Internet, TV Vs. The Good Ol’ Days….

*I wrote this last night as I endured yet another internet outage*

Hit recently by a rash of internet outages, it has been frustrating to say to least in doing my family research. Oh I go to library’s , cemeteries, courthouses, etc. and do “field work” but I do spend time (a lot of time LOL!) on the internet researching where exactly my next field trip will take me. Ancestry, find a grave, Family Search, Cyndi’s List and genroots county web pages are my book marks. I find a lot of books online as well at the Library Archives that are out of copyright. I would rather read an old history book than a new one. The old books tell it as it was…… Real history, not the sugar coated bits and pieces spoon fed into today’s so called “History Books”.

So the internet goes out..What’s a girl to do? Our provider has had numerous “outages” (meaning at least twice a week) for a month. Some last several hours and some have lasted several days. I read books, I play more with my dogs, etc. I confess, I am a nerd girl not of this generation (or the last one LOL!) and do not watch much tv. I use to watch the History Channel many moons ago until they became the “Pawn Pickers” channel and what “history” they do show now is a bit skewed. A few facts with a whole lot of fluff …Nat Geo went the way of what I call the “No History” Channel. So my Golden Girls DVD’s are my running background if the TV is on or I listen to music. Someone once asked me who I rooted for on Dancing with the Stars–I thought it must be a show about Astronomy. Well . hm. It isn’t.

So this lead me to ponder our ancestor’s. No TV, No internet, heck go back not to far and no electricity. I imagine they sat on the front porch after dinner and visited with neighbors , perhaps someone was musical and played an instrument . If they were farmers they did the farm chores for the evening. Town folks hosted dinner parties with dinner often lasting several hours and front porch neighbor visits and calls.

So times like these make me think of our ancestor’s. How they lived full, lives without our modern “conveniences”.  Stories told round the nightly fires, sing alongs , front porch sitting and chatting…Ah I long for the good old days where my neighbors actually would come out of their house not be inside watching the next Batchelor or Pawn star moonshine wars. I read about this generation inability to communicate due to Facebook, instant messages, email etc. No one knows how to write a letter , no one knows patience in writing that letter and having it take a week (or more ) to be delivered. We type an email, hit send and get antsy if we don’t hear back in an hour or so. We send texts, emails and occasionally a phone conversation. It’s the instant, now , this very second kinda world. We post our lives on Facebook and count how many “likes” or comments we get ..The more we get the more “popular” we feel. Like Sally Field said so many years ago “They like me, they really like me!” Ahh, I long for the good ol’ days……

But then….

Many years I read a book and I wish I could remember the name but I can’t. Anway in it , the granddaughter is complaining to her elderly grandmother about how hectic life is with her work, the house and the children. She spills out her complaints ,almost in tears to her dear Grandmother. Grandmother listens , patting her hand softly while she talks . At the end of her list of complaints and woes , she looks at her Grandmother and says “Oh Grandmother, I wish we could go back to the good ol’ days”. Instead of receiving the sympathy she expects and the “me too dearie”, her Grandmother looked at her and said something to this effect “Dear did you put your clothes in a WASHING MACHINE today? Do you have a DRYER or did you wait for them to dry on the line after hanging them up? Did you hand wash all the dirty dishes or did you use your DISHWASHER? When you wanted to stay up last night to read that last chapter of that book you’ve been reading did you light a candle or use a LAMP? When your kids are hungry and you have no food do you whip our your CREDIT CARD and call the PIZZA MAN? When you do cook do you have to go out and get firewood , light and wait for it to get hot before you start cooking or did you TURN A DIAL? When you had to go the 10 miles to the grocery store did it take you all day or did your AUTOMOBILE get you there and back in 30 mins? Don’t tell me about the Good Ole’ Days. Hunny your living in them.”

Grandma has a point.

So while I sit with no internet like all those brave ancestor’s before me, I will be thankful that 1) we have it and 2) I have the ability to instantly communicate with my friends and family. There are good and bad points to this, just like most things in life.

Although sometimes I long for the good ol days and all those things we think of in the slower , less hectic, less modern life, Grandma has a point…..I think I’ll keep my washing machine.


