Thomas Bunn Ferguson…Orphan

Ferguson, Thomas Bunn Children #2

Thomas Bunn’s wife Mollie (left) and children Thomas Carrol, Rebecca Adeline, and Sophia Ferguson.

There were three orphans…so goes the Ferguson family lore. The Fergusons came from North Carolina. The story between North Carolina and Missouri was lost. When family members became interested in the genealogy of the family, Grandma Ferguson, Lola, was in her eighties. She knew that Thomas Bunn Ferguson was one of the three orphaned children and their parents had come from North Carolina. Thomas Bunn was the father of her husband, Thomas Carrol Ferguson. It was assumed that the family lived in Fort Scott, Kansas but that led to a dead end.

Fast forward to today and we know that Thomas Bunn Ferguson was born on 28 February 1844 in Cass County, Missouri to Russel Ferguson and Sarah [Miller] Ferguson. Thomas was one of four children. Jackson (Jack) was born in 1842, Martha was born in 1847, and James C. was born in 1851. The family lived in Cass County, close to other Ferguson relatives who lived in Johnson County. The Ferguson clan had migrated from Tennessee to that area as early as 1821.

After the death of their parents in 1854, the three orphans were scattered among their Miller relatives in Vernon County about eighty miles south of Cass County. It’s interesting that none of them went to live with their Ferguson relatives that were close by. They lived with their Uncle Jacob Miller for a year as evidenced by a receipt turned in to the probate court for their upkeep. After that James went to live with his aunt, Margaret and uncle, William Miller. Martha went to live with her aunt, Elizabeth [Miller], and uncle, Jackson Beard. Thomas went to live with his uncle, Jacob Miller who was also the executor of Russel’s estate.

James and Martha were still living with their aunts and uncles when the 1860 census was taken, but Thomas was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1870, he is found living in Richland Township, Vernon County, Missouri with the Shackelford family. Rebecca was the widow of Augustus Baker and had married Samuel Shackelford after Augustus was killed by Bushwackers in 1863. Rebecca was the mother of Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Baker.  Thomas was working as a farm hand for the Shackelfords. In the fall of that year, Mollie became the wife of Thomas on 23 October 1870. He was twenty-six and she was sixteen.

When Rebecca’s daughters married she deeded to them a part of the land homesteaded by their father, Augustus Baker. Thomas and Mollie lived in a log house on her portion of the land. This is in section thirty-one in Richland Township in Missouri. The land abutted the border between Missouri and Kansas. Mollie owned this land well into the 1900s. Many in Vernon County knew this land as the “Old Ferguson Farm.” According to Grandma Ferguson, it is on this land where the family lived the entire time the children were growing up.

Platbook Vernon County, 1903

From the State Historical Society of Missouri, Vernon County Plat Map, Page 26

However, the Ferguson’s also owned one-hundred and sixty acres in section fourteen located in Scott Township, Bourbon County, Kansas across the state line. Records show that the Fergusons sold a portion of their land in Missouri to J. H. Densmore on 28 March 1874. According to census record of 1875 and thereafter, the family lived in Scott Township in Kansas.

Within ten years, three lively children were born. Their first child, Rebecca Adeline was born in 1872. Walter Augustus followed in 1875, and Sophia in 1877. At the time of the 1880 census, taken on 3 June 1880, Thomas was listed as having the mumps. Hopefully he was over the mumps as a little more than one month later Thomas Carrol was born. The final child, Samuel Bunn, was born in 1883.

The family has often wondered where the middle name Bunn came from. There were no Bunn’s enumerated in any of the census records for Vernon County in Missouri or Bourbon County in Kansas. There was, however, a Bunn family who lived close to the Ferguson family in Cass County where Thomas’ mother and father lived. Perhaps this Bunn family was somehow related to Sarah’s Miller family. Perhaps more research can help to identify the connection between the Bunn’s and Ferguson’s.

Ferguson, Thomas B. Headstone

Grave Marker for Thomas B. Ferguson

Thomas Bunn Ferguson died on 30 December 1883 at the age of thirty-nine. Mollie was left a widow with a nine-month old baby and four children ranging in ages from three to eleven years old. My husband’s grandfather, Thomas Carrol, was three at the time. It’s safe to say that he remembered very little of his father. While the children weren’t orphans, they did lose their father at a young age like their father Thomas did.

