Archive for April, 2011

Letter to Martha “Matt” Gamble Rhea from Johnnie Coker Maas, 1933

April 28, 2011


Every family has mysteries, old mysteries of whispered tales overheard by children, secrets hidden by time, family legend passed down through the years.

When I started genealogy over ten years ago, I remember that my mother had been interested in family history also.  I overheard a conversation between her and a family friend, when I was a child, and the friend told my mother not to look back into family history, because you could find something bad, very bad, that could change your life and you would never be the same.  Some of the old South families found that they were mixed race.  Some of the black families found that THEY were mixed race.  One black friend told me years later that the saddest day of her life was when she found the white people.  I suppose your reaction just depends on your perspective.  Whatever the reason for your genealogy search, I found that we are the sum of all our parts, and all these little parts, good and bad, are what they are, and we just need to deal with it.

One of my great-great-grandmothers was Ruth Gamble Collins.  I found her on the 1880 Blount County, Tennessee, census on June 9, 1880, listed as a widow.  Later, through the magic of the internet and the genealogy message boards, my BigBroBob found a man in Mobile, Alabama, who claimed that his grandmother was Ivy Collins Coker, one of Ruth’s children.  But Ivy reported that she was born on March 14, 1881, and indeed she is not listed on the 1880 census.  Ivy also reported that her father was Deadrick Collins, who indeed was married to Ruth Gamble.  I suppose it is possible that Ruth was pregnant with Ivy and that Deadrick became deceased right before the census was taken.  There is no record of his death, and the man in Mobile said that one of his uncles told of whispered stories that he overheard when he was a small boy.  An uncle from the west was visiting, and the family was wondering if he would be recognized even though he’d been gone so long,  and could his visit remain a secret, for there was talk that he had been in trouble with the law, which was why he’d left to go west in the first place.  When I heard this part of the story, I became confused.  Was Deadrick in trouble also, like his son, and they’d both had to leave?  We’ll probably never know.

This I do know:  I found another cousin in Texas who sent me a packet of old letters regarding some of the Gamble family that moved west out of East Tennessee.  They ended up in Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Oregon.  One of the letters was written by Johnnie B. Coker Maas (who married Charles Sidney Maas) to her aunt Martha “Matt” Gamble Rhea.  Johnnie B. turned out to be the sister of the small boy who heard the whispered stories, and remember that the story of the small boy came from a man in Mobile, Alabama.  Yet the letters came from Texas from someone who did not know about the man in Mobile.  Strange how life weaves us together.

So the man in Mobile copied the letter *written by his own aunt* almost 65 years prior and sent it to her brother, the last remaining sibling of that family, who was in a nursing home in the last years of his life, who just happened to be the same small boy who overheard the whispered stories. 

Mrs. Charles S. Maas

Demopolis, Ala.

Nov. 14, 1933

Dear Aunt Matt:-

                I know you will be surprised to hear from a neice (sic) you have never seen, but I want to get a little information concerning Uncle Hugh Gamble or the one of your brothers who was in the Confederate Army – I want to join the UDC and I understand I am eligible to join if I can prove that a great Uncle or Grandfather was in the Confederate Army.  Mama said she knew that two of the boys were in the Confederate Army and that you might be able to tell me more about it – who they were with, where they enlisted and anything else that might help me to prove my eligibility.  Maybe some of the other folks out there know some thing or do you know of any one back in Tenn. who might know I would certainly appreciate any information.

                We are all well again.  Guess some of the children wrote about Mama’s operation.  She was operated on in July for a tumor and stood the operation just fine.  She says she feels better than she has in years and very often threatens to make you all a visit.

So far our winter has been very mild, just a frost or two but with no rain.  Every thing is so dry.

                Hope all of you are well and I will certainly appreciate any information you might give me.

                With love to you all,

                Johnnie B Coker

                Box 13

                Demopolis, Ala

                (Mrs. C. S. Maas)


And the Confederate uncle that she was searching for??  It was Larkin Boling Gamble, who had moved to Arkansas, then Oregon, after serving in the Union Army.  It seems that East Tennessee was predominantly Union.  I wonder if Johnnie ever found out that she couldn’t get into the United Daughters of the Confederacy using that line.  What she couldn’t know was that her mother’s “father” was Deaderick A. Collins, a sergeant in the Confederate Army, but remember that her mother was born after her father was reported deceased. 

