“WIDDERSHINS”—To go in a new direction, contrary to what is expected


By, Gerry Roe

I am a retired nurse. As a person who spent most of my adult life working in the medical field, I have always paid close attention to my family’s medical history. I know that, going back generations, men on the paternal side of my family often suffered heart attacks and the women were prone to having strokes. I have known for years that women on the maternal side of my family have often been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Those are facts of my medical history.

I recently looked at the death certificate of my maternal grandmother Lillie Bell Fowler Isaacs. I’ve had the certificate since the 1970’s when I first started researching my genealogy. Her cause of death is listed as chronic gastritis.  I’ve looked at it many times over the years and have never considered any contributing factors—even though one is clearly listed. Until now.

Premature childbirth! Those words unexpectedly jumped off the page at me. It suddenly occurred to me.  This would have been her 10th pregnancy over a period of twenty-one years.

Her doctor stated on her death certificate that she had been under his care for five months and  was seen by him the day that she died.  I now speculate that her gastritis developed into an ulcer and the that the stress of a tenth pregnancy combined with poor nutrition is what caused her death at the young age of 40.    

Lillie Bell Fowler Isaacs holding James (Jay) and Beatrice (Bea) to her right. Last picture before her death.
Additional picture of Lillie Belle and Jay, this most likely is the one closer to her death. Note how thin she is compared to the previous one.

I don’t recall my mother ever mentioning that her mother was pregnant when she died. Her doctor didn’t say how far along she was or if the prematurely born baby was a boy or a girl.

I had another unexpected realization soon after I looked at my grandmother’s death certificate. My mother was only 16 years old when her mother died.  I created a timeline of events that happened after my grandmother died. It allowed me to see that my mother married my father less than one month after my grandmother died.

Was their marriage an unexpected consequence of her mother’s death or had they planned on getting married at that time?  What I do know is that my 16-year-old mother entered her marriage with custody of her little sister Beatrice (Bea) and her baby brother James (Jay). Her father William Gordon Isaacs also lived with my mother and father. He lived with them until his death which occurred about 15 months later.

Ruby holding brother Jay and brother Frank standing. 1926-1927

This makes me very sad for my mother. I can’t imagine what it was like for her at 16 years old, to lose her mother,  learn how to be married, and take  care of two young children and a grieving father.


Handed Down

“I ordered a package of scraps. I’ll send you some in the next letter.”  From Evelyn Isaacs Combs letter of September 24, 1933 to her sister, Ruby Isaacs Roe

Handed Down

By Gerry Roe/edited by Betsy Cross Thorpe

The threads of quilting run deep in my family. I have a treasured, handed down, bow -tied patterned quilt my paternal grandmother made for mother in 1929. It is displayed in my home. It is made of 320 individual hand-sewn blocks of red, white and black fabric. The most distinctive feature of the quilt is that one corner block is entirely different in design. That personalized block was made from scraps left over from material my grandmother used to make a dress for my mother.

Made by Ary Odell Dawson Roe 1929

My mother was also a quilter. Her mother taught her to make hand sewn quilts when she was young. My mother purchased a White treadle sewing machine sometime after we moved to Oregon in 1946. She used it for mending, quilt-making and to make clothes. She never bought another machine. She used that sewing machine for the rest of her life. .

My mother taught me how, to hand quilt and to sew clothes on her treadle machine. I inherited it from her, it now belongs to me and is one of my most valued possessions.

I took up quilting again later in life—this time around I used an electric machine. I made a quilt for each of my two grandchildren. They are tucked away safely inside their treasure boxes, where they will remain until the time is right for me to hand them down to them. May it last as long and be as treasured as my grandmother’s quilt that was handed down to me.

White Treadle Machine circa late 1940s

#52ancestersin52weeks #52ancestersin52weekshandeddown


“I can only tell you what I believe down deep in my soul that memories endure, keeping special people with you always.  Unknown


By, Gerry Roe

A tombstone marks a place of burial.  It is also sometimes called a foot stone, a grave marker, a gravestone, a headstone, a ledger, or a monument.  When my mother’s baby brother Robert Isaacs died in 1917, shortly after his birth. His burial site was marked by a Mason glass fruit jar.

