My maternal grandmother was a Whetsel. This story is from that family line.

Louis Whetsel was born February 12 1862 and died November 6, 1940. He was the son of Layfatte Whetsel and Nancy Worley. On May 26, 1887 he married Alice Bean. Alice was the daughter of Jesse Bean and Amelia Long. The marriage took place in Ohio. Louis Whetsel and Alice had three little boys; Clarence, Jesse and Earl.

I am not sure of the time-line for their move, but I do know this family was living in Los Angeles, California area in 1901. Louis Whetsel worked as a carpenter. Alice Whetsel was in charge of a large rooming house with about twenty-five tenants. By December 1901 Louis and Alice were separated.

On December 17, 1901, Alice was busy cleaning small coal oil stoves. The stoves were portable and could be moved from room to room to heat water and such. She had lit a wick to check one of the stoves and when she blew, to put the fire out, the fire caught on in the coal oil reservoir, which in turn caused the glass to explode and the flames consumed Alice. Alice ran out of the room she was in and some of the tenants grabbed blankets to douse the flames. All the observers seem to know that it was too late for Alice. The firemen said she had breathed the fire and they could see she was burned from her knees to the top of her head.

The poor little boys were no doubt unable to process what was happening to their unfortunate mother. I read an account of the incident from the Los Angeles Times newspaper and I will quote what they said the boys were calling out to their mother. “Don’t worry, mamma; we’ll take care of the house.” “Come back fore next week, mamma, for you know it will be Christmas.”

This account is about as sad as it gets! The boys were my third cousins, 1x removed. My 3x Great Grandfather was their 2x Great Grandfather.




Thomas Jefferson Neal was born March 29th, 1817 in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio. Thomas was one of eleven children born to Walter Neal, Jr. and Deborah Arnot (my 3x Great-Grandparents). The family moved from Lawrence County to Gallia County, Ohio while he was still a child. His mother died when he was twenty-six years old and his father remarried. His step-mother was Elizabeth (Griffith) Lanthorn. His father and stepmother had three more children.

On 26th of January, 1837 (Thomas was twenty years old) he married Belinda Allison, my 2x maternal Great-Grandmother. Belinda was the daughter of John Allison and Rebecca Carter; my 3x maternal Great-Grandparents. Belinda was born in Walnut Township, Gallia County, Ohio.

Thomas and his wife, Belinda had eleven children, five girls and six boys. All but one of their children lived to adulthood. Belinda died in 1896 and Thomas married a widow named Jemimma (Erwin) Hamilton. Jemimma died in 1908.

The celebration of the 100th birthday for Thomas Neal was a very large affair. I have a picture taken by the Newspaper of people attending and it is a treasure trove of relatives pictured there.

He was interviewed by a reporter and was asked what advice he would give boys: “The first advice I would give a boy is to join church and live right. Next, live sober and don’t use liquor or tobacco in any form…I never drank liquor in my life and I have always voted dry. I expect to live yet to see the country dry”.

 Thomas Neal died just days before his 101st birthday;



Mary Elizabeth Gatwood was the daughter of William Gatwood and Elizabeth McCracken, who were my 3x Great-Grandparents.  Mary was the fifth child born into the family. There was a total of thirteen children, seven girls and six boys; two of the girls died as infants. She was born March 10, 1815. She spent her early childhood in Wellsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia).

On February 5, 1835, Mary Gatwood married Aaron Aten. Aaron was born in 1808. His parents were William Aten and Jane Anderson. Aaron came from a large family. He was both a farmer and teacher.

