Orella Ortega Whetsel was my  maternal Grandmother

Orella was born April 14, 1898. She was the youngest of eight children in her family. Two of the children had died before she was born. Her family was in Lick Township, Jackson County, Ohio. Her father was Daniel Henry Whetsel and her mother was Samantha Angeline Neal.

When our mother died,  she left a few stories she had written about her family members. One was about her mother. I am going to incert it here :

The following was written by Thora Buffinton-Gatwood:

“The time was September 1915. The new schoolteacher was quite an attraction at the dance held in the tiny one-room schoolhouse. Everyone wanted to see her and find out about her family. New-comers were not too plentiful in this mining community of Wellston, Ohio. The shy coal-miner thought the teacher was very pretty and so tiny it was hard to tell her from her older students. In those days all eight grades were taught in one room. Some of the older boys would bring in the coal and tend the fire in the pot-bellied stove. A fresh bucket of coal had just been set near the door. Coming out of a swing, the teacher’s partner released her and she landed in the coal bucket. The shy youg coal-miner rescued her before any other could get there. Since her dress was soiled, he offered to take her home to change. That shy youg coal-miner was my father, Frank Phillip Buffington, born January 13, 1894. The pretty school teacher was my moter, Orella Ortega Whetsel, born April 29, 1898.”

Since my Grandmother died many years prior to my birth I did not know her personally. In fact, I never knew any Whetsel’s. My mother was only nine when her mother died and her father remarried. This was the grandma I knew.

Orella graduated from high school and attended a music conservatory. I have been told that she was an accomplished pianist.

In 1915 Orella married Franklin Phillip Buffington.

In the 1920 census for Carlisle, Sullivan County, Indiana Orella is a housewife and mother of two small children (one of them was my Mother). The family had left Ohio 1919 or 1920.

My mother could tell many stories about her mother and all the things she had been taught by her. She said that her mother could study a dress in a store window and she would duplicate it on her sewing machine. This same story could be told about my mother.

My mother always insisted that her sewing, crocheting and embroidery work was all taught to her by her mother. My mother taught my sister and I these same things, but we had her long after we were nine years old. She also told us she would sit on the bench in the silent movie house while her mother played the piano to match the action on the screen.

Her mother sang folk songs to her and she sang them to us and we sang them to our children. I don’t know where the songs came from, but I know they must have been quit old.

There were three boys born while the Buffington family lived in Indiana, but only one survived. Frank and Orella returned to Ohio by 1927. Orella Whetsel Buffington died in June 1927. She left a husband with three young children.  Her death certificate states that she had a hysterectomy on June 7, 1927. She died of peritonitis on June 9, 1927. Penicillin was not used until the 1940’s. Orella Whetsel Buffington was thirty years old at the time of her death. She was buried in the Fairmount Cemetery, Wellston, Ohio.


John Wood; my 5x maternal Great Grandfather, was the son of Thomas Wood and Sarah Hart. He was born in Virginia sometime in 1730.

He married Agness Griffith (my 5x maternal Great Grandmother) in 1750. They made their home in Bedford County, Virginia. They had nine children, four sons and five daughters. Their daughter, Winnifred Wood is my direct line (4x Great-Grandmother).

John was in Dunmore’s War, also known as Battle of Point Pleasant. This battle took place October 10, 1774. The area today is known as West Virginia, but at the time is was Virginia. He was also involved in a battle with the Cherokee in 1776. He was fighting with the militia and the Indians were supported by the British. He was a patriot and “Revolutionary War” soldier.

John and Agness were in Jonesboro, Washington County, Tennessee by the spring of 1778. Earlier this area had been a part of North Carolina. He helped to lay out the Jonesboro area. According to the book (Neals of Bedford County, Virginia) written by Chester Miller, John was killed by the Indians in 1780, while he was in the woods making maple syrup.

John Wood had a will and it was probated May 1780. He mentions his wife by name and all nine of his children.



Joseph Bigham was my first cousin, 3x removed. He was the son of Isaac Bigham and Mary Elizabeth Delong (my 2x Great-Grand Aunt. Elizabeth was the daughter of my 3x faternal Great-Grandparents). Joseph was born on 11th of May 1863, in Hocking County, Ohio. He was a farmer as was his father before him. On the 3rd of April, 1886, Joseph Bigham married Louisa Anna Hendrickson, daughter of George Hendrickson and Mary Leasure. Joseph and Anna (as she was called) had four children: Metta (died as an infant), Samuel, Alvah and Goldie.

Joseph was one of fourteen siblings in his family. His mother had twelve children before her death and his step-mother had two more children. His sister, Elizabeth Della married a man named Oliver Benway on the 27th of October, 1884. Oliver was a farmer and well- digger. This pair had four children, all girls: Lydia, Lauretta, Minnie and Nettie.

