The Old Homestead

This weeks prompt is “the old homestead”.  I decided to share a picture of the home in which I grew up.  Just looking at an old picture of the house where I grew up makes the memories of childhood and a loving family life come flooding back!   My children would remember Grandma and Grampa’s house much differently than I.  By time they came around, the house was remodeled with large picture windows, a small enclosed front porch and a yard with mature trees – a very different house.  But this is the house I remember!


Our house and Family 50's 001
My parents, brother and I in front of our home on Woolsey Street, Bessemer MI, circa 1951.



My parents, LaFon Camlyn Lyons and Elma Marie Knihtila Lyons first purchased two lots on Woolsey Street in Bessemer, Michigan in the very early 1950’s.  After finding a house to buy – it was after World War II and houses were rather hard to find- they decided on this one.  This was a house already built by the mining company and for sale, but the only problem was that it was several miles away from their lot!  This was an area of iron ore mines and hills and valleys.  This house was on a lot at the top of a huge hill called Puritan Hill – no way it could be moved down that very steep hill.

My parents bought the house for about $1500 and had a basement built to fit on their lot.  They hired someone to move the house but the electric lines had to be raised to get the house out of its original lot.  They waited until another house was being moved near it and the lines were raised.  The house had to be hauled on all the back roads a very long way to avoid the big hill and this was a huge undertaking but it worked.  The house was settled on the foundation and we moved in.

I remember the downstairs was 3 rooms with a kitchen, dining room, living room and a pantry/washroom.  The windows in the dining and living room were tall as in the picture.  The floors had floral print linoleum.  My dad installed white metal cabinets in the kitchen for my mom and a counter.  Our kitchen table had a white porcelain top and shiny metal legs.  The front porch with painted railings was my play area and I loved it.  My dolls and I spent many, many hours there!   We had a back enclosed porch, too, off the kitchen.  Upstairs  were 2 bedrooms separated by a hall and a bathroom with a tub that had fancy feet.  The kids bedroom was later separated by a wall and closets down the middle making three bedrooms instead of two.

In the living room corner was a big oil heater at first and on the cold mornings, we would scurry downstairs to warm up by the heater.  It was a great place to dry snowy mittens and such, too!   Soon after, a coal furnace was installed in the basement to heat the house.  My brother and I would open the metal coal chute door in the back of the house outside and slide down into the coal bin despite warnings from my mom.  Years later, the furnace was converted to oil heat.

My dad planted trees all around the perimeter of the yard and they were so small, we could jump over them.  The street was a gravel road and when I fell off my scooter or bike, I would be picking small pebbles out of my knees!  There were no houses across the street from us as it was a big field with bushes in front of a woods.  Wild flowers grew everywhere there, mostly in spring, and I picked dozens and dozens for my mom.  We were three houses from the end of the location and a farm was nearby.  A long walk down the road at the end brought us to the Powdermill Creek where we fished and played.  Yes, there really was a powder mill on the creek at one time!

They were no shortage of kids to play with – a real neighborhood gang.  We didn’t have a television until I was about 10 or 11.  It seems we were always outside playing.  We played games in the yards like “Kick the Can” and many more.  Our school for first through sixth grade was down the street and had a huge school yard for playing baseball and other games.  In the winter, we skied and skated on the rink in the school yard.

Most of the dads worked in the iron ore mines in the area like my dad did in those early year.  It was a hard and dangerous job in the mines.    My parents were not rich financially but we never thought about it as everyone else in the neighborhood was in the same boat.  But we were rich in other ways – fresh air, good friends, and, most of all, a loving family.  It was a great place to grow up!

Yes, just seeing the picture brings back these and many more memories!  When we went back to Michigan a couple years ago, we went to revisit the house but it was gone – just a pile of rubble, bulldozed down by the city.  I couldn’t help but cry as it was so sad.  It had been sold when my parents had passed and the house wasn’t cared for.  The hard winters and frost caused the basement to cave in and collapsed the house as it sat empty without heat.  But in my memories, the house is still there and full of life and love.

