Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Householders

The picture below is of my grandparents on my father, James Robert Householder's side of the family.

James Harold Householder (1882-1969) and Della Hodges Householder (1885-1918) are pictured with their oldest two children, Mayford (about 2) and Vera (under 1 year).  This photo was probably taken in 1911 or 1912.  One hundred years ago.


I know I am biased,  I think all of my grandparents were remarkably attractive people, but the Householders look so contemporary in their beauty.

James and Della were married on September 18, 1907 in Knox, TN.  They had been raised six miles from each other in that small, rural, religious community.

James' father, William Matthew Householder's family came to this continent in the early 1700's.  My grandson Drew is the 16th generation of Householder descendants since the family immigrated from Russheim, Germany.  It occurs to me that my cousin Karen's great-granddaughter is the 17th generation.  During his life William sometimes spelled his name Haushalter, Hausholder  or Householder. 

James' mother, Rebecca Whittle, was part of the famous Whittle family http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/w/Whittle_Family.html.  Movers and shakers from the time they stepped off of the boat quite a few years before the Householders showed up.

Della was a Hodges, descended from one of the three Hodges brothers whose parents came to the colonies in the mid 1700's as privileged land owners, raised their children as good English subjects and them watched as their sons rejected the Crown and fought along side the Revolutionary forces.  The parents returned to England and the sons were subsequently disinherited by their father.  Her ancestors settled the "Cumberland Gap" area and were merchants and land owners.  The girls in this family were educated and according to my mother, Della married late for her generation, age 22, because she went to college for two years and then returned home when her mother Mary was ill.  But the college story has a few holes and in a later paragraph you will see why I have some doubts about what Della was doing when she was away during that time.

My grandfather was over 6'3" (very tall for his generation).  He stares at us in this picture, unsmiling, but with the same kind eyes I remember as a child.  He is 29 or 30 in this picture.  I can see all of my brothers and my son in his handsome face.

I understand that Della was quite short. She appears slim and is so beautiful with light blue eyes and her "Gibson Girl" hairstyle.  She too is unsmiling (not even the babies are smiling) but the shape of her face and mouth remind me of the women in my fathers family, especially my sister Joy.    Della will have two more children, Reba in 1913 and James (my father) in 1915 and then she will perish in the flu epidemic of 1918.

This family has secrets as well.  I was always told that James and Della lived in Tennessee until James sought work with one of his brothers in Pennsylvania.  He was in PA when Della, bringing their 4 children to meet him, became ill with the flu and died aboard the train on which they were traveling.   My father told me that the only memory he had of his mother was her body lying under a sheet on a bench in a train station, waiting for his father to come to them.  After Della's funeral the kids returned to PA with their father but soon moved to central Illinois where another of James' brothers was thriving as a farmer.  This would have put the Householder clan in Illinois in 1919 or so.

But I have my doubts about that story.  First, the 1910 census puts James, Della and baby Mayford (10months) living in Sagamon County, IL.  I had never heard that Della lived in Il.  Second, I visited Sevier County, TN a couple of years ago and searched through 9 or 10 cemeteries searching for Della's grave.  I finally found it, in Boyd's Creek, TN where she is buried as Della E Hodges in a grave she shares with her sister Laura.  No mention of her married name on the headstone.  The grave of an infant is right next to her.  "Infant Hodges, 1905" says the marker.

Why my grandmother, who had been married 11 years and had 4 children is buried under her maiden name I cannot imagine.

It is a mystery I intend to solve though.

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