A Ghostly Story and a Family Heirloom.


The prompt this week in “Heirloom” and I hope you will enjoy this true story.   It is a story handed down in my father’s family about his mother’s heirloom cameo brooch.  This story has been verified by a letter I was fated to find- a letter written to my dad in 1980.   His mom was Cammie Lyster Swanson Lyons whom I have wrote about in earlier blogs.  My dad, LaFon Lyons,  had two sisters, Coralie ( the youngest) and June (see last week’s blog).  They all play a part in this ghostly story of the missing cameo brooch!  Parts of the story were told to me by my Aunt Coralie and the rest of the story comes from a letter that Coralie wrote to my dad, LaFon, in June of 1980.  I think I was destined to find this long lost letter and now can bring the mystery of the cameo brooch to light as all who were involved have now passed.

mom and grandma lyons1956 001

My grandmother Cammie owned three cameo brooches.  One was given to her by her husband and was a family heirloom.  She always treasured it.  A second cameo was given to her by a friend who brought it back from a trip to Europe for her.  She used to work caring for these dear friends.  The third cameo was sent to Cammie by her son LaFon when he was stationed in Alaska in WWII.  They were all beautiful brooches and all were treasured.  One brooch, the family heirloom from her husband, Clarence,  was especially meaningful to her but one day it disappeared!  It was searched and searched for.  It was not to be found until 15 years later when Cammie was visiting her daughter June.  Cammie caught June polishing it!  June reluctantly did give it back to her mother with some dubious explanation!

cameo brooch 001(I never saw the cameo brooch but I imagine it looked like this!)

Cammie lived with her daughter Coralie and her family for years leading up to her death in 1964.  Several years before she died, Cammie wanted to be sure the cameos were passed down after she died according to her wishes.  She instructed Coralie to keep the heirloom cameo brooch for herself as Coralie had cared for her so many years.  Also to give the brooch from LaFon to LaFon’s wife, Elma and give the third brooch from her friends to her oldest son Bill’s wife, Marion Lyons.  Of course, Coralie promised she would carry out her wishes.  When Cammie passed, Coralie, in her grieve, mistakenly gave the heirloom cameo brooch to June but gave Elma and Marion the brooches designated for them.  June had asked for the brooch, most likely claiming a right to it as being the eldest daughter.   At that time, Coralie felt she was doing the right thing.  However, in June of 1980, she wrote a letter to LaFon about the brooch and doubts surfaced.

Coralie's letter 001

Before I discuss the letter, please understand that Coralie and my dad were very level-headed and practical people.  Just ordinary folks!  My grandmother did, however, believe in spirits and came from a family of “healers”, midwives and, perhaps as the rumors have it, gypsies!  But my dad and Coralie were not ones to believe in spirits or ghosts!  Also know that Coralie lived in lower Michigan and LaFon in Upper Michigan, about 650 miles apart.


Coralie at mom's house 001

Coralie’s own words from her letter of June 30, 1980 can tell the story best.  She wrote, “I have my doubts about giving the Cameo to June.  This is why.  Several months ago I was lying in bed, wide awake I thought, waiting for Wayne (her husband) to get home from a meeting in Port Huron.  I suddenly became very cold and uneasy and saw mom, just her face but she seemed to be trying to tell me something but I couldn’t make out what…I just dismissed it as a dream.  Now, again about 2 months ago I was awakened from sleep, felt cold and as if someone had shaken me awake and I had the impression that mom was there and telling me to get the cameo from June, that she meant for me to have it, not June.  I can’t put into words the experience I had and I thought I should just forget it and I was just getting flaky in my old age.  Well, now I am sure that there’s more to it than that.”

Coralie goes on,  “Two weeks ago, everyone was in bed and I …was sitting in the front room reading the newspaper when I had the feeling or something that the rocker across the room had moved, I was startled to say the least.  I put the paper down and of course the chair wasn’t moving, but I did hear mom’s voice as plain as could be in my head and she said, ‘Ask LaFon, he knows, he’ll help you!!’  For two weeks now, I’ve tried to dismiss it from my mind but there just seems to be an urgency about it.”  The rest of the letter asks LaFon for advice on whether she should ask June for the Cameo and how to do it and how LaFon could help.    Coralie sent this letter to my dad’s place of work, the Forest Service in Bessemer MI instead of sending it to his home.  Her reasoning was that if LaFon’s wife read it first, she may question Coralie’s sanity! (I am sure my mom wouldn’t have!)

