This month in history

I have begun a new style of Friday postings.   Each will take someone in our family tree and place them within historical events occurring during the month!  I hope you enjoy them.

Ferman Esco Fortenberry

June 18  1886 – June 9, 1952

Ferman has appeared on previous postings.  Since he is my grandpa, I like to pass down to later generations some of the stories about him.  Tomorrow I will be posting the story of his moving to Georgia in 1939 and the development of an amazing company he and his sons founded – F. E. Fortenberry & Sons, Inc.  If I do not write about these events now, the following generations will never know about their ancestors’ accomplishments.

A New Supposition

June 28, 1776

Genealogists often try to figure out things that have no definitive answer.  That is what I am doing today.  I believe I have figured out why my 3X great grandfather was named William Jasper Fortenberry.  Note:  Our best guess as to his year of birth is thought to be about 1776.  Before my explanation of how he may have been named, we must look at how William named his own children.  The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management has records showing early land acquisitions in Pike County, Mississippi.  Because the records often show a middle name, we know that William used surnames for his sons’ middle names.  The ones recorded for several of Williams sons’ includes: Gasua “Chapman” Fortinberry, Burrell “Taylor” Fortinberry, and Hollis “Horton” Fortinberry.  Another document tells us he had a son named Calvin “Kennington” Fortinberry – all surnames from the Lancaster County, South Carolina area where William Jasper Fortenberry was born.  In fact, Kennington was the maiden name of William’s wife, Violette.  

Where am I going with this?  Last week, while reading a book about Francis Marion, I came across information about a Southern Revolutionary War hero named William Jasper.  I think it is possible that William’s father, Revolutionary War patriot John Fortenberry, named his son after this man!  William Jasper’s heroic deed occurred on June 28, 1776.   He quickly became well know across the state!  If William was named in honor of this man’s efforts, this would mean he was born in the second half of 1776.  To learn more William Jasper’s life, please see this Wikipedia page:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jasper

William Jasper Fortenberry’s grave is located at the Fortenberry-Pittman Cemetery in Walthall County, Mississippi.  A marker was placed on his grave in 1902.  This photo was taken in 1976.  The clasped hands are a Victorian symbol which often represented an earthly farewell or a heavenly welcome.  Sadly, if you visit the site today, this marker is gone but his War of 1812 marker remains.

June, 1943

By June of 1943, Adrian (Daddy) had been in Recife, Brazil for four months.  During this point in World War II, he had been assigned to the USS Melville, a destroyer tender.  This was a ship that would dock near destroyers (and other types of ships) to make repairs.  Because of Adrian’s extensive training as a fire controlman, his job was to be sure all parts of the guns were functioning properly.  This photo was taken while in Recife and shows a careworn sailor who was probably wishing to go home!

Incorporation Papers

On June 6, 1955, F. E. Fortenberry & Sons became a corporation.  The incorporation papers were filed under the three oldest brothers’ names:  Victor E. Fortenberry, F. Elmo Fortenberry, and Adrian W. Fortenberry.  Although their father had died 3 years before, they chose to kept the original name of the company in honor of their father, Ferman Esco Fortenberry.   It was a “closed company” as it was run by six brothers, all with equal voting power.  The other three brothers were, in order of birth, W. Jackson Fortenberry, Donald C. Fortenberry, and H. Clyde Fortenberry.  I located this document at the DeKalb County Courthouse while researching for an extensive article I will be posting in about three weeks!

Since it is Memorial Day

Memorial Day was established to remember those who died serving our country.  Today, take a moment to remember Alvie C. Fortenberry.  He was on the USS Arizona when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He was only 20 years old.  As it often the case, those who die in war are often very young men leaving no descendants to remember them.  His name is on the top of column four.  As you probably know, my Dad Adrian was also at Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred.  How is Alvie related to me?  Adrian and Alvie were third cousins.  Though his remains are still under the waves in Hawaii, Alvie has a marker at New Zion Church, Walthall County, Mississippi.  

