Mystery Picture

poss stacie.jpg

I have this picture of a lovely lady with her two children.  Based on her clothing I’m guessing she’s in her early twenties and the picture was probably made during the 1920’s.  Therefore she was born right around the turn of the 20th century.  I’m just sure that she’s some of my family because she looks an awful lot like one of Daddy’s first cousins.

I do not know her name.  No one seems to know her name.  I’ve asked the oldest members of my family.  I’ve asked those in the family who are most interested in genealogy.  I’ve asked pretty much anyone that would listen to my question.

She is a mystery.  And mysteries kind of drive me crazy.

Well this mystery is miniscule compared to other mysterious images for there are some that people have spent lifetimes studying.  Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most famous works of art in the world and no one knows her real name.  Did da Vinci refuse to divulge her name?  Did no one bother to ask him who it was?  Or is it possible that everyone that knew the artist knew exactly who that lady was and no one ever bothered to jot it down on the back?  Okay, maybe some of those questions seem a little absurd yet countless historians have spent untold hours researching and arguing and documenting who it could be.  Still she is a mystery.

Am I trying to inspire you to go right quick and label all of your pictures?  Sure, I’m always eager to inspire my readers.  I’m also simply inspired by some of these old pictures. 

Tobitha Ingle Todd.jpg

When I’m writing, I frequently look at pictures of an individual who has inspired a character. I ask myself what I can learn about the person – what does this picture add to the stories I’ve heard and the legend that survives them? Historically pictures were valuable possessions and therefore weren’t taken lightly.   Therefore, the book you chose to hold in a picture must mean something, the people you were with and the place you visited must all be relevant to your life.  I have a picture of my Great-great-great Grandmother who passed away in 1931; she’s holding a large book.  Since these were Christian people I assume it’s a Bible – where is that Bible now?  I’d love to see it.  I imagine if I used this character in a story I could easily incorporate her recording family information in that Bible and that she’d sit at the kitchen table with it open before her.

Do you think this mysterious young mother has a story to tell us?  Would you like to see her character in a future book?



Shared Space

Houseful of Kids!

Houseful of Kids!

If you’ve been reading The Stories for very long you will know that we often have visitors in our home who hail from far and distant lands.  This week we’ve had the distinct honor of hosting two families from Miami who were seeking refuge from hurricane Irma. 

It seems out of the ordinary to have thirteen people in a home in this day and age – but of course this was an extraordinary weather event and it put people in usual situations.  Yet, as I research my ancestry I’m often faced with census records showing three or even four generations living together.  A single individual will often be listed as a boarder, yet I know that person to be a niece or nephew.  There were children taken in when parents weren’t able to feed them and aging grandparents were sheltered when they could no longer manage on their own. 

We mountain people are used to helping out whenever help was needed and that’s a part of our culture that I long to perpetuate.  My guests this week were originally from Israel (and one son-in-law from Brazil but we might have to talk about him later).  So their traditions are different than ours and my children didn’t understand everything.  They do not cut little boys’ hair until they turn three and my children kept calling them “her”.  They eat different food than us and they were very gracious as I blundered along trying to honor that.  Maybe they saw a bit of Tennessee Mountain culture too as I introduced them to fried okra and made big fluffy biscuits for breakfast.

As people left the mountain looking for work in the 1940’s and 1950’s, they regularly stayed a few days or a few months with kin that had already relocated to the big city.  Surely it was a comfort to be in a strange place and have someone familiar around them.  Imagine leaving your home unsure whether you’d have a home to go back to in just a few days.  Imagine heading north to a place you’d never visited and the home of strangers. 

Well, the folks in my home were strangers last week but they are friends now.  A dear friend of mine was a cousin of theirs and she was our only link.  I pride myself to think I’m a little like my grandmother whose home was often filled to overflowing – in fact when my friend asked how many people I could house I said it depended on how desperate they were.  Grandma would often have people scattered on the floor on pallets – I wonder what guests would say to that today?

