BENJAMIN B. ARTHUR and POLLY ANN BURGESS

My paternal grandparents.

Benjamin was born in 1877 in Lawrence County, Ohio to John Riley ARTHUR and Amanda Jane GIBSON. He had two brothers, Joseph C., born 1880, and Luther A., born 1882. He married Polly Ann BURGESS on March 30, 1907 in Logan, West Virginia. Polly was born in 1888 in Logan, West Virginia to John BURGESS and Sarah E. WHITE. Ben and Polly had two sons, John Preston, born on Christmas day 1907 and my father, Luther Paul, born 1910. Polly died in April 1912 of consumption (TB). I believe that, based on some old postcards between Polly and her sister and aunt, she had been sick for probably about a year.

I have not been able to find Polly on any U.S. Census for 1910. Based on the postcards I have addressed to her, she was living in Ironton, Ohio in 1908, 1909 and possibly 1910. I have a Ben B. Arthur (unconfirmed as my grandfather, although all information of age and place of birth for him and parents is correct) living as a boarder on the 1910 census in McDowell County, West Virginia, over 3.5 hours away from Ironton, Ohio (by car per Mapquest today). I become skeptical about this being my Benjamin because I wonder why he would need to go so far away for work, especially since in 1910 she was expecting the birth of my father.

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur

John Preston and Luther Paul

John Preston and Luther Paul

The little fragments of memories of conversations I had with Dad about his family seems to indicate that after his mother died, the boys spent a lot of time with their grandparents. At that time, it would have been with his grandfather’s second wife, Mary Samantha KORN Arthur. Dad also always talked fondly of his step-aunt, Jennie, who married a Wyatte COPELAND but never spoke to me of his father, Benjamin. On one of his postcards from Yellowstone he refers to Jennie Arthur COPELAND as “Mom”. For years I had the impression that Benjamin had also died young like Polly while Dad was just a young boy. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Dad was 29 years old when his father died and they were living in the same town.

My mother’s youngest sister once told me she remembered Benjamin as being tall, thin and very nice looking. She said he was a very quiet man and always seemed to be well dressed. She said whenever she was around him she was more like in awe of him. I still hope someday to locate a photo of him.

WWI draft registration card pg 1Kind of an odd side note here. My notes indicate that sometime back in the 70’s my mother told me that my grandfather’s name was Benjamin Baxter Arthur. And that is how I’ve always researched him. I went back through all of my notes and hard copies (census records, obituary, marriage, etc.), and it seems he rarely, if ever, used his full name of Benjamin. I have found him as Benjamin B., Bennie B., Ben B., and B.B. but never with a middle name spelled out on anything. When I began new searches this month on Ancestry and FamilySearch I located a WWI draft registration card for him. On it he listed his name as Benjamin Burns Arthur. This gave me pause for thought because Burns is his mother’s maiden name, which is not unusual for the child to have as their middle name. Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone out there might have some information to share! You just never know!

The 1930 Ashland City Directory lists Benjamin as a carpenter living on Crooks Street with Mary ARTHUR, widow. I believe this would have been his stepmother, Mary Samantha KORN ARTHUR.

Then in 1933, the Ashland City Directory lists Benjamin as a carpenter, still living on Crooks Street, but now living with John ARTHUR (this would be his eldest son, a radio repairman), Mary ARTHUR (his stepmother, widow), and Paul ARTHUR (his youngest son [my father], bellboy at Ventura Hotel).

Benjamin died in Ashland, Boyd County, Kentucky in 1939.

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Luther A. Arthur wrote a letter to my father, Paul, in 1954. He is responding to a letter inquiry Dad made to him asking about the Arthur family. I wish I had a copy of his inquiry to Luther but wishing doesn’t make it so. Although a lot of the letter is information unrelated specifically to my grandparents, I still want to include it. I imagine in time I’ll be drawing more from this letter as I work on other members in the line.

The following is a transcription of the letter:

July 15, 1954

Mr. Paul Arthur
Hotel Jefferson
17 East Spring St.
Columbus 15, Ohio

Dear Nephew:

I certainly was glad to get your wonderful letter of July 11th  and the information it contained.

You did very well, even if it is a characteristic of the Arthur family not to write letters. I have noticed this myself. I do not mind writing since in a way I can use a typewriter, but if I had to do it in long hand it would (be) both difficult for me to write and for the one addressed to read it.

I will tell you all I know about the Arthur family and it is not much. I have a very hazy rememberance (sic) of your great-grandfather and mother on the Arthur/side. I do not recall her first name, but he went by the name of Press Arthur. Whether “Press” was a short way of pronouncing a longer name, or the real name, I do not know. He was a Baptist minister so I have been told. Her name was also Arthur before marriage, but it was said they were no relation.

Caleb and Willis Arthur, were my uncles. Your grandfather’s brothers. It seems that there was also a sister of my father’s who lived at one time in Unity Ky., but I am not clear on this, and it has been so long since I have back there that I don’t know what happened to her and her children. I do not know what happened to Caleb and Willis Arthur and cannot recall whether I saw them when I was back there in 1923 or not.

