Sunday, June 18, 2017

Death Casts a Shadow on Sarah's Joy

We pick up the story of Sarah Eva Howe Salyers where we left off, with the birth of her twins Jim and Mary Alice. Sarah and her husband William L. Salyers now had two sons and a daughter in their happy Carrollton, Kentucky home.

It was a joyous time for Sarah, but she had one nagging worry. In the weeks before the twins arrived, her father, Robert James Howe, was not well. He was complaining about stomach upsets and fatigue. As many people did in those days, he had traveled by train to the world-class spas in French Lick, Indiana, hoping that the area's sulfur-spring "miracle waters" would bring relief.
Image from a post card sent home to Carrollton by Robert J. Howe in March 1910.
On April 8, two days before the birth of Sarah's twins, Robert wrote to his wife Alice Ada Cost Howe:
Dear Allie,
Today I have been recovering from the disorder of Friday.  Have been drinking waters hot and cold, walking, chatting, making acquaintances, etc. Visited West Baden again this morning and tried the waters from two of their springs. Mr. John Herrod[?] and Mrs.[?] James Todd of Owenton arrived last night. Took a bath hot sulphur salt glow rub etc. this afternoon. Letter from Bro Will [Rob's brother William F. Howe] rec'd this A.M. I wish you all good health. My love to you. Tell Leonora [Sarah's sister Leonora Alice Howe] to write.
In other letters, Rob mentioned headaches, skipping dinner, and drinking "five or six glasses of hot mineral water, which has since been effective . . . " He wrote letters to Alice from French Lick as late as April 12, when he mentioned that he was "nervous" and would share details when he saw her. (I interpret the letter to mean that he was nervous about his health.) He probably left for home soon after that to meet his new grandchildren.

Less than three weeks later, on April 29, 1910, he was dead.

Although Rob was a prominent citizen and businessman of Carrollton and known throughout the region, I have not found his obituary online. It may have been front-page news in the Carrollton Democrat, as was the news of his brother Joseph B. Howe's death 19 years later. I'll be visiting Carrollton to dig in the archives and will update this post when I find an obituary.

Condolence Letters

Sarah's scrapbooks include many condolence letters sent to her and to her mother. Even though Rob had been feeling below par for a while, the letters indicate that his death was unexpected.

I am struck by the outpouring of sadness in these letters – and the eloquence of the writing. Most of the letters sent by relatives and close friends included comments about Rob's deep Christian beliefs, and most expressed concern for Alice and her daughters Sarah and Leonora. Some were especially concerned about Sarah, who was "just over her confinement" after giving birth to twins.

Page 1, Letter from "Aunt Katie"
To Alice From "Aunt Katie" of New Mexico:
"It is not that I think I can say something to lessen your grief that I write, but because I want you to know we feel for you and sympathize with you in your bereavement. ... But what a good thing he got home. And that Sallie was over her confinement. . . . The memory of him is so pleasant as he was so kind and good – and what comfort that is to us  . . ."

To Alice from Margaret Bond of New Orleans:
"I wish I was able to say something to help the heartaches, but words fail me so. With the deepest sympathy and may the Lord help you each one in this dark hour."

To Alice from Mariam Coltrane of Concord, North Carolina):
"God's ways are mysterious, and we have only to accept them knowing that it is a 'loving Father.' In this case we know that he was ready always for the summons and to me the quick call is so much more desirable than a long, lingering illness. ... I hope that Sarah was sufficiently recuperated not to have any real harm to her health from the shock."

To Alice from Mattie A. Carrington of Louisville:
 "I was so shocked and grieved to know of your great sorrow, and I want to offer you my love and deep sympathy."

To Alice from Mrs. W.C. Darling of Grand Rapids, Michigan:
"The very sad news has reached me of Mr. Howe's sudden death. How Mr. Howe will be missed. The vacant chair in the home, the empty pew in the church . . . "

To Alice from Sallie W. Wells of Charleston, South Carolina:
"I cannot yet realize it is true . . . I feel I have sustained a personal loss, for he was always a true friend, and they are passing away so rapidly. ... Not only will he be missed at home but wherever he is known."

What a fitting post for Father's Day 2017. Sarah loved her father and was, as mentioned in the post dated Aug. 11, 2016, a bit of a "daddy's girl." Today's reflections on her father might remind us of our own. Happy Father's Day to all dads and dad-like mentors out there.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A "Little Fairy" Daughter for Will and Sarah Howe Salyers

Mary Alice with mother Sarah Howe Salyers, c1914
Mary Alice Salyers was born to on April 6, 1910. I long to include her baby picture here, but I have never seen a picture of baby/toddler Mary Alice that didn't also include her twin Jim!

To solve that problem, I've cropped one of the images to feature her with only her mother. After all, as you will see, she was like her mother in many ways. You can see several more images in a previous post about the twins.

Letters in the family scrapbooks refer to young Mary Alice as a "little fairy" and a "sweet little elf." Maybe that little round face and those big eyes played a part in that. Based on what I know of the adult Mary Alice, I can imagine her as a little girl full of creativity, a keen interest in everything, and a love for books and stories.

This fading picture hints at another part of her personality. An older Mary Alice, maybe 10 years old, is playing with her brothers Jim and Bob and two unknown (to me) adolescents. This image fits with the adventurous and playful Mary Alice who in her 60s and 70s waded with my children in a creek, gave them rides in a wheelbarrow, and helped them catch bugs.

Mary Alice Salyers forming a pyramid with brothers Jim (far left) and Bob (far right) and two unidentified friends, possibly cousins, c1920

Mary Alice Salyers, c1928 (age 18)
When Mary Alice was in her mid-teens, she moved from Carrollton to Richmond, Kentucky, where she graduated from Madison High School circa 1928. (I'm guessing at the year, based on her birth year of 1910.) I wonder if this portrait might be her senior picture. Like most of the photos in the scrapbooks and family albums, it is not dated. I may discover details about her high school years as I delve into more scrapbooks. Her mother Sarah made some of them specifically for her, but Mary Alice made many scrapbooks, too, just like her mother.

Mary Alice got her college degree from the University of Kentucky, where she was a member of Kappa Delta social sorority; Theta Sigma Phi communications/journalism society; Phi Beta Kappa honor society for the liberal arts; Kappa Delta Pi honor society for the field of education; and Mortar Board, a society recognizing scholarship, leadership, and service. All of these accolades fit with the Mary Alice I knew 35 years later.