What’s in a name………

I’m backkkkkkkkk…..After a major computer malfunction , where I had to get another one and am now learning Windows 8 (uggghhh!) and re-organizing my files on the new computer, I am back at it again. Many genealogist will say this and I will repeat, ALWAYS back up your information. I print in hard copy, I make a digital file for each branch , subdivided by person and I always put that on of those neat memory disk things. Trust me what happened to me could have been a lot worse if I had not heeded the cry of those before me.

I have been working on another branch of the family, the Randolph/Harrison line. These were both prominent families in early Jackson county. John Randolph (wife, Nancy Hinton Randolph) came to Georgia about 1806 from Abbeville, SC where they had moved from Virginia. There is a lot of information on him and his family. His son Tandy Key Randolph is my direct descendent. He married Adaline Virginia Harrison and had several children one of whom was Sarah (Sallie) who married W.T.B Brock (son of James A and Lucy Coleman Brock) They had a daughter Myrtie, who married James D. Martin , who in turn had a daughter Thelma Martin Simpson, my grandmother.

I have found many twists and turns in this family. Turns out the early Randolph’s were fond of two things. 1) Naming their children for their siblings. Yes, they did. Mostly the males but many girls were named Nancy after the Matriarch of the clan. Some of Tandy’s brothers were Joshua, John, Hilliard, Hightower and Washington. Tandy named his sons Hiliard, John and Joshua. Joshua named his sons Hilliard, John and Joshua. Hilliard named his sons Joshua, Tandy, Washington and John. Then the next generation picked up the same trend. 2) the early generation loved to marry into the Harrison family. Tandy and his brother Hilliard married Harrison girls (Eliza and Adaline) -The next generation again continued the trend. This generation also liked to marry into the Hudgins line (another family line from the Jackson -Hall county line area) .

I have read up on naming patterns of the ancestor’s and realize this is not terribly  unusual but it sure makes it hard in finding records to make sure you have the right person not his nephew.

So what’s in a name? That’s part of our story. I know I am named for my Father’s brother Joe who died young. Remember when you had to fill out those little forms in school?  First, Middle and Last name…..Well one day in school we had to fill some out and all the other girls were laughing and giggling asking “what’s your middle name?” I had nothing. ‘. I couldn’t believe people had middle names! I never heard of such. So I went home and asked my mom what was my middle name. She said I didn’t have one as my Dad named me and he said a middle name was a waste, just something else to learn to spell and  no one ever used it anyway. So there ya go. My story. Part of me.

My ancestor Tandy Key Randolph is said to have been named for his father John’s great friend , Tandy Key who was also a very active citizen in early Jackson County history.

So your name is more than meer words you get mail by or identified with the gov’t by or what your friends call you (hopefully) , it is part of your story. My ancestor’s names are part of their story. So I will continue digging through the Tandy’s and Joshua’s and John’s. Hey it beats the heck out of still looking for Bud and Fannie Johnson (which on really optimistic days I still try………..)


A little ramble….

For many years a gentlemen who was in my husband’s SCV camp did what he called “Rambles” . These Rambles took us all over the back country side in search of our local history. We would leave early in the morning, bring our lunch and spend the day tramping through woods in search of forgotten cemetery’s, rolling down Ga dirt back roads to see old homes or sites of old homes or historic churches, mills or whatever was on the agenda that day.

A few years back, we went on one that took us to Greene County, GA. I remember toward the end of the day we were on a real (aka pavement!) road headed back to Watkinsville. Our guide pulled off in what seemed the middle of nowhere houses, no stores..just fields and trees. We all stopped our cars, got out and followed him across the field to the edge of some woods. Here he took us to a family cemetery and pointed out the markers of two boys who died in service to the CSA. He pointed out the markers as they were intricately carved and very ornate , as well as marble. These stones cost a pretty penny indeed, but even more dear in the economic uncertainty and unrest in the war torn South. As we stood at the cemetery, our fellow pointed out where about the old plantation house once stood. He said it had been lost but there were a few bricks left of the old support columns.

We did many things on these rambles. Some I remember and some I don’t. For some reason this particular story always stuck with me. It touched me. Here’s a family spending money that surely would have come in handy for other things in this time to memorialize their boys. Lives  lost too soon.