Your grandmother (my mother) was a Gibson. Daughter of Lewis Gibson, and I believe her mothers name was Ollie McCorkle. She was born on Leatherwook (sic) Creek (back of Ironton) Ohio. This great grandfather of yours died age 93 and is buried at Getaway Ohio. By his first and second wife he had 16 children. Two of them lived to be 93, but they are all dead now but Jesse B. Gibson, who lives some place in Florida.

This grandmother of yours had three boys. Your father, one they always called Joey (I suppose his name was Joseph) and myself. I do not recall ever seeing Joey. I do not know his age when he died and do not know where he was buried.

When I was less than a year old, your grandmother (my mother) died. I do not even have a picture of her, but those who knew her have always spoken very highly of her. I have been told your father resembled her more than Joey or myself.

When my mother died, I being the baby of the family, my father gave me to a childless aunt to raise.

After that I do not suppose I saw my father more than half a dozen times in my life.

There are a number of Arthurs left in Lawrence County Ohio. On Soliday Creek, which is near Southpoint Ohio.

Urania Neal, 627 South High St., Huntington, W. Va., is a daughter of Joe Arthur, and he was your grandfather’s cousin.

Bess W. Gibson, who lives at 1204(?) Charleston St. Huntington, is my cousin and your second cousin.

There is a tradition in the family that an Arthur was with General Washington when he crossed the Delaware, and our family has usually had a painting of this event in the family.

This is about all I can think of concerning our family and probably all I know.

Regarding your question:  “In your youth was there bad feelings in the family?” So far as I know, the answer is “no.” If there was it was even before my time and I havn’t (sic) heard of it.

It is true we did not visit each other very often, but that may have been due to the distance. While it would not be considered great with present means of transportation, in those days we had to walk.

I know your father and myself visited all branches of the family and seemed to be welcome everywhere. I do not recall my father visiting any of them, but remember again, that I did not see him more than half a dozen times in my life, so I do not know what he did.

I am glad to hear about your family and the news you gave me about the others.

My daughter lives in Long Beach which is about twenty minutes drive from here. She has two children and the newspaper clipping herewith will give her picture and also that of the oldest child. The other child is a boy. This daughter of mine, I gave her the best education money could buy and she can teach in any school in California, but she does not teach, preferring to take care of her family.

This is about all I can think of at this time, and again I thank you for your letter.

                                                                        Sincerely,

                                                                        LUTHER ARTHUR

P.O. Box 42
Huntington Beach, California

OVER … OVER … OVER

Near Chillicothe Ohio you will find the Logan Elm. There is a monument there and on this monument you will find the name of General John Gibson. It was at this place that peace was made with the Indians and the treaty was never borken (sic). The General was a relative of ours.

Luther’s letter has given me some more leads to pursue which is exciting. There is always more to learn about one’s family. The search is definitely a never-ending story! It’s not always easy but it’s definitely a roller coaster ride of adventure! Especially when you come upon a hidden treasure!

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Against the Odds – Big Love in a Small Town

Imogene Hatcher - blogMy mother. . .I asked her once how she and Dad met. She told me he picked her up one day in front of the drugstore. She then laughed coyly and I was never able to figure out if she was serious. I found it kind of hard to believe since she was always so prim and proper about things. It makes me laugh because knowing my Dad, it was probably true! That scoundrel! I suppose it is true what they say — opposites attract.

Oh, the stories Dad used to tell. He told how some of his best buddies were officers with the Ashland Police Department. I’m sure that was  probably a good thing for him. You just never know when you might need someone in authority! Just kidding (I think). I do imagine he was pretty rowdy in his youth. I had that impression not from things he would say but more from the things he didn’t or wouldn’t say. He grew up under entirely different circumstances than Mother. She came from a large well-to-do family and he came up from the streets. His mother died when he was 2 and he was cared for by relatives. I could never really get him to talk much about his family life so I have just tried to fill in the blanks. He grew into a very kind-hearted, honest and generous person so that’s all that matters to me. Luther Paul Arthur - blog

Mother and her twin sister became engaged about the same time. Dad had to deal with quite the meddling future in-laws. Mom and Pop put their collective feet down and ordered both girls to immediately break off their respective engagements. My aunt, bless her heart, did as she was told. The family talk was that she was so broken-hearted she never fell in love again. She never married. My Mother on the other hand, defied her parents and eloped.

Dad told a story of their wedding night. Well, part of it anyway. When they returned to town, he somehow learned that some of his cop buddies had found out about his marriage.  Their plan was to “arrest” him and make him spend his wedding night in jail. Somewhere along the way, he deposited Mom in a safe place and shortly thereafter a high-speed chase ensued for miles. His cop buddies were chasing him along those little Appalachian curvy, hilly roads determined to “arrest” him. He “let” them catch up to him at the hotel where he worked. He convinced his buddies that he would go along peacefully if they would have some celebratory drinks with him. He got them drunk, he got away, and Mom and Dad finally had their honeymoon!

