This week’s prompt or #52 Ancestors is “Surprise.” I was researching in a new site that I found this week. Last week’s prompt was about libraries and I did some searching and found a new library resource that could be very helpful! It was the Jones Memorial Library in Lynchburg, Virginia. This library specializes in genealogy and local history of Virginia – mostly central Virginia. Since my father and his mother were both born in Lynchburg and many of my ancestors lived in the city and surrounding area of Lynchburg, I knew this would really be worth checking out! Some of the collections the Jones Memorial Library has includes, county histories and court records, family histories and genealogies, land and property tax records and census records. If your ancestry searches take you to Virginia, this is really worth checking out!
I found some surprising discoveries on this site and will write about a few.
My great- grandparents, William Domman Swanson and Cora Virginia Phillips Swanson, lived in Lynchburg City, Virginia as well as many other relatives.
My great-grandfather, William Swanson was a fireman employed by the City of Lynchburg from 1909 to 1926. (See blog “A Fireman’s Story: My great-grandfather”, posted January 2018, for his story A Fireman’s Story: My great-grandfather). I knew that he was killed in the line of duty on September 28, 1926. He lived about a block from the fire station and had a gong in his home that would go off when ever a fire alarm came in to the station. On this site, I actually found an article about how all the firemen had gongs in their homes when working for the City of Lynchburg in the early 1900s. William just had to jump into his gear and wait outside to catch the fire wagon as it passed his house.
On the night of the 28th of September, the gong sounded at supper time and William got on his gear and ran outside to await the fire truck. However, it was dark, rainy and the vehicle lights were blinding. He went into the street to wave down one of the fire trucks but, unusually, the fire chief’s car sped ahead of the fire wagon and didn’t see William and struck him. The force of the impact was evidenced by the fact that the radiator of the car was crushed in and one of the head lights knocked off. William was rushed to the Lynchburg Hospital in critical condition with a broken leg, broken ribs and internal injuries. He passed away about 5 hours later. This was a tragic story!
I found a map of Lynchburg in the 1920’s on the Jones Memorial Library site that shows the corner of Pearl Street and Main Street where my great-grandfather was hit. I also know he lived on 408 Pearl Street.
I also found a picture of the Lynchburg Firefighter’s Memorial Statue and Fountain that was dedicated to fallen firefighters. One of the names on the plaque is my great-grandfather, William D Swanson. This is definitely on my “want to visit” list!
This was an exciting find and more was to come. When researching surnames, I entered “Phillips” and it came up with a picture of a home in Lynchburg on Federal Street in the 1930s that belonged to O. S. Phillips. I knew right away that was the home of Oscar Stephen Phillips who married, Pearl Mae Swanson, the daughter of William D Swanson and Cora Virginia Phillips Swanson, my great-grandparents. Sure enough, after checking census records, I saw that Oscar and Pearl did indeed live at 56 Federal Street in Lynchburg at that time!
Actually, Cora Virginia Phillips was the daughter of another Oscar Phillips – Oscar Fitzallen Phillips, my 2nd great-grandfather. The two Oscars were cousins. When checking my family records, I discovered that Cora Phillips Swanson never remarried after William’s untimely death and she actually passed away in this house at 56 Federal Street on 26 April of 1945. She was living with her daughter and son-in-law at the time.
I discovered even more! Here is a picture of the Box Factory that my grandmother, Cammie L Swanson, daughter of William and Cora, worked in when she was 17 in 1910!
Some days researching genealogy are not always productive but sometimes you can hit a bonus — Thanks to Jones Memorial Library! I’ll be back!