Now the surprising thing is that LaFon also had two or three visions of his mother around the same time period unknown to Coralie!  He told me back then how his mother’s face appeared to him near our front door and she told him to get the cameo brooch from June and give it to Coralie!  Now, this was not something my dad would make up and he believed what he saw.  All this happened  before he got the letter from Coralie!  Knowing how much the heirloom meant to his mother, he was understandably upset that June had the brooch, not Coralie.  Coralie thought that if she asked June for the brooch, “June would have some excuse why she couldn’t give it back.  Anything from her right to it to it being lost again or missing or something.” (Quote from letter)

I want to think that Coralie got the brooch back and this story had a happy ending but unfortunately it doesn’t.  Coralie and LaFon did discuss the issue I know but were never able to recover the brooch from June.  Although June passed away before Coralie, it was never returned to Coralie and the heirloom cameo brooch’s whereabouts are still a mystery to this day.

dad and coralie 001LaFon and Coralie in about the 1950’s!

Sources for this blog are conversations with my Aunt Coralie and my dad plus the letter Coralie wrote to LaFon in 1980.  Copies of the letter can be shared with interested relatives!





A Valentine’s Day Aunt


This week’s prompt is “Valentine”  and I have chosen to write about my Aunt Dreama June Lyons Cranston Schultz who was born on Valentine’s Day.  We never called her Dreama – just Aunt June.  I have no idea where the name “Dreama” came from but a lot of people in my father’s family had unusual names!  Aunt June was my dad’s sister – he had 2 sisters (a third sister, Rosemary, died as an infant) and 2 brothers.  If you look back on earlier blogs, you will find more about the family.  I want to give you an introduction to Aunt June this week as she will be in the “heirloom and ghost story”  blog I plan for next week!

Aunt June 001

Aunt June was born in Lynchburg, Campbell County, Virginia on the 14th of February in 1922.  Her parents were Clarence Edward Lyons and Cammie Lyster (Swanson) Lyons.  At that time, the family was living at 602 Richmond Avenue in Lynchburg.  Her father, Clarence Lyons was a carpenter.  Dreama June was the first daughter in the family and had 3 older brothers, William Lilburn, Edwin McWayne, and LaFon Camlyn.  (See what I mean about unusual names!)

When June was about a year old, in 1923, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan.  The families of Clarence’s brother James and sister, Mary Ann moved with them, too.  Times were hard and they were seeking jobs in the auto industry in Detroit.    By 1930, the family was living in their home on St Aubins St. in the ninth ward of Detroit.  Clarence was working as a mechanic in Aeroplane Manufacturing.   Aunt June was 8 years old then.   Her sister Coralie Jean was born the next year in 1931.  Their father, Clarence died in 1939 of tuberculosis.  It must have been hard on the family as the boys had to quit school and work to help the family.  Aunt June was 17 at the time and still in high school.

I do know that Aunt June had mastoiditis as a child and lost her hearing.  She had to have several surgeries which restored part of her hearing and she wore hearing aids all the rest of her life.   My dad used to say that his mom spoiled June because she was so sickly as a child.   When she was 19, she married Francis Phillip Cranston.  Francis was 25 at the time and he was born in Ramsey, Minnesota, the son of Leroy Cranston and Helen DaPron.

In 1942, Aunt June and Francis had their first child, Phillip Domman Ralph Cranston.  Phillip had red hair and freckles and everyone just called him “Rusty”.  Phillip Cranston (Rusty) 1948 001   This is “Rusty” at about 6 years old in 1948.  Aunt June and Francis had another son, Jon Francis Cranston, in 1943 or 1944, that died prematurely.   I believe there was another child that died prematurely as it was mentioned in her obituary.

I know that Francis Cranston and Aunt June divorced but haven’t found the records yet.  Francis Cranston eventually moved to Sacramento, California and remarried to Alice Brewer Gardner in 1961.  Aunt June later married Ernest Wilber Schultz in 1957.  “Uncle Ernie” was born 26 November of 1924.  He was a World War II veteran and was a happy guy – always joking around.  He was the son of Ernest W Schultz and Dora J Sibbie.  They lived in Mount Clemens area mostly and also lived a few years in Upper Michigan near June’s brother LaFon.

