Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Memories That Take Me Back Home

I found this picture of me as my mother and I were going through some of her old photos..Sunday school. It brought back a lot of great memories. I remember that dress. It was different shades of pink..I must of been 5 or 6 years old. I was standing in front of this great big picture on the wall in the hallway of the church.

As a child, I remember going to church and weekends at grandma's house. I think that's when I fell in love with getting all dressed up. I loved wearing pretty dresses along with my black patent leather shoes that shined. Gloves, lace tights or Bobbi socks and my little purse, Sunday was church day..it was family day. For a while my sister and I attended Forth Baptist Church Bible School. Mom didn't have a car so the bus would come and pick us up. I remember learning about Noah's Ark and the Ten Commandments. When we went to grandma's house for the weekend.. it was Church again. I still remember the gentle tap on my knee. Grandma would say, " Sit up straight, and pull your dress down..act like a lady".  She'd give me a lemon drop or piece of cinnamon gum. Next she'd give me the change to put in the collection plate,which I kept tightly clenched in my hand until it was time. I was always sad when it was time to go home on Sunday evening. I never wanted to leave grandma's house.

Sunday dinner was one of the best parts of the day. Whatever the occasion, family was there. Uncles,aunts,cousins..and food, there was so much food! Roast turkey and dressing, greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, raisin pie and some sort of  fruit cobbler...and ice cream, there was always ice cream. I remember that I hated potato salad. I always complained, saying that it didn't go together. "Who eats potato salad with turkey and dressing, I grumbled". Why not mashed potatoes and gravy?  clearly my opinion didn't matter. When I was growing up, you ate what you got and that was it. I had no choice in the matter. It makes me laugh thinking about those times. My mother later explained to me that it was a family tradition. Her grandmother made potato salad. In fact, many of the recipes that my grandmother made were the same recipes that her mother made. My mother also made the same recipes, the same way. Now I understood..cooking and recipes came from the ancestors, passed down through the generations, mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter. Now I get it.

Years later, grown and married with children of my own. There I was still going to church with my grandma. I loved spending  the weekend with her. Waking up to the smell of the roast turkey that she had put in the oven at the crack of dawn. I could hear the word of the gospel playing on the television that she listened to as she got dressed. As we sat in church, I'd smile to myself as she still tried to put  money in my hand for the collection plate like she did when I was a child. Maybe in her eyes I would always be her little granddaughter.

It's funny how life changes. I now make the same potato salad that I used to hate, as well as all the other recipes passed down. Grandma's no longer here. But I can still hear her say.  Always Thank God. Everyday. Thank him, Thank him and Thank him.


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Day That Papa Died

It's been five years since grandma passed away and I miss her so. Of all the many things that I miss about her, I think I miss our talks at the kitchen table the most. The kitchen table..it was small and round and had a drop leaf on each side that made it bigger. It sat against the wall in her kitchen, in front of  two large windows that faced the side of her house. She loved to watch the birds out the window as she sat there. This table is where the stories came to life. Grandma always talked about her father, Papa, as she called him. I think that they must have been very close because you could feel the love when she spoke of him.

She told me about the day that her father died. Peter Lee Doyle, Papa, died in September 1934. They brought the coffin to the house that day. Grandma said that in those days when someone died they brought the body into the living room and had the funeral service right there at your house. People would come and pay their respects. The day that Papa died brought a few surprises..The day that grandma said goodbye to her father was the same day that she met her sisters. Three girls that she had never seen before came for the funeral. She said they all were fair in complexion  with long sandy brown hair and looked Indian. Her mother said, "Meet your Sisters, Hattie, Mattie and Letha.   She said that she never even knew that they existed until the day her father died and they showed up at the door.

Hattie, Mattie and Letha were her father's daughter's from his first marriage. They came from Virginia to Iowa at a young age and were raised by grandma's mother. Mary Bell Doyle (Carr). By the time grandma got older they were already gone and married. She always talked about her sisters, giving me every detail.