A Soldier’s Story: Col. Waddy Thompson James


This week’s prompt is misfortune.  While we had many ancestors who experienced various misfortunes, I was a bit stumped on who to choose.  Then I saw the story sitting on top of my pile of papers waiting for more research of Col. Waddy Thompson James.  The name caught my eye as we have a few ancestors with this unusual name of Waddy.  After more research on this fellow, I found his story to be so worth sharing!

James, Waddy Thompson 001

Waddy Thompson James was the son of Catlett James and Elizabeth Thompson.  Catlett James was the brother of my third great-grandmother, Phoebe Byrd James.  To state the relationship more simply, Waddy would be my first cousin, 4 times removed.  I usually do not research every cousin, which would be a gargantuan task, but Waddy’s story gives insight into the era in which many of our ancestors lived.  Waddy was the grandson of Dr. Jennings Thompson and of Spencer James and a direct descendent of  the Braxtons of Virginia. (Carter Braxton signed the Declaration of Independence.)

Waddy was born on 12 August 1836 in Franklin County, Virginia.  His father, Catlett James, owned a very large farm in the Southwestern area of Franklin County and this is where Waddy grew up with six sisters and a brother, Bryant, who became a physician.  Waddy was lucky to be able to get an education and attend The Story Creek Academy.    Waddy married at about age 22 to Mary Jane Warren on 26 October of 1858.  They established a farm and  in 1860, according to the Federal Census, this was no small farm.  The real estate value of Waddy’s and Mary Jane’s farm was $4000 and their personal estate value was $6465.

Now this doesn’t sound like much today but looking at a good many of the neighbors in his area, the average real estate values ranged from $150 to $1500.  So Waddy indeed had one of the largest farms – only 2 others were slightly more valuable than his out of about 50 households.  His father, Catlett James, also had a value of $4000 for real estate and $12,405 for personal estate.  Now this was just before the Civil War and the value of the slaves was counted in the personal estate.   After the war, Waddy’s personal estate dropped to $1200 but his farm real estate was valued more than in 1860 coming in at $5000.

When the Civil War started, Waddy organized Company B of the 57th Infantry called the Franklin Sharpshooters and made up of men from Franklin County, Virginia.   He enlisted June 15 1861 at Young’s Store and was made first a Captain, then a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Confederate Army.   During the War, he served with the CSA 57th Virginia Volunteers  and commanded the Regiment in the absence of Col. Elisaha Keen of Pittsylvania County.  About a year later, Waddy was injured in the Battle of Malvern Hill in July of 1862.

The report of Lieut. Col. Waddy T. James on the battle of Malvern Hill was found in the Civil War Records of Franklin County as documented in the sources below.  I was lucky to find a report written in his own words!

July 14, 1862

“Our regiment was drawn up in line of battle along a string of fence about 9 o’clock on the morning of July 1 near the battle-field of this memorable day.  We were ordered to lie down to prevent being so much exposed to the shell of the enemy, that was flying over our heads in every direction all the time we remained in the position.  Four men were slightly wounded during this part of the engagement.  The left company…was posted beyond a small swamp from the balance of the regiment and were compelled to move lower down during the evening to get out of range of the shell, which at this time began to fall pretty thick and uncomfortably near.

At or about 6 p.m. orders passed down the line for our regiment to charge the enemy’s batteries, when the whole line were on their feet and started off with a defiant shout and at a run through a pine thicket, which had been literally torn to pieces by the artillery of the enemy and in direct range of their guns.  Here we confidently expected to begin an engagement, but found the enemy still a long way off and posted in a very advantageous position but on we sped, nothing daunted, and under partial cover of a hill, but really exposed to a galling fire, we were brought to a halt and formed, when our commanding colonel, E.R. Keen, gave the word to charge. ” 

The report goes on to describe their charge which did experience some success but one Captain had his arm nearly shot off and another Captain was instantly killed, which caused great confusion and orders were given to fall back.  A second charged yielded partial success but the odds were too great against them.  Waddy was also injured in this battle.  According to his pension application, his injuries were caused by concussion of a shell, leaving his left arm damaged.  He was unable to do manual labor after this and qualified for a pension due to his disability in 1903.