From about 1934 to 1939, Mary Alice was the librarian in Somerset's combined city and high school Carnegie Library. She left that job when she married Richard Allen Hays of Anchorage, Kentucky. What fun it is to read newspaper articles about her engagement and wedding. This article from the Lexington Leader of April 9, 1939 (found at describes how Mary Alice announced her engagement to her friends. Of course the event involved books!
An article in the same paper's "Personals" column of June 4, 1939, described a linen shower give in Mary Alice's honor. "Gifts for the bride-elect were presented in a box made to resemble books on a shelf," with the names of the guests as authors of the books.

The ceremony uniting Dick and Mary Alice in marriage took place at sunset on June 17, 1939 in the garden of her parents' home in Lexington. 
(Will and Sarah moved there from Richmond around 1930.)  The local paper reported the next day: "The bride, given in marriage by her father, wore her mother's wedding gown of ivory silk, shirred in princess style, with lace veil caught to a wreath of white rosebuds."

What a treat to see Sarah Eva Howe's wedding dress! I have not come across any  pictures of Sarah's wedding (14 December 1905 in Carrollton, Ky.). Now I can imagine the way she looked when she married Will Salyers.

Dick and Mary Alice moved to a farm in Jefferson County during the 1940s. In 1945, Mary Alice gave birth to the couple's only child, Richard Allen Hays, Jr. A few decades later, they downsized into Dick's childhood home in Anchorage.

Mary Alice was an educator and librarian at Anchorage School, where she made reading important – and fun – for students from the 1940s to 1975. She offered summer sessions that brought her students in to read, do projects based on that summer's theme, and hear stories. Like her mother Sarah, Mary Alice could tell a good story.

Mary Alice died on July 18, 1998, just two months after becoming a widow. Her story continues through her son and his wife, their sons, and a new generation now numbering two.

There will be more posts about Mary Alice, because Sarah created scrapbooks for her and because Mary Alice created some of the scrapbooks herself.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a break from blogging to spend time with living cousins. In the next post, we'll return to the scrapbooks to learn about a death in the Howe-Salyers family – a death that brought Sarah much sorrow barely two weeks after the birth of her twins.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sarah's Son Jim – Mischievous Boy, Mischievous Man

Of the four children who grew to adulthood in the household of William L. and Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, the one most likely to pull pranks and play practical jokes was James Richard.

Jim and his twin Mary Alice were born 6 April 1910 in Carrollton, Kentucky. I didn't meet either of them until the 1960s. Even though Jim was then in his 50s, I could see the little boy in him. He liked to tell jokes. Like all of the Howe-Salyers descendants, he was inquisitive about any topic that came before him. He liked to tease, and he was a little bit full of himself. I think his Aunt Leonora Alice Howe was likely on target circa 1912 when she referred to toddler Jim as "a little dickens."

Jim circa 1935, in his mid-20s

Jim attended Carrollton High School but got his diploma at Madison High School in Richmond. His parents had moved the family there so first-born Bob could attend Eastern Kentucky State College (now university) but still live at home. Jim attended the University of Kentucky and, like his brothers, joined Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He graduated from UK with AB and MA degrees and began working in adult education and vocational rehabilitation of adults with disabilities.

Jim and Lee, circa 1943

On 17 May 1941, Jim married Harlan County native Lee Rose Pope in a simple ceremony at Cumberland Falls, Kentucky – a location that was both beautiful and geographically convenient to relatives of both bride and groom.

Like many of his peers, Jim served in the military during World War II (1942-1946). During service in the U.S. Army, he won battle stars in the Rhineland Sector of Europe and worked as a clinical psychologist and psychiatric assistant at an Army hospital. Popular ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and pal Mortimer Snerd helped Jim promote the Army's psychological testing and treatment for soldiers and veterans.

Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, James R. Salyers, and "dummy" Mortimer Snerd, circa 1945

By 1951, Jim worked in downtown Louisville for the Area Medical Office of the United Mine Workers Welfare and Retirement Fund. When I met him in the 1960s, he was still working for UMW. At some point, his job included traveling to the homes of miners who had filed disability claims. He interviewed them and took 16mm movies to document their problems with mobility or health issues.

In fact, Jim shot a lot of 16mm film over the years. His movie camera was his constant companion, and he left behind stacks of metal film cases full of scenes from his work and from family gatherings and celebrations, everyday activities, vacations, sporting events, and everything else imaginable. After hours of editing and splicing, my husband had the family scenes digitized to DVD. He then donated a copy of that DVD plus all of the original reels to the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort.

The Salyers Brothers (from foreground): Jim, Bob, David
Jim did a lot of still photography, too, probably more than anyone else in the family. He shot selfies before selfies were cool! The selfie on the right shows Jim with his brothers Bob (center) and David, circa 1960. The brothers captioned this image was "The Salyers Mafia."

Like his mother, Jim had a keen interest in genealogy and family history. Much of the information I have about him comes from his application to The Filson Club (now The Filson Historical Society) of Louisville. The application, complete with a four-generation family tree, is dated 10 December 1958. If you want more evidence of his love of family history, visit the library of the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort and open the Salyers surname file. You'll notice that somebody has written on several of the pages with crayon, usually red. Jim had a habit of labeling documents, letters, and photos with crayon. The first time I researched that file, I had no doubt who had contributed those crayon-embellished pages. I think there are papers donated and crayon-marked by Jim in the library's Carroll County and church files, too.

Like his parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins, Jim paid attention to politics. He made it a point to meet elected officials, and he supported Democratic Party platforms and candidates. He ran for political office only once, as far as I know, in the primary for state representative of Kentucky's 34th Legislative District in Louisville (1965). He lost by a substantial margin.

James R. Salyers and Colonel Harlan Sanders

Jim was always flamboyant, to the point that his nieces and nephews referred to him fondly as "Crazy Uncle Jim." As he aged, Jim became more eccentric. He wore cream-colored or white suits in the style of Colonel Sanders. Note the photo of the two men, complete with Jim's signature crayon mark, which probably pointed to information he had written to the left of the photo in an album. He drove a big Buick with seating for six – except he kept the passenger and back seats full of books, files, newspapers, and all manner of "important things." His life-long tendency for name-dropping became more pronounced, and he referred to famous people he had merely seen from a distance as if they were his long-time friends.