Indeed, when researching family history, you might just find out something you didn’t want to know.

Photos of Ivy Collins Coker

April 25, 2011

I’ve mentioned Ivy Collins Coker most recently in yesterday’s post. I also posted a photo of her with her mother Ruth Gamble Collins, who is my great-great-grandmother (what a nice first name), and also with Dr. Lynch Delisha Webb, who is my grandmother Ruth’s father. (They say it skips a generation. Not sure they were referring to my first name, but in this case, it does skip a generation.)

Here’s a couple more photos of Ivy from her grandson Dr. Harry Coker.  Dates and locations are unknown to me, but I would presume to say that the early photos were taken around 1900 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Obituary of Ivy Collins Coker, 1881-1942

April 25, 2011

The following obituary comes to me from Cousin Harry Coker in Alabama.  Mrs. Doc (Ivy Collins) Coker was his grandmother.

Ivy Collins Coker and my great-grandmother Henrietta Collins Webb were sisters.  One of Henrietta’s daughters was Annie Webb who married Ed Porter.

Old Letter From Elizabeth “Libbie” Gamble Cochran to Her Sister Martha “Matt” Gamble Rhea, circa 1880

April 24, 2011

So many old letters, so little time…

Over ten years ago, I received in the mail an amazing gift from someone I have never met.  Cousin Diana McDonald had copies of old letters in her possession, and she made copies and sent to me.  This copy is so faint that it cannot be read, but someone had transcribed the letter, what there was of it, into a typewritten page. 


Knoxville Tenn

March 26

My Darling Sister

Your wellborn letter reached me last night.  I was glad to hear from you all once more for I had come to the conclusion that you had forgotten your poor old afflicted sister in Knoxville.  I am so sorry that you are chilling.  It is so bad.  Have you ever tried Greens August Flowers.  I believe it would cure you, it is a good medicine.  I feel anxious for you to try it, you can obtain it at the drug store at Salome if they have not got it just get them to order it for you and don’t fail to try it.  You can get a small bottle a trial bottle for 10 cents with several doses in it  you might try one of them first, the next size is 75 cents.

Well, I will try to tell you what I know about fathers last days.  Mother came in here in October and said he was in his usual (piece of paper missing and part of word I think it is Health) and we thought we could have him in here with us this last winter.  We was going to send some easy conveyance and bring him in but before we sent for him he had a stroke of parralasys on the 11th of November at Hughs.  He was sitting by the fire and one of the little grand children was there in the yard and found a glass out of a pair of specticles and Eveline took it and went to him and ask him if it was his and he did not make her any answer.  She looked at him and one side of his face was all drawn and he could neither speak or move.  She called Hugh to the house and put him to bed and watched over him through the night.  In the morning they took him up and sit him at the table and he appeared hungry but could not swallow anything  but coffee and he drank four cups of coffee.  Evaline said to him he had better not drink so much at one time and take it more gradual and he said he was taking one cup after another.  He lived 13 days and slept the most of the time, would sometimes wake up and just speak one or two words and then go back to sleep again.  Mother was here and Ruth wrote to her.  She went out – I was sick and could not go to see him.  I have not been out there since you left here.  I did not hear of him speaking of any of us during his illness.  He had all the (page torn – I think it read consideration) that was necessary and was decently buried in the grave yard at Ellijoy in the row with Hughs children.  He was buried in the shirt I made for him.  He always said it was to bury him in and Mr. Cochran bought him a coat about a year before he died, he never had soiled it and it was put on him.  I fully believe he’s in heaven today.  Then let us try to live here so as to have a home with him there.  Pray to our heavenly father to show us the way.  I have been reading his dear old testament, I do love to read it because he read it so much.  Mattie read yours (this was all the letter I had unless I find second half)

On top page of letter as in a sort of ps she wrote

“you must try to write mother soon”

“Mrs. Lord and Gracie is both dead and Manley Keeble is dead.”