James, Waddy Thompson, Malvern Hill 001
Print of the Battle of Malvern Hill, Harper’s Weekly, July 26,1862


On July 23 of 1862, Waddy’s injuries forced him to offer his resignation.  In his own words, “I have the honor to tender my resignation as Lieut. Colonel of 57th Virginia Volunteers on account of physical imbecility; and because of the deplorable situation of my family and affairs generally at home.  My father is aged–weak and almost an invalid–rapidly declining–and is now unable to attend to business, so that I feel called upon being the only son — to return to his assistance.  Besides my family is wholly unprotected and in a lamentable state of health.  And apart from this–it is my firm conviction that I will not be able to discharge the duties (can’t read) upon me as Lieut. Colonel for a long time.  And believing that it will be promoting the interest of the Southern Cause I most respectfully ask that my resignation may be received.”

By 1870, after the war, he was living in Brown Hill, Franklin County, Virginia on his large farm and had some hired help.  In 1880, Waddy and his wife were still on the farm and managing with help from servants and farm laborers.  Waddy was about 44 years old.  He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1878 and served in the Virginia Senate from 1879 to 1882 as the representative from Franklin County.  He was the Senator from his district for January 1874-1875 and again 1877-1878.  He also belonged to various military organizations in the years after the Civil War.

Mary Jane, his wife, died in 1889 and by 1900, Waddy lived with his sister, Mrs. Phebe Wall and her husband William Wall in Auburn, Montgomery County VA.  By 1910, he was living with a niece and family, Thomas and Tillie Carter, in the town of Bassett, Virginia and Waddy was listed as age 73, a boarder and having his “own income”.   The picture below of Waddy  states he was wounded at Seven Pines (Battle of Malvern Hill) and that he was once the official Inspector of legal stills in Franklin County – an unusual job!  The picture was taken about 1880 or 1890 (hard to read).

James, Waddy Thompson, Still inspector 001

Now comes the misfortune.  Here was a distinguished Confederate soldier who lived through the War, served his country in the political arena, and managed his farm despite his war injuries.  And how did he die?  Very ironically, he was killed by a train on May 13, 1926 in Bassett, Virginia at age 89!

A newspaper, The Henry Bulletin, carried his obituary which was four columns long.  “Funeral Services was held at the James Cemetery, six miles north-west of Henry (Franklin County), on a Sunday afternoon.  A large crowd of relatives and friends were present at the memorial exercises which were conducted by his pastor, Rev. G F. Poteat, pastor of the Henry Baptist Church.  The active pall bearers were six of his great -nephews…Although Col. James had no children, he left a number of nephews and nieces, descendants of his brothers and sisters…”  There were also 17 honorary pall bearers consisting of friends, family and fellow veterans.

So ends the story of Colonel Waddy Thompson James, an admirable man!

James, Waddy Thompson  4X cousin 001.jpg


Portrait from Wall Dairy Farm, Blacksburg VA.  Taken by Lesli Wall, 2006, Waddy Thompson James.

Cemetery Records of Franklin County, Virginia (1986), p. 367.

The Henry Bulletin, Fri., May 21, 1926, p. 4, cols. 1-4.

Civil War Records of Franklin County, Virginia, 1861-1865, First Edition, Transcribed by Beverly Merritt, July 6, 2007, p. 20, p. 191.

Find A Grave,, Memorial 59763185, citing James Cemetery, Henry, Franklin County, Virginia, USA, Col. Waddy Thompson James.

Google Images, Battle of Malvern Hill, Harper’s Weekly, July 26, 1862.

United States Federal Census records for Waddy Thompson James, 1850,1860,1870,1880, 1900, 1910;

Virginia, Compiled Marriages for Select Counties, 1851-1929, database on-line, Provo UT, 2000.




Lucky to Survive in Jamestown!

This weeks prompt is “Lucky”.  I recently went off on a research tangent and traced a line of my ancestors back to Jamestown – Yes! THE Jamestown of 1607!   It was quite a surprise!   After finding information on their trials and tribulations, I concluded that it was amazingly lucky that these ancestors even survived!    Something of a sacrifice was involved in the founding of Jamestown indicated by the fact that out of 14,000 emigrants sent over from 1607-1622, only 911 were alive at the end of 1622!  There was a great Indian rebellion and massacre in 1622.  That means that over 13,000 people died of starvation, disease, accidents, Indian attacks and other causes in this 15 year period!  The odds of staying alive was slim.  If you did, you were extremely lucky!