Mollie continued to live on the farm in Kansas with her growing children. It is here that Thomas Carroll Ferguson and Lola Pope grew up in close proximity of each other which would eventually lead to their marriage. Thomas Bunn Ferguson is buried in the Coleman Cemetery in Richards, Vernon County next to his grandson Glenny, son of Thomas Carrol.


My husband’s Ferguson line:

Moses Ferguson m. Elizabeth Cox

Russel Ferguson m. Sarah Miller

Thomas Bunn Ferguson m. Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Baker

Thomas Carrol Ferguson m. Lola Pope

Russel Carrol Ferguson m. Mary Elizabeth Parry

Lost to the Civil War: James Madison Pope and Zachariah Pope

Memorial Day is the day of remembrance. Remembrance of family members lost to war. At the end of 1862, the Pope family of Macon County, Illinois lost two of their beloved sons. The patriarch of the family, Dempsey Pope, died in 1853 and thus was spared the heartache of losing two sons. Left were the widows: Sarah Edwards Pope, the mother of the two boys; Louisa Taylor Pope, the wife of James Madison Pope; and Emily Nisewaner Pope, the wife of Zachariah Pope.

James and Zachariah enlisted in Co. E., 115th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Union Army on 13 August 1862. Zachariah was mustered into service as a private on 30 September 1862 at Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois. James was mustered into service as a sergeant on 13 September 1882.

Pope, Zachariah Picture_2

Zachariah Pope

The first to die was Zachariah Pope. He died on 11 November 1862 of typhoid fever. He died in a hospital in Lexington, Fayette County, Illinois. He was thirty-two years old and the father of five children. He is buried in the Pope Cemetery in Blue Mound, Macon County, Illinois.

Next to die was James Pope. He died on 31 Dec 1862 in a regimental hospital in Danville, Kentucky. Conflicting documents show he died of measles or cardiac obstruction. He was thirty-eight and the father of eight children. He is buried in Halls Cemetery, also known as Waltz Cemetery, in Blue Mound.

Pope, James Madison

Headstone James M. Pope

Neither saw battle instead dying of disease. It is estimated that 620,000 people died in the Civil War. “For every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died of disease.”¹ They missed the carnage of war but sadly gave their lives for a cause for which they never saw the conclusion.

Please take a moment to remember all who gave their lives for our country as we remember my husband’s great-great grandfather, James Madison Pope, and his great-great uncle, Zachariah Pope today, on this day of remembrance.


This is my husband’s Pope family line:

James Madison Pope, great-grandfather
William David Pope, great-grandfather
Lola Devin Pope, grandmother
Russell C. Ferguson, father

¹From the Civil War Trust,

Remembering Vernon Everett Lane on Memorial Day

It all started with Decoration Day. On May 5, 1868 Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared May 30th as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.¹  At the first remembrance, at Arlington National Cemetery, small flags were placed upon the graves of the fallen. Over the years the day has morphed into Memorial Day, a national holiday, and has expanded to include all who died in American wars.

Today is Memorial Day and a good time to reflect on the holiday. As time goes by more and more of our World War II veterans have passed away. All of my mother’s brothers who served have been gone for several years, as have the relatives of my husband who served in the war. These families were lucky; all of their loved ones returned. Perhaps with mental scars, but at least they returned with bodies intact.

Lane, Vernon, Navy

Vernon Everett Lane

My Uncle Vernon was not so lucky. He lost his life in the Pacific Ocean. I wrote about Vernon in a previous blog. I knew Vernon had two sons, Bill and Dick. Several years ago Bill surprised me when he came to my mother’s funeral. I had never met him and I was extremely touched by his attendance. He gave me his phone number and I promised to call him. Family responsibilities and a demanding job got in the way and I never contacted him. Prior to Christmas 2015, when I was addressing Christmas cards, I came upon Bill’s phone number and decided to call him. This phone number had been sitting in my address book for fourteen years. Against all odds, Bill still had the same phone number. We met again and this time he brought his genealogist brother Dick with him. It was a great reunion talking about his father and our Lane family. At a subsequent meeting, Dick brought along the medical records from my Uncle Vernon which told the rest of the story.