“John Cummings and Charity Davis married”


I read the letters over and over until I had memorized a good part of them.  They were like pieces of a puzzle, and I rearranged the names mentioned in the letters until I could make sense of some of them.  Who were they all?  Every name had value. 

One fall day in 1999 my children and I went to see my father in the assisted living facility.  We lived about 2 1/2 hours away, and I managed to fit in a side trip to Blount County.  We found the church and the graveyard at Ellijoy.  When I opened the gate to the graveyard, the gravestone directly in front of me was Manley Keeble, and I greeted him like a friend, “Well, Manley Keeble, so there you are!”  I still have no idea who Manley Keeble is, but we did find the grave marker for my great-great-great-grandfather Josias Gamble, 1800-1881.  I took a side shot so that you can see the stones marking the graves of the children of his son Hugh mentioned in the letter.


Elizabeth “Libbie” Gamble Cochran wrote another letter that I posted earlier.  You can reading it by clicking here.

The Big Fight in Como, Tennessee

April 20, 2011

Here’s another story from my BigBroBob, who always tells the truth, even if he has to lie…


The Big fight in Como Tennessee


 My Dad could spin a yarn with the best of them, I’ve heard them all. From a civil War soldier who lost his leg in the battle of Shiloh to the Big fight in Como Tennessee. Didn’t matter to Dad he always had a story. I couldn’t have been more than knee high to a jack rabbit when I first heard of Henry Wilkins. He was  born and raised in West Tennessee. Henry was a blacksmith by trade who was also known as  Knock Wilkins. His reputation as a blacksmith and champion fighter was legendary.  Henry Wilkins was a relative of my daddy but now I can’t rightly remember how. In 1995 Dad was invited to the Wilkins family reunion in West Tennessee.  Dad couldn’t wait to get there, seeing old friends, family and the thought of telling a story or two was just two much.  At the reunion Dad was having a high old time. As we finished our meal ,the guest speaker stood and began to address the audience. I wondered what the topic could be, first settlers of Tennessee, Indian fighter or maybe even a politician. No, The program was about Henry Wilkins and the big fight in Como Tennessee. It seems Henry knock Wilkins was not only a very able blacksmith but was also known for the art of manly skills.  No not that, it was his skills with his fists.  One day Henry was working at the forge when he heard someone enter the shop. The man called out are you Henry Wilkins the bully of Weakley county? Don’t know about the bully part  he replied but I’m Henry Wilkins. Well I’m Matt Brogdon and I come here to whip you.  Not much is known of Matt except he was from a neighboring county and looking to expand his reputation. Knock looked up and said, If you will wait outside I need to finish up and I’ll be right with you. Henry put down his tools , took  off his apron and went outside. Both men immediately started to size each other up, and believe you me neither one was going to back down. Each man advancing looking to find a opening and then one did. All of a sudden it was on, one sung at the other. Katy bar the door, they commenced to a fighting, either one gaining the advantage over the other. It seemed like they fought for hours, some say they fought all day or pretty durn near it. It was a classic battle good against evil, who would win this epic battle. Should we hope against hope? They say it was near sundown and both men were completely exhausted. Suddenly Knock saw an opening and caught Matt with a right cross knocking him down. In a heart beat Matt knew he had been beaten. He got up, brushed himself off and started the long journey back home. Normally that would have been the end of the story, but for one fact it would have been. Dad was in the house! He interrupted the speaker’s closing remarks. Wait, Wait No what I heard happened is this. Henry knocked Matt to the ground and they commenced to wrestling. Somehow Henry managed to get his fingers in Matt’s mouth and began to pull apart his cheeks.  Henry was yelling I got you now, I got you now, you might as well just give up.  And so he did. The people at the head table were looking at each other in disbelieve.  Everyone saying they had never heard that story before. I put in my two cents saying I liked the speaker’s story better, which seemed to please him. Dad had never been more proud of me for getting in the ruckus. Again the speaker started to close the reunion. Dad having no part of it said but wait there’s more to the story.  He said Years later Henry was traveling out West when he came upon a old farm house. It being close to evening  and Henry needing a place to spend the night decided to  go over. In the distance he could see a couple people sitting on the front porch. As he got closer he recognized it was  his old nemesis Matt Brogdon.  A lot of years had passed and feeling fairly sociable Henry called out, Howdy Matt.  Matt wanting no part of Henry refused to answer and just looked away. Again Henry called out Howdy Matt and silence was the only reply. Losing a fair amount of his sociability Henry said to Matt’s wife, you tell Matt I whipped him once and I’ll whip him again if he don’t  say howdy.  A smile crept over Matt’s face.  Henry was invited in for a place at supper table and a bed for the night. It was rumored afterwards they became fast friends. Everyone at the head table seemed confused or just plain dumb stuck. Was it Dads fault no one had ever heard of these tales. Dad having no more to say the family reunion was over.  This is based on a true story and as close to the truth as I can remember and rest assured I always tell the truth, even if I have to lie. By the way, the story Dad told me about one of our ancestors, Clint Burgess, getting his leg shot off in the battle of Shiloh and how he crawled to the bloody pond to get a drink. I always wondered if it was true. We visited Shiloh together and at the peach orchard dad said. I had forgotten that during the battle the blossoms from the trees looked like it was snowing.  I applied to the National Archives for records on Clint Burgess. I’ll never forget the day I received the envelope in the mail. I was excited to see what information I was to learn. The very first page read Army of the Confederate States.  Certificate of disability for discharge.  C.W. Burgess, On the bottom of the document was a hand written note. Gunshot wound loss of left leg at thigh on command a discharge. After that I never doubted his stories again.

