“That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger”

OBITUARY:  STAMBAUGH, BONNIE J. (28 Years, 8 Mos., 8 Days)

On July 21, 1983 of Colmar Manor, Prince George’s County,  Maryland, third daughter of Delores A. (Boling) Stambaugh and Luther M. Stambaugh; sister of Diane Blesi, Pamela Henry, and Deborah, Connie, and Glenn Stambaugh.  Friends may call at Gasch’s Funeral Home, 4739 Baltimore Avenue, Hyattsville, Maryland, Sunday, July 24, 1983 from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.  Services on Monday, July 25, 1983, at 10 a.m.  Interment Fort Lincoln Cemetery.

Toddlers:  Bonnie Jean Stambaugh and Frank Roy Boling - April 17, 1960

Toddlers: Bonnie Jean Stambaugh and Frank Roy Boling – April 17, 1960

My paternal first cousin, Bonnie Stambaugh, lived a relatively short and difficult life.  Bonnie was born about 11 months before my brother, Frank Roy Boling.  The families gathered together frequently and Frank and Bonnie quickly became best friends, and as toddlers, the family used to tease them that they were “kissing cousins.”

At Nine Years Old, Bonnie’s Life Forever Changes

During class changes one day at school, another third grader collided and fell on Bonnie. School faculty called an ambulance.  The nearby fire department transported Bonnie to the local county hospital in Cheverly, Maryland.

Tests revealed that Bonnie was born with one kidney which was deformed and malfunctioning, and her second kidney, apparently burst as a result of the playground accident. Bonnie was next transported to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

Kidney transplants in the early 1960’s were still in their infancy and Bonnie’s injuries to her kidneys were life threatening.   In fact, Georgetown University Hospital had one young man who had received a transplant and they were monitoring him closely.

My dad was just one of the family members who offered one of his kidneys if he was a match.  It turned out that none of the family were good enough candidates for the hospital to be comfortable with performing a transplant surgery.  Instead, Bonnie went on dialysis and she was placed on a waiting list for a donor kidney (from some unfortunate person who would donate their kidney as a result of their death).  Meanwhile, Bonnie was placed on medicines and continued kidney dialysis.  Her veins got so weak, the family wasn’t sure that she would last long enough for a donor.

Georgetown University identified a donor kidney for Bonnie and transplant surgery was performed.  Bonnie was placed on steroids to ensure that her body wouldn’t reject the foreign kidney.  As a result of the drugs, Bonnie’s face and body puffed up and remained that way as long as she was medicated.  The kidney did fine for awhile and then rejection happened.  If I recall, it was about two or so years after her initial implant.  By this time, Georgetown’s other kidney recipient had had his second transplant and was recovering nicely.  So, the family also monitored Bonnie’s transplant friend’s condition because their symptoms seemed to run in tandem.

BonnieJeanStambaugh-2ndTransplant 001 (400x640)Bonnie, was very, very fortunate and like her friend received a second transplant. After 7 years, her body rejected her first transplant.  Here’s the Evening Star Newspaper’s report of her story:  EveningStarArticle 001 (430x640)

Bonnie had gotten to know her transplant friend when their visits to the same doctors and hospital stays coincided.  Bonnie’s friend lived until he was 18 and then passed when his body rejected yet another kidney.

Bonnie and her father spent a great deal of time going in and out of the hospital and visiting specialists.  Bonnie’s teen years and teen life set in.  She wanted to be free to live like other teens her age.  And yes, she had some setbacks that might have been avoided if she had tempered her activities.

Due to Bonnie’s hospitalizations and ill health and then again when they entered their teens my brother Frank and Bonnie didn’t visit as much.  They kept touch only by telephone.  Frank dated as a teenager,  and then like most young men married at 27 on September 7, 1985 and started his family.

Bonnie never married or had children.  Bonnie was one year older than Frank and passed away on July 21, 1983, when she was 28.

We all met one last time with her for her funeral and to say our goodbyes–all but her mom, Delores.  Delores had just undergone emergency surgery and had had a stroke while on the operating table.  There were some mental impairments and partial paralysis.  The mental impairments were not permanent, but her paralysis on her right side was.   So, it was weeks before the family could tell Delores about her daugter Bonnie’s passing.

As Frederic Nietzsche is quoted as saying; “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Delores Anne Stambaugh

Delores Anne Stambaugh, mid-1940’s

With the families maturing, growing in numbers, and migrating further apart, the next time this branch of our paternal family came together was to pay our respects to my dad’s sister, Delores Anne Boling Stambaugh, Bonnie’s mother. She passed on March 1, 2008, after a 15-year stay in a nursing home in Laurel from complications arising out of her stroke she had had in 1983 and diabetes.

I just know that Bonnie and her mom, though departing this earth 25 years apart, found each other again, this time in heaven, a place where:

“…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

I’ve Got the Music In Me – Part 6

Bach’s Jesu’ Joy of Man’s Desiring

My Beautiful and Talented GREAT Niece – Alyssa Nicole LaLone on Saturday, June 1, 2013, granddaughter of my brother Frank and his wife Diane, and daughter of their daughter, Jessica and Todd LaLone,  celebrates her 8th birthday.

I’ve Got The Music In Me (Part 1Part 2, Part 3Part 4, or Part 5)

In one of my earlier posts, above, I mentioned that my niece, Alyssa, was found one day sitting in front of a new keyboard and playing Bach’s Jesu’ Joying of Man’s Desiring–a first time experience for her.  When her grandmother, Diane, asked how she knew this and how to play it, she simply said; “Oh, I just heard it somewhere.”  So, here we are back at our inherited and innate musical talents, again.  By the way, if you’re not familiar with this wonderfully soothing piece of music, you may want to listen to an audio clip of it at the top of this post. A very nice selection, Alyssa, especially for your very first try.

Before Chesapeake Church’s Christmas program this winter, Alyssa was only comfortable singing in front of her closest friends and family.  Then she sang in the choir at Chesapeake for her very first time.  And now, only a few months later, she has blossomed much and to everyone’s benefit.