James R. Salyers, circa 1984.
Jim died on 16 September 1985 in Harlan, Kentucky, leaving no direct descendants. The loss of a relative is sad in itself, but the saddest part of losing Jim was losing the family history he kept in his head and in boxes and bags. We could not find those records, letters, notes, and family artifacts after Jim and his wife moved from Louisville to Harlan in the early 1980s. Only after his death did we learn that his wife had burned all of those family treasures. Explaining why she did it would take another blog post. Bottom line: By that time, both Jim and Lee were dealing with dementia and were convinced they had been wronged by his Salyers relatives – even though various members of that family had gone above and beyond to care for them.

There's advice in this for all families. If you have one relative who holds most of the family history, make sure you are making copies or audio recordings all along. Don't assume those facts and stories will be there for you when your relative passes away.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's a Boy – and a Girl! Twins for Will and Sarah Howe Salyers

When Robert King Salyers was two weeks shy of his third birthday, he became a big brother. His mother Sarah Eva Howe Salyers gave birth to twins James Richard and Mary Alice.

The earliest image I have of the twins is this charmer that includes mother Sarah holding  Mary Alice (on the left) and Jim while Bobby looks on. What a perfect example of the clothing styles children wore in that day. Based on the birth date of the twins, 6 April 1915, I'm estimating that the photo was made in the summer of that year, when the twins were about four months old.

In the photo below, taken when the twins were maybe 18 months old, the three children are having a tea party. Mary Alice is on the left, and Jim is on the right. Bobby is serving – using a teapot that we have today.

This excerpt from their mother's scrapbook includes comments from a letter written by their Aunt Leonora (Sarah's sister), whose reference to "we" includes her mother (the children's maternal grandmother Alice Ada Cost Howe):
Those twins! I just long to see them. The pictures of them are so sweet – we have put them on Grandma's mantel, where we can see them every minute of the day. We can't decide which of the pictures we like better – but I think little Mary Alice in the Tea Party looks like a little fairy, and I'd just love to gather her up for a good hug. In the same picture, James Richard's eyes gave us the impression that he is a real little dickens." (Note Sarah's notation "right you were!" Sarah transcribed many letters into her scrapbooks and added editorial notes such as that one.)

I'm guessing this image of the twins in their coats and hats could have been taken in the winter of 1911, as they approached their first birthday that early April. Again, Mary Alice is on the left. The arrangement seems to be true of all the images taken of them as children. Was that intentional?

I date this photo of Sarah with her twins at 1914, based on a guess that the twins are 4 years old. Based on family stories and tidbits from the scrapbooks, I've come up with these sketchy profiles:
• Jim was rambunctious and mischievous. He liked to tease (probably his sister more than anybody else).
• Mary Alice was quieter; dainty and feminine yet fun-loving. She slept with her favorite dolls and a plush bunny.
• Both were smart and inquisitive, as were their big brother and their parents and grandparents. As they got older, Mary Alice learned to play the piano and also performed in a number of school and college plays. Jim played sports and performed in plays, too.

The only other "twins" photo I have handy jumps far ahead to circa 1955-1960 (?). That's just a guess as I place them between 45 and 50 years of age. It captures the personalities I remember. She looks thoughtful, kind, and serene; he is probably thinking about a joke or a prank he plans to pull!

In one of the scrapbooks, Sarah pasted ads and cartoons that featured twins. Here are two of them:

Artist: Charles H. Twelvetrees



Caption to cartoon at right:
"We might flip a coin, and the one who loses can grow up to be VICE-president!"

I've heard twins talk about their frustration at being thought of, especially during childhood, as a "unit." I suppose I have done that very thing by posting about "the twins." To redeem myself, I will soon post about each of these fascinating ancestors separately. Even though there is nobody today who can tell us their birth order, I will start with Jim and lead up to Mary Alice, who was better known to me and my family and who was like a third grandmother to my children.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's a Boy! Will and Sarah Welcome Their First-Born

Robert King Salyers, the first-born child of William Levi and Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, came into the world on March 22, 1907, increasing by one the population of Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky.

Robert K. Salyers, circa 1910 (age 3)
Bobby, as he became known, became the center of the family's attention. While I don't have the scrapbooks Sarah made especially for him, other scrapbooks mention him often. One reference answers a long-standing question. In a box of family photos is the image of a little boy in a baseball uniform. I've never been sure if it was a picture of Bobby or his younger brother David. In a scrapbook is Sarah's transcription of a letter from an aunt, who wrote ". . . tell Bobby I was delighted with his baseball poses." Mystery solved!

As Bobby got a bit older – say around 5 – references to him become "Bob." Apparently he was always asking questions and wanting to learn, because the scrapbooks have several stories about his inquisitive nature. Here is one of my favorites, from a letter Sarah wrote to her mother and sister:
Bob is having a spell of popular songs that have to be explained to him word for word. He happened to hear me singing "Bill Bailey" and for nearly a half-hour I explained what Bill's domestic troubles were, what the weather reports said when he was turned out of doors, also what use he could make of the "fine tooth comb" (which you will remember was B.B's only piece of baggage). That is the way Bob always does –– he goes to the root of every matter, he understands a song first, and then settles down to solid enjoyment of it. It was therefore "Bill Bailey" for a week until now Mary Alice knows it too and can supply the last word of every line with startling fluency." [Mary Alice, Bob's little sister, was scarcely a year old at the time.]
Robert K. Salyers, age 12
(If you want to refresh your memory, the lyrics of "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" are available online.)

By the time Bob was 12, he was a handsome young man with three younger siblings following him about. By all accounts, he was a patient and helpful big brother. I wonder if he may also have been helping at his grandfather Charles D. Salyers's tin/stove/hardware store – or helping his father Will Salyers, who sold stoves first at the store and later for Warm Morning Stoves and other companies. I think it's likely because, by the time he was in his mid-20s, Bob was advertising manager of the Moore Stove Company of Illinois.