Written For my Dad Roy c. Rawls

Robert c. Rawls 2011

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

April 19, 2011

Sugar’s been having a dog problem lately.

It’s springtime, and unsterilized animals are out and about looking for love.  Sugar got home last Tuesday, and found an unneutered pit bull in his fenced yard.  Honestly, how do these things happen to him?  This is the second time a dog has gotten into his yard trying to live there.  Benjamin dug his way under a weak spot on the fence line about 5 years ago and settled in nicely, which is another story.

The latest guy was not one bit interested in leaving.  He seemed oblivious to the other dogs who were frantic in barking at the newcomer.  Fortunately, no one started a fight, and Sugar got all the dogs in the house except Rosie.  Blue wanted to make sweet passionate love to Rosie but she kept eluding him.  I finally got a slip leash around his neck, and we got him out the open gate.  He still wouldn’t leave, but ran up and down the fence line searching for a spot to get in.  Or over – he wasn’t picky about how he got in as long as it happened.  Sugar kept attempting to chase him home, but Blue, for that was his name, was not having it.

Later that evening, Sugar heard someone walking along the back of his property calling, “Blue.  BLUUUUuuue.”  It was a young woman, Blue’s owner, and Sugar gave her a leash to get him home. 

Blue came back the next day.  Sugar called the owner who promised him she was going to put out a tie-line between two trees.  Sugar suggested getting a neuter in addition, but the girl’s boyfriend didn’t want a neuter, neither for himself or the dog.  Sugar and I talked about what to do with the dog, and it seemed like the dog was going to end up at the shelter or the hospital or the graveyard from running wild, following along behind his hormones.  I thought that the dog needed to go to the shelter for quarantine in order to make an official statement, and if the owners wanted to reclaim him, they would reclaim a vaccinated, *neutered* dog.  That’s the way the game plays around here with animal control.

The next day Sugar heard the boyfriend because, after all, Blue was back and the owners were out calling for him. 

The next day, the girl said that she was going to take him to live with her sister.

By last Sunday, the dog ran when he saw Sugar, although Sugar had stopped yelling at the dog to go home, and the owners had stopped returning Sugar’s telephone messages to get the dog. 

This morning, Sugar called with a report that Blue had spent the night outside his house, leaning against the fence and howling.   Blue would sleep for a bit, then wake up and howl a lonesome, mournful howl.

Today, when Sugar came home from work, Blue was IN his house.  Not in Blue’s house, but Blue was in Sugar’s house.  He had gotten under, through, or over the 5′ chain link fence and was mingling with his new friends.  Sugar leaves a door open in nice weather for the dogs to come and go, and Blue had made himself quite comfortable. 

