Elizabeth Collie Sykes

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-7-43-06-pmI think this photo of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Collie, is beautiful. She has lovely eyes and there’s just a hint of a smile. Thank you to cousin Wendy for preserving this photo and doing the research on Lizzie.

Little is known of Lizzie’s brief life. Lizzie was born in King and Queen County, Virginia on February 22, 1873; one of eight children born to Mary Jane Carlton and James Collie. She’s found in the 1880 census living on a small farm with her parents and siblings in Petsworth in Gloucester County, Virginia. Lizzie may have moved to Richmond around 1892 with her brother James. Her death certificate reported that she had lived in Richmond for ten years. James Collie sent this letter to his nephew, Raymond, in 1939. I found the letter tucked behind a drawer in an old desk that had belonged to my grandmother. James was a minister and lived in New York City by 1900.

Letter from James Collie to Raymond Sykes

Lizzie married Thomas Leonard Sykes on July 8, 1896 in Richmond, Virginia. My grandfather, Raymond, was born just a year later in Richmond, on August 6, 1897. Thomas was born in Richmond on August 9. 1899. He was always known as Brother Tommy.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 7.32.21 PM.pngThe Sykes family lived at 319 North 29th Street on Richmond’s Church Hill. They may have moved here shortly after the house was built in 1900. The house still stands and you can tour it on Zillow.

Lizzie didn’t get to see her children grow into fine young men. She died at home of tuberculosis on April 30, 1902, at the age of 29. Lizzie’s brother Earnest died in 1898 and her sister Eunice died in 1899. Although I have not seen their death certificates, it is likely they died of the same disease. Tuberculosis is highly contagious and it is possible Lizzie contracted the disease from her siblings.  Her obituary refers to a “long and painful illness” and Lizzie may never have had the strength to care for her boys.

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The Richmond Dispatch, May 1, 1902, page 7. Chronicling America.

The University of Virginia digital tuberculosis exhibit explains, “Formerly called “consumption,” tuberculosis is characterized externally by fatigue, night sweats, and a general “wasting away” of the victim. Typically but not exclusively a disease of the lungs, TB is also marked by a persistent coughing-up of thick white phlegm, sometimes blood.” There was no cure and Lizzie would have suffered greatly.

Raymond and Thomas were raised by their paternal aunt, Evy Sykes, and her husband, Robert Davis. The boys’ father, Thomas, traveled for work and moved to Pennsylvania.

Sykes Ianson HeadstoneLizzie is buried at Oakwood Cemetery and shares a headstone with her husband and his mother.

Lizzie C Sykes death certificate

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The Juicy Details of a Household Inventory

Look around your home and take a mental inventory of all of your possessions. Imagine listing every dish, piece of silverware, pot, or tool you own. What would that list reveal about you? Would we learn your occupation, financial status, hobbies and more?

The inventory prepared for Peter Ogilby’s bankruptcy is an interesting document, full of juicy little details for descendants and curious genealogists. Most of our ancestors do not leave diaries or letters to provide first hand accounts of their lives. Instead we turn to documents like Peter Ogilby’s inventory. Studied together with other documents such as census records and chancery causes, it is possible to enrich our understanding of Peter and Harriett’s life together.

In 1825, when this inventory was taken, Peter Ogilby was 33 and in the prime of his life. Harriett Ball Ogilby (my 4x great-aunt) was 25. This is a relatively small number of household goods, but the items therein reflect a comfortable life. Note many of the items are domestic household items. As a married woman, Harriett owned nothing. By law, everything belonged to Peter and was part of the inventory.

Legatee of Mrs. Hendrick’s Estate
Had I not already known that Harriett’s mother was a Hendrick, this item would have sent me on a search for the Hendrick link. Harriett’s mother, Sally Hendrick, died before 1808. Harriett was named in her grandfather’s (John Hendrick) will of 1814. However, John Hendrick had married late in life, a second time, to her father’s (Isham Ball) sister, Martha, who died in 1816, leaving several minor children. The estate would not be settled until 1831. Meanwhile, desperate for cash, Peter Ogilby had already sold his wife’s inheritance to J. W. Nash.

