Category Archives: Genealogy

Smocks at Bagnell Dam

Part II, Finding the Rivers, by Marji Smock Stewart: Bagnell Dam MO

I regret that I did not ask Daddy to tell me about taking the Sarah Mac to Missouri. I guess I thought I would have him forever. But now I long to know the details. How did he do it?

Somehow Monroe Smock managed to get the boat from Green River to the little Osage River to the site that was becoming Bagnell Dam and The Lake of the Ozarks. Did he have a skeleton crew with him; another pilot, an engineer and at least two deckhands?

Bagnell Dam construction

The lake was a construction site initially, a beehive of humanity. The building of a dam is an immense project, even the small one later named Bagnell Dam. It was a project of the Union Electric Light and Power Co. (UELPC) in Missouri, cooperatively with the US government. There was an effort in late 1928 to the 1930s to bring electricity to the remote areas of the country. And remote it was.

BAGNELL DAM UNDER_CONSTRUCTION_OCTOBER_10_1930-NARA-Bill-Kuykendall-wikicommons
UELPC Bagnell Dam construction, Oct. 10, 1930 Bill Kuykendall (tap to enlarge)

The area near Eldon, Missouri had been a small army post; complete with accommodations, club house, a small airport and other amenities to attract workers. I recall hearing that even Lindbergh landed there once and Daddy was in the crowd.

Daddy settled first in a tent. The tent was floored with wooden planks and had wooden walls up about 3-4 feet. In the summer it was comfortable but in the winter quite another matter.

How Mother reacted to taking her girls to live in a tent I’ll never know. I do know that wherever Daddy was, Mother wanted to be. And after all, kids are quite adaptable.

Green River, Curdsville KY (right marker) to Bagnell Dam. Osage River MO (left); tap to enlarge

It was summer when we arrived. Mother arranged with Zoll Denton (Leora Smock’s husband) to drive us and our tiny bit of furniture to Missouri. Uncle Zoll probably drove non-stop. He stayed a few days and learned a bit about the Ozarks, then he went home on the bus or train.

Tent to “three rooms”

Mother had a lot to do making the tent livable. Daddy worked long hours piloting the Sarah Mac all over that big hole that was to become the lake. The area was quite hilly with sharp rocks, so nobody went barefoot. Betty busied herself just being a quiet helper to her mother. All of us made friends with the few scattered neighbours in tents among the trees. Today, lovely expensive homes are in the area; a prime real estate development.

Marji, age 3, at neighbours’ tent, identical to their own (tap to enlarge)

Before long, we were promoted to the “three rooms” housing. A mansion compared to the tent. A one floor house but built on a hill so the back was two stories with stairs to the sloping rocky back yard.

This was when I learned to paint. I found the small can of expensive green enamel that Mother had bought to paint her second-hand table and chairs. Mother was ill and took a rare nap. So I thought it would be a nice surprise to paint the rough weathered back steps. I thought I did a beautiful job on them. But Mother didn’t appreciate my artistic talents. It took a long time to get the bright enamel off me, and my little dress was ruined. I ended up promising NEVER to paint again!

Worked together, played together

Mother and Daddy slowly became integrated into the group that worked and lived at the lake. That experience was a great equalizer. A small group, probably less than fifty families, was almost like a commune. They worked together and played together. Many nights were spent down on the lake side, having open fires on the rocky beach and toasting marshmallows, or hamburgers or fish over the fires.

Missouri-Bagnell Dam NARA-1932-wikicommons
Bagnell Dam – 2 miles southwest of Bagnell, MO Osage River 8/6/32 (tap to enlarge)

Some of the men were engineers or administrators; many were college graduates. Yet others, like my folks, fit in and were accepted because they were just good people who worked hard. It was a magic life compared to the Great Depression the rest of the country was experiencing. This was about 1931.

Lake of the Ozarks

EXCURSION_BOAT-THE_COMMANDER-TAKES_SIGHTSEERS_FROM_CASINO_PIER_AT_BAGNELL_DAM_ON_CRUISES-NARA-bill-kuykendall-wikicommons
Excursion boat The Commander at Bagnell Dam, Bill Kuykendall

At some point Bagnell Dam was finished and operational. Tourists were drawn to the area for obvious reasons. It was a natural paradise. Daddy piloted one of the excursion boats in the summer as well as being the private pilot for Mr. Eagan, an UELPC executive from St. Louis.