Jamestown 1607 fort 001

My ancestor, William Spencer and his wife, Alice Lightfoot, arrived in Jamestown in 1611, just four years after the founding of Jamestown on the ship SARAH.  They are my 10th great-grandparents.  William Spencer was born circa 1590 in Mullberry Island, England or in London.  He is said to be the son of Robert Spencer and Rose Cokayne of Cople Parish, Bedfordsire, England.  He married Alice about 1608 and they journeyed with their young daughter, also named Alice, in 1611 to be among the early settlers of Jamestown.  Just making the voyage across the Atlantic at that time was perilous but luckily, they survived the journey.  Also lucky was the fact that they came after 1609-10 which is designated “the starving time” in Jamestown when the settlement was on the verge of abandonment and out of 500 original people, only 60 -90 had survived.

I found that some sources confused my ancestor, William Spencer, with William Spence (note: no “r” in last name)  who came in 1607 on the SUSAN CONSTANT, the first immigrant supply.  That William Spence was a member of the first house of Burgess in 1619 but he and his wife went missing during the second Powhatan War of 1622 and were presumed dead, killed in the Indian massacre.  Our William Spencer was listed as a Burgess in 1624 and again in 1632-33, after the death of William Spence.   (A Burgess is an elected representative to the legislature which governed with the governor and his council.)

The history of Jamestown is well documented which was quite helpful in researching William Spencer.  He may not have come on the first supply but our William is on the list of approved “Ancient Planters”  This term “Ancient Planter”  is applied to those persons who arrived in Virginia before 1616, remained for a period of 3 or more years, and paid their passage.  They received the first patents of land in the new world.  There is actually an “Order of Descendants of Ancient Planters” which is an incorporated non-profit society founded in 1991 to honor and perpetuate the memory of these Ancient Planters, to promote historical and genealogical research, to inspire patriotism and enhance fellowship.  Their web site is   Wow, who knew!

Finding  quotes about my ancestor from Captain John Smith and John Rolfe was a bonus! Captain John Smith, in referring to the men allotted farms for raising of corn in 1614, said, “From all those farmers whereof the first was William Spencer, an honest, valiant and industrious man, from those is expected such a contribution to the store as we shall neither want for ourselves nor entertain our supplies.”   John Rolfe is quoted as saying, “William Spencer and Thomas Barrett a sergeant, with some others of the Ancient Planters being set free were the first farmers that went forth; and have chosen places to their content; so that knowing their own land they strive who should exceed in building and planting.”

The next information of William and his family was from the “muster of 24 January, 1624-5.”  William, Alice and daughter, Alice, are living in James Island (Jamestown), “the family being well supplied, having ten barrels of corn, 200 fish and for their protection, ammunition consisting of  four pounds of powder, eight pounds of shot and three ‘pieces’ (firearms), along with twelve swine, three goats and two kids.  They also had two dwelling houses and one boat.”    It seems they were doing quite well for themselves.

By researching records of land grants, I found more information on William.  In August of that year, 1624, William, “yeoman and ancient planter” received a grant of 12 acres on Jamestown Island.  He paid a fee or rent of three pence, due yearly, at the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel for this land grant.  In 1629, the General Court granted William permission to take up 400 acres “in any place not already taken up.”  He chose the south side of the James River and  later patented 250 more acres on Lawnes Creek in the same area in 1632.

In 1635, he patented 1100  acres on Lawnes Creek and Hog Island and sponsored the transportation of 22 indentured servants.   Indentured servants would work for the person who paid their fare from England and provided room and board.  After a set number of years, usually 7 or 10, they would have paid their debt through labor and be freed to establish their own homesteads.  Because William could pay the passage for 22 persons, he must have been well off that time.    In 1637, he patented another 550 acres and 1350 acres on Lawnes Creek.

