Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Second Great Grandfather: John Riley Keith

I was scanning the newspapers and was reminded of my second great grandfather's obituary. This was published in the Meade News, of Meade, Meade County, Kansas on June 17, 1915. 


John Riley Keith was often listed as Riley or J.R. in the papers, probably because he had a cousin John Owen Keith in the same area. They all came from Illinois around the same time and helped build that area of southwestern Kansas. 

John Riley made bricks and built many houses and businesses throughout the area. He also farmed. 
This is from a pile of unidentified tintypes. I don't know for sure if it is John but in studying others with it I think it's a good possibility. 

John was buried next to his wife in Graceland Cemetery in Meade, Kansas.

This is a photo of his brother Marshal who is mentioned in the obituary. Quite distinguished isn't he?

This photo is identified as being in Fowler. John may be one of those men standing on the roof. There was another article in the paper noting he was building the "well house" in Meade. 

The brick yard was next to the family home (in the background) which is still known as the "Keith House." Here's John, with the wheelbarrow. The people in the buggy and the boys aren't identified. 

Fowler Christian Church where the family attended for many years. One story my grandmother told was John would have his eyes closed during the services. When they pointed it out after church he would say he was just resting his eyes. He was snoring. 

When I was first learning to do genealogy I went to hear a lady speak at a big conference. She pointed out that names, places, and dates get boring fast. It takes determination to put flesh on those ancestors by filling in their lives. I've worked very hard to fill in the lives of my ancestors. 

Another speaker said to get at least one tidbit of information from each year of an ancestor's life. I gave up on that notion quickly. These days it is a lot easier to fill in the details because of so much information, especially newspapers, on line. I still think that speaker was a bit crazy. (grin)

Hope you are enjoying these family stories and the peek into history they provide. 

Friday, June 23, 2017


My daughter had her birthday last week and her anniversary is this week so I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. I'm NOT mentioning years but there have been quite a few and sometimes we just need to look back and remember the little things.

When she was here in March we noticed some of her baby pictures are starting to fade. Bad developing techniques mostly. So I'm on a mission to get them scanned and dated.

Here are a few highlights from her first year on this beautiful planet.

Four days old with her great grandmother, Jennie. That lion was the first thing I bought for her. It played "This Old Man" a little song I have loved since kindergarten.

Seven days old with Nana, my mother. She doted on that baby.

"Swimfants," one of the first infant swimming classes as far as I know. Jessica was three months old. A year or so later the "team" was filmed by the television show "That's Incredible."

The same month. Sandy, a friend from high school, made that panda for Jessica. She obviously thought it was pretty special. She had it for many, many years.

This was about a month later. I don't remember the occasion but she was all dolled up for something. I'm sure her Nana bought that dress.

When Jessica was about five months old I was part of the wedding party for my cousin. This photo of our little family was taken at my aunt's house.

Not only did I ride Blaze through eight months of pregnancy Jessica got to start early on horseback. She was about seven months old. (My mother came unglued when she saw this.)

I won this "Dino" at the state fair a couple of years before Jessica was born. She naturally thought it was just for her to ride. She'd really get to going until finally his neck gave out. This was shortly after the photo above.

Jessica is about nine months here. I'm including it just because it is cute. 

 And happy first birthday. It's funny we don't have any of that furniture or those drapes. It's easy to forget how much things have changed over the years.


 Hope you've enjoyed this little trip through time. I have.

Jessica was born at 6:36 pm so on her birthday I texted her "Happy Birthday, on the dot." on that minute. She got a kick out of that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ancestral Fathers

Since I did all the mothers in my ancestral line last month I thought it only fair I give equal acknowledgement to the men.

I never knew my dad. My parents were divorced when I was very young and I have no real memories of him. By the time I was old enough to make contact he had died in a car accident. 

So growing up in a household of women I never think of the men in the ancestry as much as the women. I was pleasantly surprised as I started looking at photos to realize I have more photos of the fathers in my direct line than I realized. 

Starting with my dad I realized I had a few photos of the men with their cars. Seems appropriate. I think he was rather proud of this one. 

Here are four generations. My paternal grandfather, Sam, in the middle and his father on the right. 
That is my uncle and one of his children. I'm happy to be getting to know a cousin on this line who is telling me about these people. Sam was born in Arkansas and moved to Kansas. His father, Thomas did the same. Thomas was born in 1868. 

This is another photo of Thomas. I had to include it because of the car. 

Thomas' father, Sam, fought in the Civil War. This photo was taken by one of my aunts of Sam and his wife Mary. They were married in 1866. 

My father's mother's father was Isaac Tandy Waggoner. He was born in Tennessee in 1864. His father was killed in the Civil War.

This is my maternal grandfather, Cecil. He was a barber and we all loved to visit the barber shop. He would give me Juicy Fruit gum or sometimes a dime to walk down to the corner grocery for Cracker Jacks. 

Cecil's father was John Lyman Covey who was also born in 1868. He was born in Minnesota and later farmed in Harper County, Kansas.

John Henry Covey lived in Minnesota before heading west. He was a minister, ran hotels, and various other jobs. He lived in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Colorado where he died in 1914. He was born around 1833.

John Lyman Covey married Nancy George and this is her father, James W. George. He was born in Virginia in 1839 in an area that later became West Virginia. He moved to Kansas and became a farmer.

My maternal grandmother's father was Bert Martin, on the right. He left when she was young but she told me about him riding the horse to pick her up from school. His father, on the left, was Francis Marion Martin. He was was born in Ohio in 1844 and also lived in Kansas and then moved up to the Salem, Oregon area. He is buried in Portland. 

One last male ancestor is John Riley Keith. He was my 2nd great grandfather on my mother's side of the family. He was born in Illinois in 1843 and moved his family to southwestern Kansas around 1883. They settled in an area still known as "Keith Canyon" and eventually moved into town. Grandma would say they would all go to church and he would be sitting there with his eyes closed and when they questioned him after wards he said he was just resting his eyes. They knew different because he had been snoring. 


None of these men became famous. They were farmers, builders, barbers, and hotel keepers. They all helped build our country as many thousands of others; by working hard and raising their families.

I started doing my genealogy in 1977. I was totally addicted for many years and then moved on to other things although I still work on it when I can. I'm proud of my ancestors and happy I have so many photos and stories to share with the younger generation.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Early Telephone Operator

My great grandmother, Nellie Grace Keith Martin, was born in Illinois in 1878. She traveled with her family to Kansas around 1883. They were in covered wagons and settled in a newly opened area south of Dodge City. 

There she grew to be an adult and for a time taught school. The family moved around the area spending time in Clark and Meade Counties finally settling in the town of Fowler. Meantime, Nellie married William Albert "Bert" Martin on Dec. 5, 1900 at her parent's home. 

They had two children: Jennie Martin in 1902 and William Albert Martin in 1910. He only lived 11 days. Not long after the death of William Jr. "Bert" went into the hospital in another town and just never came home according to Jennie. Nellie eventually filed for divorce. 

With a young daughter to support Nellie ran a boarding house, baked bread to sell in the local market, and became one of the first telephone operators in the area. 

On June 13, 1912 the Meade newspaper had the following announcement: "Mrs. Bert Martin has accepted a position with the Southwest Telephone Company." 

The telephone company was organized one or two years earlier by Mr. Roscoe Gerow and sold to Robert A. Brannan, Frank J. Bennett, and Harry V. Williams with the main plant in Meade and an exchange in Fowler. 

This is a photo of Nellie at the switchboard. 
On March 13, 1913 when Jennie was 10 1/2 years old they moved to Fowler. This would have been a wonderful thing for them as that is where Nellie's father had built a house (still known as the "Keith House") and her sister Laura still lived. 

This article is a bit confusing with the note Nellie had been with the company for several years but it was less than a year according to the first article. Since the company was only about three years old the reporter probably just didn't have a very good memory. 

This photo was taken about 1930 in the Fowler office. The little boy is one of my uncles. 

This is the front of the Fowler telephone office on Jennie's wedding day in 1922. She is off to the left. Laura Keith is in the center and Nellie on the right.

I love finding these stories that bring my ancestors to life. Grandma Jennie told me many stories over the years but I don't have them all recorded except in my memory. It is exciting to find these newspaper articles to confirm the memories and add details to the lives of these women. 

You can find many articles like these at Chronicling American History through the Library of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

 I hope you have fun searching for your ancestors.