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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Terhune Family in Shelby County, Indiana

William and Elizabeth Kerr Terhune Family

I’m writing this for my cousins and family members who were too young to remember or were not born yet, so that they might have information about our grandparents, William Russell Terhune and his wife, Grace Virginia Sanders Terhune.

Our grandfather, Will, as he was known, was born 24th December 1871 in Decatur County, Indiana. His parents were William Barnett Terhune and Elizabeth Kerr Terhune. Will was the youngest son in the family of ten children. He had one brother and eight sisters. I think he may have been somewhat spoiled by having all those sisters but my memories of him are faint as he passed away when I was seven years old.  I only remember that he was elderly and rather quiet. He always wore a suit and a hat. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so I will return to his younger days.

William and Elizabeth Kerr Terhune moved from Decatur County between 1870 and 1880 and settled in Rush County, Indiana. They lived in a large house just outside of Milroy in Richland Township. The house was still standing in the 1980s and was well-kept.  All of their children were well-educated and became teachers, nurses, and business owners. It was my good fortune to have known several of my Terhune great-aunts, daughters of William and Elizabeth Terhune, who lived in Milroy. They were very sweet and loving.  I do remember that great-aunt Emma seemed a bit scary, being very old and living alone in her huge dark Victorian house. When we would visit her, my sister and I were told by our Mom, Alice Terhune Williams, “Don’t touch ANYTHING”. So we knew that we would have to sit quietly and sip lemonade while the grown-ups talked. Emma’s sister, Grace, lived down the street and around the corner (also in Milroy). She had lots of toys for us as well as cookies and cold drinks.
Young Will Terhune finished his schooling and began to travel.  He established business schools (at various times) in Texas, Missouri and even New Hampshire. He was in Galveston, Texas when the disastrous flood hit in 1900.  According to the U.S. Census for that year, Will was living on 23rd St. in Galveston, aged 27. I do not know how long he had been in Texas but I suspect the flood put an end to his career in Galveston and he moved on.

By 1913 Will had established a new life in Shelbyville, Indiana. From the Farm Journal Directory of Shelby County, Indiana, I found this information:

Terhune, William R. prof Shelbyville Business College 12 ½ East Broadway

Our grandpa Will is pictured in the 1915 and 1916 Shelbyville High School yearbook, The Squib, as a teacher.  He is listed as W.R. Terhune, Business Course. He was also teaching at Shelbyville High School until at least 1920.

I never knew how our grandparents met each other. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that they were both teachers. Our grandmother, Grace, born 13th December 1884, was the daughter of John Sanders and Jane Dubois Sanders, both from Henry County, Indiana.  Between 1870 and 1880 John and Jane Sanders moved to Shelbyville where they took up residence at 53 North West Street. John was a veteran of the Civil War and a member of the Shelby County G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).  Our grandmother, Grace, was the next-to-youngest child in the family of seven children. She had four sisters and two brothers. Her older sister, Ruby, married William Cossairt, and Ruby assisted in the Cossairt greenhouse and floral business in Shelbyville.  I believe after her husband passed away, their son John took over the business which still flourishes in Shelbyville today.

My mother, Alice, loved to take my sister and me for Sunday afternoon visits to see Aunt Ruby. She lived in Shelbyville, in a big beautiful house on Boggstown Road, next to the greenhouses. We always enjoyed those visits as Aunt Ruby had lots of toys and games, and the best – an old steamer trunk full of lovely old clothes that we played “dress up” with. What I wouldn’t give to have those old fashioned dresses! The memories of those fun times with my sister, my Mom, and our Aunt Ruby are priceless.

Over the years, Mom told me stories of her childhood, when she would spend hours playing in the Cossairt greenhouses . As she grew older, Mom also accompanied her Aunt Ruby and Uncle Will on some vacations, including one to St. Augustine, Florida that she especially enjoyed.

Our grandmother, Grace, was well educated, a graduate of Indiana State Teacher’s College and she also attended Indiana University. She taught in public schools until she married Will.  They were married 2nd June 1917 in Shelbyville by the Rev. Wycoff.  In the 1920 U.S. Census, Will and his bride were living at 220 W. Franklin St. in Shelbyville.  In 1923, they became parents to a son, also named William and in 1924 a daughter (my Mom), Alice, was born. I know our grandmother must have had her hands full with two small children and a business to run! I remember Mom telling us that her mother worked all the time.

