Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oak Ridge Boys Visit Cape Girardeau

These pictures were taken Monday evening, Dec. 8, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Hard Year

Having passed through security at the Las Vegas airport, and while awaiting to board our plane for our return to St. Louis after a week-long vacation to Utah and northwestern Arizona’s national parks seemed like a good time to call home and wish my father a happy 88th birthday. It was then that I learned that my call had been proceeded by another of a much different nature. That prior call bore the sad news that earlier in the morning my father’s oldest sister had passed away.

This has been a hard year for my family. In December my father’s younger brother, Duane, laid to rest his second wife, then just a few months later, on June 2nd, he passed away. Three weeks later another uncle, Forest Ledbetter passed from this life. His death was followed by that of his wife, my father’s older sister, Ellen Jane Ledbetter on August 8th at the age of 90.

Aunt Jane was a graduate of Windsor, IL High School and the Paris School of Nursing. As a RN she served as a WWII Army Nurse, attaining the rank of Lieutenant. As her obituary states, after the war she became “the Director of Nursing for the Mattoon Memorial Hospital and was instrumental in merging the Mattoon and Charleston Hospitals into Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center.” In an e-mail from one of my cousins I learned that Aunt Jane “was part of a team that built hospitals in whatever buildings were available in New Guinea.” I was not able to attend the funeral, but my cousin did, and she shared the following with me: “Her youngest great grandson helped the funeral director steer the casket into the hearse and then, at the cemetery, saluted as the honor guard saluted his grandma. I don't think too many Sullivan women are honored with a 21-gun salute as Aunt Jane was.”

Of the five siblings who survived childhood, only two are left. My prayers are with them. While they lost two siblings in just a few short months, Aunt Jane’s daughter, Sherry, has lost her mother and step-father in just a few short weeks. My prayers are with them as well.

Earlier in the year my mother lost one of her sisters, Lois Whitely. This has been a hard year, and while I hope that my parents will be spared in the remaining months of this year from having to stand beside the graves of other loved ones, I am also thankful for the long loves each of these have been allowed to live.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Passing

We were saddened to learn of the death of our uncle, Forrest Ledbetter, husband of Aunt Jane, Dad’s older sister, He passed away on June 23, 2008 at the age of 89. Over the past few years our paths only crossed at funerals, but we do have fond memories of past family gatherings. My personal memories of “Frosty” revolve mainly around his sense of humor. As just a kid back in those days, I never had a clue that while serving in Europe during WW II that he was wounded, captured, and for a time held as a POW in a German prison camp.

Like my own father, his recently deceased younger brother Duane (below), and another brother Earl (pictured to the left; Uncle Earl passed away on August 20, 2001 at the age of 79), and of course Aunt Jane, Frosty was a member of what has appropriately become known as the “greatest generation, their selfless service in defense of our country is deserving of the greatest honor. Our hearts should be filled with pride at their powerful example of patriotism.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fondly Remembered

It was always a treat when I was a child to visit Uncle Duane, Aunt Doris, and Roger. Uncle Duane seemed to always be in a good mood. He loved working with his cows, and other outdoor chores. It was there that I first saw a milking machine in action. I was so amazed, giving the fact
that one of our twice daily chores was to milk our two cows the old fashioned way, by hand.

Long after I moved away from central Illinois, it was always a treat on our visits home to see Uncle Duane. Not only was he eager to catch up with what we were doing, he was happy to bring us up to date about his latest project or adventure. The last time I saw Uncle Duane was at the 80th birthday celebration held for my Mother back in January, just a month after the death of his second wife, Joyce, for whom he had tenderly cared. And he was so proud of Roger, Jill, and the grandchildren Hillary and Allison, to whom, as well as to Uncle Duane’s surviving siblings: Don Bragg, Jane Ledbetter and Ruth Stone, our sincere condolences and prayers are offered.

