Saturday, August 3, 2019

John W Cobb, Jr. and Nancy Jane (Hodge) Cobb

John and Nancy Cobb, my second great-grandparents on my mother's paternal line, were among only three of my second greats missing a photo in my family tree. The only photo I had was of their grave. They are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in West Plains, Missouri and have a beautiful stone flanked by two huge peonies. The cemetery is lovely and not far from the land where they lived and farmed. 

The grave of John and Nancy Cobb at Evergreen Cemetery in West Plains, Missouri.
Last week I was in Missouri for a family reunion. In talking to my Great Uncle Bobby Cobb, he mentioned he had a picture of John and Nancy. What?! I had never known a photo existed. We made plans to head over to his house on Sunday, less than an hour from the reunion location, and take a look at his pictures. Sure enough, he produced the pictures of John and Nancy Cobb and I was able to photograph them. I wasn't able to keep these, but he sent me home with a box of other old photos. I still have to go through them and get them all scanned. For now, though, I am very happy to introduce John W. Cobb, Jr. and his wife, Nancy Jane Hodge Cobb.

John W. Cobb, Jr. 

Nancy Jane (Hodge) Cobb
The frame was originally a two-part frame hinged together and when closed it clasped tight like a case. Now, after so many years, the two sides have come apart and the clasp is broken. Nancy's photo was stuck firmly in the frame and a gentle attempt to loosen it was unsuccessful. I was afraid I would damage it if I tried harder, so it was left as is. But John's side of the frame came apart easily. I was glad because his photo was partially obscured by the frame and I was able to take it out and photograph the whole thing.

John W. Cobb, Jr.
But that wasn't even the best part. Behind this photo was an older tintype portrait of two men.

The man on the left is believed to be John W. Cobb, Jr.
The man on the right is unknown.
My assumption at the time was that one of the two men must be John. The picture was probably the original picture in the frame and the more recent photo had been added later. It makes sense, too, because the photo of Nancy is a younger likeness of her and matches with the time period of this one. Hers could also be a tintype - like I said, I couldn't get that side of the frame open, so I don't know for sure. Looking at the two men and comparing them to the older photo of John (which only kind-of clearly showed the bottom half of his face), I believe the man on the left to be him. I enlarged the photo for clarification.

Close up of the two men in the tin-type portrait.

Closer still of the man I believe is John W. Cobb, Jr., my second great-grandfather.
So, my family, meet John W. Cobb , Jr. and his wife Nancy. They've been added to my family tree on Ancestry and now there is only one "second great" without a photo.

John W. Cobb, Jr. was born on 12 January 1852 in Lincolnton, Lincoln County, North Carolina to John W. "Jack" Cobb (1817-1880) and Anna Cahoun (Long) Cobb (1824-?). Between 1865 and 1870 the family moved to Grainger County, Tennessee where John met Annie, daughter of Welcome Hodge (1816-1884) and Isabella (McGoldrick) Hodge (1825-?). John and Annie married on 2 February 1873 in Grainger County. They were the parent of six children, but only four lived to be counted on a census and reach adulthood. 
  • Warrie Glenn Cobb was born in 1883 in Tate Springs, Tennessee
  • Anna Belle Cobb was born in 1884 in Morristown, Hamblen County, Tennessee
  • Henry Clay "Kay" Cobb was born in 1885 also in Morristown
  • Carrie Love Cobb was born in 1889 in Brinkley, Monroe, Arkansas
By 1900 John and Nancy had settled in West Plains, Howell County, Missouri and they lived there the rest of their lives. John died on 24 August 1923 and Nancy on 26 August 1927.

The obituary of John Cobb in the West Plains Journal, 30 Aug 1923, from

The obituary of Nancy Cobb in the West Plains Journal-Gazette 1 Sep 1927, from

Friday, July 5, 2019

It's Family Reunion time again!

When I was a child my mother had family, on the sides of both of her parents, living in fairly close proximity in the Kansas City, Missouri area and regular gatherings were common. In the summertime especially, picnics or Sunday dinners brought the family together. My grandparents, most of their generation, my mom, and many of her cousins are no longer with us. The remaining family members have spread out across the country and few are still in the Kansas City area, but we continue to work hard to keep the tradition of a regular family gathering alive. As is common with family reunions, our numbers get a bit smaller each time. People pass away or become unable to travel due to aging, and the youngest family members haven't formed the close bonds that the older generations did growing up with cousins nearby. But, for now, those of us that go have a really great time and we'll do this as long as we can.