I took a break from work, headed to Sugar’s house, and we managed to trap Mr. Blueballs, and transport him to the shelter.  But before we trapped him, I took this picture of a happy dog enjoying the day. 

The black dog in front of Blue is Pup Pup. The dog on the left nearest the gate is Honey, and the brown brindle is hotstuff Rosie.

Sugar talked to the girl this evening when she was out calling the dog, and before he had a chance to tell her what we had done, she said the dog was so much trouble, and she didn’t have anyone to help her, and she was just going to take him to the shelter…

Happy 90th Birthday, Great-Grandma Martha Burgess Hedges!

April 18, 2011

From the Paris, Tennessee, Post-Intelligencer


Mrs. Martha Hedges Will Soon Reach Ninety Years

Mrs. Martha Hedges who will be ninety years old in December paid a visit to the P. I. (The Paris, TN, Post-Intelligencer) office yesterday with one of her daughter, Mrs. J. E. Rawls of Paris with whom she now resides.

The remarkable elderly woman who belies her true age by a decade of years is the mother of 10 children.  She has twenty-five grandchildren and twenty-four great-grandchildren.  A grandson, J. Thomas Brewer, is missing in action.

Her daughter, Mrs. Rawls, said she has just been to the doctor and that he was encouraged with her condition, telling her she would be back to her full strength in a few months.  She has a good appetite, sleeps well and “reads more than I do,” according to Mrs. Rawls.

Mrs. Rawls further stated that she knows much about the potential nominees for presidency.  When Mrs. Hedges was asked who she thought would win the coming election, she spoke up like a true diplomat and said, “May the best man win!”

Following her visit to the P. I. office, Mrs. Hedges accompanied her daughter in attending the Woman’s Missionary meeting at the First Methodist Church.

Happy 89th Birthday, Great-Grandma Martha Burgess Hedges!

April 18, 2011

No clue what paper this is from. Or when.


Mrs. J. E. Rawls, Forrest Heights, has returned from Old Hickory, Tenn., where she attended a celebration of her mother’s 89th birthday held last Sunday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Brooks on Cleve St.  Mrs. Brooks and Mrs. J. B. Hedges , assisted by members of the Old Hickory Nazarene church, made all the arrangements.

The honoree, Mrs. Martha Hedges, who is spending the winter with her son, J. B. Hedges, went to church Sunday and was to spend the remainder of the day with Mr. and Mrs. Brooks.  Upon arrival there she was ushered into the dining room where the guests began to sing the birthday song and directed her to the huge cake decorated with 89 lighted candles.  A covered dish dinner was then served.

Those enjoying the day with Mrs. Hedges were Rev. Brown, pastor of the church, his wife and daughter, Gwendolyn Ann; Mr. and Mrs. Brooks and daughter, Fay; Mrs. B. Brooks, Mr. and Mrs. Terrell Boyd and sons, Tom and Tim; Miss Edna Nash, Mrs. J. L. Ritchie, Mrs. H. Franklin, Jim Franklin, Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Anderson and children, Laverne and Bobby; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ages, Miss Willie Cantrell, Thomas Chester, Mrs. Samson, Mrs. Lunn, Mrs. Hedges and daughters, Margaret and Norma Jean.

The honoree received many nice remembrances including messages and gifts from the following relatives unable to attend:  Mr. R. L. Burgess of Arkansas, Mrs. R. R. Simmons of Como, Mrs. D. B. Hays of Cottage Grove, Mrs. Pearl Hedges, Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Rawls, Jettie B. Rawls, and Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Rawls of Paris.

(Anyone who can offer any information as to who any of these folks are can comment in the “Comments” section.  Mr./Mrs. J. B. Hedges is Martha’s son and his wife, Jewel Burgess Hedges and Clara Hedges. Mrs. R.R. Simmons of Como is Martha’s daughter Iva Dell Hedges Simmons. Mr./Mrs. J. L. Rawls are my uncle and aunt James “Leonard” and Lottie Belle Rawls, and, of course, Mr./Mrs. R. C. Rawls are my folks.)

