My Grandpa was Superstitious ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

Superstition: Watch what you eat!

My Grandpa was John Pleasant Smith Sr. born September 8, 1882, in Hazel Hill Missouri. On John’s mothers side his roots grew deep into Ireland’s fertile soil. He had all the superstitions of your typical Irishman, but he also had some that was passed down from his father’s side. Pleasant Smith was said to be a Creek Indian. I haven’t been able to prove nor disprove this since he is my biggest brick wall. I do know that my beloved Grandpa had one Superstition that I have never forgotten.

John Pleasant Smith Sr and my mother Emmajane, 1967

When I was 12 years old, we had just moved back to Missouri, and we settled in the quaint little town of Oak Grove, Missouri. It wasn’t a permanent situation, but we were there long enough for me to finally get to know my Grandpa. The house we rented was only 6 blocks from his home. I would go visit him after school and on Saturdays. He taught me a lot about growing vegetables and taking care of fruit trees. I always thought some of his planting ideas were really just Superstitions. He taught me to plant anything that grows on top of the soil when the Moon is full and anything that grows beneath the soil should be planted in the dark of the Moon. Over the years I have had bumper crops of veggies by following his instructions and I recently discovered that this is even written about in the Farmer’s Almanac. Oh well, so much for that Superstition.

He did other things because of his belief in Superstitions. One was if he left the house by the back door he would have to re-enter the house by that same door. To do otherwise brought bad luck. He believed that if the Moon had a ring around it then it was sure to rain within 3 days. I distinctly remember one day while I was visiting, my Grandma and I were sitting in the living room shelling peas. My Grandpa came in and asked me if I wanted to see a Yellow Headed Blackbird. I was so excited I jumped out of the rocking chair I was sitting in and ran towards the door. My Grandpa froze in place and told me to go back and stop the chair from rocking. He believed if you leave a rocking chair rocking when empty, it invites evil spirits to come into your house to sit in the rocking chair.

Although I remember these Superstitions, they are not the strangest one that he had, the one that has stuck with me all these years. It all started the first time we went to eat at my Grandparents home. We were all sitting around the kitchen table and after my Grandpa said “Grace” my Grandma and mom served our plates. I sat in astonishment as my Grandma brought a plate with only 2 pieces of chicken on it and set it in front of my Grandpa. She went back into the kitchen and came back with 2 smaller plates, one with mashed potatoes and one with green beans, and she placed these in front of him. By the time all the plates were placed on the table Grandpa had 5 separate plates with just one specific food on each one. I had never seen anything like it. I looked at my own plate. I had all the same things as he did but it was all on just one plate. I watched as Grandpa slowly ate each plate of food, one right after the other. After dinner, I asked him why he ate his food like that. He told me that he was raised to believe that if you let your food touch each other on your plate that you will get sick and die. My Grandpa was 84 years old so it made it easy for me to believe it too!

I decided to eat the same way; I mean why risk it, right? When I told my mom about my decision she said if that is what I wanted then go ahead and do it, but I would have to wash my own dishes afterwards. Eating this way only lasted a couple of days. It just wasn’t worth adding all those extra dishes for me to wash!

Here are some other Superstitions held by my mom and Grandpa.

Finding a penny brings good luck. When you pick it up you MUST say “Find a penny, pick it up all the day you’ll have good luck!”

Crossing your fingers for luck or to ward off evil or to not have to tell the truth

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday at the Cemetery ~ Buckner Hill Cemetery ~ Buckner, Johnson County, Missouri

This week I will be featuring this small quaint cemetery, located in the town of Buckner about 28 miles east of Kansas City. The grounds of the cemetery is dotted with so many large trees that almost every stone is in the shade!

I have two ancestors buried here. My maternal Grandparents.

John Pleasant Smith Sr was born on September 8, 1882, in Hazel Hill, Johnson County Missouri. He is the only son born to Pleasant Smith (1853-1893) and Sarah Jane Page (1860-1938). He was raised by his mother as his father deserted the family shortly after he was born. He married Ella McGowan (1888-1921) on September 17, 1904, in Lexington. Lafayette County, Missouri. They had 6 children, 3 sons, and 3 daughters. John held several jobs throughout his life. He was a farmer, a grave digger, a coal miner, and a carpenter. After the death of his wife Ella, he married Nellie Jane Barrett (1879-1948) on May 8, 1926. After Nellie Jane died he then married Nellie Robinson (1885-1987) on February 15, 1949. John died at a hospital in Independence MO. He died from a broken neck after 5 days in the hospital. His 3rd wife Nellie had pushed him over a lawn mower which resulted in the neck breaking. He died on June 25, 1968 at the age of 85.