Our grandmother, Grace, had a wonderful, sweet personality. She loved to tell the grandchildren stories that she would have invented just for us. We have a collection of the “Santa” stories that she wrote for the family. They are wonderfully entertaining and well-written. How she found time to sit down and put them to paper, I’ll never know!

In October 2012 the Shelbyville News published a very nice story about a woman named Fern Cook, aged 98. She had been a student at the Terhune Business College after she went to high school. She lived with our grandparents, Will and Grace Terhune, at that time. She says, “They had a little business school at Jackson and Harrison Streets. I took typing, bookkeeping and shorthand, helped with housework and babysat. They had two children….”  Upon reading this article, I realized that Fern Cook had been my mother’s babysitter! An amazing revelation!

I don’t know if Mrs. Cook is still around but I would love to talk with her about her life in the Terhune household. I'm sure she would have some great stories to tell!

The things I remember about my Terhune grandparents would not even fill one sheet of paper, I’m sad to admit.  One memory is that they had a small home on East Pennsylvania  St. in Shelbyville.  The house had (and still has) two front doors, one leading into the living room and the other into the room where the business school was located.  Grandpa Will Terhune also had a business school in Indianapolis, located on the Monument Circle in a big office building. I’m not sure when he gave that up, but it was after my parents were married. Dad, Jim Williams, said they went to Indianapolis and cleaned out the business, leaving behind a huge roll-top desk that no one could move because of its size and weight.

Two things I remember clearly about Grandpa Will Terhune – he loved roses and had many beautiful rose bushes in the yard on E. Pennsylvania  St. He also had a small grape arbor in the back yard.  My sister and I liked to play under the arbor, where it was cool and damp in the hot Indiana summers. Grandpa also had a rickety old garage at the back corner of the yard. Dad said that Grandpa used to drive old junky cars, which explained the garage. Mom said that her parents were once in a very bad car accident and were lucky that they weren’t killed. It makes me think that Grandpa might not have been a really great driver!

My Dad and his cousin, Lowell Williams, enjoyed taking Grandpa fishing with them. Lowell said that Grandpa always wore his suit when they went fishing! (I wish I had a picture of this!)  My Dad said one time they took a cooler of beer on their fishing trip and offered one to Grandpa. He accepted it and told my Dad, “Don’t tell Grace!” I always smile when I think of this. It is a great memory.

As for the background of the Terhunes, they are probably one of the first of our ancestors to come to the United States. Albert Terhune  came to New Amsterdam , New York, arriving on the ship, Calmar Sleutel in December 1637. I have read that he was from Hunen, The Netherlands. It is a family legend that the Terhunes were French Hugenots who left France about 1572 following the massacre of St. Bartholomew, where they found religious freedom in the Netherlands. Whether or not that is true, I have never found the evidence. But we do have proof of their residence in early New Amsterdam and the area once known as Flatlands, which is now Brooklyn, New York.  

I have found land records proving the Sanders family was living in early Virginia, in the area close to Jamestown. The first known immigrant was Michael Sanders in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. He was probably born around 1720. His son, William Sanders moved from Virginia to Wayne County, North Carolina about 1785.  William Sanders was a Quaker and had a large “plantation” near the area of Nahunta in Wayne County. Several of his sons moved on to Indiana after his death, including his son, Matthew Sanders, who was our great-great grandfather.  I find it ironic that the Sanders and the Kerr families both came from North Carolina near where I now live.  (Elizabeth Kerr Terhune’s family came from Guilford County, North Carolina, moving to Dearborn County, Indiana about 1816.)

The final chapter of this story --- my Mom, Alice Terhune, was a graduate of the Terhune Business College. She had several secretarial positions, eventually becoming the secretary for Mr. Strauss, of Strauss’ Department Store in downtown Indianapolis. Mom commuted on the bus to her job in the city. So did my Dad, Jim. That is how my parents got to know each other, sharing their daily commute to Indianapolis. A very happy ending!