But the drama didn’t end there. My grandparents (I’d say more my grandfather) were so against the marriage that they forced Mother to file for a divorce. Before the hearing, Dad and Mother were not allowed to see or speak to one another. But Dad was not done yet. It had taken him seven years to convince her to marry him (I think he had a lot of competition!) and he wasn’t just going to go away. He also had friends at the courthouse. Remember this was not a large town. He convinced (or maybe bribed?) someone to get him and Mom alone in a room for just 10 minutes. Well, when the Clerk called their names to appear, they were long gone. My grandparents gave up and never tried to interfere again. My parents were together for 52 years until Dad passed away.

I’m so glad it worked out for them. Especially since I wouldn’t be here otherwise. And I’ve got to be me –who else would I be?

Seeking Hidden Treasures — Beginning Your Genealogy and Family History Research

confusion_irritation_800_600I am by no means a professional genealogist. I have, though, been researching my own family lines off and on for years. The information I provide here is barely a drop in the bucket and is certainly nothing new to anyone already researching their genealogy. Below are a few ideas and suggestions to help you get started and/or continue your search.

Start with your parents if available. Put together a list of questions to ask. If you cannot do the interview in person, send them the questions and have them record their answers. That one gives you a two-fer! You’ll have some information on your family AND you’ll have a voice record of your parents to keep forever.

For example, there are the obvious questions to ask – when and where your parents and grandparents were born, names and dates of birth of parents and grandparents, the same information for their siblings, and dates of death, if applicable.

Then there are the more telling questions that give much more information. Some examples are:

a.         What was their childhood like?

b.         Where and how did my parents meet?

c.         What was their courtship like?

d.         What was their wedding day like?

Well, you get the idea. Come up with more questions that require more involved answers than a yes or no!

Expand your search to include other living relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Even interview your older siblings if they’re old enough to perhaps remember things for which you weren’t around or were too young to remember!

Once you’ve exhausted all of your relatives (in more ways than one), there is so much information available on the Internet and it’s increasing daily. When I first began researching my genealogy, there was no Internet. At least not one that was easily accessible by the general public. Everything was done by snail mail (remember those days?) or by phone. It was time consuming and could get expensive. Once the Internet became more commonplace and people began seeing and understanding its significance, it became much easier to research. Just a few of the websites that I have found extremely useful are listed below in no particular order or preference:

Cindi’s List. This is a great site to help you locate all kinds of genealogical sites. It’s very comprehensive and has been adding genealogical research sites to its listings for years. I found this website back in the late 90’s.

Family Search. This is a free site sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Church has the largest cache of genealogical information in the world and they continue gathering information from every corner of the globe. They have made it available to anyone whether a member of their faith or not. In fact, I was once told that their Family History Centers are used more by nonmembers!

Rootsweb.com. Rootsweb is now run by Ancestry.com but is the “free” portion of Ancestry. Hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals have uploaded their family trees. I got a lot of information in the beginning from this site and still continue to use it.

Ancestry.com. This is a paid subscription site that I have used in the past. I have found a lot of information here. Since I’m not a professional genealogist, their annual membership is a bit expensive for me. So, even though it’s overall a bit more expensive to sign up monthly, I’ll sign up for a month at a time maybe twice a year. If money is no object, then go for it!  In addition to thousands of family trees, there are a lot of pictures and documents that have been uploaded by individual users. I’ve broken through some brick walls on this site.

USGenWeb. This is free website that has been around for years. Its goal is to keep Internet genealogy free. You can search by state and county. I believe that most, if not all, of the information has been uploaded and is maintained by individuals working on their own genealogy and volunteers who help to maintain the various websites within the parent site.

This very brief list does not even begin to scratch the surface of genealogical websites. There are personal websites, blogs, Facebook sites, etc., that people have set up. The more you search the Internet, the more genealogical websites you will find.

Offline, don’t forget about your local public libraries. Most libraries have genealogy departments and staff who are available to assist you in your search. There are historical societies and genealogy societies for both regions and historical events.

A word of caution. Just because certain information or a family tree is listed on the Internet does not necessarily mean that it is accurate. Any and all information, and I do mean this most sincerely, should be verified through your own research and confirmation of information. I have found a lot of mistakes in other people’s submissions and I have found mistakes in submissions I have made in the beginning. After all, you do want your genealogy to be facts about real people not a work of fiction! But the information is constantly changing and expanding and it’s never dull. If you love the thrill of the hunt, then you will love genealogy.

After beginning and expanding on my research, I came to the conclusion that I would really like to learn anything and everything I can about my ancestors whose blood is coursing through my veins. I give them thanks for who I am (or not, depending!)

So don’t be afraid to just jump in with both feet. It’s fun, exciting, addicting, and you just never know who might turn up to be one of your relatives! They could be famous or infamous. But you’ll never know unless you look. I don’t know who to attribute this saying to but whoever said “The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree” obviously has done some family genealogy!

Good luck and happy hunting!