Hattie Doyle was the oldest, born in 1895. She married Dave Turner and had many children. She raised her family in Des Moines Iowa.

Mattie Doyle was born in 1897 and  married William Wheels in Buxton, Iowa.

Letha Doyle married Leonard Hale and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Grandma always said that she ran a Tavern, but finding her in the census states that she ran a rooming house. She died in 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Unfortunately I only have a picture of Hattie.

Hattie Doyle Turner. Photo courtesy of Dave Turner

Friday, April 24, 2015

This Long Journey: Making a Home In Minnesota

Home of John Henry and Emiline Bannarn  5058 Humboldt ave N.  1914-2000
I must have passed by this little green house a dozen times or more before I knew it's relation to my family. I had walked my daughter to school many days. Passing by the Creek, by the small church in the neighborhood. I stood on the ground where my ancestors once stood totally unaware of their lives here. By the time I found out that it was the home of my Great Great-Grandparents, John Henry and Emiline Bannarn, the city of Minneapolis was already making plans to demolish the house and my cousin Delores was trying to save it. The house sat on the corner of  50th and Humboldt avenue. It's been 100 years since John Henry and Emiline came to Minneapolis and built their home. Back in those days this area of Minneapolis was considered the country...Today it's considered the city. Funny how times change.

John Henry BANNARN  was born a slave in Missouri about 1850. He was the son of NANCY SAUNDERS and his Irish slave owner.  At some point John ended up in Texas where he met EMILINE SPENCER. Emiline was of Seminole Indian ancestry and was also born enslaved. She was the daughter of Jesse and Sally Spencer, who were both from North Carolina. John and Emiline were married July 4, 1869 in Hunt County, Texas. Together they had 10 children. Thomas, Dee, John, Walter, Monroe, Albert (Goree), Ellora, Laverne. The names of two of the children remains a mystery. I have always been told that my Bannarn ancestors moved often, never staying in one place for long and always traveled by covered wagon. Maybe this is indicative of their Native American ancestry. Looking at the census records this seems to be true. Between 1870-1910 they lived in many cities throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

Around the turn of the century, the Canadian Government began advertising land in Canada. They sent newspaper ads like this to Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and other states. My ancestors like so many others left the south with the hope of finding a better life for their family. John Henry and Emiline along with some of their children and grandchildren, left Oklahoma in about 1912 and headed for Canada. Some family members got sick along the way and had to turn around and go back. My family's oral history says that my Great Grandfather, Dee Bannarn, John Henry's son, killed a man for making a pass at his wife Hassie. Fearing for their lives, the family left. I've wondered how much of the story is true..maybe the reason they left Oklahoma was a little of both. When they got to the border of Canada, for reasons unknown, John Henry and Emiline were turned away. Their son Albert, affectionately known as Goree, and his wife Lola, were allowed past the border and settled in Alberta, Canada. They had two daughters, Cleola and Gladys. After being denied access into Canada, John Henry and Emiline headed for Minnesota. They settled in the city of Minneapolis. They first show up in the city directory in 1913 living on 3rd street south. In 1914 John Henry and Emiline became one of the first to build a home in a small African American community in north Minneapolis called "Maple Leaf and Humboldt Heights".  


                                                                                5058 Humboldt Ave North

Despite all efforts to save the home, the city of Minneapolis decided to proceed with their project. A decision was made to take the house apart and study the method that John Henry built the home. Historian Carole Zellie started researching the history of the neighborhood and the families that migrated from the south. There were interviews with many family members. I remember how excited my grandmother, Margaret Doyle Bannarn, was to share her memories of the Bannarn family members as well as many pictures.

