May 2008

29 May 2008 06:11 pm


Art by Laura Lee Donoho

See the image.

Then, open the card.


We have a new baby in our family. My niece, Natalie had a baby girl last week. She is beautiful. A is for Annabelle.

26 May 2008 12:36 am


Avis Wilhelmina Drew Mackey

This is a photo taken of my great great grandmother, Avis Wilhelmina Drew Mackey while she and her husband still lived in New York State. Avis Wilhelmina and her husband, Oscar J. Mackey moved from New York sometime in the 1880s, settling first in Kansas and then in Northwest Arkansas. This great great grandmother of mine has been one of the most fascinating characters in my families’ genealogy, particularly because of what has been told to me by my own grandmother, Avis Frances Mackey Fletcher.

The Drew and Mackey families were old New York State families. I learned about my grandmother’s paternal grandmother when I was a little girl. My grandmother told me that she was a very gentle lady. She said that Avis Wilhelmina told her that if she lived in England she would be a “Lady.” I know her stories captivated my grandmother’s imagination, I just don’t know how much of it is truth and how much is fancy.

I videotaped my grandmother and her account of Avis Wilhelmina Drew in 1990 but the videotape was lost in our move to Panama. It was the only tape I had of my grandmother and it broke my heart that it was lost. But her stories remain. My cousin, David is also interested in family history and has done as much research as he can to document with birth, census and other records the history of the Drew/Mackey families. Unfortunately, much of New York State genealogical history is sketchy in the period we needed to find birth records although we do have more information on the Mackey family because they originally settled in New York City and intermarried with the Dutch.


Photo of Oscar Mackey and children, taken after the death of Avis Wilhelmina.

We do know that Oscar J. Mackey, husband of Avis Wilhelmina served in the Union Army during the Civil War because we have the records.

We know that Avis Wilhelmina Drew controlled the family money because every piece of land that was bought was in her name. We know that she expected a great inheritance of an estate in England because it was mentioned in her will. Avis Wilhelmina died before her husband and he remarried a woman the family disliked strongly, most likely because she kept the family silver and jewels instead of giving it to the descendants that Avis had listed in her own will.

But of her parentage we have little more than handed down oral traditions. My cousin, David interviewed Avis Wilhelmina’s daughter-in-law, Pearl Irene Valentine Mackey about the family history years ago. Pearl lived to be almost one hundred years old and it was late in her life when David interviewed her but he believed her to be very sharp in mind so what we learned from her seems plausible but also fantastic. Here is her account:

The following information was related by Pearl Irene Mackey about stories told to her by Avis W. Drew Mackey, and from recall of events through the years.

Noah Drew and his sister, Emma, reportedly grew up in New York State of English and Scottish heritage. Emma lived in Jamestown but Noah became a sea captain and was called a sea farmer because he lived at sea with his family. Noah and Emma were considered wealthy.

According to the story, Noah married a girl from South Africa who was called a “yellow African girl”. She was disowned by her family for marrying a sea man. Three children, all born at sea, were Norman, the oldest, Edward and Avis Wilhelmina. The mother of these children became very ill. Noah believed her to be near death, and it was her request that the children be taken to Emma, which was done. Ages of the children when he left them behind with their Aunt Emma in Jamestown, New York in 1844 were Norman, 8, Edward, 3 and Avis, 2. Noah visited the children about every two years for a period of several years, then was heard from no more.

There is much more to this account but in the interest of being short and to the point I will stop there.

This is the problem. I have no idea whether the account is true or not. It’s a sad tale and considering the fact that there are no birth records found for Avis and her brothers in New York, it could be true. I will continue to search for the truth but have no idea how I can discover whether Noah was indeed a sea captain or the name of his ship and the routes he sailed. I definitely don’t know how to discover the name of the mother of Avis or anything about her family since she was disowned and died a death at sea. I have tried to find out the meaning of “yellow African woman” and haven’t had much luck. I surmise that she must have been of mixed race.

At this time in the political season I simply have no interest in blogging about the presidential race. My mind has turned to family history, a subject that has interested me since I was a girl.
Whether Obama beats Hillary makes no difference to me because I will vote for John McCain, flawed as he is, in the interest of national security.

Most people (except for the die hards) are tired of the constant barrage of news about the election. As summer comes on there will be more time for family history research and sipping tea on the porch. That is what I intend to do.