Joseph Bigham was building a new house and well. The cellar was dug and the well was under construction. His brother-in-law, Oliver was giving him a hand with the work.

On the 24th of July, 1895, the two men were working on the new well. Joseph had descended into the well, but soon called for Oliver to pull him back up out of the well. Joseph was unable to hold the rope. Oliver called for help. Two women came to their aid. Oliver was lowered into the well and he was fanning Joseph to try to revive him. Oliver was soon calling to the women for help. At this point the well was over thirty feet deep. The women were pulling him up, but about half-way, he fell back down. One of the women ran for more people. She returned with several men to assist with the rescue. No-one was able to go down into the well because of the gases. Using sheets and the windmill, the group was able to pump air into the well. A man was lowered with a bucket and rope. He tied the rope around the men to bring them out of the well.

It had been more than an hour since the first call for help and nothing could be done for Joseph or Oliver. It was noted that Oliver had a severe cut on his head from his fall into the well.

I copied the following for Clarification:Wikipedia: Blackdamp (also known as scythe or choke damp) reducing the available oxygen content of air to a level incapable of sustaining human or animal life. It is not a single gas but a mixture of unbreathable gases left after oxygen is removed from the air and typically consists of nitrogencarbon dioxide and water vapor.

The funerals were held at Mt. Pisgah. The crowd was so large that the service was held outside.

Anna Bigham (widow of Joseph) married Samuel Lutz on the 6th of October, 1898. Anna died the 14th of January, 1899. She was buried with Joseph. The children were separated; Samuel lived with his uncle Frank (Anna’s brother), Alva worked as a servant-living with Salem and Samantha Shoemaker. Goldie lived with two of Anna’s sisters, Mary and Lavina.

Elizabeth Benway (widow of Oliver) married Andrew Roop on April, 22, 1897. He adopted the four Benway daughters and they had four sons to complete their family. The youngest son was named Oliver.


James was born in Fairfield County, Ohio on September 4, 1917. His father was Alfred Alan Gatwood and his mother was Mary Alice Delong.

Each of his parents had a son prior to their marriage. Tarlton Gatwood, son of Alfred was the oldest, born in 1906 he was 11 years old when James was born. Lawrence Aumock, son of Mary Delong was only three. The family lived in Bloom Township, Fairfield County, Ohio.

In 1920 census, James was only two years old and the family was living on Sidderly farm in Canal Winchester, Ohio. My Grandpa Al worked as a tenant farmer all his life. There were two more children born, both girls; Alice and Martha. Martha Belle was born  August 20, 1920 and departed this life December 18, 1921, aged 1 year, 3 months and 28 days. I am sure she was well loved and when she was ill with diphtheria, it must have been just horrible for the entire family. She was laid to rest in the Amanda township cemetery where there are many Delong relatives.

In 1930 census, James and his father were still on Sidderly farm, but his mother, brother Lawrence and his sister Alice were no longer living with them. Sometime between 1923 (when Alice was born) and 1930 census the family split-up. By this time Tarlton was grown. James was raised by his father. Alice and Lawrence were raised by their mother in nearby Columbus, Ohio.

James did not graduate from High School. He left home during his last year of High School and he never lived with his father again.

While still a young man he had a brief marriage to the sister of a friend. Her name was Edna Sharp. They were married November 12, 1936 in Franklin County, Ohio. The record shows him as twenty two years old and born in 1914. The truth is he was born in 1917 so he was nineteen years old. There were no children born in this marriage. My information is very sketchy and I have only the marriage record of this event and receipts of payments he made to pay for the divorce.

Soon after his twenty-second birthday, he married my Mother Thora Lynn Buffington. They went to Kentucky to get married. The date was October 7, 1939.

Sometime before I started school in 1949, our Dad left the family. I don’t recall the family talking about this openly. I have only spoken of it to my older sister, who remembers this period better than I do.  We were moved into Sullivant Gardens Federal Housing Projects. The housing was for low income people and rent was based on that income. After about two years, Dad rejoined the family, but we continued to live in the projects until mid-1950’s. I was in the sixth grade when we moved out of the projects. It was not long before we were back on a farm, but my Dad never owned land or his own home.

Jim Gatwood was a good looking man with black wavy hair and big brown eyes. He was five feet, nine inches tall according to his driver’s licenses. He enjoyed making people laugh. He had a fun and loving personality. He knew many funny songs and silly poems. I still can recall some of them.  Although he did not finish High School, he was able to help his daughter with her geometry. He loved to read books and work crossword puzzles. In later years my parents took two morning newspapers so they could each have the puzzles. He also had a talent with woodworking. He made useful things for our home.

