My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Sunday, December 22, 2013

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - Thomas O'Donnell (1827-1877) & Sophia Thompson O'Donnell (1839-1916)

NOTE: This story is about Thomas O'Donnell, my great-great-great-uncle. I found it just yesterday, and have now confirmed the county and parish of my O'Donnell ancestors. More exploration will now be necessary to find out about their life in Ireland, and maybe one day I can visit the exact town where my grandfather's family lived. But the story today is about Thomas, and it's not a happy ending for him.

Headstone of Thomas O'Donnell
St. Louis Cemetery, Louisville, KY
Thomas O'Donnell is one of six brothers of my great-great-grandfather Patrick O'Donnell (1823-1911). Thomas was born about 1827 to Richard O'Donnell (1787-1857) and Margaret (UNK-UNK). He was born in the Parish of Lisronagh, in the County of Tipperary, in Ireland. Thomas and Patrick came with their brothers William O'Donnell (1818-1882), Richard O'Donnell (1820-1899), Edward O'Donnell (1821-1860), John O'Donnell (1822-UNK), and James O'Donnell (1830-1894) to America and originally all settled in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. On December 1, 1849, Thomas, along with his brothers Richard, Edward, John and Patrick, arrived in the Port of New Orleans on board the ship Fingall.

Thomas, along with Patrick and John, soon settled in Henry County, all working as laborers with the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad (later part of the L&N Railroad). On October 18, 1857, Thomas married Sophia Thompson (1839-1916). He was 30 years old, she was just 18. Sophie, as she was called, was one of five children born in Switzerland County, Indiana, to David Thompson (1804-1866), a Scottish immigrant, and Elizabeth Bennett (1803-1865), an immigrant from England. Thomas & Sophia in the early years of their marriage lived with her family in Eminence, Henry County, Kentucky.

Thomas rose to the position of Section Boss for the L. C & L Railroad in Eminence, and he and Sophia had six children (possibly seven): James Richard O'Donnell (b. March 23, 1858); Frances J. "Fanny" O'Donnell (b. Nov. 20, 1859); Mary T. O'Donnell (b. February 18, 1862); Sophia O'Donnell (b. February 13, 1868); Elizabeth T. "Eliza" O'Donnell (b. August 1870); and Margaret "Maggie" O'Donnell (b. April 1875).

from Courier-Journal, page 1
June 20, 1877
Thomas O'Donnell, a Section Boss on the Lexington Road, Cuts His Throat from Ear to Ear
"Jericho Station, 32 miles from this city, in Henry county, on the Short-line road, was startled yesterday morning by the news of a terrible suicide. Thomas O'Donnell, a man probably in the neighborhood of 50, was related to be the suicide. O'Donnell had been in the employ of the railroad as section boss, and, until lately, was stationed at Eminence, where he managed to save money, and became a proprietor of considerable property, it being estimated that he was worth about $20,000.
The railroad officers concluded to change his location, and a short time ago moved him to Dorset Station, twelve miles beyond Frankfort. O'Donnell brought his family with him and took up his residence there, but appeared discontented with the change. Monday he came to Louisville and yesterday morning, about 2 o'clock he appeared at the house of his brother Patrick O'Donnell, in Jericho, woke up the family and stated that he had missed the afternoon train from Louisville, and had come up on a freight train. He complained of sickness and went to bed.
About 6 o'clock yesterday morning, he arose with the family and asked for a razor with which he wanted to shave himself. His brother Patrick told him to wait until after breakfast, before undergoing that operation. Breakfast was taken, and between half-past 6 and 7 o'clock, Thomas proceeded to shave himself. Shortly before 7 o'clock his brother observed him going first to one portion of the fence then to another portion, and looking over as if to see whether there was anyone out in the neighboring farms. Patrick's supposition as to his action was far different from what it turned out to be. The farmer went to the barn to feed some hogs. He had been at his work but a few minutes when, chancing to glance up, he beheld Thomas lying flat on the ground about fifty yards from him.
Thinking that he had perhaps fallen into a fit, he went up to him, when, to his utter terror and dismay, he saw Thomas gasping for breath, and almost heard the sound of the death-rattle in his throat.  His throat had been cut in a most fearful manner from the top of the left to the top of the right ear, and the blood was streaming over him. The sight was sickening enough to nearly freeze him to the spot. The head was half dangling from the neck, such a gash had the suicide inflicted. Life was extinct in 5 minutes. An inquest was held by Squire R. W. Vance, at which Patrick O'Donnell testified as to what he had seen. The verdict of the jury was based upon the above facts.

