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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Crews Brothers and Sailors

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The original newspaper clipping is in the possession of Joanne Crews. The clipping is undated and unsourced.

This is the earliest photo we have of Jesse’s father, George Van Crews, and we treasure it. These three handsome Sailors are the sons of Joseph (Joel) Peter and Minnie Shumaker Crews. The boys had a younger sister, Dorothy, still at home.

All three Crews brothers would serve in combat zones in the Pacific by the end of the war in 1945.

Raymond enlisted in the Navy in 1939 and was on duty in Little Creek, Virginia when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served on landing ship tank (hospital) USS LST(H)-949 when it was part of the Battle of Okinawa, earning multiple medals and battle stars.

George enlisted in the Navy on September 11, 1942 and served on cruiser, USS Minneapolis, and aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. While on board Minneapolis he earned two medals, the Asiatic Pacific and the Philippine Liberation, as well as seven battle stars.

Joseph was only 16 years old when he enlisted in the Navy. His age and the fact that he already had two brothers on active duty in combat zones complicated enlistment, but young Joseph was determined. He served on destroyer USS Gillespie and attack transport, USS Tazewell. Gillespie patrolled the waters around New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and came under repeated air attacks but avoided damage.  While on Tazewell, Joseph participated in the Battle of Okinawa and earned multiple medals and battle stars.

The safe return of these sailors brought great joy to their family following the war years of fear and anxiety. Like others of the Greatest Generation Raymond, George and Joseph put the adventures and hardships of war behind them. Raymond and George found jobs at nearby Reynolds and Dupont plants and Joseph worked at the McGuire VA Hospital. They married and raised families, always putting duty first. They survived the war, but the brothers still left this world much too soon. Raymond died in 1966 at the age of 47. George passed away in 1987, 63 years old and Joseph died in 1988 at the age of 62.

Here’s to you, Raymond, George and Joseph Crews–three of the 12,209,238 men and women who served in the US Armed Forces during World War II.1


 

  1. Visit the website of the National World War II Museum to see this and other statistics of World War II.

 

 

 

Grace Church: Built by Jim Crews & Sons

 

Grace Church
Grace Episcopal Church.                                                         Drawing from The Courthouse Burned.

A drawing of Chellowe, a beautiful historic estate, caught my eye in the spring issue of the Historic Buckingham Newsletter. The drawing came from a book I’ve owned for a long time, The Courthouse Burned… by Margaret A. Pennington and Lorna S. Scott. I opened my copy and started thumbing through. My husband’s Crews family was from Buckingham County. They were humble people and in previous passes at the book, I hadn’t associated them with any of the featured stately homes. But there on page 103, I found a piece of Crews history.

 

Through the years I’d heard about a church the Crews family built. “Maybe Grace Church?” some said. I couldn’t find a reference to a Grace Church in Buckingham until today. I couldn’t find the church because it closed in the 1970’s and was torn down.  Authors Pennington and Scott state the church was built in the early 1870’s by Jim Crews and sons. This would be James A. Crews and his sons, George, James and Joel. James was born in Buckingham County ca 1812 and died there after 1880. Census records indicate he was a carpenter. He was from a family of lapsed Quakers, and I doubt if James attended the Episcopal Church he built.

The following text is from The Courthouse Burned… by Pennington and Scott.

In the fall of 1871 Mr. John Horsley gave the land for this church. Logs for the sills and framing were gotten from nearby woods and hewn on the grounds. Jim Crews and his sons did much of the work. J.B. Horsley and H.D. Omohundro hauled the lumber from Payne’s saw mill. The planing was done by hand. Sand for plastering was hauled from an island in the James River. Mr. Bolling Morriman did the plastering which for some reason did not hold; so later the church was ceiled. Doors for the front were brought on a packet boat up the Kanawha Canal and unloaded at lock #32 between Warminster and Manteo on Horsley land and carried by ox team by Douglas Omohundro (grandfather of Mrs. Harry Wyland) who drove the oxen. The Bradys of West Virginia gave a memorial window in memory of Louise Brady Horsley who was Mrs. Wyland’s great grandmother.