As school’s usually do this time of year, they hold their spring concerts and talent shows.  So, on Friday, May 17, 2013, Miss Alyssa Nicole LaLone performed solo as her elementary school’s first contestant.  She was dressed as Princess Rapunzel and sang publicly solo for her very first time, Now That I See You,  from Walt Disney’s 2010 movie, Tangled.

And before the show, her stepmother, Viviana, recorded an informal rehearsal, which was technically better than the mix of voice, music, and video from her actual performance.  From a sweet girl with an angelic voice, and with much love, I share with you, Alyssa’s rehearsal.  Hope you enjoy!

Busted “Brick Wall” Reveals More “Chambers”

It’s absolutely exhilarating to bust through a genealogical brick wall and reveal more “Chambers” that until now had been hidden from our family. Since 1980 when I first started manually compiling our history I had gleaned only limited information about my dad’s maternal Chambers’ family from Pennsylvania.

Lottie L Taylor Chambers

Lottie L Taylor Chambers:  1890-1962
Washington Home for the Incurables, Washington, DC

If you read my post from a couple of days ago, “My Family of Secrets,” you will recall that my dad, Frank Burton Boling, was raised without his mother, Helen Louise Chambers. Her mother, Lottie L. Taylor and Frank Maynard Chambers separated when Lottie’s husband Frank left her in 1939 and then disappeared entirely–as if dropping off the face of the earth. Further, Lottie was hospitalized for much of her adult life with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which limited our family’s quality time with her.

My dad, now 84, told me that he only knew his maternal great grandmother from when he was very, very young. His memories recall his grandfather Frank Chambers’ mother as “little grandma,” and that she went to live in a home for members of the Masonic and Eastern Star in Washington, DC.

English: Groundhog clock in Punxsutawney, Penn...

English: Groundhog clock in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So again yesterday morning, I decided to start over once more with basic research techniques for the elusive Chambers within our family’s ancestors. Among my review of earlier research and findings about Frank Maynard Chambers, through my contacts with the Las Vegas Bunker Memorial Cemetery I had noted the names of Frank Chambers’ parents: John L. Chambers, from Pleasant Unity, and Maude Johnston, from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  

I had never heard of Pleasant Unity so I googled it.  Low and behold I came across a new research resource: AmericanTowns that had targeted information available on the town of Pleasant Unity which helped me filter and short cut the numbers of search results I needed to sift through.

The Unexpected Happens and New Questions Surface

At that moment, I entered a new search that focused on Maude born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. And then it happened–a new find!  It was an approved emergency passport application for Maude Chambers married to John L. Chambers to depart for Balboa, Panama Canal, dated September 7, 1917. Here was the new information I’d been looking for on my dad’s undiscovered grandparents at long last.

Now I asked myself why would a 56 year old Maude Johnston Chambers, wife of John L. Chambers be traveling to the Panama Canal on an emergency passport when she had returned from there two years before on August 8, 1915?

A little further into reviewing the search results, I found Cyndee’s public ancestry tree that included a citation from an International Database Index-Family History File.  Someone had submitted a LDS form on April 10, 2008, that cited John L. Chambers death on July 14, 1917–and not only that included the names of his parents–my 3rd great grandparents:

JOHN LATTA CHAMBERS; Male; Birth: 10 SEP 1861 Greensburg, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania; Death: 14 JUL 1917; Father: FRANK SELBY CHAMBERS; Mother: AMANDA MAC DONALD; Batch Number: 7527401 Sheet: 63 Source Call No.: 0884638 Type: Film

Next, I found the widowed Maude Chambers in the 1920 Census, just as my dad had remembered, she was living at the Masonic and Eastern Star Home in Washington, DC.

And the Walls came Tumbling down!

And, as in Jericho, the walls came tumbling down.  Once I added all the great grandparents information to my ancestry tree, the hints just started popping up everywhere.  And now that I found ancestors going back to the mid-1700s, there are new outstanding questions to be answered, but we’re well on our way to better knowing about the Chambers from Pennsylvania.  Next, I’ll be moving on to the elusive Taylor’s,  Johnston’s, and McDonald’s–the maiden names of women who married Chambers’ men.

And at the conclusion of this post, it has become more apparent to me that the number of divorces in earlier generations may have been fewer than for today’s, but the numbers of unhappily married and family estrangements and secrets seemed to be plenty–at least in the Chambers. If only those walls had had ears!

My Family of Secrets

Helen Louise Chambers Boling (1 Jul 1911 – 16 Mar 1944) My Paternal Great Grandmother:

On Thursday, March 16, 1944, at Baltimore, MD., Helen L. Boling, the wife of Jessie Boling, mother of Frank, Dolores and Barbara Boling and daughter of Frank and Lottie Chambers. Services at the Chambers funeral home, 517 11th st. se., on Wednesday, March 22, at 1 p.m. Interment Columbia Gardens Cemetery.
Washington Post (1877-1954)
Mar 23, 1944; page 12
Columbia Gardens Cemetery
Arlington County
Virginia, USA

I expect this post will be one of my more personal and difficult to write.  There remain many blanks to my paternal grandmother’s (Helen Louise Chambers Boling) life that we cannot fill in and some of the answers we have found aren’t what we had hoped for by any means. Helen was estranged from her family and living in Baltimore City, Maryland, when in March 1944 she died or was murdered at age 32.  See also my January post Life Choices of a Roaring Twenties Teen, that provides more details about Helen’s life after she abandoned her husband and children. Helen’s grave at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is unmarked.  It appears Helen’s friends, (the Ward’s) unfamiliar to this generation’s family, arranged and paid for Helen’s burial within their family’s plots.  And, I know from a child visiting my great grandmother, Helen’s mother, Lottie Taylor Chambers in the Washington, DC Home for the Incurables, that Lottie was disappointed and saddened at how Helen’s life turned out as a result of Helen’s choices.

