Archive for March, 2016

Let it be for Thee

March 25, 2016

Only Thou knowest

What a handful of days

I have left

On this earthly plane,


This dust-heap of a mortal world,

This mountain of dirt,

Our tomb,


“However great the conqueror . . .

He is unable to retain

Any part of these devastated lands,

. . . but his tomb,” which will remain,  *


And so, my Lord,

I give myself,

my soul,

my tears of longing,


Weave these into a cloak of Love,

And wear it ‘round Thy shoulders,

While I stand back, in total joy

to be nearer my Beloved,


Forgive our feeble efforts here,

We never will be worthy,

Only the flame of longing burns,

It melts my heart away,


For Thee, we go on day to day,

Hoping to attain Thy pleasure,

We cast our nets into the sea,

Hoping for a catch beyond measure,


For Thee, for Thee,

We strive and pray for a way to build the Kingdom,

For Thee we live another day,

We pick up pieces wear they lay,

And mend them back together.

cfblack 03-25-2016

* from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha


I am not the daughter of share croppers.

March 18, 2016

I sometimes hear speakers talk about their difficult past, their family’s circumstances such as being from a share cropper family in South Carolina history. These stories are always very inspiring to the audience. Coming from difficult circumstances doesn’t mean you will not succeed. Think positive, live a moral life, and trust in God. Doors sometimes open, Opportunity knocks, Determination pays off.

I have had the thought, “What would I talk about? I do not come from a family of share croppers.” My father was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at prestigious Purdue University, and at the end of his life, Dean of Engineering at Drexel University. I grew up in lovely neighborhoods in 12-15 room houses. I always had a room to myself, or one I shared with a sister, with my 2 brothers, one much older and one much younger always having rooms of their own. We had large living rooms, a large dining room with beautiful table, a piano, and at least 3 different bathrooms in the house.

But here is what I’ve learned. We all have a story. We all have a story of struggle, of overcoming difficulties, and of unique circumstances where we did more than we ever thought possible. We all have had times of depression where people hurt us and never felt bad about it. We all have stories of being mistreated.

I have experienced things that many of those folks who were daughters of share croppers never had to deal with. I’ve lost a parent to a heart attack at an age when I needed that person more than anyone could ever know. Then I lost another parent to alcoholism for the next 16 years until she quit. I achieved a PhD at the age of 55 and went forward into a teaching career for the next 7 years which is where I am today. While earning that PhD, I worked full-time through the end of my Masters to allow 2 daughters to use my tuition discount, helped one daughter through quitting drug abuse and an abusive boyfriend, and another through a difficult marriage. I survived a prelim meeting where the professors all got into a shouting match, my committee chair sat there in silence, and I was left to pick up the pieces. I finished writing the last 6 chapters of my PhD in one summer after the loss of my mom to heart disease and the loss of faith in me by my committee who believed by that time, I’d never finish. Not only did I FINISH, I achieved success in landing a teaching job! Six years later I survived not getting tenure through prejudice, close-mindedness and downright meanness from a tenure committee, which was so bad I would have won a lawsuit against them if I had the energy to do it, but I decided instead to take anti-depressants and get as far away from their pompous and fake religious self righteousness as possible. And in my earlier years of marriage, through circumstances beyond our control, I knew poverty to the extent that we had wooden boards for a kitchen floor and no hot water for a summer after our gas was shut off by the company for being late paying our bill.

So I’m a survivor as much as the people who came from other difficult circumstances. I have reached places where there was no way forward except to take a step on faith and trust that God would carry me through the darkness. I have achieved more than I ever thought possible and have a job that keeps me continually inspired and young because I am in daily contact with young adults.

We all have a story. We all have stories of survival, of determination, of faith and achievement beyond our dreams. Know your story, believe in your own worth and that of those who pulled you through when you needed some words to inspire you. Be proud of your own achievements and thank God daily for whatever challenging circumstances He put in your path, for that is what made you who you are today, a wiser, more confident and caring person, for you know what it takes to get through life, and to make it this far.

the Gross family

March 13, 2016

I had suspected this also, but just confirmed. James Agnew, my great-grandfather in New Albany’s first wife was Jewish. Her name was Mary Caroline Gross. They had 3 girls, Annie, Ollith (also called Olive), and then Helen. Ollith married a “Joshua Sigmon” and later went to the Jewish hospital in Louisville at the time of her death. This Mary Caroline’s family belonged to a church on the Ohio river that was a stop on the Underground RR (at the time of the functioning of the underground RR). Today it is a black church.

The first wife died 3 yrs. after Helen’s birth. The kids of the first family all knew and associated with the kids of the 2nd family, the last ones being my grandfather, James Wesley & his twin, Gertrude. Fred, who is an older brother to my grandfather John Wesley, took Ollith (his step-sister) to the hospital in Louisville.

Her name on the death certificate is Olive Sigmon. Says she was buried in New Albany. She was already a widow at that time, 1943.

Samuel and James and James Agnew

March 12, 2016

This is just SOME new information, which validates some things.


The James Agnew in New Albany has been linked definitively TO the Agnew family in Cincinnati. I felt that all along, but was just going on the fact that he said he was from Ohio and I have his exact birth date, 10 July 1841. The only one who matched that the best, was the family in Cincinnati. So that is definitely our James Agnew, who in 1850 was a little 8-yr-old boy in the family of an older James and wife Mary Ann. I know now for sure that the little boy there IS the one who came to New Albany after the Civil War.