                                                                                               Demolition Begins           
In the summer of 2000, family members gathered at the J.H. Bannarn home to watch the demolition. Piece by piece, brick by brick they began to take the home apart. What they found in the process was very interesting. The home was built with salvaged wood. Some pieces were charred which indicated that there may have been a fire at some point. A closer study revealed that there was not a fire, John Henry had reused the burnt wood from another home. The original house was much smaller than what the photo shows. The front half as well as the porch were later additions. The house was layered with Asphalt, Depression Brick and Tar Paper. The foundation was made of rocks and bricks that were roughly set in cement by hand. I remember one of the workers that day said that John Henry must of been a short man because the basement ceiling height was not much over five feet. I was surprised when they pulled the walls apart, and found the insides lined with nothing more than newspaper for insulation. At the end of the research. There was a booklet made, detailing the history of the families. It is now available in the local library.

Today, the homes are gone. Green grass and trees line the Greenway where the homes once stood. There is a plaque that sits in the middle of the block, implanted on a large rock, in memory of my ancestors along with the many other families who migrated to the Minneapolis Shingle Creek area, Maple Leaf and Humboldt Heights community and made a home there in the early 1900's.

I am reminded of  John Henry and Emiline each and every time I drive down Humboldt  avenue..Occasionally I stop, and walk on the grass where the house once stood. As I stand there in their footsteps, I try to imagine what their life was like 100 years ago. I can see Grandma Emiline in her garden..I can see her gathering eggs in the chicken coop,  there's Grandpa John Henry down at  Shingle Creek fishing for today's supper..

L. to R. Bannarn family members..Carla Pryor, Gloria Bannarn Pryor, Deloris Grigsby, Denise Wooley-Muhammad,
Neighboring families: Lillian Schoefield, Cecil Adair and Cherie Adair. 2000


© 2015 Denise Muhammad, They came from Virginia

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The adventures Of Rose And Bill: Fried Chicken Was The Plan

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded. Sometimes we all just need a good laugh. Laughter is good for  the soul...

Rose and William "Bill" Doyle abt.1917
When I think of my grandmother, a picture of her laughing comes to mind...She always had a story to tell. Funny stories, quirky little sayings, events that happened in her childhood. There was always another story to tell, she always had something to talk about. One of my favorites is the story of  Bill, Rose and the Chicken. I think part of why I am fond of this story is because it reminds me of how simple life was in her time..and every time grandma told it, she would be almost on the floor laughing.

Rose and Bill were my grandmother's older sibling's. Rose, born in 1910 was the oldest of all the children. Bill was the second child, born in 1913.  According to grandma, Rose and Bill were always getting into trouble. And so we begin..

"Most of the time, they fought like cats and dogs, arguing and calling each other names..they drove my mother crazy!  Rose being the oldest, usually bossed us around..One day when Mama and Papa left the house to go into town. Rose decided that she would fry some chicken. We watched out the window as Mama and Papa drove away..back in those days Papa drove a horse drawn wagon. Well, Rose told Bill to go out to the coop and get a Chicken. While Bill did as Rose told him to do and went out to catch a chicken, Rose got busy preparing the stove. In those days we had a little stove that you had to add coal to to keep the fire going. Rose got the skillet out and melted the lard. They were so exited, laughing and talking about how they were going to have them some good ole' fried chicken today!  Bill got the chicken, rung it's neck and brought it in to Rose. She started plucking the feathers off the chicken. Before she could get it cooked, here comes Mama and Papa up the road! You should have seen them scramble and jump!. All of a sudden, Bill grabbed the coal bucket and shoved the chicken in the bucket attempting to hide it under the coal! Rose grabbed the skillet with the hot grease, opened the back door and threw it out the door. It was so funny!  I laughed so hard! they knew that they didn't ask permission to kill that chicken and they also knew that they would be in big trouble if Mama found out!  They never did get fried chicken that day. The chicken went to waste. That was a terrible thing, it's a sin to waste food". I don't know if Mama ever did find out what Bill and Rose did that day".


How times have changed..