Ella E. McGowan was born on September 17, 1904, in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri. She is the oldest of 8 children born to John Henry McGowan (1863-1957) and Asenath “Dolly” Walt (1863-1931). She had 2 brothers, and 5 sisters. She married John Pleasant Smith (1882-1968) on September 17, 1904, in Lexington. Lafayette County, Missouri. They had 6 children, 3 sons, and 3 daughters. Ella was born with Valvular heart disease and had to be careful with overdoing it her entire life. The strain of having 6 children in 14 years was too much for her condition. She died of a heart attack on November 19, 1921, at the age of 33.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Oldest ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ Week #40

I have always felt out of place when my friends and I have talked about Genealogy. We would share about our parents and in most cases, I would discover that my parents were older than most of theirs. As an example, when I was 10 years old my Dad was 50 years old and my mother was 46 years old.

When I started researching my family tree, I discovered a shocking fact. All of my Grandparents were way older than any of my friends Grandparents were. Here is the break down of both my maternal and paternal Grandparents and their ages.

John Pleasant Smith

On my maternal side my Grandfather is John Pleasant Smith. He was born on September 8, 1882. That made him 73 years old when I was born, and he was 86 when he died in 1967. My Grandmother is Ella McGowan. She was born on November 6, 1888. She was just 33 years old when she died in 1921. That means she died 34 years before I was born.

Charley and Virginia

On my paternal side my Grandmother is Virginia Belle Hayes. She was born on March 18, 1880. She died in 1951 at the age of 71. She died 4 years before I was born. My Grandfather is Charles “Charley” Hughes. He is my biggest dilemma. I do not have a definite date of birth for him. His Headstone says he was born in 1868, his death certificate says 1865, my Aunt Margaret’s hand-written genealogy says 1864, the page from the Hughes Family Bible says 1861 and the family tree in my baby book says he was born in 1867. So depending on which date is correct he was born between 87 and 94 years before I was born. He died in 1944.

Because of the ages of all my Grandparents, their children were born between 1900 and 1919. I have no living Aunts nor Uncles. The last one died 34 years ago. I have one living first cousin on my maternal side and 2 on my paternal side that are still alive. All 3 male cousins are much older than I. That is just 3 of the over 50 first cousins that I had.

I know that there is probably a lot of people who can say their Grandparents were much older than most of their peers Grandparents. I just find it fascinating that all of my Grandparents were so much older than the norm!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ My Grandpa’s Wisdom

Grandpa Smith & NellieWhat I can remember about my maternal Grandpa is pretty limited. He had come to visit us twice in Tucson, AZ when I was younger but I only recall the last time he came. When we moved to Missouri when I was 12 years old we moved to the small town where he lived, Oak Grove, population 900! I loved going to his house and just hanging out with him. I wish now that I had paid more attention to the stories he would tell me. When you’re a child you don’t realize the limits of time. He died the next year.

Everything about Missouri was different from Arizona. I was raised with cactus, mountains, sand, and hot weather in the summer and spring-like temperatures the rest of the year. Here it was green everywhere! Trees, grass, plants with beautiful flowers and farms with large green crops. It was humid for about 5 months and cold the other 7 months. The land was either flat or had small rolling hills. It was definitely a challenge for a young girl. Talking with my Grandpa made it all seem so wonderful. He found beauty in everything and he would educate me on the wonders of nature.

Grandpa Smith lived in town but he had over 5 acres for his yard. He Gpa and Gma Hughes olderhad multiple fruit trees and a large garden. When I would go to his house I loved helping him outside. He had a few apple and apricot trees, however, he had 16 peach trees. I believe this is where I got my love of peaches from. I would help him pick peaches for his wife to make a cobbler with. Eating it was like a taste of heaven. One time my Grandpa wasn’t feeling well so he said I could pick the peaches by myself if I wanted, so I ran outside with my basket and began pulling the peaches off the tree. The next thing I knew I was getting stung by bees! I had stepped on a rotten peach that the bees were swarming on and they were taking their revenge. I ran screaming to the house and my Dad and Grandpa came running out. They started pulling the stingers out of my legs. My grandpa went in and got an ointment that he had made and put it on the stings and within 5 minutes most of the pain and swelling were gone. I sure wish I knew what was in it!