I am sure that many of you have driven down the road and seen a cross or bouquets of flowers placed at the site where someone has died. Those are different than a tombstone for they mark the place of death, not the place of burial.

Today many grieving families choose cremation over burials when their loved ones die. Thus, many deceased persons do not have a tombstone to mark their final resting place. However, there are several old tombstones marking the graves of my ancestors and other family members. Their names are eroding away, and the stones are becoming difficult to read. One day it will be impossible to read them, and no one will know the name of the person buried there.

My parents, Henry David Roe and Ruby Isaacs Roe, are buried at Fir Grove Cemetery in Cottage Grove Oregon. My eldest brothers Eugene Roe, and Herman Frank Roe were cremated. Frank’s ashes have a final resting place at Willamette National Cemetery in Happy Valley, Oregon. My brother Kenneth David Roe, cremated but his ashes laid to rest in Fir Grove Cemetery. His headstone is in the row below the grave of our parents, as will be mine when I am cremated. My sister Nannie Elizabeth Roe Cross’s will be buried in the plot next to our parents.

My brothers Henry Alan Roe and William Gordon Roe both live in states other than Oregon. Henry Alan, who goes by Alan, is my youngest brother. He once owned the Capitol Monument Company in Salem Oregon.  He suggested that we commission a new marker to replace the headstones that mark the graves of our parents. He suggested that the new marker include the names of our parents along with the names of all their children.  I found that to be a wonderful suggestion.

I think my parents would be pleased. They would be proud to have the names of all their children preserved with theirs. I am working hard to make that happen.

Closing thought:

Remembrance of those in past can be honored in many ways.  Have you thought about how you want to honor those in your past?

UPDATE : After I published this post my sister-in-law Carol Forrand Roe emailed me the following statement. “Bill and my cremated remains will be in Western Nevada Veterans Cemetery, Fernley Nevada A beautifully maintained spot for eternity.”  Carol

Carol is married to my older brother William Gordon Roe. We call him Bill.

#52Ancestersin52Weeks #52Ancestersin52WeeksTombstone

Long lines

“Hope” is the thing with feathers-That perches in the soul-And sings the tune without the words-And never stops-at all. Emily Dickinson


By Gerry Roe

In January 2020 my niece, Betsy Cross Thorpe sent me a podcast of genealogist Amy Johnson and her weekly writing prompts. She thought it might be fun for us to join in on the prompts and write a record of our family genealogy. I was delighted with the prospects of sharing some of stories about our colorful family members.

From the beginning I intended that my post for the prompt Long Line would emphasize the military people in my family, but today while taking my daily five mile walk with my husband Paul a new thought took form. I thought about my early morning experience at the grocery store. I said good-bye to my idea of writing about the long line of military people in my family and said hello to the long line at my favorite grocery story. CourtesyCOVID-19!

I shop at Winco, in Springfield Oregon. Due to the COVID-19 crisis Winco started opening their doors early for seniors. This was so they could shop away from the crowds. I sure don’t feel like a senior but I am one and that’s when I shop. Today, I arrived early mask and sanitizer in hand to find a long line already forming outside the door. Stripes on the side walk keep shoppers socially distanced. Only a certain number of shoppers are allowed in store at a time. One shopper comes out. One goes in. My turn came, the basket was wiped down before given to me. Off I went, list in hand. Following the arrows, I went down the aisles. Most people complied with the plan. Wow! Shelves were stripped of items. Not just toilet paper missing today but beans, rice, sugar and flour. Multiple carts piled high with supplies standing in another long line to check out. One employee directed shoppers to the check out stand. I looked around to see most every one patiently waiting their turn; suddenly a shopper with a full load blasted through to the open check stand. This was before anyone could stop him. Everyone, including the employee directing us just smiled and shook their heads. No outburst. That was good, no one seemed outraged.

Shoppers and empty shelves at Winco

As I waited my turn to check out, again socially distancing. I thought of my parents during the Great Depression. The ration books they were given to purchase items. They did not have the choices I had at my shopping spree. If an item on my list was out of stock I could substitute with any item of my choice.

