Grandfather’s Books

My Grandfather

I recently unboxed some of my grandfather’s old books. Since he died years before I was born, these books provide a connection to a man I never knew. They represent a part of my family history and a reason for my lifelong love of books.

Until his death in 1920, my grandfather accumulated books. Inside each cover he either stamped or wrote his name so that everyone would know it belonged in his library. Since the small community had no public library, he would loan out books to students or friends. But he kept track of them and ensured they were returned.

Picture barrister bookshelves with glass doors covering one whole wall, floor to 12-foot ceiling, in my grandmother’s living room. More books filled shelves and cabinets throughout the house. This awe-inspiring world of books impressed upon me the value of the written word.

After her husband’s death, my grandmother meticulously maintained the library. I can see her holding the big, hand-written journal that listed every book and its location on the shelves.

By the time I reached high school, my grandmother deemed me responsible enough to borrow a book, but she always made sure I returned it. As she aged it became harder for her to keep track of the books. Gradually some went missing or were misplaced on the shelves.

Cousins with books

My bachelor uncle lived with my grandmother. As the youngest child, born after his father’s death, he continued to live in the home place after his mother’s passing in 1977 and became the custodian of the library. My uncle was brilliant and yet not quite normal. He lacked his parents’ sense of order and probably had some mental disorder. Over the years we have speculated on his possible diagnosis but, of course, we will never know. His original condition was exacerbated by his stint in the Army during World War II. Drafted, he never made it through basic training. He was hospitalized by the army until war’s end, then given a disability. According to my parents, he was never the same. When I read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I immediately associated my uncle with Boo Radley. All the kids in town were either afraid of him or made fun of him. To me he was just my uncle, a little different, but part of our family.

Always suspicious of people, my uncle let few people into the house after his mother’s death. He knew more about family and local history than anyone around. He would have loved computers and the internet, if they had been around back then. And he might have had many online friends, instead of the few people in town who would talk to him.  In his latter years, a local man gained his confidence and convinced my uncle to lower the ceilings in the old house to save on his heat bill. To do the work everything had to be moved. Things went missing in the confusion, including some of the books. By the time my uncle figured out that the man was taking advantage of him, the damage was done – to the house, to the antiques and to the books.

After my uncle’s death, my brother and sister-in-law went through the house, inventoried everything and arranged for a sale. (Bless them for their hard work.) As the youngest of nine and with no children, the estate had to be divided up over many nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

The boxes of books I purchased at the sale are the ones I finally unboxed and put on my bookshelves. I have sets of books by Jules Verne, Bret Harte, Victor Hugo (including Les Miserables), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan),  Winston Churchill (yes he apparently wrote fiction), Rudyard Kipling and other less-familiar authors published around 1900. There are books by James Fenimore Cooper, essays and poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a history of the Italian earthquake of 1908 and a history of the Cuban struggle for independence.

Many other authors filled my grandfather’s library.  His interests were diverse and provide some insight into who he was. I remember Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, a huge dictionary and a 1903 Encyclopedia Britannica, to name just a few.  In a time with no television or computers, when radio and movies were strange novelties, the library provided entertainment as well as knowledge to my grandparents and their children. For me, his books open a window into the past.

With all the talk today about e-books, e-readers and the demise of books as we know them, I wonder what today’s readers will leave behind. Will they simply delete the electronic files after they read them? Will they even think about transferring the files to someone else? Even paperbacks can be passed on to others. Why not e-books?

Although my old books have been damaged by dust, heat, humidity and the deteriorating acid paper, they can still be read. They have provided a legacy to several generations by inspiring a love of learning and literature. I believe that children who grow up surrounded by books, who are read to and who see their parents and grandparents reading will become readers themselves. Technology is wonderful, but I think books will be around for a long time.

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore

Sometimes when we research our ancestors we find some interesting characters on our family tree – such as my Great-Aunt Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore. Aunt Sallie married my Great-great-grandfather’s brother, Rufus Hicks Sizemore, in 1856, when he was 24 and she was 22. Years ago my mother showed me the faded newspaper which carried Aunt Sallie’s obituary and asked me to make photo-copies. More recently I typed it up before it faded into oblivion. The obituary reads like a tribute to a woman who was both prominent in the community and loved by all who knew her. She’s one of my ancestors I wish I knew more about. I hope everyone enjoys reading her obituary from almost one hundred years ago.

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore published in the Dickson County Herald

April 19, 1912

In Memoriam

Mrs. Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, and died at the home of her son Claude H. Sizemore, in Dickson, Tenn. April 1, 1912, aged 78 years.

Mrs. Sizemore was a great-niece of the sainted Samuel McAdoo, one of the pioneers in establishing the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in this country. She became a member of the Cumberland Church when just a child and was a faithful and loyal Christian all her life. She was married to Dr. R. H. Sizemore and was a faithful and devoted wife for him to his death.  He died at Erin, Tenn., July 14, 1879.