My Dad’s Talks with his Grandmother, Lottie Taylor Chambers (Helen’s Mother)

Whenever my dad, Frank Burton Boling, would strike up a conversation about his mother, Helen, with his grandmother, Lottie, (which wasn’t often), she took to scowling and then whispering.  Great grandmother never really described to him what she saw that day she found her daughter, my grandmother, dead in that Baltimore City boarding room.  But, older aunts and uncles at the time whispered about a beating, a knifing, and/or gun wound, and alcoholism.  Helen’s death certificate indicates chronic alcoholism discovered through an autopsy, but nothing more.  The relatives who knew, have all long since passed and because this topic was always hushed, I guess the secret died with Helen and them.

Jesse Burton Boling’s (Helen’s husband) Family

However, on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family, my Bolling’s descend from the marriage of Captain John Thomas Rolfe and Pocahontas. It was their granddaughter, Jane Poythress Rolfe, (daughter of Thomas P. Rolfe, their only child, and Jane Poythress) who married Colonel Robert Bolling of Cobbs, Henrico, Virginia. Colonel Robert Bolling was my paternal 8th great grandfather and Jesse Burton Boling’s 6th great grandfather. In large part, this Boling family remained in Virginia and this is where Helen and Jesse’s short-lived love story that spawned three children (my dad, the eldest and only living survivor) began.

Frank Maynard Chambers and Lottie Taylor Chambers (Helen’s Parents)

It was September 21, 1910 when Helen’s father, Frank Maynard Chambers (26), originally from Franklin, Pennsylvania, married Lottie L. Taylor (20) from Louisa County, Virginia.  They married in Washington, DC.  Helen was born on July 1, 1911–exactly 40 weeks following their ceremony. Just 10 years before, at age 16, my great grandfather, Frank Chambers , according to 1900 Census records, was a Ward of the City of Washington, DC–an inmate at the Reform School for Boys. According to the enumeration document, Frank could read and write, but no further personal information was provided–quite a contrast to the vast amount of Bolling heritage I have rather easily discovered. The 1914 New York passenger ship lists show that when Frank and Lottie’s daughter, Helen, was 3, that the Chambers family arrived back in New York from Cristobal, in Colon, Panama, where apparently Frank had worked on the canal’s construction.

Panama Canal Under Construction, Cristábol, Cólón 1910
Panama Canal Under Construction, Cristábol, Cólón 1910

Helen and Jesse’s Meeting

Chancellorsville Family

Chancellorsville Family

When my grandfather, Jesse Boling (1902-1978), later to be husband of Helen, was still living at home with his parents (Edward Bud Vincent BOWLING Sr (1872 – 1946) and Mary Florence Wharton (1878-1929) on Ely’s Ford Road in Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg, VA, (adjacent to the Chancellorsville Battlefield) he came to meet Miss Helen Louise Chambers (1911-1944), daughter of Frank Maynard Chambers (1884-1967) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Lottie L. Taylor (1890-1962) from Louisa County, Virginia. Although Jesse was 9-1/2 years her senior, he was immediately smitten with Helen. So smitten, that he would “borrow” a canoe on weekends and paddle the Rapidan tributary to the other side of the Rappahannock River to be with her. The photo below shows what the crossing of that portion of the Rapidan looked like to soldiers in the American Civil War, about 65 years earlier than when Jesse would have entered it.  Back then, the soldiers could cross on foot, and they did so by stripping off their clothes and hoisting them on their backs before crossing.

Rapidan River Crossing at Elys Ford Road,  April 30, 1863

Rapidan River Crossing at Elys Ford Road,
April 30, 1863

A Custom-Built Home

By 1930, Jesse, Helen, and their children Frank and Delores were living in their new home that Jesse had built himself.  According to the census, their address was “15 Stanley Street, Spaulding Heights, Maryland, which is just a couple of miles beyond the District of Columbia boundary line near Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.  This would have made Helen 18 and Jesse 27 with already two babies: Frank 16 months and Delores 4 months, according to this record.

1930 Census Record Excerpt

1930 Census Record Excerpt

Expanding upon my Earlier Post in January:

Based on the whispers and mysteries that surround Helen Chambers Boling’s life and death, I’d say her work in the arsenal factories probably gave her the only sense of achievement in life that she ever had. Helen was a teenager when she married Jesse Boling and she gave birth to her first two children when she was 17 and 18, followed by a third at age 22 in 1933. About 15 months later, she abandoned her babies and her husband. The girls never saw her again. My dad Frank was 5 when she left them.

Dad was about 11 or 12, when he next saw his mother, Helen.  It was a strange accidental meeting. He went home from school with a friend and found Helen there cooking in the kitchen. I can’t imagine the emotions that went through him at that time.  Dad didn’t say specifically how the exchanges went. The next time my dad saw his mother was when he was 15 in March, 1944, and sneaked into the W. W. Chambers Funeral Home where Helen was laid out.

After Helen left, my dad’s father Jesse continued working as a carpenter but took to heavy drinking.  Since my dad, Frank, was the eldest of the children, the task of raising his sisters and getting to his dad early on pay days fell on him–starting at the ripe age of 5.  Dad’s sisters were 4 and 15 months old when Helen first left.  To this dad, my dad hates boiled potatoes and cabbage because they apparently ate a lot of them as children.  Their living situation also explains why there are no pictures of my grandfather as a young man, nor any of my dad and his sisters before their mid-teens, and definitely no pictures of their mother, Helen among the family. Jesse never really moved on from his relationship with Helen.  He came to live for many years with my parents when I was growing up.  He then went to help out his second oldest child, Delores, with her six children, and he lived there for many years.  Once Delores’ children reached their late teens, Jesse moved into his own apartment in nearby in Hyattsville, MD.  By then, Jesse had developed type II diabetes and it had gotten out of control.  We visited him and I took him dietetic/diabetic foods, but he disliked them.  Jesse had grown up on rich, fatty, and tasty southern cooking.  Had Jesse survived until February 2, 1979–five more months–he would have been 77. In all those 45 or so years following Helen’s leaving (about 1933) him, I never knew my grandfather to find or even look for another love.  After sobering up, he devoted many of those years to his family and he turned his love to movies and baseball.  Jesse’s team was the Washington Senators (1901-1960) who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.  I remember him visiting my young family and bringing his great grandchildren baseballs and bats from the hometown games he attended.  And, the name “Harmon Killibrew,” would always come up.  Killibrew was my grandfather’s favorite player.  In fact, Killibrew lived until 2011.  He passed away at age 74 from esophageal cancer (probably caused by cigarettes or chewing tobacco as most baseball players used to use –a habit my grandfather never developed–thank goodness). In fact, “Killer”, “Slugger,” Killibrew played baseball for 22. years (1954-1977) the biggest part of my grandfather’s listening and viewing years of baseball.

