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Monday, June 20, 2011

Madness Monday - G-Grandma Jennie

There is one ancestor for whom I have such empathy and sympathy!  That's my Great-Grandma Jennie Meeks Johnston.
Jennie Olie Meeks Johnston Covey
ca 1925-1930
  Jennie Olie Meeks was the third of six children, born April 24, 1881 in Clinton Co., Indiana to George Washington Meeks and Missouri Alice Knapp.  I don't believe she had a very good or happy childhood. When she was about 10 or 11 years old, her brother Daniel overheard their parents talking about putting the children into an orphanage. 

I talked with Daniel's youngest daughter a few years ago.  She was born in 1925, but was still sharp as a tack!  Her name is Alice Dorothy, named after both her grandmothers.  Alice told me the following on Apr 3, 2007: 

Her "dad, Daniel Webster Voras Meeks, was an easy-going sort of person.  He lied about his age to enlist in Spanish-American War." 

That's evident on the census records where he list his birth year as 1875, but on the 1880 census, he was born the year before in 1879.

"He ran away from home at about age 12-13 (1891-1892).  He'd overheard his parents talking about putting the children in an orphanage, because his mom was dying. Daniel hopped a train headed west and never looked back.  He lived in a one-room schoolhouse, doing janitorial work, in return for going to the school during the day as a student." 

He came back east after an eventful period of time in the west, but that's another story!  He met and married his love, Christina Jacobson, in Yankton, South Dakota in 1899.  They lived in Minnesota until the end of their days.
Christina and Daniel Meeks 1939
"He loved his sister Jennie best, and did not like his older sister Ida.  Ida would always cause trouble and blame it on someone else, especially Jennie.  His youngest sisters were adopted and taken to Texas." 

The two youngest girls, Ola and Dora, had been lots of trouble for their parents and were sent to the reform school in Indianapolis.  After that stint was when they were adopted and moved from Indiana. My dad remembered that either the girls' adoptive parents were named Stewart, or one of them married a Stewart.

Jennie had another brother, Earl, but I haven't been able to find anything on him.  Maybe he was adopted as well.

George W. and Alice Knapp Meeks got a divorce, she wasn't dying as had been thought.  She lived until 1904 when she died of nephritis.  Both remarried, but it seemed the kids had to fend for themselves. 

Jennie was married to a man much older than herself.  This would keep her from going to the orphanage!  She and Holman Aurelius Johnston were married 11 May 1897 in Jefferson Co., Indiana.  She was only 16; he was almost 29. 

Their first child, Eva, was born that October.  My Grandma Hilda was born March 1900, Aunt Susie in March 1903, Aunt Edna in Feb 1905, and Uncle Jim in Aug 1907.  According to the 1910 Census Records, Jennie also had two more children that didn't live.  In 13 years, Jennie had been "in the family way" 7 times! 
Jennie, Eva, and Holman Johnston
ca. 1899

She must have had enough by 1910.  In that census record, she wasn't living with Holman and the children.  Eva, Hilda, Jim, and he were living with Jennie's oldest sister, Ida, the one brother Daniel didn't like.  Jennie had her own place, not too far from the family, but far enough away, and had a boarder staying with her.  Susie wasn't listed at either home.
Susie Johnston, aged 16
Jennie remarried 2 April 1917, but she and her new husband, John Covey, weren't living together in the 1920 Census.  This picture, taken in 1917, is of Jennie, her daughters Eva Ramp and Edna, and Eva's daughter Eloise.  Poor Jennie looked so tired! 

Jennie, Eva, Edna, Eloise September 1917

Jennie, aged 36 years in 1917.
Jennie's occupation in the 1920 Census was as a battery inspector at one of the car plants in Indianapolis.  This was probably Chevrolet, or "Chivy" as it was called in Dad's neck of the woods of southwestern Johnson Co., Indiana.  At the time, she was living at 305 Roena Ave, Center Twp., Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana, and Chevy wasn't very far from her home.  Two of her children, Edna and Jim, were living with her, as well as a boarder.

