For My Daddy

Billy Street Holley, my daddy

My dad departed this life in the early hours of Monday, 16 December 2019 despite the best efforts to save him. He was born 2 July 1953 in Memphis, Tennessee to the late Mack and Hazel Street Holley. He was an only child. He attended Colonial Elementary School in Memphis and Ripley High School back in his ancestral home of Ripley, Mississippi, and Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville. He had to drop out of high school and college to care for an ailing parent. His lack of official degree in no way reflects his deep intelligence and love of learning. He loved all things mechanical and scientific. He often spoke of his longing to learn to fly as his uncles did.



In 1980, not long after the death of his mother, he met my mother, Kathy Taylor. Throughout their marriage, he bestowed upon me the values of family, faith, loyalty and hard work. When my mom fell sick, he trained for home dialysis and was her caregiver until her death almost five years ago. I honestly don’t think there was much question of him doing otherwise. However, in doing so, he set a high standard on how I deserved to be treated.

Mom and Dad

My dad loved kids. Babies laughed when they saw him and he had one little boy in Food Giant thoroughly convinced he was Batman. He was the king of dad jokes and puns. He was kind to animals including the cats he claimed he did not want (my mom turned him into a cat person). He enjoyed motor racing – the Indy 500 was our Memorial Day ritual, but NASCAR and Darrell Waltrip were in our home weekly. Actually, my dad just loved cars. Looking through pictures in preparation for his funeral, most of them were photos taken at car shows. Most of the car shows he and I attended together so looking at those photos I remember the sheer joy he exuded talking about cars. Do I remember anything he said? Not really. But I can change my oil, change a flat and jump a dead battery. So thanks, daddy.


My dad was interested in so many things: science fiction – specifically, the works of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov; history: his stories of the Civil War and Ripley and our family played a major role in my obtaining a history degree; writing; drawing; architecture; music. He loved all kinds of music from rock, country, blues, to Beethoven and the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack. I now have a very interesting record collection. He nurtured an ambition to play the drums like his idol Buddy Rich. He claimed Buddy Holly as a cousin, though we have never proved it. I have very fond memories of my dad serenading me with “Everyday.” When the Hollies came on the radio, he’d look me in the eye and say, ‘they want us to sing.’ Sometimes I’d shake my head but sing we would. I became very familiar with “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” well before I probably should have. Being a girl, I got stuck with the high parts: Righteous Brothers, Beach Boys, you name it. I can hit notes that would make Brian Wilson proud. Yeah, don’t know if that’s good or not. Whether we sang became a barometer for our mood. We knew the other was unhappy when they wouldn’t sing.


Dad was a huge fan of Tennessee Titans football and would have loved this championship run they’re on this year. He supported Chicago Cubs baseball and cheered as loud as anybody did when they finally won their title. I’m a Cardinals fan, so that got a little awkward at times. I was able, however, to rub my love of Nashville Predators hockey and European football off on him a bit. I wanted so much to take him to a game or a race but it just never happened.

From left, Polly Bowen, David Street, Lois Hawley, my dad, and Paul Street. My dad is the only one looking thrilled, but then, he does have the knife!

My dad loved gardening. He could make anything grow. Remember what I said about him teaching me the value of hard work? I honestly think I learned it the garden we had every summer growing up. It wasn’t that large of a garden or anything, but I hated every minute of doing it: weeding, picking, digging potatoes, etc. My back hurts even thinking about it right now. Beans were the worst because they always seemed to grow toward the ground, which, of course, meant bending over and picking them. Oh, and then there was the year two rows of tomatoes grew together at the top, forming a tunnel. I had to crawl through the tunnel every day or every other day, shoving the bucket in front of me. In case you didn’t know, do not wear a white t-shirt when performing this activity. You look like you’ve been lashed and are bleeding green all along your back. When my mom got through with the fresh food though, it was amazing.

My dad and his parents

He loved to cook even though he was really slow. You didn’t want him to cook a meal if you were in a hurry to eat. It would feel like a decade had passed you by before the food was done. Half the meal would be cold anyhow, so much time had gone by. If something was broken, he could fix it. If he didn’t know how, he’d buy a book to teach him how. I have a lot of sorting through to do ahead of me.