Small world……

I would like to add a PS to this story. If anyone in Shelby or Rush counties has any additional information about the Terhune family or the Terhune Business College, their descendants would be very grateful if you would share any stories or photos with us. Please send an email to me at: williams.seeker@ gmail.com. Many thanks!

Friday, July 19, 2013

More About the Williams Family Buried in The Williams Cemetery

After I wrote the blog about the restoration of the Williams Cemetery recently, a cousin on Facebook commented that she was not familiar with this family or how they were connected to our family. I realized that I needed to share this with her and anyone else who might be curious about the family.

As I have written before, our family is connected to three different Williams lines who arrived in Shelby County from three distinct different parts of this country. I have not been able to link them until they all arrived in Shelby County. It can be quite confusing keeping them all straight, as you might imagine.

The Williams Cemetery in Brandywine Township is located on the original farm of a Shelby County pioneer, Daniel Williams and his wife, Mary Kimberlin Williams. They are found living there in the 1820s in property deeds and land transactions, very early in the county’s history. Daniel owned a large amount of land after he and Mary moved from Clark County in Southern Indiana.

Daniel was born about 1790 in either Kentucky or Virginia. He was the son of Reece Williams and Lavina Jolly Williams. I think Reece and Lavina were from Virginia, though I haven’t begun to work on this yet. If anyone knows more about Reece and Lavina, I would be thrilled to hear from you.  I know that Reece died in Clark County, Indiana on 18 November 1827, having found a small obituary for him on Rootsweb. It reads:  

Died, on the same night ("Saturday night last" from the obituary preceeding this one), in this county, Mr. Reece Williams, aged about 68 years. Farmers' and Mechanics' Advocate, Charlestown, Indiana, Saturday 24 November 1827

We have never been fortunate enough to find obituaries for either Daniel or his wife Mary. Even though they died much later in Shelby County.

Family records show that these are the children for Daniel and Mary, all born in Shelby County:

Matthew Williams – Born 19 Nov. 1822 and died 3 Feb. 1879. Matthew married    Martha Caroline Padrick who was born 19 Feb. 1825 N.C. and died 24 Sep. 1893  Both are buried in the Williams Cemtery.

Margery Williams – Born abt. 1825 and died bef. 1869 in Shelby County.  She was married to Henderson Harrell. They’re buried in the Brandywine Cemetery.

Eli Williams – Born 3 Mar. 1828 and died 29 Mar. 1861 in Shelby County. He was    married to Clarinda Colclazier. Eli is buried in the Williams Cemetery. His wife remarried a neighbor, John Bishop.

Paulina Williams – Born abt. 1832 and died 28 July 1889 in Shelby County. She was married to Edmond Steward/Stewart . Paulina is buried in the Williams Cemetery.

Jesse Williams – Born abt. 1839 and died 25 Jan. 1882 Shelby County. Jesse    married Elizabeth Jane Steward / Stewart. Jesse and his wife lived in Greenfield,    Hancock County and are buried there in the Park Cemetery.

Nancy Williams – Born and died unknown.  I suspect Nancy died at a young age.    A small headstone was uncovered recently in the Williams Cemetery but had worn smooth over the years. We suspect that this is Nancy’s stone, but may never know for sure.

Other researchers on the internet have linked Josiah Williams, who died in Wisconsin. as another son of  Daniel and Mary. And recently, cousin Jon discovered a daughter named America who is said to belong to Daniel and Mary. We are working to prove these links and hope to find more children for them.

Now you know about Daniel’s family but still don’t know how they are connected to our family.  For the direct link, we must look at Daniel’s son, Matthew and his wife, Martha Caroline Padrick Williams.

Matthew’s daughter, Margaret Anne, was married to our great-great-grandfather, William Frederick Steward. Grandma Ofa Williams told a story about “Fred” and his friendship with the Williams family (who were neighbors). Fred would walk over to visit them when he was an 8 or 9 year old boy. He would ask to hold baby, Margaret Anne, and rock her. One day, he told Daniel that he would marry Margaret Anne when she was “old enough”. True to his word, Fred married Margaret Anne when she was only 16 years old. They eloped to Carroll County, Kentucky! Fred and Margaret were married for nearly 45 years when she passed away. It must have truly been love at first sight.