I’m not sure how long after Frank Chambers left that my great grandmother hired a private eye to try and find him, but they never did.  However, given today’s technology and vast databases of records on people, I very easily found Frank Chambers when I first looked for him about two years ago.  He had moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.  And in fact, the 1957 Las Vegas city phone directory included his profession as a school crossing guard.  He would have been in his mid-70’s then.  Frank Chambers, according to social security records passed on October 28, 1967 at 84 years old, leaving a wife, Audrey.

rank Maynard Chambers Gravestone

Frank Maynard Chambers Gravestone

He was buried in the Garden of Prayer at South Bunker Hill Memorial Gardens and Cemetery in Las Vegas, NV.  Interestingly enough, “Father” is inscribed on his headstone, leaving me to believe that Frank had an additional child or children during his life in Nevada.  (A search and perhaps an updated story for another time.)

If there is but one moral to this story I could idenitfy,  it would be that my father never abandoned his family or gave up on his children.  He has truly dedicated every moment to us. Out of all the children from Jesse and Helen’s marriage dad became the strongest, and has been a great role model and family patriarch to my brothers, me, and my family of children and grandchildren to follow.

I guess this post is just a little early for Father’s Day, but with dad around, it’s always Happy Father’s Day, Dad–a father to be truly proud of!

Tobacco, Slavery, Earthworms, Honey Bees; Grains, Livestock, Disease…Oh My!

1493bookAfter reading one of my posts, a friend suggested I take a look at the book 1493… by Charles C. Mann. Only a few pages into it and I had a rude awakening.  It appeared to me that up to this point I had merely been scratching the surface when describing our family’s roots, branches, history, and stories.  And then, I started looking even further for confirmations of what I had read in the book 1493…

I always felt that our ancestors were noble people of smaller stature but hardy adventurers and spiritually strong and good people. (I believe that’s the extent of what my school teachers had taught me.)  Not being a history buff,  I also thought that in the early centuries, the world’s continents and countries were very much compartmentalized. Much to my surprise and perhaps my dismay I was uninformed, misinformed, and/or disillusioned–again, this is what I learned in school up until the eighth grade or so.


The Virginia Company

The Virginia Company

I also found that I knew little about the economic drivers behind the stories of the colonial adventurers and specifically by the London Company (a group of venture capitalists) who wanted to use a settlement in Virginia (Jamestown) in the 1600s as a trading post midway from England as a way to grab trade from China. This fact is even more interesting to me now given my knowledge of today’s backdrops of allies, enemies, world trade, and teetering economies.

There were two ways to become a member of the London Company. If you had money to buy shares in the Company but were inclined to remain safe and snug in England, you could invest as an “Adventurer.” If you really were adventurous and didn’t mind travelling to the new colony, you could become a member of the Company as a “Planter.”

Planters were required to work for the Company for a set number of years. In exchange for this work — or, more precisely, servitude — the company provided housing, clothing, and food. At the end of the servitude the planter would be granted a piece of land and be free of obligations to the company. In addition, the planter would be entitled to a share of the profits made by the company.

The planters were really servants of the company. They had no real freedom and were kept by force in the company. They had no choice but to accept any changes that the Governor or company decided to make, including an extension of their contracts. (Three-year contracts were sometimes extended to ten years.) Any letters sent to or received from England were destroyed if they contained any disparaging remarks about the company. Relatively minor offences could result in severe punishments. According to some colonists’ accounts, there were continual whippings, as well as punishments such as hanging, shooting, breaking on the wheel, and even being burnt alive.

Slavery and the Making of America

Slavery and the Making of America

The other crucial event that played a role in the development of Virginia was the arrival of Africans to Jamestown. A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in 1619. The Africans became indentured servants, similar to the many poor Englishmen who traded several years of labor in exchange for passage to Virginia. (The popular conception of a race-based slave system did not fully develop until the 1680s.)

I consider The London Company’s priorities callous and greedy–not an uncommon vein that runs through governments and politics today.  Their priorities were set  on trade and the money to be made. Thus, all too often and for too long Queen Elizabeth I and her successor, King James I’s chartered company ignored and disregarded the well being and lives of humankind. England’s interest in North America was so largely expressed through the agency of the Virginia Company that its story I’m sure fills many history books about the United States and the British Empire.

Tobacco seeds from the Caribbean, earthworms, soil, honeybees, pigs, horses, cows, and oxen from England–all of these changed the landscape and lives of the colonists.

The Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange


“The Columbian Exchange” is the name given to the era in which livestockagricultural products, and cultural influences moved between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas in 1492 is considered the start of the era, and as a result of the interaction, societies in both hemispheres benefited from new products and suffered from new [and deadly] diseases. [Author and historian Dr. Alfred Crosby is credited with developing the term, which was the title of his 1972 book on the subject.] –wiseGEEK

Chesapeake Bay is the remains of a huge, 35-million-year-old meteor crater.  The impact-fractured rock at the mouth of the bay lets in the sea, contaminating the groundwater with salt.  Few Indian groups lived in the saltwater wedge, presumably for just that reason.  Jamestown was bordered and undergirded by bad water.  That bad water, the geographer Carville D. Earle argued, “led to typhoid, dysentery, and perhaps salt poisoning”.  By January 1608, eight months after landfall, only thirty-eight English were left alive.–Charles C. Mann,1493…


The Starving Time and Near Abandonment (1609–11)

George Percy, Governor of Virginia during the Starving Time

George Percy, Governor of Virginia during the Starving Time

In the autumn of 1609, after Captain John Smith left [to return to England], Chief Powhatan began a campaign to starve the English out of Virginia. The tribes under his rule stopped bartering for food and carried out attacks on English parties that came in search of trade.

