Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Good Looking Out"

“Good looking out”, is my maternal great uncle’s favorite saying. The family calls him Uncle Jr., but his given name is Wilton Cheatham. His father’s name was Wilton Cheatham also. Uncle Jr. is my last surviving great uncle of his generation. His three sisters, two brothers, mother and father have all passed away.
My Great Aunt, Marilyn Cheatham Darby told my mother that her mother, Princess Cheatham would call Uncle Jr. “little turtle” when he was a boy because he was quiet, shy, and unassuming. Such a sweet term of endearment. Now that he is grown you can add to that list wisdom and intelligence. Good looking out is his favorite saying because he says you always have to be watchful of everything you do and everything that is happening around you.
In honor of his mother’s life, Wilton Jr. donates his money to cancer research. Uncle Jr. said that it was a pitiful feeling to know that he was healthy, but his mother was dying. Giving funds to find a treatment for cancer could save someone else from experiencing this feeling and save another cancer patient’s life.

 Uncle Jr. will continue to be Princess’ “Little Turtle”. Good Looking Out, “Little Turtle”


Monday, August 22, 2016

Strength In Numbers

Isn’t it amazing how African American families stayed together after the Civil War? With all the chaos, violence, and discrimination surrounding them, it was a wonder and a miracle that Black families even survived.

African American families had to create like communities because of their need for emotional support, economic support, and safety. Through surrounding themselves and uniting with like families, the Black family had a better chance of survival. The Brandon, Civils, House, Cheatham, Ellis, Shemwell, Tuck, Fuqua, Pinner, Greenwade, and others came together to form the Sandy Creek family. Like I stated in my previous blog, the Sandy Creek community spanned two states- Tennessee and Kentucky. Regardless of the distance, these families still came together to help one another in good and difficult times. Yes, there were celebrations and times of mourning, but they still united as one. Weddings were a time of celebration because you had one family connecting to another to make one big family. Celebrations were fun times to get together with your old and new kinfolks to eat, laugh, dance, and swap family stories. On the other hand, there were times of mourning through death. Even though this was not a happy occasion, family members came together to celebrate the life of the dearly departed, remember their legacy, and past down family histories. The creation of African American communities all over this country connects us to each other and helps us to keep our families strong. This is the story of my ancestral family and many others like it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Days Long Gone: Sandy Creek Baptist Church

Excitement was in the air and families were dressed in their Sunday’s Best! The time period was the late 1800s, post slavery. The purpose was not only to attend church, but to also fellowship with kinfolks, neighbors, and get a taste of Big Mama’s cooking.
I am talking about the Sandy Creek Baptist Church. This church was located on Ditney Ridge in Trigg County, KY and comprised of members living in both Trigg County, KY and Tobaccoport, TN. Now for those families that lived on Ditney Ridge Rd., the church was not but a walk away. For those families that lived in Tobaccoport, TN the trip needed a little more planning and effort. Papa had to make sure the buggy was travel ready, and mama had to make sure the picnic baskets were filled to the brim with good food. Mama might have packed an extra change of clothes for the children, because you know there was no playing in church clothes. You would get a whipping  for  sure!!!! They were ready to travel to church.
Church was not only the place for spiritual growth, but for a well deserved escape from the harsh realities of life and racism in the South during post slavery. Church was the long drink of water at the end of a hard long week and a breath of fresh air. This was the place where they could be “free”! This was their family reunion, library, social club, newspaper, gossip hot line, and fashion show. The place where help was granted if needed. The families looked forward to Sundays at the Sandy Creek Baptist Church. The place of my ancestors.
 My 2X great grandpatents home was at the top of                                                                                                                                the hill and the Sandy Creek Baptist Church was
                                                                                                                         located at the bottom of the hill to the right.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Nicknames vs. Real Names

Nicknames are a funny thing. It is great when you are a kid, but when the nickname sticks to you into adulthood, it gets to be confusing-especially for the family genealogist. As genealogists we deal with the real, given names of ancestors. For example my maternal great grandfather Wilton’s nickname was Dottie. I was speaking with an elderly relative on the phone that referred to Uncle Wilton as Uncle Dottie. I asked her who she was referring to. She said Wilton, but that she had always known him as Uncle Dottie. I asked her why and she began to tell me the story behind his nickname.
 Grandma Maggie, Wilton’s mother, made him an Easter suit with dotted fabric when he was 3 or 4 years old.  Paul and Jodie, Wilton’s brothers, teased him and nicknamed him Dottie. That nickname followed Wilton all the way into adulthood.

As I said, nicknames can be a funny thing when you are a kid, but not into adulthood. PLEASE DO NOT GIVE THE FAMILY GENEALOGIST ANY MORE CONFUSION!!!! USE REAL NAMES NOT NICKNAMES.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Scullin Steel

Hope in a hopeless situation! Job opportunities were very limited for African American men during the Great Depression. Racism and discrimination were rampant in America at this time. The only options available for African American men to work were in factory jobs, railroad jobs or enlist in the military.

My maternal great grandfather, Wilton Cheatham (1900-1963), was a hard working man. Moving to St. Louis from Bumpus Mills, Tennessee, for better job opportunities, Wilton worked for Scullin Steel. This company was established in 1899 by John Scullin to supply steel for the railroads and 100 years later for the St. Louis Arch. In World War II, Scullin Steel produced 2,000 pound steel bombs. My great uncle, Wilton Cheatham Jr. remembers going to work with his father as a young man. He saw his father pull the hot steel out of the furnace and pour the burning, hot liquid into molds to cool. Wilton Jr. vividly remembers that his father looked like he was on fire and sparks were flying everywhere. African American men that worked for Scullin Steel were given that most laborious and dangerous jobs. I remember seeing a picture on the internet of black men moving bombs from one place to another.  Working in the steel foundry was a hot, hard job, but my great grandfather had to do it in order to take care of his family of six. How did Wilton Cheatham work there for all those years? He had hope in a hopeless situation.