From left, Emma Street, Peggy Street, my dad, and Norman Hawley

My dad was my idol, the tall strong guy who would never let anything happen to me. Most of my interests align with his, as you would notice if you know only me. He knew everything about everything and was everything I ever wanted to be. He knew almost everyone in town too and would do anything he could for them. He was known around town as Mr. Billy or ‘the guy in the truck with the dog.’

If I could be half as good a person as the man who loved old fashioneds, the man who brought me breakfast from McDonald’s every Saturday morning when he got off work when he worked third shift at the rubber plant, and the man who loved museums where I learned more from him than the exhibits, if I could be half as good as that man, I will consider myself a success.

The Last Year

I know it’s been almost a year since I have posted anything on my blog. I guess that’s not good. But it’s been difficult to even type the web address in my browser. I’ve been through the ringer this past year. I just couldn’t face any more family history, couldn’t face anything. I just didn’t have the heart for anything. I wanted to give up.

I had a couple of posts in the pipeline last April when I woke up on Sunday morning the 26th. I walked in the living room to find my mother had died in her sleep. I had just seen her sleeping peacefully the hour before. I was heartbroken. Our relationship had never been the best since I was a teenager, but in the last few months we had been able to put a lot of that behind us. I had done some work on her part of the tree, but I was one of the few among the family doing so and it was so hard to find any scrap of information. I’d often put it to the side to unconsciously think about how to deal with some of the problems that had cropped up. One of the posts in the pipeline when she died was about her maternal grandparents. I was finding my groove and hoping that would help me find her ancestors. I went on to publish that because I just didn’t want it sitting around until I could deal.

The next month was Memorial Day. I decided to honor her grandmother’s brother who had died at sea. Even grieving as I was, I couldn’t let Memorial Day pass me by. But I couldn’t face spending a lot of time at the computer writing. So I found a Facebook post I had done a couple of years before and simple cut and paste solved my problem. I went back to my grief.

I stayed there and didn’t give a damn about this blog.

Move forward to late August/early September. I find out my best friend was in the final stages of lung cancer. She passed away not long after. I had done work on her family tree and many of my posts here were about her family because I wanted to find a way to share everything I had at once.

So between her family and mine, I was too grieved to think about writing anything for this blog. Not only did I not write, I didn’t do research. Certainly, some things crossed my mind and I might do a random Google search or two, but nothing more complicated than that.

It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that I even thought about returning to family history. I had grieved and cried until I didn’t think I had anything left inside. I visited both my mother’s and friend’s grave and had a long thinking spell. I came to the conclusion that they would want me to stop beating myself up grieving and would want me to continue researching if I so chose. But I felt they wanted it be my choice that had nothing to do with how I felt about them.

So I reluctantly agreed. It took me a few more days to pull up my blog’s dashboard to write this post. But I did and here I am.

Through the last months I’ve kept up with the stats through the WordPress app. People were still looking. I am grateful and that played a part in my return. People are looking for something here and I want to be able to give it to them if I can.

If you’ve had patience with me and this blog this far, I greatly appreciate it. Really, I do.

Give me a few days and maybe there will be something to pique your interest.

Military Monday: In Remembrance

Robert Louis Earnest
Robert Louis Earnest

On 2 August 1944, in the North Atlantic, the USS Fiske made visual contact with U-804, a Nazi submarine. The Fiske along with the USS David L. Howard made an attack run on the now submerged submarine. Suddenly, the Fiske was torpedoed, split in two, and sunk, while U-804 slipped back to its patrol. Thirty-three of her men were killed and 50 badly wounded by the explosion. One of those was Seaman Second Class Robert Louis Earnest, my great-grandmother’s brother. He was initially wounded and rescued by the USS Farqhuar, but died later that day. He was only 29 years old, leaving behind his wife of ten years and their son. He was buried at sea and there is no place to go to mourn and honor his memory. The best we have are the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. His posthumous Purple Heart is not reward enough. He is a hero for America, but before he was a hero, he was family — my family.

With great love and admiration, your great-grand niece.