From the scrapbooks and newspaper articles found online, I compiled this timeline of milestones in Bob's life:
• 1929 – graduated from Eastern Kentucky State College. Bob later served as secretary and then vice president of the UK Alumni Association, either because he went to school there (although I have found no evidence) or because he worked for a while in the office of the university president.

• 1935 – research assistant to University of Kentucky President Frank McVey

• 1937 – served as Kentucky director of the National Youth Administration; became a popular speaker on NYA programs

• 1936-1941 – president of the Kentucky Conference of Social Work and the state director of the National Youth Administration

• 1941 – married Loretta Smith in Louisville, Kentucky

• 1940s – served in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander; after the war, served in the Navy Reserves

• c1947 – bought a house in the new Glen Carlyn subdivision of Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.; began working for the U.S. Department of Labor; organized the Bureau of Veterans Reemployment Rights

• 1951 --  Director of the Labor Department's Veterans Re-employment Rights division

• 1967 – retired from the Labor Department after 20 years of service, culminating at the position of deputy assistant secretary for labor management relations

• 1977 –  collapsed while walking across the lobby of the University Club in Washington, DC.; died instantly of an apparent heart attack. 

As I said in my previous post, I saw Bob only a few times. All I know about him is what I've gathered from his mother's scrapbooks, a few newspaper clippings, and family stories. The timeline certainly doesn't cover the depth and breadth of his life, but it hits some of his major accomplishments. He seemed to be a popular, well-respected man, successful in his public-service career, often called upon as a public speaker, and elected to leadership roles in several organizations. In those ways, he is a lot like his Howe and Salyers ancestors – especially the Howes.

I was better acquainted with Bob's wife, Loretta, and his son, Robert K. Salyers, Jr., because they lived in my home town of Louisville for a while. I saw his daughters, Abigail and Martha, less often.

The photo on the right shows Loretta and the family's first two children: Abigail (1942-2013) and Bob. I believe it was taken circa 1945.

Maybe the best way to close this vignette about Robert K. Salyers (named for his father's brother) is with the obituary published on page C-5 of the Washington Star on September 10, 1977:
Robert K. Salyers, 70, director of the retired members program for the American Federation of Government Employees, died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack at the University Club, where he kept a room, according to a spokesman for AFGE. Salyers lived on South 5th Road in Arlington.

Salyers, who retired in the early 1970s as deputy assistant secretary for labor management relations at the Labor Department, had worked for AFGE since 1974.

Robert King Salyers, 1940s
A Kentucky native, Salyers was director of the National Youth Administration there from 1936 to 1942. During World War II, he was stationed in Iceland with the Navy and after the war was assistant to the director of demobilization for the Navy here. He later served with the Selective Service System and, before joining the Labor Department, was director of the Bureau of Veterans Re-employment Rights.

He was a past president of the Kentucky Society of Washington. He leaves his wife, the former Loretta Smith; two daughters, Abigail and Martha, and a son, Robert K. Jr.

In the next post, I'll introduce Sarah's twins James Robert and Mary Alice.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Motherhood Brings Joys and Sorrows to Sarah Eva Howe Salyers

On March 22, 1907, one year, three months, and eight days after their marriage, Sarah Eva Howe and William Levi Salyers welcomed their first-born into the world. They named him Robert King Salyers, in memory of Will's brother, who died in 1897 at age 16.

Three years and 15 days later, their family grew by two! Twins James Richard and Mary Alice were born on April 6, 1910.

After another five years, one month, and eight days, on May 14, 1915, another set of twins arrived. Will and Sarah named them David Hillis II (after Will's grandfather) and John (the name of Sarah's grandfather, the Irish immigrant). Imagine the sadness that fell on this family when John died either at birth or shortly after.

Sarah Eva Howe Salyers with (left to right) David, Robert, James, and Mary Alice, circa 1920

Will and Sarah reared four children to adulthood. All three sons went off to war, and all three returned. All four of the children became successful professionals in their chosen fields. All four married, and three gave Sarah and Will a new generation of Howe-Salyers descendants.

The next few posts will share profiles and stories about the four children. I'll have more to say about the three youngest than about the first-born. Robert lived much of his adult life in and around Washington, D.C., while the other three lived in my home state of Kentucky. I saw "Uncle Bob" only a few times, while I knew the others well, especially Mary Alice and David. In fact, in 1966, David became my father-in-law!

I have found scrapbooks created by Sarah for Mary Alice and for David. So far, no luck finding books specific to Robert or James. Sarah probably gave them their books at some point, and they have been lost to us. Thank goodness for Mary Alice! She saved all of the scrapbooks made for her and her little brother David. We'll go through those books together in this blog and, in the process, learn what growing up was like in the first 30 years of the 20th century.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Today's Howe Descendants Visit the Ireland Homeland, 2007

In the previous three posts, we took a virtual visit to Ireland through a travel diary written in 1876 by Robert J. and John I. Howe, sons born in America to Irish immigrants John and Sarah Brown Howe.

Today, we go to Ireland again, some 131 years later, through photos and information provided by Howe descendant Richard Allen Hays. Al is a first cousin to my husband David H. Salyers III, and both of them are great-great grandsons of John and Sarah.

Al has done much research on his Howe ancestry and is my go-to source for details about the family. In 2007, Al, his wife Pam, and his sons Mark and Michael visited County Fermanagh, Fivemiletown (in County Tyrone), and other places with ancestral ties. He shared the following notes and images with me.

Christening Place of John Howe
St. John's parish church [Church of Ireland] in Fivemiletown is where John Howe was christened. He may not have actually been a member of that church,
Al's sons Michael and Mark at St. John's
because other Protestants were required to make births and marriages "official" at the local Church of Ireland (England) even if they weren't members. This is one thing that our largely Presbyterian Scots/Irish ancestors resented and which acted as a stimulus to migration to America.

As far as I know, the church is the same building [in which John was christened in 1823], although I wouldn't want to absolutely swear to it.

