Although I hadn’t intended to write about my maternal grandfather, Jacob Lineberry, because my daughter, Kay, has written about him and I have included him obliquely in posts I’ve done, today would be his and Eva’s 112th wedding anniversary. So for the second in the series proposed by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small – 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, I will write about what we surmise about their marriage from a number of sources.
Jacob Lineberry was born in Carroll County, Virginia on May 12, 1871 to George Alex Lineberry and Rhoda Harmon Lineberry as their third child. His life was short; he died on October 31, 1915 when he was only 44 years old.
Jacob left Virginia in 1894 when he was about 23 to join others from his community who had moved earlier to Missouri in the area of Linn County. We discovered in 1998 that Jacob had written a number of letters back to Virginia over the years and about 50 of them had been kept by his older brother, Leander. My cousin, Billy Ray Lineberry, had received the original letters from his father, Leonard Lineberry, and he allowed Kay to make copies of them while we were on a family visit/research trip. These letters gave us a good bit of insight into his character, hopes, dreams, frustrations and hurts.
Carroll County, Virginia where Jacob grew up, specifically the area surrounding the town of Galax, is in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a beautiful country. What makes someone leave a beautiful country where you have family to support and encourage you? From Jacob’s letters we were able to discern several motivations. He was a young man who wanted some success in his life and farming on the side of a rocky mountain, however beautiful, wasn’t likely to offer much economic stability or bright future. The hard life of a mountain farmer was compounded, according to his letters, by the harshness of his father. Here is a sample from his letter written April 12, 1896 [text is from a direct transcription of his letters] :
“Well Leander I can not tell you how sorry that I am about Thomas and Papa. It looks queer that the old gent cant get along with his children what does he expect to become of himself does he ever expect to die or not I would like to know; If he does where he will find himself. I lived in a racket and fuss all my life till I left Home I did not know how civilized people done. but I am trying to make my life happy now as possible but still I am not as happy as I would be if I was at home and could get along but know I could not and for that reason I will not come back home for a while. I would be ashamed for our relatives to know in this country how Papa does his children. … Leander try to be as a father amongst your children not a brute.
You know while I was at home that Papa was always mad and acted as though he would rather that I was in some other country and I tryed to do as he wanted me to. and I think I can make a living any where that I try to stay. If I live I expect to get married some time and if I die soon I hope I will be in peace with the heavenly Father and will have money enough to put me away. Try to live this way your self Leander and wish Papa would try and do better. you and Thomas and the rest of the children feels near to me though you may be far away and still be near. I dont like to hear of any of your being mistreated I hope Papa will try and be as a man. If he only knew my thoughts and would listen to me he surely would be better.
… I was afraid when mother died that the children could not get along with Papa. try and have them treated as good as possible. Oh: home without Mother is stilled, a vacant place without Mother which can never be filled. the children will wander from place to place and no place will feel like home to them. I wish the children could stay together in peace at home. Ask Papa to treat them kindly and look out for that Great day coming by and by and be ready to meet his God in peace and all of you do the same.”
And from June 22, 1897: “and Papa how is he getting along. Is he so wicked now as he was. I hope he will get to trying to do better though I must pick the mote out of my own eye before any one else’s. I wish him happiness and success.”
Jacob worked as a farm laborer amongst his Linn County, Missouri relatives and neighbors but also began working as a carpenter. In a letter home written in February 1898, he told of working as a carpenter in Omaha, Nebraska. From the details he provided, he was helping to build the exhibits for The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, which was a world’s fair to be held in Omaha from June 1 to November 1 of 1898. [The picture of Jacob above was taken in Omaha so would have been of him when he was about 28.]
Throughout his letters, Jacob asked about the girls back home – presumably girls he had dated. The two he mentioned the most were Cora B. and Laura Melton. During the eight years from the time he left Virginia until he married Eva in 1902, there was only one mention of a girl, but in comparison to the girls back home, she didn’t seem to measure up. Here are a few examples from his letters of comments regarding girls:
I would to be there and see you all. but my girl is so attractive. But not so much as I thought Cora B was but that was foolishness of me. Of course she was a good girl but there is others better.” [Sept 9, 1895] “I have not heard from any girl in Va for a year or more but I never write, very much, I wrote some time ago to Laura Melton and have not had any ans from her. I would like very much to hear from her.” [Jan 1896] “Tell Laura Melton to write to me. I have not got any ans from my last letter to her and my girl Mollie Bowers. Do you ever see her. Is she as sweet as ever. Tell me of her.” [undated letter] “I am just the same yet as I was when in Va. I don’t expect to marry soon. I have no girl that I depend on as a friend at all. I may have to come back to Va to get me a girl. There is no girls that beat them anywhere.” [June 22, 1897] “Do you ever on my old Cora girl or any of them. I wonder if she has forgotten me yet.” [February 1898]
Jacob moved to Carterville sometime between September and October of 1898. In a letter to Leander written on the 23rd of October, he said he was working in underground mines but didn’t expect to stay there but until spring. He didn’t get away that soon and in a letter to Leander written in January 1900, he once again mentioned his girlfriend from Virginia: “has all my girls married. do you ever hear of my Cora girl and how is she getting along.”
