A little music to get us started. On the Banks of the Wabash
|James Samuel Raney, Nancy Ann (Dyson) Raney, Laura Esther Raney, c. 1914 [not stain but shadow from my camera because I have it under glass.]|
These are our great-grandparents. James Samuel Raney (30 Dec 1868 - 28 May 1954) and Nancy Ann Dyson Raney (17 March 1867 - 23 May 1938).
Nancy Ann Dyson was born on a farm in Monroe Township, Pike County, Indiana, to Whitman Hill Dyson and Elizabeth J. (Turpin) Dyson. She was the youngest of six daughters. By the 1870 census, her mother was dead and her 14-year old sister Mary was keeping house. Her father, who owned his farm, valuing it at $400.00, remarried.
|Pike County, Indiana|
In the 1900 census, although James is listed as a farmer in Patoka Township, Gibson County, whether he owns his farm or rents is left blank. His next neighbors over are his late mother's people, the Dougans, so perhaps he had an arrangement with them. Frank, listed as Whitman, had six years of schooling. He would quit school after the 8th grade and leave by the summer of 1906, appearing in Fredonia, Kansas, in August.
|Gibson County, Indiana|
Great-aunt Esther (Laura Esther Raney) was born July 9, 1902, when Nancy was 35. Below is a portion of a photograph from a Dyson family gathering, showing James, Nancy and baby Esther. I recognize no one in the group who resembles 14-year-old Whitman, so he must have been left at home to tend the livestock. Nancy Raney looks blonde in this photo.
This next photo might be Esther as a child. No name on back.
And perhaps this photo below is Esther when older. At fifteen she ran off with twenty-seven-year old Jess Kolk, whom Grandpa derisively called "The Dutchman." I've found online what might be their marriage information, in which she puts her date of birth as 1898 and her age as eighteen. They had a son in Ohio in 1918, but were living with James and Nancy Raney for the 1920 census.
Grandpa told me that his mother Nancy Raney was plagued by turned-under eyelids, their lashes scratching her eyeballs. He often pulled the eyelash bristles out for her. Apparently, scar tissue eventually caused blindness. I looked for her eyes to be squinty and teary in the photos, but see no indication.
By 1910 James had abandoned farming and was working as a machinist at the Southern Railway roundhouse at the edge of Princeton, the county seat of Gibson County. They still lived in nearby Patoka Township. He owned his own home, but it was mortgaged. Whitman and Mary and their children moved back to Princeton from Kansas about 1914 and stayed until they moved to Canada in 1920. Denny and Louise were born in Princeton. Nancy Raney must have enjoyed having her grandchildren near her.
After Whitman and Mary moved away, Nancy wrote the "Dear children" on May 20, 1920, that "Papa" is "some better" but was unable to sit up until Monday because "he took a pain in the back of his head" and had to be back in bed. His "left leg and foot is swollen till . . . almost ready to burst, it hurt him so bad [he couldn't hardly stand it]. "He is so childish that he cry like a baby becawse [sic] he cant [sic] go to work . . . he has the bluse [sic] so bad . . ."[H]e says he dont [sic] see why he cant [sic] get well and why it could[n't] be some one that doesnt [sic] like to work. [S]ome dont[sic] want to work. We are having a late spring here . . ." Nancy called her son Whitman "Whitty."
On November 12, 1920, Esther wrote her brother Whitman and sister-in-law Mary Raney. After some preliminaries, and that her toddler James "almost had the croup last night and I have been sick this week and had to stay home from work. . . . Papa is well please[d] of the 25 cent Bill you sent him and Dad told me to tell you Brother that some Body stole that dime you sent him and he hate[s] it off [awful] bad. And you want to know how Mama got her hair afire. I will tell you. [S]he was mak[ing] a fire in the stove to put Bean[s] on to cook and she took her hair down to comb and got some of her hair comb[ed] and said I better go see about that fire. I do not Believe that it is Burning and she when [went] and see and it had gone out. And she light a match and the head of the match flew off in her hair in a rubber hair pin. [A]nd she kept a smell[ing] hair a burning and Mama look[ed] around on the floor for the fire. [A]nd then it burn[ed] her hair and when I came home that not [night] I had to Cut her hair off . . ." If you read it aloud, you'll hear the southern inflection in her writing.
In the 1930 census, Laura was divorced and now without a child, living with Nancy and James, who still worked as a machinist at the Southern Railway shop. They valued their home at $400.00 and had a radio. They put their ages as 60 and 57. Laura was 28.
Nancy died of hemiplegia (a stroke that paralyzed one entire side) on May 23, 1938. It's difficult to tell from the death certificate whether she lived for 8 hours or 8 days after having the stroke. In the 1940 census James was 72 and widowed and Laura was 37 and listed as widowed (a possible mistake), keeping house for her father. His house was valued at $3000.00. Like her brother Whitman, Laura completed only the 8th grade. It was in this census that James is listed as having gone no further than 2nd grade. He is retired and she isn't working outside the house. (The 1950 census has yet to be released.)
Sometime in the 1940s James married a woman named Verna (Cousin Pat's recollection of her name). And in the summer of 1946 they came by train to Spokane for a visit. How do I know the year? In the photo below James is holding me.
|Here is the photo with Denny in it and Grandpa is taking the photo.|
Verna died and then Esther on September 8 1953 of a ruptured aneurysm (age 51); she had married a man named Everett Straw. Grandpa and Grandma went back to Indiana and brought James out to Spokane to live with them. Nine months later he had surgery at Deaconess Hospital (maybe on his prostate). After the operation he fell out of his hospital bed and died soon after on 28 May 1954, age 85. The cause of death was stated as hemorrhage, shock, and coma induced by diabetes. Always a Southern Baptist, he is buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Spokane.