In the early 1970’s due to the small number of members, the congregation of this church was moved to Emmanuel Church at Glenmore. The memorial window was moved to Emmanuel also. The old church is gone completely today but those who labored to build it have this promise, “Therefore be ye steadfast… forasmuch as ye know your labor is not in vain…” I Corinthians 15:58

James A. Crews is my husband, Jesse’s, 2x great grandfather and Joel Crews is his great grandfather.

How Jesse Got His Name

Jesse Van Crews. My husband has a quite a name, doesn’t he? The first name is easy. He was named for his maternal grandfather, Jesse Sands, a beautiful classic name. Jesse’s family never called him “Jesse”. It was always Van or Vannie. When Jesse started school he decided that Vannie was a sissy name and asked the teacher to please call him Jesse. So he has always been Jesse to friends, schoolmates and colleagues, but Vannie to family.

Jesse’s father was George Van Crews and gave Jesse his middle name. I asked Joyce, Jesse’s mother, how George came to be named Van and she explained, “Honey, my mother-in-law, Minnie, said she named him for Van Cliburn.” Years later when I thought about this response it didn’t seem logical. No one in Jesse’s family listened to classical music. His grandparents, Joe (aka Peter) and Minnie Crews, were not sitting around the radio listening to Van Cliburn play Rachmaninoff. Especially since his father George was born in 1923 and Van Cliburn wasn’t born until 1934. So, where did the name Van come from?

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Van Short and Sallie Crews Short                 Photo provided by Ed Quinn

Jesse’s great-aunt Sallie Crews married Van Short in 1916. Aunt Sallie and Uncle Van were kind and generous with Sallie’s ten siblings and their many children. Van had a good job with American Viscose in Roanoke and Sallie was a realtor. When times were hard, Van and Sallie often lent a helping hand. Their daughter, Virginia, was close to her cousins in Richmond and the Richmond family members were always welcome at the Short’s home in Roanoke. It’s almost certain Jesse was named for Aunt Sallie’s beloved husband, Van. I believe Jesse has lived up to his namesake’s reputation for industry, kindness and generosity.

A Dangerous Job

Labor Day prompted me to think about three tragic workplace deaths suffered by family members I’ve researched. Following the Civil War occupations in Virginia transformed radically. Farming declined and people moved to town looking for work. Lacking skills and education, some found work in dangerous occupations without the protections of today’s labor laws.

reuther-bixlerMembers of the extended Crews family moved from Buckingham County to Richmond around 1920. Several of them became window washers and this occupation can be seen on Julian Hague’s census records for 1930 and 1940. Julian married my husband Jesse’s great aunt Myrtle (Myrtie) Crews in 1920. Myrtle’s sister, Martha (Mattie) married William (Willie) Bixler in 1920. Julian Hague worked washing windows and soon Willie Bixler’s younger brother, Reuther, came to town looking for work. Like many he started working at one of Richmond’s many cigarette mills, but later he decided to try window washing.

Reuther married his Buckingham County sweetheart on 23 July 1924. Just one week late Daisy was a widow. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported the following:

“Losing his balance, while washing windows on the second story of the First National Bank Building, R.E. Bixler of 3810 Lawson Street, South Richmond, plunged to his death yesterday afternoon.

Falling less than fifty feet, Bixler struck his head on an iron spike and his skull was crushed. He was dead when the city ambulances reached the scene. 

Hundreds of Richmonders, off for their lunch hour, witnessed the tragedy. Several attempted to render assistance, but Bixler died a few minutes after striking the concrete.”

daisy-moss-bixler

julian-hagueJulian Hague was supervising Reuther that day at the job site. Years later, on 12 May 1942, Hague was washing windows when he fell from the second floor of a building at Sixth and Cary Streets. He suffered a “fractured pelvis, a concussion of the brain and a punctured bladder. Hague lingered in the hospital until July 12 when he succumbed to heart failure and pneumonia as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident. His two teen-aged sons were left orphans as his wife, Mattie Crews, had died of TB in 1932.

Tomorrow: Another Workplace Death in the Family