We swam a lot when he had a day off. Both my parents learned to play bridge and loved it. Mother also played once a week with the women. They rotated between different homes. A small white Irish linen card table cloth and napkins are all we have left of those days. Mother longed to have “nice” china and silver like the other women had. Nobody noticed but her. Served with her superb goodies and coffee, who cared?

Five rooms and two cedar trees

We weren’t in the three room house long until we were able to move to the “five rooms”. The company had planted two small cedar trees in the front of each house. Thirty years later, in the early 1960s, Mother, Daddy and I took a trip back. It was a sweet trip but had lost the magnetism of the early years. Thomas Wolfe might have been right; you can’t go home again. Those little cedar trees, however, seemed to reach to the sky.

MEMORIAL_DAY_TRAFFIC_CONGESTION_ON_THE_STRIP BAGNELL DAM-NARA-Bill-Kuykendall-wikicommons
1970s The Strip at Bagnell Dam, photo Bill Kuykendall (tap to enlarge)

Then in 1978 I took a brief sabbatical from the University of Kentucky and drove through the lake region. Much of the dam area as we loved it was totally commercial. It looked like a second rate carnival had come to town and stayed. I was glad the folks weren’t with me. Let their memories live on. Those really were glory years for all of us.

Next time: Gladewater, Texas

In 1936 Daddy and Mother decided it was time to pull up stakes again. We moved to East Texas so Daddy could work in the oil fields. A mammoth oil source had been discovered there.

Also see Part I, Monroe Smock, Kentucky

Monroe Smock, Kentucky

Dr. Marji Smock Stewart, my late mother-in-law, wrote her family story for her son and grandsons. She called it “Finding the Rivers.” She shared it with other family members too and I think would be happy to see it online. Here is an excerpt about her father Monroe Smock and his father John Thomas Smock, from Daviess County, Kentucky. (Also see her Smock family tree.)

Finding the Rivers – Part I

marji dog duchess and monroe smock 1944
daughter Marji, dog Duchess and Monroe Smock abt. 1944, Owensboro KY (tap to enlarge)

John Thomas Smock 1863-1944

Granddad John Thomas Smock and his family of three kids (George, Leora and Monroe) plus my grandmother Cora lived in an old red house near the bridge and curve on Curdsville Road.

In his youth, Granddaddy was a real working cowboy. He worked in the plains States, following the wheat harvest, riding his horse from one area to another. We’re talking circa 1880. Granddaddy rode a horse almost until his death in 1944. He was an avid reader of old Western cowboy novels all his life.

John Thomas must have been working in South Dakota when he met Cora Delia Kohrdt. They married about 1880. Cora’s parents were German immigrants. Her father was Otto Kohrdt. My aunt Leora was born in Elk Point, South Dakota and probably that was also true of the eldest son, George. Their youngest, Monroe Thomas Smock, was born in Monroe, Louisiana. They moved to Daviess County, Kentucky, when Monroe was very young.

In Kentucky, the Smocks lived a typical farm life but apparently Granddad did well enough to acquire more property. There were a few farm hands who did the hard labor. My Daddy learned to work on the machinery and keep it in top running order. At some point John Thomas built the big house on the bend that I remember being my grandfather’s house. I never knew grandmother Cora. She died of breast cancer April 17, 1911 when Daddy was 15.

Not too long after Cora died, Granddaddy went to Tennessee with a team of horses, pulling a big wagon. When he returned home. his children recalled, he pulled up to the house with a new wife, Lena Denton, and her four children and their belongings. In 1915 Lena and John Thomas had a baby girl: Edna Mae Smock, later Glenn.

Monroe Smock 1896-1980

Also in 1915, my father Monroe married Cecile Sims. He was about 19. Their son, Hugh Kenneth, was born May 23, 1916. Monroe and Cecile were divorced when Hugh was very young. World War I was brewing so Monroe joined the US Navy. He became a machinist and was stationed in Philadelphia before shipping overseas.

monroe smock 1917-18Perhaps it was this experience on a ship, far below the deck, removed from fresh air and sunlight, that caused Monroe to think “If I ever have a chance, I’m going to be a ship’s pilot.” Those working on the engines had to stay on ship and work in the heat to “ready the engines” while those assigned to topside got to go ashore when the ship pulled into dock. Probably young Monroe knew what he was missing.