Military Monday: Samuel Street, Part II

I left off Part I with the battles of Brandywine and Paoli in September 1777. Barely two weeks later, Samuel found himself preparing for battle again, still in Pennsylvania. This time they were in Germantown, a small settlement.

Engraving of the Battle of Germantown by Christian Schussele
Engraving of the Battle of Germantown by Christian Schussele

A thick fog clouded the battlefield throughout the day. At the front of the army was John Sullivan’s column. They opened fire on the British pickets of light infantry at Mount Airy just as the sun was rising at around 5 AM. The British pickets resisted the American advance. William Howe rode forward, thinking that they were being attacked by foraging or skirmishing parties, and ordered his men to hold their ground. It took most of Sullivan’s division to finally overwhelm the British pickets and drive them back into Germantown.

Howe, still believing that his men were facing only light opposition, called out, “For shame, Light Infantry, I never saw you retreat before. Form! Form! It is only a scouting party.” Just then, three American cannons came into action and fired a blast of grape shot. Howe and his staff quickly withdrew out of range. I guess that changed his mind. More than one British officer was shocked to see his soldiers rapidly falling back before the powerful attack.

Now cut off from the main British and Hessian force, British Colonel Musgrave ordered his six companies to fortify the stone house of Chief Justice Chew, called Cliveden. The Americans furiously assaulted Cliveden, but the greatly outnumbered defenders beat them back, inflicting heavy casualties. General Washington called a council of war to decide how to deal with the distraction. Some of his subordinate officers favored bypassing Cliveden and leaving a regiment behind to deal with it. However, Brigadier General Henry Knox recommended that it was unwise to allow a garrison in the rear of a forward advance to remain under enemy control, and Washington agreed.

Map of the Battle of Germantown
Map of the Battle of Germantown

General William Maxwell’s brigade, which had been held in reserve, stormed Cliveden. Knox positioned four 3-pound cannons out of musket range and opened fire against the mansion’s defenders. However, the thick stone walls of Cliveden withstood the bombardment. Soldiers launched against the mansion were cut down, causing heavy casualties. The few who managed to get inside were shot or bayoneted. It was becoming clear that Cliveden was not going to be taken easily, if at all.

Before Knox and Maxwell attacked the Chew mansion, Sullivan’s division pressed past the place in the fog. Sullivan deployed Brigadier General Thomas Conway’s brigade to the right and Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s brigade to the left and drove forward against the British. As Sullivan advanced, his troops paused frequently to fire volleys into the fog. This tactic effectively supressed enemy opposition, but they quickly ran low on ammunition. Wayne’s brigade moved ahead and became separated from Sullivan’s line. Suddenly, from the rear, the men began hearing the disquieting racket from Knox’s bombardment of the Chew mansion. To their right, the firing from Sullivan’s men died down as the Marylanders ran low on ammunition. Wayne’s men began to panic in their apparent isolation, so he ordered them to fall back. Sullivan was forced back also. Since the British units were moved to fight Greene’s late-arriving column, Sullivan’s men fell back.

Meanwhile, General Nathanael Greene’s column on Limekiln Road caught up with the American forces at Germantown and engaged the British pickets at Luken’s Mill and drove them off after a savage skirmish. Adding to the heavy fog that already obscured the Americans’ view was the smoke from cannons and muskets, and Greene’s column was thrown into disarray and confusion. One of Greene’s brigades, under the command of Brigadier General Adam Stephen, veered off course and began following Meetinghouse Road instead of rendezvousing at Market Square with the rest of Greene’s forces. The wayward brigade collided with Wayne’s brigade and mistook them for the redcoats. The two American brigades opened heavy fire on each other, became badly disorganized, and both fled. The withdrawal of Wayne’s reserve New Jersey Brigade, which had suffered heavy casualties attacking the Chew house, left Conway’s right flank exposed to the enemy.

In the north, an American column led by General Alexander McDougall came under attack and was forced to retreat, suffering heavy losses. Still convinced, however, that they could win, Greene’s column launched an attack on the British and Hessian line as planned, managing to break through and capturing a number of prisoners. However, they were soon surrounded by two arriving British brigades led by General Cornwallis. Greene, upon learning of the main army’s defeat and withdrawal, realized that he stood alone and he withdrew.