Yesterday, I pulled out my copy of “Ghost of Grandeur” –local author wrote this and it’s about old plantation houses in GA that no longer stand due to time, fire, etc. It’s a fascinating book. I came across a page that showed the old Jackson Plantation in Greene County Ga and remembered the family name from that day….Jackson.

With tingling nerves I began to read..YES! This was the Jackson house from my trip so many years ago. After all these years of wondering about what the home must have been like  there it was. An old photograph. It was stated in the book that a paper company owns the land now and the house was torn down in the 1940’s. I was just thrilled! Here it was. The connection started many years ago was made and a final bit of it’s history came back to me.

As a side note, the family also had a young son who was 6 at the time of the war. He inherited the plantation upon his parent’s death. His wife didn’t care much for country living, so he sold the plantation (the paper company) and built her a Victorian mansion in downtown Greensboro. Many years ago that house was moved and serves now as the Sales office for Reynold’s Plantation.

Photo of the Old Jackson Plantation House


Photos of the boys graves in the family cemetery

z howard Zacheus Butler Jackson  1841 died    July 2, 1862

e howard Edward Howard Jackson 1845 died July 4th, 1864

The mansion built by the Later Jackson Brother


Always tuck those bits and pieces away..the more you learn, the more the connect..and everyone has a story to tell….

From Fields to Mills………

William Myers Nix–Born in 1871 in South Carolina. Son of Elijah and Nancy Nix.

William married Mary Elizabeth Chapman Sept 3, 1898 in Greenville, SC.

By the 1900 census William and family are living in Habersham County, GA along with his father Elijah.

Like many sons of the day, William chooses industry over agriculture. The farmers are coming in  out of the fields and into the southern cotton mills of the day. This is the life William lived although his family had lived off the land for generations. There is a general trend at this time of many young families doing exactly has William did. Money and lands had been lost in the war, the labor intensive crop required lots of land which many families were not able to hold on to. Thus the trend began in the south as families moved from the fields to the mills.

In the 1910 Census William has moved his family to Jackson County, GA. There they work in the cotton mill at Jefferson.

In the 1920’s William has yet again moved his family to Barnett Shoals, Oconee County GA. Here he and his sons work in the Star Thread Mill. (this is the mill below my house that I have researched)

There are a few mentions of the William’s sons in the social section of the newspaper regarding Barnett Shoals. Most notably, those of the boys being in the mill Boy Scout Troop.

The Star Thread Mill entered it’s decline in the late 1920’s and in the 1930 Census there is hardly a soul left here in Barnett Shoals. Wm has again packed up and moved back to Jackson County , GA where they again work at the Jefferson Mills. Here my Grandmother, Ada meets her future husband, C.W. Johnson and they marry in 1931.

By 1935 William has moved on to Rockdale County. His oldest son William R. had moved there to work in the cotton mills in the 1920’s. He is in his late 60’s by now and living with one of his sons, Grover who works in the mill there.

In 1956 William dies and is buried in the Eastview Cemetery in Conyers, GA. Lizzie (Mary Elizabeth) died the year before in 1955 and is buried there as well.

wm nix

William and family are typical of what I have found of the southern mill worker especially those in the 1910-1930 era.  They moved around a lot. Workers went from one mill to another looking for work. If one mill was dying off , the workers packed up and moved to the next one. There were plenty in this area to choose from and since the housing was provided by the mill for the workers, there was no real estate to consider. Just pack up your family and household goods and on the the next one. Many times one mill paid higher wages or had more work. Mill owners often used the ice cream socials, annual picnics, and other outside work entertainment in the mill villages to keep workers.

William’s life is a fascinating glimpse into that of the typical mill worker.

William and Lizzie (Mary Elizabeth) Nix –my great grandparents.


Everyone has a story to tell……

I have received a few requests for additional photo’s and information on the Old Barnett Shoals Cemetery that  I wrote about yesterday in my blog about the Star Thread Mill.

The cemetery itself is in very poor condition. Headstones are falling over, graves are sinking and mother nature is reclaiming the land. I have made a few visits to the cemetery. It is a very haunting place (excuse the pun!) Here are a few more pics of the cemetery.

bs 1       bs 2


I have been able to identify a little over 20 people buried in the cemetery. Some will never be found as many graves are marked just with rocks or outlined with rocks and no headstones.  The earliest grave I have found is 1903 however most of the graves are from the 1920’s when the mill and village was in it’s heyday. I used census records, historical newspapers and death certificates from Ga’s virtual vault. There are few death certificates that say the person is buried there but I haven’t found a headstone.