William and Alice had two more daughters, Elizabeth and Anne.  Their daughter Alice died young in Jamestown.  Daughter Anne married William Cockerham and Elizabeth married Robert Sheppard.  Major Robert Sheppard and Elizabeth Spencer are my direct ancestors eventually leading to the Ashlin line of our family history.  William’s wife, Alice Lightfoot Spencer, died in Jamestown in about 1623.  William died on February 10, 1637/38 as evidenced by a recorded indenture involving land in Hog Island, noting that the land was granted to the late William Spencer and added his death date.  Despite all the perils and adversity, William Spencer and Alice survived and thus started our Spencer/ Sheppard/Ashlin/Lyons lineage in Virginia.  Now that was lucky!


Jamestown 1611 001
Jamestown in 1611 when William Spencer arrived.




The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 3, No. 3, Jan. 1896, pp 275-6.


Adventurers of Purse and Person, VA 1607-1624, p. 5 & p. 25

Virginia Patent Book #1, pp. 9, 120, 521.

Boddie, John Bennett, Colonial Surry, p. 48.

Early Virginia Families Along the James River, Vol. 2, Genealogical Publishing Co., Apr 1, 2009.

Hotten, List of Emigrants to America, pp. 173-178; Digital Book on-line at







Portrait of a Strong Woman

This weeks prompt is “strong woman” and in my research, I have found many women that fit that description!  These were ancestors who married in their teens, worked farms, had many children- usually a child every year or two- nursed the sick, took care of their elderly parents, watched children die from diseases and sickness and took care of their families all without any modern conveniences!  How I admire them all!  It was so hard to pick just one but I chose my third great-grandmother, Susannah J Porter James.   Just looking at her picture, which I was so very fortunate to find, I see a softness in her eyes but detect an air of stubborn determination about her.  Although she is elderly in the picture, she does not look frail or weak, but looks strong and confident.

Porter, Susannah J. , James James

Susannah J Porter was my third great- grandmother being the mother of Mary Ann James who married Columbus Ashlin.  Mary Ann and Columbus were the parents of Susan Virginia Ashlin , who married George Lyons, my father’s paternal grandparents.   Susannah J Porter was born the 14th of May in 1820 in Smyth County, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She was the daughter of William Porter (1778-1867) and Mary Polly Thomas (1801-1894).  There were a lot of Porters in Virginia at this time, originating from Ireland and England.  The Thomas ancestry can be traced back to early settlers of America and Virginia, a long and interesting lineage for future research.  Mary Polly was 18 when Susannah was born.   She lived to about 93 which was quite unusual for that era – another strong woman!

Susannah married Thompson B James on September 20, 1836 when she was just 16 years old.  Thompson was 23 at the time of marriage, being born in 1813.  He was the son of Ezekial James (1777-1838) and Frances Baker James (1791-1834).  His mother died before his marriage and his father, Ezekial, died 2 years after the marriage.    By 1840, Thompson and Susannah James were living in Smyth County, Virginia, in the same community as her parents.  They already had 2 daughters, Mary Ann James (my 2nd great-grandmother) and Frances Elizabeth James, born in 1838 and 1840.  So by the time Susannah was 20, she had 2 children already.

The next Census in 1850 lists the family still living in Smyth County and they have 3 more children!  William Porter James is 8, Louisa Freedom James is 5 and James Andrew James is 2.  The older girls are 10 and 12 years old.  Susannah was also pregnant when the census was taken as another son, Oscar Legrand James was born in November of 1850.

They lived on a farm that was valued at $1500.  That would be about $42,000 in today’s money.  It was not as high a value as many of their neighbors on the Census so I am guessing that the farm was smaller and they may have been struggling at times to make ends meet.  The Slave Schedule for 1850 showed that Thompson James owned three slaves which included a female aged 21, a male aged 18 and a male child aged 4.   On the large farm, many slaves were listed.

In 1845, 4 years later, another daughter was born, America Adaline James on October 30.  But the child died on February 17 of 1849 at about three and a half years old!  Cause of death is not known but it must have been heart breaking to bury a child.  Sadly, it happened far too often in those days.

Their last of eight children, Susannah Columbia James, was born on January 2 of 1853. But tragedy struck that year when Thompson died on December 24th, Christmas Eve!  He died of “consumption” which was the term used for tuberculosis in those days- a slow, painful death.  Thompson was only 40 years old and they were married for 17 years.  Susannah was left with seven children to raise on her own and a farm to work.  The youngest was only 1 year old and the rest were 3, 5, 9, 11.  The older girls, Mary Ann and Frances, I am sure were a big help but Mary Ann would marry 2 years later and Frances would marry in 1860.