With night rapidly falling, the British had repulsed all attacks, but gave up the chase, and Washington decided to withdraw. Yet another defeat. How many could the Continental Army, and the cause, endure?

The_Virginia_Gazette_Fri__Oct_17__1777_17 October 1777 Virginia Gazette17 October 1777 Virginia Gazette

Tombstone Tuesday: Anderson Street

001My fourth great-grandfather Anderson Street was born 5 May 1805 in Georgia, son of Joseph Street and Lucinda Key. His grandfather, Samuel Street was a Revolutionary soldier from Virginia, and died in Georgia in 1811. About this time, Anderson moved to Lincoln County,
Tennessee with his parents. Soon afterwards, his father answered the call for soldiers in the War of 1812, and died in 1815. Anderson married about 1822 in Lincoln County. to Keziah (pronounced “Kezzy”) McBride.

On 9 September 1826 Anderson sold his 200 acres in Lincoln County to his brother John Waller Street, and moved to Hardeman County, and lived there about nine years. They moved to Tippah County, Mississippi not long after the Chickasaws signed the Treaty of Pontotoc on 22 May 1834. When he arrived in North Mississippi, he cleared his newly acquired land for farming and built a log house for his family. He did blacksmith work for his neighbors. When Tippah County was lawfully created in 1836, Anderson was elected a justice of the peace from his district, with brother-in-law Daniel McBride and close friend Worley Linville standing surety for him. Both of these men are also my ancestors. He helped survey the new lands and as the patents were granted to the settlers, he carried these patents to the land office in Pontotoc to be recorded. Anderson owned 960 acres northwest of the Antioch community and also owned 160 acres west of Tiplersville.

In the 1840s Anderson and Keziah were members of the Primitive Baptist Church of Christ at Ephesus. Unfortunately, the location of this church is no longer known.

I know that he owned six slaves as of 1860 and there is only one I know by name: Sanko.

When the Civil War began, he and his seven sons volunteered for the Confederate Army, serving the duration. Three of his sons were killed, the other four wounded. I have been told that Anderson was in the 34th Mississippi, but I have never found his military record. Family stories also say he was imprisoned during the war in New York, possibly Elmira, where he was fed solely rice to the point he never wanted to see any rice again.

After the war, he returned home, signed an oath of allegiance to the Government, and resumed his farming. His wife died shortly, on 14 January 1866, and was buried in Antioch cemetery. Later, he married Abigail Surrat, but little is known of this marriage.

In later years, he lived with his children. One day when he was going out the back door, he tripped over the family cat, fell and broke his hip. He never walked again. He died 11 November 1888, at the home of his son, Calvin, in Saulsbury, Tenn, and because of bad weather and poor roads, he is buried in the Martin Cemetery there.

Funeral Card Friday: Joseph Hawley


Joseph was born on 31 December 1834 in Mapperley, a Derbyshire village in England. His parents were William and Sarah Hawley.  By the age of 17, he was working as a servant for the Thornhill family in nearby Stanton. Soon enough though, he began working at the coal mines in Ilkeston and Stonebroom like most men in the village.

There he worked until 1882 when he decided he wanted something better for the remainder of his life. He took his family and moved them to Young, Pennsylvania in Jefferson County.

But the miner in him just couldn’t quit. He worked the Pennsylvania coal mines until his death on 26 March 1908 of the “infirmities of old age.” Having the flu certainly didn’t help.

He was buried in the Horatio Cemetery in nearby Punxsutawney three days later.

Military Monday: Samuel Street, Part I

Samuel William Street was born in 1737 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia to Anthony and Elizabeth Brockman Street. Spotsylvania County is now known as both the home for the Civil War battle of Fredericksburg and the home of Kunte Kinte from Alex Haley’s Roots. In fact, the Street land was directly adjacent to the land of John Waller, Kunte Kinte’s owner.

By 1758, he had married Lurana and thereafter started his own family. There were four children: William, Anthony, Joseph, and Frances. He bought 100 acres on the Plentiful branch of the Little Anna River from his father. In 1763, he sold the land and moved to Henry County.