One Cradle and Furniture
Did this cradle hold a baby in 1825?  Harriett and Peter had a daughter, Sarah, about 1820. The next recorded child is Peter, born about 1830. Most couples of this time frame had a child every other year. The 1830 census records five children living in Peter’s household, so the unfortunate couple must have lost three children between 1820 and 1830. It is likely an unknown Ogilby baby was sleeping in the cradle in 1825.  The cradle furniture is the mattress, linens, blankets and perhaps a canopy or tester.

Two Cows and One Calf, Churn, Three Butter Pots
Butter-making was a routine household task requiring some skill. Virginia’s hot summers could sour the milk or spoil the cream and any contamination could prevent the curdle necessary for butter. Churning the cream takes about an hour and then the butter had to be kneaded to release moisture. It was placed in a ceramic butter pot and covered with gauze. Two cows would barely provide the milk for the household’s dairy needs.

Two Feather Beds and Furniture
These were a real luxury and considered family heirlooms. Poorer households did not possess one feather bed, much less two. Once again, furniture here means the blankets, pillows, linens and draperies as the bed may have been canopied. Heavy drapes provided privacy and warmth in winter. Come summer the bed was draped with a lighter fabric to keep out flying insects.

Spinning Wheel and Cotton Cards
These implements indicate Harriett was spinning cotton into thread. Milled fabrics were available by this time, so it is possible these implements were already family heirlooms. Harriett may also have been practicing thrift by spinning and weaving some of her own fabrics. Note there is no loom mentioned here.

Tea Board with Its Contents, One Tea Kettle, Coffee Mill, Coffee Pot, Salt Cellar, Pepper Box
A tea board was a large tray, sometimes on a stand, where hot beverages like coffee and tea were served. Coffee, tea and pepper were imported to Virginia and were considered little luxuries, available only to those with the cash to purchase them.

Grid Iron, Tribbet, Iron Pot, Iron Pot Rack
The cooking in this household was done over an open fire. A grid iron supported pots over the fire. A tribbet or trivet was generally a three-legged stand to support a kettle near an open fire.

One Bay Mare
Peter had one horse, and it had a debt against it.

Two Trunks
Chancery causes prior to 1825 refer to Peter living out of state or in Georgia. Perhaps the trunks were a part of Peter’s wandering life.

One Looking Glass, One Dressing Box, Clothes Brush, Wash Bowl, One Chamber, Pair Flat Irons
A looking glass (mirror) and dressing box imply status and luxury. A woman may have kept cosmetics, combs and brushes in a dressing box. Harriett may have brought these items to the marriage. Flat irons were heated in a fire and used to press clothes. Chamber here may refer to a pot used to collect overnight urine and avoid a trip outside in the night.

What’s Missing?
A household inventory in rural Powhatan in the early nineteenth century would have included many more tools and farm implements. It would also have included a number of slaves to assist with the household tasks and farming. The 1830 census for Peter Ogilby includes several slaves, indicating that perhaps Harriett’s father, Isham Ball, “loaned” a few of his slaves to the couple. This provided help for Harriett and insured they wouldn’t be sold to pay Peter’s debts. Truly luxurious items like silver, crystal, clocks and even a buggy are also missing.

Summary
Harriet and Peter lived a comfortable life above their means. Peter did not farm on a big scale; there was probably only a kitchen garden to supply the family’s needs. Peter was a minister later in life, and he may have already been preaching by the time of this inventory in 1825. The inventory is available online at the Library of Virginia, Amelia County, 1839-010, John O. Hundley, etc vs Heirs of Richard Ogilby.