The greatest advice I ever got from Grandpa was how to plant vegetables. He told me to plant anything that grows under the ground, 1920px-The_University_of_California_UCLA.svglike radishes or potatoes during the dark phase of the moon and anything that grows above the ground should be planted during the full moon phase. I took it to heart because I saw with my own eyes the abundance of crops that he grew. When we moved to Hollywood, California I was amazed at how easy it was to grow any kind of plant. All you had to do was place it in the ground and it grew! Our landlord’s son attended UCLA majoring in agriculture. We got into a discussion about planting crops and I told him what Grandpa had said. He laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe. I was furious! I didn’t like him making fun of my Grandpa. So he made a bet with me. We would plant the exact same 4 vegetables in our yards and whoever grew the most vegetables would be taken out to dinner by the loser. He did it his scientific way and I did it according to the moon. I will just say I was treated to the best meal I ever had at the end of the challenge! My garden produced twice as much as his. My Grandpa’s wisdom had certainly paid off.

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Ancestors Signature #16 ~ John Pleasant Smith Sr.

signatureHow many of you have searched for any kind of photo of an Ancestor and you weren’t able to find one? Especially for one who lived before photography was invented? Have you ever looked through documents like wills, or marriage licenses and you discover that your 3x Great Grandpa had signed it? This signature is a little piece of him that was left behind. By posting it online we can preserve it for future generations.

 

 

 

My Grandfather

Man's Silhouette

John Plesent Smith WWI Draft Registration Sept 12, 1918

  

 John Pleasant Smith 1882-1968

From his WWI Draft Registration dated Sept 12, 1918

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ Grandpa Smiths Excellent Adventure

Grandpa SMithIn 1962 my mothers’ dad came from Missouri to Tucson AZ for a 2-week visit. John Pleasant Smith was born in 1882 and he had never been to Arizona before so my parents planned a fun-filled vacation for him. I was 7 years old and I was so excited because I had never met my Grandpa. Well OK, I did but I was a baby and I didn’t remember it. Some of the planned activities were to take him for a cookout in the Saguaro National Forest, make a trip up to the top of the 9000 ft Mount Lemon, watch the gunfights at Old Tucson Studios, see the wildlife at the Sonoran Desert Museum, and last but not least an exciting day in Nogales, Mexico.

saguaro national park

The day finally came and I got to finally meet my Grandpa. He wasn’t as tall as my dad but he still looked like a giant to me. He had piercing blue eyes and a smile that made him look like he was up to something. He brought my sister and me each a doll and a bag full of “Missouri Candy”. I loved the way he talked. He had an accent that rivaled Hee Haw! (you can google it LOL). Over the next week, we had so much fun. Each night we hit the bed exhausted but so happy.

nogales mx postcardIt was finally time to make the trip to Mexico. I had been there a couple of times because my dad bought medicine for his stomach there. We would make a quick trip down and back with very little sightseeing. This time we took our time. It was an hour’s drive south from Tucson and Grandpa wanted to stop at all the Missions and other points of interest so it took us much longer. When we got to the border we parked on the US side and walked through the checkpoint into Mexico. My dad told my Grandpa to not, under any circumstance, take his wallet out of his pocket while we were on the street. He forgot about my Grandpas’ big heart! It wasn’t long before a couple of poorly dressed kids approached us asking fordad and grandpa change. My Grandpas heart broke and he took out his wallet and pulled out two dollar bills and gave each kid one. This was a lot of money in those days. Immediately we were surrounded by kids all wanting money. A shop keeper came out and tried to chase the kids away but there were too many so he grabbed my Grandpa and pushed him in his shop. We followed. The shop keeper lectured Grandpa about not doing this and after the kids left we finished our shopping. Dad and Grandpa picked up some souvenirs and we headed home.

In the 1960s, in order to cross the border in either direction, all you had to do was declare where you were born. Easy and efficient. My Grandpa went first, then me, my sister, and my dad, Then it was my mother’s turn. She decided to try to be funny and when asked where she was born she responded: “I wasn’t born I was made in Japan!”. We all laughed but the border agents did not. They refused to let her leave Mexico. They made her go sit in a room with a female agent. My dad talked to the men but they told us it would be at least 2 hours before they could verify that my mother was born in Missouri. We were all hungry so Grandpa suggested we go get something to eat. We went to our favorite restaurant, ate a leisurely lunch then headed back to the border. By the time we got there, they were ready to release my mother. I can’t express how upset and angry she was. She cussed and ranted non-stop for about the first 20 minutes we were on the road. All of a sudden my Grandpa burst out laughing. I got a little nervous because there was one thing I knew, you never laugh at my mother. He told her the look on her face when they wouldn’t let her through was priceless and he hoped she learned a lesson. It was all her fault for being a smart a** and she was setting a bad example for us. She didn’t say another word all the way home.

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.