Uncle Vernon was red-haired, brown-eyed, and twenty-five when he was inducted into the Navy as an apprentice seaman on April 7, 1944. He was five feet, six inches tall and weighed one hundred and forty-one pounds. He was employed as a primer assembly machine adjuster by a company in St. Louis that manufactured small arms. Within a week of induction, Vernon was sent to the U.S. National Training Station in Farragut, Idaho to receive training.

During World War II, the U.S. government didn’t mess around. By mid-July Vernon was transferred to the U.S. Naval Receiving station in Adak, Alaska and on July 22, 1944 he joined the USS Kimberly. On March 1, 1945 he was promoted from Navy Seaman to Seaman 2nd class.

Vernon was good at writing letters to his loved ones at home. Several of his letters to my grandmother, Ruberta, were found in her purse after her death (see Maw’s Purse). After reading these letters I wondered if Vernon had a feeling that he wouldn’t survive the war because he always reassured my grandmother that he would be alright. Or perhaps, because my grandmother had lost her husband William Everett Lane in 1939, her anxiety came through in her letters to Vernon and he was trying to help ease her fears.

During the last week of March 1945, the U.S.S. Kimberly was taking part of “Operation Iceberg.” The purpose was to take Kerama Retto, an island about twenty miles from Okinawa. The U.S. Navy wanted to establish a naval seaplane base and sheltered anchorage prior to the invasion of Okinawa. On March 26th, the U.S.S. Kimberly was proceeding to her picket station off Kerama Retto.²

Operation_Iceberg_-_Kerama_Retto_-_1945The navy had surprised the Japanese but they were able to send out two Japanese D3A airplanes used as carrier-based bombers and dive-bombers, in other words Kamikaze. The Kimberly’s lookouts saw the planes and opened fire turning the planes away. The planes veered off but then headed toward the USS Kimberly again.³ You can imagine the noise and the sound as the guns blasted away at the approaching planes. Eventually one of the planes went out of control and fell vertically on the ship. From accounts of the intensity of the explosion, it was indicated that there was a bomb onboard the plane.

Call it bad luck, or just doing his job, Vernon was in the area of the explosion. From the medical records we know that he received burns to his face, neck, arms, chest, and legs suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 75% of his body. Within four hours he was transferred to the USS Rixey, a casualty evacuation transport ship. His care was crude compared to the care burn victims receive today, but the best he could receive at the time. He must have been in terrible pain and hopefully the morphine he was given helped to alleviate that pain. For four days he was in shock, was restless and irrational, and had an increasing temperature. Despite the effort of the naval doctors, Vernon lost his battle at 8:38 am on March 30th. He was buried at sea at latitude 26° 14’ North, Longitude 127° 11’ East at 4:30 that afternoon. A headstone at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis County commemorates his death. Records indicate fifty-seven men were seriously wounded, four died from that attack, and Vernon was one of them.

Lane, Vernon E, Western Union Telegraph

A sad day when this telegram arrived.

A letter from the ship Chaplain, Lindley E. Cook, was sent to Vernon’s wife Evelyn the day he died. The chaplain reported he didn’t suffer too much because he was unconscious most of the time. He kept repeating her name. Who knows how long it took for Evelyn to receive the word. My grandma learned of Vernon’s death via a telegram advising her Vernon had died and was buried at sea with full military honors. Evelyn later received a letter from the Secretary of Navy authorizing the Purple Heart to be posthumously awarded to Vernon.

On 3 May, 1945, an article in The Sikeston (Mo.) Herald listed Vernon as one of the fourteen men from the southeast Missouri area that were killed in combat. I can’t imagine the heart-break again that Evelyn and my grandmother must have gone through if they saw the name of their loved one in the newspaper. Somehow that would make it all too final.

According to Wikipedia over 291,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat during World War II. Bill and Dick’s dad, and my Uncle, was one of those 291,000 people. So while you enjoy your time-off, please remember those who gave their lives to free the world of tyranny so many years ago. ⁴

¹ Memorial Day History. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, : accessed 24 May 2017.

² Picture – By Beans, Bullets and Black Oil by Admiral Worrall Reed Carter, USN – HyperWar, Public Domain,

³ Excerpted from USS Kimberly, (DD-521), Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ,

⁴ Excerpted from World War II casualties, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, : accessed 24 May 2017.

Turtle Cookies


Turtle Cookies, Forground

Cookies are a mainstay of Christmas. We bake them for family and share with neighbors and friends. We leave a plate of delicious cookies for Santa to nibble on as he fills stockings and places presents under our tree. The aroma of baking cookies fills our home and elicits memories of Christmases past.

