Congratulations, Tim and Lisa

While Tim is (hopefully) at home sleeping off his jetlag, I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him and Lisa the very best on their 5th wedding anniversary. It’s times like this that being on opposite coasts really bites; a card and phone call hardly seem adequate. Fortunately, they’re both sensible people who know a good thing when they see it, so while I can’t help them celebrate in person on the 5th, hopefully I’ll catch them on the 10th through 50th and beyond.

Happy birthday to Lisa…

Happy birthday today to my wife Lisa. She has put up with me and has made some very stressful years of school and moving not just bearable but enjoyable because of her continual wit, humor, and energy. Plus she makes sure that I keep on my toes!

Source of my boyish good lucks no longer in question.

Herman Brackbill in photo dated 1939.
Courtesy my Dad: a spectacular picture of my maternal grandfather, Herman Brackbill (aka Pop-Pop), ca. 1939. His hairline is about where mine is today…

Pop-Pop was with my parents for a few weeks and by all reports is doing much better than he has been for a while. Esta reports that at my cousin’s wedding he was in great form, cracking jokes and generally having a good time. I look at how he’s doing in his eighties, and remember how my great-grandmothers on that side of the family both were–essentially non-responsive, at least as far as us kids were concerned–and I feel even better about how he’s been.

Visitors from the East

My in-laws flew into SeaTac last night. Unlike our last flight, there was no lost luggage. We loaded them into my car and swept them to our house so they could ooh and aah before we tucked them into bed.

This is a big visit for a couple of reasons:

  1. This is the first visit by any of our family to the house.
  2. My father in law is the reason we went through all the renovations on our guest bathroom. It’s kind of a payoff to have him finally using it.
  3. This is also the first time that the older portion of the house (the guest bedrooms) gets a real shakedown.
  4. Finally, Lisa’s mom can help us figure out what the heck to do in our garden. We don’t know very much about gardening; she ran a $500K gardening budget at their retirement community.

They’ll be here for a couple of weeks, so my late night blogging activity will be curtailed. (It probably would be anyway, as AT&T Broadband has been really flaky recently–download speeds of 1.5K/sec last night, no connection at all this morning!)

Happy birthday, Mom

My mom, who continues to be one of the most amazing women I know along with my wife and my sister, turns … well, discretion forbids. Anyway, it’s her birthday, and if you know her drop her a line and wish her well. One of the things that makes me unhappiest about being on this coast is that I can’t drop in on her without a lot of advance planning, but I know she and my dad will be throwing a great party tonight before she takes off for my cousin’s wedding in Pennsylvania tomorrow. So happy birthday, Mom!

Sorry I doubted you, Great-Uncle Landon

My cousin Aubrey’s genealogical research indicates that my great-uncle Landon, who died institutionalized, had patented “a method for transmitting mail by electricity.” When I saw the research a few years ago, I was Intrigued by the description but wasn’t able to find out anything about it. Last time I was back in North Carolina, I told my Dad I wondered if the patent had been issued or just applied for.

Today, with nothing much to do except “supervise” the refinishing and replacing of our floor, I looked up the patent in the PTO’s database, and found it: Number 847076, “Mail-Transportation System,” issued March 12, 1907. No on-line text, but there are six TIFF images of the patent drawings and claims. Pretty cool—he had an idea for an engine that would deliver mail to a series of regular stops, propelling itself by unspecified means along a suspended wire. Not as far fetched as shooting mail through a vast network of underground tubes using compressed air, which actually happened.

One more night…

One more night before I get home. I drove a hard nine hours today from my parents’ place in Asheville NC to my grandfather’s in Leola, PA. Pop-pop is much better mentally, though still having some minor hand tremors and a severe “tilt” toward his right side when he walks. My uncle and aunt were here as well, and we spent a good part of the evening talking through the genealogy. I showed Uncle John some of my Scheaffer research that I had done last time, and we argued about which Benedict Brackbill was which. All good fun.

At the Marshall Depot

The other thing that happened on Friday was that I made my first trip to the Marshall Depot. I wasn’t getting on a train or bus, just listening to local musicians and watching people clog.

Marshall, the seat of Madison County, NC, is a one stoplight town on the banks of the French Broad River that has been in the process of evaporating for as long as I can remember. Each time I went to town with my grandmother or my dad, there seemed to be fewer businesses. The only place that showed any sign of activity was the courthouse—the benches out front were always occupied by old men). The Depot sat at the far end of the street and was falling apart. The time was long past when the trains would actually stop in Marshall. Now the Depot was on the brink of being condemned.

My grandmother remembered meeting my grandfather getting off the train at the depot when they were courting. Upset that the property would be torn down, she called my uncle, who had been a railroad man. After a lot of work, the railroad came to an agreement with the town that made the property available for town use if they would do something with it.

Do something they did. A lot of lumber and paint later (as well as a donated sound system), the Depot was reborn as a venue for live music performance. Free admission, open stage (as long as you sign up on the list) and traditional dancing.

I listened on Friday to the band—a pick up ensemble, my mother told me, “and not very good—but they’re having fun.” As I watched one man in his seventies play an old National steel guitar, I had to disagree. They were good. In fact, they were the best thing I had seen in Marshall in a long, long time.

(Yeah, I know, Esta wrote about it first…)

In search of the cemetery, and other bits of the past

The so-called “Jarrett cemetery” in Asheville, NC, turns out to be pretty well hidden. To get to it, one must go through the town cemetery at Green Hills and out to the far section, a bluff overlooking the current site of Ingles at the corner of 19/23 and the Leicester Highway. It turns out, however, not to host any Jarretts in my direct line of descent—at least, none with legible markers.

Home country

I arrived in NC this afternoon after stopping overnight with my sister in Richmond. Not a bad trip, though I was afraid that the car wouldn’t make it over Old Fort Mountain without running out of gas. I screened O Brother, Where Art Thou? for my parents tonight—Mom thought it was funny, but I don’t know if Dad thought anything about it at all.

Tomorrow I’ll be looking for one of the ancestral Jarrett cemeteries and attending a function at the Marshall Depot, which my uncle and grandmother had a role in saving and converting into a spot for live music. Details later.

Happy anniversary, M&D

Happy anniversary to my parents, who (as of yesterday) have been married for 31 years. As I continue in my own path through marriage, I realize just how impressive and difficult a feat this is.

(PS—yes, I’m a day late in blogging this (thanks to Esta for the prod), but I did make dinner for them last night.)

Love is in the air…

Congratulations to my (distant) cousin Scott who, rumors have it, got engaged over the weekend. Scott was a little bit like a big brother that we only saw once a year when I was growing up. Best wishes to Scott and Karen–you’re about to start a really good journey.

Good news from PA

I just got off the phone with my sister. Fortunately, the previous story turns out to be only partly true. My grandfather was suffering from low blood sugar, but not from another stroke. Apparently he had just forgotten to eat–not good if one is on insulin shots. He’s already on his way home.

Now all we have to do is find my mom. She hopped in the car to drive from western NC to pick up my sister in Richmond, then go to PA. They’ll have to call the highway patrol — she doesn’t have a cell phone. It’s probably time for them to change that. 🙂


Looks like some of my genealogical research is seriously suspect, according to this article. This is really disappointing: the Freeman family (my grandmother’s family) was one of the genealogies I was pretty happy with, but it looks like some of the records (and it’s not clear how far back) are suspect.

This is an important lesson to me as an amateur genealogical researcher: always document your source…and investigate any second hand evidence before adding it in.