Graduation Day 1937

With all the graduations going on now, I decided to look back at a particular one – my Dad’s!   Rural schools let out early so that children could help with planting crops and other farming chores.  As it turns out, he graduated on April 21, 1937 but I decided to use it anyway.  On that date he graduated from Progress High School in Pike County, Mississippi in a graduating class of 28.  He was related to 15 of his classmates!  According to his Navy enlistment papers, he played basketball in high school – a fact no one in the family ever knew.  The photo below shows Dad standing with his third cousin and classmate Dalton Wilson.  This photo with several others leads me to believe that it was taken at their graduation.  At this point, Dad had no idea that his future held so many life changing events that would lead him far from his rural farming childhood.   Some of those events included traveling to foreign places around the world while spending 8 years in the Navy, living through the attack on Pearl Harbor on his birthday in 1941, meeting and marrying a woman very different from any girl he had even known (Polish Roman Catholic from Brooklyn, NY), settling in Georgia and forming a successful business with his father and brothers, and having six wonderful children.  He was a quiet, soft spoken, kindhearted man whose children and grandchildren still miss him.

A Tough Five Days in May, 1910

On May 1, 1910, grandpa Ferman Esco Fortenberry left Punta Arenas, Chile on board the USS Tennessee ARC 10 (Armored Cruiser) to navigate around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.  They were on their way to Montevideo, Uruguay but first made port on May 5 at Maldonado, Uruguay.  Between May 1 and 5th, they had five miserable days battling the unpredictable violence of weather and sea conditions.  Evidently their trip was unusually awful as the waves continually washed over the front of the ship.  The Naval History Center even has a photo of from this trip!  Other photos include an image of Ferman in his Navy training cap and one of the USS Tennessee in calm water.  Please notice the height of the bow of the ship and imagine waves big enough to put the bow under water!  Probably every single sailor was seasick on this crossing!

  

George Washington Simmons

This photo of a serious looking couple, both with hands on their Bibles, is a copy of a copy of an old tintype taken about the time of the Civil War.  Let me introduce you to George Washington Simmons and his wife, Mary Caroline Magee.  Today, we will take a look at him because he was born on May 1, 1820.  He was the 7th of 8 children of Willis Simmons, our Mississippi Territory pioneer.  The location of his birth was, appropriately enough, Simmonsville which was named after his father.    He and his wife belonged to the Silver Creek Baptist Church in Pike County, Mississippi, where his father was a founding member.   In fact, all members of Willis’s family line are referred to as “the Silver Creek Simmons family” to distinguish us from another Simmons family in the area.  They are not related to us and are called the “Bala Chitto Simmons family.” 

According to the 1860 census, G.W. Simmons was relatively affluent, owning about 3000 acres and having a personal tax evaluation of $35,000.  Pretty impressive for the times!  To help you fit him into the family:  G.W. Simmons had 12 children, among them William Eli Simmons.  William Eli Simmons also had 12 children, among them Nellie Mae Simmons.  Granny Mae Simmons Fortenberry had 6 sons, among them Adrian Fortenberry, my Dad!  That would make G.W. Simmons my 2X great grandpa.  Looking at the number of children born each generation, I must have a whole lot of cousins just following this one line!

Miss Atlanta

In April of 1960, our family had our own celebrity.  Everett and Jane’s oldest daughter, Eleanor Mae Fortenberry was crowned Miss Atlanta of 1960.  Because she is an incredible vocalist, her talent entry was a soprano solo called “One Kiss” from the Broadway musical The New Moon.  The whole Fortenberry clan was proud to have her talents recognized. (Article from page 1, Decatur DeKalb News, April 28, 1960.)

This Month and Year in History!

 

Last week, on April 11, 2018, a team lead by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen located and identified the wreck of the U.S.S. Helena.  She was located in 2821 feet below the surface of the New Georgia Sound in the Solomon Islands.  Daddy (Adrian) was part of the crew of the Helena from its commissioning on September 18, 1939 until August 31, 1942 when he was assigned to the U.S.S. Melville.  He developed many close friends on the ship and sadly quite a few died during the war.  The Helena was sunk during the battle at Kula Gulf on July 6, 1943.  Thankfully, Adrian was not on board!  To learn more, read some of the five articles on the blogroll listed under “Navy USS Helena …”

Some online reading:

https://www.paulallen.com/uss-helena/

https://visitpearlharbor.org/wreckage-of-uss-helena-located/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Helena_(CL-50)

 

 

 

 

April 53 Years Ago

As most of you know, my parents (Adrian and Wanda) loved flowers, especially Mom.  Her self taught knowledge about horticulture was extensive enough that she could have taught graduate level classes!  The photo above of April azaleas was taken in 1965 in our front yard on Norman Road in Clarkston, Georgia.  I love this photo because it shows Daddy taking a moment in his very busy life to contemplate a small part of the beauty he and Mom created.  The moral of the photo  – “remember to take quiet moments to enjoy the beauty of life wherever you find it.”