To continue the link, from Fred and Margaret Williams Steward  --  their son, James Matthew Steward was our great-grandfather. He married Edith Hendricks (or Henricks) in 1892 (Shelby County). James ("Jim") Steward was a rural mail carrier in the Fairland area. He and Edith were the parents of our Grandma, Ofa Steward.

Grandma Ofa Steward met a young man at a church picnic in Fairland, Indiana. She really liked him, she said. Apparently he really liked her, too. On 25 June 1916, Grandma  (age 22) married the young man – his name was Jesse Carl WILLIAMS! (And who did Ofa’s sister Ivy marry??? Carl E. WILLIAMS! And no, these two Williams men were not previously related!) 

IF it is still confusing to you – the connection between Daniel Williams and our Steward family -- don’t feel like you’re alone! It took me awhile to get all of this straight. But I am hoping this will help my family know a little more about their pioneer Hoosier ancestors. We should all be very proud of them!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Williams Cemetery -- The Restoration Begins!


The Williams Cemetery in Brandywine Township has always been an island of trees and tangled vines between two cornfields. It is located between the Brandywine Road and the Shoestring Pike, just north of the Indiana Downs Casino. The Williams home place which is just down the lane, has been designated a Hoosier Pioneer Homestead complete with an official sign in the yard of current owners, the Ortel family.

Restoring the old cemetery has been a dream for myself and my cousin, Jon. We have discussed it many times.  Without proper tools and the financial means to restore the broken stones, we were very discouraged.

That all changed with an email from my friend, Julie. She wanted to help us restore the cemetery using financing from the Blue River Foundation Cemetery Preservation Fund.  (If you would like to contribute to this fund, I’ll give you the contact information at the end of this article.)  We hoped to start in March, but it was too cold in Indiana at that time. Next, the rains came! I kept hoping the weather would improve. Finally, the first of June, Julie and I decided the time was right.

We were a small but dedicated group who began to clear all the overgrown brush, trees, and weeds from the cemetery. Julie and cousin Jon brought gloves, tools, and probes. Cousin Lowell brought his chain saw. Cousin Connie and I began the clean-up process as Lowell took down dead trees and limbs, and we all cleared away the overgrowth. At the end of two visits, the cemetery was clearly visible. It had never looked so beautiful  - even though this was just the beginning.

All of the grave stones were in disrepair and pieces of many of them were missing.  The large marble monument  for Matthew and Martha Williams was in many pieces but gradually we were able to rebuild it. It was an amazing sight! Julie cleaned the stone for Eli Williams and it could finally be read. We also rebuilt Ida Williams’ granite monument .  James V. Williams’ stone was in two separate pieces that would have to be professionally repaired.  In fact, all the stones would be professionally restored and cleaned by Greenfield Granite, in Hancock County,  Indiana.  We were not able to locate the top of the stone for Paulina Williams Steward but after the area is probed, we are hoping to locate it.

We worked for most of the week, cousins Jon, Connie, Lowell and “adopted” cousins, Julie and Jerry. It was truly amazing what our little group accomplished in the hot June sunshine. The Ortels were terrific, visiting us and praising the work. They provided cold sodas and anything else we needed. We appreciated their support  so much.  Janice and Larry, we couldn’t have done this without you!

Greenfield Granite has taken the stones to be restored. They will also prepare a stone for Daniel and Mary Williams. Although we have never found their graves, we all feel they are buried on the property. Daniel was a Shelby County Pioneer and created many acres of productive farmland out of the early Indiana wilderness.

I will follow-up this post with updates on the cemetery restoration. We plan to landscape the area and put up a small fence. The state will provide an Indiana Pioneer Cemetery sign, and Greenfield Granite will make a stone to identify the Williams Cemetery. The cemetery will be protected by the state; it will not be moved or destroyed. And that is the best gift any of the many descendants of Daniel and Mary Kimberlin Williams can ever receive!

If you would like to provide a donation to the Blue River Cemetery Restoration Fund, please send any amount to:

The Blue River Foundation
54 West Broadway St.
Shelbyville, Indiana 46176

(Please be sure to designate "Cemetery Restoration" on your donation. Thanks!)