Hunting became highly dangerous, as the Powhatan Indians also killed Englishmen they found outside the fort. Long reliant on the Indians, the colony found itself with far too little food for the winter.

As the food stocks ran out, the settlers ate the colony’s animals—horses, dogs, and cats—and then turned to eating rats, mice, and shoe leather. In their desperation, some practiced cannibalism. The winter of 1609–10, commonly known as “The Starving Time,” took a heavy toll. Of the 500 colonists living in Jamestown in the autumn, fewer than one-fifth were still alive by March 1610. Sixty were still in Jamestown; another 37, more fortunate, had escaped by ship.–David A. Price, Encyclopedia Brittanica (online).

On some level the colony’s plight is baffling. Chesapeake Bay was and is one of the hemisphere’s great fisheries. Replete with pike, carp, mullet, crab, bass, flounder, turtle, and eel, this long shallow estuary was so biologically productive that John Smith joked about being able to catch dinner in the frying pan used to cook it. The Atlantic Sturgeon that swam in the James grew big enough, one colonist reported, that you could loop vines around their tails and be pulled underwater. (I didn’t believe this until an archaeologist at Jamestown told me he had uncovered bones from a sturgeon that may have been fourteen feet long.) Oysters grew in such numbers that one mound of discarded shells from native feasts covered nearly thirty acres.

How could the colonists starve in the midst of plenty? One reason was that the English feared leaving Jamestown to fish because Powhatan’s fighters were waiting outside the colony walls. A second reason was that a startlingly large proportion of the colonists were gentlemen, a status famine “ghastly and pale in every face,” some colonists stirred themselves to “dig up dead corpse[s] out of graves and to eat them.” One man murdered his pregnant wife and “salted her for his food.” By spring only about sixty people had survived what was called the “starving time.”–Charles C. Mann,1493…

In closing, I wish to thank my friend for gently exposing me to a whole new level of understanding about the histories, lives, and times of my ancestors.  And, I  promise as I write new posts that they will be more inclusive of the spices and flavors from others documented chapters in history.  To me, this simple change will be like going from a black and white small screen movie theatre to delivering crystal-clear images and stories through an Imax immersive 3D experience.

I also highly recommend to you, Charles C. Mann’s 1493.. (just one of his several best sellers out there) for his storytelling and writing style, but also for his scope of content, the inclusion of so many important people of the day, and quoted sources from across the professional sciences (archeologists, botanists, genealogists, geologists, historians, sociologists, etc.) who could quantify, confirm, or deny the findings presented from the colonists and others from earlier times.

1493:  Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.  Charles C. Mann; Vintage Books, New York City, 2011.

Africans in America:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p264.html

Buffalo Rising Online:  http://archives.buffalorising.com/story/bill_1#sca

Encyclopedia Brittanica:

National Geographic Magazine OnLine Archives:  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/05/jamestown

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624, by
Wesley Frank Craven,  April 11, 2009 [EBook #28555]

Unearthing America’s Birthplace–Rediscovering Historic Jamestown:  http://www.apva.org/rediscovery/page.php?page_id=6

wiseGEEK–clear answers for common questions:http://www.wisegeek.org

Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather

Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe, Father of John Rolfe, Jr. Who Married Pocahontas

Birth: Oct. 17, 1562, Heachum, Norfolk, England
Death: Nov. 29, 1594, Heachum,  Norfolk, England (Age 32)
Buried:  Dec. 1, 1594 Heacham Church, Heachum, Norfolk, England

Norfolk County in which Heachum resides is known for its industry in Lavendar.NorfolkEnglandLavendar

It is thought that settlers first came to Heacham as early as 3000 BC, drawn to the region to support the daily needs of the people. The river for fresh water, the sea for fish and shellfish, deer and other creatures from the deeply wooded area around. The name of Heacham arises from its l2th century overlord Geoffrey de Hecham, and its river, the Hitch. Over the years speaking and spelling have become Heacham – meaning “The Home in the Thicket”. The settlement lay in a hollow, with the fall into it from north, south, and east. Here again, is evidence of passing historic ages, stone age, bronze age, including the romans and the normans.

The story of the Red Indian Princess, Pocahontas, and her romantic marriage to the son of the Lord of the Manor, John Rolfe, shined like a beacon in the early 1600s.

The earliest record of the Rolfe family direct line is two brothers, Robert and Eustace Rolfe, who were born at Heacham about 1539. Robert married Margaret Crowe and was ancestor of a prominent family at Lynn, and Eustace Rolfe married at Heacham, May 27, 1560, Joanna Jenner. Eustace and Joanna had a son Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe, of Heacham, who was born October 17, 1562, married Dorothea Mason, Sept. 24, 1582, died in 1594, and was buried at Heacham Church, December 1st of that year.


The “First Common Market”

Heacham is a little known coastal village in the County of Norfolk between King Lynn’s–a Hanseatic town (engaged in an alliance of trading cities in the later Middle Ages and the Early Modern period maintained a trade monopoly over most of Northern Europe and the Baltic) dating back to the 12th century and beyond when it was one of England’s most important ports–and Hunstanton.

Hunstanton Cliffs, Norfolk, England

Hunstanton Cliffs, Norfolk, England

Old Hunstanton village is of prehistoric origin and is situated near to the head of Peddars Way. In 1970, evidence of Neolithic settlement was found. The quiet character of Old Hunstanton remains distinct from and complements that of its busy sibling, with clifftop walks past a privately owned redundant lighthouse and the ruins of St. Edmund’s Chapel, built in 1272.  Heacham’s rich past has left a magnificent heritage of buildings and stories to be discovered. 