By September of 1854, Susannah and her children faced more tragedy when the youngest child,  Susannah Columbia, died on September 3rd, just about 8 months after losing her husband and their father.  Another child was buried.

The 1860  Census lists Susannah as the head of the household and working the farm.  She is now 40 years old and has 4 children left at home ranging from age 9 to age 20.  The real estate value of her farm has increased to $2000 which is about $52,500 today.  Still a small farm, not rich but perhaps more comfortable financially.

On January 1, 1862, after raising children and working the farm by herself for about eight years, Susannah decided to remarry.  She marries a widower, William M James.  There were a lot of James families living in Smyth County, Virginia and it  is not known if this William was related to her first husband, Thompson James.  They did have different fathers but may have been cousins.  Susannah was 42 and William James was about 40 when they married.  William’s first wife, Elizabeth Halladay, died in 1860 and they had 3 children.  The youngest child of William’s was about 7 and one was about 11 so Susannah had more children to care for as well as three of her own.

It was the middle of the Civil War and lives were changing drastically for everyone in Virginia and the rest of the country.  Susannah’s son, William Porter James was serving in Co. A, 8th Virginia Cavalry for the Confederacy.  This had to have been another big worry for her to have a son gone to war.  Thankfully, her son survived the war and a prisoner camp.  He enlisted at 19 and became a Sargent.

By 1870, Susannah’s life of struggle seemed to settle down a bit as she and William lived on a small farm.  William was listed as a farmer at about age 50 and Susannah is keeping house.  They did have 2 black children living with them that they were caring for.  One was Leander Morrison, age 4 and one was Sarah A Morrison, age 7.  By 1880, Leander is 13 and working for them as a servant.  I like to think that Susannah’s later years were spent more peacefully and comfortably.

Susannah passed away  at age 78 in Cedar Springs, Smyth County, Virginia.  She was buried in the Blue Springs Methodist Church Cemetery in Smyth County.  Her husband, William died in March of 1900 at about age 79 and was also buried in the same cemetery.

I think her story speaks for itself of her strength and perseverance.  She was, in my eyes, a remarkable lady!  The Obituary of her son, William Porter James, tells how William “was a man who lived by the Golden Rule and won the friendship of hundreds…who regret his departure from this life.”  This tells me Susannah was a good mother who imparted good ideals in her children and raised them to be good citizens despite the hardships she and her family had to face.

James, Thompson & Susannah tree 001

James, Wm M, 2nd Husb. of Susannah Porter, grave 001


William Porter and Mary Margaret James and family
The William Porter James Family (son of Susannah Porter James.   William Porter James, Mary James, his wife.  Back row, Jid James, Bob James, Mike James, Tom James       Front: Sally James, Mary Almira Elizabeth “Lizzie” James Boyer, Braxton James, Crocket James and William E James.


William P and Mary M James (1)
William Porter James and Mary Margaret Pafford James


William P and Mary M James, and daughter Sally and Zed Sessler
William Porter James, Mary Pafford James, daughter Sally and Zed Sessler





Sources:  (Full documentation available upon request)

Trimble, David B, Montgomery and James of Southwest Virginia, Austin, Texas, 1992, pp.20-23.

Vogt, John and Kethley, T. William Jr., Smyth County Marriages, 1832-1850, Iberian Press Publishing, Athens, Georgia, 1984, p. 27.

FHL microfilms: 33,991; 2,048,585.

Find A Grave Memorials, database and, (Various memorials)

United States Federal Census, 1840,1850,1860,1870,1880, for Smyth County, Virginia.


William German and Willie Anna Ashlin


This week’s prompt is about “Where there’s a will”.  I have chosen to write about 2 people whose names start with “Will”.   This is about my second great-uncle and second great aunt.  I found the stories of their lives interesting and their children’s lives to be eye-opening with a story of incarceration and a story of murder!  Read on!