Millions of Cats

April 14, 2011

When I was a little girl, we would have library time occasionally during the school day when we could go to the school library to check out books, and the librarian would read a story to us.  She had careful, clear pronounciation, and she seemed to like the English language just a little bit too much.  She pronounced all the syllables and never dropped any consonants.  I remember that she read “Homer Price” by Robert McCloskey to us, and we were delighted when the diamond bracelet was found in the doughnut.  She read some of the “Little House on the Prairie” books to us, too.  But one of my favorites was “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Ga’g.  I didn’t know at the time that this was considered to be the first picture book, or that it had been written in 1928 and had won awards.  I loved the way the words flowed.  And the illustrations were wonderful and whimsical, and they flowed, too, along with the words.

File:Wanda Gag Millions of Cats-book cover.jpg

 “…hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats…”


It’s that time of year when cats reproduce in profusion, and this year is no different.  The shelter took in over 80 cats, not including kittens, in January and February.  This year seems to be harder to catch cats in baited traps.  They do not seem to be interested in food.  They are more interested in enjoying the day.

Last week started my cat-trapping project.  So far, it’s resulted in one possum, one ear-tipped cat, one raccoon, several nights of nothing, one feral last week, one feral this week, and two sick kittens.  It’s been discouraging.  I haven’t had any luck with my regular spot at the feeding station in the woods, so I branched out. 

There’s the old abandoned house further out my road where Cheryl the Feral kept a litter one time. 

No luck here.

There was a black cat strolling along my woods who only seemed to be passing through.

So I decided to set two traps at once, and I trapped…

Safety inspector Cali approves the hav-a-hart method of trapping. Mr. Possum and Ms. Scrappie are a trifle annoyed at the inspection.

Possum and Scrappie

I released Mr. Possum, and then recorded the release of Ms. Scrappie.  She. Was. Angry. 

Warning:  if you have a cat within earshot of the video, your cat is going to go nuts.

Then there was the guy that committed suicide about three weeks ago.  He was an alcoholic with a death sentence of cancer, and he left behind 3 dogs and 3 cats.  The dogs were in foster care, but the cats were left to fend for themselves.  A local cat rescue lady was able to get two of the cats, and last night she trapped the third.

Wheres my daddy?

And as a small bonus, she was able to catch 2 kittens, so near death from malnourishment and dehydration that she merely picked them up and put them in a box, where they could have climbed out over night, but were too weak to only stay in the box on the porch. 

And here we are, many years later, and there are still “…hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats…”


April 13, 2011

Sugar has a new dog.

Well, not exactly.  He runs a rural route in Hardlyville, and he started feeding a dog late last fall.  He’d seen the dog hanging around the front yard of a home out in the country, and he’d decided that basically the dog was living in the drainage ditch and/or culvert in front of a house.  She was always in the same general region, and he thought the people had gotten a new dog, even though they had two little dogs that hung around on the front porch of the home which sat well off the road.  He was getting concerned about her because it looked like she had some swelling around her mammary glands.  What could it be – a tumor?  He couldn’t actually touch her to find out, because she danced away from him if he got too near. 

On Christmas Day last year we went to take food to her.  At the entrance to the culvert was the dog… and two puppies.  We couldn’t touch them.

Sometimes he doesn’t see her at all, sometimes for days on end.  Lately he has only seen her with one puppy.  There’s a possibility that the other puppy broke away from the group, and went out on his own.  There are other possibilities, too.

On Sunday we went by where he usually sees her in order to feed her.  The house is now abandoned.  The people that were living there just up and left, but the house is not for sale.  Perhaps they were foreclosed upon, and just slid away in the night.  Even though they are gone, the dog never identified with them, she merely claimed squatter’s rights on the culvert. 

It’s getting hotter, and the normal watering spots are drying up.  Sugar decided that he needed to put out water for her and her baby, and he needed some sort of substantial container to put down into the ditch that would be unnoticed or would perhaps be thought to be trash and so would not be removed. 

The following photos show that the whole time Sugar was putting out the water, and then dumping the food on the ground into two piles, the mother and her baby were watching him from down the road.

See the baby?

We backed out of the driveway and headed out the way we came in. Looking back, we see the mom.

Until next time…