Hidden Treasures

Photo used by permission of The Columbus Dispatch

Photo used by permission of The Columbus Dispatch

I ran across this news article from Columbus, Ohio about a couple who discovered a log home hiding behind a modern facade.  While Ohio is a little off the track that Tennessee Mountain Stories usually follows, the story hit home and I wanted to share it with you.

You may remember a couple of articles I’ve shared about a very historic log home near Cleveland, Tennessee that had suffered a fire and was being torn down rather than repaired.  Then in our architecture series we visited the The Taylor Place which is believed to be the oldest home in the Clarkrange, Tennessee area.

I was certainly thinking of both of these homes, as well as other examples of log homes that were added onto and sided and loved for many, many years.  In fact, the log construction that was so common in America may be hiding behind more houses than we realize.  Remember current resident in The Taylor Place didn’t really know the home was log until hebegan running cable inside the walls which have long since been covered on the outside by modern siding and on the interior with wallboard. 

Now I’m not advocating anyone tearing into your walls, but it is a little tempting, isn’t it?

I hope you enjoy this article.

Couple renovating Dublin home discover it’s a 19th-century cabin

By Jim Weiker
The Columbus Dispatch


Posted Aug 24, 2017 at 5:58 AM Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 5:58 AM


Home renovations can yield surprises.

But few are as big as the one that Kevin Kemp and Jennifer Alexander discovered.

The couple were planning to raze a home that they bought recently on Riverside Drive in Dublin, to build a new house on the property, when Kemp and a friend, Larry Daniels, decided to remove some paneling for reuse.

“We pulled off one of the pieces of paneling and I said, ‘Larry, that’s a log,’” Kemp recalled. “We pulled off another and I said, ‘My god, this is a log cabin.’”

Behind the knotty-pine paneling and drywall were walnut and beech logs, some more than 16 inches wide and 30 feet long. More deconstruction revealed the prize: a perfectly preserved two-story log cabin, probably built between 1820 and 1840.

Experts say it’s one of the largest and best-preserved log cabins discovered in central Ohio.

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The remarkable find prompted Kemp and Alexander to halt their planned demolition and contact the city of Dublin.

“I think history is really important,” said Kemp, a chiropractor who now lives in Gahanna. “This doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the city.”

Dublin saw an opportunity to preserve a piece of its past.

“I was just amazed when I walked in and saw the cabin,” Assistant City Manager Michelle Crandall said. “I knew when I walked in we had to find a way to salvage it.”


A letter from "Just Mom"


You have all met my great-great grandmother here previously.  She spent the last years of her life abed and kept diaries and scrapbooks the whole time.  Today these are a wealth of information for me.  I am captivated by letters that have survived and Grandma Todd was a prolific letter-writer.  And her letters were undoubtedly a blessing to family and friends alike.  I wanted to share this one from 1946 with you.  Even if you don’t know the people – and I sure don’t know them all – I think you can still see the beauty of her story.  I’ve left her spelling as-is since that part adds color all its own!

May 6, 1946, Monday morning,

Dear Cecil, Ruth and everybody,

How are you all – well I hope.  I am as usual.  Dad grunted with his head all last week but he is o.k. now.  Delsie is all-right.  She has breakfast about ready.  Dad is eating.  We are getting on just fine.  Beula is in the hospitle.   I had a letter from Wavealen she sayd Beula had an operation, she is in Green Cross hospitle.  Wave sayd her Grandma Trout was staying with them awhile.  Beula was in hospitle but she sayd her and Dewane done most of the work as her Grandma was not very strong.  Floyd is worried, the Dr. told Floyd that Beula could go home in about 8 days.  Anyhow it is bad to be in the hospitle, don’t you imagine.  Stocia, Emma J. and Ruby are excited too?  I sent Beula a card to her home address.  I didn’t know how to address it to the hospitle.  I knew Floyd would take it to her.  Ida sent her a card too.

