Saturday, February 25, 2012

They spelled his name wrong

Luther Marion Wilson was my grandmother Edith's first cousin, however I doubt she ever met or knew about him. He died when she was young and I suspect the family didn't talk much about him.

He died in 1921 and I had a note about him that someone had given me that said he was killed at Green Swamp which was in Pasco County Florida. I didn't know what that meant but decided to find out. Now that I know the story, I think his parents must have been confused and should have named him after Martin Lucifer, rather than Martin Luther.

Several years ago I found small newspaper article about a Luther Wilson being charged with a crime in Pasco County Florida but didn't know it was the same person. Then this year, using the Smather's Library in Gainesville, Florida newspaper collection, I came across another article that confirmed not only the first one was him but also explained how he was killed in Green Swamp!

The Bradford County telegraph from November 11, 1921 has an article on page two titled "Luther Wilson is killed by Officers." It details the account of how he had escaped from state prison where he was serving a life sentence for various crimes that started with the rape of his sister in law! He had escaped from jail and had been hiding in the swamp, probably with assistance from his family for over a year. He shot and killed a deputy sheriff at one point who had come out in the swamp to find him.

So this is one black sheep that everyone would probably just as soon forget about. If however you want to read the entire article it is online.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

There is a delay

One interesting fact that you find looking at old death certificates is that folks got 'em in the ground quick. Today the norm is to have a funeral three or four days after the death. Go back 50 -75 years ago it was always the next day. They didn't expect family to come from out of town for funerals and if they waited any longer it would not be pleasant to be in the room with the dearly departed.

Of course there were exceptions. Abraham Lincoln wasn't buried for over three weeks. Even with state of the art embalming (for the time) his remains literally were falling apart by the time they got him into you know who's tomb.

I found a story of delayed burial of almost 80 years that involved one of my great uncles. John J. Kelley of Taylor County Florida was married in 1852 to Tammy Blanchard, sister of my great great grandmother. He enlisted in the Florida Fifth Infantry unit from Taylor and Madison County on August 29, 1862 and went off to fight the Yankees. Unfortunately he was taken prisoner toward the end of the Civil War at Chester Station, Virginia.

He was shipped north to the Hart Island POW camp in New York City's Harbor. There after being held for only two months he died of disease on June 6, 1865. His remains were buried in the prison cemetery along with 234 other confederate POWs. Unfortunately he wasn't to remain in his place of final rest.

In 1941, a few months before the US entered another war they decided to move the Civil War graves from the cemetery on Hart's Island to Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. So John Kelley was dug up and moved south, I assume on a boat and not the N Line subway.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Rich Uncle

We all wish we had one, but for most of us it didn't happen. In my wife's family it happened but they didn't know about it until it was too late.

Her great uncle was Guy Glenn from Bonham, Texas. Unfortunately he died in 1986, about five years before we knew anything about him. He was the older brother of her grandfather. The grandfather was AWOL for 50 years so no one had contact with that side of the family.

I met Guy's daughter and niece while doing family research about 10 years ago and heard from them that he had struck oil on his Texas ranch back in the 1940s. Until recently I hadn't found any other sources to confirm the stories.

As it turns out he had six producing oil wells on his 160 acre ranch near Snyder, Texas. Guy had bought the farm in 1939 when his father died and he received $600 from the estate. Guy made a pretty good investment, turning that $600 into millions.

Of note is that Guy made sure my wife's grandmother also received $600 from the estate, the share from his AWOL brother. Today you wouldn't be able to give away an inheritance that belonged to a deadbeat but I guess back in the 1930s in Texas the Judge didn't ask a lot of questions so they gave the money to the wife and children.

Standard Oil struck oil near Snyder, Texas in 1948 and shortly afterwards oil wells popped up everywhere in the area.

Guy's modest farm was in the middle of the Kelly-Snyder Oil field, one of the most prolific in the USA.

I found several newspaper articles mentioning his wells coming in, with details on how many barrels they were producing. That was front page news for the Snyder newspaper.

It wouldn't be a real Texas story without a bogus land claim that Guy had to defend to keep his title to the land. Someone tried to file a title to the land in 1952 claiming they had bought it twenty years earlier, but Guy came out as the legitimate owner.

In 1956 Guy sold the Snyder farm, bought a large cattle ranch outside of Bonham, Texas and became one of the leading citizens of this small town. He died in 1986 and his obituary lists a full lifetime of community service.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Faces in the Crowd

I used to read Sports Illustrated every week. Probably did so for twenty years, until so much sports information became available online. One of the features they had was called "Faces in the Crowd." It listed several people each week who reached an obscure sports achievement that most of us would have never heard of. I discovered a distant cousin on the pages of an old magazine.

Johnny Ray Evans was born in 1954 in Jacksonville, Florida and died in 2006 in Winter Haven, Florida. I never knew him or anyone in his family. My genealogy software says he was my 3rd cousin, one time removed. His family was originally from Taylor County Florida.

I started researching the family after I received an email from one of the members who came across my blog. I found his obituary online using Google newspapers. It mentioned he was a seven time National Judo Champion. That isn't something you see everyday.

I decided to look up other articles about him and one was in Sports Illustrated, dated November 23, 1964.

I can't copy the photo from it but the link and article are below.

"Johnny Ray Evans, 10, of Hollywood, Fla. a 4-foot-7, 87-pound fifth-grader who took up judo two years ago, won nine bouts—eight of them by clean throws—to finish first over 53 boys in his division at the National Junior Judo Tournament in Miami Beach."

You can see his picture on page 125 using the link that says "view this issue."