Friday, July 31, 2015

Annie Pearl Update

Annie Pearl Nace

Back in 2010, I posted about Annie Pearl Nace's mysterious death on July 30, 1911. The circumstances surrounding Pearl's death were a big family secret—her sisters apparently didn't want to talk about it, and my mother (Pearl's sister Blanche's daughter) was adamant that no one know. In her old age, Mama was angry that a cousin had asked her about it on more than one occasion.

When I was about eight or nine, I'd asked about what happened to my great aunt. I remember Mama telling me that Pearl's boyfriend "Otha" might have poisoned her. In her 80s, when I asked for more details, Mama denied ever telling me that. But lately, thanks to the Internet and Facebook, I've learned more of Pearl's story.

Otha was actually Otho Wilson Young, born in 1883, so he was seven years older than Pearl. His parents were Samuel and Rebecca Young. His family, like hers, lived in Botetourt County, Virginia.

He must have been serious about Pearl to pose for a picture with her at a Roanoke photographer's studio. I'm guessing the picture was taken prior to 1910, or certainly no later than very early 1910.

He and Pearl must have been sweethearts for a while. Besides the photo of them together, she had a picture of a much younger Otho Young that he had likely given her when they first became interested in each other. 

 I know that after Pearl's sister Blanche married Howard Ruble on June 11, 1909, and moved to Roanoke, Pearl sometimes visited her sister's home on Rorer Avenue. In fact, when the 1910 Roanoke census was taken, 19-year-old Pearl was staying with them:

The census had to have been taken very early in 1910, because Blanche gave birth to her son Howard Lawrence on March 3 of that year. The baby isn't listed on the census. Since Howard was a fireman on the railroad and would often be gone overnight, it must have been a comfort to Blanche to have her sister stay with her. It's uncertain how long Pearl stayed, but when the Buchanan Census 0056 was taken in mid-April, she was listed as living with her parents and her younger sisters Ossie (age 16) and Zora (age 6). Her sister Cora (21), married for three years to T.O. Hunt and the mother of a two-year-old and a newborn, lived in the same neighborhood.

But what about Otho? What was happening in his life in 1910? According to the census, he was living with his widowed mother and younger sister in Buchanan district 0056 (same district as the Naces) and working as a laborer at a sawmill.

So—what happened between Pearl and Otho? Obviously there was a break-up. But who broke up with whom, and why? We'll likely never know for sure, but it didn't take Otho long to find a new love interest. On December 22, 1910, Otho Wilson Young married Annie May Haymaker.

Look back at the picture of Pearl and Otha together. Notice how serious—maybe sad—she looks. Her eyes seem blank.  Her left hand has the fingers curled under—almost like a fist. Otho looks smug. Shouldn't the two of them seem happier if they indeed were a happy couple. Notice the photo of the younger Otho. Someone has made deep scratches across his throat. I used to think that maybe one of her sisters did that, but maybe Pearl did it herself. Was she so angry she wanted to cut his throat? And why did she keep the picture?

When Pearl died on July 30, 1911, Otho's new wife was seven months pregnant with their son Homer Godwin Young. Her three older sisters were all married—they'd been her current age or younger when they married—and they all had children. Did Pearl feel like an old maid? Did she have any marriage prospects or even any beaux?  What happened on the last Saturday of July? Her obituary gives few clues:


The "very bright, cheerful girl" who was in excellent health took sick at noon on Saturday, July 29, and was dead by 8 AM Sunday of "cholera morbus," which we'd now call gastroenteritis. From "best of health" to dead in less than 24 hours seems suspicious.

Were the two doctors correct in their diagnosis? Sometimes distinguishing cholera morbus from poisoning could be difficult in the old days. From Robert Amory's old book Poisons:

Cholera morbus, the book points out, is one of the disorders that might be confused with poisoning, but cholera morbus is "seldom fatal" and, if it is, death takes place "several days" later.

Another source notes that cholera morbus occurs in hot weather:
 It especially occurs in extreme hot weather in temperate climates, is usually endemic, but is often epidemic, and is caused by the absorption of toxins elaborated by bacterial activity within the gastrointestinal tract. The ingestion of decomposing food, unripe fruit, raw vegetables and large quantities of ice water and alcoholic beverages in seasons of great heat are predisposing factors.
 It would likely have been hot that July day, and fruit would have been in season. But why had no other family members been taken ill? Surely they ate the same things she did. The source mentions that the prognosis for recovery is good if the disease is "seen in the early stages." Two doctors were summoned less than 24 hours after her symptoms began.

