Thomas Milton Summers and his wife, Anna/Anne/Annie Swisher are two of my favorite ancestors for a couple reasons.
First of all, they named their first daughter (my great grandmother) Clara Olive Summers, which I think is one of the best names ever. Several of Ollie’s (as she was called) siblings had equally fanciful names, although they probably weren’t considered so at the time. Her elder brothers were Elias Morgan Summers and Quitman Elmore Summers. After Ollie came the more familiarly named Ruth M. and Martha (Mattie) A., followed by French.
French was born in 1883 but died sometime before the 1900 census when Ollie is listed as having birthed nine children with eight still living (all of whom can be found in that census). His name sounds exotic to me, but when I tried to find his death certificate, it became clear the name was common in that place and era. The siblings who followed were Mary Luvina (Vina), Eva Forest, and Albert Lesslie.
I also like Annie and Thomas because Annie is the daughter of Mary Ann Summers and Morgan Swisher. Morgan is the son of Drusilla Morgan and Jacob R. Swisher. And Drusilla Morgan is the daughter of Zackquill Morgan and Drusilla Springer. This is of interest (at least to me) because Zackquille Morgan (my 5x great grandfather) was a contemporary of George Washington. He also founded Morgantown (Morgan’s Town), Virginia (now West Virginia).
Annie’s sister Amanda Jane married Ulyssess Summers, who was Thomas’ brother. This along with the fact that Annie’s mother, Mary Ann was also a Summers makes it clear the Swishers and Summers had close ties. How close would depend on where Mary Ann fits in, and I don’t know much about her yet.
Anyway, Thomas fought in the Civil War, enlisting in Lieutenant Sylvester Porter’s newly formed Company K of the 15th West Virginia Infantry on 29 February 1864 in Wheeling, West Virginia. He gave his age as 18. However, according to his tombstone, he was born in 1847. This is supported by the 1900 census, where he gave his birth month and year as April 1847. So he would have been just sixteen. He lists his occupation as farmer, height as 5’8″, with auburn hair, hazel eyes, and a ruby (possibly ruddy?) complexion.
Two days later on 2 March, he was mustered in. By the May/June roster, he was already injured, listed as “absent sick” in Gallipolis, Ohio. In July/August, he was absent sick at Cumberland, Maryland, and in September/October, the same at Winchester, Virginia. Another record says he was admitted to “General Hospital, Grafton, West Va.” on 4 November 1864. Under “Diagnosis,” it says merely “Convalescent.” Another hospital record (or perhaps the other side of the first) reads “Nov 5th 1864 – Voting furlough for fifteen days. Returned to duty Dec 21 64, wound healed.”
He and Annie married on 21 December the same year in Marion County, where their first five children were born. Sometime between the 3 January 1879, when Mattie was born in Marion, and the 1880 census, they moved to Ritchie County where their remaining four children were born, a distance of about 88 miles — quite a ways before motorized vehicles.
On 6 December 1886, at the age of 39, Thomas received a pension as an invalid. The 1890 Veterans’ Schedule lists his service dates at February 1864 to August 1865, a year and six months, 18 months total.
With his eight months spent “absent sick,” this means he was on duty for about ten months, a little over half his service time. I wonder if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Spending eight months as a convalescent would seem to imply his injury was fairly serious, but on the other hand, at least he probably wasn’t getting shot at.
Despite receiving a pension as an invalid, he still listed his occupation as “farmer” at the age of 53 in 1900, so he must have been able to make at least some kind of living, enough of a living to write a will in 1915 and amend it in 1921, designating the dispersal of his property after his death.
In a letter posted on Ancestry, one of his grandchildren describes him.
“About Grandpa Tom and Grandma: There are a few funnies(?). I remember part of them were from my dad. (Dad said) he never saw his mother mad but once. She was out by the creek doing her washing bending over the old wash board. Grandad came by and gave her a smack on the behind. Well over went tub Grandma and all into the water. Dad said she would not talk to Grandad for a whole week. I know your mother got her personality from her, they were so much alike. But Grandad was another story. They stayed with us for a good while after they needed care. I was just little, but oh how I remember the times Grandad threatened me with his cane. I probably needed it but I never forgot. Ha, ha.”
Reading this makes me wonder. Was Thomas crabby because he was in pain from his war wound? Was that why he used a cane? Or he just a curmudgeon?
Either way, I like the sound of my 2x great grandma. She clearly had some spirit! The letter writer also talks about how much Annie’s daughter was loved, so by saying “your mother got her personality from her,” the letter writer tells us Annie was also much loved.
Reading this makes me wonder how I’ll be remembered and think about my own memories of people who are gone. They are all little things, likely long forgotten by those who made them.
What memories will we leave behind? Will we be the behind smacker and cane threatener? Or the beautiful person who everyone loved? I suppose it depends on us … and on who is doing the remembering.