Archive for March 20th, 2018

Meet Joe Webb

March 20, 2018

I met Joe Webb when I was a little girl. I have a few vague, shadowy recollections of him. He was my grandmother’s brother.

Grandma had another brother named Tom, and a brother named Charlie that I never met. Charlie died about 1936, and my aunt had told me once that Charlie had gotten ill with what they called “Brain Fever” when he was a child. He stayed childlike, even as an adult, and always lived with his mother Henrietta.

Joe and Tom lived out of state. I suppose that they came to visit my grandmother when the weather was nice in the summer. I remember when we went to her house to see them that we sat out under the maples in her yard.

My shadowy memory of Joe is that he had wavy, light-colored hair and faded tattoos on his forearms. Did his wife come with him? I’m not sure. Did he drink? It seems like he might have.

Grandma rarely talked about her family. I have found out some things that made me wonder if that was the reason. I know that she seemed fond of her parents, and I got the idea that they were good people.

*****

A few weeks ago I got a new cousin match on ancestry. A second cousin! I sent her a message, and she answered. It seemed that my grandmother Ruth and her grandfather Joe were siblings. She didn’t know anything about Joe. He had divorced her grandmother a few years after their daughter was born. Joe saw the daughter maybe once after that, and called her perhaps a half-dozen times. She grew up and raised 6 children who never met their grandfather Joe.

This makes me very sad. What went wrong? I poked around a little.

I asked one of my older cousins if she remembered Joe. She did have a few vague memories; he was married to Ethel who was the boss and got him to stop drinking. She didn’t know about the first family.

And the first family didn’t know about the second marriage. They thought Joe never remarried.

*****

I found a photo of Joe in my mother’s things.

I would guess that this was most probably made in Tucker, Georgia.

On the back of the photo…

Your brother

Joe Webb

8/3/1980

Joe died in 1985.

He married Gladys Nelle McNew in 1924, and they lived in Knoxville. The Knoxville City Directory shows that he was a meat cutter.

In 1930, he was living with his brother Tom, still in Knoxville at 104 Hickey Place. It is my best guess that the information for the 1930 Directory was gathered in 1929 to be published and distributed in 1930. So I’m guessing by 1929, Joe had left his wife and daughter.

Tom is listed at Kenneth T. Webb. There is also a wife Mildred listed for Tom. I didn’t know that Tom had been married, but he also had a drinking problem, and things like divorce and alcoholism just weren’t discussed.

In the 1930 census Joe was listed as living with his mother Henrietta, so perhaps he stayed with different family members while looking for a safe place to land.

*****

My new cousin wondered if I could offer an opinion about what kind of man her grandfather was. I offered that he might have had some personal issues that kept him away from his wife and children, but that I really didn’t know him. We discussed that he might have been a drinker. She had a photo of her grandfather when he was a young man. She thought that he gave the impression of someone who might drink.

I think the vintage of the photo is Roaring Twenties, before everything crashed in the Depression.

He looks so much like my grandmother.

His wife Nell McNew Webb had to get a job. She worked as a clerk in a dry cleaners, and then married Thomas Buckley about 1930.

*****

I poked around a little more on ancestry and made a discovery.

In 1940 on the federal census, my grandparents and all four of their children, along with Joe Webb and Vivian O’Dell (Grandma’s niece whose parents had died young), were living at 306 Kingston Street in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Y’all, I grew up in this town. It is my hometown, and Kingston Street was a main street. I had never known this. And everyone had lived in the same house in 1935. So when my mother was in high school, she lived in this house. We drove by this house hundreds of times, and that never prompted her to say, “Oh, I used to live there. For YEARS.”

I cropped the image to show their names.

Now if I only had a photo of the house, which Zillow says was built in 1920.

I remember that I have a boots-on-the-ground researcher in place.

BigBroSteve delivers a photo.

Right now I am so nostalgic for a home I’ve never seen that I could cry a little.

All because of Joe Webb.

Advertisements