To learn more, please take a look at two blogroll articles:  Orchids and Flowers Part 1.

April 3, 1909

One hundred and nine years ago, my grandfather Raimund Kacper Wierzbicki got on a ship named the Badenia to travel to a new life.  He left home soon after his 17th birthday and arrived at Ellis Island on April 3, 1909 with a total of $5.00!  Like many young men of his generation, with the help of his relatives (in his case his mother Barbara) he left home to keep from being forced into the Russian Army when he turned 18.  He never saw his mother again.  The Russians were so brutal to the Polish that any who did return home after many years of service were broken and changed men.  Raymond left a very rural area of Poland and spent the remainder of his life working menial jobs in Brooklyn, New York while living in low rent row houses that contained several families.

His grandchildren knew him as an extremely quiet, introspective man who did not often smile or talk above a whisper.  Although he spoke English well (better than our grandmother), it was with a heavy accent.  Anytime I hear a Slavic accent today, I think of him and my grandmother. The photo above of Wanda and her dad was taken in 1942.

I regret never having asked him about his life in Poland.  It is sad that when we finally are old enough to want to know about our family’s past, the people you want to talk to are gone.   I wish I could tell him I have been to his village and church and am proud to be 50% Polish!  Read more about this story by choosing “Ellis Island and the Wierzbickis” from the Blogroll.                                                   

Easter 35 Years Ago

Easter is just around the corner.  This year, the holiday will be celebrated on April 1.    The photo shown here was taken April 3, 1983 – 35 years ago!  I would imagine there are quite a few people in this photo who would find it hard to believe it was that long ago.  Obviously it was hard to get everyone with a happy face or good pose with so many children impatient to eat chocolate.  Happy Easter and Spring everyone!  It looks like we may finally be finished with our cold weather.

Antonina Cybulska

Antonina Cybulska was my great grandmother (Me – Wanda Wierzbicka Fortenberry – Pelagia Jaroszewska Wierzbicka – Antonina Cybulska Jaroszewska).  She was born on March 14, 1873 in the very small village of Druchowo.  Her father, Jakub Cybulski was listed as a servant and her mother was Franciszka Jablonska.  Although she was born in central Poland, her birth certificate is in Russian.  Why?  During the 1840s to 1860’s, Poland was trying to break away from Russian control.  Several Polish uprisings resulted in an attempt by Russia to eradicate the Polish culture.  Beginning in 1868, they were not allowed to speak Polish in public, print newspapers in Polish, or even record documents in their native language.  Below is a copy of Antonina’s birth certificate and it is clearly not written in Polish as that language uses the same alphabet as English.  Below the Russian document is a translation.  At the bottom is a photo of Antonina taken in 1954; she was about 4’8″.  

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Druchowo

This happened in Koziebrody on the second/fourteenth of March in the year one thousand eight hundred seventy three at ten o’clock in the morning. Jakub Cybulski appeared, twenty five years old, a servant residing in Druchowo, in the presence of Maciej Goryszewski, fifty years old, a peasant, and Antoni Kuzniewski, seventy years old, a peasant, both residing in Druchowo; and he showed us a female child, stating that she was born in Druchowo today at one o’clock in the morning, to his lawful wife Franciszka nèe Jablonska, twenty three years old. At the holy christening performed today by me, the Pastor, this child was given the name Antonina, and her godparents were the above mentioned Maciej Goryszewski and Marianna Jankowska. This record was read to the declarant and witnesses and because they are illiterate, it was signed by Us only.