Wm German & Willie A Ashlin grave stone 001

William German Ashlin was the son and third child of Columbus Ashlin and Mary Ann James, my second great-grandparents whom I have wrote about in earlier blogs.  He was also a brother to Susanna Virginia Ashlin, my great-grandmother.  Susanna married George Edward Lyons and William married Willie Anna Lyons, George’s sister.   A bit confusing, but a brother and sister of the Ashlin family married a brother and sister of the Lyons family.   Willie Anna Lyons was my second great-aunt through bloodline and became my second great-aunt again through marriage!

Willie Anna and George Lyons were children of Joseph Cloud Lyons of Stokes County, North Carolina and Mary Lavallet Dudley of the Virginia Dudley line.  Joseph Cloud Lyons was a Civil War veteran of the Confederacy.  William German Ashlin was named after his uncle, Columbus’ brother, German Baker Ashlin, who was also a veteran Confederate soldier.  There are some stories of their lives to be shared another time.

William was born on 13th of March in 1862 in Smyth County, Virginia.   He was one of 11 known children.   Willie Anna was born the first of February in 1868 in Rural Retreat, Wythe County, Virginia and also came from a large family of 14 children.

William German Ashlin and Willie Anna Lyons were married in 1885 when William was 23 and Willie was 17 in Smyth County, Virginia.  In their marriage, they reared 11 children.  They were farmers in the Sugar Grove, Smyth County area near the Blue Ridge Mountains and, at one time, they had a farm on Mountain Road in St. Clair.  After 1940, they moved the family to Bluefield in Mercer County, West Virginia where they bought another farm.  I was pleased to find a newspaper clipping of their 50th wedding celebration at  As the clipping is hard to read, I transcribed it below.


Relatives from Bluefield (Mercer county, West Virginia) and vicinity attended the golden wedding anniversary Monday of Mr. and Mrs. William G Ashlin, which took place at the country home of Mr. and Mrs. Ashlin in Sugar Grove, Smythe county, Virginia.  Mr. and Mrs. Ashlin are the parents of Mrs. H. V. Gilliam, of Jenkins.  The Ashlin’s are prominent people, with a large family connection.

They have lived in Sugar Grove since their marriage a half century ago, reared eleven children and have several grandchildren, all of whom were present for the anniversary. Mrs. Ashlin before her marriage was Miss Willie Lyons.  She is a sister of T. H. Lyons (Thomas Houston Lyons), of Bluefield, well-known locomotive engineer on the Norfolk and Western.

A feature of the affair was the exhibit of a number of family relics that have been in the Ashlin family for many years.  An ancient clock , an old violin, two law books more than one hundred years old, and a patent for the land they own, in parchment, were shown.  They also own a pair of scales used in weighing money long before the present agitation of the currency was dreamed.  The scales were made in England and were given Mr. Ashlin by his great-grandmother years ago.    A great feast was served the guests at the wedding anniversary and all present enjoyed the event very much.

The mention of the relics is quite interesting.  It makes one wonder what happened to them!  I did read of  Ashlin Family Bible that was quite old and its whereabouts are also a mystery!  Willie Anna died of carcinoma on 26 September 1945 at age 77 and William died of congestive heart failure the next year, 9 December 1946, at age 84.  They were survived by 50 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren!  My grandfather, Clarence Lyons was a pallbearer at William’s funeral. William and Willie are buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Bluefield, West Virginia.

Now some of the research on their children – a few surprises for sure!

  1. Floyd Campbell Ashlin was born 8 Jan 1886 and died in 1962.  He married Lelia Belle McLain in Tennessee in 1915 and had 2 daughters.  In 1930, he was incarcerated in the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville City, WV.  I believe it was for armed robbery but I need to research more.  By 1940, he was out and working in road construction.  He had a 6th grade education  and Lelia had no schooling (not unusual at this period in time).  Around 1946, he lived in Princeton, Virginia.


2. Olive “Ollie” Marie Ashlin was born 10 May 1888 and died in Feb 1980 in Bluefield WV.  Ollie was married 3 times.  Her first husband in 1901, Elmer Snyder, died young and she had one son with him and then she married Harvey Vernon Gilliam in 1919 and had several children.  Lastly, she married James Thompson Ashbury in 1950.  She lived most of her life in Sugar Grove, Virginia.