A sign offers a brief history of St. John's
According to my grandmother [Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, our scrapbooker], John Howe always proudly declared himself to be an Orangeman, i.e. a Northern Ireland Protestant. Had he been alive and living in Ireland, he would have probably joined several hundred thousand other Protestants in signing a pledge in 1912 to never accept Home Rule for Ireland, let alone independence. Their slogan was "Home rule = Rome rule." The tragedy of Northern Ireland is that these Protestants feared becoming a minority in an independent Ireland that would encompass the whole island, so, with British support, they created Northern Ireland, where they would be the majority. (And would mistreat the Catholic minority there.)
So, I am not sure how he would have felt about the largely Catholic holiday of St. Patrick's Day. On the other hand, in contemporary Northern Ireland, they have tried, with some success, to make St. Patrick's Day a shared holiday among Protestants and Catholics. After all, the Irish never made that big a deal out of the holiday until Irish Americans started celebrating it.

Marriage Place of John Howe and Sarah Brown
Records at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, in Belfast, indicate that John Howe and Sarah Brown were married at the Cavanaleck Presbyterian
(From left) Howe descendants Michael, Mark, and Al Hays
Church, which is located on the outskirts of Fivemiletown. The town is in County Tyrone, but our relatives lived just across the border in County Fermanagh.

Mark, Michael, and I posed for this picture in front of the church. It's not the same building that was there when our ancestors were married, but it is the same congregation. [The church organization continued from that which was in place when Al's second-great-grandparents married in 1845].
Scots or Irish?
As for the Scots-Irish[1] part, it has yet to be determined whether the Howes were originally from England or Scotland. There were a lot of prominent Howes in England at the end of the 18th century; you may recall the two brothers[2] who were generals against us in the War for Independence. (Fortunately, they made some mistakes that helped us win!) However, there is no established line between our Howes and theirs. Our line goes back to Robert, John's father, and the records end there.

When the "plantation" of Protestant settlers into northern Ireland began in the early 1600s, both English and Scottish farmers came over and they were given land by the English nobles who claimed it after the O'Neills (the native rulers) fled after their defeat by Queen Elizabeth's army. The Scots are best known because so many Americans claim to be "Scots/Irish," although I doubt that a lot of people know what that really means. The idea was to put loyal Protestants in control of the best land and push the recalcitrant Catholics onto the poor land –– hence the latter's dependence on potatoes, which would grow on such land. Robert Howe is listed as "farmer" in the records, and from the 1876 diary it sounds like their abode was pretty humble.

[1] The term Scots-Irish appears to be used only in North America. Read what Scotland-born historian and author Raymond Campbell Paterson has to say on the matter at

[2] Reference to General William Howe, commander-in-chief of British land forces during the American War of Independence, and Naval Commander Richard Howe, known early in the war to be sympathetic with the colonists and commissioned to negotiate with his friend Benjamin Franklin to seek reconciliation with those rebelling against British rule. Sources: Howe,_5th_ Viscount_Howe,_1st_Earl_Howe 

The three-part series from the Howe brothers' Ireland travel diary are in posts dated March 12, March 19, and March 26 (all 2017). Al's information sent me back to those posts with a new understanding of the Howes and the social and political climate of their time.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a break from blog writing to enjoy time with extended family. When I return, we'll dig into Sarah Eva Howe's scrapbooks of the early 1900s and discover the joys and sorrows that came with the arrival of Sarah's children.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Visiting the Homeland, 1876 – Part 3: Robert and John Say Goodbye to the Howes, the Browns, and Ireland

In their final four days in Ireland, Robert and John make rounds to see each relative one last time and bid them farewell. Much of the talk is about America, it seems, as the Howes and Browns and their friends want to hear all about what life is like for their kin who live there.

On Feb. 17, Robert and John have said goodbye to their family and become tourists for a day. They visit Bush Mill, Giant's Causeway, and other sites popular with tourists today. I wish we had the rest of the diary to know when they left the Emerald Isle for mainland Europe. What a treat it would be to have stories from the rest of their Grand Tour.

I hope you enjoy these final diary entries about their time in their parents' homeland.

Monday, Feb 14th, 1876

We were aroused this morning by the clock striking 8. Dressed quickly and while the women were preparing breakfast we cleaned and greased our boots and cleaned our pants (the best we could) which had been very badly used. We got breakfast and started off at 9-45 to meet Uncle Geo. Hetherington. Arriving in town we called at the Post Office, found that a letter had arrived for us and had been sent to Uncle Joseph’s. We called at several other places but could not hear of Uncle George. Went into the tailor shop to have a button sewed on John’s coat, while there we spied Uncle Joseph across the street. Hailed him and he came over with our overcoats which he had brought us thinking we would need them for the rough weather. Uncle Joseph then went with us and we called on Mr. Robert Armstrong, one of Pa’s warmest friends, was very glad to see us, went with us over to the church. Just as we had procured the Sexton, Grandpa [paternal grandfather Robert Howe] came up and accompanied us. This was a place of great interest to us and we gave it a thorough doing-up. It is the neatest arranged church that we have seen in the neighborhood. Part of the church is very old, but there has been an addition built on the east side within the last few years, increasing the seating capacity to nearly double. In the new part is a tablet erected by the Rev. Dr. Burnside to the memory of his parents. In the graveyard we saw the graves of our grandmother [Margaret Hetherinton] Howe and several others of the Howe and Hetherington family. Leaving the church and going into town we found Uncle George. Mr. Armstrong now left us, giving us a cordial adieu and wishing to be remembered to ma and pa. We pretty soon left town with Uncle Geo. promising to go to Grandpa’s tomorrow for dinner and  Uncle Joseph’s tomorrow night. We walked out the Finton road through a hilly rolling country nearly 2 miles and stopped at Uncle Geo.’s only son’s (John’s) house. Found his wife a very pleasant and agreeable woman with a large family of little girls and one boy, 16 years old. (She called them “Wains.”) They had a man there doing carpenter work who had been 21 years in America, through many parts of it, took a good deal of interest in “blowing the country” and seconded anything we would say in it praise. We were compelled here, as usual, to take tea and bread finishing up with punch, after which we started over with Uncle George accompanied by his son’s wife, on the way meeting her brother (Mr. Trimble), he says “It’s a rough evening” (which it was); Uncle George then says “These is me America friends.” M.T. says, “I suppose yes thinks this country audd.” The above is invariably with slight variations the style of introduction, salutation, and interrogation which we have met in this part of Ireland. On arriving at Uncle Geo.’s through the mud and snow we found a building of about the same architecture we have met throughout the neighborhood, with horse and pig stalls at one end, cow and fowl apartments
A cow like this one may have lived in Uncle George's house.
at the other, all built of stone and thatched. Ireland has taught us wonderful lessons of economy having seen what scanty comforts people can put up with and yet thrive in health of body. We never see more than a single door to a house and entering into the kitchen, a single window to each room just about large enough to mount a 64-pound canon(?), doors so low that we invariably have to stoop in entering them and are always in danger of bumping our heads against some of the braces of the roof. Find the beds also too short and are obliged to keep our legs in a bow shape There is no way of poking them through the foot of the bed as both ends are tightly boarded up.