© 2014 Denise Muhammad and They came from Virginia

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I Recieved A Very Nice Surprise ~ "One Lovely Blog Award"

Last week I received a very nice surprise. I was so excited!  I was nominated for the
"One Lovely Blog Award" by Bernita Allen of " Voices Inside My Head".   http://alhupartu.blogspot.com/

Thank you Bernita. I am truly honored and humbled to be nominated by you. Bernita has an Awesomel blog! I enjoy reading her posts.

Here are the rules for this award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog
  2. Share Seven things about yourself
  3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!)
  4. Contact your bloggers to let them know that you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award

Seven Things About Me:

1. I found a Sister through Ancestry.com. We met for the first time a few years ago.
2. I have two older brothers and three younger sisters.
3. I love DIY projects. I put in my bathroom floors and a new sink all by myself.
4. I enjoy gardening. Every summer I plant two large vegetable gardens. One in my backyard and one in my community.
5. I have three grown children and three grandchildren.
6. I am a Seamstress. Many of my ancestors were Seamstresses' also.  
7. A few years ago, out of curiosity. I researched the previous owners of my home. It took me back to 1852 with the first person who owned the land before the homes in my neighborhood were built. Her name was Rhoda Bean.

It was difficult to choose, there are so many great blogs out there. Here are 15 Bloggers that I Admire:

1. Finding Eliza by Kristin Cleage
2. Notes To Myself by True Lewis
3. Our Alabama Roots by Luckie Daniels
4. Railroads and Cotton by Nia Jai
5. How Did I Get Here?  by Andrea Kelleher
6. The Ancestors Have Spoken by Yvette Porter Moore
7. RootStories and More  by Tiffany Neal
8. Rooted In You by Delores Summons
9. Breaking Down The Walls by Monique Crippen-Hopkins
10.Tracing My Peters Ancestry by Angelo Andrews
11.Our Alabama and Georgia Ancestors by Dante Eubanks
12. Tracey's Tree  by Tracy Hughes
13. Jewells In Dem Kentucky Hills  by Mary E. Bright-Jewell
14. Answering The Ancestors' Call  by  M Dawn Terrell
15.Tracing Gardner's Footprints  by Ressie Luck

For those on my list, if you have already been nominated I'm pretty certain that you don't have to nominate a group. There are so many more wonderful bloggers out there whose work I admire. I have learned so much from the more experienced members of the genealogy community. I enjoy our interactions and appreciate their support.    

Contact Bloggers
I will be contacting the 15 bloggers on my list, unless they see this post and contact me first.  Thank you Bernita for nominating my blog for the "One Lovely Blog Award".  I am honored to be included in your list of nominees.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Mothers Children: The Sweet Souls In Buxton, Iowa

My Grandmother, Margaret Doyle (standing left) with her mother Mary Belle Carr and siblings, Bill, Johnny and Edythe. 1930

While looking further into the past of the men on my maternal side of the family, who worked as Coalminers in Buxton and Enterprise, Iowa. It was my Great-Grandmother, Mary Belle Carr, who caught my attention and sent my thoughts in another direction. So here I am, going with the flow of my ancestors...

When my grandma Margaret, talked about her mother. She never failed to mention what a hard life that her mother had. When I asked her why, she said that her mother worked so hard, and had suffered through the heartache of losing many children at a young age. From all that I know about my great-grandmother, I think that she must of  been very strong. I wondered what life was like for a woman 100 years ago. The infant mortality rate was pretty high. Unlike today, most women gave birth to their children at home. Many women lost children due to stillbirths, illness, inadequate medical care, and accidents of the time.

Great Grandma Mary was just a teenager when she married her husband Peter Doyle. On their marriage record it states that she was 19. Born in May of 1886, she was actually 16. She came from Virginia to Iowa and married Peter in 1903. She started her family life there in the Coal Mining town of Buxton, becoming a mother to his three young daughters from his previous marriage, Hattie, Mattie and Letha.