If Pearl had indeed succumbed to cholera morbus, why was discussion of her death so hush-hush through the years? Was Pearl really poisoned? And if so, by whom? If so, why was the crime concealed and not investigated? Why would the family never want it mentioned? We can speculate, but we'll never know for sure. . . .

As for Otho, he and his family eventually left the county, and he worked in Covington at the paper mill, as did one of his sons.  The 1930 census gives details:

According to his death certificate, Otho died in Alleghany Memorial Hospital of granulocytic leukopenia on March 5, 1952. He was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Covington on March 7.

We will likely never know all the details about the real story of Pearl's death. If there is a secret to her death, she has taken it to her grave. But let's remember her as the "very bright, cheerful girl" she must have once been.

Rest in peace, Annie Pearl Nace.
Thanks to members of the Facebook Botetourt County Genealogy group for finding the obituary pointing me in the direction of where to look for info.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Andrew F. Spence

I've blogged about the Spence connection before. But where the father of Sulmena Frances Spence Nace came from has been a family mystery for decades. It's documented that Andrew F. Spence married Mary Lucy Goff, daughter of Archibald Goff, on Dec. 19, 1849. She was about  sixteen. During the course of their marriage, they had ten children. Here's the list from the family Bible:

  • John Henry Spence Born De  24 1850
  • Edward [Lott?] Spence Born Feb 10 1853
  • William [G?] Spence Born Feb  3 1855
  • Mary [?]Spence Born De 5 1859
  • Alexzander [?] A. Spence Born June 8 1863
  • Selmenia F. Spence Born De 14 1864
  • Daniel [might be David?] M. Spence Born June 12 1867
  • Lucie Jane Spence Born De 9 1869
  • Walter F. Spence Born July 9 1875
  • one infant Boy Born Apr 11 1858

The Spences were said to be from the Big Island area of Bedford County, and indeed, many are still there. But Andrew F. Spence didn't seem to connect to them. Why not?

On September 7, 1860, 33-year-old Andrew, 27-year-old Lucy, their sons John H (age 9), Edward J (age 6), and William A (age 3), and their 4-month-old daughter Mary C.S. were living in the northern district (Lone Pine Post Office) of Bedford County. John was attending school. Also in their household was 30-year-old Mary Sweeney, whose vocation was "serving." Was she employed by the Spences, or was she somehow kin? 

A close look at the 1860 census reveals that Andrew was a stone mason who was born in New York and that his personal estate was worth $200.

Perhaps, being born in New York, he wasn't close kin to the Spences who were already  in Virginia. 

Andrew served in Company C of the 58th Virginia Infantry in the Confederate army—the Big Island Greys (Chilton's/Arthur's Company) of Bedford County. The ten companies in the 58th were from Amherst, Franklin, Patrick, and Rockbridge Counties. The regiment was with General Jubal Early to defend Lynchburg in mid-June 1864. Andrew must have gotten leave a few times, since Alexander was born in 1863 and Frances in 1864.

In the August 18, 1870, census for the Liberty Post Office area of Charlemont in the Northwest section of Bedford County, the family had increased. Now 4-year-old "Sylwina" (who'd later be known as Frances), 2-year-old Daniel, and baby Lucy had joined the family. John, who'd likely started his own family, was no longer living with his parents. What became of Alexander? He likely died young.

By June 2, 1880,  Andrew and Lucy, along with their 15-year-old daughter Frances had moved to Buchanan in Botetourt County. Son William—now married to a Mary (who is 3 years older than he) and  has three sons (Alonzo-4, Jessie-2, and baby Ira)—either lives with his parents or lives next door. William has apparently followed his father into the stone mason business. But what became of little Daniel and Lucy and Walter and the unnamed baby? Had the Spence family lost four young children in a 10-year period? Five in a 15-year-period? At any rate, half their children didn't survive until adulthood.

Living in Buchanan, Frances was now in a good position to meet William Robert Nace. They were married on December 28, 1882.