Peter Ogilby Estate

A Mystery Solved

When my ancestor Isham Ball died in 1860 in Powhatan County, Virginia, his will made very specific provisions regarding the inheritance of his daughter, Harriett Ball Ogilby.  Isham wrote, “The Share of my daughter, Harriett Ogilby, wife of Peter F. Ogilby under this item, I do hereby direct shall be held in Trust by Wm C. Netherland of Powhatan County for the use and benefit of my said daughter Harriett during her life and that of her children in such manner that the said Peter F. Ogilby shall have no control over the property or the profits thereof in any way whatsoever.”1

I wondered, in a prior blog post, why Isham directed that his son-in-law have no control over Harriett’s inheritance. I found the answer in the online chancery files at the Library of Virginia.2

Peter incurred a debt of $124.00 on 4 March 1820. When Peter failed to pay the debt as ordered in a judgment against him, he was arrested on 27 August 1825. There had been other financial challenges and Peter apparently could not raise the cash and declared insolvency. The Sheriff put all of Peter and Harriett’s unencumbered possessions up for sale and Isham Ball bought them and paid Peter’s debt. In exchange Peter granted Isham all of his interest in the estates of his brother Patrick, and parents Judith and Richard Ogilby of Amelia County, Virginia. When the estates were settled in Amelia County in 1838, Isham Ball presented the agreement to the Court and received the share of his son-in-law, Peter Ogilby.

Isham Ball notably stepped in to protect his daughter and grandchildren from Peter’s financial difficulties and Peter was released from the Amelia County jail. Certainly Isham Ball considered this episode and others when he wrote his will. He was prudent to protect Harriett’s interests.

Peter and Harriett’s assets were listed as part of his insolvency declaration. I can only imagine Harriett’s dismay at seeing her child’s cradle, her pots and pans, spinning wheel and coffee pot auctioned off to pay her husband’s debts. Fortunately they were purchased by her father and the couple retained possession of their belongings.

The list of items provides a snapshot of how Peter and Harriett were living in 1825.3 A copy was included in the 1838 division of Judith, Richard and Patrick Ogilsby’s estates. The young couple didn’t own a lot, and the belongings indicate a middle class life. A looking glass and books indicate someone who could read and who cared about appearances. Feather beds were coveted household possessions. There were a few tools but not enough for serious farming. Perhaps Peter had already started preaching.

And do take note of the clerk’s beautiful penmanship.

Peter Ogilby Estate


  1. Isham Ball’s Will, 1 Oct 1860, Powhatan County, Virginia, Will Book 15, pages 467 – 468. County Clerk’s’s Office, Powhatan, Virginia.
  2. “Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.” Amelia County (Va.) Chancery Causes. John O Hundley ETC vs HEIR(S) OF Richard Ogilby BY ETC, 1839-010. Local Government Records Collection, Amelia Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Web. 2 April 2017.
  3. Hundley vs Ogilby, page 22

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.

Writing History

Well, its been awhile since I wrote a blog post. A new grandchild was born, then the holidays, a little travel, a dreadful case of the flu-you know how it goes. Genealogy has been ever present on my mind, and my only new year’s resolution for 2017 was to finish the Taylor family history I began in 2008. The book is complete and almost ready to go to the printer. It covers five generations of Taylors who resided in Powhatan through the early 1900’s.

Have you ever picked up a genealogy book? Many are 500 pages of names and weigh about five pounds. Mine’s a slim book of essays about the life and times of six select ancestors. There’s still merit in publishing a book of names, but in this digital age the names and vital statistics of most of my ancestors can easily be found on my tree at Ancestry.com. I want my grandchildren to get to know the person, to walk in their shoes, and understand their lives. Here’s an excerpt about Robert Taylor (1738 – 1826), my fifth great-grandfather.

Wartime

The American Revolution began in 1776, the year Ann Olive Taylor, third child of Robert and Frances was born. The Taylors certainly had little time to think about the powerful events happening around them, and indeed all remained peaceful and quiet on their farm. The British, led by Benedict Arnold,  ransacked Richmond, about thirty miles downriver in 1780, but never came near the Taylor farm where Frances was delivering a fifth child, George.  There is no record of military service for Robert.  He was nearly forty when the war began, and may have been considered too old for the hard life endured by the troops. Robert provided beef and wheat for the troops, an action that made him a traitor to the British, and indicated his support of the revolutionary cause. Robert spent 12 days “collecting beeves” and was reimbursed £208 for this service. Larkin Smith of Cumberland County described this service, “…going over the country in every direction collecting beef for the army. Thinks there was law in those days regarding every man who had beef cattle to give up such a portion of his stock according to numbers to provision the army & it was made his business to drive these cattle & bring them within reach of the camp.”1 Robert must have contributed some of his own cattle to the war effort, because he was reimbursed £1-8-4 for contributing 170 pounds of beef to the war effort. Robert also furnished thirteen bushels of wheat for the troops. Wheat was plentiful in Powhatan, and its residents furnished hundreds of bushels of wheat for the troops.  The wheat was ground into flour by local millers and sent along to the troops. Provisioning the troops did not always go smoothly. Richard Couture writes in Powhatan: A Bicentennial History,of local millers putting  the flour outside, causing it to be ruined, and adding that “Further, 40 or 50 thousand bushels of wheat could be gotten from the county, but there was no transportation.”2 Colonial logistics for moving goods were difficult in the best of times, and clearly chaos during war.