My Grandmother, who was born in 1916 always said that she was the ninth child born to her mother. She had two older siblings, Rose and Bill. Rose, who was the oldest of all the children. Was born in 1910. William was born in 1913. Between 1903 and 1907, Grandma Mary lost babies, one right after another. All stillborn. In 1908, she gave birth to a baby boy named Louie. He was the first child born alive. He lived for just two months before his passing in January of 1909. My Grandma used to say that she remembered hearing her parents talk about the baby boy who lived the longest. She never could remember his name exactly, she said she thought his name was Lonnie???,.. or something like that,..she wasn't quite sure..I have since come across Louie's death record and realized that he was the baby that grandma tried so hard to remember. There was another baby, named Eliza. She was born and died in March 1907. She was most likely named after Peter's sister Eliza.

Mary went on to have seven children that survived past infancy. I'm told that she thirteen in total. Years later she lost two more children. Her youngest child, Little Esther, died in 1931 at age 3 after eating poison berries while playing in the yard. Her son John was just 20 years old when he died in 1945 during WWII in France.

I've always been told that Grandma Mary was a spiritual woman of faith. She put her trust in the Lord and prayed continuously. Eventually becoming an Evangelist. I'm sure that her faith is what helped her through the most difficult times in her life. ♥


© 2014 Denise Muhammad and They Came From Virginia

Sources: Interview with Margaret D. James
Monroe county Marriage record
Buxton Iowa Cemetery Records
Polk County Iowa Death Records

Friday, April 18, 2014

Remembering Uncle Mike

Henry Wilmer Bannarn "Mike"
For as long as I can remember. I've heard my mother and grandmother talk about "Uncle Mike". I never met him, but I sure felt like I did. He was like a celebrity in my family. They were obviously very proud of him. Mom always said that my oldest brother, who was and still is very artistic, got his talent from uncle Mike. Growing up, I remember that he could draw anything. Mom always said that artistic expression ran in the BANNARN family and that many relatives were talented in one way or another. I knew that Uncle Mike was the brother of my mother's father, Anthony BANNARN. I also knew that he was an artist. But It wasn't until I got older, and became more curious about my family history, that I began to ask questions about the man called "Uncle Mike". Curious me..I always wanted to know more.

Grandma always had so much to say, and never seemed to mind my questions. Especially when she was in the mood to talk. I knew that she knew the Bannarn's well, I also knew that she had been best friend's with Grandpa Tony and Uncle Mike's cousin, Cleola Bannarn...Grandma was just the right person to talk to.
Cleola Bannarn Davis & Margaret Doyle Bannarn 1939-Minneapolis

Grandma Margaret's memories of Uncle Mike:

Henry Wilmer Bannarn, known as " Mike" to many, was an Artist and Sculptor. He was born July 1910 in Wetumka, Oklahoma to parents, Dee Bannarn and Hassie Thompson. His family came to Minnesota a few years after he was born.

"Mike was one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet". He was very good looking, of course all the Bannarn boys were. He was very sweet, a real good guy". I think that grandma admired how good he was to his mother because she mentioned it quite often in our talks, she always said that he came home from school and took care of her. She said that Mike was extremely talented and could always draw well. She remembers him going to art school. He later went off to the war and moved to New York. She remembers his wife Mayola and always talked about how beautiful she was. Together they had three children.

Growing up I never payed much attention to the sculptures that my grandmother had sitting in her home. It wasn't until many years later that she told me that Uncle Mike made them. His sculptures and artwork remain throughout my family today.

I never did ask my grandmother, but I now wonder if she knew all those years ago that he would be so popular one day, his works so great. Mom used to say that she always told them to hang on to his sculptures, they were something to treasure. I wouldn't be surprised if grandma knew after all..

Henry Wilmer Bannarn

Wikipedia has a pretty cool description about Uncle Mike and his work.


© 2014 Denise Muhammad, They Came From Virgina

Source: Interview with Margaret Doyle James