Census records aren't available for 1890, so tracing the Spence family isn't easy. Andrew and Lucy don't appear on the 1900 census. However, their son does—a 45-year-old William  Spence and his 48-year old wife Mary are living in Forest in Bedford County. He now is a farmer and owns his land. They have four children at home: Maud, Walter, Bell, and Edgar. 

Also, in 1900, a 47-year-old stone mason named Lott Spence lives at Charlemont in Bedford County with his 42-year-old wife Mollie T, and son and daughter. His brother-in-law, Robert Goff, lives with them. Could Lott be Edward Lott, born in 1853? It seems likely. And there's another Goff connection.

So, part of the Spence mystery  is solved. But there are still some unanswered questions.

Update: Recently, thanks to the Internet and, I learned that his name was actually Andrew Frederick Spence, and he was born on December 1, 1829 (or possibly 1827) in Orange County, New York. I also learned his parents' names: John Frederick Spence (who was born in Orange County, New York) and Mary Catherine Andrews.

This makes sense. He got his middle name from his father, and he named his first son John Harrison Goff. His wife was Mary Lucy Goff—the daughter of Polly Harrison and Archibald Goff, so that accounts for the two middle names. His first daughter, actually his fourth child, was named Mary Catherine (1858-1879)—his mother's name.

Despite being from the north, Andrew served in Company C of the 58th Virginia Infantry—the Big Island Greys (Chilton's/Arthur's Company of Bedford County. The ten companies in the 58th were from Amherst, Franklin, Patrick, and Rockbridge Counties. The regiment was with General Jubal Early to defend Lynchburg in mid-June 1864. Andrew must have gotten leave a few times, since Alexander was born in 1863 and Frances in 1864.

I was able to find his death certificate online (he died April 18, 1912 f "Euremic convulsion") and now I know he is buried in Lithia Baptist Church Cemetery, where his Nace in-laws and some of his descendants are buried.

I know he was still alive when his granddaughter Annie Pearl Nace died mysteriously in July of the previous year. That must have been hard on my great grandmother, Frances  Spence Nace, to lose a child one year and her father the next.:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Last Nace Grandchild

Bill Gross, the last living grandchild of William and Frances Nace, died on March 22, 2014. In the picture below, his grandfather is holding him. His grandmother is at the far left and Uncle T.O. Hunt is at right.

Bill was the son of Zora William Nace Gross, the youngest Nace daughter. When the picture below was taken of the Nace family in 1902, Zora had not yet been born.

Here is Bill Gross as a baby, held by his cousin Alene Ruble at the Ruble home on Watts Avenue in Roanoke.

Here he is with Alene again on his birthday.  Bill was born March 16, 1930; Alene was born March 17, 1913. No doubt they are celebrating both birthdays. Bill's dog was named "At."

The Gross family lived not far far from the Rubles in the Roanoke's Rugby section before moving to Newport News. Below is Bill's picture as it appeared in his obituary in The Roanoke Times.

From his obituary:

William Claude Gross, 84, of Newport News, died at his home on March 22, 2014, surrounded by family. Bill moved to Newport News at the age of eight when his father came to work at the Newport News Shipyard and the C&O Railroad. He graduated from Newport News High School in February 1948.
As a young man, Bill worked as a delivery boy for Western Union and Colonial Grocery Store in downtown Newport News. While in the United States Air Force from 1950-1954, he served during the Korean Conflict as a radio mechanic on the Douglas B-26 with the 13th Bomb Squadron of the 8th Air Force. After returning from Korea, he followed his father and began a career with the C&O Railroad in 1954, serving as electrician apprentice, and then as Electrician and Electrical Foreman. He retired in 1988 as a General Foreman of the Mechanical Department with CSX Transportation. After retirement, Bill helped his son, Glenn, run his own business and helping repair and maintain equipment.

Read the complete obituary in The Roanoke Times here or in The Daily Press here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nace Graves in Lithia Church

The list of folks buried in Lithia Baptist Church cemetery is online:

Several Naces are buried there: William Robert Nace and his wife Sulmana (spelled this way on her tombstone, but spelled differently in family Bible) and three of their daughters. Annie Pearl  died mysteriously on July 30, 1911. The date is hard to read on her tombstone.