In 1838 they lived in Washington county, Ohio. This was the summer that Aaron and other members of his family traveled west to Illinois, looking for a better life. In a letter that he sent back to Mary, he tells her that things are not great, but he feels that the quality of land for farming was very good. There was an abundance of land available and the soil was rich for planting. Crops were selling for a good price.  He had not gotten a job as a teacher while there, but he was sure there would be positions as a teacher available in the future. The letter made me think that he must have been very lonely without his family. His brothers were scattered to different areas and there was no easy method of communication for them to know whether they had gone back to Ohio or met with some terrible illness or accident. He tells Mary that he has not heard anything from them or about them and wonders what she could tell him about his brothers. Of course, he also wanted to have word about her and the children. Everything seemed to work out and the Aten’s would relocate to Illinois.

When Aaron and Mary left Ohio in 1840 they had two small children. After their move to Illinois they added eight more children to the family, including one set of twins. Aaron would teach and farm for the rest of his days. He died in 1889. Mary would live until 1907. When she died at ninety-two years old, she had outlived her husband and all but one of her ten children.


The Stedham family can be traced back to my 9x Great Grandparents in Gothenburg, Vastra Gotalands, Sweden. My 8x Great Grandfather is said to be the first man with the name Stedham (Stidham) in America. He immigrated from Sweden in the 17th century to New Sweden now known as Wilmington, Delaware. All of Delaware and the southern part of Pennsylvania and the southern part of New Jersey were known as New Sweden in that time period. Many of the Stedham’s (Stidham) can be found in the Old Swedes Churchyard in Delaware.

The story I want to tell is about my 4x Great-Grandmother, Lydia Stedham.  Her parents were John Stedham and Mary Merryman (my 5x Great-Grandparents). Lydia came from a wealthy family who did not approve of her marriage to William McCracken.  Her father disowned her. She would not inherit anything from her family.

William McCracken was an immigrant from Ireland who owned a ferry at Wilmington, Delaware. The couple married in spite of family disapproval around 1790. The couple left the area and I believe they never returned. They first went to Cumberland, Maryland and soon moved on to Brooke County, Virginia, now West Virginia. They were in this area by 1800. It appears that William died about this time, leaving three children to be raised by Lydia, alone.

In a Colonial Genealogist publication, I found two legal suits that Lydia filed:  July 1801 Lydia McCracken charged William Girton with trespass and assult and battery.  It was claimed Girton used dogs to chase, hunt, and cripple two sows and five shoats ( Shoats are young piglets, just weened).  Damage was estimated at $50.00. A jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $7.00 damages.

Brooke County May Term, 1810: Lydia McCracken brought suit against Richard Talbot charging destruction of fences and wheat. Damage to the value of $100.00. The defendant, Talbot, paid $8.00 and costs.

 Lydia Stedham McCracken seems to be a strong woman. I admire her grit! I would imagine that she was fodder for gossip in her corner of the world. I do not picture her as a wallflower or ordinary in any way. She knew how to take care of herself and survive. My guess is she walked away from her birth family proud and never looked back.



John  Gatwood was in Virginia January 13, 1663 when he witnessed a deed gift of 219 acres made by Thomas and Jane Button of Farnham Parish, Rappahannock County, to Charles Goodrich. This may be the first record of our name in the Colonies. It was the first I found.   One year later, January 4, 1664, he witnessed the signature of Jane Button who relinquished dower rights to Thomas Corbyn. Because of these transactions, we know that John had some kind of education and could read and write. We also know he had to be of age by the date of these transactions.

June 2, 1666, Colonel John Catlett brought into Rappahannock County, Virginia, ten individuals as immigrants. John Gatwood was one of these men. Again on July 1, 1666, he was one of seventy-three immigrants brought into Virginia by Mr. Thomas Button. It is my belief this was his final trip and when he began his new life in the new world. It is unclear whether these people were indentured. In the case of my ancestor John, I know that when he died, he was the owner of many acres of land which he left to his heirs. I am proud of his accomplishments, no matter where he came from or who his ancestors were.

John was married to Amy (Aimee) Magrah ca.1680. There are nine children listed in John’s will. John and Amy owned approximately four hundred acres of land by 1704.  They were living along the Rappahannock River in Virginia. This is where they were when the Susquehanna Indian Nation made their attack. I think this was a small group of Indians, many had left the area and many had died in prior wars. It is believed that the Gatwood’s knew the Indians quite well. The reason for this belief is because the Indians best friend and interpreter lived adjacent to the Gatwood family.