Ollie Mae Ashlin Gilliam and Harvey V Gilliam
Olive Mae Ashlin Gilliam and Harvey Vernon Gilliam


3. Garland D Ashlin was born 19 Dec 1890 and died 10 Aug 1944 at age 53 of pulmonary tuberculosis in Marion, Smyth, Virginia.  He was a coal miner and married Florence Sexton Brooks.

Garland Ashlin 001

4. Lewis Evert (Everette) Ashlin was born 15 Feb 1893 and was a veteran of WWI.  He went to electrical school and worked as an electrician in a coal mine  He married Celia E Byrd in 1920 in Mercer Co. WV.  Lewis died in 1946 of pulmonary tuberculosis also and was buried in the Round Mountain Baptist Church Cemetery in Hays, North Carolina. Seems to be a plausible connection with coal mining and tuberculosis!

5. Bessie Lane Ashlin was born 16 Nov 1894 and died in 1946.  She was married to Worth Carrico and had 2 or 3 children.

6. Cora Annis Ashlin was born 21 Mar 1897 and died 19 May 1971 of heart disease in Richmond, Virginia.  She had married Adam Leontuk in Mercer WV and had four children.

7. Beryl Dewey Ashlin was born 9 May 1900.  He went by “Dewey” and married Margaret Lee Grogan and had 8 children.  Dewey died at age 47 in 1947 from “Cerebral laceration and hemorrhage due to gunshot wound.”  (Certificate of Death)   He lived in Yards, Virginia and was found dead in his own taxicab at Coopers, West Virginia in what officers termed the result of a triangle love affair.  His car was found in a hollow about 100 yards of the main highway and he had been shot through the head by a German Luger pistol, which with the empty cartridge, was found in the taxicab. The bullet entered his head and exited through the left forehead.  There are several newspaper articles on the death.  Basically, Dewey was on his way to buy out his brother Gilbert’s share in the taxicab business they owned jointly.  Dewey also had his own taxicab business operating out of Pocahontas, Virginia.  Evidently he stopped at a girl’s house to ask her for a date but she refused and told him to go back to his wife and children.  She said she then heard a gunshot when walking back to her house.  However, the girl, Gladys Carter, 19, a coal miners daughter, was later held on a murder charge for the fatal shooting of Dewey.  The outcome of the arrest or conviction has not yet been found.

8.  Walter Houston Ashlin was born 16 Aug 1901 and died 15 Sep 1988 in Mountain Grove, Wright, Missouri.  He moved to Missouri after 1946.

9. John Marvin Ashlin was born in 1904 and married Katherine Irvin.  They had 3 children and in 1930, he worked as a fireman on a steam railroad.  He lived in Yards, Virginia.

10. Samuel Theodore “Teddy” Ashlin was born 16 Sep 1907 and around 1946, he lived in Rockford, Illinois.  He died 1976 in Ely City, Pine Nevada.  He married Ruth Rainey.

11. William Gilbert Ashlin was born on 1 Apr 1910 and died 02 Jul 1980 in Mountain Grove, Wright, Missouri.  He married Lorraine Josephine Sauer.   He was just called Gilbert or Bert and was the one who owned the taxicab company with his brother Dewey.  He must had later moved to Missouri near his brother Walter.

Willie Anna Lyons Ashlin Death Cert 001.jpg

William German Ashlin death cert 001.jpg


Death Certificates above

Obituary from “The Bluefield Daily Telegraph,” Bluefield, West Virginia,  William German Ashlin, December 10, 1946,  p. 2.

“The Bluefield Daily Telegraph”, Bluefield WV, March 3, 1935, p. 4. (Anniversary Story)

“The Bluefield Daily Telegraph,” Bluefield WV, December 4, 1947, p. 1  & December 12, 1947, p. 12 (Death of Dewey Ashlin)

Hockett, Thomas Jack & Hunt, Shelia Steele, 1851-1891 Marriages and 1860 Census, Smyth County, Virginia, Pub. Hockett & Hunt, 1999, p. 6.

FHL microfilms 2,046,967, 1,983,938 and 33,991

Find a Grave Index and West Virginia Death index, database on-line,