Writing for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is making me take a closer look at the who, what, when, where, why and how for each ancestor.
When I lived with my paternal grandmother Myrtle Hazel ROOP in 1976-1977 she gave me an old book that had belonged to her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother Laura Belle INGRAM. It has that unique old book smell and is missing the cover. The pages have a yellowish stain and brown spots. The binding is cracked and the book opens to what I think might have been a page that Laura referred to often.
Search Lights on Health (short title) was sold only by subscription. I was surprised to find that it has been included in the Project Gutenberg as an eBook. The Internet Archive has images of the book online. It is public domain so I am using images that I photographed from the book to illustrate Laura’s story.
I love this picture!
In their faces I see my father, my uncles, my aunts.
Family on Ingram Branch of Loup Creek Grows
Following the Civil War a little family of three, Irvin Lewis INGRAM, his wife Mary M. DEMPSEY, and their daughter Octavia Dell born in March 1866 [per 1900 census], was living on Ingram Branch of Loup Creek in Fayette County in the newly formed state of West Virginia. Irvin and Mary married on May 23, 1867. The family grew when their second daughter Laura Belle was born on April 24, 1868. Neither Octavia’s nor Laura’s births were recorded in the birth register of the county. The family of four was not enumerated on the 1870 census. The year after the census on March 6 a third daughter Harriet F. was born on Loup Creek.
1880 U.S. Federal Census
Fayette County, West Virginia
Enumeration District No. 27, Sheet No. 17A
Enumerated the 8th day of June 1880, John T. Smith, enumerator
Ingram, Irvin W M 35 married Blacksmith WV WV WV
Ingram, Mary M. W F 31 Wife married Keeping house VA VA VA
Ingram, Octavi D. W F 14 Dau single At home attended school WV WV WV
Ingram, Laura B. W F 12 Dau single At home attended school WV WV WV
Ingram, Harriet F. W F 9 Dau single attended school WV WV WV
Dempsey Boys Court and Marry Ingram Girls
Octavia INGRAM married Elijah Lewis DEMPSEY on October 19, 1882. It is not known how Octavia and Elijah came to meet and court. She lived in the Fayetteville District and he lived in the Mountain Cove District.
Laura, 14 years old at the time, most likely had finished her eight years of education that spring.
We can assume that the INGRAM and DEMPSEY families must have gotten along as two years later Laura Belle INGRAM and William Henderson DEMPSEY, brother of Elijah, were married.
On Wednesday the 1st of October 1884, I. C. Cavendish performed the marriage of W. H. Dempsey, 24, and Laura B. Ingram, 16, in Fayette County. The bride and groom were both born and residing in that county at the time of marriage. William was a miner.
Mrs. Ingram, the mother of the bride, appears to have died before February 11, 1888, as Mr. Ingram, widowed, is seen marrying on that day. Two children were born to this marriage although little is known about this second family. But I am getting sidetracked and that is a story for another time.
Laura gave birth to her first child Viola in 1885 and carried her to her grave in 1887 after the child died of comsumption. A year later we see William and Laura living at Keeneys Creek where sons Willie and Ernest were born in 1888 and 1890.
By 1892 the family of four had moved on to live in Prince (Fayette County) or across the New River in Royal (Raleigh County). Royal Coal and Coke Company, the first coal mine in Raleigh County was opened at Royal in 1891. Necessary company buildings were constucted and workers commuted from Prince or nearby farms on the Royal side of the river until accomodations were available. At this time it is only an assumption on my part that Laura’s husband William, who worked as a miner, was employed at the Royal Coal Co. when son Oscar was born in September 1892. The fact that Oscar’s birthplace has been seen as Prince and Royal points to this possibility.
Two years later Laura’s fourth son Roy was born in Victor, a mile east of Ansted. The family continued to grow with five more children being born in Victor where the family had set up their permanent residence when William bought a piece of land in 1899.
Six months prior to this land purchase Laura and William had lost another child Pearl at the age of 1 year 7 months 2 days to diptheria. Laura gave birth to 10 children over a period of 25 years and raised 8 of them to adulthood. All of her children attended at least 8 years of school. Son Clyde finished 10 years. Daughter Hester attended two years of college and became a school teacher. Son Roy may have also attended 2 years of high school — it is unlikely that he only had a second grade education as indicated on the 1940 census.
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Laura Gives Birth To Her Youngest
In January of 1910 Laura’s first grandchild Olive, daughter of son Willie, died at age 3 months 15 days. She must have felt the loss of her own first child all over again. While mourning the loss of her first granddaughter she lost her father Irvin Lewis INGRAM who died on March 4, 1910, in Turkey Creek, Fayette County. This was about the same time that Laura became pregnant with her 10th child at the age of 42.
By this time Laura’s husband William was no longer working as a miner. William and their oldest son Willie (22) were working as carpenters while Ernest (20), Oscar (17), and Roy (15) were coal miners. While the men were at work Laura was caring for Fred (10), Clyde (8), and Hester (5) and pregnant with Earl who was born in November 1910.
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The Family Worshipped & Served Their Lord at Hopewell Baptist Church
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Times were changing when World War I began on June 28, 1914. Before the end of the war on November 11, 1918, Laura and William lost their oldest son Willie, killed on October 5, 1915. He had gone into a small mine at his home, accompanied by his wife and little son Gordon, to mine some coal for home use. While his wife was watching him a heavy fall of slate came in on him, killing him instantly.
By 1920 Laura’s three oldest living sons and her daughter-in-law Mallie, Willie’s widow, had married. She was the grandmother of 10. Fred and Clyde were still living at home, working as miners. Hester (15) and Earl (9) were attending school. In 1923 Laura’s sister Octavia died at age 57. No trace has been found of their younger sister Harriet who may have died in the 1880’s or 1890’s.
By 1930 Laura and William’s seven living children were married and raising their own families. They would have ten more years together before their son Fred, his wife Myrtle, and their children would come to live with them and care for them until their deaths.
Laura died on Tuesday, October 8, 1940, of myocardial degeneration following a cerebral hemorrhage in August. Her husband William Henderson DEMPSEY joined her in their heavenly home on January 24, 1941.
Mrs. Laura Dempsey
Mrs. Laura Ingram Dempsey, 72, of Victor died yesterday at her home after an illness of 12 days. The body was removed to the Thomas mortuary, Ansted. Services will be held tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Hopewell Baptist church with Rev. George B. Deaver officiating. Burial will be in McVey cemetery on Shade creek.
Survivors include her husband, William H. Dempsey; a daughter, Mrs. Hester Skaggs of Ansted, and five sons, Ernest Dempsey of Ansted, Roy Dempsey of Fayetteville, Clyde Dempsey of Kaymoor, Fred Dempsey of Victor and Earl Dempsey of Lansing.