After the Armistice in 1919, Monroe returned to Kentucky and I assume he farmed. Granddaddy had given his daughter Leora (Denton) a farm (his first one with the red house on Curdsville Road). This might have been when Granddaddy gave Monroe a very small farm at the back of his bigger one, which backed up on Green River.

Elizabeth McDonald 1889-1991

In the meantime, down the road towards Curdsville, Lum and Sarah McDonald’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth, had returned home from Louisville. She became secretary/bookkeeper for her brothers Joe and Homer, who owned a coal mine near Henderson KY.

elizabeth-mcdonald-ca-1918At some point Monroe and Elizabeth renewed an acquaintance and began “seeing each other.” After all, they had lived most of their lives about 5 miles from each other. The old Curdsville Baptist Church history shows the Smock, McDonald and Denton families had been clerks, Deacons, Sunday School Superintendents etc. since the 1800s. In a small village, everyone knows each other.

On Dec 1, 1921 Monroe and Elizabeth tied the knot in Evansville IN with Rev. Rake officiating. Elizabeth Weldon and Homer McDonald stood up with them as witnesses. Elizabeth was Mother’s childhood chum and later in 1922 married Homer, Mother’s closest brother. The two Elizabeths were friends as well as sisters-in-law for almost 80 years.

The newlyweds moved to the little farm on Green River. Somehow farming didn’t hold them, although they had a daughter, Betty Jean, born in 1924 in Curdsville.

Texas

In 1927 Mother was pregnant again but Monroe and Elizabeth, with 3 year old Betty, packed up and moved to west Texas. Ranger TX was not too far west of Fort Worth but it was the beginning of the dry country. The oil fields promised good employment, plus a small house on site was provided to married men.

Living on a lease was dirty and very different from the green fields of Kentucky. The house was right out among the huge wooden rigs, unprotected from rambunctious kids. The wind blew continually and dust was everywhere, except it was often mixed with dark sticky stuff – black gold.

In early fall 1927 Daddy received an invitation to go to one of the prime Texas hunting spots for deer with a group of men. Mother wasn’t pleased, but somehow I politely waited for my daddy to come home before I put in my appearance. On October 14, 1927, I, Marjorie Ann Smock, was born.

Kentucky and Missouri

Apparently the oil boom turned bust and when I was still young Monroe took his three gals and went back to Kentucky. Perhaps he had been lured by invitations from Homer and Joe McDonald, Mother’s brothers. Homer and Joe had a towboat, the Sarah Mac (named for their mother), built for use on Green River in Kentucky. It probably was used in moving barges of coal around, or towing barges of coal to buyers in Evansville, IN. Daddy had the offer to master her so he and Mother followed his dream again.

Around 1930 Daddy got an offer to take the Sarah Mac to Missouri. I know nothing about the financial arrangement with Homer and Joe, but the idea challenged Monroe. There was Green River, the Ohio River, the mighty Mississippi River and briefly the Missouri River to navigate prior to finding the little Osage River that ran through the Ozarks. I don’t know if Daddy had been on any rivers other than the Green and the Ohio near Daviess and Henderson Counties in Kentucky until then.

So off Daddy went, hopefully to make a better life. Mother and her girls stayed in Kentucky, waiting for word. “First find the river” was a challenge to face Daddy throughout his life. When we would go to a new place, the byword always was, “first find the river.” That was our compass.

betty-marji-1931The depression was in full swing and, knowing my mother, she was concerned about the family’s future and how her two girls would fare. Would Elizabeth leave the comfort of being in Kentucky where many of her siblings and her mother lived? Monroe and Elizabeth had an exceptional love for each other. Would it stand this test? It wouldn’t be easy, as we shall see, but theirs was a tenacious bond. It lasted almost sixty years!

Next time: Elizabeth and the girls join Monroe Smock in Missouri.

Smock Family Tree

My late mother-in-law, Marji Smock Stewart, did the work on this genealogy of the Smock family from Kentucky. That’s her in the photo, age 9…

Murel Anger, Mail Carrier

In 1972 my mother wrote this Dorchester Signpost article about her mother-in-law’s retirement from rural mail delivery. Mom was the weekly’s Belmont reporter. She put it in her scrapbook with a photo of Grandma and two siblings. From left is sister Bernice with husband Ray Alward, Murel Anger (in curtain camo), brother George Mabee and wife Nancy (Rice).