Three sons blessed the united life of Mrs. Sizemore, vis.: Eugene A., who died in infancy; Clarence R., now living in St. Louis, Mo., and Claude H., a resident of Dickson, Tenn. The deceased has also left one brother and one sister to mourn their loss.  Mrs. Sizemore had every attention in her last sickness that loving hands and tender hearts could render. It was not until the inevitable came upon her that she would allow special attention.

She was a woman of great willpower and never wanted anyone to attend to her so long as she could wait on herself.  She was cheerful and hopeful in all her sickness up to only a short time before the end came. Her faith in God was fixed to the end. Almost with her latest breath she whispered, “It is well.” She knew no fear of any thing, or any body. She fully believed her life was safe anywhere. Day or night, if she felt duty called, she did not hesitate, but, at once, would go out in the darkness of the night that she might be a help somewhere. Her husband was a surgeon in the army during the war between the States, and this good woman soon felt that loyalty to her husband demanded her presence with him in his delicate work, and she went to him and for two years, or longer, she was right by his side assisting him in his work.  Many of the old soldiers yet living say she was God’s angel among the wounded and dying.  At her funeral veterans of the gray were her pall-bearers. Many of them as they looked upon her cold form for the last time could not refrain from weeping. It was by their hands her body was consigned to its last resting place.

Her patriotism is no less spoken of than that of many of the illustrious dead who fell in line of battle. Many of her courageous and daring deeds are recalled by those who were with her and knew her army record. I only mention a few here. At one time she passed between the Union and Confederate lines while under fire with a looking-glass under her arm, playing the citizen of the neighborhood. At another time, on hearing of the hunger of an almost starving rebel, she determined to get some potatoes nearby, and though the army on both sides were in battle array she passed somehow the pickets, got the potatoes and returned and was reprimanded by her husband for taking such risks. Her simple reply was, “I got the potatoes.” Another time, at the point of a pistol she forced a horse thief to put back her horse in the stable, warning him that to carry out his orders would result in his death. She was taken to Atlanta while the city was being shelled, but made her escape in a meat car. In a difficulty between a Federal officer and her husband she threw herself between them to save her husband from the drawn sword in the officer’s hand. She defied the officer and called him a coward. She often went among the sick and dying administering medicine and giving such other help as she knew how to give in their troubles. She assisted her husband in dissecting, often standing in heaps of limbs all around her, she holding the tallow candle, the only light available, while her husband was amputating and otherwise attending the soldiers.

Mrs. Sizemore was indeed a remarkable woman and her long life of heroism and Christian labor is an inheritance for her grown sons that they will ever enjoy. The older people feel the loss of a comrade. The younger ones feel the loss of a loving and congenial mother, who was ever ready with a rich story to rehearse that would thrill and make them love her memory. She sleeps the sleep of the good and brave. Some sweet day we shall meet her again.

Her funeral was conducted from the M. E. Church, South, in Dickson,Tenn., before a large audience of sorrowing friends, April 3, 1912.

Gold Coin – 160 Years Old

With gold at record high prices, like many others, I started looking at my jewelry to see if there were any odds & ends I could sell. Broken chains, single earrings, and other such pieces. This got me to thinking about what I have, where they came from and what the items mean to me. Some pieces hold such sentimental value that I would never sell them.

One of my treasures is the gold coin necklace my mother gave me years ago. Along with the gift came the story, the family history tied to the coins. This piece of family lore makes the coin necklace a treasure beyond price.

My great-grandmother, Theodosia, was born in Mississippi in 1858. According to family stories she received my coin, a 2 1/2 dollar gold piece dated 1851, as a birthday gift. Dosia lived most of her life in Tennessee where she died at the age of 82. She gave two coins, mine and another dated 1850, to my grandmother who in turn passed them on to my mother. After having the coins set in bezels so they could be worn as necklaces, my mother gave them to my sister and me.

That explains how I came to own the coin, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I can only speculate on the origin of the coins. Did they come from Dosia’s father or, perhaps, her grand-father? Was it a family custom to give the children gold coins on their birthdays? Did her mother put the coins away so that Dosia and her siblings would have them when they grew older?  Whatever the plans for the coins, the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 changed everything.

Dosia’s father, R. B. Sizemore, enlisted in the 26th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A. Her mother, Elvira, remained behind to tend the farm and their four children. Late in 1864 R. B. Sizemore died a result of some unknown disease, rather from battle wounds. From the history of the 26th, the date he enlisted and his death, we can surmise that he participated in the Battle of Ft. Donelson  (Feb. 1862) where he was taken prisoner and exchanged six months later at Vicksburg. During the following year the regiment defended Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama against Grant and Sherman. Then in May, 1864, they journeyed east to Virginia where they fought in the Wilderness Campaign, the Seven-Days battles around Richmond and finally to Petersburg. There is no way for us to know when R.B. became ill. We only know he died in Mississippi in December, 1864.

Sometime during the war, either before or after R.B.’s death, Elvira hid the gold coins in a stump for safekeeping. She probably stashed more than the two coins, but we will never know what treasures she hid away so that they would not be stolen in those uncertain times.

