Category Archives: Vintage

Death on the OHIO RIVER

If you are like me, when I think of steamboats I imagine slowly going down  the Ohio or Mississippi River listening to Mark Twain read to me from his classic book Tom Sawyer.  After all, Tom Sawyer was an adventurer and being on a steamboat fills my mind of  adventure.  As I am stepping out on the wide deck outside,  I smell  and hear the sounds of the water around me.  Seeing the riverbank while looking at  all the beautiful  trees growing along the shore mesmerizes me as well as the thick riverfront vegetation.

Jump forward to our current times, I learn of the many deadly accidents that occurred due to these beautiful steamers.  It was so bad that at times 1000’s of folks died from the dangers of steamboats. In due time, the government began to regulate the steamboat business.  This helped , but there were still many accidents and deaths.  In fact, I imagine that steamboat I am on and Mark Twain is reading to me and suddenly a fire starts onboard near the engines.  In front of my eyes, Mark Twain takes off his reading glasses and author’s hat to put on a different sort of hat.  It was a riverboat captain’s hat.  Mr. Twain was the captain that needed to put that fire out and save us.

Now to the facts.  Yes, Mark Twain actually was a steamboat captain. No, he never read to me his story Tom Sawyer.  But one thing you might not know is that Mark Twain watched his brother Henry die from a riverboat accident. Today’s installment relives through the newsclippings of The Gleaner in Henderson, Kentucky the death of one of my ancestors in 1917 due to a steamer called the Enterprise made in Louisville, Kentucky.

This story’s details did not come easy to myself.  I had been working with Nancy Towns a family researcher on common lines of interest.  The line of interest that had captivated both of us was my ancestor Laura Jenkins’s husband who was Robert W. Nichols. He was a victim of a steamboat drowning accident.  The body was never recovered.

After months of wondering about if we would ever get to the truth, it became apparent that this was a road block that we may not be able to overcome.  Out of faith, I shared with Nancy that I thought we would one day get to the truth of this story. That one day arrived in the form of an email from my brother Donnie Jenkins. He had information about other researchers in the family.  One of those contacts was a cousin named Judy Jenkins.  Judy and I began discussing our common family lines and I found out she was just as interested in this story as Nancy and myself.  Nancy in particular was doing the study for  her brother-in-law Jim Nichols who as of late has been ill.  Jim is  a great, great grandson of Robert Nichols.  Judy offered to get closure for Jim on his long lost ancestor.  Today we can say we know what happened to Jim’s ancestor Robert Nichols, Laura Jenkins’s husband and we thank Judy Jenkins for helping in this matter.  These news clippings are sobering, yet the legend can now be validated with the truth in these articles.  May Robert Nichols and all the others who died in the vast rivers of America rest in peace:

Death on the OHIO RIVER

Descriptive News Clipping of Drownings

Bodies never found!

As you read through these news writeups of the incident, you understand how important the newspaper was in those days.  It was the only form of communication the townspeople had unless it was by word of mouth.  Below I want to share a photo of Robert Nichol’s descendant and his family. This is Jim Nichols taken over 40 years ago.  He now knows what happened to his great, great grandfather in 1917.  The sorrow he knows that his great, great grandmother  Laura Jenkins Nichols had to suffer is indescribable.

Jim Nichols with his grandparents and three of his daughters.

This next photo is my friend Nancy who inspires me with her own genealogy work:

Nancy Towns with her family.

What better way to finish off this story as we learn the truth of our ancestors by a quote from Mark Twain: ” Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

Pioneer Woman

In this photo behind me lived the pioneer woman in rural Kentucky.  Read her true story.

Jen Nova (Jennie) Jenkins was born in rural western Kentucky November 26, 1882.  Jennie was my great, great aunt and a pioneer woman who was the embodiment of the “gentle woman” as told to me by her great granddaughter Joyce Hankins Candela. Women for centuries were seen as second class citizens and most men considered them as property.  This led to extremely difficult lives for women of this era.

Jennie was born to a mentally fragile woman by the name of Sarah Blankenship.  Sarah was not married to Jennie’s assumed father whose surname was Calvert.  The Calverts were some of the founding settlers to the United States migrating to Kentucky.

Homelife for Jennie was unstable.  Her mother Sarah borrowed money to put food on the table to feed the family. James Jones ( J J) Jenkins an elderly man who had accumulated quite a bit of wealth gave her a loan.  At the high watershed of his wealth according to census records he owned 2000 acres. When he demanded repayment, Sarah could not.  For reasons not completely understood by all,  Sarah chose to give her ten year old daughter Jennie away as a servant to him as payment.  J J Jenkins agreed to this.  The outstanding loan was for $100.

J J Jenkins was a widower with five living grown children.  This was an easy way for him to get a servant.  After all he had been a slave owner in the past.  In 1892 at the age of ten,  Jennie began keeping house which included cooking, laundry, and taking care of  J J and his grown children.  Jennie was a mere child doing servant work with no respect.

When Jennie moved in with J J  in his familial  homestead, they lived in a log cabin.  The cabin set back 200 yards from an old graveyard that would come to hold the Jenkins’ ancestors including  J J ‘s  parents, brothers, his first wife, and many more.  The cemetery was above a creek bed in separating the cabin from the dead.

The unobtrusiveness of this cabin gave the illusion of easy maintenance.  It was nothing of the kind.  In this rustic log home, a tall stack of wood by the fireplace accented one wall.  It was expected Jennie would keep the home warm, gather the crops, cook the meals and sew clothes.  At one point,  J J forced Jennie to cut her long auburn hair off so it did not impede her duties.  Jennie’s  granddaughter Joyce states her grandmother held onto the three foot long ponytail in case she would need to sell it to a wig maker.  She was keeping it as security for the future, however, by the time Joyce married Jennie gave it to her granddaughter as a gift.  The faded ponytail is cherished to this day. 