1972 Dorchester Signpost on mail carrier retirementHappy retirement to Mrs. Anger

Dorchester Signpost, Belmont News – Ruby Anger, Jan. 1972

We’re sure the residents of R R 2 Belmont have missed a familiar face these past three weeks. The woman who has become almost a tradition in that area has decided to call it quits. In a word, Mrs. Anger has retired from the mail route.

She and her late husband, Austin, started to carry mail in May 1946, before many of her present patrons were born. Mr. Anger did the route alone for a number of years with his wife helping him whenever she was needed. In later years it was a combined effort until Mr. Anger suffered a stroke and was hospitalized from May 1969 to the time of his death in August 1970. Mrs. Anger with her assistant, Mrs. Verna Legg have continued their daily route until Mrs. Anger decided to retire Jan. 10th. Mrs. Legg and her father Mr. J. D. Meikle are wished well as they continue to serve the R. R. 2 residents. But Mrs. Anger will certainly be missed after twenty-six years. She is wished a healthy, happy retirement by all.

First time on mail route

And now for a personal note. As much as we try to be impersonal in this column there are times we just can’t refrain. When I think of this mail route I think of my first time around it or should I say, partial trip. My husband had taken on a milk route in this area which made it necessary for us to move here from Tillsonburg. He had moved our furniture into the Frank Moore farm house on the 5th Conc. of North Dorchester. When I arrived later with small son and daughter, we went to my husband’s parents’ home. Mr. Anger drew the mail then in June 1947, assisted by his wife, my mother-in-law.

The next day my children and I rode around the route, up one road and down the other, before we eventually were told our new home was in sight. I thought we’d never get there! Not knowing what was done I was worried about getting settled as my husband worked away until late. My mother-in-law coaxed Mr. Anger to help me set up beds, etc. and he pretended to be too busy, but went in under protest. Everything was placed and ready to live in – what a surprise! He thought that was a big joke.

Frank Moore and family

That was the first time I met the Frank Moore family who turned out to be the best neighbours and landlord anyone could find. Especially for a town girl who had never lived in the country before. It was nice to know the mail car was coming through every day, too, with my dear parents-in-law aboard if I needed them.

Although I never lived on their farm, Frank and Evelyn Moore made a big impression on me as they also did on my mother. In Barn Cats I wrote a bit about them.

Lymburner DNA Project

Guest post by Gordon Revey

Hello fellow Lymburners!

I am reaching out to people in my known Lymburner family and others that fall under John Jay Lymburner. He was the son of Catherine Secord, born 1776. My maternal grandfather is a Lymburner, one of John Jay’s descendants.

William Burton Lymburner 1886-1960
William Burton Lymburner 1886-1960

I have been a very active genetic-genealogist for about three years now. For a new project. I am planning a DNA Testing Study to explore Lymburner family connections as far back as possible – based on reasonable DNA segment connections.

For the first ten volunteers, I will pay for the DNA tests. All information will be openly shared on a “Cloud” address available to all participants. That will include common DNA connections within the group and an ongoing Research Family Tree showing connections between all participants .

All participants will have full access to their test site Profile Page and will be able to communicate directly with their DNA matches. They will also be able shut down their Page, remove their profile and end participation in the Study if they have any concerns at any time.

William Lymburner, great-great-grandson of John Jay Lymburner
burton-lymburner-ancestry
Alexander Lymburner (top right) son of John Jay Lymburner and Sarah Melick (tap to enlarge)

I will create customized Family Trees for all participants showing the Lymburner and other family lines. Trees will be accessible on Ancestry.com and I can share them as PDF Files showing Family Pedigrees. I can also share them in standard GEDCOM format. No one will need to pay any subscription fees to see their Trees and follow their progression.

Test participants who do not want their names shown publicly can be given anonymous “handles”. Primary communications with people who have matching DNA segments can go directly to participants. But if participants do not want to handle enquiries, they can send messages to one of my email addresses

I will create and sign formal agreements detailing all privacy protections. If interested, please email me at grevey@msn.com.

Please know that I am sincere about this study and I am not an internet stalker! Google my name. You will see that I am a professional engineer living in Parker, Colorado. I was born in Chippawa, Ontario, Canada.

Peter-Lymburner
Peter Almon Lymburner, father of Wm Burton Lymburner

For many years, genealogists have depended primarily on census records, birth certificates, dates etched on grave markers and other documents. However, 100% of my whole family, as portrayed in documents, was either not true or unknown. Through DNA science, I have been able to find my adopted mother’s father (Lymburner). I have also broken through many other false family relationships. That includes the identity of my bio-father, which is not as documented.