We are a melting pot of ethnic groups that have brought their customs and favorite recipes to our country including their cookie recipes. When I was a child my mother baked the usual chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. But her favorites to make were turtle cookies. These maple flavored treats with pecans and chocolate icing were made in the shape of turtles. Years ago I made these cookies and decided that they were too troublesome to make. Being a good wife my sister-in-law makes these cookies for my brother every year. A recent conversation with her inspired me to try my hand at making the turtle cookies again. Success!! They turned out as I remembered them.

I have often wondered where this cookie recipe came from. Through the years I have become more proficient in the art of baking and every year try a new cookie recipe. I buy magazines with cookie recipes, save the food section of local newspapers whenever they feature cookies, and have a cook book with one thousand cookie recipes. I have never come across the recipe for turtle cookies in any of these resources.

My maternal great-grandfather came from Switzerland. Could this recipe be Swiss? The recipe is listed below in hopes that someone out there can help me.  Have you ever seen this recipe? Are turtle cookies part of your heritage? If so please let me know. If not, give them a try. They are yummy!

TURTLE COOKIES (Makes about two dozen)

 ½ cup of butter (one stick)

½ cup brown sugar

1 egg yolk (save the whites)

¼ tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. maple extract

1 ½ cups sifted flour (you really need to sift the flour)

¼ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven at 350°. Grease cookie sheets.

Cream butter and add brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and maple extract. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Chill dough for one hour. To form the turtles use one pecan for the head and two pecans for the legs. Roll dough into small balls using a teaspoon or small scoop. Lightly beat egg whites. Dip each ball into the egg whites and place on the pecans shaping the ball like a turtle. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely and ice with your favorite chocolate icing.

Paw Prints in the Pie

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is where food is prepared to nourish the family, where kids do their homework, and where family congregates to share the happenings of the day. It is where memories of everyday life and holidays past and present reside. And so it was with the Lane family kitchen.

 Our little family lived in a four room house until I was eight years old. The house, most likely the servant’s quarters for the large house at the front of the property, consisted of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bath. There was no basement or foundation. It was small but cozy.

The kitchen table is where we congregated waiting for mom to finish cooking dinner, where we ate, and where we did our homework. After dinner mom and dad would move to the living room and listen to the radio. When we were older they watched the television . My brother Bill and I would sit at the kitchen table and finish our homework, or color in our coloring books. Some evenings, we knew when we heard the words, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow Knows,” that it was time to go to bed. First the radio program, and then the television program, scared the life out of me.

Even though we lived modestly, we were fortunate to have a television. Television has a strong influence on kids. One of the times when I got into big trouble was when I helped myself to a large dollop of lard to create the Alfalfa look in my hair. Anyone who grew up on Our Gang and the Little Rascals knows that Alfalfa had a spike of hair that stood up straight on the top of his head. It worked for him; not so much for me.

When I was eight my parents purchased their first home. It was larger but still modest with two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bath. It also had a much needed basement. My parents converted the dining room into their bedroom so my brother and I could have our own bedrooms.


That little kitchen is full of memories. I remember the glass shelves in the window with my mother’s collection of souvenir cups and saucers. The refrigerator sat in a cubby hole. Above the refrigerator was a cabinet where the Christmas presents were hidden each year. The room was so small, that while we were eating dinner, I had to move if someone needed something out of the refrigerator. I can still hear my mother tell me when I washed dishes to slow down, do it right the first time so I wouldn’t have to do it again.

black toy poodle puppiesIn the summer of my fourteenth year my little brother Dennis was born. Shortly after his birth, my mother received a phone call from my Aunt Goldie. She lived in Indianapolis and was going to be coming to St. Louis for a visit. Her full-bred, miniature poodle had given birth to puppies and she wanted to know if we wanted one. I’m not sure what my mother was thinking when she agreed to take one of the puppies while having a newborn in the house. The puppy’s was named FiFi. This black little fuzz ball was cute as can be but chewed her fair share of shoes or anything that was left on the floor. That Christmas, as she did every holiday, my mother baked a pumpkin pie the day before. Refrigerator space was at a premium so the pumpkin pie was covered with a dish cloth and placed on the kitchen table. The next morning, after we opened presents, I went into the kitchen where I discovered paw prints in the pie. Somehow FiFi had climbed onto the table and had walked on the pie forcing the dish cloth into the pie leaving little indentations. Her goal was the full bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and the pie was inconveniently in the way. She ate every peanut butter cup, paper included. FiFi survived the chocolate, but I’m sure she was one sick little puppy for awhile. And by the way, we didn’t let that pie go to waste.