24 May 2008 11:18 am


CARROL COPELAND • TIMES RECORD Darby Junior High School students Kaheem Spann, left, and Miguel Castorena attach an American flag to a pole before raising it Thursday morning at the U.S. National Cemetery. About 60 Darby students put up 300 large U.S. flags, 50 state flags and more than 12,000 small U.S. flags on individual graves. The annual Memorial Day service will be at the cemetery Sunday at 2 p.m.

How to teach Junior High students to love and respect our American heritage? Take them to the National Cemetery to raise American flags on Memorial Day. It is there that they will learn that Americans will die for their freedom.


Waldo Fisher salutes after placing a flag at the headstone of his son, Dustin, at the U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith on Thursday. Fisher, a civics teacher at Darby Junior High School and president of Chapter 467 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, led a group of about 130 Darby students, who placed flags on the 10,325 headstones of deceased veterans and decorated the site for a Memorial Day observance Sunday at 2 p.m. Army Spc. Dustin Fisher was killed while serving in Iraq on May 24, 2005.

Waldo Fisher is now retired from teaching Civics at Darby but he continues in his quest to honor America’s fallen, including his own son.

A couple dozen Darby Junior High students were busy placing flags at the national cemetery in Fort Smith this morning.

These volunteers were dressing up the cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday. Former Darby teacher and Vietnam vet, Waldo Fisher started this annual project 18 years ago when the national cemetery was having problems getting enough volunteers to place the flags.

“18 years later we are here again and we will be here as long as I’m alive, hopefully this program will go on forever,” said Waldo Fisher, retired Darby teacher.

Fisher says the students are picked by their teachers and they must display good citizenship through out the year to qualify. He says the goal is to teach them responsibility and respect.

The video is here.

William O. Darby Junior High School is named for the late Gen. William O. Darby, founder of Darby’s Rangers which evolved into the US Army Rangers. Darby was born and grew up in Fort Smith and graduated from West Point in 1933. He is well remembered and honored here.

22 May 2008 01:01 am

wmfletcher (2)_1.jpg

My great great grandparents, William Monroe Fletcher and Margaret Clementine Bowling and their children. My great grandfather was Elmer, the taller boy. I received this photo via email from a descendant of Melvina Inez. Interesting names for the children.

When it was time to name my babies I was never one to go for popular names. I wanted to give my children a sense of family heritage from the very first but as I looked through the family Bible for names I shied away from the names, Elmer and Melvina. I suppose those names were very popular at the time they were given.

I do remember my great grandfather, Elmer L. Fletcher. I recall him being very tall and always outside tending to his rose bushes. He had sky blue eyes. I also remember in a vague sort of way, my great grandfather building two bedrooms onto my parents’ house. Afterwards, he butchered one of our chickens and we had fried chicken for supper.


Elmer L. Fletcher and Mary Emmaline Mathis Fletcher at their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

My great grandfather died of a heart attack when I was five years old. I have an image of his funeral in my mind. It was in a church and there were roses everywhere. My first funeral. Back then most children weren’t so overprotected and were taken to funerals. I didn’t know what a babysitter was until my teens.

Since I’ve grown up I’ve learned more about my great grandfather. One day a few years ago my Dad mentioned the courageous feat my great grandfather accomplished to save the railroad bridge during a flood. “Grandpa” took the engine out on the bridge (during a great rain) and left it in the middle, then walked back to land. The heavy engine kept the bridge from being washed out. The bridge is still standing. I was stunned. “Why didn’t you tell me this about grandpaw?”, I asked Daddy.

“You just don’t listen.” was the response. But I am listening now and believe I was always listening. I remember asking all of my great grandmothers about what life was like when they were growing up.

At my great grandparents’ house there was a certificate hanging on the wall in honor of my great grandfather’s service as an engineer on a train that carried President Truman. My great grandfather told Daddy that he reckoned he had put a million miles on that engine.

I’ve always been fascinated by Margaret Clementine, my great great grandmother. Both her names were interesting to me and on my short list for a name when I had my daughters. It’s nice now to be able to see her image. She was the daughter of John R. Bowling, a 2nd LT in the Arkansas Infantry during the Civil War. Margaret Clementine’s father never returned from the war, he died in a Yankee prison camp. She was only three years old. Her mother, Martha Woods never remarried.

