Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Family Medical History

I have recently been printing copies of Ohio death certificates from FamilySearch.org.   I already have many death certificates, but this time I am focusing on relatives from whom I am not directly descended (and, quite honestly, for whose death certificates I wouldn't pay).  My primary medical concern has been stroke, since there is a strong family history on my dad's side of the family.  As I read the death certificates, though, I noticed another pattern - death by train.

I have known for some time that my great-uncle, Lewis Jefferson Dudley, died after being hit by a train.  Uncle Lew was the second child of Jesse and Mary Shaper Dudley and the brother of my grandmother, Mary Dudley Donaldson.  Other than the cause of his death, we don't know much about Lew.  From the newspaper account, he must have been walking along the railroad tracks on the night of November 11, 1906 when he was hit by a train.  He sustained a deep wound in the back of his head and a leg was amputated below the knee.  His death has puzzled me for years.  This was a 25-year-old man walking along railroad tracks he had probably walked along many times.  Had he been drinking?  Was he sick?  Did he have an enemy?  Was he depressed?  We may never know.

William Henry Ballein, the eldest son of my great-great grandfather Peter Ballein and his first wife, Margaret Yochum, was born January 7, 1858.  He was was killed on January 15, 1926 when he was struck by a train in Winchester, Adams County, Ohio.  His skull had been fractured.  I'll have to do a little more research on this some day.

And then there is Dwight Wardlow.  Dwight was the son of my great-great grandparents, John and Lulu Dunn Wardlow.  Dwight was born November 15, 1888 and died at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday July 29, 1945 when he was struck by a train in Washington Township, Brown County, Ohio.  He sustained multiple injuries and, according to his death certificate, his "body showed effect of having been drinking liquor."  

The irony, of course, is that my dad, Russell Lee Davis, was a brakeman on the railroad for 35 years.  He sustained injuries and had a lot of close calls, but survived it in one piece (after his finger tip was reattached).  I wonder if my grandmother, Esther Ballein Davis, who had two uncles killed by trains, was uneasy when the B & O Railroad hired him.  All I know is that when I take my brisk walks to try to ward off the threat of stroke, I won't be walking around any railroad tracks.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Two Cent Piece

This afternoon I was looking through a notebook with some of my research notes and stopped on the page containing information on my great-grandfather, James Ulysses Davis.  A note from my conversations years ago with my dad, Russell Lee Davis, caught my eye.  My dad told me that his grandfather gave him an 1868 two cent piece.

My dad always kept a little maroon velvet drawstring bag with his coin collection.  He was mostly interested in silver dollars, but also had other assorted U S coins and a few foreign coins saved from his Air Force days in Europe.  He would occasionally take the bag out and show us his coins.  I hadn't seen the little drawstring bag in years and asked my family where the coins were.  We searched and located the coins and found the 1868 two cent piece.  As I compose this post, that two cent piece is on the desk in front of me.  It isn't in mint condition.  It isn't worth a fortune.  But it's quite meaningful to have this memento which was passed from a grandfather to his grandson.

James Ulysses Davis was born March 15, 1858 in Clark Township, Brown County, Ohio to Isaac and Lavinna Patton Davis.  He married Rosa Ogden on May 14, 1892.  They had five children, Lucy, Lawrence, Elsie, James Quincy (my grandfather), and Nelson.  He worked as a farmer and lived most of his life in or near Mt. Orab, Ohio.

My dad remembered his grandfather as a small man with a full mustache.  He chewed tobacco and had a spitoon by his rocking chair.  He used a cane and kept it nearby in case he needed to tap the floor to get attention.  My dad remembered one visit to his grandparents especially well.  My grandma was speaking to Rosa, who tended to speak loudly and laugh a lot.  James Ulysses was trying to speak to my grandpa, but grandpa couldn't hear him because Rosa was so loud.  James yelled to Rosa, "Woman!  Keep the noise down, would you?"  Perhaps this was why he needed to keep the cane nearby for tapping the floor.  James and Rosa Davis at pictured at right.

James Ulysses Davis died October 18, 1942 in Mt. Orab from "mitral insufficiency."  He is buried in the Warner Cemetery in Clark Township, Brown County, Ohio.  My dad remembered walking to the cemetery with his grandmother, Rosa, accompanying her on her visits.

I'll sign off for now.  I need to find a nice box for this two cent piece.