St. Mary's Church, Heacham, England

St. Mary’s Church, Heacham, England

The much loved church of St Mary the Virgin was built in the 13th century, making the church the oldest building in the village.  It is a true reflection of the village’s history since it stands very much at the heart of the village.  The church is surrounded by many buildings made from local chalk, carrstone and a terracotta brick once manufactured in the village. Churches designed like St Mary the Virgin of Heacham, with a central tower built on the crossing, are a rarity in Norfolk as buildings designed in this manner required a strong foundation base using good strong building stone.  Buildings of this design often collapsed because of poor quality local stone.  Others were reduced in height, but St Mary’s has survived more than 800 years. The church belfry has circular openings on each side which appear small in proportion to the massive tower.  This particular feature of the church indicates its great age as belfry openings grew in size over time.  A cupola crowns the top and contains the original 12th century bell – regarded as the oldest in East Anglia.  Glorious Byzantine style brass lanterns hang from the ceiling identical in design to those of the Basilica in  St Marks Square, Venice. Local legend has it that the Indian Princess, Pocahontas, worshiped at the church  when  she and John Rolfe returned  with their young son, Thomas from Virginia to England.  Sadly, Pocahontas became ill and died in Gravesend, Kent  aged 22. There is legend that the very ancient Mulberry tree in the gardens of Heacham Hall – always known as the Pocahontas Mulberry tree – was planted at the time of the visit which John Rolfe and his wife paid to Heacham.

Following Pocahontas death, John Rolfe returned to his land in Virginia leaving their son Thomas in England for his formative years.  Thomas returned to Virginia in 1640 when he was about 25 years old. It is significant that a village in Virginia named Heacham dates from that time. Thomas Rolfe remained in America and married Jane, daughter of Francis Pothyress, leaving issue an only daughter, Jane, from whose marriage to Colonel Robert Bolling, many eminent American families are descended. The forefathers of John Rolfe rest in Heacham Church and it is fitting that the tablet in memory of his wife Pocahontas should be placed just above those of his father John Rolfe and his mother Dorothy Rolfe. Coats of arms of  prominent members of the Rolfe family are located inside the church. A sculpture of Pocahontas in Jacobean dress by Otillea Wallace, a pupil of Rodin hangs on the wall above a plaque dedicated to Johannes Eustacius Rolfe. The following is a translation from the original Latin inscription:

John Rolfe, gentleman, of Hitcham died on the twenty-nineth day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1594, in the thirty-second year of his age. While he lived he was of much service to his fellows; his wish to enrich all his neighbors and kinsfolk by assisting the poor with his wealth; nothing could be kinder than he was; he bore the insults of many men quietly without offence; by exporting and importing such things as England abounded in or needed, he was of the greatest service, inasmuch as he spent both pains and labor upon it. Thus he seemed to die as the force of fire is quenched by excess of water. For his strength was unimpaired, nor had he completed many years when he died. His death brought grief to many, but he had done nobly upon the consciousness of a well spent life, and the record of many benefits not allowed to die utterly: John Rolfe had, no doubt, been a successful merchant at Lynn. Rolfe had, with other issue, 1. Eustace, and 2. John (twins) baptized May 6, 1585; 3. Edward, baptized Feb, 22, 1591. There was another son, Henry, afterwards a merchant in London and a member of the Virginia Company, who is included in a manuscript pedigree mentioned by Mrs. Jones in her Old Sandringham.

While there isn’t much more to write about Johannes Eustacius Rolfe, we still can see the staying power of the Rolfe name on Heacham, King’s Lynn, Norfolk County, and England, as the map below shows several of the landmarks the Rolfe’s family timesHeachamMapToday

Captain John Thomas Rolfe II…

Captain John Thomas RolfeMy 10th Paternal Great Grandfather

Date of Birth: 6 May 1585 in Heacham Hall, Norfolkshire, Watkins Co., England

Date of Death: 22 Mar 1622 (killed in Indian Massacre) in Jamestown, Virginia Colony; killed in a massacre 

Marriage: 05 Apr 1614 (Age: 28) Jamestown, James, Virginia, USA to Princess Pocahontas Matoaka Rebecca POWHATAN (1595-1617)


Thomas Powhatan ROLFE


Varina, Henrico County, The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Inscription: John Rolfe emigrated from England to Virginia in 1610 and settled in what was to become Henrico County. In 1612 he imported tobacco seeds from Trinidad and cultivated a new strain of mild tobacco. He shipped part of his harvest to England in 1614, and by 1619 tobacco had become Virginia’s major money crop. In 1614 Rolfe married Pocahontas, a daughter of Chief Powhatan, and they had one son, Thomas. Rolfe and his family sailed in 1616 to England where Pocahontas died in 1617. Rolfe returned to Virginia, where he died in 1622.

Erected 1996 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number V 31.)

Location. 37° 28.566′ N, 77° 22.512′ W. Marker is in Varina, Virginia, in Henrico County. Marker is on Messer Road 0.1 miles north of Library Road, on the right when traveling north. Click for map.

