Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Friday: A Calmer Story

            Today’s family history is a much calmer and less violent story than was last week’s story.  This week I want to talk about my mother’s great-grandfather, John Henry Tasker.  John Henry didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in his life; he didn’t invent anything, or fight in any wars, or perform some deed of heroism.  He was just a man who lived his life.
            With the exception of the “insider knowledge” that James Edgar’s house burned down soon after the death of his wife, all of the information below is excerpted from the US Census or other publicly-available documents.
            John Henry was born to John F. and Frances Reese Tasker on the 28th of November 1851 in Hampshire County of what today is West Virginia.  But because he was born prior to the Civil War, his birth was in the state of Virginia.  (A chunk of Virginia seceded from the state at the start of the Civil War and formed a new state, loyal to the Union.)  At his birth there were already several Tasker children:  11-year-old James W., 8-year-old Benjamin, Margaret who was 6, 4-year-old Mary, and Hiram, aged 2.  Father John and brother James were both listed as farmers in the 1860 US Census, and the three children just older than John Henry were noted as students. 
            By 1880 John Henry was a married man with a family.  His wife was Mary “Molly” Logston, the sister of Sarah “Sallie” Logston who was the wife of John Henry’s brother, Hiram.  Molly was somehwat older than John Henry, the 1880 Census noting her age as 36 while John Henry was 29.  Their children were William (5 years), Icy May (4 years), James Edgar (2 years old, and my direct ancestor), and Minnie M. just a month shy of her first birthday.  John Henry’s occupation was listed as “Farm laborer”.
            Due to the destruction of the 1890 Census we lose 20 years again from the life of John Henry, and next find him in the 1900 US Census.  By now the 48-year-old man is a widower, living in his home with his children Icy, James, Minnie, 18-year-old John and 15-year-old Anna “Annie” Elizabeth.  John Henry is listed as a farmer and James and John are recorded as farm laborers.  Everyone in the family could read and write English, and John Henry owned his farm with no mortgage attached to the land.
            The 1910 US Census notes that tragedy had struck the Tasker family once again.  James Edgar and his three children were living with John Henry.  James Edgar’s wife, Ida Miller Tasker (a very distant relation to her husband’s side of the Tasker family) had died in February of the preceding year.  A fire soon after Ida’s death deprived the grieving family of a home, so James, Austin Cecil (my 6-year-old grandfather), 4-year-old Arthur F. and 3-year-old Lola S. had moved in with John Henry.  John Henry and James were farmers on John Henry’s farm while the youngest son of John Henry, John Jr., also lived at home, and his occupation was listed as “odd jobs”.
            By 1920 John Henry was no longer living on his farm.  Instead he resided with his daughter Minnie, now married to Thomas Cannon. 
            1930 found John Henry still living with Minnie and Thomas and their family.  Thomas had risen to the manager of the ice plant, and although the family owned a radio (a  peculiarity of the 1930 census), they were renting their home 156 Mozelle St. in Keyser, WVA.
            John Henry Tasker died at the home of Minnie and Thomas on 180 Maple Ave on November 21, 1934, one week before his 83rd birthday of “hypertrophy of Prostate” (an enlarged prostate, not associated with prostate cancer) and “Chronic Nephritis” (chronic inflammation of the tissues of the kidney, associated with a slow, progressive loss of kidney function).  I feel sympathy for John Henry who must have been in a certain amount of discomfort if not outright pain.  His death certificate indicates he underwent surgery to drain an “impacted thyroid gland” six days prior to his death, and three days before he died he was diagnosed with uremia (kidney failure).
            The only photo I have of John Henry must have been taken near the end of his life, probably at the home of Minnie and Thomas.

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