Another Nace daughter, Cora Hunt, and her husband, Thomas Orren Hunt, are also buried there. Here is a picture of their five children: Claude Nace Hunt (1907-1984), William O. Hunt (1909-1968), Pearl  (1912-1995), Lucas Dennison—called Den (1905-1976) and Elizabeth (1907?-?)

Cora and TO's daughter Pearl Hunt Whorley and her husband, Boyd Conrad Whorley, are buried at Lithia Baptist. Pearl Whorley's daughter Peggy Ann is among other Whorleys buried there. Here's a picture of the six Whorley children:

A third Nace daughter, Ossie and her husband, George Goode, are buried at Lithia, too.

Now here's a mystery. John C. Nace, the father of William Robert Nace, has a stone at Lithia Baptist.
But he's buried beside his wife in the Noftsinger-Styne-Pico cemetery where a more elaborate stone marks his resting place. So where is he?

Now here's a mystery solved: Where was the older brother of John C. Nace buried? Thanks to Find a Grave website, I've found William MacDowell Nace's grave in Maple Grove Cemetery in Kansas.

He was the Nace brother who moved to Kansas and fought for the Union.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Three Sisters

This picture of three Nace sisters was  probably taken during the late 1960s or early 1970s.

From left to right: Blanche Nace Ruble, Lucy Nace Mays, Ossie Nace Goode.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lithia Station

A picture of the train station at Lithia sent to me by my cousin, Bill Gross, whose mother was Zora Nace, the youngest of the Nace sisters. His mother and my grandmother no doubt boarded the train here many times for trips to the big city of Roanoke.

This is a wider angle of the picture I posted on the previous entry.

The station was a Norfolk & Western passenger/freight station. Apparently it didn't change much for decades.

According to Bill, "The picture was taken in 1918, but I remember it as a kid and that is how I remember it too." 


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lithia, Virginia

The Naces lived in Lithia. This picture, taken during the 1960s, is the lot is where S. Frances and William Robert Nace had their home and raised their daughters Lucy, Blanche, Annie Pearl, Cora, Ossie, and Zora.

The Nace lot

I can remember visiting the house, which had been empty a long time, when I was little. That would have been more than 60 years ago. The picture below, also taken during the 1960s, is labeled on the back "Aunt Fannie's house at Lithia. I'm not sure who Aunt Fannie was or how she was kin.

Aunt Fannie's House

Lithia is a small town—and former train stop—in Botetourt County, halfway between Nace and Buchanan.

The red spot on the map below marks Lithia, which is just across the Blue Ridge Mountains from Bedford County, on this Google Earth map:

Lithia  received its name from the lithium in the local water. Apparently this mineral water was quite desirable. (Several Naces lived well into their 90s. Did the water they drank had something to do with it?) Here are some posters advertising lithia water—and extolling its virtues— from Buffalo Lithia Springs, which was in Mecklinburg County:

I don't know whether or not the water from Lithia, Virginia, was ever marketed. However, there was a nearby springs where folks came to take the waters and it did ship its water "to all parts of the Union." From the 1877 edition of  Appleton's Illustrated Hand-Book of America Summer Resorts, which you can download free from Google Books, There's this entry

This resort was located along the railroad. The ad continues:

Chataigne's 1888-89 Virginia Directory and Business Directory for Botetourt County, Virginia, contains information about Lithia. Lithia had a distillery (owned by W.S. Hershaw, a general merchant (R.C. Noftsinger & Co.), two corn and flour mills (C.F. Fringer, David Bower), a saw mill (David Bower), and a fruit and vegetable packer (E.J. McCullough). I remember my grandmother (Blanche) telling me that when she was young, she and her sisters worked at the "canning factory." I don't know if it was McCullough's factory or another in the county.

Among Lithia's principal farmers, the directory lists James Falls, P. Kessler, L.C. Lackland, George Kelly, John Fringer, Fulton Fringer, David Bow, E. J. McCulloch,  W.J. Noftsinger, Geo. De Long, W.A. Noftsinger. C.F. Fringer, John Nace, Robt. Goode, J.W. Parr, B. Kessler, J. T. Obenshain, W.H. Kessler, Charles Kessler, and S.S. Young.

I wish I knew more about Lithia.