green-tomatoesMom liked to garden. The summer, when Dennis was three or four, she grew tomatoes. Hearing her pitching a fit, I went into the kitchen where I saw perhaps twenty or thirty little green tomatoes piled upon Dennis’ high chair tray. He had “helped” her by picking all of the tomatoes off the vines. He was a handful so we kept an eye on him. How he got all of those tomatoes off the vine without anyone noticing is still a mystery. A little later that day we couldn’t find him. Eventually I found him in my brother’s bedroom squeezed between the wall and the chest of drawers. When I asked him what he was doing he said, “I’m hiding from the police. They are coming to get me.” We all had a good laugh.

That little kitchen has so many memories for me; the turkeys, the pies, the meat and potatoes, my mom getting up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for my dad before he left for work, and so many more. The kitchen is where memories are made, where generations come together and share traditions; it is where love resides. I hope my children and grandchildren have fond memories of time spent in our kitchen. How about you? What are your memories?


Happy Birthday Dave Ferguson

ferguson-david-8th-grade-1960-61Happy birthday to David…the boy I first saw when I was thirteen and he was twelve. He stood at the top of the long wooden stairs that went from the first floor to the second floor of our junior high school in Maplewood, Missouri. He was a hall monitor. His job was to literally keep us pre-teens in line as we ascended or descended the stairs. He was funny and would tease me as I went by. He walked me home from school one day, but I was madly in love with someone else.  

Happy Birthday to David…he smoked cigarettes, and sat on the stone wall that separated the high school property from that of the municipal swimming pool. He sat there with the “hoods.” He didn’t fit their profile of sleeked-back hair, T-shirts, and jeans. He wore button down shirts and khaki pants and he smoked. He teased me as I passed the wall on my way home from school. 

Happy birthday to David…he sat across the aisle from me in our geometry class during our sophomore year in high school. He called me rabbi because someone had carved the Star of David on the wooden top of my school desk. One day, the boy who sat at the desk in front of me kept talking during class. The teacher warned him to be quiet, but he kept talking. Without warning the teacher hurled the chalk-board eraser at him. He ducked, and as I looked up, the eraser hit me square in the face leaving a cloud of dust all over me. The class laughed and David laughed. The teacher apologized. He probably would have been fired had he done that today.

ferguson-david-and-tonya-in-coatsHappy birthday to David…the boy who asked me to go on our first date to the Thurtene Carnival at Washington University in April; we were seniors in high school. That day I had my ears pierced by a mid-wife, who had to have been at least eighty years old. She lived over a sausage factory on the “Hill,” the Italian community in St. Louis. The mid-wife deadened my ears with ice, and with a long darning needle and a piece of thin twine, pierced both ears with shaking hands. She tied off the twine and told me to move the twine through my ears so the holes wouldn’t heal over and to clean my ears with Fels Naptha soap. Ouch! Those were the days before one was able to get their ears pierced at the mall. Needless to say I wasn’t feeling very well that night, and tried to hide the twine behind my ears. True to form he teased me about the rope in my ears. He was such a good sport!

Happy birthday to David…the boy who didn’t ask me to the Senior Prom or graduation; I waited and waited. To this day I’ve never quite forgiven him.

Happy birthday to David…the young man who saved his money to buy a foreign car; he bought a diamond ring instead. He eventually bought a convertible Triumph Spitfire. It was a powder-blue beauty. He married me and became a father when he was twenty years of age. Two’s a party but three’s a crowd so the Triumph was sold. 

Ferguson, Darin and Dad, About 6 weeks old.jpgHappy birthday to David…the young father who quit smoking in his twenties. Non-smoking ads were prevalent on TV. When our oldest son asked him to quit smoking he quit cold-turkey and has never smoked a cigarette since then. Cigars yes…cigarettes no. Talk about willpower.