Plentiful Creek on Little Anna River

6 March 1777. Samuel joins the 13th Virginia Regiment under Captain James Hook as a private. This regiment was part of Washington’s army and Samuel joins the army at Morristown, New Jersey.

June saw the arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette and with it, the French alliance.

Marquis de Lafayette, Washington’s adopted son

In July, the army marched to the Hudson River Valley. There they fortified their position for the protection of the northeast.

By September the army was in Pennsylvania for the battle of Brandywine Creek on the 11th.

Map of Battle of Brandywine

September 11th rose with a heavy fog, covering the British troops. Washington received contradictory reports about the British movements and continued to believe that the main force was moving to attack at Chadds Ford. At 5:30 AM the British and Hessian troops under General William Howe started to march east along the “Great Road” towards the American troops at the Brandywine Creek road crossing. The first shots of the battle took place at a tavern where Howe was driven back. He sent his troops down the road to take cover behind the stone walls on the Old Kennett Meetinghouse grounds. The battle was fought in the late morning around the meeting house while the pacifist Quakers continued to hold their midweek service. One of the Quakers later wrote, “While there was much noise and confusion without, all was quiet and peaceful within.”


From the Meetinghouse grounds, the battle continued for three miles. Eventually Howe pushed the Americans back but not before suffering heavy losses himself. He appeared on the Americans’ right flank at around 2 PM. Washington tried to reposition his troops to meet the unexpected British threat to their right flank. Howe was slow to attack, which bought time for some of Washington’s men to go to high ground at Birmingham Meetinghouse, about a mile north of Chadds Ford. By 4 PM, the British attacked, both American divisions lost ground fast.

Old Kennett Meetinghouse

British fire forced retreat. At this point, slightly after 4 PM, Washington and Nathanael Greene arrived with reinforcements to try to hold off the British, who now occupied Meeting House Hill. These reinforcements stopped the pursuing British for nearly an hour but were eventually forced to retreat. The Americans were also forced to leave behind many of their cannons on Meeting House Hill because almost all of their artillery horses were killed.

Nation Makers by Howard Pyle depicts a scene from the Battle of Brandywine

At this point Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, leader of the Hessian troops, was on the east bank of the Brandywine and launched an attack against the weakened American center across Chadds Ford, breaking through the divisions commanded by Anthony Wayne and William Maxwell and forcing them to retreat and leave behind most of their cannon. Armstrong’s militia, never engaged in the fighting, also decided to retreat from their positions. Further north, Greene sent Brigadier General George Weedon’s troops to cover the road just outside the town of Dilworth to hold off the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to retreat. Darkness brought the British pursuit to a standstill, which then allowed Weedon’s force to retreat. The defeated Americans retreated to Chester where most of them arrived at midnight, with stragglers arriving until morning. The American retreat was well-organized largely due to the efforts of Marquis de Lafayette, who, although wounded, rallied the troops to himself.

Although Howe had defeated the American army, his lack of cavalry prevented its total destruction. Washington had committed a serious error in leaving his right flank wide open and nearly brought about his army’s annihilation had it not been for John Sullivan; William Alexander, Lord Stirling; and Adam Stephen’s divisions, which fought for time. Evening was approaching and, in spite of the early start Lord Charles Cornwallis had made in the flanking maneuver, most of the American army was able to escape. In his report to the Continental Congress detailing the battle, Washington stated: “despite the day’s misfortune, I am pleased to announce that most of my men are in good spirits and still have the courage to fight the enemy another day”.

British and American forces maneuvered around each other for the next several days with only a few encounters such as the Battle of Paoli on the night of September 20–21.

The Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia. Military supplies were moved out of the city to Reading, Pennsylvania. On September 26, British forces marched into Philadelphia unopposed.

Yet another defeat. I cannot imagine how crippling that had to be for morale. I wonder if they considered the cause still worth fighting — and dying — for. There had to have been doubts.

Mamaw and Papaw: Johnnie and Vola Null

I’ve written about many things on this blog, my family and others, but one part I’ve neglected has been my mother’s side of the family. I hope to remedy that today.

