Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who was my mother's grandfather?

Oscar Nye and 18 mos old Jerry Kerr
Every once in awhile we find a photo like this one, and wonder what was the person in the photo like?  Here we have Oscar William Nye, born in Circleville, Ohio Novermber 27, 1868.  His father William and mother Anna lived in Clear Creek, Ohio in 1880.  In 1893 Oscar, now living in Colorado, married Lura Weatherly.  All of these details give me a path to follow as the Nye family moved west, but they don't tell me much about the man.  It is obvious in the picture that he was a proud man who was content with his life in the home he had established in Santa Monica, California where the picture above was taken in March 1946.

As Oscar moved from Ohio to Iowa, then Colorado and eventually California he worked at many different jobs.  Early on he worked as a laborer on farms where he learned to drive teams of horses.
Like many young men growing up on a farm, he learned to do just about anything from caring for animals to fixing mechanical things.  As he moved westward to Iowa, he began driving large trucks and buses.  Still working at any labor intensive job he could get, he mad his way to Colorado where he met his bride, Lura Weatherly.  They are married in 1893 and Oscar has now turned to factory work making brooms. 

He is in Weld County Colorado, a basic farming area very similar to the part of Ohio were he was raised.  A farm is his goal and that is realized around 1906 when he leases a small farm for his growing family of two girls.  In 1911 he receives a Land Grant for 160 acres.  He is 42 years old and his dream of his own farm is a reality. 

Hard working, and goal oriented, I would say that by this time in his life Oscar Nye was a great example of the American spirit that represented the beginning of the 20th century.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Shopping Saturday

Where to begin? My early memories of shopping at Dorr's Market in North Redondo in the 1950's? Typical of the neighborhood grocery store's that popped up following WWII, the owner and his family were the back bone of the staff. No scanners, feed belts, or fancy cash registers, just a simple mechanical cash register and a counter for you to place your purchases. A meat counter where you paid the butcher directly, right over the display case. Today, specialty stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods come the closest to the feel of shopping in the 50's.

My Aunt Lillian who was born on the Kerr Farm in Kerr Hollow Tennessee relates the experience of shopping at Hob Brimers store which was down the road from the farm. She would pick wild berries and take them to Hob and barter for cloth to make her clothes. If the family had an excess of eggs, they would trade eggs for script to use for future purchases. The time period for this shopping was from 1925 to 1942. These country stores had every thing from hard candy to shovels. They were the primary source for staples such as sugar, salt, coffee and canned goods. Farmers raised their fresh veggies, meat, and corn. Local gossip and news was also a staple of these country stores.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A new find

When I first came to this land-
I was not a wealthy man,
Then I got myself a farm-
Called my farm – muscle in my arm;

But the land was sweet and good
and I did what I could.”

and so the old ditty goes -
“got myself a shack, called my shack -break my back;”
“got myself a hen – called my hen – no eggs again;”
“got myself a wife – called my wife – run for your life;”
"got myself a son - called my son - my jobs done;"
"got myself a dog - called my dog - sleeps like a log;"
“but the land was sweet and good; and I did what I could.

This ditty, with origins from a simpler old Pennsylvania Dutch ditty describes with quirky detail what life must have been like in Central Tennessee at the turn of the 20th century.  In 1925 my grandfather Joe Lee Kerr bought two farms that totaled 140 acres.  With 3 main dwellings for living and plenty of out buildings to support their farming needs the family moved from Corbin, KY to this land dissected by Scarboro creek.  The little valley would soon be known as Kerr Hollow.  Located between Bethel Valley to the South and Union Valley to the North it would be home to Joe and Molly Kerr until 1942 when the entire hollow was taken by the Federal government in support of the Manhattan Project.

The main house on the South 40 of the Kerr Farm
During this entire time, Joe was employed by the L&N Railroad and made runs from Clinton, KY to Etowah, TN.  Molly was in charge of the farm and raising the kids.  The last two born in the house pictured here.  Joe would spend his railroad down time at the farm.  He was known locally as a horse trader and would often take off on a two or three day ride to sell a quality farm horse.