Not so for my mother, Ruby Isaacs Roe, during the depression when items like sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs and cheese were rationed in part to prevent hoarding as the nation prepared to go to war. How different it was for her, shopping with a ration book. I have unlimited buying choices during this COVID-19 pandemic.

I can recall another time when long lines affected my family. It was in 1973 and this time the long lines were at the gas pump. They were caused by a gas shortage. In Oregon where I lived, the day you could purchase gas was determined by the last number on your license plate. If your plate ended in zero, two, four, six or eight , you were allowed to purchased gas on even numbered days of the month, if it ended in one, three, five, seven or nine you could buy on odd days of the month. Gas was rationed to ten gallons per customer.

My husband was ill at this time and our son was only a toddler, and I was working as a nurse at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital. My father, Henry David Roe brought gas cans full of gas to me. He sat for hours in a long line waiting his turn to at the pump. He gave me the gift of time, a great blessing during that time of need.

Today, while I wait in line at the store, I realize that my grocery list is even more valuable to me today. I check it more carefully as I go down each aisle. I believe I have always been a patient person but find myself even more so during this time. I see people I have walked by on the path for years that now make eye contact and saying good morning. These are only a few of the good things I hope to hang on to when we return to what was normal.

But not the long lines at the grocery store. I will be happy to see them go away.


1973 Gas shortage



We survived those long lines and we as American’s will survive these long lines.

#52ancestorsin52weeks #52ancestorsin52weekslonglines


“We ignored his pleas. Eugene Roe, our medic, crouched to give him some help. Bullets flew around us.” From Easy Company SoldierBy Dan Malarkey and Bob Welch


By Gerry Roe

I am very interested in military history. Especially as it pertains to the military men on my family tree. There is a long line of military men in my family genealogy. As far as I can tell the line begins with my four times great grandfather, Private Samuel McCormick, who served in the Continental Army in the 1770’s. The line continues through the generations to my eldest great-nephew, retired Senior Chief Michael Gene Carroll, who retired from the US Navy in 2014.

Sargent Eugene Gilbert Roe 1944

For this blog post I am going to highlight the achievements of one relative, one man of service, my father’s cousin, US Army Sgt. Eugene Gilbert Roe.

Sargent Eugene Roe, served during World War II. He served from December 12, 1942 to November, 1945. He was in Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He parachuted into Normandy with Easy Company on 6 June 1944 as part of Operation Overlord. He was part of the allied forces that defended Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He was also involved in the occupation of Germany and treated the prisoners of a concentration camp they found in Landsberg.

 He was known by the men he served with as Doc Roe.

Medic Roe Berchtesgaden, Germany spring 1945

A book titled Easy Company Soldier was written by his fellow Sargent Don Malarkey and author Bob Welch. The book includes Malarkeys’ reminiscences of  Eugene Doc Roe  In one passage Malarkey recalls, “I burst in the door, breathing hard.  Our medic, Eugene Roe, was up to his elbows in blood, patching soldiers right and left; by now, he was already a seasoned veteran with the wounded, able to patch and diagnose in a quiet, methodical way. That’s a Purple Heart wound, Malarkey, he calmly said, hardly looking up from wrapping a bandage around the chest of some soldier naked from waist up.” In another passage the author recalled Roe working to save lives in frigid weather.  “Sometimes, if a guy got hit, Roe was having to tuck the plasma bottle in his armpit to keep the stuff from freezing.”

Eugene Gilbert Roe received a Purple Heart for his injury after Normandy and on the way to Holland on 17 September, he was wounded in the leg and away from his unit a few days.

The Company left Holland on 26 November. They headed to Bastogne as part of the Battle of the Bulge occurring on 17 December. He assisted with evacuating the wounded men to a hospital in Bastogne. This is just a sample of his actions during combat.

He received both the Medal of Valor and Bronze Star for his services to the country he so valiantly served.

Eugene Gilbert Roe was a member of the Greatest Generation.

