Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ahnentafel - #6 Frank Jones Becham

Frank Jones Becham was born on 5 Mar 1897 in Crawford County, Georgia, the eldest son of Franklin Lafayette Becham and Sarah Lodelia Mathews.  Despite much research - and asking large portions of the family - I have not been able to determine why the "Jones" in his name.

Frank's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all potters as well as farmers.  He himself came of age just as prohibition (which was imposed in Georgia before the national law) made pottery making unprofitable, since many of the jars they made were intended for whiskey.  He and several of his brothers instead directed their crafting skills into construction.

Frank lived almost his entire life in Crawford County.  He appears there with his parents and siblings in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses.  He was just a toddler in 1900, with his parents and brother W.P.  By 1910, he is a 13-year old listed as a farm laborer on the family farm, and was attending school.  W.P., then 10, was also a farm laborer, but the younger children were just in school. The 1940 census indicates that Frank finished 7th grade.   In 1920, Frank was between Navy tours, listed as a house carpenter, as were his father and his brothers W.P. and Henry.

Frank enlisted in the Navy reserves in June 1918 and was called to active duty in August of that year.  At the time of his enrollment, he was described as being 5 ft, 11 inches, 151 pounds, blue eyes, light brown hair, ruddy complexion, with a number of scars on his hands and legs. After finishing basic training, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Cypress in Charleston, SC.  While technically a WWI veteran he did not see combat. He was a machinist throughout his service.   In May of 1919, he was released from duty and apparently returned to Crawford County.  However, he was recalled to active duty in November 1920.   He served on the USS Baltimore and the USS Ludlow, finally ending up at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  There he requested that he be discharged so that he could return to the U.S.  Apparently Pearl had a problem with sailors asking to get out, getting a transfer back to the U.S. and then re-enlisting there so they could have a Stateside assignment.  He did have to sign a paper stating that this was not what he was doing.  He was honorably discharged at Mare Island, California in December 1921.  During his service he got top marks for sobriety, obedience, and proficiency in his skill area. He also started out making $35.90 per month, from which $6.50 was subtracted for life insurance.  By the time he got out in 1921, this had risen to $54 per month.

In November 1921, Frank married his first wife Ola Pauline Bryant in Crawford County, Georgia, the daughter of James Bryant and Moselle Sandifer.  They largely lived in Crawford county although they did spend a short time back in Charleston around 1928.   However, they were back in Georgia by July 1929, when Ola died from complications of pregnancy following the birth of her 5th child.   In the 1930 census, Frank and his four oldest children Frances, Louise, Franklin and Caroline are living with his parents.  Baby Sarah is living with his sister Lucile Becham Hortman.  He is again working as a carpenter, as he would do for the remainder of his life.

On 10 July 1932, Frank married his second wife, Viola Elizabeth (Vicky) Wade.  This was her first marriage.  In the next few years they had three more children - Betty, Gladys and Paul.  According to Vic's sister Clyde, Gladys was born premature, at home.  Clyde, a nurse, was there at the time and managed to successfully nurse her through the first few days.   In 1940, the family is living in Sandy Point, Crawford County, Georgia.  All the children were still at home although Sarah is not listed with them in the census (or anywhere else that can be found).  Frank is a carpenter and farmer, who owns his home, worth $800.  Frank had worked 52 weeks of the previous year, for which he had earned $425.  None of the children worked.

Frank and Viola remained in Crawford county for the rest of their life.  He ran construction crews for many years, but after becoming too old for that, they ran a motel in Musella.  They eventually retired from there, building themselves a new house just outside Roberta.  At some point, probably as a young man, Frank abandoned his Methodist upbringing and switched to the Primitive Baptist church, where he was a faithful member and an avid adherent.   Towards the end of his life, he was at the VA home in Dublin, Georgia, where he died on 18 April 1985.  He is buried with his two wives at the Roberta City Cemetery in Roberta, Georgia. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Reading and Writing

Looking at recent college records got me wondering about the other side of the educational equation, i.e. how many of my ancestors could in fact read and write.  Even when schools were present in the rural South, many children did not attend or only attended a few years. Looking at this had me thinking about some of my ancestors.

It is interesting when only one child of a family cannot read or write.  I am assuming that Washington Becham could not since he also could not sign his name.  He signs all records with his mark, not a signature and its hard to believe he could write other things.   Yet his confederate contract proves that at least two of his brothers could write at least their names.   The 1900 census indicates that Washington could read and write but 1910 says he couldn't.  The difference - Ann had died between the two censuses.  She could at least sign her name, leading to speculation that he, she or they didn't want to admit that he couldn't.  It didn't matter once she had died.  

One ancestor, Nancy Whitaker Horne, is of interest because she could in fact write.  She could certainly sign her name, and in a way that did not indicate hesitancy.  If in fact she also wrote out the property inventory that she signed, then she could actually write well.  In addition, one of the items that she purchased from her husband's estate was his writing desk.  Nancy would have been unusual for her time, place and social status, which leads to more curiosity about her background.

None of this changes any of the research on the family but looking at these small things enables me to complete the picture and learn a tiny bit more about people who were not prominent and lived a life where little paperwork was created.   One has to be careful to not read too much into sparse records, but this has lead me to look more closely at things like signatures.