It’s sad to me that down this hardly used back road , there are those lying there mostly forgotten in what was once the center of the mill town in which they or their parents worked, lived and built through their labor. What is a now a quiet, rural area was one the scene of busy activity. People living, working and playing. I was inspired to see what I could find out about each person buried there and tell their story. We all have one. Everyone has a story to tell.

For the next few days, I will highlight a few of them here. For those that have seen them before on my Facebook group, forgive the repetition. Each time I share these stories, I myself learn a bit more about them and built a stronger connection. I hope you will feel the same.

George Baughman was grew up in the mill village (his father J.W. and mother Josephine worked in the mill 1900-1920 and are buried here too) and was a nightwatchman and then overseer in the mill. In 1928 Poor George was run over by a car in Athens, GA. His car stalled and as he got out of the car to investigate he was run over by another car. He was 36 years old. It was all front page headlines in the Athens paper (Ga Digital Library-Historic Newspapers-Athens)


Lester Brooks-son of Mr. and Mrs. J.F Brooks who had just moved here from Walton Co. to work in the mill In 1920 . Lester died shortly after the family moved here at 10 years of age. His obit does not list a cause of death. His family moved on to Jefferson, Ga to work in the mills there.

S/W Ver: 97.04.2BR

Liza  Bellew-Mrs. Bellew’s son John worked in the mill in the 1920’s. He died in 1923 and was buried in Jackson , Co Ga. His wife Nora, stayed at Barnett Shoals and Eliza continued living with her  daughter-in-law up until her death in 1926 at age 78. Nora then moved to work in mills in Crawford and then to the GA Factory at Whitehall (Clarke Co)

eliza bellew

“Carved from the Idle Wild….”

Switching gears a bit today…Today I am going to share with you about the Star Thread mill that operated here in Barnett Shoals, Ga. There’s a family connection here , but sit tight for a little history lesson first.

About 15 years ago  or so when we moved to where we currently live, my husband and son went out riding dirt bikes in our area one afternoon. They came home telling me all about these ruins that had seen down by the river and damn below our house. Ruins? Old ghost town? Oh right up my alley! They took me down there to see them and I was hooked. It was fascinating. What was this? A little investigation led me to find it was the ruins of the old Star Thread Mill. A little more investigation of the area and there is a cemetery and old rock foundations down the  road that use to lead to the mill. An old ghost town now taken over by the weeds, trees, and briars.

In 1880 the Star Thread Mill was built. It was to produce a light, fine yarn. The site was chosen because of the magnificent natural shoals at this point in the river that supplied ample water power. The mill was two story, 100 feet broad, 200 feet deep and had skylights. It was innovative for it’s time as it had a sprinkler system. The below pic is the best one I have found of the mill as it looked.

star mill

The mill changed hands around the turn of the century and Mr. John White , who owned another profitable mill in the area took control. Under him, the damn and powerhouse at Barnett Shoals was built. The little mill village here was the first in the area to have electric lights. The power was then sent to Athens and Watkinsville. There it lit  homes, ran factories and street cars.

The mill operated until sometime in the 1930’s. Then it closed. The houses were owned by the mill and sold off and moved. But their rock foundations remained. Below is a pic I took several years back of one the remaining walls of the mill. (sorry for the poor quality! No scanner yet –this is a pic of a pic but you get the idea)

pic if stm
The mill village itself was not unlike many of it’s time. It had a baseball team (who were pretty darn good from the newspaper accounts I have read) , the superintendent  of the mill started a boy scout troop, they had their own church, cemetery, commissary and even a Mill Band. I have found newspaper accounts of annual picnics and ice cream social for the mill operatives.  It was quite a busy town. Barnett Shoals itself was incorporated as a town in 1914 with a mayor and councilmen. The charter was lost for the town in the 1950’s.