John had a will made November 14, 1706 and probated January 10, 1707 in Essex County, Virginia. It states that he was a planter and he leaves large acreage to several sons. All his children are listed by name.

Amy married a second time to Joseph Baker. Joseph Baker was a wealthy merchant and when he died, he left most of his wealth to Amy and her Gatwood children.

I believe that Amy Magrah was born in Virginia. It is possible her father was Thomas McGraw/Macgrah, a planter in Essex County, Virginia. When Thomas died he left a will on November 21, 1722. In his will he leaves everything to John Gatwood and his son Phillip as well as James Gatwood. John and James are the sons of John Gatwood and Amy Magrah and Phillip is a grandson. In the will, he refers to James as a “friend”. Amy and her son in law, David Scott witnessed this will. All this seems to indicate that they were family. If this is true, Thomas McGraw/Macgrah would prove a tenth generation!


John Alderson was an immigrant from Yorkshire, England. He was born in 1699.  He was my 6x Great-Grandfather. His father was a minister in the Church of England. In 1719 when John was twenty years old his father gave him money and a horse and advised him to leave the area. This was to avoid a marriage of which his father disapproved. The money did not last, but John did not return home or let his family know where he was. He worked his way across the ocean to America. When he arrived, he was to pay off his debt by working for a Baptist minister who was also a wealthy farmer (Thomas Curtis). Thomas Curtis liked John Alderson very much and they worked well together. In 1726, John Alderson would marry the Farmer’s Daughter (Jane Curtis). This couple had eight children. My direct ancestor is Curtis Alderson (my 5x Great Grandfather).

John Alderson, Sr. liked the Baptist Church and was converted. Very soon he was preaching. At long last, he wrote home to his Father and let him know where he was and told him about his life. His father sent him a nice letter and two volumes on theology. I have read that these volumes are still in the Alderson family. When he left New Jersey, he moved to Pennsylvania. In 1755 he was sent to Virginia where he organized one of Virginia’s first Baptist Churches. He died at the age of eighty-two in 1781.

His work continued with his son, John Alderson, Jr. John Jr. was a Baptist minister in Greenbrier Valley, Virginia (now West Virginia). He is given credit for establishing most of the Baptist Churches in the Virginia Valley.


Jesse Woltz was born in Hagerstown Maryland December 15, 1792.  His parents were Dr. Peter Woltz and Maria Breitengross.   Peter and Maria were my Paternal 5x Great-Grandparents. Before leaving Hagerstown, it is likely he apprenticed with his uncle; George Woltz. George Woltz was a well-known cabinet maker in Hagerstown, Maryland. I have seen a picture on the internet of a clock he made and signed.

Jesse served as a private and sergeant in the War of 1812, Stonebrakers Company of Maryland Militia.

Jesse Woltz traveled to Lancaster, Ohio in 1816 with Samuel Herr who was also a cabinet maker. He began a business for himself that same year at Number 9 Wheeling Street in Lancaster, Ohio. He made all types of fine wood furniture and was successful. On September 30, 1816, Jesse Woltz married Elizabeth Canode. She was also from Maryland. The Woltz’s family would include ten children.

It was rumored that he made the cases for Timothy and Thomas Sturgeon clocks.

Later in his career, Jesse expanded his line to include making pianos and organs, including the organ in the Lutheran Church.

It appears that after 1837, Jesse was not doing as well. He advertised to sell the Lutheran Church organ and was taking in borders. He was selling ice cream where he had once sold furniture. In 1839, he moved to Chillicothe to live with his son and died that same year.

In 1842, Elizabeth (Jesse’s widow) married Isaac Hollenback. The Hollenback’s moved to Indiana and Ellizabeth died there in 1880.