Photo by Bernard Fisher, November 29, 2009

Thomas Rolfe

Thomas Rolfe (January 30, 1615 – 1680) was the only child of Pocahontas by her English husband, John Rolfe. His maternal grandfather was Wahunsunacock, the chief of Powhatan tribe in Virginia. Thomas Rolfe was born in Virginia. He traveled to London with his parents in 1616, and remained there, after the death of his mother, in the care of his appointed Guardian, Sir Lewis Stukeley, and later his father’s brother, Henry Rolfe.. Thomas married Elizabeth Washington in September 1632 at St James’s Church, Clerkenwell and they had a daughter named Jane in 1633. Elizabeth died shortly after Jane’s birth. Two years later, Thomas returned to Virginia as an adult, trained in English ways. He left his daughter, Jane, with his cousin Anthony Rolfe to claim his inheritance. In 1641, he asked permission of the Governor to visit his “kinsman Opecancanough”. Thomas inherited a tract of some 2000 acres, across from Jamestown; the land was described in a later deed as “due unto the sd Rolfe by Guift from the Indyan King”.. After the 1644 Indian attack on the colony, four forts were established to defend the frontier: Fort Henry, Fort Royal, Fort James, and Fort Charles. Fort James was to be under  ( Wikipedia article )

Date of birth: 30 Jan 1615

Place of birth:  Jamestown

Date of death: 1675

Place of death:  Kippax Plantation, Charles City County, Virginia (now Hopewell City)

Spouse(s):  Elizabeth Washington, Jane Poythress

Children:  Jane Rolfe, Anne Rolfe

Up Close and Personal in my Ancestor’s Home–The American Revolutionary War

Towns of Petersburg, Blandford, and Pocahontas and the suburbs of Ravenscroft and Bollingbrook become one town called Petersburg. (My 7th paternal great grandfather’s home.)

The colonial town of Petersburg, Virginia, was established by law in 1748.

Petersburg elected John Banister (father-in-law of my 7th great grandfather), as it’s first mayor in 1781.

It achieved the dignity of cityhood in 1850.  Bristol Parish, resulting from increasing population in the area was established in 1643. Fort Henry appeared in 1645-46. In 1733 Colonial William Byrd wrote of founding the towns of Petersburg and Richmond.

Old Blandford Church

By 1737 if not earlier, a brick church gave evidence of the locality’s coming of age.

Blandford Church

Blandford Church

The church which has become known as Blandford Church which may have overlooked the nascent towns of Petersburg, and Blandford, and possibly Pocahontas as well, all close beside the Appomattox River.  BollingTombatBlandford

Within the cemetery in the churchyard you will find the Bolling tomb.  Robert Bolling was originally buried at Kippax Plantation in Virginia, but the Bolling family removed all the male Bollings to Blandford. This is the vault where Colonel Robert Bolling rests. It is in the north east corner of the graveyard. It is across from the cemetery office. The building itself has undergone a complete renovation with a lucite covering at the entrance.

As the 18th century progressed and millions of acres of Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina saw English settlement for the first time Petersburg became the center of the North American tobacco trade.  Appomattox Tribesmen and English “woodsmen” would bring large quantities of deerskins for the English market.

During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Petersburg was the principal staging point for operations on the southern front.  And it’s here where my Bolling ancestors got to experience wartime battles up close and personal.

Enter British Major General William Phillips (1731 – May 13, 1781).

Somewhere in the outermost parcel of old  Blandford Church, in Petersburg, Virginia, lays the hidden body of  Major General William Phillips, a British officer who died on 13 May 1781  at Bollingbrook Mansion west of Petersburg on East Hill, and the home of the widow Mary Marshall Tabb Bolling, wife of my seventh great grandfather, Robert Bolling, Jr.  The house today is now known as Centre Hill and remains open for tours.

Events Leading to the Battles in and around Petersburg, Virginia

British General Charles Cornwallis

British General Charles Cornwallis

March 15, 1781 – At the Battle of Guilford Court House, North Carolina, British forces win a technical victory, but are so badly mauled that they must cease operations. Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis (second in command to Major General William Phillips) decides to leave the Carolinas and invade Virginia. His rationale: Virginia is the largest, most populated, and wealthiest colony; Virginia is providing supplies and reinforcements to rebel forces in the Carolinas, and the Virginia economy, particularly tobacco exports, is sustaining the war effort. Cornwallis believes that if he can defeat Virginia, American resistance to the British Crown will collapse.

The Battle of Blandford (or Blanford), also called the Battle of Petersburg, took place near Petersburg, Virginia on 25 April 1781.  Two thousand five hundred British soldiers under Major General William Phillips forced one thousand militia under Major General Baron Von Steuben to retreat across the Appomattox River during the Battle of Petersburg.  Phillips captured Mary Bolling, mother of Captain Robert Bolling IV, and her three daughters and used their home “Bollingbrook,” as his headquarters.  Phillips died on May 13 and was secretly buried in Blandford Cemetery.

You see, in the course of his troops movement down river from Richmond, Virginia,  Major General William Phillips fell violently ill with a fever, which is believed to have been either malaria or typhus.

The following is an excerpt from Charles C. Mann’s 2011 Book:  “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created,” which explains how General William Phillips might have come into contact with this life-taking illness: 

[“Chesapeake Bay is the remains of a huge, 35-million-year-old meteor crater.  The impact-fractured rock at the mouth of the bay lets in the sea, contaminating the groundwater with salt.  Few Indian groups lived in the saltwater wedge, presumably for just that reason.  Jamestown was bordered and undergirded by bad water.  That bad water, the geographer Carville D. Earle argued, “led to typhoid, dysentery, and perhaps salt poisoning”.  By January 1608, eight months after landfall, only thirty-eight English were left alive.'”]

A few days later, Phillips ordered Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, in North Carolina, to meet him in Petersburg. Phillips’ army arrives there on 9 May.  However, Phillips had become so ill that turncoat General Benedict Arnold took command of his army.

May 10, 1781 – Cornwallis and his army enter Virginia.
The following day, from the heights on the north bank of the Appomattox River, French ally, Major General Lafayette shelled the British army in Petersburg, including Bollingbrook, the home in which Phillips lie dying. Major General William Phillips died of the contagious fever during this bombardment). His final words — uttered after a shell struck the Bolling’s home and killed an African-American servant named Molly — are reputed to have been “Won’t that boy let me die in peace?” On the morning of the 13th Major General William Phillips died. Late that same evening, his body was taken to Blandford Church Cemetery and buried in a secret location.He and Molly were said to have been buried together, to prevent identification.

Colonial Heights, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic) (Marker Number 26-.)

Lafayette At Petersburg Marker Photo, Click for full size

Lafayette at Peters Marker–By Craig Swain, November 22, 2008

Inscription: From this hill Lafayette, on May 10, 1781, shelled the British in Petersburg.