Warm regards to all, Gordon Revey

See Lymburner Family Tree #7 for parents of John Jay Lymburner. Alexander Lymburner was the second husband of Catherine Secord. She first married William Merritt and lastly Thomas Bowlby.

Harness Racing Mabees

Looking into a branch of the Mabee family led me to harness racing in Tillsonburg during the early decades of the 1900s. Three names stood out: Jack M. Climie, Charles Henry Mabee and Dudey Patch.

Jack M. Climie was everywhere – as a driver, race starter and caller at Tillsonburg track 1945-standardbredcanada.ca_news_8-14-10_sc-rewindthe harness racing track at the Tillsonburg Fair Grounds. A plaque in town honours his service to the Tri-County Agricultural Society, hosts of the annual fair. Then, in my search results, Dudey Patch in connection with J. M. Climie. What’s this about?

Dudey Patch

Dudey-Patch-canadian-horse-racing-hall-of-fameJ. M. Climie drove five year old Dudey Patch in his first ever race, in Tillsonburg in 1936. Dudey Patch, I thought, must be related to Dan Patch, the American harness racing superstar of the early 1900s. Yes, a grandson. His sire was Gilbert Patch, Dan Patch’s son, and his dam unknown.

Dudey Patch moved on to Prince Edward Island and trainer Joe O’Brien. With Mr. O’Brien, he broke pacing records until he retired in 1941. He was named to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1998.

dudey patch 1931 allbreedpedigree.com
Dudey Patch 1931 by Gilbert Patch out of unknown mare (allbreedpedigree.com)

Mabee cousins

Jack Climie was married to Marie Ailene Mabee. She was a first cousin of Charles Henry Mabee. His father, George Henry, was the eldest of Oliver Pitt Mabee and Mary Laur’s ten children. Marie’s father, Frederick, was the youngest.

Their lineage intersects with my grandmother’s four generations back, with half brothers Frederick and Silas Mabee. Charles and Marie’s line comes from Frederick, son of Simon Mabee and his first wife Marie Landrin. My grandmother Murel Mabee Anger was the great-great granddaughter of Silas, son of Simon Mabee and his second wife.

charles-mabee-tree-dstewart
Chart showing Charles Henry Mabee and cousins – click/tap to enlarge

Charles Henry Mabee’s five siblings all died in their teens or younger. He married Frances Elizabeth Bradburn and they had three children. He died at age 45, after an accident at the Tillsonburg track in May 1916.

Bert Newman, in More Reminiscences About Tillsonburg, writes:

I believe the man who was best known in Tillsonburg horse racing circles was Charlie Mabee. He was a former mayor of Tillsonburg, and he kept a string of horses. He drove all his own horses, too. I remember his boys and I went to school with one of them, Basil. One day Charlie was working a horse on the track when it stumbled or something. He was thrown over the sulky and fell onto the track, breaking his neck. He died right there on the race track. [1987:24]

Tillsonburg Race Track

Mr. Newman describes the Tillsonburg track and races at the time:

Right across from the grandstand was the judges’ stand, with the wire stretched across in front. All the judges would be in there – three or four of them. The starter would have a big Nov 24-2018-standardbred canada-rewind-starters-horn-photo-Gary-Foerstermegaphone in his hand and his duty was to get these horses off to an equal start. It was very difficult in those days because sometimes they’d come down to the wire all scattered out. Many times I saw the judge call them back. They would try again, sometimes three or four times…

In later years all the trouble with getting horses started was eliminated by the use of a starting gate. I believe Art Whitesell and Jack Climie had much to do with inventing a starting gate to use on the Tillsonburg track. [1987:23]

My googling also turned up a recent book about Tillsonburg’s history. It’s Tillsonburg Album: A photographic history by Matthew Scholtz, available in Tillsonburg or on this website.

Bush Pilot Red Lymburner

Googling a Lymburner ancestor recently, I noticed Red Lymburner in the search results. Bush pilot, Antarctica and Mount Lymburner. So I read more.

red-lymburner-j-b-boyce-herbert-Hollick-Kenyon-patrick-howard-in-front-9may1936-wfp
1936 Winnipeg, L-R rear Red Lymburner, J B Boyce, Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, front Patrick Howard (Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada)

His full name was James Harold Lymburner, known as Harold or Red. And he’s my 4th cousin twice removed. His parents were George Malcolm Lymburner and Annie Josephine Christie. He was born April 24, 1904 in Caistor Township, Lincoln Co. ON.

