Facts, Folklore And Memories

By Millie Wyant

None of our ancesters were famous or known for bravery, they were just hard working, good, honest, family loving people. There is a thread or an alikeness, called "genes" that ties reIatives together. In checking our genealogy we learn about our past and how it helped make us who we are today. I'm 88 years old and decided to write about some things that have been passed down by my parents.

Click on any image to enlarge

JOHN PENNYCUFF (1819-1892)

I'll start with my mother's side since it always seemed more interesting to me. This history was obtained from the census taken every 10 years starting in 1820. Mother's paternal grandfather was John Pennycuff born about 1819 in Overton County, Tennessee. His father's name was John also and is listed as a foreigner in the 1820 census. Aunt Buelah said the father could be one of three brothers who came from Germany, sons of Johannaes Bennekoff born 1776. Someone else said he was an Indian who made up his own name. Most likely Aunt Buelah is right and he made up a shorter version of his real name.

By 1840 young John was married to Mary Whitehead and they had 6 children, 2 at that time and 4 more later. She apparently died and he married Hanna and they had 3 children. He now had 9 children, 7 girls and 2 boys. His occupation is listed as stone mason in 1850. He and Hanna could both read and write and his children attended school. They had moved from Fentress County Tennesee to Clinton County, Kentucky where Hanna was born. In 1860 his real estate is worth $300 and personal estate worth $400. The 1870 census shows that John at age 54 was married to 44 year old Elizabeth. Six of his children, ages 17 to 26 and a granddaughter lived with them.

This is where our family starts. .

John Pennycuff


By 1880 John at age 61 was married to 26 year old SARAH ELLEN NEAL (1855-1936) who couldn't read or write and they eventually had 4 boys, William born in 1877, Leo in 1879, Granville, our grandfather in1881 and Crawford in1883. John had a will drawn up in 1882 leaving his entire estate, both personal and real to Sarah and their boys. The will stated that "no family ever live in the house or build so as to use the water from the spring until William (the oldest) was 18. My reason for making the foregoing will is that all my children not named are of age and able to support themselves and the ones named are of such tender years that they are unable to make a support, and at the death of my wife I desire all my children to share equal in any property that may belong to my estate".

When John died the boys were about 15, 13, 11, and 9 years old. Sometime after his death Sarah and her boys loaded all of their possessions in a covered wagon and headed for Texas but broke down in Barren County, Kentucky and there met nice people who helped them and gave her work. The1900 records show that Sarah was now 44 and lived with her 23 year old son, Leo in Barren County, Kentucky. Crawford boarded with a Mr. Preston, and Granville was servant to Henry Edmonds. No mention is made of William Jacob. However, sometime later Crawford and William Jacob, who we knew as my mother's Uncle Jake moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Granville and Leo stayed in Kentucky. Leo's granddaughter, Norma Bridges Redford remembers Sarah living with her Grandma and Grandpa Leo. She also remembers going with her mother and grandfather to the place where John, Sara and the 4 boys lived before his dad died. The area was listed as abandoned and a small park was there later. He also took them to a place where they had played in a falls when young, Seventy-six Falls nearby. My grandfather had mentioned playing in a falls also.


My mother's maternal grandmother, MARY DESOLATE KIMBALL (1860s?-1892) was Indian. The story that my mother told was that a pregnant Indian girl had been seen roaming the area and getting food from gardens. When the baby was born she vanished but left the baby wrapped in an apron suspended from a tree near the home of a lady they called "Grandma" Kimball. She took the baby to a foundling home in Bowling Green, Kentucky where she requested and got permission to raise the baby with her other children. Mrs. Kimball named the baby Mary Desolate.

MARY DESOLATE married FRANCIS COLUMBUS GRAY (8/1/1859-12/1/1939) and they had 4 children Ora Bell born April 3, 1882; LILLIE DALE, October 5, 1885; Lee Pinkney, December 23, 1888; Beulah May, February 29, 1892. Mary Desolate died when Lillie Dale was 7 and Beulah just 8 months old. "Lum", as people called her dad, remarried. My mother 's memoies were that her step-grandmother was never as good to them as as to her other grandchildren. Beulah is the only one I knew from this family and I've often wished I had asked her about her sister LILLIE DALE, my grandmother. If she was anything like Beulah, she was a delight. My mother's Aunt Beulah had a lot of interesting stories. Her dad Francis Columbus Gray had brothers named George Washington, Ferdinand Desota, and William Penn. "Bill" who had a wife and baby daughter, went out one day to get wood and returned 21 years later with the wood, wearing a Stetson hat. He'd been to Texas.