My great-great-grandmother remained on the farm in Mississippi until 1867 when she took her children north to her mother-in-law’s home in Tennessee. Theodosia was nine years old.

After her mother remarried in 1870, to her father’s brother, Dosia went to live with another of her father’s brothers, R. H. Sizemore. This uncle was a doctor who had served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army with his wife, Sallie, by his side as his nurse.

During the time Dosia lived with her aunt and uncle, she must have met her future husband, John Uffleman. He was the oldest son of German immigrants who came to America in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. John’s family did not participate in the Civil War. In 1867 his entire family left Pennsylvania, came down the Ohio River, then up the Cumberland River. They bought enough cheap land in western middle Tennessee along Wells Creek to divide into separate farms for each son.

Dosia and John married in 1879. My grandmother, Elvira, born in 1893, was the fourth of five children to survive to adulthood. The family lived on the farm on Wells Creek until John became unable to work. Sometime around 1905 they sold the farm and moved to McKenzie, Tennessee, where they ran a boarding house near Bethel College. My grandmother told me that they left the farm when she was 12 so I’ve calculated the date based on that.  During their time in McKenzie, my grandmother attended Bethel College. After their oldest daughter, Lois, died in 1911, John, Dosia and their two younger daughters returned to Houston County, near their former home, to help raise the grandchildren.

Theodosia Sizemore Uffleman led a fascinating life spanning the years from before the Civil War until the beginning of World War II. That’s a big chunk of American history. The coin pendant gives me a tangible connection to the places she lived, to the events of her personal life and to the historical events of the time.  When I pass it on to one of my grandchildren, I also hope to pass along the story of Dosia’s coins.


Welcome to my website! Join me as I journey through history doing research for my novels, visiting historic sites and digging into my family genealogy. To introduce myself, I will begin with where I grew up – because I am one of those southern women whose identity is strongly tied to place and ancestry.

I was raised in middle Tennessee between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in the small town of Erin. The story goes that Erin was named by the Irish railroad workers in the mid-1800’s because the green valley nestled between steep hills reminded them of Ireland. But the area was occupied much earlier.

American Indians, including the Cherokee, the Creeks and the Choctaw, shared middle Tennessee as a hunting ground. Evidence of human occupation has been dated back to pre-historic times. The Wells Creek Basin is the site of an ancient meteorite crater. Indians traded flint from Wells Creek as arrow heads and spear heads throughout North America. On a trip to Yellowstone in the 1970’s I visited the Buffalo Bill Historic Center in Cody, Wyoming, where I was surprised to find a collection of arrowheads from Wells Creek, Tennessee, on display.

My grandfather Boone was an amateur geologist/archeologist. He collected rocks, including dolomite and shatter cone from the Wells Creek Basin and various Indian artifacts from the area. Although he died when my mother was four, my grandfather’s collections remained on display in my grandmother’s house, like a private museum. The stories fascinated me and his collection inspired the “rock hound” in me to start my own collection.

The first influx of settlers came to the area where I was raised after the Revolution when Continental soldiers received land grants as payment for their service. Some soldiers sold their land to settlers and speculators, but many brought their families west to what was then the frontier. The McMillan’s, my fraternal grandmother’s family, settled on their land grant in what became my hometown. The McMillan family cemetery is situated on a hillside in western end of the valley overlooking the middle school (old high school), the nursing home, and much of the community known as Arlington. These early settlers were primarily of Scotch or Scotch-Irish descent who brought with them an independent spirit and strong religious faith.

Several regiments were raised in the area during the Civil War. My maternal great-grandfather served in the 14th Tennessee and fought in the eastern theatre. My fraternal great-great-grandfather served in the 24th Tennessee Sharpshooters and Maney’s Battery along with his two brothers and one brother-in-law. His other brother-in-law served in the 50th Tennessee. My maternal great-great-grandfather served in the 26thMississippi Infantry.  All these soldiers reflect the strong support for the Confederacy within my family, yet none represent the “traditional” image of the south filled with wealthy plantation owners. They were all small farmers or local merchants.

After the war, people from the north came south in search of cheap land. Among these were my maternal great-great-grandparents, who emigrated from Germany in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. In 1867, they came down the Ohio and up the Cumberland to Wells Creek and purchased farmland. These are my German ancestors and the most recent of my ancestors to come to America.

In 1871 portions of Stewart, Montgomery, Humphreys and Dickson Counties were combined to create Houston County, named for Sam Houston, former Governor of the State of Tennessee. Sam Houston is one of the many historical figures from Tennessee. Unfortunately, I can claim no kinship to the Tennessean turned Texan.

In 1886, Goodspeed published a history of Tennessee which includes a History of Houston County.  The account provides fertile ground for the imagination. So many individual stories, so many lives to explore. These are the people who make up the fabric of our country. Real history, about real people, helps us understand who we are and where we came from. It’s why I love history. It inspires me to write, to transform bits and pieces of real lives into fictional characters and stories.

Over time I will share some of the history that inspires my historical romantic fiction and my women’s fiction stories.