Elizabeth A. Rust relates the following story about the rector of the Peterville Church, attended by Robert Taylor and his family, “ In 1772 Reverend Alexander MacRae was rector. He was a Scotchman and did not enter into the spirit of the times of the American Revolution and was warned to leave. He disregarded the warning so one night a messenger told him that a dying neighbor wanted to see him. He was waylaid and led to a tree where he was whipped. The tree has long been cut down, but was known as the “Parson’s Pine.”3 Robert Taylor’s community clearly supported the American Revolution.

_______________
1 “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.” Fold3.com. Larkin B Smith, Pension Number S. 6114, Service Va. Database and Images. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
2 Couture, Richard T. Powhatan: A Bicentennial History. Richmond: Dietz, 1980.
p. 84. Print.
3 Rust, Elizabeth A. “Survey Report Peterville Church.” Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory Project. Library of Virginia, 29 July 1937. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Elusive Family Photos

arlinetaylor-1939October 6 marks the 88th birthday of my mother, Arline Mae Taylor Sykes. I pulled out a book I made of our old family photos to reminisce about Mom, and I realize that I only have three photos of my mother as a child. Just like my father, there is not much material to document her childhood. I would only have two photos, but when Marilyn Sanderson Farmer learned of Mom’s death in 2010, she found an old photo of our mothers as girls. They went to the old Broad Rock Elementary School together and and were playmates.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-39-03-pmMarilyn’s shared photo is more than a treasured early photo of Mom, it is a lesson for all of us on preserving memories. If you have a box of old family photos now is the time to bring the box down from the attic and spend time with a family elder identifying the photos. Then please share them! Scan them and send them to the cousins. Use Facebook to reach out to friends like Marilyn did. You could have someone else’s elusive family photo. Mom is bottom left in this picture.

The photo below is among my favorite family photos. It’s held by Mom’s youngest sister, Florence Ann. Her daughter, Debbie, put all of the old family pictures in a book years ago and when I began my genealogy quest in 2005, they kindly allowed me to borrow the album and photograph all of the pictures. Mom and Aunt Florence Ann helped me identify everyone and then I posted the photos to my Ancestry.com account.

Aunt Florence Ann is the baby in her grandmother, Martha Blanche Pinchbeck Taylor’s lap. Mom is first on the left in the middle row. This is the only known photo of all the Taylor siblings together as children, along with some cousins too. It was probably taken at the family home in Chesterfield County in July 1938.

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Priceless Moments

I have hundreds of pictures of my children and like most young parents today, they will have thousands of photos of my grandchildren by the time they are teens. Technology has made photography affordable and accessible, documenting the ordinary and priceless moments of our lives. But for my father, those pictured moments were few.

Bobby SykesSeptember 22 is my father’s birthday, and this year (2016) is his 93rd.  He passed away eleven years ago and the photos I have of him are precious to me, especially since I only have two of him as a boy. I’ve checked with all of our family, and it appears there are only these two photos of Robert Kenneth Sykes (Bobby).

Daddy looks about ten in this photo on the left. His eyes were blue like mine and I think I have the same smile.

A delighted five year old Bobby holds the reins of the goat cart below. Daddy told me the photographer roamed Richmond with the goat cart and every kid wanted a photo and ride. Now I have this joyful, priceless 1928 moment in my father’s life – 88 years ago – to share with friends and family around the world.

Bobby Sykes