Every other year for the last 15 or so years we have met lakeside on Truman Lake in Central Missouri. Traveling from all over Missouri and as far away as Washington, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Arizona, we all descend on the friendly resort in the heat of late July for a three-day party. Everyone always says they wish it could be an annual thing, but every other year comes around pretty quick. This schedule also allows families a chance to plan a different vacation on the off years and still get to every reunion.

The Reunion Schedule

We do a three-day reunion (Friday-Sunday) and have found a resort with a hotel and a kitchen/clubhouse that we reserve. I use the term "resort" loosely because it's more like a fishing camp, but it meets our needs and the price makes it more affordable for everyone to attend. Each person attending contributes $20 to help pay for the clubhouse and the food and we all pay for our own accommodations. We have a group of about 40-60 with the biggest turnout on Saturday. A few early birds arrive Thursday night and the rest trickle in on Friday and Saturday. Some just come on Saturday if they live nearby, but for those traveling far, it's nice to have three days to visit. On Sunday afternoon we start saying our goodbyes and everyone has headed home by Monday morning.

Our routine is the same every time.

Day One:

On Friday morning a crew does the grocery shopping at the local Wal-Mart while another group is setting up tables and decorating. We plan a light lunch on Friday so as people arrive they can grab a bite if hungry. Then on Friday night, we have a buffet dinner. This is always a late night of visiting and catching up.

A recruited helper (my Uncle) making paper chains for the Christmas in July theme.

The sun setting on the lake.

Day Two:

Saturday begins by opening up the clubhouse early and getting the coffee on. Breakfast items that can be kept warm and cold cereal make it easy for people to eat whenever they wake up. Once breakfast is cleaned up most of us play BINGO. All ages love the game. Everyone brings some prizes and it goes on for hours. The hotel has a pool which is always a huge hit with the kids and other options for activities are outdoor games, fishing, and boating.
A light lunch is offered, but the main attraction is the Saturday main reunion meal. Served in mid to late afternoon, this is always huge with lots of dishes and lots of desserts. After the meal, we draw for the raffle prize or prizes. These are always something handmade. We have had a crocheted afghan, quilts, and family history books. This year I'm making a quilt and so is another cousin. Quilts are always popular raffle items. Raffling items helps to bring in funds to keep the reunion going even as our numbers are dwindling. Group photos, if we remember, are done after we clean up.
Saturday nights are for story-telling, sing-alongs, laughter, and reminiscing. It's always another late night.

The kids love hanging out by the pool.

A crocheted afghan was raffled the first year we started doing a raffle.

Quilts are always a popular raffle item.

Lake fun!

Playing music and singing on Saturday night :)

Tip: if you can plan a time for everyone to gather for a photo, do it! We've found that this is something you have to be flexible with as there'll always be someone napping, at the pool, or on the lake and you'll likely never get a photo with everyone in it.

The one and only year (so far!) that we remembered to get a big group photo.

Day Three:

Sunday morning goes about the same as Saturday though we may switch up the breakfast items. Many of the folks check out of their rooms and head home Sunday afternoon, so the goodbyes begin after breakfast. Those of us that stay through Monday morning all help with clean-up and polish off as much of the leftover food as we can. If we're a small group, we sometimes head out to a local restaurant for a casual dinner.

My mom (in the blue blouse) passed away 7 years ago.
Here she is pictured with her brothers and sister at one of the reunions.
These four are the reason I started planning this reunion.

Our reunion spot sits on this quiet cove.

Planning the Reunion

Family reunions take a little bit of planning. Years ago when we first started, invitations were sent in the mail and RSVPs collected to get a head count. Now we have a facebook group and I just create an event with all the details after the reservations have been locked in. Those without a facebook account are contacted by phone or just hear about it from someone else. We collaborate and plan a menu in advance, then buy enough food and disposable tableware for our average group size and don't worry about an exact count anymore. For BINGO, we use a deck of BINGO cards, a pad of paper cards and plastic markers purchased online years ago that transport easily. If we run out of markers, Cheerios work well!


Bingo playing is a highlight of the reunions.

The table of BINGO prizes one year.