In 1966, Aunt June’s son, Philip (Rusty), married Diana L Frohm in Clinton township and they had 5 children: Phillip Cranston Jr., John Robert-Kennedy Cranston, Clarence Edward-William Cranston, Dawn Cranston and Ernest Patrick-Wayne Cranston.  Philip died on May 30, 2015 at age 73.  He had worked for the Chrysler Corporation for over 27 years and was a member of the UAW.  He had 18 grandchildren.

Uncle Ernie died in 1988 in Mount Clemens, Michigan.   Eventually, Aunt June lived with her son’s family.  She worked as a dietician assistant at the former St. Joseph East hospital in Mount Clemens and later as a nurse’s aid at various nursing homes including Lakepointe Villa in Clinton township.  She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Mt. Clemens.  She also belonged to the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW.  Aunt June passed away on May 6, 2007 at the Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center at age 85.

I remember her quite well.   She was a petite woman with reddish hair and was always nice to us children.  You always had to talk louder to her but she was very soft-spoken.  At times, she did cause some upset in the family but that is for next weeks blog!  Stay tuned!

LaFon and June 001Aunt June and her brother, my dad, LaFon Lyons, taken in Bessemer Michigan in 1970’s.


1930 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, FHL 2,342,202.

Find A Grave Memorial for Dreama J. Schultz,  #19374355.

U. S. , Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, database on-line, Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

United States Public Records, 1970-2009, database, FamilySearch.org, Phillip D Cranston.

Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952, database on-line, Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2015.

U. S. Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, Ancestry.com.


Lt. Stephen Justephonicus K Smith

This week, I am taking you back to the 1700’s!  Our prompt this week is “favorite name.”  While I was researching another person, the name of Lt. Stephen Justephonicus K Smith came up and immediately attracted my attention!  Wow, what a name!  It really spiked my curiosity so I started researching.  I mean, who would name their child Justephonicus?  Sure, it is attention grabbing and it does have a nice ring to it.  Reminds me of a name that would go nicely in a silly children’s song.  When I looked into Lt. Stephen J K Smith, I found a lot more than just an unusual name and…a photo of him!

Stephen Justephonicus Smith photo 001 (2)

Lt. Stephen Justephonicus K Smith is actually my 6th Great-grandfather and was born about 1703 in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, Virginia Colony.  His parents were William Smith (1678-1739) and Elizabeth Downing.  Both parents were born in the Virginia Colony.  William’s father, Richard Smith was born in Yorkshire, England but immigrated to Virginia.  Elizabeth was at least a 3rd generation in the new Colony and both parents and grandparents were born in Virginia.  So Elizabeth and William Smith named Stephen Justephonicus K Smith, or did they?  Here is what I found out.

Stephen’s mother, Elizabeth Downing, was born 30 Dec 1670 in St. Stephen’s Parish, Northumberland, Virginia Colony.  I am thinking that she named her first son Stephen after the parish where she came from.    I found out that Stephen, as he grew up, used the name “Just Stephen” to distinguish himself from others with the very common surname of Smith.  This “Just Stephen” morphed into “Justephan-icus”  and must have become part of his name!  The new adopted version became Justephonicus.  After he served in the local militia, where he presumably became a lieutenant, he used the name Lt. Stephen Justephonicus K Smith.  Before this, he was “just”  Stephen Smith.  It is unknown what the “K” stands for in his name – another mystery for another time.

Stephen married Mary Polly Hawkins who was born in Spotsylvania Co., Virginia Colony, in 1708.  She was possibly the daughter of John Hawkins and Elizabeth Moseley but more research is needed on her parentage.  Stephen and Mary Polly were married in Orange Co., Virginia Colony in 1729 when Stephen was 25 years old and Mary was about 21.  They had six children between 1730 and 1750 including Charles, William, Grace (married a Mallory), James, Sarah and Stephen J K Smith, Jr.  Now I wonder if the photo above is Lt. Stephen or his son, named after him – you decide.  Either way, it is a photo of an ancestor I never had before!

