Saturday, February 23, 2013

In The Beginning...... Year 4: Maybe This Year!

As I begin my 4th year of blogging about my family history and genealogy, I find myself winding down and writing has become more sporadic. This past year I was down to posting an average of four times per month. As this year progresses I hope to start writing about some of the hard, but important topics that I've been putting off.

Maybe this year I'll finally tell the story of my maternal aunt Lela, the aunt my siblings and I didn't know we had until we were in our 20s. Up until then, we all thought our mother was an only child. I've put Aunt Lela's story off because I have so pathetically little to tell really. There's a host of unanswered questions. Any who knew her are now gone and there doesn't seem to be anyone left to pump for more information. Not only that, but probably most, if not all records concerning Lela's sad life have been destroyed with my mother's consent.

Maybe this year I'll get the rather incredible story told about my husband's "illegitimate" grandfather, that Italian, woman loving, seducer of his sweet, young, and innocent grandmother. My husband's niece, Dana, made a special request that I tell this story soon...after all, something could happen to me and then no one would have the details to tell it like I can.

Maybe this year I'll finally finish transcribing the diary of my paternal great grandfather, Oliver Wallen. That will surely bring about more stories to tell! It would also please a few family members who have waited patiently to read the full version instead of the partial, tampered-with version created by Oliver's daughter Sula. Sula meant well and it was her efforts that made the diary known to the rest of the family and her version is what eventually interested me in our history.

I suppose my blogging will slow even more this year than last, but there will always be new stories to tell as long as I'm still working on the genealogy and history of my family...and I've been doing that since 1995, with no intention of stopping..ever! There are always new cousins with which to confer and share, and exciting new photos of ancestors surface from time to time as do new record sources. I am always amazed at what each new year brings. The story never ends! 

Maybe this year will be the most exciting year of all!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: William N. Runyan 1860-1885

William N. "Willie" Runyan - b. 25 May 1860 - d. 4 Jun 1885
Brother of my maternal great grandfather, Robert Noah Runyan
Died at age 25 - Buried Spiceland Friends Cemetery - Spiceland, Indiana


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: John and Mary Martin

John was the brother of my paternal great, great grandmother Ursula Ann (Martin) Davis Burnette. His wife was Mary Martha Thompson, daughter of John and Sarah (Debord) Thompson. They were married in Pulaski Co., Kentucky on 17 Nov 1867.

Mary Martin b.  29 Oct 1844 d. 3 Nov 1907 - John Martin b. 1 Jan 1843 d. 7 Nov 1875
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Pulaski Co., Kentucky


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Covert Burial of William Jesse Wallen

I suppose I can let this little story slip and not get anyone in trouble since the two concerned are now dead. It's probably not all that unusual an act but I'm pretty sure what the siblings, Sula Splitek and Hobart Wallen did was illegal. I just happen to think it was a darn good idea and I admire them for their daring!

William Jesse Wallen circa 1960
Sula and Hobart's brother William Jesse Wallen, my paternal grandfather, died in Tuscon, Arizona in 1976. This is the story concerning his burial that Sula told her nephew Charlie Wallen, taken from Charlies's genealogy notes:

"During a conversation between Sula and my wife and I at her home in Elsinore (California) in 1985, she related the following: She and her brother James Hobart went to Tuscon, Arizona upon being notified of their brother William's death. They claimed the cremated remains of William and took them back to Sula's home in Elsinore. Then came the question - what to do with the remains? Neither one of them had much money, so, according to Sula, one night they took the remains to the Elsinore Cemetery and dug a hole into their brother Charles' grave and put William's remains in it. Knowing Sula, I tend to believe this story. I leave it here for what it's worth.
     Charles H. Wallen"

What I find especially amusing is that Sula and Hobart were both in their 70s when they entered that cemetery after dark to make their covert burial!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Rockville Road Barber Shop

My maternal grandparents, Lawrence and Fern (Newby) Runyan moved around a lot. Before they were married they both lived in Henry Co., Indiana. After they were married they lived in Marion Co., then Delaware Co., then back to Henry Co., and finally back to Marion Co. again. And that's just what I see in the census. My mother told me of other moves that weren't recorded by the census!

The photo below is of my brothers and I in front of the Barber shop next to the house my grandparents lived in on Rockville road in Indianapolis. It was the last place they lived before moving to Florida to be with us.

Terry (Bob), Lisa, and Mike Wallen August 1953
In front of the Barber shop - corner Rockville Rd./Lynhurst Dr.
Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana

You can barely see in the upper left, the typical barber's pole on the side of the building. The candy striped cement post I am sitting on is one of many that went along the entire store front. There is an alley in front of us between the house and barber shop where my mother is standing to take this photo.