Civil Registrar, Pastor of Koziebrody parish [Fr. Kwiatkowski]

Jacob Folkenburry

“15th Mar. 1747 ~ Jacob Folkenburry. 100. Bla. on the So Side of Pedee River being the place where he now lives .  .”  This 271 year old document located in the South Carolina Archives shows my 5X grandfather receiving 100 acres in Bladen County, North Carolina on the south side of the PeeDee River.  He was already living on the land which means he had been there long enough to make “improvements” to prove his intention of staying in the area.   He would have been there at least a year or two.   Since it has been determined that the Falkenburgs left the Shenandoah Valley area in late 1745 or early 1746, this date fits perfectly.  In 1750, Anson County, North Carolina was formed from the western part of Bladen.  Anson County histories list the Falkenburgs as one of the first 100 families to live there.  Jacob was born about 1708 in Cecil County, Maryland where his father, Henry, operated the local ferry across the Bohemia River.  For information on his father Henry, please see the blogroll article “Henry Falkenburg.”

Calvin Kennington Fortenberry

March 19 to April 8, 1863

While my direct ancestor, Burrel Taylor Fortenberry was serving in the Confederate cavalry involved at the Siege of Port Hudson in the spring and summer of 1863, his 56 year old brother, Calvin, was involved with partisan support efforts.  The record above is from a series of “Confederate citizen files.”  It shows that Calvin was hauling goods over the roads between two railroad terminals at Osyka, Mississippi and Clinton, Louisiana.  This was one of the few ways Confederates could get supplies to the starving men at Port Hudson.  

The first column gives a date of April 8, 1863.  For services of one wagon and driver hauling stores from Osyka Miss to Clinton La from March 19 to April 8    20 days @ 750 –    He received $150 (surely Confederate money).  He was paid at Osyka, Mississippi the 27th day of April, 1863 and his signature is visible.   One wonders if Calvin crossed paths with many of the Union foragers in the area! (An interesting side note:  My dad, Adrian Fortenberry’s place of birth was Osyka!)  Learn more about Burrel’s life during the war by choosing “Port Hudson and the Civil War” from the blogroll on the right!

Pelagia Bregeta Jaroszewska

Pelagia (Pauline) Jaroszewska was born March 10, 1898 at Kowalewo which is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Drobin, within Płock County, Masovian Voivodeship, in east-central Poland.  After immigrating to the US, she met and married Raymond Wierzbicki.  They had four children:  Wanda (my mom), Regina, Raymond, and Felix.  When she visited us from Brooklyn, New York, her grandchildren often had difficulty understanding her.  Having lived her adult life within a Polish area in Brooklyn, she rarely was required to speak English.   As you can see from the photo below, she was very short.  Her record from her immigration through Ellis Island in 1913 gave her height as 4’10” but I think she was shorter than that.  Mom was 5’3″ and she looks tall next to her.  This photo was taken July 12, 1969 just before getting in the car to drive to the Frist Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia for my wedding!

William Jasper Fortenberry

William Fortenberry is my 3X great grandfather.  He was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina about 1776 to John and Hannah (Eubanks) Fortenberry.  He married Violette Kennington, daughter of John Kennington.  William’s father died about 1815.  In 1819, he traveled with his family, including his mother Hannah, to the newly formed state of Mississippi.  Six of William and Violette’s six children were born in South Carolina and four in Mississippi.  William died on February 7, 1842 and was buried in the Fortenberry-Pittman Cemetery in Walthall County.  A stone was put on his grave in 1902.  This marker has since disappeared.   You will also notice from one picture to the other that the cemetery has been paved to help with upkeep.  The marker is very interesting because it was obviously hand carved.  Notice that “Carolina” had to be hyphenated. 

February 3, 1743

A document “signed” 275 years ago by Jacob ffalkenburg, my 5X grandfather and his brother John, shows the importance of roads in recently settled areas of the Shenandoah Valley.  This Orange County, Virginia road petition was a request by 33 men from the area today encompassed within Shenandoah County to the Virginia colonial courts to provide funds to make the road passable for wagons.  “May it please your honours that wee the subscribers do humbly petition … for a Wagon Road to be made from John ffunks Mill to Benja Allens Mill, the Road which is ….very Difficult for a wagon to go…”  If you would like to read more about the Falkenburgs during this time, please take a look at the blogroll article called The Falkenburgs of the Shenandoah Valley.”

Note: Jacob’s name is on several petitions and none of the signatures look alike.  In all probability, he could not read or write which was common for the time period.  Today, the location of Benjamin Allen’s Mill is the town of Mt. Jackson.  The road they were requesting would become part of the Great Wagon Road, still in evidence today as Highway 11.  In Shenandoah County, it is called the Old Valley Pike.