Post Script: To read more about Doc Roe google Eugene Gilbert Roe or read the book Easy Company Solider written by Sgt Bob Malarkey with Bob Welch.

Easy Company Soldier by Sgt. Don
Malarkey with Bob Welch

52AncestorsIn52Weeks  52AncestorsIn52WeeksService A

Favorite Picture

“One Look Is Worth A Thousand Words”, appears in a 1913 newspaper advertisement for the Piqua Auto Supply House of Piqua, Ohio


Favorite Picture

by Gerry Roe

John Rowe (Roe) red mark over him picture 1913

I frequently sit and look at all the many wonderful photographs of my family from Louisiana and Mississippi. There are so many photographs I could have chosen but I kept coming back to this one of my Grandpa Roe. In this picture he is identified as a fireman for Genoa Mill at Bluff Creek in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. This picture was taken in 1913. I asked my self, “Why would I choose this one out of so many?” Simply, this photo included many hard working people, it was viewed by many, demonstrated the work in Louisiana and how this work brought income to many in this area.

I had always thought of Grandpa Roe only as a farmer on the homestead in East Baton Rouge Parish. I did not realize he worked the in logging industry. That in itself is pretty amazing considering that his two eldest grandsons , from my father’s branch of the family tree, and a large lumber of his great grandsons, went on to work in the logging industry after our family migrated north to Oregon.

They did so not knowing that were following in our Grandpa Roe’s footsteps!

This picture was sent to me in the mid 1970s when I first began to pursue genealogy. Betty Roe Ginn, youngest daughter of Eugene Green Roe sent me much of the information on the Roe family. Eugene Green and John Roe shared same mother, Elizabeth Pulliam. Betty tramped through the piney forest of East Baton Rouge looking for the remnants of the homesteads of Grandpa Roe and Great Grandpa Roe. She nor any of the other cousins located any signs anyone lived there due to the overgrowth of woods.

I was blessed to meet Betty in August of 2003 when my brother Frank and I visited her and other family members in Louisiana and Mississippi. Our cousin, Terri Roe Sarka knew where the homestead had been located and took us there. We could not get into the area because of the overgrown and road was obliterated. We felt a closeness to our grandparents just being near the site.

Frank and I then went on to visit Chatham and Yazoo City, Mississippi. Those were places our family lived before coming to Oregon. We also drove through Anquilla his birthplace. We were able to find Oak Grove Baptist Church in Tolarville, Mississippi. Our Isaacs grandparents are buried in the cemetery on the church grounds. Mama’s brother, Kelly Isaacs had the headstone made and installed sometime in the 1980s.

I have tried to find the newspaper this was posted in. So far unable to find. My niece, Betsy pointed out this was not an article from a 1913 paper but was a picture taken during that year and printed in a newspaper at a much later date.

So if anyone has anymore information about the mill I would so appreciate hearing from you.

Post Script:

I marvel at how many photographs my mother brought to Oregon when we came in 1946 by Greyhound bus to Oregon.

If not for my mother (Ruby Isaacs Roe) keeping contact with daddy’s (Henry David Roe) side of family we would not have any Roe connections.

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksFavoritePicture

Bikini Atoll Nuclear test July 1, 1946

By Gerry Roe

“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.” Saint Francis de Sales

Bikini Atoll Nuclear test July 1, 1946

Eugene “Gene” Roe GMC3 January 1, 1946

Eugene (Gene) Roe was my brother. He was the eldest of the Roe children. He was born October 17, 1927 in Holly Bluff, Mississippi to Henry and Ruby Roe.

This is a story about the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test event that Gene witnessed from aboard the USS Rollett as a Gunner’s Mate Third Class. In late January or early February of 1946 the ship sailed from Port Huenema, California to the sea off the coast of Bikini Atoll. They were considered the “floating Navy” while others were on the island building and preparing for the Nuclear Test. As best understood they were there to transport equipment and supplies to the island. The many ships around the islands provided survey information, housing many working on the project and miscellaneous tasks. Gene told us that on the day “Test Able” was dropped his ship was far out and they were on deck to take pictures and observed the blast. This test was initially scheduled for May 15th but due to delays in construction it was rescheduled for July 1, 1946.

