Sunday’s Obituary: David Hezekiah Linville

IMG_1261  My second great-grandfather David Hezekiah Linville was born 17 May 1858 and died 25 February 1934 at the age of 75. In between, he lived what was considered by friends and neighbors a good, long and decent life.

“Splendid Christian gentleman” is a phrase that occurs a lot in older obituaries, I’ve noticed. Even for people I know to be otherwise, it occurs. I suppose we wish to think well of the dead.

But I think it fits in his case.

Or maybe I’m just biased.

David was born just before the Civil War in Tippah County, Mississippi. His parents were Richard McDowell Linville and Elizabeth Reeves Manning. When the Civil War broke out, his father volunteered for the 23rd Mississippi Infantry and was duly elected its 1st Lieutenant.

On 18 December 1884, 26 year old David married 16 year old Mary Frances Shelton. Nine months later, their first son, William Richard, was born. Eleven were eventually born to this marriage, including my great-grandmother.

To try to make money and have a decent, easy life for his family, David taught at the Antioch community school for at least a year. But the call of the land was too strong. David was born to be a farmer.

He bought at least 85 acres north of Tippah Creek near the same school at which he taught. There he created an orchard that was the envy of his neighbors. He had a green thumb for trees, fruit, and crops. His neighbors sought out his advice so they could try to recreate his success.

His passion, besides farming, was squirrel hunting. When he had time, he would take his favorite dog, Ole Ring, and roam the woods looking for the fuzzy gray creatures he loved to eat.

David Hezekiah Linville

He was a deacon at the Antioch Primitive Baptist Church near his home and when he died he was buried front and center in the graveyard. He loved to sing and his deep, throaty voice could be heard for miles around.

His children and grandchildren grew up with him and the fuzzy mustache that must have tickled when he kissed them.

1926 Linville Reunion

In his later years, he had a series of strokes and was confined to his home. He died 25 February 1934 at the age of 75.

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Sunday’s Obituary: Mercia Griffin Wilbur

Mercia Wilbur obituary 23 March 1881 issue of the Rock Creek Banner
Mercia Wilbur obituary 23 March 1881 issue of the Rock Creek Banner

I don’t know if I have anything to add to this. I think every genealogist would give their right arm to have an obituary like this. You get a maiden name, a birthday, date of marriage, detailed descriptions of the moves the family made, information on children, etc. However, it doesn’t have parents’ names, but then a lot of obituaries at this point in time don’t, even for children. At the same time, most obituaries I’ve seen aren’t this detailed either. But I think we’ll all tell you, it doesn’t help if that’s all the information you have.

In this case, with the beautifully named Mercia Griffin Wilbur, that’s pretty much it. I mean, I have census records, but they only cover the period after 1850, when they became every-name censuses. She was already well into her married life by this point. Census records, an obituary, and a death record are all I have. Based solely on the name of her son, Harvey Griffin Wilbur, I took a guess on her father’s name.  Turns out, there was a Harvey Griffin in the Sidney, New York area with a daughter Mercia’s age in the 1840 census. It’s purely a guess, but it’s a smart guess, I think.

I’ve been able to determine that their son William was the “darling” who died of smallpox in 1836. I’ve also been able to narrow down her husband Anson’s death date to 1874 or 1875. All simply from an obituary.

We are more, much more, than names and dates. These are the kind of obituaries I like, if only the parents’ names were included.

Sunday’s Obituary: Margaret McVitty Little

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8 August 1841 was a cool summer day in the small Irish town of Drummans in County Monaghan. But it was plenty warm in the home of tenant farmer William McVitty. For it was there that Mrs. Margaret McVitty gave birth to Miss Margaret McVitty.

Yeah, you read that right. It’s not like genealogy isn’t hard enough as it is, right? Irish research? Now there’s the same name in a family!

Anyway.

Little Maggie, as she came to be known, was the seventh child but only the second daughter of William McVitty and his wife Margaret Gibson. When she was nine years old, her father came to America in search of gold. It was 1850 and the Gold Rush was on. It isn’t known how successful William was at prospecting, but four years later he went back to Drummans and brought his family to Perry, Ohio. Maggie was 13.

Moving in general is difficult enough, but picking up and moving to a new country has to be terrifying at 13. I know it was for something better than what they had, but still. Our forebears had to have been made of sterner stuff than we are. Or maybe just me, who knows?

If you read the post about John Little I wrote a few days ago, then you are at least a little familiar with the reasons that Irish immigrants might have left home and what they had to face once they got here. Well, the McVitty’s are pretty much the same.

At 16, Margaret married John Little. Two years later, their first son, Robert, is born. All seems lovely and peaceful.

While heavily (and probably uncomfortably) pregnant with their third child, John goes away to war, leaving Margaret all alone. Being a stubborn Irishwoman, she just went about her business, probably having faced worse in her life back in Ireland.

Three years later, John returns home and I’m sure Margaret thought things would return to normal now. But they didn’t, no matter how hard they tried. John was wounded and was unable to do the work to support their growing family. For a while, I’m pretty sure they depended on the kindness of her brothers James and Isaac to get along until the children got a little older and could do work to support the family.

When Robert was old enough, he grew onions for his uncle James and then taught school. Emma, the second born, worked as a domestic servant. Things were not perfect, but looking up. Then Margaret faced every parent’s nightmare: the death of her son Robert in 1880. Her husband had died the year before and she was left a 38 year old widow with very small children. Most women in her situation remarried quickly to have a means of support. Margaret did not do so.

With no visible means of taking care of herself, in 1885, she filed for a pension for John’s military service. She was denied. The stubborn Irishness reared its head and she enlisted doctors and friends in her cause for what she considered her rightful due as a Civil War veteran’s widow. She eventually got $8 a month for her troubles.

Margaret Little lived the next forty years surrounded by her children and her grandchildren. Her youngest daughter lived at home until her marriage in 1906. She moved her mom right in with her in the new home. Henry Croft must have been a good man. He let his mother-in-law live with him for 23 years.

Margaret began to suffer from high blood pressure and poor circulation as well as probably some confusion. But then, she was 86 years old. On 20 March 1929, she had a stroke and was confined to her bed. Four days later, in the morning of March 24, she passed away. She was buried next to John in the Perry Township Cemetery the next day. I know what the obituary says, but that’s where she is. Exactly where she’s supposed to be — with her family.

Sunday’s Obituary: William Calvin Street

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An unwanted legacy in my family is that of mental illness and suicide. The obituaries no longer explicitly state that a family member has killed themselves but we know when it happens. It’s almost an open secret. I know all families have similar experiences, but it just seems to strike our family more. It does not discriminate between sex, age, or social status.

William Calvin Street was born 18 December 1897 in the Antioch community outside Ripley, Mississippi to James Anner George Street and Julia Ann Weatherly. His life seemed ordinary and as happy as one scratching a living from the earth could be. No family was immune from devastating loss and sadness and Calvin’s family was no exception. James and Julia lost two of their children around two years of age, Elmer in 1893 and Tolbert in 1906. Two other sons, Luther and Monroe, also committed suicide within months of each other in 1950.

No one really knows why Calvin decided to end his life; they can only make suppositions. All we know, as stated in the obituary, “It is said that some physical disability or defect had caused Mr. Street to become despondent to the point of taking his own life.” What could possibly have gone wrong with a twenty year old young man? No one knows or no one’s talking.

I hope Calvin found a measure of peace.