Here's a second photo of just my brothers from a little better angle to see the shop front and the line of cement posts. Brother Mikey would never let loose of that cigar box, he carried it everywhere!

Mike and Terry (Bob) Wallen August 1953
In front of the Barber shop - corner Rockville Rd./Lynhurst Dr.
Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana

This last picture shows my grandparents house and the barber shop as they look today. It was a big disappointment. Progress is ugly.

Their house is now an income tax company and the barber shop is a law office. The house was truly unrecognizable. The front porch has been enclosed and painted that ugly green, there's a large addition to the back of the house that wasn't there, siding has been added, and they've done something to the side where the windows were. The cute little back yard with the garden lined path back to Grandad's tool shed is now a parking lot. You can still see the old barber shop cement posts, now plain white, in this photo and the store front glass looks the same as in the photos above. This building hasn't changed all that much.

Old Rockville road Runyan residence and barber shop building today via Google Earth

That house was were my first, and maybe only, memories of what a basement smells like came from. I loved it and I'll never forget that smell. It was dark, damp, and cool down there, something you northerners take for granted, but a rare experience if you grew up in Florida. My grandmother caught a turquoise blue parakeet in the back yard here. She named him Sassy because he bit her fingers. Then she gave him to us and we had him for a long time.

After my grandparents moved to Florida, true to form, they changed residences at least three or four times, maybe more!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Shadrack Cundiff 1802-1858

Shadrack Cundiff b. 1802 Pulaski Co., KY - d. 1858 Nelson Co., KY
Son of Meshack and Elizabeth (Dale) Cundiff, md. Sally Stillwell 1822
Maternal 3rd great grandfather of my husband Mike


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Great Grand-Aunt Mary Susan (Davis) Denny

Mary Susan is a bit of a mystery in our family. She was the oldest sister of my paternal great grandmother, Sarah Francis (Davis) Wallen-Livesay. Their father, John Miller Davis, died in 1880 when the sisters were all very young. Mallie, the youngest sister was only 2 months old. Almost four years later their mother, Ursula Ann (Martin) Davis, married Cornelius Donaldson Burnette and soon the three sisters gained four half-siblings, three more sisters and a brother.

Mary Susan was only 16 when she married James Wilson Denny in Rockcastle County, Kentucky in 1891. She and James moved to Avon, Hendricks Co., Indiana and that is where their first son, Thomas Lee, was born. Their second son, John Wilson, was born in Pulaski Co., Kentucky and then two daughters, Retta May and Lola Edna, were born in Hendricks Co, Indiana.

Shortly after 1901 it became clear that something had happened to Mary Susan as she is no longer in the picture. In his diary, my great grandfather, Oliver Morton Wallen, husband of sister Sarah, stated that Mary S. Denny and one of her half sisters had come to visit them mid-March of 1901 and that is the last time her name is found. James Denny remarried in 1904 and started a new family so I am left with the conclusion that he and Mary Susan divorced. If she had died, the family would surely have some knowledge of it.

Family Group Record
In going over my grand-Aunt Sula's genealogy records for the family I found something that I had overlooked these many years: there was a note at the bottom of their Family Group Record that Mary Susan's sons Thomas and John were left deaf and dumb after having had Scarlet Fever. This is why I found Thomas in Allen Co., Indiana in a home for simple-minded youth in 1910. However, Thomas filled out applications for WWI and WWII and although he was listed as partially dependent on the first, there was no mention of any disability other than two missing fingers on the second. He also went on to marry and raise a family. On John's WWI application, he is listed as being deaf and dumb and in 1910 he is in Marion Co., Indiana in a home for the deaf. Mary Susan's daughter, Lola Edna, was living with an older woman as a servant in 1910. She was only 12. I do not know what became of Retta May. She and her mother are a total blank after 1901.

In an e-mail with my paternal grand-aunt Myrtle, age 90 at the time, she asked what I knew about Mary Susan. She had been told that Mary Susan "left the family and disappeared when hardly out of her teens". When I told her what I knew about her, Myrtle indicated near disbelief that her aunt Mary Susan had interaction with the family into the turn of the century: "I was surprised by all that information about her, because Mother definitely gave me the impression that she just went off and had no other contact with the family.  I think that was what Sula thought too.  The only solution I can think of is that what she did when she left home was so thoroughly disapproved of by the family that they cut her off and had no other connection with her, even though your newspaper articles indicate that she visited my mother years later.  I wish I had asked some questions about my mother's early life but I was only 10 or 12 or 14 and was interested only in myself, God help me."

Sula knew about the births of the children when she was working on the family history back in the 1960s because she had them all listed on Mary Susan's family group record and Sula got most all her information by contacting family members. Mary Susan was slightly older than "hardly out of her teens", as Myrtle thought all those years because she was 26 years old in 1901 when we last hear of her.

