52 Ancestors #2 – Jacob Lineberry’s 112th Anniversary

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.

JacobJacob 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 [1901], 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:

My grandmother's 1902 marriage announcement.

My grandmother’s 1902 marriage announcement.

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.]Jacob and Eva's marriageIn 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.

To read my daughter’s stories about Jacob, see Lineberry Legacy, Jacob and Eva, and Hallows Eve 1915.

Can Read, Can’t Write?

Everything I’ve ever known about education – curriculum – is that children begin to learn to read and write simultaneously from their very first days in elementary or grammar school. In transcribing information about my ancestors into my genealogy database, I’ve noted and wondered about those who recorded they could read but not write.

Beginning in 1850 and running through the 1880 census, one of the question sections was whether the person enumerated could read and/or write as well as if they had attended school within the past year.  Again, because of the current educational requirements, I would have expected every person between certain ages to have been checked for attending school and being able to read and write. However, that is not the case at all.

For example, in the 1870 census below, my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Farquhar Welch Jackson is shown by a slash mark (in the far right column) that she cannot write. The column just to the left of the slash mark indicates she could read. Her second husband, James Jackson, can both read and write. Her four children from her first marriage are all checked as having attended school within the year; Jane (18) and James (16) can both read and while Isabel (14) can read but not write and my great-grandfather Thomas (12) appears to have slashes indicating he can neither read nor write (later censuses indicated he could both read and write as was the case with the remaining children). educationParticularly intriguing to me is that sometimes even within the same family not all children had attended school within the past year. Sometimes it might be the youngest, say an eight-year-old, who hadn’t attended school within the year but those up to perhaps 18 had attended. With the current education system having had kindergartens for more than my lifetime and a requirement to begin school by age five or six, depending on where one’s birth date falls, I always wonder what family story might explain educational disparity within one family.

The 1940 census, which became available a little over a year ago, identifies the highest education level achieved for everyone within the household. This also sheds light on one’s family heritage. For example, I’ve known most of my life that my mother was orphaned before she turned eight and was sent to her father’s extended family in Carroll County, Virginia, where she did not attend school from 1922 until 1929, although due to her having attended school in Oilton, Oklahoma prior to that move, she was already able to read and write.

In reviewing my direct and indirect family lines by way of the 1940 census, I could see that the majority of the people in that Virginia community had between zero years of education and, perhaps, four to six, with an occasional exception.

Seeing these education levels sheds light on a major theme my grandfather, Jacob Lineberry who was from Carroll County, wrote in letters written around the turn of the 20th century to his brother still living in Virginia; for example, “… [I] hope people they will go to school and try and get an education. I find a man without education is like a horse without harness.” And again when he asked about his youngest brother, “Does Alex go to school I surely wish Papa would send him to school and let him get an education. It is a poor thing to start a boy out now without an education he will be doomed for hard work all his life And the hardest of the work.” In a later letter he said, ” I hope the little Brothers and Sisters will get a good education I think is worth more than a Father can give to a child. if Papa had given me a good education I would thank him for a thousand times but we was raised up like kins that is not sent to school. I hope he will try and send the other children to school if he will spend any money on them that is the only way and Leander try and send your children to school. I have tried enough of the world to know what a man needs.”

My mother apparently caught enough of her father’s attitude toward education that when she returned to Oklahoma, after a 7-year lapse in schooling while in Virginia, she began school in the third grade at age 15. As her teachers saw she was grasping concepts, they advanced her through the grades and within a year she was in the sixth grade. She continued with school until the tenth grade when lack of money to buy books and materials forced her to drop out.

Today, as I was reading some transcriptions of full newspapers from Lamar County, Alabama, which is a community in which I have had indirect family living, I noted the following article from the November 26, 1880 issue of The Vernon Clipper[1], which may shed some light on how it might happen that someone could read but not write.education

The first thing to notice is that the ad specifies the school is for both male and female students. From today’s perspective, we would never think about making sure to specify that girls were to be included in this educational opportunity. Second is that the school is not scheduled to open until November. With our schools opening in late August or perhaps the first days of September, it seems particularly odd to begin a school year in November. I would suppose the demands of crops and farm life established the optimal time for education.

Although this school’s divisions into Primary, Intermediate, Grammar and High School would not translate into anything comparable to grades within our education system, I would suspect Primary might be grades 1 and 2 and possibly 3; Intermediate might be grades 3, 4 and 5, with Grammar being what we might refer to as Middle School. The first educational thing I noted was that writing was not taught at all in the Primary grades; it was not begun until the Intermediate grades.

If Intermediate grades didn’t begin until, say, the fourth grade, that might explain why Isabel could read but not write at the age of 14 and perhaps why, if Sarah had only gone to school for the first two or three grades, that as an adult she might read but not write. It doesn’t, however, explain why Thomas might not have been able to either read or write at the age of 12, although there is some sort of mark on the census for him that makes it difficult to interpret what may be present in those boxes.