Pictures of mushroom after Test Able, taken from the USS Rollett

He was on the ship traveling to and from Bikini, as well as the time there for a total of 6 months. He returned to Port Huenema. In a letter he wrote home, he expressed how good Port Huenema looked on return.

He received the WW11 Victory Medal and the American Area Campaign.

This information obtained from the “Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test” booklet each received that were present. (Unable to find a link to this pamphlet, much to many pages to attach.)This was considered the Crossroad Experiment and “Test Able” was the first of many nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. J.D. Burky was Commander-CEC-USN of the 53rd Naval Construction Battalion. He was in charge of the assigned mission of accomplishing all the required shore construction. This was noted from the booklet that was compiled of this projection with pictures and dates. Gene kept his and it is now in possession of his children.

In this pamphlet it has pictures of the ships arriving and LST 881 bringing in the heavy equipment and unloading on the beach on March 14.

Each page of pictures show how the work of a water purification system and cement forms to install the tower were being done.

Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test pamphlet

Commander Burky (on right) briefing prior to raising of tower

The bomb was named Gilda, after Rita Hayworth’s character in a 1946 film. It was dropped from the B-29 Superfortress Dave’s Dream of the 509th Bombardment Group.

For more on information on this and on other tests performed in the Marshall Islands follow the links posted below.



Post Script:

I was unable to find information about the USS Rollett

Gene’s letters do not report his duties other that watch duty and his experience of putting an 18 inch hole in a L.C.V.P. He doesn’t say how but feared reprimand-none came. He and other sailors managed to get it back on the ship without it sinking out of sight. In this letter is his willingness to send money if dad would go to Oregon.

The landing craft, vehicle, personnel or Higgins boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. Typically constructed from plywood, this shallow-draft, barge-like boat could ferry a roughly platoon-sized complement of 36 men to shore at 9 knots.

Higgins boat



Easter 2020

By Gerry Roe

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

Easter 2020 was very different; celebrating with Covid-19, not going to church on such a special day. No big family and friend’s dinners after church service. My son and family came for dinner. We were sitting outside visiting and eating at a distance and no hugs. My sweet daughter in law brought me a chocolate bunny; she had added a mask and gloves to him. In the packet was “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter. I had not read the story since my grandchildren were small. I read it as I sat nibbling on one of the rabbit’s chocolate ear. I pondered the story about Peter Rabbit eating too much at Mr. McGregor’s garden. After he finally made it home, he was too sick to eat the blackberries his siblings ate that night. These tales below inspired by Peter Rabbit and overeating.

This story was told to me by cousin Imogene Combs Graziano years ago when I visited her at her cabin in Yucca Valley, California.

Imogene told me that she always looked forward to going to my mother’s (Ruby Isaacs Roe) house to visit. She and my brother, Buddy had always been close; even from their toddler years.

The following story took place in Mississippi, during summertime when blackberries were ripe.

Aunt Ruby was making a blackberry cobbler for dinner. She sent Buddy and me down the road to the mail box; they lived off a country road. In the mail was a packet of what looked like chocolate. I told Buddy we could share it and he said, “no, we’ll get in trouble.” I told him no we would just hide the wrap and no one would ever know. I could get him to do what I wanted. So we ate the chocolate and hid the evidence. We thought we were so cunning.

Well, by the time we got home we both had to run to the outhouse; multiple times, and taking turns. Aunt Ruby ask us what was wrong. We both just told her our stomach was upset. We were sent to bed and everyone else enjoyed the blackberry cobbler! Just like Peter Rabbit!

I am sure by now you have realized it was NOT, just chocolate but a sample of EX-LAX. I am not sure after all we went through that day; that we learned our lesson. Years later we confessed to Aunt Ruby and we suspected she always knew.

Post Script:

Cousins Herman and Jim Isaacs, Uncle Kelly and Aunt Eleanor’s sons (Herman and Jim) had a similar experience. They were living in Cottage Grove Oregon near the town of Saginaw.They found a similar chocolate package in their indoor bathroom and promptly ate the entire package. Well, needless to say, it wasn’t long before those two boys were fighting over the bathroom. Aunt Eleanor found a mess! After that chocolate didn’t taste so good to them.