While we were in Sullivan in January we received word of the declining health of Mom’s sister, Lois Whitely. Aunt Lois passed away just a few weeks later, on March 6, 2008. It had been a few years since the last time I had seen Aunt Lois. I had returned to Sullivan to conduct a funeral. On the way into town I stopped off the grocery store to pick up the most recent copy of the local paper. After purchasing the paper, on my way out of the store I hesitated after passing another check-out station. The woman purchasing her grocery looked so much like my Mother, and I was sure it was Aunt Lois. I waited for her to complete checking out to visit with her, and we had a very pleasant visit. After returning home I received the most beautiful card with the nicest handwritten note from her. She, too, continues to live in our memories of the days when the family would congregate at Grandpa Ethington’s Allenville farm, or at our home for Thanksgiving and other special occasions. Now, only three sisters from the Luther and Mercedes Ethington family survive: Irene Parker, Mary Bragg, and Eva Ethington. Although it has been three months, we want to again express our sympathy and prayers to Aunt Lois’ children, Neal Whitely and Donna Bornhoff, and their families as well as to the sisters who deeply miss her.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Senior Pictures

Over the years, on our parent's living room walls, was a growing collection of senior pictures. Carefully hung in order, it served as a "rite of passage" as we completed our public school education and navigated the transition, whether it be college, work, or military service. Although those pictures no longer adorn their walls, those pictures still remain. Here is that collection (plus a couple of other pictures) of each member of our family taken (as best as I could guess) when the subject was about the age of 18.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Did You Know #8

In the fifth installment in my “Did You Know” postings we examined one of the most popular accounts of the arrival of our Bragg ancestors in Virginia. In this posting let’s consider other Bragg families who were flourishing a bit to the north of William and Molly Newport Bragg. It is not really clear whether these are the offspring of Thomas' English-born brothers, John and William (although it is very likely some of them were). A strong concentration of these families made their homes around Salem, MA (the Boston area). One of these the groups descend from the English-born Edward Bragg (in 1616), who married Elizabeth Whittridge in Ipswich, MA, near Salem, sometime near April of 1642 [10]. Other Bragg families trace their lineage from Henry Bragg, who was born in Salem, MA in 1659 (no information has of yet surfaced to identify his parents) and his wife, Elizabeth Mackmollen (or MacMillan) [1]. About twenty years after their marriage, on December 17, 1677, their family had moved to Rhode Island, where Henry passed away in 1723. One of Henry's sons, Nicholas Bragg, Sr. (who was born on May 23, 1696), became a sea Captain and, just seven years after being married to Bethia Howland (on May 19, 1725 in Bristol RI) died in Surinam, South America (on February 8, 1732).

A third group is the descendants of John Bragg, who had been born in England about 1659, who married Elizabeth Miller on October 12, 1684 in Rehoboth, Bristol, MA. He married Elizabeth Miller October 12, 1684 in Rehoboth, Bristol, Mass. When the couple died in the mid 1740's their family had moved to Bristol, RI. The relationship between these three patriarchs, if any, is not clearly established. Yet, it is interesting that each group settled in or near Salem, MA and subsequently relocated to Rhode Island sometime between the 1680's and 1740's. What happened between those years? Salem, and that entire area of Massachusetts, was embroiled in the hysteria surrounding the "witch trials," in which twenty innocent victims were executed as witches [2]. Six men and fourteen women were killed, unlike the popular notion that they were burned at the stake, most of them were hung while one was killed while being "pressed" by heavy stones in an effort to extract a confession (1692). One family hit particularly hard by this insanity was the Towne family. William Towne, who was born in England around 1600 in a highly respected family. He immigrated to America with his wife, the former Joanna Blessing, and their six children, making their home at Salem. In the following years two additional children were born into this family. The children all grew up, starting families of their own, and settled in the Salem area. The curtailing of the "witch" hysteria began to curb following the execution (hanging) of two women, Rebecca Nurse (or Nourse) and Mary Estey, who refused to confess to being a witch, and thereby escaping the death penalty, and challenging the evidence upon which they were convicted, the charges of young girls who said they were being afflicted by their spirits. Both of the condemned women were daughters of William and Joanna Towne. In 1694 a grandson of William and Joanna, also named William Towne, took as his third bride widow "Margaret Willard, whose first husband, John Willard, had been executed on the charge of witchcraft at Salem, some two years previous" [3]. Another interesting marriage occurred on October 12, 1684 as Elizabeth Miller, a granddaughter of William and Joanna Towne, became the wife of John Bragg, from whom the third of the three groups of Braggs introduced in the previous paragraph [4]. The condemned witches, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Estey, would have been John's aunts by marriage.