I know this because, by 1880, there is a little girl, Helen, adopted INTO the family of James and Mary Ann. This little girl, it turns out, is actually the daughter of OUR James Agnew in New Albany. There are newspaper articles about him having to fight to get his daughter back, after OTHER people tried to take the little girl from him. He supposedly left her with people “for safe keeping” for awhile. Those people gave her to another woman, who wanted to keep her. James Agnew, my great grandfather, had to fight to get her back. He won. But the lady is quoted as saying, “Mrs. Oakes claims that Agnew, on account of his dissipated habits, is not a suitable person to have charge of the child, and we understand that she proposes to regain possession by law. The child is a bright, interesting little girl of about four years of age.” This was said in 1875 in the New Albany newspaper!


James Agnew had a 1st wife who died in 1874. Maybe he became a drunk after her death, I don’t know. But in 1875 he was trying to reclaim the little girl. And he did.

In AUG.1879, he married MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, Carrie Bybee—

By 1880, the little girl HELLEN is in the home of the OLDER JAMES AGNEW IN CINCINNATI, and it says “adopted daughter”…………. So he again left her, evidently, with his DAD and family in Cincinnati……… by 1880. Maybe Carrie Bybee didn’t want her in their new marriage home. Maybe he didn’t even tell her about his first family, I don’t know.

So what I have to do is research the SAMUEL AGNEW sitting in the Cincinnati household at age 72, in 1850. He came from Pennsylvania. I have to find his beginnings in Pennsylvania or figure out who he is and where he came from.
Newspaper stories from New Albany:

New Albany Daily Ledger Standard January 8, 1875 p 4

Habeas Corpus

James Agnew filed a petition in the Circuit Court yesterday, asking the judge but now grant a writ of habeas corpus, to compel John P. Frank and Mary V. Frank to deliver up Helen E. Agnew, a child four years old, and said to be the child of James Agnew. The plaintiff charges the child is unlawfully held by Mr. and Mrs. Frank. The writ is made returnable Saturday.


New Albany Ledger Standard March 11, 1875 p 4

A Child in Dispute

Yesterday afternoon, a man named James Agnew applied at the station house for assistance from the police to enable him to recover his child from Mrs. Emma Oakes, who, he claimed, had unlawfully taken the little girl from the persons under whose protection he has left her. Officers Spence and Graham went with Agnew to the residence of Mrs. Oakes, on Upper Fifth Street, and Mrs. O. gave it up, first requesting that a picture of the little girl be taken and given her, which was done. It will be remembered that a suit was had before judge picked now, in which Agnew gained possession of the child from Mrs. Frank. Since that time, until about two weeks ago, the little girl has been under the protection of Mr. Hopkins and wife Mrs. Oakes claims that Agnew, on account of his dissipated habits, is not a suitable person to have charge of the child, and we understand that she proposes to regain possession by law. The child is a bright, interesting little girl of about four years of age.

New Albany Evening Tribune February 22, 1889 p 4

At the residence of James Agnew, 117 East Fourth street last night, a party was given in honor of his daughter’s 18th anniversary. A number of Mr. Agnew’s Grand Army friends, together with acquaintances of his daughter were present in a pleasant evening was had in feasting with musical accompaniments.

Helen Agnew

mentioned in the record of George A Johnson and Helen Agnew

Name    George A Johnson

Event Type          Marriage Registration

Event Date          08 Apr 1889

Event Place         Floyd, Indiana, United States

Gender Male

Marriage License Date   08 Apr 1889

Marriage Place  Floyd, Indiana

Spouse’s Name Helen Agnew

Spouse’s Gender              Female

Officiator’s Name             Chas Hutchinson

Page      388

Number of Images           1


“Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 March 2016), George A Johnson and Helen Agnew, 08 Apr 1889; citing Floyd, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 549,334.

George and Helen had two sons, Claude and Albert, and she died in Montgomery County Kansas in 1942. There is a tree online that follows her family which has the 1880 census in Cincinnati but nothing before that.

[note from another researcher: I have a Feb 21 1871 birth date for Helen in my tree, but that is just based on the date of the birthday party, probably Feb 1871, but don’t know exact date.]

What this does, is document that our James A. Agnew in New Albany is, in fact, the little boy James, 8 yrs old, at the bottom of the page of the 1850 census, living with James and Mary Ann Agnew in Hamilton County, Ohio, and with an older Samuel Agnew, age 72, there at the same time. Because this same James and Mary Ann (Freeman) Agnew have Helen listed as an “adopted daughter” in the 1880 census. Same family. Helen is validated as actually the daughter of the younger James Agnew (from New Albany) in the newspaper articles above. So it ties him to the family in Cincinnati for sure.

His first marriage with Caroline Gross produced evidently 3 daughters: Annie (1865), Ollith Lenora (1867) and this Helen (1871). His wife, Mary Carolina, dies in 1874. He marries our great-grandmother Carrie Bybee in 1879. Helen is living with James & Mary Ann Agnew in Hamilton County, Ohio by 1880. She would have been 9 yrs old in Feb. 1880. William Robert, first child of James and Carrie in New Albany, is born in April 1880.