Is their a moral to these tales?


By Gerry Roe

“What is seen is not always a reality to others.” Author Unknown

Evelyn Emily Combs October 30, 1906 – October 7, 1933

Evelyn Emily Combs early 1930s
Jessie Lee, Evelyn and Ruby Lurline Combs
Imagene Combs Sometime in the mid 1930’s
William Gordon Combs Aged 14 Months 1930


This story was told to me by my mother Ruby Isaacs Roe many years ago. 

Evelyn, mama’s oldest sister was due to deliver her fifth child.

Mama walked to her home; she was living at Germania, Mississippi.  Mama said as was close to house; she could see sheets flapping in the wind on the clothes line.  When she arrived; she asked Evelyn if she had brought the sheets. Evelyn responded she didn’t have anything on the line.  Mama said that was puzzling as she clearly saw the sheets. 

Shortly after mama’s visit Evelyn gave birth and the doctor said both she and the baby girl died.   Mama knew her sister was really gone, but she always hoped that the baby had lived.  She hoped the doctor had found a home for the baby to help Evelyn’s husband who had just suffered the loss of his wife He already had three young children to care for. It would be very difficult for a man in his circumstances to properly care for a new born baby.

At that time it wasn’t unusual for a doctor to find a home for a motherless child.

Off course, I don’t know that is what happened. But I do know that mama clung to that hope for the rest of her life. This was just what mama hoped. 

Mama was known to have premonitions, and she always said that looking back on the day she went to visit Evelyn that the sheets she saw flapping in the air were a premonition of her sister’s death.

Another time I clearly remember mama’s premonition of death was June 8, 1964, my high school graduation night. Me, mama, Daddy, my youngest brother Alan and my nephew Robert were all sleeping. When the phone rang. It was almost midnight. It was unusual for the telephone to ring in the middle of the night and we all ran to living room to find out who was calling .

I will never forget what mama said just before she answered the phone. She said “death bells are tolling for someone tonight”. She said this before answering the phone, when she picked up the phone we learned that my cousin Herbert Kelly (H.K.) Lisenby had just died in a terrible car accident. 

H.K. was home on leave from the Navy.  He was the son of mama’s youngest sister Bea.

I don’t remember who called to tell us of H.K.’s death.  Others died at the crash scene also.

H.K. Lisenby 1963-64

Mama always said her she had premonitions as far back as she could remember. She also told me that they did not always deal with death.

Children of Jesse Lee and Evelyn Marie Combs:

               Jesse Lee Combs, JR 1924-1997

               Lurlene Ruby Combs Bradshaw 1928-2008

               William Gordon Combs 1929-1930 (14 months old on 1930 census,  

               Lucille Imogene Combs Graziano 1931-2015

               Baby Girl October 7, 1933 – October 7, 1933

Questions I wish I would ask mama;

Why were you not there when Evelyn delivered?

Who took care of Jesse, Lurlene and Imogene during and after her death?

When did you get to see Evelyn after her delivery and death?

Did you talk to the doctor after both died?

What caused William’s death?

Germania is not listed as a town on the current map of Mississippi but there is a Germania Road

Post Script:

After writing this story, I received a copy of a letter dated thirteen days before Evelyn died.  Her grand-daughter, Debbie Russell Warner found it among her mother Imogene Combs belongings.  It is possible that she wrote the letter before my mother came to visit and that the letter was never mailed.  It is also possible the letter was sent  and that my mother kept it all those years and gave it to Imogene when she came to visit my mother in Oregon many years later.

Another question that goes unanswered.

The letter is attached, very newsy about everyday life. My sister, Nannie and I marvel at how long it has been kept and under these circumstances. 

This letter confirms something I have always known and loved about my mother and her sisters; they loved each other deeply.  They kept in touch even under the difficulties of life they faced.  This legacy of love for each other is passed on to my sister Nannie and me.

