Fatherhood

With Father’s Day fast approaching, George E. Shumaker of Buckingham County, Virginia, stands out among all the fathers in my genealogy files, as the father of 25 children. Yes, you read that correctly, 25 children!

George Shumaker
George E. Shumaker

George is the great-grandfather of my husband, Jesse Crews. He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia on December 14, 1846. He probably never attended school as census records indicate George could not read or write. George was a farmer and did not own his home. Late in his life, George lived at Rolfeton, a beautiful country home seen in the background of the bottom photo. He may have been a caretaker or renting the farm. He died in Buckingham County on December 1, 1935, from a cerebral hemorrhage. His eighty-ninth birthday was only two weeks away.

George married three times. His first marriage was to Laura Newton, daughter of James Newton and Mahala Ann Taylor. They married on January 25, 1867, in Buckingham County. Seventeen children were born to this couple. Only six of these children are known to have lived to adulthood. Laura probably died soon after the last child was born in July 1885. She was only about 38 years-old. The loss of seven little babies, two small children and their mother, all in the years before 1886, must have left a cloudburst of grief raining over the Shumaker home.

Children of George E. Shumaker and Laura Newton:
1. Mary Elizabeth Shumaker (Newton): July 3, 1864 – February 26, 1939, married George W. Davis.
2. Ida Shumaker: December 1867 – Abt. 1911: married Benjamin S. Robertson
3. Unnamed Baby Boy Shumaker: February 1869 – February 1869.
4. Jenny Shumaker: August 25, 1870 – Before 1880.
5. Sarah Jane Shumaker: October 1872 – April 21, 1952, married Joseph Walker Doss.
6. Margaret Frances “Maggie” Shumaker: September 12, 1873 – March 6, 1952, married Samuel J. Wharam.
7. George E. Shumaker, October 1874 – Bef. 1880.
8. Hattie Blanche Shumaker: December 24, 1877 – November 6, 1969, married Peter W. Doss.
9. John W. Shumaker: 1877 – unknown.
10. Emma Shumaker: December 1878 – May 1879.
11. Laura “Dotsie” Shumaker: 1878 – September 17, 1913, married (?) Taylor.
12.  Emma Shumaker: March 10, 1880.
13. Frank Emmett Shumaker: March 10, 1880. He was shot and accidentally killed by a half-brother. The 1880 census taker recorded that Frank was 3/12 months old and born in February. Two other infants, recorded on the same page by the same census taker, were listed as 3/12 months old. One was give a birth month of March and another April. Frank and Emma were apparently twins born in early spring of 1880. Emma did not survive and wasn’t named on the 1880 census.
14. No Name Shumaker: March 1882.
15. No Name Shumaker: June 1883 – August 16, 1883.
16. No Name Shumaker: January 1884 – June 3, 1884.
17. No Name Shumaker: July 10, 1885.

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Nannie Belle Sprouse

George next married Nannie Belle Sprouse, daughter of Henry Wesley Sprouse and Mary Jane Shephard, on February 11, 1886, in Buckingham County. Nannie Belle and George had seven children, including Jesse’s grandmother, Minnie Shumaker. “According to family legend, Nannie Belle was in bed sick and pregnant. George gave her a dose of turpentine to make her feel better. Not long after, she sat straight up in bed and died.”1 Nannie Belle was about 31 years-old when she died. Today we think of turpentine as paint thinner, but in prior years it had many medical uses. It was used to speed up childbirth and to stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Nannie Belle died between 1898 and 1900 when George appears as a widower in the 1900 census. George and Nannie Belle had seven children, of whom six lived to adulthood.

Children of George E. Shumaker and Nannie Belle Sprouse:
18. John E. Shumaker: September 15, 1886 – before December 1887.
19. John Edward Shumaker: December 17, 1887 – November 16, 1945, married Nina Pearl Via.
20. Charles Harrison Shumaker: July 4, 1889 – November 7, 1971, married Emma Goin.

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Sisters Minnie and Mary

21. Mary Elizabeth Shumaker: September 19, 1891 – February 7, 1966, married Phillip Taylor.
22. Alice Reems Shumaker: October 15, 1892 – February 27, 1978, married George Taylor.
23. George M. “Reuben” Shumaker: March 17, 1896 – November 23, 1966, married Minnie Ragland.
24. Minnie Virginia Shumaker (Jesse’s grandmother): May 18, 1898 – January 24, 1979, married Joel Peter Crews.

George Shumaker family

George’s final marriage was to Pauline Susan McFadden on October 1, 1903, in Buckingham County. This marriage produced one known child.

25. Beulah Genevieve Shumaker: February 28, 1904 – December 12, 1980, married George Lann.

 

  1. Clark, Kimberly Shumaker. The Shumaker/Shoemaker families of Buckingham County, Virginia. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 2008. Print. Pages 5-8. I extend my sincere appreciation to Kimberly Shumaker Clark. Ms. Clark gave permission to publish the photos and records of George E. Shoemaker and his progeny. Virginia did not issue birth or death certificates until 1911 and it requires enormous effort to document pre-1911 families- especially one as large as that of George Shumaker. Some births and deaths were recorded at the county courthouse, but the dates can be wrong because the information was often supplied by helpful neighbors and family. Children could be entirely missed by the census taker. Sometimes the census taker spoke with someone who supplied incorrect information. Often individuals used different birthdays and even different names throughout their life. Putting together a record of George Shumaker’s 25 children was a challenging and still evolving task.
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Cousin Reunion

When my husband invited me to attend a national home winemaking conference in Ithaca, New York, my initial reaction was negative. I reconsidered when I looked at a map and realized that Ithaca was only an hour from Auburn, New York. Suddenly flying nearly 3,000 miles across the country seemed like a very good idea. I immediately arranged to visit four second cousins I hadn’t seen in over 50 years.

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L-R: Candy Chandler, Gary Morrissett, Nancy Chandler, Vanessa Sykes. June 15, 1961

The Chandler siblings were born and raised in Auburn, but their mother, Anne, and grandmother, Kathleen, were native Virginians. Most summers they loaded the family station wagon and drove to Chesterfield County, Virginia to spend a few weeks among friends and family. They would stay with my grandparents, and my mother’s siblings would gather to visit with their cousin Ann and Aunt Kathleen. Cousins Candy, Nancy and I were roughly the same age and I anticipated their visits with great eagerness. New York cousins were quite exotic to this little Virginia girl! We shared cold watermelon and fresh corn from Papa’s garden, hunted for four leaf clovers, made daisy wreaths and whiled away the hours on a swing underneath the shelter of a towering tree. Our little fingers shelled pans of butterbeans, just picked in the garden. I was rarely allowed to help with the harvest as my mother feared the many snakes who resided among the tomatoes and beans. While the aunts and uncles lingered, chatting in the twilight, we filled mason jars with “lightening bugs”.

More than 50 years later I was delighted to spend an afternoon visiting with my Chandler cousins. We reminisced about muggy Virginia summer days, swapped photos and stories and talked about our shared Virginia heritage. Thank you Lou, Candy, Nancy and Cindy for such a warm and memorable visit.

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L-R Standing: Cindy, Nancy, Lou and Vanessa. Seated: Candy. June 2, 2017