Early newspaper accounts state the town and mill were carved “Out of the Idle Wild” and was certain to be a busy site of industry.The original plan was the harness the river power and built up to 40 factories in the area. It was certain to be the next huge manufacturing town of the South.  Sadly today that is what it has gone back to , the idle wild. Not much left of the old mill, just a few crumbling walls, the foundations of some of the homes and a cemetery in bad need of clean up and repair. Many of the gravestones have fallen over, or are just unreadable. Mother nature is reclaiming the old village. The picture below is what remains of the superintendents house. and one of the old cemetery. I have researched each person in the cemetery and there are some interesting and sad stories. I have shared them on my Facebook group “Jo’s History Vault” a link is listed on the right hand side if your interested in joining the group.

bs millcemetery bs

The family connection? (you thought I forget huh?) Several years after I became interested in the mill , I picked up an old copy of a family history my Dad had given me many years ago. It was of his mother’s family the Nixes. I decided to sit down and take a look at the family and see what I could find.

Imagine my absolute surprise and delight when I found in the 1920 Census my grandmother’s (Ada Mae Nix Johnson) family living here ..her father and brothers working in my obsession, the Star Thread Mill! I can’t describe that moment in words as there really aren’t any. I remembered my grandmother telling me one time after I married and moved to Oconee County that she had lived in Oconee as a young girl. As the young do, I just said “great” and kinda of left it at that….oh if I could go back in many questions, so much I would like to ask.

The Tale of a Southern Woman……

Rebecca Emiline Hudgins Martin –Rebecca is my 2nd great grandmother. She was the daughter of Zacheus Hudgins (Son of Jane Bell daughter of Patriot Francis Bell)

I discovered Rebecca during my quest to find lineage for my DAR Patriot, Francis Bell. At first glance, Rebecca seemed to be like many other ancestor’s. They were just there. A line on a census record.

A little more digging and Rebecca’s story unfold before my eyes. It was one of the most remarkable stories I had seen and one that proved I am descended from a long line of strong, hearty women.

She was born in 1845 in Hall County , GA to Zacheus and Peggy Hudgins. One November 23, 1860. Rebecca married a fellow by the name of Hugh Columbus Martin. She was about 15 or 16 at the time of her marriage.


In March of 1862, Hugh Columbus heeded the call of War and joined the CSA. He was in the 55th Georgia. His unit saw hard fighting at many famous battles, including that of Cumberland Gap in 1863. At Cumberland Gap approximately 540 officers and men were captured. After they were exchanged, they were detached and placed as guard duty at the Confederate Prisons at Camp Sumter (Andersonville) and later Camp Florence (South Carolina) and Camp Salisbury (North Carolina) . Hugh’s record shows he was at Florence and Salisbury.

So here’s Rebecca, with a baby (Richard born 1862) a husband in the army, a brother who died in the war (Zacheus who I blogged about earlier this week) running the farm. It had to be hard and uncertain times for her.

After the war, Hugh Columbus returned home. They had 8 more children between 1866 and 1878. Then the unthinkable happened.

I searched and searched and took this to my expert genealogy ladies, in hopes of what I was seeing simply wasn’t true. The night I found it, I stayed up half the night and cried for my dear Grandmother Rebecca. It broke my heart for her.

Sometime after the birth of their last child in 1878 and before 1880 Hugh left..Left Rebecca and the children and went back to Tennessee where he took up house with an 18 year old (Hugh was approx. 38 years of age now) The area he as moved to is  the area his unit was during 1863. Perhaps he met a family there that helped him and he returned ? Who knows.

The 1880 Census shows Rebecca in Hall county with the children. A special census of that year shows the agricultural census and Rebecca is listed. She had 48 acres of tilled land, 2 acres of “orchards or vineyards”,  livestock and horses and a mule.

The youngest child listed as Cloia ,  born about 1878 never appears again in any record. She may have died at a very young age. So Rebecca is grieving a brother lost in war, an absconding husband, and very possibly the loss of a child. During this time in 1879, she loses her father Zacheus as well. All of that at one time would be enough to put anyone under. But not Rebecca.

Rebecca carried on. In 1900, she is living with her 2nd Daughter Julia who has married. She lives with them until her death on January 28, 1927 at the age of 81.


Rebecca is a testament to the strong willed, hard work of  the Civil War and after era of the Southern Woman. Left with little and facing overwhelming odds and still grieving their losses,  these women continued to hold up not only themselves but their families and gave strength and fortitude to the next generation and generations to come.