Canolia Simmons Fortenberry

Canolia Ann Elizabeth Simmons, daughter of James Jackson and Sarah (Brewer) Simmons was the wife of William Jackson Fortenberry, known to his grandchildren as “Grandpa Jack.”  Canolia passed away on February 7, 1925 at the age of 67.  Canolia and Jack had a large family of 6 boys and 6 girls, all but one daughter making it through all the childhood illnesses of the times.  In the studio photo of Canolia, notice the beautiful cameo pin she is wearing.  She seems to have been an elegant woman!  I included the second photo of her grave after her funeral.  I know it is strange to do so, but in all my years of doing family research, it is the only photo I have ever seen of someone’s recent grave.  She is buried at Silver Springs Church in Pike County, Mississippi where she and Jack were charter members.

Hollis Horton Fortenberry

 

Hollis was the son of William and Violette (Kennington) Fortenberry, brother of Alfred discussed previously.  Hollis Horton Fortenberry was named after a friend of his father’s back in Lancaster County, South Carolina whose name was, of course, Hollis Horton.  Our Hollis was born in Pike County, Mississippi on February 12, 1825.  He and his wife, Louisa Margany James had 11 known children (6 boys and 5 girls).  According to George Kellie Fortenberry, an early chronicler of Fortenberry history, Hollis caught yellow fever and died October 24, 1867.  His death at 42 years had to have devastated his wife who then had 11 children between 17 and 2 to raise alone.  The photo above is a copy of a tintype that belonged to his oldest brother, Gasua Chapman Fortenberry.  He was buried on hillside 300 yards west of his house that is today known as the Fortenberry Cemetery.

Rajmund Kacper Wierzbicki

Grandpa Werbicki always gave his birth date as January 29, 1892.  When the Russian Army came through his area around 1905, they transcribed the birth records for all male children so they could return to the village later and force them to join their army.  Since  his Polish Catholic church at Lachowo  no longer has their birth record books (thought to have been lost or stolen many years ago) we only have the information recorded by the Russians.  On that record, his date is recorded as February 7.  In either case, we know he was born in a very small village called Rydzewo-Świątki which is located just south of the church at Lachowo.  He was a very quiet man, but I wish I had asked him questions about his life in Poland.  Photo above taken with daughter, Wanda about 1942.

Alfred Fortenberry

Alfred Fortenberry was born in Pike County, Mississippi on January 26, 1823 and was the son of William Jasper Fortenberry and his wife, Violette Kennington.  He was the brother of Burrel Taylor Fortenberry,  my 2X great grandfather.  That would make him my 3 great uncle.  Alfred married Aderine Falk in 1848 and had eight children.  He died March 2, 1861 at the age of 38, one month after the birth of his eighth child.  Sadly, very little is known about his life.  A story carried down through his family says that during his short life, Alfred read the bible 33 times.  This image is a copy of a badly degraded tintype taken before his death in 1861.  

January 24, 1921

My mom, Wanda Maria Wierzbicki was born at her parents’ home in one of the Polish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York.  Her parents (Raymond Kasper Wierzbicki and Pelagia Bregitta Jaroszewska) were Ellis Island immigrants from Poland.  This 1930 photo of her was taken in conjunction with her confirmation at Our Lady of Consolation, their local Polish Catholic Church.  Even today, they conduct sermons in Polish.   She was nine years old when the photo was made.  She was a true Renaissance woman and was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known.   I wish I could have taken her with me to Poland when I met some of our Polish relatives.   Sure do miss you!     (Read more about her life on the blog article on the right called “Wanda’s childhood.”)

January 5, 1942

While docked as seen here, repairs were made to the Helena to close the hole caused by a Japanese shallow torpedo hit.  Fortunately for the crew (including Adrian Fortenberry), extensive repairs could not be made in Hawaii so they had to go back to California.  On January 5, 1942 (exactly 76 years ago today), the Helena left Hawaii to return to Mare Island, California to make the repairs necessary to return to service.  The ship had to slowly make its way across the Pacific Ocean with only half its usual engine power.   Although he never returned to Hawaii, his experiences, both good and bad remained a part of his psyche the rest of his life.  

 

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