He was also a drinking man and that could often be a problem. He made his living as a farm hand, truck driver, mechanic and later a heavy equipment operator and was a member of the Operator Engineers Union. He was the first of the Gatwood’s to leave farming as their main income. He had a beautiful garden every summer and we canned most of it and there was always enough extra to give away. He was a very good mechanic and was always fixing someone’s car. He liked to hunt and dressed the animals for many other hunters. He prepared many holiday meals for us. I think he just had a feel for cooking. He was not afraid of spices and we all loved it when he got in front of the stove.

James Alfred Gatwood died in his sleep on July 71989 from heart failure. He spent his entire life in or near Columbus, Ohio.




Clerks in courts and parish officials frequently spelled names phonetically and as a result, it appears as Gatward, Gattward, Gatwood, Gattwood, Gatwort and Getwood. I even found a tombstone with Catwood. I have seen my grandfather’s signature and it does look like E is the second letter (Getwood) and old records are all hand written, so many errors are made as we copy and rewrite what we see. I have read that the spelling Gatwood persisted in the Maryland branch of the family until Dr. Wesley Emmet Gatewood had his name cut in the stone lintel of the drug store he built in Stockport, Ohio, where he practiced medicine. Wesley is my first cousin three times removed. My 2x great-grandfather, Joseph Gatwood and Wesley’s father, Thomas Gatwood were brothers. I have a copy of Joseph Gatwood’s military records with his signature, there is no E in his name. My name is Gatwood without the E, just as my 2x great-grandfather spelled the name, therefore I have used that spelling throughout my work. There are other cases where I have seen brothers use the two different spellings just as Joseph and Thomas did. It seems that most Gatwoods I have found are related to me, but many Gatewoods are not.

The moral to this story is: If you are looking to do a little genealogy of your own, look for different spellings. It is always possible just a letter copied wrong or transposed will give you a big reward of finding a whole branch of your family that you did not know existed.


My mother wrote a short story about the day she was born and I will begin with that.

“I was born February 5, 1918. During a blizzard. I’ve heard many times abut daddy going out the upstairs window and over the porch roof to “fetch” the doctor. When the doctor drove his buggy into a snowdrift he had to walk the last mile on foot. Arriving at our home he had to climb up over the porch roof and the upstairs window. 1918 was the year of a big “flue” epidemic. With a new baby and a young son, mother did very little visiting throughout the spring and summer months. Our family was fortunate and none was stricken with the illness that killed many during that winter.”

Thora Bufington (my mom) was born in Jackson County, Ohio. She was the second child of Frank and Orella and the only girl they would have. Her brother, Thomas Lamar was born in 1916. Her father , Frank was a coal miner as were all generations in his family before him as far as I know.

Before the 1920 census, the family moved to Indiana. The coal mines in Ohio needed less workers so the family traveled by horse and a flat-bed wagon to Indiana where there was more work for Frnk in the coal mines.

The family moved back to Ohio before 1927. This was the year that Orella Whetsel Buffington died. Thora was only nine years old when her mother died. Thomas was eleven and the youngest child (Frank Junior) who was five years old.  Mom said she tried to take charge of the house without much success. She was not a cook, but she said her dad never complained.

In 1930, when Thora was twelve years old, her father married Jewell Nelson. Jewell had a young son at the time of the marriage and the couple would have three more children together.

While still a young girl, Thora would leave home to live with other families. She cleaned their homes to earn her keep and pay for school books. She graduated from high school in 1936. That was an achievement considering the circumstances of her life at the time. She had a brief marriage from August 1937 to August 1938. The divorce decree states that her husband did not support or live with her after October 1937.

October 7, 1939 was the date of the marriage between James Alfred Gatwood and Thora Lynn Buffington (Mom and Dad).

I remember Mom did some volunteer work at the recreation center located on the grounds where we lived. She would do the art work in the local paper/newsletter. One thing I recall was she drew paper dolls with clothes to color and cut-out. At the back of each issue of the paper/newsletter there was always something for the kids to color and these were creations of Thora Gatwood. This lead to a permanent position and she worked for the Columbus Recreation Department to some degree untill she died at eighty years old.

Thora was 5 foot, 2 inches tall; she had blue eyes and brown hair. As an older woman, she had snowy white hair. She had a million-dollar smile which included the biggest dimples you can imagine.

Thora Buffington Gatwood died at Mt Carmet Hospital in Columbus, Ohio on October 7, 1998, exactly 59 years to the day that my parents were married.












I was born in 1944 in Columbus, Ohio. I have one brother and one sister. I am the youngest of the sibs. We all left Ohio and live in three different states. Both of our parents died many years ago.

This is the second marriage for my husband and myself. With our family merged, we have eight children, many grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren.

One of my hobbies is genealogy. I have spend years on research and statistics about my ancestor’s. Most of all I love their stories. This has become my very favorite thing.  Along the way, perhaps I have a little knowledge I can share.