Inscription on stone under the marker:

Headquarters of General Lafayette 1781, Frances Bland Randolph Chapter D.A.R. 1903.Erected 1927 by Conservation & Development Commission.

Location. 37° 14.465′ N, 77° 24.389′ W. Marker is in Colonial Heights, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1 / 301) and Arlington Avenue, in the median on Jefferson Davis Highway. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Colonial Heights VA 23834, United States of America.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker.Lee’s Headquarters (a few steps from this marker); Violet Bank (about 400 feet away, in a direct line); Lee at Violet Bank (about 400 feet away); Magnolia Acuminata (about 500 feet away); Colonial Heights War Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); Pocahontas (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Battle at the Bridge (approx. 0.4 miles away); Concrete Bunker (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Colonial Heights.

Also see . . .  Lafayette’s Virginia Campaign. The campaign was a prelude to the battle of Yorktown, leading to the American victory in the Revolutionary War. (Submitted on December 24, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)

Lafayette At Petersburg Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, November 22, 2008

Headquarters of General Lafayette - 1781 Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, November 22, 2008

Headquarters of General Lafayette – 1781

Placed by the Frances Bland Randolph Chapter, D.A.R., 1903.

Credits. This page originally submitted on December 24, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

May 20, 1781 – Cornwallis assumed overall command of all British forces in Virginia. His campaign of economic and military destruction began.  And, he marched his troops into Petersburg, uniting his forces with Arnold’s, but kept his headquarters at Bollingbrook until he departed on 24 May.

Then Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, described William Phillips as a brilliant soldier, artillerist, and leader, and “the proudest man of the proudest nation on earth.” By whatever description, Phillips’ final claim to fame was to have conducted one of the British army’s most successful campaigns in the American Revolution.  In fact Phillips’ issued standing orders to his army that private property and individuals not be taken in arms, but protected by his troops.  Because of his view against wanton destruction, Phillips saved Petersburg from war’s common devastation following the great battle fought in Petersburg on 25 April 1781.

Major General William Phillips

Major General William Phillips

And finally in 1914, overdue recognition was given to Phillips’ burial site by the Francis Bland Randolph Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).  The DAR erected a memorial outside the south wall of Blandford Church, which simply states:  Sacred to the memory of Major General William Phillips of the British Army who died at “Bollingbrook” May 13, 1781 and whose remains lie bured in this churchyard—Erected by the Frances Bland Randolph Chapter D.A.R., 1914.

Phillips Monument at Bollingbrook

Phillips Monument at Bollingbrook


My tree on ancestry.com
My January visit to Petersburg, VA
HMdb.org (Historical Markers Data Base)

Pots of Pennies and Toothpicks: The Best Thing My Mother Ever Taught Me

I love this story. In fact, my parents have Alzheimer’s but can still remember pinochle (well, most of it, most of the time). And, my husband and I twice a week play it with them. But, my husband loves to win and enforces playing by the rules. So sometimes it gets hard to find that happy medium. Thanks.

Ambling & Rambling

file0001847603162By nature I am a highly competitive person. I like to win, to excel, to achieve. Who doesn’t? Well, my mother for one. She doesn’t seem to care about it. (The one exception to this rule is Bingo! — my mother really likes to win at Bingo!)

Not only does she, by and large, NOT care about winning, she has been known to deliberately LOSE — to allow someone else to win. And not just her children. Lots of people “let” their children win. No. My mother would let other adults win. Crazy, right?

My mother enjoyed cards — she and her friends played “Pinochle” and “Canasta” like it was their JOB! She taught us, my sisters and I, to play card games — she started us out with “Old Maid” , we progressed to more advanced games like, “Crazy Eights” and “Rummy 500”. As we got older, we were…

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“Rare Gems of Human Knowledge”

If you have read more than one of my posts, by now you know that I love to read, explore, and learn on my own from others–those who came before me and those living, who I may or may not personally know.  Over the past several months especially, I have been following those people/blogs who I think have interests in common with me. Listverse.com is one of those blogs.  It is a place for “explorers who seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge” and in the process, have fun learning.

Every day Listverse publishes three amazingly bizarre or lesser-known trivia lists that are packed with as many new facts as possible. So today, I am sharing just one from a “Top 10 List on Mathematic Results” from the original top ten site, ListVerse, that serves over 19 million pages a month to more than 8 million readers.  This entry especially interested me because the theorem it describes was originally discovered in 1852 in England and was validated over 100 years later.  To me, it just seemed a perfect fit to my stories from and about history.  And, I don’t know about you, but I always thought knowledge advanced as technology advanced or vice versa and that our ancestors knowledge was less than ours because of our formal schooling and global exposure to information today.  Just goes to show you how knowledgeable I am (or was)…


About the Author

Jamie Frater is Founder and Chief Editor of ListVerse.  He started his professional life as a software developer until he abandoned it to do postgraduate studies in opera at the Royal College of Music in London.

Due to an insatiable desire to share fascinating, obscure, and bizarre facts, he created Listverse and left the singing for the shower. He currently divides his time between managing and Editing for Listverse, learning about all things obscure, and trying to find time for a social life.

One of the Coolest Mathematical Results

Many people are put off by the obscure symbols and strict rules of math, giving up on a problem as soon as they see both numbers and letters involved. But while math may be dense and difficult at times, the results it can prove are sometimes beautiful, mind-boggling, or just plain unexpected.

The 4-Color Theorem


The 4-Color Theorem was first discovered in 1852 by a man named Francis Guthrie, who at the time was trying to color in a map of all the counties of England. He discovered something interesting—he only needed a maximum of four colors to ensure that no counties that shared a border were colored the same. Guthrie wondered whether or not this was true of any map, and the question became a mathematical curiosity that went unsolved for years.

In 1976 (over a century later), this problem was finally solved by Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken. The proof they found was quite complex and relied in part on a computer, but it states that in any political map (say of the States) only four colors are needed to color each individual State so that no States of the same color are ever in contact.