Happy birthday to David…the father who never missed a game, scouting event, concert for his boys. He was a tough disciplinarian, but a rock. He is the husband, father, and grandfather who has been a steady force in our lives. He is the boy who had perfect attendance all through his school years and never missed a day of work until he had knee surgery in his late fifty’s. You can’t ask for a better role model for a boy.  

Happy birthday to David…the man who celebrates his birthday on Veterans Day. He got off on his birthday every year because it is a national holiday. No fair. My birthday is on Cinco de Mayo but I never got off on my birthday.

Happy birthday to David…the man I’ve known for fifty-five years and with whom I’ve lived the last forty-eight years. He still teases me, amuses me, and drives me crazy sometimes, well much of the time. We’ve weathered good times and bad, but mostly good.

As Cesare Pavese said, “We do not remember days, we remember our moments.” Happy Birthday Dave, we’ve had a lot of good moments. I pray we have many more.



Maw’s Purse

The pursuit of my family history has been a wonderful journey. Not only have I found new cousins, but have reconnected with cousins I haven’t seen for many years. My cousin Carla is one of those cousins. She is the daughter of my father’s sister Helen. Carla was closer to my age than other cousins so it was natural for us to play together. Not too long ago I visited Carla. We had not seen each other for many years. I had anticipated that Carla might have pictures that I didn’t have and I had pictures to share with her. Unbeknownst to me, she had a treasure in her possession, maw’s purse.


Maw’s Purse

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Ruberta, my paternal grandmother, she was not a warm and fuzzy person. In fact she came across as a cold. I really didn’t know her and, in the half-dozen times we visited her, I was never to know why she was unable to show the slightest bit of warmth to me or my brother. It is only through talking to my cousins, and finding records about her, that I have come to understand her better.

Maw knew heartache. She lost her father, Aub Hood, about the age of fourteen. Not too long after that she married John Wayson, a man who was forty-one years of age. By today’s standards it’s hard to understand how her mother could allow her marry someone twenty-seven years her senior. The family was poor so perhaps marrying her off provided one less mouth to feed. The marriage didn’t last as Ruberta was back with the family in 1910.

On March 12, 1913, Maw was married to my grandfather William Everett Lane. Between 1914 and 1924 six children were born to the couple. Life was difficult. The great depression was going strong, beginning in 1924 and ending in 1939. Jobs were difficult to come by. Grandpa Lane was a carpenter and through the years the children picked cotton to supplement the family income.

The life of the family changed on June 4, 1939 when Will was instantly killed when his car was struck by a Greyhound bus. There was a settlement with the bus company that provided some relief to Maw, but I’m sure she would have given anything to have Will back with the family.

Tragedy struck again when my uncle Vernon was killed aboard a ship that was hit by a Kamikaze plane in the Pacific Ocean close to the end of the war. Maw had lost her husband and her son in the span of six years.

When Carla brought out Maw’s purse, I was amazed at the discoveries waiting for me. The purse was stuffed, and I do mean stuffed, with what appeared to be every receipt that Maw received during her lifetime. There was a receipt for a car that Grandpa Lane purchased in 1922; an Overland automobile that was already fifteen years old at the time he purchased it.

There were receipts for lumber, windows, doors, nails, and other items for use in the building of houses. There were insurance receipts, a delayed marriage certificate, grandpa’s social security card, mortgage papers; receipts that obviously meant something to Maw.

And the most poignant treasures in the purse were four letters from Vernon written to Maw while he was at sea in the Pacific Ocean. Written two weeks before he died close to the end of the war, he was responding to the fact that Maw had visited his wife Evelyn and two sons recently. In his letter he said, “Did you think the boys had growed [sic] very much? I would give anything in the world to see them but I guess it will be some time yet before I get to see them.”

He told Maw there was nothing to worry about. Was he trying to reassure himself that he would be fine as he wrote those letters to comfort her? We will never know. The saddest of all was the telegram advising Maw of his death at sea; the words so black and final upon that piece of paper.

The letters have been reunited with Vernon’s sons. My cousin Dick, who was a baby when Vernon died, told me after reading the letters he felt, for the first time, he was hearing his father’s words.

Perhaps Maw had so much loss in her life that she kept herself at arm’s length from people to insulate herself from extreme loss again. Did the receipts from her life somehow give her a feeling of closeness to the events that represented her life and the loved ones she had lost? Whatever the reasons, the contents in Maw’s purse assured me that she was a feeling woman, just not one to wear her heart upon her sleeve.