'm glad I made it out to Rose Hill finally. I didn't know that writing this blog post would make me feel so sad though.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Will You Allow Me Space?

A Note To Oliver

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

My great grandmother's one entry in her husband Oliver's diary, October 27, 1900. 

Oliver had gone out of town for a few days to preach at Liberty Baptist Church in the neighboring Kentucky county of Pulaski. Great grandmother Sarah had not been feeling well, very likely because she was two months pregnant with her first child, my grandfather. Sarah wrote this note to let Oliver know she was going to stay with her parents for a few days while Oliver was out of town. Her parents lived in Level Green, about 3 miles away. I thought this note was very sweet!

Excerpt from Book #1, pg. 72 Diary of Oliver Morton Wallen (1900)

Oct. 27Dear, Will you allow me space enough to write just a little? It is Saturday evening Oct. 27. You are at Liberty, perhaps, and I am at home in our room alone and very lonely too. The sun is about to set behind a cloud. Oh how I miss you. I know God will take care of you wherever you go, for I have asked him to, and I believe he will. I am going home tomorrow if it is God’s blessed will, perhaps to be gone a few days. I trust I will be better when I come back again, that my presence may be more cheerful and that I may be more company to you. I ask you to think of me and remember me in your prayers. Good Bye, Dear. Sarah.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Tartan Day - MELVILLE and ANDERSON

In recognition of National Tartan Day - April 6, 2011
My children's paternal and maternal Scottish ancestry

Paternal MELVILLE tartan                        Maternal ANDERSON tartan

Leuchars Parish, Fifeshire, Scotland

The Melvilles, originally from Normandy, settled in 12th century Scotland and gave their name to the lands of Midlothian and Fife.

My husband's Scottish ancestor was John Melville (later, "Melvin") and was born in 1652 in Leuchars Parish, Fifeshire, Scotland. You can read about that lineage here: "The Melville Scots", and see photos of the Melville Castle which still stands today.

Maguiresbridge, Ireland
My Scottish ancestor was born in Ireland (known as Scot-Irish or Scotch-Irish). Thomas Anderson was b. 1727 in or near Maguiresbridge, Ireland. Maguiresbridge is a small village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. In the 2001 Census it had a population of 774 people. It lies within the Fermanagh District Council area. The town is named after the bridge over the Colebrooke river, first built by the local Maguire family.
Maguiresbridge Roman Catholic Church
via Google Earth (click to enlarge)


Friday, April 1, 2011

My Search for the Livesay Farm

Twice last year, I set out to find the farm of my great grandmother, Sarah (Davis) Wallen Livesay in Cloverdale, Indiana using Google Earth. My dad's first cousin Charlie told me the farm was 3 miles SW of Cloverdale and the first time I went hunting I spent the biggest part of a Saturday using Google Earth at "street view" going down State Rd. 42 starting at 2 miles outside of town and going as far as 8 miles looking at every house and farm, all to no avail.

A few weeks later I decided to try again. I thought maybe Charlie meant SE of Cloverdale so this time I started again at 2 miles out and went about 6 miles looking for the farm. Nothing.

Back in 2009 when Charlie died his sister-in-law mailed me a handful of photos she'd found of Charlie's that got left behind in his basement. Among them were three photos of the Cloverdale farm. Two of  the photos were taken in 1996 and showed the barn newly restored.

The oldest photo was taken in 1980 and in the foreground was a set of railroad tracks.The railroad tracks in that photo are what ended up giving me the clue I needed. 

Cloverdale, IN

The tracks have long been taken up but I found a historic map of Cloverdale using the David Rumsey Map Collection that clearly showed the tracks heading SE out of town. I knew that wherever they crossed 42 I was going to find that farm.

This time when I pulled up Cloverdale on Google Earth and zoomed out away from it I could clearly see the old railroad bed on the map. I followed the line of the bed down to SR42 and there was the cluster of specks that I knew was going to be the Livesay farm! 

I "flew" down to street view and there was the farm, almost exactly like the 1996 photo! It looks like it is not lived in but I don't know for sure exactly how recent the Google Earth photo is. I measured the distance from Cloverdale and it was approximately 1 mile outside of town, not 3 as I was originally told!
Google Earth view - Livesay farm looking SW from SR42

Google Earth view - Livesay Farm looking South from SR42

A little history from my half grand-aunt Myrtle, Sarah's daughter, via e-mail on January 30, 2011:

My parents moved to IN from Illinois in 1930, buying the Cloverdale farm - a small farm with a big mortgage. This was after the Wall Street crash and the great depression was just beginning. Don't even compare the recession we are in right now to that depression--they aren't even remotely alike. The jobless rate was something like 30 or 40%, there was a drought for about 3 years, making things hard for farmers, and my Dad couldn't quite keep up with the payments. I guess though we had everything but money! At any rate about 1942 the bank foreclosed and my father left that farm (I was teaching by then) and somehow managed to buy a farm 7 miles SW of Crawfordsville (and, by the way, paid that one off in less than 15 years).

Myrtle was born in 1920 and will be 91 in October. She is the youngest and last living of my great grandmother's 7 children.