The kitchen work goes smoothly with a simple menu. Even for easy dishes, print out the recipes so anyone can help. Delegate the work. Setting up the buffet, taking out the garbage, food prep and clean up can all be delegated. Even though it's work, it's fun to do with others. We often have a group in the kitchen visiting and laughing as we prepare a meal and those are some of my favorite reunion memories. At the last reunion, we ordered the main dish on Saturday from a local restaurant and that reduced the workload a lot and was still within budget. We may do that again this year.

The clubhouse kitchen boasts a huge prep table that we put to use.

Having fun with reunion food.

I always choose a simple theme for the decorations. One thing that's been popular is to incorporate old family photos into the theme. They are great prompts for some terrific story-telling! Some of our past themes were "fiesta", "family tree", and "Hillbilly Hoedown" (our Ozarks hillbilly roots!). One year we did "Christmas in July" and everyone wrapped the BINGO prizes they brought. That was a lot of fun. This year it's "Flower Power" so we'll be getting our retro groove on. I just have fun with it and keep it simple.

The theme was "family tree".
The leaves and acorns hanging down from this tree all had a copy of an old family photo attached.
Leaves and acorns with photos were also scattered on the tables.

BINGO prizes wrapped as gifts for the Christmas in July theme.

Hillbilly hoedown was a fun theme.
One of my Aunts made the mason jar centerpieces.
The main thing is to just relax, keep it simple, and focus on enjoying the time with your cousins, aunts, and uncles. If you don't already have family reunions, consider starting the tradition. It's worth the effort, believe me.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Rayson Brown, 1920s Nature Photographer

G. Rayson Brown (1898-1974) was fascinated by the wonders of nature. He combined that love of the outdoors with his photography hobby in the early 1920s after moving to Los Angeles, California. Rayson was my husband's Great Uncle. Warren, Rayson's only child, inherited the collection. Warren didn't have children and when he passed, my husband and I became the keepers of the collection.

Rayson photographed people, always outdoors, as well as majestic scenery, plants, animals and insects. Some of his close-up plant, animal and insect photos were sold to magazines and published. He took great pride in carefully documenting and cataloging his collection. Out of the hundreds of photos, I chose a few of my favorites to share.

Rayson married Edythe Grace Sisson in 1923, soon after arriving in Los Angeles. Edythe and her family are in many of Rayson's photographs.

Edythe and Mrs. Holden at Camp Baldy, 1924

Edythe and her mother in Stoddard Canyon, 1924

In the photo below, from left to right, are Edythe's father Charles Sisson, Edythe, her Uncle Herbert Bragg and Aunt Mae (Duffield) Bragg, her mother Edith (Duffield) Sisson, her sister Vera (Sisson) Armstrong and brother-in-law Bill Armstrong.

Sissons, Braggs, Armstrongs & Brown picnic, Stoddard Canyon, 1924

"Yours truly" [Rayson] & wife, 1926

Edythe and Aunt Nellie Nettleingham at Seal Beach, 1927

Edythe's Aunt Mae and Uncle Herb lived in Long Beach. The family took many trips there to visit and enjoy the beach.

Long Beach Pier, 1923

Long Beach Waterfront, 1923

Rayson and Edythe, usually with her sister Vera and brother-in-law Bill Armstrong, explored as much of the state as they could when not working. Rayson always had his camera and tripod on hand to document their travels.

Lighthouse at end of San Pedro Calif. breakwater, 1923

Road around Catalina Island looking East, 1923

Glass Bottom Boat Catalina, 1923

Scene from Busch Gardens, 1924

There are dozens of photos of the aftermath of a 1925 earthquake in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Earthquake ruins, 1925

Yachts in Race to Honolulu, 1926

Rayson must have truly loved photographing and documenting the plants, animals, and insects found in nature. There are hundreds of photos and boxes and boxes of slides. Getting clear, close-up photos is a challenge for photographers today but was even more so in the 1920s.

Tarantula and it's abode, 1923

Carpenter bees, 1925

Butterfly, 1925

Sow Bug, 1925

Spotted Anthomya fly (Gray), 1925

Elderbug, Black, white and red, 1925

Buffalo tree hopper (Green), 1925

Milliped (Brown), 1925


Crane fly, 1927

Alligator in Los Angeles alligator farm, 1923

Lizzard, 1924

Burrowing owl, 1925

Geranium seed (magnified), 1926