Letter From Evelyn Combs to Her Sister Ruby Roe. The letter is dated 13 days before Evelyn Died.

#52AncestorsIn52Weeks #52AncestorsIn52WeeksAir

Fire and Family Skeletons

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking.” C.S. Lewis

Fire and Family Skeletons

By Gerry Roe


John Roe, Henry, Dawson, Ary, Rivers back row L-R, Lucie, Joseph, Jimmy, Annie and Nannie
sometime around 1909
Siblings, Frank Roe and Gerry Roe, Near the old Roe Family Homestead, Baywood/Pride Louisana, August, 2003

I don’t remember who first told me the story about the day my grandmother Ary O’Dell Dawson caught the family homestead on fire.  I don’t even  remember when I first heard it. But this is the story that was told to me.

Grandpa John and Grandma Ary Roe lived on a homestead in Baywood/Pride, East Baton Rouge Parish, Police Jury Ward 5, Louisiana.  Grandpa John was in the field plowing and grandma came out and said she had a headache.  She wanted him to go into town and get some aspirin. Since he was almost done with the plowing; he said he would finish and then go.  Well, as the story goes, that was not good enough my for grandma Ary.

I assume all the children were outside the house and that the house was located close to the fields because grandpa was able to get there in time to put the fire out, before the house burned down.

Ary was my father, Henry David Roe’s mother.  I remember hearing this story and thinking, why would she do such a terrible thing? Did she set the house on fire to get his attention? Did she start the fire because she was angry? Was the story even true?

My father talked very little about his family and or how he grew up, but later in life I talked with some of my cousins in Mississippi and Louisiana about grandma and how my father and his siblings grew up.

After talking to them I came to conclusion that this story is true.  

No one has ever told me if grandpa got her some aspirin.

No one has ever told me what month and year this happened. 

The story I was told that she went to Minter City, Mississippi. It is in Leflore county.

From my searching the census rolls of 1920 of Beat 1, Leflore, Mississippi I find Ary Dawson Roe living with her son Jimmy Louis and wife Nora. She had taken Lucy (17), Edward, Cappie (10), Rivers (7) and (Louisiana) who was listed as Hester (4) on the census. She is listed as mother to Jimmy; children are listed as his brothers and sisters and she declares her marital status as a widow.

The 1920 census same parish has grandpa Roe, Joe and Dawson.  They are listed as this spelling for Rae.  He also is listed as a widow.  My father Henry did not initial go with her and I find him on a 1920 census (same parish different district) living in his sister Nannie and brother in law Luke Coghlan’s household. Notes I found that my mother wrote was that daddy was seven when his mother left. That would be 1913 and he stayed on homestead with his father until he was eleven (1917) and then went to stay with his mother until he was thirteen (1919). When he left her he went to Arkansas and worked with Wallen and Davis Sawmill until the company went to Holly Bluff and he worked for them until 1930. This a big discrepancy.

These are only theories: one could be because of the young age of my father and the circumstances he told my mother ages incorrectly. Second possible theory is she did leave in 1913 but came back and had her last child, Louisiana in 1916 and then left again. There is a third possibility and that could be severe postpartum depression after so many children. After much research of the census and remembering the story. My conclusion is that my father’s dates are incorrect. I am inclined to think the incident happened around 1917 or there about. I don’t believe she left and returned. Also, since I finding him on the 1920 census with his sister Nannie; I believe his date of going to Arkansas would have been in the early 1920s. Something I learned from further research was that the homestead was not in East Feliciana Parish as I always understood.

The winter of 1928 his father came to visit him and my mother in Holly Bluff, Mississippi.  The last time daddy saw his father was in 1932 when he went to the homestead to see him.  Dawson was still living with his father but would not speak with daddy.  In 1933 grandpa Roe had a heart attack and Dawson went for the doctor but when they returned grandpa Roe had died. 

Family Skeletons unearthed:

Both Ary and John on census of 1920 are listed as a widow

Grandpa John on a 1930 census a widow

No 1930 census found for Ary

1940 census Bogalusa now truly a widow

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksFire