Saturday, July 18, 2020

Last of Our Parent's Generation

Last fall I posted on this blog the passing of Dad's youngest sister, Ruth Alice Stone. This summer we lost Mom's youngest sister. With the death of Aunt Eva all of our parent's generation slipped away. Known as the "Greatest Generation," they lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, many of them served in the military but all of them were hard working and resilient. WE are better people because of their example.

Eva M. Ethington
January 30, 1930 - June 04, 2020

Eva M. Ethington, 90, of Sullivan, passed away at 1:53 a.m. Thursday June 4, 2020 in Mason Point, Sullivan.
Private family graveside services will be Thursday June 11, 2020 in the French Cemetery, Allenville with Pastor Grant Wade officiating. Memorials are suggested to the donor’s choice. Reed Funeral Home, Sullivan in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to the family at
Eva was born January 30, 1930 in Allenville, the daughter of Luther and Ruth Standerfer Ethington. She had been a cook for Candy Land, Hardens Café, The Spot, Titus Home and Hardees. She was a member of the Allenville Christian Church.
Surviving are her nephews Jess (Cheryl) Bragg of Centralia, Charles (Rebecca) Bragg of Sullivan, James (Glenna) Bragg of Marshall, Larry (Donna) Bragg of Shelbyville, David (Ann) Bragg of Kernersville, North Carolina, Ronald (Linda) Bragg of Havre, Montana, Mark (Becky) Bragg of Mahomet, Neal (Mary Ann ) Whitely of Valley Springs, South Dakota, Glen Parker of La Junta, Arizona and Wayne Ethington of Terre Haute, Indiana; nieces Ruth Bauer of Decatur, Reva (Ron) Martin of Sullivan, Debra (Michael) Green of Masonville, Colorado, Donna Bornhoff of Chicago, Christine Wulff of Bement and Diane Ferrol of Florida.
She was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers, four sisters, two nephews and a niece.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Did You Know #52

Until a recent email I would have had to admit that I didn't know anything about the existence of a man named Gideon Pitts (1807-1888). At the time of his death in Richmond, NY, Mr. Pitts was lamented as "its most distinguished citizen" (Ontario County Journal, June 29, 1888). He was, prior to the Civil War, an active leader in the Abolitionist movement to end slavery and their home was one of the stops for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. He was a farmer and colonel in the militia.

Gideon enjoyed the support of his family in serving the abolitionist's cause. He married Jane Wells who died just a few years after her husband (March 22, 1892). To this union five children were born, a son also named Gideon, and four daughters (Helen, Lorinda, Jennie and Eva). In the death notice published for Jane Wells Pitts the only mention of her family is that "her mother, four sisters and two brothers all died in the month of March" (The Naples Record 30 March 1892).

Fortunately family records are available for the family of Jane Wells Pitts. We know that she was the daughter of Paoli Pascal and Anna Wells. Of special interest to our family, though, is the fact that Anna Wells maiden name was Munson. Jane Wells Pitts' Great-great-great Grandparents were Samuel and Martha Munson who also happened to be 6th Great Grandparents of our Grandmother Bragg.

What makes the family of Gideon and Jane Pitts of interest? They were not greatly unlike other northern families committed to the anti-slavery movement and for the cause of freedom and rights of former slaves following the close of the Civil War. But the Pitts family was unique in their close personal relationship with the former slave and Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. The Pitts family hosted meetings for Douglass in their New York home and worked closely with him through his Washington DC area home. In fact, when their oldest daughter, Helen (described as "an able, accomplished woman"), moved to Washington she became a next door neighbor to Mr. Douglass who hired her to work for him as "a clerk in the office of the Recorder of Deeds in Washington, to which he had just been assigned" (Wikipedia). She worked closely with Douglass in his speaking engagements and in the writing of his autobiography.


Helen provided a source of strength to Frederick Douglass when, in 1882, the famous civil rights leader's wife, Anna Murray Douglass, passed away. Prejudice would soon rear its ugly head in the Pitts family when just two years later the 66-year-old former slave and the 46-year-old clerk were married. "Despite the fact that her family were ardent abolitionists and colleagues of Douglass, they were outraged at the marriage and refused to speak to Helen" ( Following their wedding Gideon and Jane Pitts "broke contact with her and Douglas" (Matthew Conheady, Pitts Mansion, They were not the only ones who disapproved of the couple's decision to marry. Frederick Douglass' children were also said to have "scorned the marriage." It is encouraging, however, to read the obituaries of her parents in which we can infer that relations were eventually restored. This is especially clear in the death notice of Helen's mother, Jane, whose final days were spent in the Douglass' Washington DC household. Helen Pitts Douglass would remain the happy wife of her beloved husband until his death in 1895 and would become her husband's most ardent defender and the founder of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association.

So how specifically is our family related to the second wife of Frederick Douglass? The chart below illustrates this connection of our Grandmother Bragg and her 5th cousins (2 times removed) Helen Pitts Douglass.

Samuel and Martha Munson
Joseph Munson (1677 - 1725) Samuel Munson (1669 - 1741)
Ephraim Munson (1714 - 1770) Solomon Munson (1689 - 1773)
Jerod Munson (1742) Samuel Munson (1717 - 1790)
Anna Munson Pascal (1777 - 1836) Samuel Munson (1763 - 1832)
Jane Wells, wife of Gideon Pitts (1811 - 1892) Isaac Munson (1802 - 1864)
Helen Pitts (1838 - 1903), 2nd wife of Frederick Douglass Joel Munson (1846 - 1921)

Elvira Belle Munson (1871 - 1939), wife of Cicero Gilbreath

Gladys (Gilbreath) Bragg (1898 - 1977)

Joel Munson, our Great-great Grandfather and Helen Wells Douglass were  5th cousins.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Ruth Alice Stone

On the 24th of August 2019 a generation closed, but more importantly, a beautiful life ended. Aunt Ruthie was the youngest and last surviving of Dad's siblings. She was always cheerful, smiling, and seemed to live a life full of joy. Below is a copy of Aunt Ruthie's obituary.

     Ruth Alice Stone, 90, of Sullivan, passed away 2:11 a.m. Saturday, August 24, 2019, at Mason Point, Sullivan.
     Funeral services will be held 11:00 a.m. Thursday, August 29, 2019, McMullin-Young Funeral Home, Sullivan. Visitation will be held an hour prior to the service Thursday at the funeral home. Burial will be in Greenhill Cemetery, Sullivan. Memorials may be made to the Okaw Valley Ag Complex: 709 S. St. John Street, Bethany, IL 61914
     Ruth was born July 17, 1929; the daughter of O.B. and Gladys (Gilbreth) Bragg. She married Lloyd “Tiny” Stone on September 5, 1948 in Bruce; he survives. Grandma Ruthie was loved by so many people, especially her family, grandchildren and her husband of 71 years, Papa Tiny.
Ruth is survived by her husband, Lloyd “Tiny” of Sullivan; son, Chris (Brenda) Stone of Lerna; daughter, Connie (John) Wise of Bethany; grandchildren, Stacey (Matt) Ellegood, Jeremy (Melissa) Stone, Matt Jerod (Jennifer) Stone, Curtis (Lindsey) Wise, Jennifer (Eric) Thoele and Wesley (Christina) Wise. She is also survived by 8, great-grandchildren.
     She was preceded in death by her parents, 3 brothers and 1 sister.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Find A Grave

Many of our family member's grave-sites are listed on the Find A Grave website. However, even though this website provides the opportunity of linking together these various pages into a sort of pictorial family tree, most of our family member's pages were not connected. So I set out a few months ago to correct this situation by contacting the owners of the various pages and providing the proper edit information. Recently I have received the final notice that these edits have been completed.

By visiting the Find A Grave website pages for Mom, Dad, or any of their sibling's pages, you can go back through the family and trace the family line. Some of these pages will have pictures or obituaries that are pretty interesting. I have made all the connections of family members I could find who have grave sites listed on Find A Grave. If you know of someone not listed, send me their Find A Grave page address and I will try to add them.

Regarding the Bragg family of central Illinois. Many of these families descend from Hugh Lewis and Francis Bragg, including our Great-Great-Grandfather William Bragg. However, since the graves of Hugh and Francis are unknown and not listed on Find A Grave, that part of the family line stops there. This is also the case for all the known children of Hugh and Francis Bragg. Below is the link to the pages of each of their children:

Children of Hugh Lewis and Francis Sutherland Bragg

Martha Ann Bragg Yoakum
Birth 5 May 1817
Death 7 Mar 1850 (aged 32)
Burial - Shoults Cemetery, Ross County, Ohio, USA

James Bragg
Birth 10 Jan 1820, Pickaway County, Ohio, USA
Death 30 Sep 1912 (aged 92), Moultrie County, Illinois, USA
Burial - Unknown

John Bragg
Birth 1822
Death 1864 (aged 41–42)
Burial - Unknown

Anna Mariah Bragg Hull
Birth 21 Jul 1831, Ross County, Ohio, USA
Death 21 May 1869 (aged 37), Moultrie County, Illinois, USA
Burial - Pea Cemetery, Sullivan, Moultrie County, Illinois, USA
William Bragg
Birth 14 Jun 1834, Ross County, Ohio, USA
Death 4 Dec 1900 (aged 66), Moultrie County, Illinois, USA
Burial - Pea Cemetery, Sullivan, Moultrie County, Illinois, USA

Monday, February 26, 2018

Did You Know #51

    She was described as New York City's first supermodel, the embodiment of the "classical ideal" of beauty, and as "the world's most perfectly formed woman." Discovered by a photographer at the age of 15, she was soon introduced to famous sculptors and posing for monuments throughout the city of New York (she is said to have posed for more public monuments and memorials than anyone). The following pictures represent just a partial list of sculptures of Audrey Marie Munson that can still be seen by pedestrians in the Big Apple.

  • The Civic Fame statue that stands atop the Municipal Building, Manhattan’s largest statue, second only to the Statue of Liberty (top left)
  • The Firemen's Memorial to "New York's Bravest" (lower left)
  • Above the door of the Frick Museum (top right)
  • Beauty, outside New York Public Library's main branch (center right)
  • Pomona, the Roman goddess of abundance, on the Pulitzer Fountain at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue (lower right)

  • “Columbia Triumphant” that adorns the USS Maine National Monument in Columbus Circle (top left)
  • "Memory" on the Straus Memorial, honoring the co-founder of Macy's department store, Isidor Straus, and his wife, Ida, they died on the Titanic (lower left)
  • Miss Brooklyn, originally on the Brooklyn side of the Manhannan Bridge, now on display outside the Brooklyn Museum (top right)
  • Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn, now on display outside the Brooklyn Museumnow on display outside the Brooklyn Museum (center right)
  • 'Spirit of Commerce' angel at the northern base of the Manhattan Bridge (lower right)

(clockwise from top left)
  • Sculpture at New York's Customs House
  • On the Walking Liberty Half Dollar (1916)
  • Grave marker placed on the grave of her father and step-father
  • The Mercury Dime

In addition to these public monuments, she was also the model for the angel decorating the mausoleums of wealthy New Yorkers and other private and public sculptures across the country. At the peak of her career in the 1910s, it was proclaimed of Audrey that "All New York Bows to the Real Miss Manhattan." Then she went to Hollywood. Here she achieved the infamous place in history as the first person to appear nude in a non-pornographic film, "Inspiration" (1915). She was likewise unclad for the 1916 film, "Purity".

Her movie career hit a huge bump when, in 1919, she became embroiled in a sensational murder trial involving her former landlord, Dr Walter Keene Wilkins (arrested for killing his wife, Julia, after it emerged that he had become obsessed with Audrey and was desperate to marry her). In 1921 she appeared as herself in her final film, "Heedless Moths." The next year she attempted to commit suicide and her life continued to spiral until in 1931 she was committed to the Saint Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, New York where she would spend the next 65 years until her death on February 20, 1996 at the age of 105.

Audrey Munson and Grandma Bragg were 6th cousins. Their 4th-great-grandfathers were brothers. Here is the family connection:

Samuel and Martha Farnes Munson
Solomon Munson b.1689 Waitstill Munson b.1697
Samuel Munson III b.1717 Solomon Munson b.1727
Samuel Munson Jr. b.1763 Jairus Munson b.1767
Isaac Munson b.1802 Leverett Munson b.1790
Joel Munson b.1846 Leverett Munson b.1824
Elvira Belle Munson b.1871 Edgar Munson b.1857
Gladys Gilbreath Bragg b.1898 Audrey Marie Munson b.1891

Alexandra Genova, NYC's First Supermodel; 6 March 2016
Audrey Munson: “Miss Manhattan” Died in Obscurity in 1996, October 25, 2012
James Bone, She inspired monuments and died in obscurity, CNN, June 9, 2016

Friday, July 14, 2017

Did You Know #50

    The following post is in a way an update of a much earlier post, Did You Know? #24 (June 20, 2010). In that post we looked at two families, one famous (Boone) and the other infamous (James). I have hesitated to post it at all because there is an inconsistency in one section of the dating. However, it seems to me that this is a case of inaccurate records repeated in a number of family trees. The account is interesting, so I thought I'd share it with any interested readers.


     One of Daniel Boone's close friends was John Van Bibber. John distinguished himself as a courageous "Indian fighter," although an unpopular (not "politically correct") distinction in our modern world. Emerging from what would become, during the American Civil War, the state of West Virginia, John and his siblings, Isaac, Peter, and Brigetta, settled just west of what would become Winchester, WV. 
     In 1760 or 61 John was married to Chloe Standiford, described as "tall and fair to look upon."[1] The couple settled in modern-day Botetourt County, VA.
    While exploring the vast wilderness of Mississippi and Tennessee, John became lost for months until he finally stumbled upon the cabin near what today is the Virginia-Tennessee border, northeast of what would become the town of Bristol. The event has been described in this manner:
"Just about to give up in despair, Van Bibber spotted smoke curling skyward from what could only have been a chimney. Charging through the underbrush, he found a pioneer cabin which was little more than a lean-to. Whooping & hollering, he greeted the inhabitant, who welcomed him only as a lonely, hospitable man could do. The man introduced himself as Dan Boone, who fed & boarded Van Bibber, beginning a friendship lasting for decades."[2]
Welcomed into the Boone family circle a lifelong bond of friendship was forged between Daniel Boone and John Van Bibber.The bond was strengthened in the eventual marriage of their children, Jesse Bryan Boone and Chloe Van Bibber.
    Then tragedy struck the family as their sister, Brigetta, and her husband Isaac Robinson, who were living in Point Pleasant (near the Ohio River), were attacked by Indians. Their eight year old son, Isaac was fishing when he heard gunshots. He rushed to the homestead only to find his father dead and Indians killing his two year old brother. Brigetta, Isaac, and his four year old brother John where taken as prisoners. The homestead was looted then burned. John Van Bibber pursued the Indian band but was only successful in finding the body of young John Robinson lying in the road. He was forced to return home empty-handed.
    Isaac Robinson was adopted into an Indian family and his mother was eventually sold to a fur trader after five years of forced servanthood. Two years after Brigetta Robinson's return a treaty was signed with the Indians. This permitted Brigetta to set out on a search for her son Isaac. After a very long search she located him, but he refused to leave his adopted family and return home with his mother. She was eventually successful in persuading him to return to Point Pleasant where, four years later, he died.
    Shortly after the attack that resulted in death and capture of Brigetta and her family, John Van Bibber's nineteen year old daughter Rhoda was captured by Indians as she and her brother, Jacob, twelve, were rowing across the Ohio River to visit her father. Rhoda was killed and Jacob taken prisoner. John gave chase but was only successful in killing five Indians. Jacob was taken to Detroit where he eventually became an interpreter between the French and the Indians. Seven years after his capture the treaty with the Indians was signed. Jacob's cousin located him and brought him home to his mother. A year after his return Jacob died.
    John Van Bibber's wife, Chloe Standiford, was our sixth great-grand aunt. If we go back nine generations to Mom's sixth great-grandparents, James and Martha Watkins Standiford, Mom's fifth great-grandfather Israel was the brother of Chloe Standiford who became the wife of John Van Bibber. Chloe was born on April 23, 1737 in Baltimore, Maryland. She and John had seven children. It is presumed that she died before her husband because she was not mentioned in her husband's will following his death in 1820. James Standiford and his sons, Israel (Mom's fifth great-grandfather) and Luke "were instrumental in bringing the sport of racing fine horses to America." [3]

Here is the connection:

James (1715) & Martha Watkins Standiford
Chloe Standiford (1737)
Israel Standifer (1740)

Skelton Daniel Standifer (1772)

Archibald Standifer (1795)*

Franklin H. Standerfer (1820)

William Standerfer (1847)

Zacharious I. Standerfer (1871)

Mercedes Ruth Standerfer (1892)

Mary Jean Ethington (1928)

[3] James Standifer find a grave;
* The Dates of Birth do not match up .... if Skelton Daniel Standifer was born in 1752 (which he is in a number of online family trees), his dad Israel would have been only 12. If Skelton Daniel Standifer was born in 1772, he would only be 3 years older than his son, Archibald Standifer (whose birth is listed as having taken place in 1775 in a number of online family trees). Logic, not evidence, seems to dictate that Archibald Standifer was probably born in 1795, when his father was 23, thus making him 25 when his own son, Franklin H. Standerfer (3great-grandfather), was born.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Did You Know #49

Way back in 2009 I posted an entry with this blog about our family's connection with Aaron Burr, a Vice President of the United States that fell into a feud with his former friend, Alexander Hamilton. That affair ultimately led to a duel that left Hamilton dead and Burr disgraced [1].