Molly ruled the farm with a fierce hand.  She believed in discipline by leather belt or tree switch.  She was know for keeping a revolver in her apron pocket for varmints and vagrants.  She is the grandparent that I have the most knowledge about since I spent a small amount of time with her in my youth.  Her full story will come at another time.

Mean while, there is more about the history of Kerr Hollow at this University of Tennessee site: Kerr Hollow History

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday and it is still daylight

Daylight savings sure messes with the old internal clock. Monday after the time change is the worst Monday of the year - and we are so privileged to get two of them.  I envy folks who live in Arizona.  No time change for them.  No clocks to reset,  no sleepless nights wondering if you will be on time for that early morning appointment,   They say that the time change was so farmers had more daylight for the planting of crops and such.  I think this was dreamed up by city politicians who had no clue as to what farmers go through.  Farm life is a sun up to sun down job no matter what the clock says.  Do you really think a Cow knows what time a clock has on it's face?  No she knows by the sun and daylight where she is supposed to be.  I figure money was the big motivator to changing the time.

Yesterday I talked about my grandfather, Joe Kerr.  He worked for the L & N Railroad.  I wonder how confusing it got for these guys back in the '20s and '30s dealing with the time changes from county to county.  I would assume that they would just operate on standard time all year round?  Any one know?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dad's Dad, My Grandfather Joe

Joe Lee "Poppie" Kerr was born July 25, 1881 in Williamsburg, Kentucky.  At the age of 18 he married Almeada "Meade" Adkins also 18 years old.  How they met was told to me by my Uncle Joe Edward.  Poppie was working in a field with a friend when Meade and her friend rode up and let their horses drink in the creek.  Meade dropped the horses reins and asked Poppie to hand her the reins.  Poppie reached down and held the rein and said he would hand them to her if she would marry him.  They were married two weeks later in Clinton, Kentucky.  Meade died in May of 1909.  The recently widowed Mary "Mollie" Williams was hired as a housekeeper and nanny for Poppie and Meade's 2 children.  Care of Mollie's son Ernest was also included in the arrangement.  Again the practical yet impulsive Poppie is on his way to church with 3 children and their nanny when he asked Mollie to marry him since she was already taking care of his house and kids.  It turned into a prolific match (an additional 10 children) that lasted until his death in 1945.  This picture is Poppie in 1939 next to his Plymouth Business Coupe,

Another story that gives you some insight into what kind of man my Grandfather was is this one, that I transcribed from a story printed in the L & N Railroad Employees Magazine, December 1938.

On August 9, 1900, Joe Lee Kerr walked a little matter of fifteen miles to work a half-day on the Knoxville Division section gang.  It took Joe Lee five hours to walk this distance and report for work.  Mr. Kerr says this initial working day for the L & N Railroad was a real letter day for him, even though for a half day's work he received only fifty cents.  By the end of August he had out an even sixteen dollars - three five dollar gold pieces and one in silver.  From the back end of the old pay car Mr. Kerr was handed this gleaming treasure, and although his pay-days since have been considerably larger, this was the biggest payday eh ever received.  Mr. Kerr has recently rounded out 38 years of service with Old Reliable.  In all the time he has not been injured enough to lay off a day nor has he caused any other employee to be injured.  A cinder in his eye has been the extenet of his injuries.  The accompany picture was taken on August 15, 1938.  Mr. Kerr is employed today as a brakeman on the K & A Division from Etowah to Corbin.  He has a farm near Edgewater, Ten. which he plans to live on when he retires from service.  His biggest thrill and hobby is swapping horses.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Here we are in 1940 again!