Red Lymburner got his commercial pilot’s license in 1931 and worked as a bush pilot for Canadian Airways until 1939. Mainly he flew mining gear and explosives to northern Quebec mines. But one time, according to a 1964 Winnipeg Free Press article (quoted in RAMWC), two oxen needed to get to the mine. Author Edward R. Green wrote:

Well, Lymburner thought, freight was freight no matter what form it came in. He bundled one ox in a tarpaulin, dragged it into the plane and packed it in with bales of hay. The flight was uneventful, so he did the same thing with the other ox. The only difference was the second ox was airsick.

bushplane.comSo if you can fly an airsick ox in a small plane, you can probably do anything. Red Lymburner went on to prove it. While at Canadian Airways, he worked as a test pilot for Fairchild Aviation as well.

Ellsworth Antactic Expedition 1935

Red Lymburner and fellow Canadian Airways pilot, Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, were chosen to fly on the 1935 Ellsworth Antarctic Expedition. Mount Lymburner, found during their trans-Antarctic flight in November 1935, is named after Red. In 1938, he went again with Lincoln Ellsworth to the Indian Ocean part of Antarctica. That time, he was lead pilot.

mt-lymburner-google-maps
Red arrow marks Mount Lymburner in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains.

In 1935 the Royal Canadian Air Force made Red an honorary Group Captain in recognition of his flying skills. The Air Transport Association of Canada named him the ATAC Lifetime Honoree in 1979. He had retired by that time and, with his wife, had moved to Clearwater, Florida.

Sentinel_Range_Ellsworth_Mountains_Antarctica-Michael-studinger-NASA-2012
Sentinel Range, Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica 2012 (Michael Studinger NASA)

Jessie and Red Lymburner family lines

Red’s wife was Rachel Jessie Tice, daughter of Albert Edward Tice and Emma Jane Swick. She was born in December 1901 in Caistor Township. Her ancestry also goes back through two lines to Matthew Lymburner and Margaret Kaims.

red-lymburner-fam-tree-d-stewart
Red and Jessie and my grandmother, 4th cousins. Click/tap to enlarge

Red and Jessie had one daughter Glenna Marie, born July 1927 in Caistor Township. Educated at McGill University, her career, like her father’s, was wide-ranging. From railway rebuilding in post-WWII Yugoslavia to Guyana to Toronto. There she was Head of Archives, established a public information office and served on the Federal Immigration Appeal Board. She married Keith Tisshaw (1928-2011) in 1950 and they had three children. Ms. Tisshaw died in April 2015.

Red Lymburner died in Clearwater, Florida in August 1990. Jessie died in October 1991 also in Florida. They are buried in Caistorville United Church Cemetery.

DNA Tests

Irish_Setter-Oct-2008-Douglas_0158-Flickr-wikicommonsI first saw DNA tests at London Ont’s Pawlooza dog festival, in 2010 I think. They were tests to find out what breeds were in the genetic structure of any given dog. The process was explained by a contest. Guess the genetic make-up of a dog in a photo, then compare your guess to the actual test results.

DNA my dog

The dog was medium sized with short brown and white hair and floppy ears. I guessed some kind of terrier, hound and maybe Corgi. The results? Everything from Mastiff to Chihuahua with no single breed group predominant.

“Want to test your dogs?” the lady at the booth asked. I looked at them, and thought why? One clearly was a Standard Poodle. The other one? I had studied his personality and his looks. My guess was some kind of terrier and Shih Tzu. A DNA test might show everything from Mastiff to Chihuahua. Useful? Not really.

DNA me

That’s my thoughts on human DNA testing as well. What does finding out that you’re 5% something and 10% something else actually tell you? It’s fun to know, sure. It lets you wonder who travelled across continents to wind up in your genetic map.

DNA tests were among the most popular gifts this past holiday season, Forbes reported last December. Quick, cheap and well-advertised, they address something fundamental: Who are we?

They answer that, to some extent. There’s a percentage breakdown of your geographical make-up. So you can see all the peoples and regions that went into making you. It can be a surprise.

Kiss me, I’m Irish

ancestry dna tests website 2018-irishIt was for my family. Our largest grouping? Irish. No German, nor anything we expected from documentary and family history. Does this matter? Yes, because it shows that our ancestors’ migration path was different than what we’ve thought. No, because documents and family history show another traceable geography. And, more significantly, tell the stories we grew up with.