Here's a picture of Jennie with two of her grandchildren by daughter Eva.  This was taken early to mid 1920s.
Jennie Covey, grandchildren Eloise and Jack Ramp ca 1922-23.
This is a picture of Jennie's dad, George W. Meeks, with his great-grandchildren Eloise and Jack Ramp.  This was probably taken about the same time as the picture of Jennie and the kids.

George W. Meeks, g-grandkids Eloise and Jack Ramp
taken about 1922.
1934 was an infamous year.  Not only was John Dillinger shot and killed in July of that year, but Jennie lost her daughter Edna and 3 of her 4 granddaughters, Edna's girls. 

12 March 1934 was a cold morning to get up to a house with no heat.  The girls, Carol Jean, Frances Ellen and Ernestine Finch, decided to get the old wood stove going before the adults got up.  Tragically, the kids caught the house on fire.  The neighbors were able to save Jennie and Edna's baby daughter, Alice Jo Finch, but Edna and her 3 girls perished.  This was the beginning of the end for poor Jennie.  
Alice Jo Finch September 1933
6 month old.

UPDATE: 17 JUL 2014

I recently made contact with a Meeks cousin, Tammy Sampson.  In her possession was a copy of an article from 1 August 1934 in the Indianapolis Star newspaper she'd received from my Dad!  Tammy graciously made copies and mailed those to me for my records.  I have no clue what happened to the original Dad copied for her.  Dad's gone now, so I'll never know.  The article is so, so sad!!!

Her health deteriorated over the next couple of years.  She entered Richmond State Hospital, (originally East Haven Hospital) Richmond, Wayne Co., Indiana in 1936.  Her death came 31 October 1938, and her daughter Hilda Johnston Logan had her buried in the Logan Family plot at Friendship Methodist Church, Hensley Twp., Johnson Co., Indiana.  Her grave marker is simple, engraved only with "Jennie Meeks Johnston 1881-1938".  She was just 57, one year younger than I am now.

Hilda Pearl Johnston and Hiram Logan
I believe this was my grandparents' engagement photo.
Jennie's mind must have snapped, wouldn't yours?!?  I don't know how she managed to last 4 years after losing her child and her child's children!  I lost my first husband when I was 39.  For one year, until I met my present dear husband Doug, I went through torment, guilt, anguish, and depression.  I cannot image losing my child and her children!  Jennie must have gone through many of the same feelings I did...torment and anguish at losing her loved ones, guilt and depression at not have been able to save them.

I wonder if there is a gene in our family that makes us susceptable to mental illness.  Jennie's situation is understandable.  Would she have developed Alzheimer's in later life had she lived to old age?  Her daughter Hilda lived to be 6 weeks short of 90, but had Alzheimer's.  My dad just turned 84 and now has Alzheimer's.  Will I get this terrible disease if I live to 80-90 years old? 




Sharon Faye said...

Hello! What a wonderful post! I just started researching my family roots and found your blog when I Googled Missouri Alice Knapp. I would like your permission to share this post with my family on George Washington Meeks was my 3rd great grandfather. His son Daniel Webster Voras Meeks is the father of my great grandmother Violet Andrea Meeks. I have some information about the family you might find interesting! My name is Sharon and my email is -- Please contact me so we can share information-- Thanks!

zoekmachine optimalisatie said...

What i wonderful post and i learn a lot from this blog. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

Joy said...

Hi Zoe,
Thanks for your wonderful words of praise and encouragement!

kimB said...

Joy, reading about your family heritage is fascinating... I began researching my ancestors about 15 years ago but was unsuccessful in my search. Then, last fall I reconnected with a childhood friend via Facebook and she helped break through my difficulties. Now, I have names and dates for dozens of ancestors, but no family stories, other than those of my grandparents.
Thank you for sharing this part of your history with us :)

Thanks too, for kind words on my dandelion photo!

Joy said...

Thanks Kim & good luck in your continued search for your ancestors! It's a never ending quest, but I find it so enjoyable!

Tammy Sampson said...

Joy, you should put that article I sent you into the part you were telling about the fire.



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