Margaret Clementine’s grandfather, David Milton Woods’ death was due to injuries received during the Civil War when bushwhackers beat him unconscious and the bottoms of his feet were burned, in an effort to make him reveal where his money was hidden. By the time this incident occurred he had spent all his money on support of the families of two of his sons and three daughters. His two eldest sons and three of his sons-in-law were with the Southern forces and their families were living with David and his wife.

How frightening that would have been for Margaret Clementine.

As I gazed upon the photo of William and Margaret Clementine and children I noted that Margaret seemed to be a kind and composed mother. She was thin and her hands seemed overworked but she rested them upon each other in Mona Lisa’s style. She, alone among the group isn’t looking directly at the photographer. Perhaps she was thinking about fixing supper. It’s now easier to picture Margaret Clementine as a little girl, perhaps with the blue eyes of her son, helping her family with chores and playing with her sisters and brothers. Both of her daughters were named for her sisters.

I end this genealogical musing with the thought that it is sometimes good to check one’s email.

20 May 2008 10:45 pm


Another great Kaia Larsen Photo

15 May 2008 08:16 pm


My niece, Maine is getting her Masters Degree in Fine Arts (or Theater) at the University of Texas in Austin. She’s about finished with her first year. She already has an agent and has been cast for a small role (featured extra) in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

The casting director for The Tree of Life called Maine and said that the producer saw her headshot and wants her for an additional part, this time a featured extra. She’s going to be some kind of ethereal porcelain being surrounded by white light. They’re making paper mache hair and doing some kind of crazy costume. The casting director said it’s an art shot, so she will almost definitely be working directly with Malick.

Maine has also been cast in the part of Mae in the musical The Wild Party that is being done by the Provincetown Players in Cape Cod. The play runs July 11th-August 11th (I think). The two leads are Equity actors from Boston. The theater is helping her find a place to stay this summer after she finishes her little role in The Tree of Life. I hope they will find some place that will take cats because she has two kitties she will not part with. Maine won’t get to meet Brad Pitt or Sean Penn. They have already wrapped up their roles. Too bad.

My daughters and I were urging her to kick Brad Pitt for leaving Jennifer Anniston.

13 May 2008 10:57 pm

Just went down to the EZ-mart to get some cokes. As I got out of the car I heard a whistle or some kind of siren sound. I wondered what it was as I was shopping. Coming out the door I could hear it plainly. Coming from across the street in a wooded area was the sound of a Whip-poor-will. It sounded plaintive as if it were crying out a warning. The sky is full of lightning in the west.

We are in for another storm. After I got home I was doing household chores and listening to the election returns. Hillary smoked Obama in West Virginia but the news media is so doggedly determined to see Barack H. Obama in the White House that it collectively yawned.

Now I am not for Hillary mind you, but you’ve got to give it to the girl. She’s determined and looking better everyday. At this moment she’s beating Obama 67 percent to 26 percent.

Our man, McCain is doing nothing to sell himself to his base. Actually it’s hard to stomach the daily snipes he is delivering to President Bush and conservatives. I can’t imagine George Herbert Walker Bush doing that to President Reagan. Maybe it’s all this bad weather that is getting on my nerves but I really think it is John McCain. Weather happens. Republicans are supposed to be more than floating clouds of political wiffs.

10 May 2008 11:35 pm


I used to love to go downtown to see my grandparents at their drycleaners when I was a little girl. Papaw Webster was the best. I followed him around like a puppy. When he died of a massive coronary when I was only ten years old I cried myself to sleep for three months. I wrote an essay several years ago in remembrance of him and of the place I remember him the best: The Rightway Cleaners.

The Rightway Cleaners

The enormous carved oak door creaked and the leaded glass window shivered as I entered my grandfather’s shop. I always had to carefully close the door behind me, for it tended to keep right on going and slam into the outside wall. “The Rightway”, Papaw Webster’s cleaning shop had many years and I always suspected many secrets crammed into its every corner. Coming in off the cold damp avenue into the steamy warmth of the shop was comforting to me. I skipped past the white marble shoe shine stand, which seemed more like a royal throne to me, on past the glass and oak counter which held the blocked hats; around to the little niche where my grandmother sat, at her electric Singer. Thimbles on almost all her knotted fingers, pins pinched into her mouth, she crinkled her cornflower blue eyes, and said, “um hum” in her slow self possessed way.