None of the letters that have survived have a mention of any girls he may have dated while in Carterville. About as close as he came to suggesting there might have been girls in his life was as quoted above, “I don’t expect to marry soon. I have no girl that I depend on as a friend …” and only the references to the girls back home in Virginia lend any clue that he might have a desire to marry and have a home and family. Perhaps his view of marriage based on his early home life didn’t encourage him to take such a step.
In a November 28, 1900 letter, he told Leander he was still in Carterville though he had been trying to leave. He had some interest in some mines as well as a piece of equipment that was being rented out for use in the mines and a part of his desire to leave was due to the promise of free land in Oklahoma. The dates for the next land lottery was not yet set and he was awaiting that time before leaving. On an undated envelope , Jacob wrote that he was anxious to leave for Oklahoma Territory and a letter dated October 23, 1901 was written from Hobart, Indian Territory and stated he had left Missouri two months earlier. In that letter, he indicated he couldn’t stop writing and wrote up and down the sides of the letter and even wrote on the outside of the envelope after it was sealed. He said he wanted to tell Leander everything he could think of; however, there is no mention of any girls or women in his life and this is only little more than two months before his marriage.
Since Jacob married Eva Keithley on January 11, 1902 and she was from Carterville, it seems an obvious assumption they met there. Eva was born January 7, 1883 so she was twelve years younger than Jacob. When he arrived in Carterville in 1898, she would have been fifteen and only eighteen when he moved away in August 1901 compared to his age of thirty. A newspaper announcement of her impending wedding evidences the fact she was still residing in Carterville after Jacob moved:
In a letter written December 29, 1901, Jacob finally mentioned a female in his life: “I would surely be glad to see all of you but I cannot afford it as I spend too much money now going from place to place as it is time for me to come to a stop. Well I forgot to tell you that wife would be down in a short time as she is in Mo but I expect her here in a short time and we will try housekeeping for the first time to ourselves but I hope we will not starve, but I am anxious to get me a claim here” This is the only mention of Eva in any of his letters and it only mentions her in passing and without a name. Perhaps, that is evidence that there are some missing letters in which he at least mentioned her by name, but considering we have about fifty of his letters, I suspect we have a fairly good sampling of the things he wrote about.
As I mentioned when I wrote about Eva, she must have gotten pregnant in late August just days before Jacob moved away; every letter to his brother indicated he expected to not return to Missouri. With this information and little else to go on, I suspect Eva was left to track him down in order to let him know of her condition. From the off-hand way in which he mentioned her in his letter, I also suspect the marriage was more the result of a sense of duty and responsibility than of an undying love or emotional attachment to her, although referring to her as wife rather than Eva is likely an indication he was at peace with the decision to marry and was already thinking of her in that role as he prepared a place for her and their future child.
Jacob apparently either met Eva in Mangum, Oklahoma or joined her on the train at Hobart and accompanied her to Mangum so they could be married [Mangum is the county seat of Greer County, the next county to the west of Kiowa County, which is where Hobart is located. It is possible since Hobart was only about four months old there was no place yet established to get licenses to marry.]In a letter written fifteen days after his marriage, he still mentioned nothing of his wife or his marriage. He mentioned he had bought a house and reflected on the probability that had he married several years ago in Virginia he would likely have had a nice house by now.
Following his marriage, Jacob still wrote to his brother mostly about work, money, weather, education and spiritual matters as well as asking about his family back home, although in July 1903, in response to learning of the death of one of his brother’s sons, he wrote, “I realize it to be a Sad affair to loose one of our loved ones. I was always fond of children but never knew the real love and sympathy for a child as I now do. Our little boy taken very sick last night and has been sick all day but seems to be some better now. though I have been very uneasy about him. I think it is his teeth and hope he will be well in afew days, the only thing that we can do is to be in Peace with the Father.”
Finally, in July 1906 he again mentioned something about his family, “I am getting very anxious to come back home and see you all once more I will try and come this fall if I possibly can as I am not fixed to come now as I was afew yrs ago. but I kept neglecting and putting off and now I have a wife and babys to leave. If I come I will bring our boy with me did I tell you we had another boy he’s about 4 months old and a fine big boy.” And then in another paragraph, “our oldest boy is 4 yrs and has been going school this summer he thinks it is a big trick.”
One last mention of his family in his September 1914 letter, “our eldest boy has been sick for some time with Typhoid Fever but is well now, or at least I hope so as he had two back sets that kept him down for weeks, which caused me to loose about two months work I had just traded for a stock of goods when he took sick and had to dispose of them as the stock was at another Town, this is the first sickness that we have ever had in our family but we will have to bear our burdens as they come.”
Although it is hard to discern much about their relationship from the few mentions he made of his wife and even of their children in his letters, it would appear that, though the marriage was not likely a planned event, Jacob made a commitment to Eva and to their children – seven of them all told. In a time period where many photos made the people appear to be sad or angry, all the pictures we have of Eva during the time of her marriage to Jacob show her smiling and that seems to me to be a tribute to any man.