More pictures ----
Top:  Ida Williams
        Matthew & Martha
          Williams - rebuilt 
       Stones before being

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Genealogy Adventure in Kansas

Muddy Road - maybe Axtell??
I usually write about a Shelby County subject on this blog. And I WILL again! The following is an account of my distant cousin Barb’s adventure. She has Shelby County roots but lives in the Kansas City area. Her trip to Axtell, Kansas to assist her friend (who also lives in Shelby County) is well worth the read. Barb has gone beyond the call of duty and deserves to be recognized for her incredible dedication!

Here is Barb’s story, in her own words:

Axtell, A Kansas Adventure

When I left Kansas City at about 8:30 A.M. it was raining. Not a hard driving rain, just a steady constant rain. No worries, I had a huge umbrella so that when I arrived at the cemetery, if it was still raining, I could pop the umbrella and still get the photos I wanted.
The roads and traffic were no problem. Planned to take the Kansas turnpike (I-70) to Topeka then turn north on highway 75. I always take a good book on CD when I travel because it makes the time go by quickly. So I am listening to my book and enjoying the beautiful countryside when I realize that the sign that I just passed said “Welcome to Nebraska”. This was not good. I needed Highway 36 to get to Axtell and it was in Kansas. Back to junction (just 10 miles) and on track again.

I had the Shockley Cemetery located on a map printed before I left home and it was north of Axtell. Took a slight detour through Axtell just to check it out. Tiny town (maybe 250 people) but still has some great looking old buildings on main street.
Leave Axtell heading due west until I reach Highway 99 then turn north looking for Eagle Road. Should be easy to find the cemetery since Eagle Road appears to dead end directly at the cemetery. When I turn onto Eagle Road it changes from black top to gravel. No problem, I’ve driven gravel roads loads of times. Still a steady rain. I am going only about 20 miles per hour so that I can safely gawk at the scenery.

Just over the crest of a hill the road turns a dark color. It appeared like the gravel had been recently sprayed with oil. I slow further. About 20 feet onto the dark gravel, the car feels funny, like when you are on ice and just barely sliding. I slowly stop and try and back up. No dice. It is deep black mud, can’t back up.
At the bottom of the hill is an intersection and I think I will either be able to turn around or continue on a better road. Have much difficulty reaching the bottom of the hill. Much sliding. Decide to turn north because it appears that there is more texture, hopefully gravel. No dice. The mud continues. Much difficulty keeping the car in a forward motion. Wheels spinning. Finally unable to make any forward progress. Actually can’t back up or go forward. Wheels deeply buried in mud. No cell coverage, of course, but who did I think I was going to call anyway. Still a steady rain but now the wind is picking up. Can’t move the car from center of road. It is sitting just over the crest of a hill, dead center of the road….just waiting for someone to top the hill and hit it. Lucky for me no one else can navigate the road either.

There is nothing to do but to hike back to the other road to where I last saw a house, couldn’t be more than a couple of miles. Put on boots, coat, gloves and get big umbrella. Still raining, wind blowing more. When I step out of the car my boots immediately sink above the ankles into the mud. I almost fall when I can’t pick up my foot and I have already moved forward faster than I can make my feet move.
I determine that if I scale the bank on the side of the road I could cut across a corn field and save a little time. The banks are about 4 feet high and solid mud. I grab onto a small tree to pull myself up to the field. At this point I have stopped worrying about getting my clothes muddy. I am a complete mess.

The corn stalks made it a little easier to walk. If I keep walking on them it keeps my feet from sinking into the mud.
A herd of cows had been released into the field to clean up the corn left on the ground. They stare at me (can you imagine what they must be thinking?) as I fight to remain upright, the umbrella still pushing steadily from behind.

The farm house came into view and I was much relieved. Crossing my fingers that someone was home I crossed the muddy road. When a little old man, stooped and using a walker, answered the door, my heart sank. He looked so frail that the wind would easily blow him over if he stepped outside. He asked me to come into his house, but when I looked down and saw a good three inches of mud coating my boots, I politely declined.
I explain my situation and then he calmly looks at me and asks, “What are you going to do?” Great question.