I’ve said before that I never knew any of my grandparents, but I did know one set of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side. We called them Mamaw and Papaw Null.

Their real names were Johnnie Null and Vola Earnest. When I knew them, they looked like this:

4fa28dd1-6f63-4005-8884-42d615b7b979-1My great-grandparents married young because as Mamaw put it, “I felt sorry for him.” Papaw’s parents had died when he was young and it was just him and his brother and sister. Mamaw came from a big, crazy family and I guess she thought everyone should have that. They went on to have seven children, six of whom lived to be adults.

Johnny Null family
The Johnnie Null family in the mid-1940s. From left to right: my grandmother Irene, Mamaw, Peggy, Papaw, Mary Lee. In front are Ruth and Johnnie Hugh.

The only one missing from this picture is my uncle Paul. He was the mid-life baby. I remember being 5 or 6 years old and Mamaw telling the story. It seemed by this point Mamaw and Papaw were in separate bedrooms. Mamaw said she got to missing Papaw and she went to see him one night (cue all the “ewwwws” from the kids). Nine months later…surprise! Uncle Paul was born.

Really. That’s about the way the story went. On the car ride home, I asked my mom where babies came from because Mamaw’s story just wasn’t doing it for me. I look back now and think that my mom probably wanted to kill her grandmother for telling that story.

Vola Earnest was an interesting woman to say the least. She struck me, even as a child, as a little cold. She loved me and I loved her, but cold is the only way I know how to describe her. Remember when I said she grew up in a crazy family? I meant it, but that’s a whole other blog post. Her father was married three or four times and there were a ton of kids. I don’t really know what it was like growing up for her but something intuitively feels off, if that makes sense. There was something I could feel even as a child.

I remember a time Mamaw was cooking Sunday dinner for all of us family and I was her special helper. I was maybe four. I helped her make biscuits (more like played in the flour). I did that a lot but what sets this Sunday apart was what Mamaw did next.

She wanted to make chicken so she went out in the back yard and got one. I was looking out the window at the time (bad, bad idea). Mamaw grabbed a chicken, one I had named Wilbur, and wrung its neck. I ran screaming through the house, calling Papaw and ended up in his lap. You know those outlines of a person in the wall that you see in cartoons? That was almost me. That’s how serious the situation was.

Well, it was to me. I told you she was interesting.

Mamaw died when I was six and Papaw when I was ten. I was grateful to have known them.


Grandfather’s Diary, Part V

This is going to be the last entry for my grandfather’s diary because I deem most of what’s left too personal to publish.

“In October 1944 I entered Senatobia, Mississippi boarding school as I had never had the chance to finish high school. I graduated in August 1945.

I went to Memphis, accepted work with the U.S. [Army Corps of] Engineers. In a few years I got married. We have a son. In 1964, we decided to move back to Ripley, Mississippi, our hometown.

Mack and Hazel Holley, 1967.
Mack and Hazel Holley, 1967.

Everything has went wrong. I have not been able to get employment. Everything we tried to do has went wrong.

In June 1967 I decided to enter politics for county circuit clerk. I worked hard all the summer with my family. I received a good vote but strong politics overcame and I got left out. By hard struggle, we are still going. In November I came down ill [and] I entered the veteran’s hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

There I went through many examinations and tests which were very painful. It was several days before the doctors decided an operation was necessary. One day the doctor came in and told me that they had decided to operate and told me the exact day. I [was] very much upset for [the] whole night. I prayed to God to give me faith, courage, and stand by the doctors and guide their hands in the right way [so] the operation would be a success. By the next day I had settled down and [was] calm and I was not worried.

I continued to pray. My wife and son came to see me every weekend. That meant so much to me [to] have them stand by me, which they did the four weeks I was there.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to a better understanding of who my grandfather was. He was a man you cannot label easily, even though I’ve tried. He was proud and deeply thoughtful. He was terrified of change but somehow muddled through it because that’s what life threw at him. He was human, just like me. He made mistakes that I don’t ever have to understand or approve of but most likely, if he were alive, he would say much the same about me.

I hope I’ve done right by him and by his memory.