A published story about the early days in Bon Ayre, Kentucky where my mother lived as a child was written by a granddaughter of one of the Grays. She says Uncle "Lum" loved to sing and led the singing at the church and "when he sang the song "Traveling On" he sang with such gusto the sweat rolled off his forehead". She dedicated a page to him for the efforts he made to lead the young folks in singing and the jolly times spent at his house.


Lillie Dale Gray

GRANVILLE PENNYCUFF (1881-1957) married LILLIE DALE GRAY (1885-1920). His mother Sarah Pennycuff and Grandmother, Mrs Neal came to the wedding. Lillie's sister, Beulah said that Mrs. Neal had sores on her arm. The newly-weds moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where their first child, Harold was born.Granvillle Louis Pennycuff Lillie Dale was very unhappy in the city so they moved back to Kentucky where Granville tenant-farmed until he was able to buy a small tobacco farm that had a big yard that the children loved. Five children were born, Harold (6/10/1905), Mabel Frances (12/16/1908-2/17/1997), twins Pauline May and Paul Gray (4/6/1912) and Veechel (?). Paul died of whooping cough at 6 months, Veechel died of summer complaint at 2 years old. I remember Aunt Pauline talking about them having a horse. It was a happy time for a short while until their mother died of TB when my mother was 11. Her dad was devastated and Grandma Sarah came and stayed with them until he finally met and married Clara. Then he, his children and new wife moved to Indianapolis. Again his new wife was unhappy and they went back to Kentucky.

Uncle Harold and Mother stayed in Indianapolis. This is when my dad and Uncle Harold became friends, then Mother and Daddy met and fell in love. I don't remember meeting Grandpa "Granville" Pennycuff until I was 13 years old and visited cousin Norma in Kentucky. I thought he was the neatest guy because of his southern drawl and his infectious laugh at everything his toddler son, James (my mother's half brother) did. After I was married when he needed work he would come to Indianapolis, stay with my parents and work for my dad building houses. We all enjoyed knowing him better and loved his happy nature and "off the wall" comments. When I was about 7, Sarah came to Indianapolis to live with Uncle Crawford but she had hardening of the arteries and they were going to put her in a home. Mother, even though she had 5 little ones to care for, said her Grandma had taken care of them so she was going to take care of her and moved her to our house. Sadly this didn't work out either. Sarah had problems and would run away every time we had company so she finally did have to go to the County Home.


My brother, Ray Alexander has extensive genealogy about our dad's side of the family so I won't go into details. The story handed down is that 7 Alexander boys came to this country from Scotland?. Our branch settled in Shelby County, Indiana and were farmers. My grandpa, Stephen Alexander (6/8/1875-1/23/1960) had 1 brother and 3 sisters. He married Mary Etta Shipp (3/11/1879-1/3/1945) daughter of Felix Shipp of Rocklane, Johnson County Indiana. Stephen and Mary Etta Alexander

I remember Grandma had brothers. The story is that the brothers had a small band that played for dances and at one of those dances my grandma and grandpa met, fell in love and were married in March of 1902. They bought a house in Indianapolis where all of their children were born near the Fountain Square area. They had 4 children, Hazel, Carl Raymond (5/28/1905-12/6/2000), Everett and Pauline.

My dad said it was a shotgun the front door and back door and you could shoot a gun right through the house. He also remembered that when he was a boy his parents would roll up the rugs in their living room and the brothers would come with their music and have dances. I remember visiting some of Grandma's brothers and especially liked Uncle Jim who seemed like a happy go lucky guy even though his wife was a semi-invalid. She had fallen on a streetcar track and messed up her kneecap. Carl -Mabel Alexander

When I was about 3 Grandpa had the dream of going back to farming so they traded their house in the city for a farm of 40 acres in Coatesville in the spring of 1929. The stock markets crashed later that year and the crops they sold barely brought in enough money to pay for the seed. It was a fun place to visit for us kids, cows paths on the hills making hiking trails and a little creek to play in. They never made a decent living and moved back to the city about 1944 because of Grandpa's health. However, it was Grandma who got sick and died. I remember that she didn't like to go to doctors so waited too long before getting help for a bad stomach ache. At the hospital they said they could have saved her if she had come in sooner. I always wondered if it was diverticulitis. That was a sad day because she was the best Grandma anybody ever had.

The rest of the Alexander story is in a separate writing.