About the time I ask whether or not they have a tractor that could pull my car out of the mud, a much younger man peers around the door. He is the son of the older man. We agree to meet in the garage to discuss our options. It is still raining and the wind is blowing hard. The son locates a tractor and points it toward the car. I climb aboard and we slowly make our way down the muddy road to my car. The wheels of the tractor are kicking mud up onto us. (Wish I had a picture of the tractor, with the two of us on it, all muddy).
At the car, we can’t find a connection for the chain to the undercarriage on the rear passenger side, only on the driver’s side. The son hooks a chain onto it, I put the car in reverse and the tractor begins to pull. The idea was that I could help the wheels turn and steer with the front barely on the road. He slowly pulls the car around the corner and up the hill until it is on the gravel.

I give him all the cash in my purse, a hug, and a big thank you. Before I can get the car turned around, he is back to the barn.
I have come a long way to just head for home, so I check my map and try to find another route to the cemetery. One that is paved. It is not obvious from the map I have, so I head back to Axtell and discuss my options with the Post Mistress. She gets out her routing maps and decides that the closest I could get (staying on gravel roads) would be a couple of miles from the cemetery. It is still raining steadily. I give up on visiting the cemetery.

The library is a tiny store front on the main street. It is about the size of most living rooms and not at all crowded with books. I learn later that the library is only open one day a week. How lucky for me it was the day I was in Axtell.
The librarian explains that they do not have much on genealogy, but show me the “shelf” containing high school yearbooks, recent phone books, etc. The most interesting were a couple of binders with newspaper clippings encased in plastic.

Before I had turned two pages there was information on the Smith family. I was shocked that such great info was so easy to find, relieved that I hadn’t made a trip for nothing and extremely grateful.
It was getting dark and for the first time I was concerned about the rain. Driving in daylight with rain is one thing, but it is much more of a challenge when it gets dark. So I quickly copy the articles, pay for the copies and hop in my car.

Feeling quite smug about my accomplishments for the day (getting stuck in the mud, getting pulled out of the mud and best of all – finding information about the Smith family) I was riding high.
About 45 minutes into my drive, I stop for gas and to wash a little of the mud off my car before it dries. When I reach for my credit card to pay for the gas, I realize that my purse is missing and the only cash I have is the change I keep in the car for the car wash (of which I had just used several dollars’ worth) which in now only $3.00.

Now I am in a panic. I know the library in closing very soon, that after it closes I will have no way of getting my purse and I have very little gas left.
With a couple of gallons of gas, I head back to Axell to get my purse. When I walk in the door, the librarian looks at me and says, “Are you back?” My purse is still sitting on the table, exactly where I left it. The library was to close in 5 minutes.

Feeling much relieved and thankful, I again head for Kansas City. The rain is still coming down. Visibility is poor. The large trucks stir up so much spray that when my headlights catch it, I cannot see anything. A very tense drive.
After finally arriving home and resisting the urge to go straight to bed, I spend hours cleaning mud off my boots and sneakers. It is so sticky that I swear it could be used for glue!

(Barb adds – “Just another crazy genealogy story!”)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Remembering Our World War II Shelby County Fallen Soldiers

During this week of the Fourth of July, as we celebrate our country’s birthday, it is my wish to remember some of the very special, brave Shelby County men who died in World War II.

From the Shelbyville Democrat – Thursday February 24, 1944:


Clifford DeBaun, Seaman, Dead as Result of Burns Received in Pacific Battle
The 16th name has been added to Shelby county’s list of war dead following word received by Mr. and Mrs. John DeBaun, of 623 West South St., that their son, Seaman First Class Clifford L. DeBaun, age 19, died on February 11 of multiple burns received while in performance of his duty in the Pacific Theater of war.

The War Department telegram received by Mr. and Mrs. DeBaun gave no details of his death but stated that the body of their son had been interred in Allied territory outside the continental United States until cessation of hostilities.
The young man had been in the service for one year and four months. He enlisted in the Navy on October 1, 1942 and took boot training at Great Lakes, Ill. He had been home only once since enlisting. His last letter to his parents was written on January 19.