Did you hear about Rev. Holden’s accident?  You know there was a conference at Montrey well Friday Apr 26.  Rev. Holden and his wife came to see me in the afternoon as they were at Montrey conference.  Well Rev. Holden was promoted to be a conference preacher.  He talked church like he always did.  They were so nice and sweet, he has a darling wife and I love them.  We had a lot of fun.  He sayd he got my letter and was keeping it always.  Yes, Virgina sayd Wesley had that letter in his book and would preach from it too.  Ha.  Wasn’t that quite a compliment?  I just can’t see why people talk so about all my letters.  I don’t even write interesting or spell correct.  Well as I was saying, on their way back home Friday night a drunk man staggered in front of their car and it proved fatal.  It happened close there to Montrey  and this drunk was laoded in whiskie.  I haven’t got the full details yet.  Anyhow it is awfl for a drunk man to get killed an meet a just God.  Awfl.  Rev. Holden and his wife boath wrote me about it.  Poor kids, they knew I would understand.  So I wrote them a letter yesterdayAbout the hardest letter I ever wrote in my life.  I realy prayd for wisdom to write to them.  Keeps me worried about Donald.  He is out a lot with his car and you can never tell when a drunk man will run into you.  Well, Clyde Whiticor is home, he got a discharge so Donald took Ida and Lois to Stacie’s Saturday to see Clyde.  Dewey and family and Sam Dodson left for Dayton, Ohio Friday May 3rd.  We had a good letter from Mary, they were all well.  I got a top card from Evelyn and Hollis.  It is so cute.

Well I recon your Dad has the prize garden so far.  The salad peas are higher than the palings and blooming, the bunch peas in full bloom.  Cabbage are cupping in to head.  Tomato plants fine.  He just pats himself on the sholder.  Ha.  He tells one how fine his garden is.  I told him he was like his mother, she could just walk through a garden and it would grow, so I think he has his mother’s touch when it comes to garden work.  My mother’s day tree is growing fine.  I ask about it often.  Say Verna Whiticor, Stacie’s mother-in-law, sent me a big bunch of American Beauty roses.  They are gorgeous.  Mrs. Sam Taylor sent me a big bunch of iris and roses so I always have flowers even if I am emumed. Ha ha.  Well today is mail day again, I had a real good letter from Ova and she sent me a dollar too.  She seemed to write more like herself.  We had a letter from Beecher last week and one from Willie.  They were boath well but homesick.  Well I have some more writing to do so I will say by for now.

Just Mom to all

Can’t you envision a whole book about this woman – I think I can…

Picture Post Card

My grandmother recently shared with me a small group of pictures that came from her own grandmother.  My Great-great grandmother lived from 1886 until 1977 so these are pretty old pictures and quite a treasure.

As I looked through them I flipped each one over to see if any names or identity clues had been left.  Several of them were setup to be mailed as a post card.  One had actually been used to write a letter, although no address is included so it was clearly mailed in an envelope.  I found this little glimpse of turn-of-the-century communication to be so charming I just had to share it with you.

The note is written to Elbert and Euphemia Hixson from her sister Lizzie. I have inserted punctuation (neither period nor comma was used throughout her writing) as well as paragraph breaks in hopes it’s a little easier to read.

Dear Phemie & Elbert,

We have been looking for a letter from you ever so long, are still expecting you all up here this fall.  I am thinking of visiting Tennessee next summer if I don’t change my mind. 

I believe we’ve had the driest time I ever saw.  My well gets low when I wash but soon fills up again.  Sure have fine water and I have my winter stove wood already up too.  That is a great relief. 

Write soon.

Lizzie Hixson



There you have it.  Less than 250 words written to a sister she had not heard from.  In that she manages to share travel plans, weather report and winter preparations.  She doesn’t explain the picture on the post card – maybe this was her usual writing stock and her sister would not have wondered about the image.  With both greeting and salutation on the card, I wouldn’t expect there was anything else in the envelope. 

Don’t you just wish you could ask her a whole bunch of questions after reading this?  I sure do.