DNA – ‘blood’ if you will – on its own does not define us. There have been systems of classification of people based on “blood”. But, before DNA tests, these could only rely on appearance and/or association. Guessing based on culture and history, not genetics.

But what do scientific DNA results actually do for us? Possibly give important medical information. Other than that, not much. New hobbies, new histories to learn. But do they make you someone else?

mom-dad-dublin-ferry-1989Am I now Irish? I could consider myself to be, I suppose. Stake a front row spot for myself in the Paddy’s Day parade. But would waving the DNA results help get me, say, a work permit in Ireland? “Oh, Ancestry says 41% of you is from the old sod! Well, come right in!” About as much chance as that dog in the photo convincing a Mastiff that they are brothers separated at birth.

P. L. Robertson

robertson-screwdriversRed Robbie, green Robbie. If you know what that means, you’re a Canadian. Or a connoisseur of screws and screwdrivers. The Robertson screw and screwdriver, with square socket heads, the best design there is. The screwdriver does not slip or strip the screw head.

The red and green refers to the size of the square in the screw head, larger and smaller. There’s also a black (largest) and yellow (smallest).

The Robertson screw was invented in 1908 by P. L. Robertson. He called his invention the Socket Head Screw, but we all call it a Robertson or just Robbie.

I now have even greater affection for the Robbie. P. L. Robertson is my cousin. What a thrill! I had no idea until I happened across his full name: Peter Lymburner Robertson. Lymburner? Start the googling. He’s the nephew by marriage of my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.

Robertson and Lymburner Families

p l robertson and lymburner families
Click image for larger view

His parents were John Robertson, born in Scotland, and Annie Brown, whose father was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Annie’s sister Janet married Peter Swick Lymburner. He was my grandmother’s grandfather’s 2nd cousin, and P. L. Robertson’s uncle.

So was Peter Lymburner Robertson named after his mother’s sister’s husband? Possible, I suppose. Lymburner is not a middle name one would give a child without there being some reason.

I wonder if there’s another Lymburner connection in there too. The families lived relatively near each other in Scotland and in Ontario. I p-l-robertson-collectionscanada.gc_.cacan’t find the parents of John Robertson or the grandparents of Annie Brown. Could there also be a Lymburner among them?

P. L. Robertson was born in Haldimand County, Ontario in 1879. He worked as a salesman for a tool company and, while demonstrating a new screwdriver, it slipped out of the slot head screw and cut his hand. It’s happened to us all, but he went home and designed a better screw and better screwdriver.

Robertson Screw Company

He began producing them in Milton, Ontario. He went to the United Robertson_screw_ad-1909-LAC-Ken-Lamb-wikicommonsStates to market them. Henry Ford was interested, but wanted an exclusive licence for them in the US. Robertson would not agree, so no deal. Unlike Robertson, Henry Phillips did not quibble about rights, so Ford bought his star-shaped socket screw. That’s why the Phillips screw is ubiquitous even though it isn’t that much better than a slot screw.

Robertson returned to Milton and continued production for the Canadian and international markets. He died there in 1951. Robertson Inc. still has its headquarters in Milton although it is now owned by the US Marmon Group.

robertson screwWhen I told my husband about my newly discovered cousin, he said “I’m jealous.” He said his dad, who was American, discovered Robertson screws on a visit to Ontario. Despite always buying American, he went straight to the hardware store and stocked up on Robertson screws and screwdrivers and took them home with him.

Eden Line

My grandmother wrote this short history of the Burwell family on Eden Line in Bayham Township, Elgin County, Ontario. My guess is she wrote it about 1966. I came across it on the Elgin County Archives site.

burwell-fam-elgin-co-archives

The Burwell Family (Contributed by Mrs. Chas. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont.)

Among the pioneers of Eden district was Joseph Norton. He was born in Boston Mass. and came as a young man, after the death of his parents, to these parts and lived with the Dobie’s for some time. From them, he bought land which he cleared and built up into the old homestead on which his great-grandson Wilford Burwell now resides, west of Eden about 2 miles.

He married a young Highland Scottish maiden named Mary Younglove who was at Simcoe. He, taking among other provisions for the journey, bread baked by Mrs. Dobie and going by ox-team and sled down the Talbot road which had been surveyed out by Col. Thomas Talbot and Col. Mahlon Burwell. He brought his bride back to this farm home and farmed successfully for many years. He died in 1895, at the age of 90 being pre-deceased by his wife in 1888.