So I am playing Texas Holdem poker at my favorite casino yesterday and a couple of the younger (re: 20 something) players are talking about this picture on their smart phones.  Now you have to know that I am in possession of a cell phone, one that is about 3 generations away from the Motorola "brick" and I can see the time and make phone calls - no internet access, no music, yep it is just a phone.  Anyway, they can't figure out what the item in the picture is or does.  So the guy sitting next to me shows me a picture of an oil can piercing spout. I tried to explain that prior to plastic bottles, oil came in sealed paper cans that you pierced the metal top with this thing and you could then pour the oil into your engine.  Before paper the cans were metal, but back in the early days of auto care and clear up into the early 60's you could also find oil in the bulk that was dispensed in glass bottles.  That is when it dawned on me that I had some pictures of my dad working at an old gas station. 

My mom has written "JOE '40" on the top left border.  Dad is touching a gas pump that has gas priced at 15 and a half  cents per gallon.  He is carrying another out dated item.  A battery service tool.  Filled with distilled water and a pipette (like a turkey baster) for putting the water into the battery.  Yes, car batteries needed constant care up until the sealed batteries came along in the 1980's.  Behind dad and between the gas pumps, are the bulk oil containers with their hand cranks for pumping the oil and kerosene into the customers container or a glass bottle for servicing the customers oil needs.

By now you are probably wondering what this has to do with my genealogy search.  Well, this service station is located on Pacific Coast Highway, near the city limits of Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.  Just a few blocks away from the 1st Street rental my parents had following their Feb 1940 marriage.  This is just another piece of the puzzling question.  Why neither of my parents are counted in the 1940 census?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Today's Breakthrough!!

Well, actually it was yesterday but who is really keeping track.  Internet searching is just so much fun.  Hours of going line by line through hundreds of pages of the 1940 Census for Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, and La Verne I came up empty handed.  I have yet to find either Joe or Dorothy in the 1940 Census.  I did find Joe on a 1940 Los Angeles County registered voter list with their Hermosa Beach address of 645 1st Street.  A registered Republican???  Growing up he was always a Democrat, so this was interesting to me.

I then went to the Family Search data base and found a copy of their marriage certificate.  This was a document that no one had a copy and then it just popped from the page - - I had their wedding date off by a year.  They were married 25 Feb 1940, not 1941.  The census was taken in April, so they should be listed somewhere as husband and wife. I may have to face the fact that they were missed in the 1940 census.  But with this new information, and the voter registration list I may be able to narrow my search to the Hermosa Beach area.  I remember them telling me that Dad managed the gasoline service station that was located on the triangle at Pacific Coast Highway and Catalina Ave.  Today it is where the large Welcome to King Harbor sign is located along with the artistic sculptures and small park.

I remember seeing photos of this station many years ago, finding one may help to pinpoint a time frame when he was there.  Till then the 1940 Census search continues.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hunting for Mom!

Born 26 Aug 1920 in Los Angeles County, California she would have been 19 yrs old when the 1940 census was taken. Dorothy Hamilton married Joe Kerr 25 Feb 1941. After months of searching I have been unable to locate her or dad in the census. There is a Dorothy listed in a household where she is the niece of the head person, Oscar Cobb. Hi wife, Jessie S Cobb, and her mother Jessie L Snavely. If anyone recognizes the Cobb or Snavely name as part of our ancestors, please let me know.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Colorado Dreaming

March is Womans History Month and this is my favorite historical woman in my family.

She is my 3rd great grandmother, Mary Permelia Lamb.  Born in Circleville, Pickaway, Ohio, USA 24 Aug 1837.  On 14 Feb 1856 she married James Denbow and moved to Iowa.  He died in 1865 from injuries sustained  in the civil war.  Now a widow with their only daughter Viola, Mary remained in  Iowa and eventually married James Eakins in 1875. This photo is the two of them in Longmont, Colorado.  Taken between 1891, when they moved to Colorado, and 1899 when Mary once again became a widow.
Mary Lamb is one of my favorite female family members.  She comes from the Lambs of Groton, Connecticut and for me has that hearty spirit of the post civil war western expansionist.

Jerry Kerr

In the beginning!

Starting a blog about Genealogy is a little scary.  So many blogs, and so many with experience way beyond my own.  In spite of this, I plan on posting my research methods and listen to my peers as they comment.  Keeping the conversations civil, like friends sitting around a warming Campfire!

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