I went on my way, back through the gloomy corridor where I was always warned never to pause for very long. For there was an old hand-pulled elevator, leading up to the second floor. There were loads of junk up there. Papaw called it trash but Mamaw would retort, “It’s old family treasures”. The junk didn’t interest me nearly as much as the elevator itself, and once, along with my brother, I had attempted to crank it up. But we were caught, and had to sit up front in those old lumpy mission oak chairs, that smelled of shoe polish, old cigars and alcohol. We were given no pennies for the gumball machine, and had to content ourselves with the button boxes.

I walked slowly through the dusky corridor, past the room with the day bed, where Papaw sometimes napped. The hiss of the press in the back room made me jump with fright. I paused, took a deep breath and planted my eyes upon the object of my fear. The boiler, a huge angry black pot was always growling and belching. I had overheard my grandparents discuss all the frightening incidents that other dryclearners had experienced with their boilers, and I held my breath again as I tiptoed past the hateful thing. Across the hall from it was the ancient wooden toilet that gave my bottom splinters. I wasn’t tall enough to pull the chain and always had to have help, to my chagrin.

Through the gloomy light I passed into the pressing room where Papaw reigned supreme. He seemed a giant to me, handling those machines that spit and screamed with firm movements. There was a barn like door, which let in the fresh crisp air. I drew a deep breath of this wet, heavenly air and hugged Papaw on his scratchy wool pants. He put his hand in his pocket and brought out my favorite gum, Doublemint. I tore off the wrapper and lodged the gum right where my two front teeth had been. I savored the flavor of the gum, only letting a little sugar spurt out at a time. This minty flavor mixed in deliciously with the smell of the cleaning solvent, which was stored in cans in the corner. The rich lung piercing odor of the cleaning solvent was so strong I could almost taste it. When the gum had lost its flavor and Papaw had warned me twice to quit sniffing so closely to the solvent, I gathered up my courage and sidled on past the boiler to make my way to the front to see Charlie, the shoe shine boy.

Charlie shined my boots, as I sat on the enamel red throne; and I gazed up at the wall murals, which depicted three seasons only, excluding summer. I was always perplexed about why my favorite season was left out. Charlie gave me a penny for gum, after first letting me catch a glimpse of his thick roll of cash.

A day at the “Rightway” always ended in a walk with my grandmother down to The Wide Awake Cafe. She drank her coffee black as a rule, but the apricot haired waitress always winked at me as she sat two thumb sized glasses of cream in front of me. I made quite a ceremony out of it until it was all gone. I examined the glasses for remaining drops, and would pretend that I was a giant drinking some poor little girl’s drink.

02 May 2008 12:41 am

flowers2.jpg Where have I been the past few weeks? Very busy.

flowersyellow.jpg We had a storm a couple of weeks ago.
Lots of hail which damaged homes and cars in our family. Now we drive around Fort Smith, looking at all the boarded up windows and say, “Incredible.” It was actually very scary. My husband drove my daughter to pick up her husband from work and almost immediately after they left the storm started to rage. Hail crashed into the driver’s side window, damaging my husband’s left hand. He suffered multiple contusions and a cracked bone. The hail was coming down like bullets and after the window broke my husband was reaching around the car to get a barrier to keep the hail out. He grabbed what looked like a briefcase to put up to the window and my daughter yelled, “No. You can’t use that. It’s my breast pump.” A very uncomfortable moment between father and daughter. But funny.

floweryellowsunflower.jpg We spent the rest of the night in the emergency room. The sun is shining now but that Wednesday night a few weeks ago, we got a taste of the terror of weather. I wish I could garden but I really don’t have the knack. But I do like flowers.

01 May 2008 11:44 pm

So Barack Obama has finally separated himself from his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. This affair is starting to rival the Richard Burton - Elizabeth Taylor marriage on the love/hate meter. What’s more, it reveals that Obama has an inability to make up his mind. He waited until Wright made his less explosive comments at The National Press Club to condemn him almost utterly or rather, kinda-sorta. I sense fear in the Obama campaign, fear of Reverend Wright and his next media tour.

So what took Obama so long to tell Reverend Wright to get on down the road?

The polls, apparently.