These were obviously dangerous times, especially in that part of Massachusetts. While there is no evidence that the Salem hysteria prompted the relocation of the Bragg families to Rhode Island, it is clear that the family did relocate either during or shortly after this terrible miscarriage of justice transpired. Following the death of Henry Bragg, the patriarch of the second group of Braggs settling near Salem, some of his descendants continued migrating northward. Alexander Bragg [5], Henry’s sixth grandchild (through Henry's fifth son, also named Alexander), showed up with his brothers, Nicholas and William Bragg, and a nephew, Nicholas Bragg, Jr., in the 1800 Vermont census [6]. Others, descending from Edward Bragg, were moving into Maine. The first Bragg on record as being married in Maine was Nathaniel (1766), with his son Thomas being the first Bragg listed as being born in that state (1768). Others of this clan migrated into Massachusetts. Still, there are only a few cases of westward migration as many settled near their relatives and began raising generation after generation in the same geographic area. Exceptions, of course, can be found: Irving Albert and Mabel Bragg moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and two sisters (daughters of David and Eliza Bragg), Lucinda and Keziah (she married Alexander Carr) settled in Alpena, Michigan [7].


[1] New England Historic Genealogical Society.
[2] Robinson Genealogy.
[3] The Descendants of William Towne.
[4] Ancestry of Albert Fish. Fish was six/great grandson of William and Joanna Townes. He is remembered as a infamous killer and cannibal, having "killed his first victim in 1910. He Mutilated and tortured his victims, most of which were young children. Fish claimed that god-like voices told him to kill. Fish's most famous murder was that of Gracie Budd ... who was nearly 11 years old." Six years after Gracie's "disappearance," her family received a letter from her killer, which eventually led to his arrest and conviction. "The letter told in detail what happened to Gracie. The letter was traced back to Albert Fish. It told about how Fish had chocked Gracie to death, and then cut up and ate her body. Fish was also suspected of the kidnapping of Billy Gaffney and Francis McDonnell" (Ancestry of Albert Fish).
[5] Ancestors from New England and Europe.
[6] 1800 Windsor, VT Census.
[7] Descendants of David Bragg.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New Book on Revelation

New in 2008 ... a 13-week study on the last book of the New Testament, Revelation.

The Sunset of Scripture, Hope and Promise From the Isle of Patmos is a simple presentation of the meaning behind the often unfamiliar, sometimes confusing symbols of Revelation. The crucial question when approaching John's vision is, "What did this vision, or this symbol, mean to John's original readers?" He expected them to not only understand, but to interpret his inspired message to them.

With this as our guiding principle, this study will walk the reader through each vision offering a simple explanation of John's meassage. Contrary to the conclusions too often drawn about John's message, the reader will hopefully find that, stripped of the myriad complicated and contradictory interpretations each generation offers, John's message can be clearly seen.

With the penning of these visions the era of inspiration, and the contents of the New Testament came to a close. God WANTS you to understand Revelation, and it is my hope that this simple interpretation will serve as the beginning of a lifelong study of the Bible, and Revelation in particular.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mom's 80th Birthday Party

While Mom recuperates at the Mason Point (the former Illinois Masonic Home) after falling and breaking both of her ankles, Dad and Ruth hatched a plan for surprising her with a party on January 19th (she turned 80, and I was 50, on the 15th).

All of their children were able to attend except Jess (he suffered a serious heart attack last year, but is doing much better now) and Ron (who visited with Mom during the party by phone). Here are a few pictures I took from this event.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Did You Know #7

Like many other Virginian families, the opening of the west (in their day “the west” referred to the area occupied today by the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky) stirred dreams of a new beginning, portions of the Bragg family turned their eyes to the new territory west of Virginia and the new beginning the wilderness seemed to offer. The leader of this particular migration was Hugh Lewis Bragg, the eldest son of Richard and Elizabeth Venable Bragg. Hugh, a veteran of the War of 1812, was born in 1788 [1] and, as of the 1820 census lived in Fluvanna County, VA. By 1830 he had moved to Albermarly County, VA and ten years later Ross County, OH was their home.

While still in Virginia, Hugh married Francis Sutherland and began a family (five surviving children were born in Virginia). Anna Mariah Bragg, their seventh child, was born on July 21, 1831 in Ross County, OH, the first of five more children born into their family while living in Ohio. Meanwhile, some of their older children began their own families during this sojourn in the Buckeye State: Richard (in 1842), Sarah (in 1844), and Anna (in 1852) all selected their spouses during this time.