 By 1894, it became apparent to Jennie that J J wanted more from her.  Eventually at the age of 12 on September 20, 1894 the two legally married.  However, the legal age for marriage was 14 so J J wrote she was 15 years old.  Jennie may have not understood the forms since she was did not read at this time.  J J stated he was 68.

Marriage certificate documenting ages of couple.

By the 1900 census, Jennie and J J were living without any of his previous children. The census indicates Jennie had taught herself to read and write by then.  The census also indicated how big the Jenkins ownership of land was with  family members owning surrounding land  on their own farms. The census seems to indicate Whitnell Jenkins property being divided up between his living children.  There were Calverts living next door which could have possibly been grandparents to Jennie. Thomas Jenkins the youngest son of J J was near by on his farm and then there was Polly Jenkins the widow of J J’s oldest brother George on her homestead and Sara Hobby his daughter on another. The older brother was near Lewis Jenkins.  Grandchildren were living near by with the surname Masons and then my own line my great grandpa William Farr Jenkins, a nephew to J J living on a farm with his huge family.  Numerous family members were continuing to live off Whitnell Jenkins original homestead earned from the War of 1812. 

1900 CENSUS documents the Jenkins Family nearby each other. page 1.

 

1900 CENSUS continued.

 

1900 CENSUS continued.

Before the 1910 census, J J and Jennie had four children with three surviving.  As J J ages he became more dependent upon Jennie.  In fact as told to me by Tom Jenkins one of only two living grandson’s of J J’s in an apparent attempt to look younger,  he dyed his gray hair black.  After dyeing his hair, he went to work in the coal mines and while sweating, the dye ran into his eyes causing blindness.  

J J succumbed on Sept 24th 1909 after 15 years of marriage.  Jennie had just turned 27.  She could finally give her real age. 

When J J died , Jennie was left with no means of support.  Perhaps Kentucky State laws did not protect wives yet. For whatever reason, Jennie was on her own. One family member did send her son Leman  off to boarding school and he received a high school degree.  Jennie’s daughters weren’t afforded the same luxury.  After Leman returned from school, he decided to move to St. Louis, Missouri and eventually Jennie joined him with his sisters Clara and Ruby.  Jennie owned nothing yet she was now FREE from the oppressive life she led. She never complained.

Left to Right Ruby Mae, Clara Mae, and Alvin Clinton Hankins

Jennie’s journey allowed her freedom to help herself and take care of her children as she wished.  Being in an environment now of her own making even led her to teach herself to read.  When reminiscing about her grandmother, Joyce said, “She never owned a thing, yet seemed to own the world with all the love she shared with me.  I will never forget as a little girl Jennie sitting on a glider rocker singing while I laid my head on grandma’s lap.” 

Jennie died on her 84th birthday of a heart attack.  She was about to have a party utilizing her first old age pension check when suddenly she began experiencing chest discomfort.  She asked to be taken to the hospital and died within hours of arriving.  Joyce states grandma was a bit of a superstitious woman and would not have wanted to die in her own bed as she would not have liked the family to have had that memory of her.  An amazing pioneer woman again never thinking of herself.

Jennie Jenkins

This author would like to thank the contributions to this story:  Joyce Hankins Candela, Tom Jenkins, Shelia Hart, Diana Hazelbaker, and Peggy Gilkey .  In my research, I talk to many hoping to get the most honest picture of a subject.  It is my hope and wish that I have done this with great aunt Jennie’s legacy. I would caution the reader as you make commentary in your mind of Jennie and J. J. that you remember the culture of their times. Please feel free to comment on this post and we will see you all on my next installment.

 

Have Ship Will Travel

Coasting along an ocean and going away to a place far away.  This has got to be one of the wildest rides a person could ever experience.  Yet that is exactly what so many folks did when they emigrated to the United States.  While America was yet in its infancy, we had open ports bringing  people that would make this the greatest nation on earth. I have a photography collection of some of those ships that came into our harbors and brought with it my ancestors.  I thought you might  like to go for a ride with me and enjoy my photos.  I collected the pictures because they made me imagine what it must have been like to have been on one of them. I was able to feel my ancestors’ stories as I gazed at these ship photos.  It was like the TITANTIC movie in my mind, but my ancestors were on these various ships and their stories came alive within the imagination of my mind:

OUR DESOMER FAMILY ARRIVED TO AMERICA ON THIS SHIP CALLED THE ZEELAND FROM ANTWERP, BELGIUM.

OUR WEISS FAMILY ARRIVED ON THIS SHIP CALLED THE HOWARD FROM HAMBURG, GERMANY

OUR VOY FAMILY ARRIVED FROM GERMANY ON THIS SAILING SHIP.

OUR KREKLOW FAMILY ARRIVED ON THIS SHIP FROM STETTIN, GERMANY NOW LOCATED IN POLAND.

USS FINLAND WAS THE SHIP BOARDED BY MORE ANCESTORS FROM BELGUIM. THIS SHIP WAS REMEMBERED FONDLY BY MY HUSBAND’S GRAMPS WHO WOULD HANG FROM THE SIDE AS A 4 YEAR BOY ONLY COULD DO.

I hope you could imagine  those  sailing away and going out to sea as you looked upon these photos. Until my next installment I guess I will say BON VOYAGE! Please make sure you take a moment also and go see my Facebook Page on my ancestors.  I named it in honor of one of my gramps!  Consider liking the page so you can get my posts in your facebook newsfeeds:  https://www.facebook.com/DescendantsOfWhitnellJenkins