Saturday, December 22, 2012

Good Obituaries

How morbid! Can there be such thing as a good obituary? I didn't think so until I started researching genealogy. We all have to die. Once we accept that, then we can appreciate a good summary of our lives. Genealogy is easier; as it doesn't deal with our own mortality, but our predecessors. If everyone has to go sometime, why not appreciate a good summary of one's life.

My extended Carper relations from Craig County, Virginia were eulogized properly and cited as an excellent example of such writing. These were simple people living in the country, who worked hard every day of their lives just to get by in life. The "Stars and Stripes" the newspaper that serves the military overseas, on 14 October 1985 (p. 18) published the following:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Virginia Law and Murder in the Family

When family history contributes to the current definition of murder in Virginia state law my interest is piqued. I remember my shock that my sweet, all loving great grandmother could be bitter towards anyone. Her bitterness was directed at the murderer of her grandfather, Joseph Creed Carter in Amherst, Virginia. As I researched the murder of her grandfather I discovered that his murder is still cited in case law to this day.

In the recent past, The Washington and Lee Law Review, cited his murderer repeatedly.The review discusses the difference between first and second degree murder in Virginia. His murderer, Frederick McDaniel, was sentenced to hang for his fatal assault on my gr-gr-gr-grandfather. On appeal he won a new trial as the Commonwealth of Virginia Supreme Court in a vote of 3-2 decided it was second degree murder not first degree murder. First degree murder requires premeditation, and the Court of Appeals decided that "the killer may form intent to kill at the moment of killing." (Washington and Lee Law Review, vol 40, issue 1, article 20, p. 345). Joseph Creed Carter's murderer received a new trial (since apparently he didn't bring the stick to the property, nor spend enough time contemplating his assault--- showing premeditation required for first degree murder) and was subsequently sentenced to eighteen years in prison on the lesser charge of murder in the second degree. 

Frederick McDaniel avoided death. Joseph Creed Carter was bludgeoned over the head on his own property after letting the murderer borrow his team of horses and wagon. Nice guys finish last? Or sins of the father being revisited upon his son? (Frederick McDaniel was the son of an ex-slave. Joseph (known as Creed) Carter's father was a slave owner.) This was the Reconstructionist South and tensions were at a fevered pitch. The altercation was fueled by alcohol (both parties having imbibed) and racial tension. McDaniel called Carter "a liar", not something a fellow who fought in the War of Northern Aggression was going to take lightly coming from a negro.

McDaniel (the negro) had returned the horses and wagon, but failed to feed them according to Sallie Carter, Joseph's wife. When he (Carter) heard this and saw the man (McDaniel) walking by, Carter approached the perimeter of his property while his pregnant wife stood on the porch. The modern day equivalent is of course, borrowing someone's car and failing to refill the tank, even though in this case the gas (feed) was in the barn (of the lender).Verna (my lovely great grandmother)'s grandmother watched in horror as her husband (the lender of the horses) was "brained" by a large stick that McDaniel used to strike Carter over the head repeatedly.

Poor Sallie! She was left with a child on the way, and seven other children ranging in ages from five to fourteen. Hard times had already fallen on the family, and the farm had been getting smaller to pay off debts to neighbors. Verna's mother was eleven years old at the time of her father (Joseph Creed Carter)'s death. She would marry at a young age (16) and lessen the burden of another mouth for Sallie to feed by starting her own family. 

Sallie did not remarry and she was the head of the household maintaining the small family farm when the census was taken in 1900. Sallie lived until 1915, and the story of her husband's death was family lore. I have a letter in which my great grandmother, Verna did document her recollections of the family lore  to one of her daughters.

I read the case law pertaining to my relation's murder with great interest-- as his murder affected my great grandmother, who I knew and loved. In the near future I will be obtaining copies of  the court documents that lead to the legal decision that differentiates first and second degree murder in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is an interesting, albeit sad tale of murder in the second degree following a sad part of American history.

---McDaniel v. The Commonwealth (77 Va, 281) Murder: First degree-second degree

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Carper Family of Craig County, Virginia

Circa 1915, this photo of a Craig County, Virginia farming family might have been taken to celebrate a wedding. Note, the flowers and the hairpiece on the woman on the far right. The patriarch of the family, seated, is Oscar Washington Carper. Oscar and his wife Amanda had eleven children together.

Oscar was a survivor of the third, and bloodiest day at the Battle of Gettysburg. He served with the 28th Virginia Regiment, Company C. He was captured at "The Angle" following General Pickett's ill-fated charge. He was paroled February 16, 1865 and returned to Craig County where he then married Amanda Leffel on 11 July 1866.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

McKenzies of Avilton, MD

A treasured photograph from my cousin's collection, this is Charles and Ellen McKenzie of Avilton, Maryland. Together they had twelve children. Not all would survive childhood, indeed even the teen years were fraught with danger (in the coal mines and  they lost a son in a mining accident.) She died at the young age of just 35, a month after giving birth to her last child from peritonitis resulting from a gallbladder attack. She left behind children ranging from 1 month to 17 years of age. Charles, "Barney" as his friends called him, did as his wife begged him on her death bed, and kept the children together. No easy feat for a widower in those days I am sure.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Siitting in the wheel barrow

The above photograph is of my maternal great grandmother, Verna Andrews Kohl and her father John Edward Andrews. At the time this photograph was taken Verna was working in a haberdashery in Roanoke, Virginia-- where she would meet her husband. Here, she is visiting her father at their family farm in Amherst County, Virginia.

I love the rural setting in this photograph, the mountains can be seen at the left in the distance. (As well as assorted outbuildings, and certainly an outhouse.) Both of Verna's beautiful daughters bore a strong resemblance to this photograph of their mother.

They are seated in a wheelbarrow, just to make the picture more rural and fun!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Inheritance of Faith

St. Ann's Mission Church in Avilton, Maryland was the spiritual home of many of my ancestors. It is set in the Appalachian Mountains and this area was first settled by my paternal grandmother's family. My grandmother remembered many trips from Somerset County to Avilton, Maryland in her youth. She had a large number of extended family that predominated the parish. In fact, with rare exception, the entire cemetery is in some way or another a relation! The McKenzie family was one of the first Catholic families in Western Maryland, and the history of the church reads as a history of this family and the Garlitz family (the other main Catholic family in this rugged country. The two families intermarried at length.)

Her family, the McKenzies of Avilton, Maryland left Garrett County Maryland after the death of Margaret Ellen McKenzie in 1910. "Elle" McKenzie was the mother of twelve children before her death at the age of just 35. Her husband, Charles Lazora B. (Blocher?) McKenzie moved to Somerset County, Pennsylvania and sold the Avilton farm. The family crossed state and county lines readily. Charles would reside in Somerset, PA but die at his daughter's home in West Virginia, and be buried at St. Ann's Cemetery. Certainly a challenge from a genealogist's standpoint: his death certificate is found in WVA, his will in Pennsylvania, and his burial records in Maryland.

Many of the descendants of this pioneering Catholic family remain active in the Catholic church to this day. Truly, an inheritance of faith! May God bless the future generations as they scatter all across the USA. A long way from this tiny outpost of Catholicism, but never too far from Him.