Here at Uncle Geo.’s we got a number of bumps against doors and braces. The above is not an exaggerated description of the farmhouses. There are of course, a few modern ones which are built in tolerably comfortable style, but anything like a desire to depart from old customs is very rare. We found Uncle George’s a very helpful household, his daughter Mrs. Jameson is lying in bed with rheumatism and White swelling [a.k.a. hydrarthrus, which affects the knee joint] and nearly all the work devolved on her husband, a stout uncouth fellow, but a very good and agreeable one. Their little boy (John) is 10 years old and the Old Man completes the household. John’s wife got dinner for us which we finished about 3-30 p.m. and she returned home but came back with her husband and got tea (8-30). Uncle G.’s grandson, Wm. McCauley also came in and we all chatted until 11 p.m. when John & wife and Willie M. went home and we retired into a bed in the family room (after the fashion of Uncle Joseph’s) right next to Mr. & Mrs. Jameson and only divided from the cattle by a wall which did not keep out the stench. I must not omit saying that we found Uncle George the jolliest old fellow we have come across in Ireland. He spins his jokes and anecdotes like some of our old Kentucky pioneers making the evening (which was exceeding blustery and disagreeable outside) very pleasant and agreeable indoors.

Tuesday, Feb. 15th

Arose about 6-30, cleaned our pants and greased our boots with melted hog fat. As John H[owe]’s wife had to come over and serve breakfast we did not get it until near 9 o’clock. About 10 we bid the folks goodbye and started off with Uncle Geo. to Hugh Hetherington’s. On our way called at Mrs. Irvine’s where the class meets that Uncle G. attends and whose husband pa was acquainted with. She called up her family, consisting of a grown girl and boy nearly grown to see the “live America boys” and wonder at our watches which Uncle Geo. is very proud of having us show. We only spent a few minutes here and arriving at Hugh H.’s found no one in the house but his daughter who called up the men in a short time. The old man had very little to say, but the boys, Christy and John, were quite agreeable and on leaving went a piece of the road with us. After Uncle Geo. had left his family on the main road to Fivemiletown, he bade us a very affectionate goodbye and we parted. Arriving at town 12-15, we stopped a few minutes to rest and refresh ourselves and then started for Grandpa’s, where we took dinner and spent a short time, Bob [Robert J. Howe] being busily employed gathering items of family history. We bade the old folks goodbye and started off for Aunt Eliza’s about 3 p.m. arriving there 4-40. After a short rest we went over with Sarah to Mr. Taggart’s (the gamekeeper on Sir Victor Brooke’s demesne). Started out with Mr. T. to see the demesne and castle. Went through the Deer Park. Saw the conservatory, laboratory, study, some of the bedrooms, etc., but most of the house was locked up (it being so late in the evening) and the keeper was gone. We saw enough to convince us that Sir V. is handsomely fixed up and must live well. When we got back to the gamekeeper’s house it was quite dark and showering a little. He presented us with a head of deer horns and some other specimens of horns taken from deer killed on the premises. Sarah brought Mr. T. along with us and we arrived at Aunt Eliza’s 6-30 p.m. and found Uncle Joseph over looking for us. We all took supper and then we started over with Uncle Joseph well loaded with articles of different kinds. Bidding Aunt Eliza goodbye, Mr. Taggart accompanied us to the mouth of Uncle Joseph’s lane. Then at Mr. Benson’s Uncle Joseph gave us a lantern to show us light up to the house. Even with the lantern we had considerable difficulty feeling our way as the road was most terribly muddy and we had to climb sloughs(?) and jump over ditches. Bob got one pretty ugly fall across a ditch. We arrived safely, though with wet and dirty Lower Extremities, at Uncle Joseph’s; received and read the letter from Willie [their older brother William] which came last Saturday. Took off our boots, bathed our feet, and put on our slippers. When we had gotten comfortable, Uncle Joseph put at us to sing some for him. We sang a few hymns and he and Aunt Margaret sang some in the old time long note style after which we went to bed (10 o’clock).

Wednesday, Feb. 16th, 1876

Very early this morning we heard a stir about the house and presently Uncle Joseph came to us and asked the time, we told him “a few minutes past four.” He said (wanting to be up in time to let us away) they had thought about time to get up and he and the servant girl were dressed. Said he would not go to bed again but told us to go to sleep. We dozed until about 6 o’clock when he came back and told us it was time to get up. So we did so, putting on clean shirts and collars. By the time we were dressed Sarah Armstrong arrived with our washing. We then arranged everything in our trunk and valises and by the time we had finished packing up breakfast was ready. Sarah and a Mrs. McQuade ate with us. We got the cart ready and things all in and started right away after breakfast, bidding goodbye to Aunt Margaret. We walked down to the end of the land accompanied by Sarah, and Uncle Joseph rode and drove the cart. We changed carts at Mr. Benson’s, taking his in place of Uncle Joseph’s. At the mouth of the land we parted with Sarah; bidding her farewell we walked on into Fivemiletown. Stopped at Mr. Alexander’s but they were not yet in and we left our cards. We called at Mrs. Spence’s, bid her goodbye and took out Uncle Joseph’s Democrat which gave us news up to 29th Jan’y. Overtook Uncle Joseph waiting for us just outside of town. We got in and drove
Uncle Joseph's cart may have looked much like this one.
the cart and he walked. Almost two miles out we met John Hetherington (Uncle Geo.’s son). Leaving him we came to a mountainous country. Uncle Joseph now got in and we took turns walking for awhile until getting past the summit when we all rode. The day proved one of the prettiest we have met in Ireland, though we have had occasional showers during that day and going over the mountains we felt rather cold and uncomfortable.