Seaman DeBaun was born in Shelby county on November 26, 1922. He attended the local high school and was employed at the Alberts Furniture Factory at the time of his enlistment.
He is survived by the parents, two sisters, Grace and Doris, at home, and three brothers, Ray, Freddie and Ira DeBaun, all of Shelbyville. Other survivors include the aged grandfather, Henry Jacob DeBaun, two nephews and one niece.

The father and three brothers are all employed in defense work in Indianapolis.


The Shelbyville Democrat – March 2, 1944

The 17th Shelby county “killed in action” casualty for the present World War has been recorded.

Capt. Kimble Midkiff, son of Mrs. Ethel Midkiff, of 618 South Miller St., was killed in action in Italy on February 5, according to a telegram received from the War Department by the young man’s mother.
No details connected with the death were revealed in the War Department’s notification.

Captain Midkiff was 23 years of age, having been born August 3, 1920. He attended Shelbyville high school and was an outstanding member of the school’s band and orchestra. He also was a member of the 151st Infantry Band of the Former National Guard for three years. He was a member of William Hacker Chapter, Order of DeMolay, and of the First Baptist Church and choir.
The young man enlisted in the 11th Infantry Band at Fort Harrison in 1939. He went to Bermuda in 1941, where he was a life guard at Castle Harbor hotel while serving with the 89th Infantry.  Returning in September, 1941, to enter officer’s training at Fort Benning, Ga., he received his commission as a second lieutenant in December, 1841. He was sent to Ireland with the 135rh Infantry in April, 1942, and with a convoy to Algeria on November 8, 1942. He served through the Tunisian campaign and at famous “Hill 609”. He was advanced to the rank of captain in June 1943.

Captain Midkiff was wounded in Italy October 15, 1943, and received the Purple Heart. After leaving the hospital he was made adjutant of the 1st Battalion Headquarters.
Captain Midkiff’s father died in 1927 and a sister preceded him in death in 1934.

Besides the mother, he leaves two sisters, Mrs. William Ash, of this city, and Mrs. Paul V. Maxwell of Cincinnati, O., and a brother Paul Midkiff, of Tacoma, Washington. Other survivors are four nieces, three nephews and several distant relatives.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

World War II Memorial, Washington, DC

Celebrating the Fourth of July

Several years ago, during the week of the Fourth of July, I was watching (for the umpteenth time) The Patriot. This film is about the Revolutionary War in the southern states and tells about the bravery of the local militias.

I always hope that at least one tv station will show this film when the Fourth of July rolls around each year. This film makes me feel proud of the brave men and women who stood up for their young country and put their lives on the line.

However, we must also remember the many other wars we have been engaged in, defending and protecting our rights and freedoms so that we might live the way our ancestors planned (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”).

In the 1944 editions of the Shelbyville Democrat, I began to realize just what sacrifices the young men of Shelby County had made during World War II.  It was quite overwhelming to turn each page of the 1944 obituary book and see the names of those young men who died for US. It must have been a terrible, dark time for the families who had sons, brothers, uncles, fathers, and yes, sisters and aunts in the service at that time.

Here are a few examples of the headlines from the Shelbyville Democrat during February and March of 1944:

Thurs. 24 Feb. 1944
CITY PHYSICIAN DIES IN ALGERIA – Capt. Harry D. Miller, Prominent Local Doctor in Army Medical Corps, Killed in Accident

Thurs. 24 Feb. 1944
COUNTY’S WAR CASUALTY LIST MOUNTS TO 16 – Clifford DeBaun, Seaman, Dead as Result of Burns Received in Pacific Battle

Thurs. 2 Mar. 1944
ONE KILLED, ANOTHER MISSING – Capt. Kimble Midkiff lost his life, Sgt. Clifford E. Henderson missing (Note: Cliff was an old friend of my Dad’s. Dad told me the Mr. Henderson had been a POW for much for the war.)

Thurs. 9 Mar. 1944
JOHN V. YARLING KILLED IN ITALY -- Son of Thomas E. Yarling Dies in Accident, Youth is 18th to Lose Life in War.

Thurs. 16 Mar. 1944
CITY WOMAN’S NEPHEW IS KILLED IN ACTION – Pvt. Duard Henson was killed in action on February 7 (he was 19 years old).