Grave of Thomas O'Donnell
St. Louis Cemetery, Louisville, KY
The cause of the suicide is very unaccountable to the dead man's relatives and friends. He was moderately well off, was known, it is said, to be thoroughly temperate in his habits, was on good terms with all his relatives and had no financial or domestic troubles. The only cause that can be imagined was his discontent at being removed from Eminence to Dorset station. His family consists of a wife and seven children."  [Louisville's Courier-Journal newspaper; June 20, 1877; page 1]
Thomas was buried in the Catholic section of St. Louis Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. His wife Sophia, no doubt distraught, honored her husband with a special gravestone.  On the marble stone she had carved the place of his birth as well as the day of his death.
         "To My Husband
          Died June 19, 1877,
          Aged 50 years"
[This information was used - 136 years later - to be able to confirm that the 'Thomas O'Donnell' in the newspaper article, who was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Patrick, was the same 'Thomas O'Donnell' from the parish of Lisronagh, in the county of Tipperary buried here.]

Notice of Death - Sophia Thompson O'Donnell
December 26, 1916
Sophia, a widow at 38, and her six children (or seven as the newspaper article stated), ages 2 to 18, soon moved to Midway, in nearby Woodford County, where she managed a boarding house full of railroad laborers, including Thomas' older brother John O'Donnell. Sophia eventually moved back to Eminence, where several of her siblings stilled lived. She died on December 23, 1916, in Lexington, where she was living with her daughter Sophia and her family. She is buried at Eminence Cemetery in Henry County.

Mrs. Sophie O'Donnell
     "Funeral services for Mrs. Sophie O'Donnell, 78 years old, who died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John McCullough, 348 Jefferson Street, Saturday morning, will be held Wednesday morning at 7:30 o'clock at St. Paul's Catholic Church. Rev. Libert de Waegenaere officiating.
     The body will be taken on the 9 o'clock Louisville & Nashville train to Eminence, her former home, for burial. Pallbearers will be her grandsons, Richard, Robert, Harry and T.J. Granghan, Joseph, Jack and Charles McCullough and Edwin Doyle, Jr." [from Lexington Herald, page 3; December 26, 1916]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WEDNESDAY'S WEDDING - Obering - Flemming Wedding, 1942

Mr.. and Mrs. Tom Flemming
On their Wedding Day
On November 17, 1942, Thomas Anthony Flemming (1923-1999) married Rita Grace Obering (1923-1994) at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, 1327 6th Ave. S., in Birmingham, Alabama. They were both just 19 years old on the day of their wedding. Their marriage lasted fifty-one years and produced four children, two daughters and two son (all living).

Wedding Announcement - Nov. 1942
Birmingham News

Miss Rita Obering Wed
Pledges Vows With Thomas A. Flemming In Ceremony At Our Lady of Sorrows
"The marriage of Miss Rita Grace Obering, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Obering, and Thomas Anthony Flemming, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Flemming, was solemnized at 11 a.m., Tuesday, at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, the Rev. T. J. Pathe officiating.
The nuptial music was presented by Mrs. E. E. Mulvaney, vocalist, and L. E. Hart, organist.
The alter was decorated with urns of white chrysanthemums and ferns.
White Roses & Stephanotis

The bride was given in marriage by her father. She wore a costume suit of Venetian blue trimmed in dark brown fur with brown accessories. She carried a white satin prayerbook  topped with white roses and showered with stephanotis. (as left)
Miss Frances Louise York, as maid of honor, wore a sun valley gold suit with brown accessories. Her flowers were talisman roses. (see right)
Talisman Roses

Miss Imelda Duncan Obering, sister of the bride, was junior bridesmaid. Her dress was of blue wool embroidered in contrasting shades. She carried a bouquet of sweetheart roses.
James B. Flemming served his brother as best man. The ushers were Henry A. Obering, Jr., and William Hisey, Jr.
Johanna Hill Rose
The bride's mother's dress was of aquamarine crepe. Her corsage was of Johanna Hill roses. (see left) Mrs. J. J. Duncan, grandmother of the bride, wore black crepe. Her corsage was talisman roses.
Immediately after the ceremony, the bridal couple left for a wedding trip to New Orleans. Upon their return they will be at home in the Ponce de Leon apartments.
Out-of-town guests were Mr. and Mrs. Donald Graden, of Gary, Ind., and Mrs. J. D. Arnold, of Albany, Georgia.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Obering entertained members of the bridal party, relatives and immediate friends at an after-rehearsal party at their home.
A tiered cake embossed with white roses and topped with a miniature bride and bridegroom, which had been used on the wedding cake of the bride's mother, centered the table." [published in the Birmingham News, November 18, 1942]

Tom Flemming was the sixth of seven children born to Charles Clinton Flemming (1884-1935) and Katherine Aurelia Lambert (1885-1935). His father Charles was the third of eleven children born to my great-great-grandparents Charles Clinton Flemming (1854-1932) and Elizabeth Agnes McCaffrey (1858-1922). Charles Jr.'s older brother was Harry Clinton Flemming (1878-1955), my great-grandfather.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURE - The Flemming-Selman House, Birmingham, Alabama

Home For Sale (1906)
In 1906, my great-grandfather Harry C. Flemming (1878-1955) bought his first home in a brand new development on Birmingham's Southside. It was for him and his new bride, Pearl Horst (1884-1961), whom he had married on April 18th of the same year. It has been told that Pearl was too afraid to live in the house for the first year when Harry was away because it was "too far out" in the country. Pearl and Harry would soon settle down and live here for the remainder of their lives.