If Mary Susan did something to displease the family, it wasn't very likely that it was her youthful marriage to James Denny. James was a local boy and, from the few excerpts mentioning him in Oliver's diary, he seemed to be an accepted member of the family. Could it be that Mary Susan left James and her children for purely selfish reasons? I wonder if I can ever know.

Other than "Denny", some of James and Mary Susan's descendants have the surnames Northcutt, Barrickman, Hine, and Isenhour. Maybe there is at least one that can enlighten me about their ancestor, my great grand-aunt Mary Susan. I'd love to know the rest of the story!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Samuel Grunden: Racism in Mercer Co., Ohio

In 1835 Augustus Wattles, a native of Connecticut, purchased 190 acres of land in southern Mercer Co., Ohio and, just a few years later, founded a school, the Emlen Institute, for the support and education of colored boys of African and Indian descent. By 1838 Wattles had purchased a total of 30,000 acres in Mercer county and proceeded to found a settlement to be colonized by freed blacks from Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

Emlen Institute

This large influx of coloreds was objected to by the white residents of the area and a number of disturbances broke out, reaching a climax in June of 1846 when word reached the neighborhood of the coming of 400 more blacks, the freed slaves of John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia.

The freed slaves arrived in Cincinnati and were transported by canal boats as far as New Bremen. Whites from Auglaize and Mercer counties assembled together and every able male citizen of the township of New Bremen joined in forming picket lines, refusing to let the boats land. The would-be settlers had no choice but to turn back. This organized group of whites was led by Silas Young and Samuel Grunden.

When I first read this story I was startled by those two names.  My ancestor was Samuel Grunden and he lived in Mercer Co., Ohio during that same time period! I also knew that two sons of Philip Young had married into the Grunden family, also in Mercer Co., Ohio, and that the two families were close.

With further research, I realized that my ancestor was too old to have been the Samuel Grunden who was vice-captain of this resistance group. Samuel was nearly 70 years old in 1846. The vice-captain was likely his son Samuel Jr., brother of my ancestor Joseph. *(Please see update at the end of this post) I am not yet sure how the captain, Silas Young, is related to the Young family connected to mine, but I have little doubt that he is connected in some fashion.

Severe racial friction finally took it's toll and the Emlen Institute closed it's doors in 1857.  In 1866 many of the freed slaves left for Liberia, South Africa, while another portion of them was successful in making a settlement in Montezuma in Franklin Township.

Cleveland Plain Dealer
3 Dec 1916
It's an interesting story and it doesn't end there. In 1907, descendants of the slaves of John Randolph tried to regain the land that was purchased for their ancestors. It was a 10 year battle which they eventually lost.

This is just a very brief summary of the story of the Wattles Negroes and it's briefness is not meant to marginalize these lives or the efforts of Augustus Wattles and others, but rather to bring attention to what I think is probably a lesser known story of racial conflict that took place before the civil war. 

While I'm not proud that members of my family were involved in this racial stand-off, it is history, and it is what it is.


Winter, Nevin O. "Mercer County." A History of Northwest Ohio: a Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Development from the First European Exploration of the Maumee and Sandusky Valleys and the Adjacent Shores of Lake Erie, down to the Present Time,. Vol. 3. Chicago: Lewis Pub., 1917. 513. Print.

"Kansas Bogus Legislature - Augustus Wattles." History of Western Ohio and Auglaize County, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Pioneers and Prominent Public Men,. Columbus, OH: Press of W.M. Linn & Sons, 1905. Kansas Bogus Legislature - IntroductionWeb. 04 Feb. 2011.

Mathias, Frank F. "John Randolph's Freedmen: The Thwarting of a Will" The Journal of Southern History Vol. 39, No. 2 (May, 1973), pp. 263-272 Published by: Southern Historical Association Stable URL:

Woodson, Carter Godwin. "Vocational Training." The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861: a History of the Education of the Colored People of the United Sates from the Beginning of Slavery to the Civil War. Belle Fourche, SD: Kessinger, 2004. 294-95. Print.

*Update: I have to admit to a bit of sloppiness on my part at this point. I assumed Samuel Sr. was too elderly at nearly 70 years of age, to be vice-captain of such a group. Had I checked my own notes I would have seen that Samuel Jr. was in Clinton Co., Indiana before and after this incident took place, so it is extremely unlikely that he was at all involved. Unless there was another Samuel Grunden in the area, it would have indeed been Samuel Sr. who led this group along with Silas Young. (Kudos go to cousin Phil Grunden, descendant of Samuel Jr., for bringing this to my attention!)