The couple had two daughters, Melissa Jane and Ada Ann. Melissa married William David Stilwell. To this union were born four children, Joseph Norton Stilwell, Mary Helen, Agnes and Rachel. The first two died very young. Agnes married Charles Moore and Rachael died suddenly and was buried on her 18th birthday.

Across the road from the Norton’s lived Mr. and Mrs. Howard Johnston the latter nee – Maria Burwell whose brother Hercules while visiting them, became acquainted with Ada Ann Norton. And in course of time, the two married, he being the son of Lewis Mahlon Burwell and Levonia Williams, sister of the Thomas Williams who founded the Thomas Williams Home in St. Thomas. Lewis Mahlon was first cousin to the above mentioned Col. Mahlon Burwell.

To Hercules and Ada were born James Silas, Ada Larreau, Levonia (Mrs. Chancy Clark), Lewis Mahlon, Charles Hercules, Merritt Lee, Frederick William (Wilford’s father), Wilson Garfield, Peter Dwight and a baby not named. Ada Larreau, Lewis Mahlon and the baby died very young.

Their parents settled on a farm about a mile west of Eden, in fact next farm west of the Fred Chandler place. They cleared it and built buildings and set out fruit trees, making it into a nice, comfortable home. Then when the great epidemic of influenza swept the country in 1890 he died on Pneumonia on Feb. 14th at the age of 41 leaving his wife with five young children to raise alone. This she faithfully did, and when the boys were grown they decided to move the buildings out to the front of the place. They had been back on the side-road before, and the place never looked so homey afterward. Their mother died from Diabetes in July 1912, in her 64th year. This family of 8 children are now all passed on.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard Johnston lived many years on the farm across from the Norton’s or where Grover Ketchabaw lives now. They sold it to Silas Burwell, who was then a young man. They moved to Fingal where Mr. Johnston died. Then Mrs. Johnston came back to Eden again and lived with her daughter Mrs. Charles Allemand, south of Eden, until her death in her 103rd year.

Norton-Burwell Farm

My Old Valley Home, poem by C. H. Burwell, and photographMy grandfather wrote about the farm on the Big Otter Creek where he grew up in his poem My Old Valley Home (see more poems)

google eden line 2017
Norton-Burwell farm (marked Wilford’s) above, Johnston farm (marked Silas’) below

Here is what it looks like today, from Google satellite. Looks like the old house has been torn down and a new one built. Wilford Burwell lived in the original house until his death in 2004. It was sold after his wife Madge died in 2009. So, nearly 200 years after Joseph Norton cleared the land, the property is no longer in the hands of his descendants.

Johnston-Burwell-Ketchabaw Farm

burwells-and-friends
Human pyramid, top, Harry Howey and Merritt Burwell, middle, Silas Burwell, bottom, Charley Burwell, Fred Millard, Joe Kennedy

Silas Burwell bought his Aunt Maria’s farm across the road and rebuilt the house about 1915. His wife was Alice Kennedy, whose siblings were Joseph, Clara and Ida May.

Joseph Kennedy was friends with the Burwell brothers ( more photos here). Clara and Ida May Kennedy married Chandler brothers Edward John and Alexander. Fred Chandler was their brother, so brother-in-law by marriage to Silas.

Burwell, Kennedy and Chandler – Eden Line

burwell-kennedy-chandler-chart d stewart
click or tap chart for larger view

After Silas and Alice Burwell died, Grover Ketchabaw bought their farm. Silas and Alice had no children but still their house managed to keep connected to his family. One of Grover’s sons married Wilford Burwell’s sister. The son of Grover’s daughter now owns Silas’ farm.

A mile west of Eden

The mystery for me in Grandma’s story is in the second last paragraph. “They” moved to a farm about a mile west of Eden,  just west of Fred Chandler’s farm. Who moved? It sounds like Hercules and Ada Ann, whose dates of death match those Grandma gives in that same paragraph. But their son Fred, who took over their farm beside the Big Otter, didn’t marry until 1916, which was after the death of both his parents. I never knew that the family lived anywhere on the Eden Line other than in that house.

Two stories about the Chandler family are also in the Elgin County Archives. They start on the fourth page of the pdf. Here is my grandmother’s story and more on the Chandlers.