We arrived at Fintona a little before 12, deposited our baggage at the station, and finding we would have 1 1/2 hours to wait for a train we set out to have our horse taken care of and hunt a place to eat a lunch that Sarah had brought us over in the morning. We got into a public house by a fire in the kitchen and there ate it, when we had finished washing it down with punch. We got our tickets to Londonderry (3d. class), bid Uncle Joseph goodbye and started off in a car. We were drawn up by horse to the junction and there were transferred (in a few minutes after arrival) to the train from Enniskillen. We made very good time and got a view of the towns of Onagh(?), Newtown, Steward, and Strahaine and the River and Loch Foyle on the route, arriving at Londonderry 3-30 p.m. We called up the bus driver and porter of the Northern Hotel, who took charge of us and our baggage and were driven up one of the principal streets and through the wall to the house (a neat brick building just inside the wall) and were shown to a neat room on the 1st floor just overlooking the wall. When we had washed and brushed up we set out for a jaunt on foot to see the sights. Mounted the wall just at the hotel and walked up to see Walker’s monument then continuing along the wall to an old church, went in and examined the old tombs in the yard just on a level with the wall. From this side we had a fine view down the Foyle, but it would have been much better had the weather been clear, which it was not. We continued around past old cannon planted upon the walls which had been used at the siege of 1688. We hunted in vain for the monument and statue to Hugh Karins(?) unless it should be the one in the Diamond (?) to the “Prentis Boys of Derry,” which has no inscription. We walked through most of the city west of the Foyle, passing through some fine wide streets and some narrow crooked ones lined with dirty hovels. After supper we wrote up some back time of the journal and Bob wrote a letter for the Democrat, after which we paid our hotel bill which we must say is the only one on our travels with which we have found no fault and recommend the Northern Hotel, Londonderry, for its good accommodations and reasonable charges. J[ohn] retired at 11 pm. and Bob at 11-30 leaving orders to be called at 5-30.

Thursday, Feb 17th

Were called at 5-45, took breakfast, and started in the car (furnished by the hotel) for Port Rush depot, were driven across the find iron bridge to the east side of the Foyle then along the principal street on that side down the Lough to the depot. The train started at 7 a.m., complimenting Derry as the 1st Irish city we had left without having had a dispute with Hotel waiter or car driver. We whizzed on down Lough Foyle for over 20 miles then inland up a stream, passing through 2 good size tunnels, changed cars at Baleraine(?) where we had to wait 15 minutes and arrived at Port Rush a few minutes after 9, left our luggage with the station master and hired the Causeway Hotel car to take us out to the Causeway for 4 shillings and a fee to the driver.  Were driven down to the Port Rush Hotel (which belongs to the same co. as the Causeway Hotel) in their bus and ordered lunch prepared for us on our return. We started off in the car well huffed up in rug and shawl as it was very chilly, hazy weather. We passed along the seashore getting a fine view of the town and Skerries and Harbor, stopped and looked at Napoleon’s Nose then Priest’s Hole, next Giant’s Head, then arches in the rock. The coast along the road the whole way
 Dunluce Castle, County Antrim, Ireland.  The photographer, Tina Mitchell Boutall of Ghent, Carroll County, Kentucky, was there in the first quarter of 2012 and saw the castle on a hazy day, probably much as the Howe brothers saw it.
is majestic and abounds in beautiful formations cut in the rock by the action of the sea. In a short time we passed Dunluce Castle and went through Bush Mills, admired its beautiful new market house built of black limestone (made blacker with a glossy black paint) and finished with white. We noticed a large number of buildings in this style in Derry and all parts of counties Derry and Antrim and we would further remark in speaking of buildings that there is no preference shown for large stone in the face of the walls, but the stone is placed in the wall seemingly just as they came handy, no care being taken to select them. This applies to buildings in all parts of Ireland we have visited. We also remarked today numerous fancy brick buildings made of beautiful red pressed brick set off in various designs with cream colored Blue and Black ones. Nearly all the stations we passed today are in that style, and the nearer we approached Belfast the more we have been reminded of America. With the exception of Dublin we have met with very few brick buildings until we came to Fintona [in County Tyrone]. From there on we have met them in large numbers – Londonderry abounds in brick buildings.
[At this point in the diary, Robert and John have left their ancestors and begin touring some of the natural wonders of Ireland.]
We arrived at the [Giant's] Causeway 11 a.m. and hired Alex Lafferty guide who for five shillings agreed to show us all the signs of the Causeway to be seen on foot. We could not see it in a boat as the sea was rough. We saw first
© Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
the “Giant’s Well” but refused to drink from it, then the Small Causeway, Large Causeway, Giant’s Organ, etc. Climbing by a circuitous route to the top of the bank, we walked several hundred yards and saw the amphitheatre, which is a large semi-circular opening in the rocky cliffs and like all the rest of the causeway on the edge of the sea. The next sight was the Plaskean(?) [Plaiskin Head, pictured here on a clearer day;], three triangular cliffs composed of various formations of stone and red clay and partly covered with the green grass. This is said to be a magnificent sight but as it did not look that way to us, we supposed it was on account of the misty weather.

So ends the Howe brothers' time in the homeland of their parents. From Sarah Eva Howe's scrapbooks and family stories, we know the brothers toured several countries in Europe before heading back home to Carrollton, Kentucky, USA. If you happen across their travel diary – in your own family treasures or in a thrift shop – please let me know. Our branch of the family would love to read it.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Visiting the Homeland, 1876 – Part 2: Roast Duck With All the Trimmings

Today we're back in Ireland with Robert J. and John I. Howe as they visit their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. Rob and John had never met these relatives before. Still, they didn't consider them strangers. These American-born brothers had heard their immigrant parents tell stories about their Irish family, and the Howes in Ireland had received many letters from their emigrant son and knew much about his American-born family.
The Howe Brothers Who Traveled to Ireland

The photo of Robert (far right) is from one of the scrapbooks compiled by his daughter, Sarah Eva Howe. The handwriting is hers. The photo of John comes from a Howe family album. I have wondered if these images show the same man, but I'm trusting the identifications provided by their contemporaries.

We pick up the brothers' travel diary as they rise and eat breakfast at Uncle Joseph Brown's cottage on a Friday market day.

