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Putting Some Old Bones to Rest

Hello All,

On a somber Mid-November morning;  I always feel this way after a nice week of “Indian Summer” ends and the gray rains advance.

Perhaps, though, this is a perfect mood for reporting a rather serendipitous finding regarding my black sheep ( at least in my Grandmother’s regard) grandfather, McClelland (aka Shipley) B. Johnson.  In 1910, in the Fayette Co., Pa. coal patch town of Royal, Shipley worked as a mine carpenter, after the family farm was sold to the coal barons. Meanwhile the Cumashots, E. European immigrant coal miners, who had lived in Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Pa., had left to seek their fortune in the West Virginia coal fields.

They roamed for a decade, adding children as they moved on to Royal, where the last of their children, my dear Aunt Rose was born.  In Royal, my grandmother, Julia, met Shipley, and they conceived my mother.  No records remain if they got married.  The Cumashots moved on to Ambridge, Pa., and Shipley went to the US Army during WW One.  My mother was born, and the rift was never healed.  My own research did reveal that my grandfather had move to Pittsburgh, and married a woman named Bessie.  There the trail ended, for several years.

Then last week, I got an e-notice from, that for veterans day they were offering 4 days free access to Pa. Dept of Military Affairs records  re. “government tombstones given to veterans”.  I did a quick search, and found McClelland (and also his brother Dale, a corporal in WW One).  I found out that my grandfather had been buried in Calvary Cemetery in Pittsburgh.

I called their Director, and learned a lot about Shipley and Bessie.  I was also a bit stunned to find they had a son, George (named after Shipley’s father?), who was buried with them in 1997.  Wow, my mother had a half brother.  I wish fate had not been so cruel, and that she had been able to meet her sibling.  My mother’s early years were marked by a deep feeling of abandonment, and knowing her father, and brother, would have helped during her life.  Well, that is water under the bridge now.

I contacted my cousin Diane, who still lives in the SW Pa. coal valleys, and she amazed me by going up to find and visit the grave, which she also cleaned off.  This October,  when I finally found my grandfather Thomas John Dunn’s grave in Sylvania Hills Cemetery, I helped their director clean off his stone.  Hmmm, that is a very emotionally charged act.

Well, at 61 years of age, I now know where all my grandparents are buried.  I admit, though, it has taken some searching.  All in all, it was a fitting way to celebrate Veteran’s Day!                         Thom Dunn Marti

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