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Showing posts from June, 2011

The Autobiography or Diary of Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson

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In honor of my maternal grandmother's birthday, the story of her early life in her own words:


I was born June 26, 1898 in a big one room log house. I was the youngest of seven, six boys all born in this house. It was in Clinton County, Ohio on a mud road called Mud Switch. It was a big event when I came along with six brothers and I stood a rough time. We built two other rooms later.

We had three acres of ground my father gardened for food. My mother canned a lot of vegetables and dried beans and corn. We all picked blackberries and grapes to can and make jam and jelly.

My father cut wood and cross ties for the B & O Railroad also fence rails. There was a woods across the road from where we lived where my father worked. It was owned by S. S. Puckett who had a [illegible].

I would go with my father in the woods to play. I would gather hickory nuts, hazel nuts, and acorns. My father would trim a big tree when he cut it. I would help him pile brush and he would cut a big limb for …

My Dad

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In addition to being Father's Day, today would have been my dad's 79th birthday.  Russell Lee Davis was born June 19, 1932 and died August 18, 2003.  This is an abridged version of the eulogy I delivered at my dad's funeral on August 20, 2003:

Many of you who knew my dad probably remember him as a quiet, shy man.  That was only his public persona.  I would like to share some of my family's memories of the real Lee Davis.

When we started talking about our memories of my dad, we discovered a common theme - fishing.  My dad loved to fish.  He would always get his fishing equipment together the night before a fishing trip.  He told us kids to keep our distance from him for fear that we would tangle his line or be stabbed by a fish hook.  How many times did we hear him say, "Don't step on any fish hooks!"

He also had his bait routines.  To make doughballs, he would spread newspaper on the kitchen floor and sit down with some Velveeta cheese and a box of Wheati…

Haven't I Heard This Story Before?

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Chancey Shaw was not a model citizen in his hometown of Ripley, Ohio. He liked his drink and had been arrested a couple of times for assault. Although he lived in a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity, his goal wasn’t to help escaped slaves on the road to freedom, but prevent them from doing so while padding his pockets a bit in the process. Chancey was a nephew of my fifth great-grandfather, Russell Shaw. Peter Shaw, Russell’s brother, was Chancey’s father. 
 The Ohio River was the dividing line between slave state of Kentucky and possible freedom in Ohio. In Ripley, on the bluff overlooking the river, was the home of Reverend John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister and outspoken abolitionist. His home was a landmark for escaping slaves, who looked for the lighted lantern the family left in a window. The Rankin family and some other Ripley residents would hide slaves in their homes, then transport them north to another stop on the Underground Railroad. The residents of Ripley wer…

A Portrait of Jennie

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I was searching through my ancestors’ names to get ideas for my blog and Jennie Ballein caught my eye. Now, Jennie Esther Ballein was my paternal grandmother, but the Jennie who captured my attention was her aunt. I haven’t done much research on Jennie Ballein, but I do know that she has a unique distinction in my family tree.

Jennie Ballein was born October 12, 1864 in Brown County, Ohio to Peter and Margaret Kincaid Ballein. At the time of her birth, Jennie’s father had just completed four months service in Company B of the 172nd Ohio Infantry during the Civil War.

Jennie grew up near Sardinia in Brown County, Ohio with her eight brothers and sisters. On September 7, 1887, she married John Rush Srofe of Green Township in Brown County. They had two children, a son, Clyde Leroy and a daughter, Berdetta. Jennie and John divorced sometime between 1910 and 1920 (obviously I need to do a little more research). John had remarried by 1921 and died in 1944.

Jennie, however, still had some liv…