Ohio would not be the family’s final western destination, and the 1840 census would find the family even further west living in the new village of Sullivan, Illinois. The community was established as the county seat for Moultrie County (which had been organized in February 1843) in 1845 [2], incorporated in 1850 [3] and was incorporated as a city in 1872. During the discussions to locate the county government in Sullivan that the village’s name was officially adopted, being named after Revolutionary War General John Sullivan [4]. The land for the new city was purchased from Philo Hale for $100, and supplemented by "prominent citizens, who then donated the land to the county" [5].Walter Eden (1862-1932), once Mayor of Sullivan, wrote about life in Sullivan during the 1860's in his soon-to-be published memoirs,

"When I was a little boy and even after I had grown up, Sullivan was a pretty wild town. In the early days, the north side of the square was almost all saloons. We had "sod corn row" there. I remember it well .... The young men from the Lakey Bend and Jonathan Creek neighborhoods always had a grudge against each other, and on Saturdays would meet at Sullivan. When they got drunk enough, which always happened when they came to town, there would always be several fights on the public square."

Among those early city records were names for various citizens during those first formative years. Two names really struck me, one was that of Samuel P. and James Earp (no doubt a relative to the famous Wyatt Earp, whose family originally settled in northern Illinois) and Bob Braggs, a blacksmith. Here Hugh Bragg's family settled in the 1840's.

Two of Hugh and Francis Bragg's sons would fight during the Civil War, Corporal Robert Bragg with the 18TH Illinois Infantry and Henry L. Bragg, who would not return from the war, dying in Jackson, TN.

Two of their children married into the Hull family. Silas Hull and Anna Maria Bragg were married on January 1, 1852 in Ohio. William Bragg married Silas' sister, Rebecca L. Hull in Moultrie County, IL on April 11, 1852. Seven children would be born to William and Rebecca Bragg between 1858 and 1877, including my great-grandfather, Frank Martin Bragg (born on March 18, 1867).

Other Braggs were moving into the nation's midwest. While the Virginia Braggs came to Illinois through Ohio, a descendant of the North Carolina Bragg family passed through Kentucky and Indiana, settling Bragg families along the way. Richard Bragg, Hugh's father, was, like many in Virginia, a slave holder. The North Carolina Braggs also held slaves, and as the Civil War drew closer one of Doshur and Hannah Bragg's children, Thomas Jefferson Bragg, became disturbed by the practice and made the decision to separate from the South [6]. His biography traces his life and travels from Kentucky into Indiana and Wisconsin [7].


[1] Some sources list him as being born in 1795, making him the couple's second child.
[2] "Other candidates for county seat were Nelson and Glasgow (a town platted a few years earlier, one and one-half miles south of Sullivan)." In his Notes on the History of Moultrie County and Sullivan, Illinois (Sullivan, 1990), I.J. Martin observed that if the four Coles townships had not been eliminated, other locations more centrally located -- such as the town of Nelson -- would likely have been better candidates to become the new county seat, in which case the town of Sullivan would not have existed. Notes, Martin, I.J., p. 22."
[3] Glimpses of Life in Sullivan, Illinois During The Civil War and Until 1869.
[4] I.J. Martin, Notes on the History of Moultrie County and Sullivan, Illinois (Sullivan, 1990).
[5] Bragg Family Genealogy Forum; Bragg American Line; http://genforum.genealogy.com/bragg/messages/1877.html. [6] WIBios - Green County - Bragg, Thomas Jefferson, ©2005 WIBiographies-Green County Home. Thomas J. Bragg was born on January 15, 1813 to Doshur and Hannah Bragg, a large clan that knew poverty well as their father struggled to make ends meet in providing for their needs. When Thomas was born, his father was off fighting the War of 1812. As the family finally prospered, Doshur worked, for fifteen years, as "a slave overseer." Before long both Doshur and Hannah resolved to escape by making a new home for his family in the North, "a latitude where the legal equality of all men was recognized."
[7] This page last updated March 26, 2005, ©2005 WIBiographies-Green County Home; WIBios - Green County - Bragg, Thomas Jefferson.