Thurs. 30 Mar 1944
BODY OF LT. KERCHER RECOVERED FROM SEA – Burial will Take Place in Shelbyille

The obituaries continue throughout the year with many names and details of the brave service members from Shelby County who died during World War II. It is heartbreaking to read their stories, to know they were all so young. Many left widows with small children and grieving aged parents.

Sometimes I feel that World War II has been overlooked by recent generations. We are all caught up with stories from the Civil War and the American Revolution, those stories and records are all over the internet. Only recently have World War II records become more accessible.

I hope we will all remember our World War II family members and wave a flag for them this Fourth of July!!  And let us also honor and salute all those among us who have recently served so bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have many American heroes, both past and present, to be proud of  --


(I will begin adding some of these obituaries to my blog – I think it is important to remember all of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ethel Williams Received A Civil War Pension


Ethel Williams was a great-uncle that I never knew. In fact, I didn't  know he existed until I found a book titled:  A HISTORY OF WILLIAM WILLIAMS AND HIS DESCENDANTS by Isaac Williams. When I found this book in the library at Anderson, Indiana, it was about 1980. I had been researching my Dad’s family for a few years and could only go back as far as his grandfather, Newton E. Williams. This little book opened up a whole new world of Williamses for me!
My great-great grandfather, Jesse M. Williams, was born in Madison County, Indiana. He was a Civil war veteran, serving in the 47th Indiana Infantry, Company E. He received a medical discharge in late 1862 due to severe heart problems.

Jesse and his family moved to Shelby County in the mid-1880s. They lived in Fairland, where Jesse and his son Newton established a brick factory, then later a grain elevator. Newton stayed in Shelby County, raising his family in Fairland, while his parents Jesse and Margaret Cottrell Williams, later moved to Indianapolis and opened a grocery store.

Jesse’s son (Newton’s brother), Ethel (yes, an odd name for a male) was born 22 October 1874. When he was very young, he contracted diphtheria which left him an invalid for the rest of his life. It is written in his pension papers that he was partially paralyzed and could not speak. In fact, he was referred to as “idiotic”. It must have been a sad life for this Williams family.
After Ethel’s parents passed away, he lived with his niece, Margaret Williams Fox, in Wannamaker. In 1952, the family learned that Ethel was eligible for a “death benefit” pension because his father had been in the Civil War. I received all of Ethel's pension papers quite by accident when I ordered the pension papers for his father, Jesse M. Williams.

I ordered these pension papers from the National Archives. To my surprise, the Archives sent me a letter saying that the pension papers for Jesse were not in the Archives. To get them, I had to fill out forms from the Freedom of Information Act, which I had never done before. After submitting the required forms, I received a short letter telling me that the pension file was being copied and would  be sent from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Oakland, California. I thought all of this was very unusual. I had ordered several Civil War Pension records prior to ordering Jesse’s and never had an experience like this.
It took quite awhile, but when the pension papers finally arrived, they were very interesting. I was totally surprised that Jesse’s son, Ethel, had lived to be 89 years old and that he was receiving a Civil War pension at the time of his death – in 1964!

Another surprising fact was found when I researched Ethel’s death: I learned he was living on N. Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis when he passed away. It was a nursing home then, in 1964. When I received this information, in 2007, my cousin Jon was living on N. Pennsylvania St. just one block from the former nursing home. He took a photo of the house for me – now a lawyer’s office. It is a lovely old house. I hope Ethel was happy there and not suffering.
While this is certainly a sad story, it is of great interest.  Ethel lived for such a long time and was still receiving a Civil War pension nearly 100 years after the war ended.

Recently, I saw an article on the internet that said there are two people in the U.S. who are still receiving Civil War pensions. After reading this, I did a little research and found that only invalid or disabled children of veterans are eligible for this type of pension. Ethel’s papers indicate that these pensions were approved by Congress as late as the 1950s for the children of veterans of the Civil War.
If anyone else has a similar story to share, or more details about these Civil War pensions, I would appreciate hearing from you. AND if anyone in the family has a photo or more information about Ethel, I would really love to hear from you.  I think Ethel was a very special ancestor.