Friday, Feb’y 11th

Got up just before 8 o’clock. Just at breakfast time Sarah A[rmstrong] arrived to get our washing, ate breakfast with us, when we started over to Aunt Eliza’s with her. John wrote a private letter to Ma, and Robert wrote to George [a younger brother]. After taking a lunch we and Sarah started to town on foot arriving there at 2 p.m. We found Uncle Joseph who had gone into town in the morning. As it was market day we found a large crowd of people, among them Grandpa’s wife [Jane Hopkins Bell], Hugh Robinson, Uncle Geor. Hetherington and daughter, and other friends. Called at the post office, saw Mrs. Spence, but found no letters for us. Called on the Misses Alexander, who were very glad to see us. After three hours very busily spent lunching and taking punch with our kinfolks, and shopping with Cousin Sarah, we started out home with Hugh Robinson. Arrived at his house (3 miles from 5-mile town) a little after 6 o’clock. After dinner and tea his brother-in-law Jas. West came in and we chatted about America, etc. until 1-30 when we retired in a very comfortable room to ourselves. We found here the same ground floors and furniture style of beds, tables, etc. as at other places but Mr. H. R. and wife appear to want no better and look fat and rosy as do the people everywhere we have been in the neighborhood.

Saturday, Feb’y 12th

Arose just a little before 8 o’clock, after breakfast John wrote up the Journal for yesterday and Bob read the Democrat of 22nd ult. until 10-15 when we started out accompanied by Mr. Robinson, crossed over through his place to the Clabby and Tempo road, followed that out to Clabby. The front gates of the churchyard were closed but we entered by the minister’s gate, looked through the yard, saw the tombs and exterior of the church but could not get into the church until we went down into the village and got the custodian, Mrs. Morrow, who came and showed us through it. It is roughly arranged inside and poorly kept. We saw about a foot of rubbish in the Belfry, deposited by the jackdaws. At Clabby we met Francis Kirkpatrick, Andy Coulter, and other of pa’s acquaintances. Leaving Clabby, struck out for Cleine(?) Hill, which we ascended. The day was not clear and our view was obstructed; we spent a few minutes reflecting on the scenes of Pa’s, Cousin Irvine’s and the Hetheringtons’ schoolboy days, then descended on nearly a direct course for Mr. Robinson’s house. Arriving there 1-15 we found Grandpa awaiting us and in a short time Mrs. Robinson’s sister came in and we all started to partake of a good dinner consisting of roast duck, stewed potatoes and rice, finishing up with Punch. The duck tasted elegant, notwithstanding it was cooked on a bare turf fire, which is the manner of cooking everything here in Ireland. Each fireplace has an iron bar, or a chain, suspended from above upon the end of which there is a hook which can be lowered or heightened by means of holes in the iron bar or by the links in the chain. Pots, kettles, etc. are suspended form the hook. A very primitive and unhandy way of cooking, though the victuals can be cooked astonishingly well. When the balance of us were nearly through eating, Mrs. Robinson’s brother, James West, and his wife came in.

As soon as we could get away after dinner we started off with Grandpa about 6-30 p.m., found Grandma looking out for us. As soon as we got warm we had tea after which we sang some songs in the "Pure Gold" for the old folks, cleaned and polished our boots and brushed our clothes. When we retired about 10 p.m. into the best room and the only bed in the house, the old folks fixing a pallet in the kitchen. Going through the fields from Mr. Robinson’s, John had a fall, the only one he has had since leaving home. He dirtied his clothes some though does not feel much hurt.

While we like to think of Ireland's rolling green fields, the Ireland John and Robert saw in February 1876 looked more like this frost-covered landscape. (Image of winter Ireland courtesy

Sunday, Feb’y 13, 1876

After breakfast started up with Grandpa to a neighboring house (Mr. Emmerson’s) to Class meeting. The morning being very disagreeable the class was only attended by the Emmerson family, ourselves, grandpa, and the leader, Mr. James Shaw. We met in a very comfortable room, ground floor covered by a matting, very well furnished with cushioned chairs and sofas, windows curtained, walls hung with pictures, turf fire burning in a grate, the snuggest farmhouse we have been in since arriving in Ireland. The leader called the class to order and all kneeled in private prayer, after which a hymn was sung, then the leader led in prayer, when another verse of a hymn was sung, the leader spoke as is usual in beginning. He then addressed himself to one after the other hearing their experiences and giving each one good advice. We each spoke and were called on to pray, but declined; the leader then prayed and another hymn was sung and class dismissed. Were well pleased with Mr. Shaw, is a good religious man. Inquired about Pa, said he made clothes for him in Fivemiletown when living there. We came back home with Grandpa. Grandma made us eat another breakfast, after which we started off for Aunt Eliza’s in a very disagreeable snowstorm. Grandpa went across the fields with us to show us the road. We are amused at the custom here of calling every little stream a river. On leaving grandpa picked up a pitchfork. We asked him what he intended to do with it. He said he was bringing it along to jump a river that ran through the fields. When we got to the stream we laughed at him and jumped across it. We arrived at Aunt Eliza’s (nearly wet through) about 11-45 a.m. We stopped a few minutes to warm ourselves, took some fruit, and then started off with Sarah Armstrong to Colebrook Church. When we arrived the service had begun. We looked through the graveyard before going into the church, saw the tomb of Sir George Benghe(?) also saw the tablet in the church to Sir Arthur and also others to many members of the Brooke family who are buried in the vaults under the church. Rev. Wm. Burnside preached a sermon from the text, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” We thought a poor effort. Owing to the wet, disagreeable weather, the congregation was light. After service we went back through the demesne of Sir Victor Brooke, stopped at the gamekeeper’s house, and warmed ourselves. Arrived at Aunt Eliza’s about 2 p.m. took dinner (the best we have had in the neighborhood) about 3 p.m. We had intended to go to town to church but being disgusted with the weather, and Aunt Eliza’s insisting on our staying all night with her and Sarah, we concluded to rest the balance of the evening. We spent the time very pleasantly chatting and reading (a neighbor boy coming in occasionally). Took tea at 6-30, after which we read and sung in the “Pure Gold,” bathed our feet in warm water and went to bed at 10 o’clock.

Coming next: The third and final segment of the diary, as the Howe Brothers say good-bye to their Ireland ancestors and cousins.