I found a few records of Stephen in Orange County, the most notable of which were about his contributions to the War effort – the Revolutionary War.  Stephen was too old for fighting during the Revolutionary War but he did support the war with large amounts of beef and pork!  The procurement of adequate provisions and supplies was a continuing necessity for the Continental Army and militia forces alike.  It was necessary to impress or take property as needed for the war effort.  For items taken or impressed, local officials furnished owners with receipts or certificates as evidence to later file a claim at court for reimbursement or adjustment.  Stephen’s claims were found noted and found “just and reasonable”.  His claims included 225 lbs. of beef in Oct of 1781, 1925 lbs. of beef in Nov. of 1780, 116 lbs. of bacon in July of 1781 and, also, a gun, impressed for the Orange Militia and never returned.   Stephen must have been somewhat prosperous to be able to supply such large quantities of meat!

Stephen J K Smith made his will on 24 Feb 1781.  He was 80 years old when he died in Orange County, Virginia.  He had lived in the Parish of St. Thomas and  after 1770, he attended the Old Blue Run Baptist Church in Tibbstown, Virginia. (Pictured below)

Stephen had a son (or grandson, son of his son, Charles) also named after him.  This Stephen I K Smith, was listed on the Orange County Militia list of the 1777 in the Revolutionary War.  This Stephen Smith served under Col. James Madison, father of our third president, James Madison!  This Stephen was listed as a Corporal in the 4th Regiment of Virginia in June 1779.

Lt. Stephen and Mary Polly Smith’s son, Charles Smith, also served in the 6th Regiment of South Carolina in 1779-1780.  Charles Smith was a resident of Albemarle County in 1780 and the census at that time listed his possessions for tax levies.   His household had: 1 free male above 21, 10 slaves, 17 cattle, 6 horses, colts & mules, and no wheels for riding carriages.

Charles moved his family about 1786 to Surry County, North Carolina where he purchased land and built his family with his wife, Ann King Mallory.   In 1790 Charles is listed on the First Census of the United States.   Ann Smith died in 1803 and was buried in the Smith Family Cemetery.  By 1820, Charles owned 18 slaves (1820 U. S. Census, Surry NC).   Charles passed away 14 August of 1829 at the age of 99 years, a great age to attain in those times, and was buried in the Smith Family Cemetery, Mount Airy, Surry, North Carolina.  He had set aside land for the family cemetery in his will.

The Charles Smith Family Bible is still in existence and owned by Ms. Vernie Yankee, Lone Jack, MO.  The Bible lists family records of births and marriages of all the 10 children of Charles and Ann.  Charles Smith and one of his daughters, Dianah, are our ancestors.   Dianah married William Lyon in 1795.

Dianah and William’s daughter, Jane Mallory Lyon, married James Ransom Dudley and they were the parents of Mary Lavalett Dudley.

Mary Lavalett Dudley married Joseph Cloud Lyons and they were parents of George Edward Lyons who married Susanna Virginia Ashlin.

George Lyons and Susanna Ashlin were parents of Clarence Lyons.

Clarence Lyons married Cammie Swanson who were parents of LaFon Lyons, my father.

Following this lineage, makes my favorite name person, Lt. Stephen Justephonicus Smith, my 6th great-grandfather!  As an added bonus, I found some hints that Ann Mallory, wife of Charles Smith, may be a cousin to none other than George Washington.  It looks promising but records need to be verified!

Below is a picture of the Old Blue Run Baptist Church attended by Lt. Justphonicus K Smith after 1770.  Also a map of part of Surry County, North Carolina from the late 1700s or early 1800s showing properties held by various owners including Charles Smith.  Sources listed below also.

Blue Run Church today 001

Surry Co NC map Smith 001


Abingdon Parish Register, 1678-1761, Library of Virginia.

Headley, Robert K., Married Well and Often: Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800, Baltimore MD, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003, pp. 114,  325.

Patriots of the Upcountry: Orange Co., Virginia in the Revolution, by William H B Thomas; Orange County Bicentennial Commission, Orange, Virginia, 1976, pp. 91,104-5, 123-4.

http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center, James Madison Center site.

U. S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, database on-line, Provo UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations, 2007.

Charles Smith Bible Records, The Kansas City Genealogist, 1962, p. 9.

Orange County Wills and Administrations (1735-1800), pp. 82-3, 89.

Personal Property Tax Lists, 1782 (Virginia State Library), FHL 2024443, p. 10.

NARA microfilm pub. M637, 12 rolls, National Archives, Washington D.C.