Additionally, note there is a fee for education versus the publicly funded education that has been available for everyone throughout my lifetime. Many families enumerated in these early censuses had as many as twelve or thirteen children and income was very limited. My great-grandfather J.F. Willis was a part-time minister. We found the minutes from one of his churches listing his salary for four separate years [it was unclear if these were annual salaries or monthly salaries, although most church budgets were annualized]:


The fee scale for the school was monthly and graduated based on education level. With J.F.’s income for the time period in mind and the fact he had seven children, his possible fees for one school year might have been 2 Primary students [$1.50 x 8 months each student] $24.00; 2 Intermediate students [$2.00 x 8 months each student] $32.00; 2 Grammar students [$2.50 x 8 months each student] $40.00; and one High School student [$3.00 for 8 months] $24.00. The annual cost for educating his children would have been $120.00 a year.

From this review, I now know children didn’t necessarily begin school at five or six and they didn’t learn to write at the same time they learned to read, all of which provides some insight into the education levels within my historical family.


[1] http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/link.php?action=detail&id=17809

COG 77th Edition Disasters – 1932 Lighting Creek

COG disaster My mother had no possessions (that I knew of ) that belonged to her mother or father; both parents had died before she was seven and she and all the younger siblings were transported from Oilton, Oklahoma to Galax, Virginia to live with relatives. When my daughter and I started looking into genealogy and asking questions about family possessions that might be existent, we were told that most of what existed had been in the possession of my aunt, Bernita Lineberry Curtess, who was already a young married woman with an infant when her mother died. Unfortunately, Bernita was killed in a car wreck in 1967, so we couldn’t ask her where they were.

I called my cousin, Bobbie Louise Curtess Saunders, to ask about them and she said most of what her mother had was destroyed in a flood a long time ago. Bernita and her husband, Edson, their two children and my mother and possibly her three brothers Johnnie, Joe and George, (Bernita went to Virginia in 1929 to bring her siblings back to Oklahoma – Leonard remained in Galax)  moved from Wewoka, Oklahoma sometime after 1929 and lived in a home near SW 23 and Robinson.

Lightning Creek in South Oklahoma City had a long history of flooding in the early years of  Oklahoma City. There was a major flood in October 1923 but Bernita was apparently living in Wewoka at that time. The next major flood took place June 4, 1932 and it was apparently much more devastating than the earlier flood. Although I can’t be sure this is the flood that ruined my grandmother’s possessions, it’s a pretty good guess since Bernita wasn’t in Oklahoma City until after 1929 and by sometime in the mid-1930s she had moved a little further south to SW 36th and Harvey.

N Canadian overflowsbanks

The above photo is from the front page of the June 5, 1932 Daily Oklahoman and shows some of the water all over the south and west parts of Oklahoma City. Although the Oklahoman archive’s copy of this day’s paper has a piece torn out of the top of the paper and the headline cannot be completely read, what is visible of the caption above the headline on page 1 says, “Relief for 3,200 Homeless …  as Property Damage is Estimated at $1,500,000. The larger type-faced headline says, “SEVEN MISSING IN FLOOD ARE SOUGHT” and continues with the column headline with, ‘FIVE KNOWN DEAD; 656 HOMES WITHIN AREA ARE WRECKED.”The article lead adds to the toll by telling that 21 were in the hospital and nine others had been treated at hospitals and released.

As the article continues onto page 2, the impact of that flood becomes more clear: “Oklahoma City’s 3,000 homeless flood refugees will be established in army tents Saturday to prevent an epidemic through crowding hundreds of them into downtown buildings . . .” The article continues, “In the Lightning Creek area, where the property damage was estimated at $250,000 by Capitol Hill civic officials, 31 medium priced homes were completely destroyed. A survey showed more than 125 additional homes had been badly damaged by water. . . Heavy rains preceding the overflow started here shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and by 2 a.m. Friday Lightning Creek was a raging torrent and the Canadian was at flood stage. ”

Map of the area affected by the flood.

Map of the area affected by the flood.

The map above shows the proximity of SW 23 and Robinson to both the Canadian and Lighting Creek.

When you read of the deaths and injuries requiring hospitalization and homes completely destroyed or seriously damaged by flood waters, the fact that possessions of my grandmother were ruined by the water is of little consequence. Yes, we would love to have access to them – photographs, letters, postcards, the family Bible; those are all treasures. But really, for my mother and her brothers and sister whose father, then mother, infant step-brother and oldest brother had all died and who had been shipped off to live separately in whatever home was able to keep them, they obviously knew deep within their souls that what is important is never possessions, but is the relationships you have with people you love for as long as you have them with you.

The key take away principle is:  Cherish who you have, not what you have!