I have just finished listening to Ron Chernow's biography, Alexander Hamilton, on loan from the North Carolina Digital Library. As I listened to this audiobook I heard a name that caught my attention.

In 1791-2 Alexander Hamilton came under suspicion for possible misuse of his office of Secretary of the Treasury because of rumors circulated by a man named James Reynolds, who had been arrested for his part in a "scheme involving unpaid back wages intended for Revolutionary War veterans." [2] Hamilton was then confronted by a trio of politicians thinking they were on the trail of an embezzler only to encounter a very frank and shocking confession from Hamilton. Secretary Hamilton revealed that he had been engaged in an adulterous relationship with James Reynolds' wife Maria and that James Reynolds had been blackmailing him. Information gained from Hamilton's confession would later be used against him leading to Hamilton's public confession of the affair.

The three men who initially confronted Hamilton were James Monroe, Frederick Muhlenberg and Abraham B. Venable. It was the last name that caught my attention because I recalled that our 4th great-grandmother was Elizabeth Venable. Elizabeth was born on December 8, 1764 and on January 25, 1814 became the wife of Richard Bragg. Elizabeth Venable Bragg's grandfather was named Abraham Bedford Venable, However, this is not the same Abraham B. Venable who confronted Alexander Hamilton.

Abraham Bedford Venable, our 6th great-grandfather, was born on March 22, 1700 in Louisa County, Virginia and married Martha Hannah Davis in 1723. Two of their ten children were brothers Hugh Lewis Venable (born 1727) and Nathaniel Venable (born 1733). Nathaniel served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War and was eulogized at his funeral as "the best mathematician in Prince Edward County."[3] Hugh Lewis Venable would become the father of our Elizabeth while his brother Nathaniel Venable would become the father of Abraham Bedford Venable. It
would be that Abraham B. Venable who would become a friend of Thomas Jefferson and would confront Alexander Hamilton. This Abraham B. Venable, first cousin of our 4th great-grandmother Elizabeth Venable Bragg, would serve as United States Senator from Virginia in 1803-1804 (he had previously served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the U.S. House of Representatives).

After his brief time as a Senator (he was filling a vacancy left by John Taylor who had resigned his seat), Abraham B. Venable resigned his Senatorial office to become president of Bank of Virginia.

Just seven years later, on December 26, 1811, the 53-year-old Venable attended a benefit at The Richmond Theatre. It was a packed house that night with 598 in attendance (including 80 children). There were two shows. At the close of the first act of the second show the still lit chandelier was lifted toward the auditorium ceiling when it's cords became entangled and it touched part of the scenery above the stage setting it on fire. When he saw the flames the boy who had been raising the chandelier
ran from the theater in fear. The fire quickly spread through the extensive scenery pieces. Unfortunately, because the curtains had been lowered, the audience was at first unaware of the fire rapidly spreading above the stage on the other side of the curtain. When the gravity of the situation became apparent, panic ensued. Some were trampled in the rush to the exits while others were jumping from second floor windows to escape.

Described as "the worst urban disaster in American history at the time" [4], the fire claimed the lives of 72 people (54 women and 18 men). Among the victims of the fire were George William Smith, who was at that time the governor of Virginia, and Abraham B. Venable.

Once the area where the theater once stood had been cleared the Monumental Church was built on the site. As its name suggests, the church was to be a monument to those who died in the theater fire. Each of the victim's names are inscribed on a monument standing over the spot where their remains are buried. As a reminder of the era and culture of the age, below the listing of the 66 white victims of the fire are the names of the six African American's who died in the fire.

Abraham Bedford Venable (1700) and Martha Hannah Davis
Hugh Lewis Venable (1727) Nathaniel Venable (1733)
Elizabeth Venable (1764) Sen. Abraham Bedford Venable (1758)
Hugh Lewis Bragg (1795)
William Bragg (1834)
Franklin Martin Bragg (1867)
Orval Bishop Bragg (1895)
Don Cicero Bragg (1920)
David Bragg

Notes on Sources:
[1] Did You Know? #11
[2] The Hamilton–Reynolds Affair
[3] Nathaniel Venable,
[4] Richmond Theatre Fire