"Anderson Place" Neighborhood
In 1903, J. Cary Thompson acquired forty acres of unsurveyed wilderness just south of Elyton's holding and several blocks from the nearest car line. The land, on the northern slope of Red Mountain, had belonged to Frank Y. Anderson, who had acquired it while he was land commissioner for the Alabama Great Southern Railroad. They bought what would become the 1600 and 1700 blocks of 15th and 16th avenues south. By 1905 they had the newly christened Anderson Place officially platted.

The Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society published a special issue in 1982, telling the story of the area, Town Within a City: The Five Points South Neighborhood 1880-1930.
"Between 1906 and 1910 Cary Thompson sold several lots to individuals and other developers. Thompson also built several houses for resale in addition to his own home at 1631 15th Avenue South. The area, however was still rather remote. The daughters of Harry C. Flemming, who purchased one of Thompson's houses in 1906, said that at the time it was like moving to the country, recalling that one 'could hear the owls at night.'
The success of Anderson Place, described in 1910 as 'one of the most famous home places in the [Birmingham] district,' was in large part due to the new streetcar line that began running down 15th Street in 1907, coming within a block of the development. Its graceful aging probably reflects a combination of Thompson's careful oversight, architectural quality, and relatively little recent redevelopment." [page 33]
Flemming-Selman Home (2013)
Home Life
It was here, in the upstairs master bedroom [seen front left from the street] where my great-grandmother gave birth to all eight of her children: Pearl in 1907; Susie, my grandmother, in 1909; Odalie in 1911; Harry in 1913; Charles in 1916; Jack in 1918; Margaret in 1920; and Ann in 1923. It was here where the family ate every meal together for decades. It was here where they celebrated Thanksgivings and Christmases with their children and grandchildren year after year. It was here where Harry's father Charles Flemming (1854-1932), my great-great-grandfather, lived his last years, where he died at the age of 77, and where his funeral took place.

The Flemming family celebrated untold numbers of birthdays and special occasions here in the house. Oldest daughter Pearl was married inside the home in April 1926. Pearl and her husband Bill Barriger lived here at the start of their married life, along with their two daughters. Soon after seventh child Margaret married Frank Selman in January 1942, they moved back into the home of her parents. Frank and Margaret raised all five of their children in the house.

Harry died in his home after a long illness in May 1955, after celebrating their 49th Anniversary at a party in the house. Pearl remained living in the house with Margaret and her family until her death six years later (she died in September 1961, at St. Vincent's Hospital).

Frank and Margaret lived here, celebrating birthdays and holidays, anniversaries and graduations, with their children and grandchildren. Soon after celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary, Frank died here in his home at the age of 91 in February 2012. Margaret remained in the home she was born in, refusing to be moved into a nursing home even after she could no longer walk upstairs. As she had long wished, on September 16th of this year, Margaret died in the home she was born in, where she had raised her family, and where she had lived with her loving husband. She was 92 years old.

The home has been honored as a Historical Structure by the Jefferson County Historical Society. [right]

Thursday, December 5, 2013

THURSDAY'S TREASURES - Lee & Jackson Busts, Horst House - Mobile, AL

In a previous post, I told the story of the house built in Mobile, Alabama, by my great-great-great-grandfather Martin Horst (1830-1878). Read it here. The home still stands in Mobile, built in 1867, making the home 146 years old. In the previous post I describe the arrangement of the rooms in the home. But for this story only one area needs to be highlighted.

Bust of Robert E. Lee in Horst House
Mobile, Alabama
On the first floor of the house there is "a central hall, flanked by two rooms on the right, and a double parlor on the left. In the archway between the two parlors, Martin Horst had placed a bust in bas-relief of Robert E. Lee on one side, and Stonewall Jackson on the other."

In 1993, my father commissioned a reproduction of these two busts to be displayed in the new home my parents were building in Birmingham, Alabama. As my father always loved history - and was the keeper of the family history for both his family and my mother's family - he wanted to honor Martin Horst, my mother's great-great-grandfather.

He had two sets of plaques made. When the artist was creating the molds, he found that the plaques had originally been painted. The artist painted both sets, but my parents had the paint removed from one pair. The pair in Mobile are now painted white [see above picture].

Reproductions of the busts of Robert E. Lee (L) and Stonewall Jackson
Found in Horst House, Mobile, AL

He never did display either pair of busts but they, of course, are very special reminders of Martin Horst, his wife Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908), and the glorious life he made for his family after emigrating from Germany in 1846.