Friday, April 23, 2021



PROLOGUE: To the life and times of Laura Effle Trenor Hamilton๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ‘‰ "The farther back we can look into our past, the further forward we can see into our future." (Paraphrased  from the original quote by Winston Churchill, by my cousin W.Craig Hamilton, Jr) "Write your name on a board and someone will erase it. Write your name on the sand of the beach and the water will erase it. Engrave your name on a stone, one day it will break. Write your name in the minds of people, it will remain engraved forever." Piecing together history, events, and the life of my Grandmother, Miss Laura, was not an easy endeavor. CHEERS TO HER! ๐Ÿ’ฅ
Meet my Paternal Grandmother, Laura Effle Trenor Hamilton, the oldest of 5 siblings. Laura was born in Springwood, Botetourt County, Virginia on October 26, 1883(This day is also shared by her oldest grandson, my cousin, W.Craig Hamilton Jr, and my sister Judy's husband, W.Grant Brownrigg) . Her parents were William Jefferson Trenor, and Mary Catherine Garman Trenor. (Both of her parents, my great-grandparents, are buried in Mill Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Nace, Virginia,  next to their youngest child, Willie Craig.) 

One of the earliest photos of "Miss Laura" (Most everyone in our family call her by that name) that exists is a Trenor Family Photo. Seated below from left to right are her younger sisters: Theresa McCann Trenor(Poore), Miley Watson Trenor(Falls), and Bessie Dogget Trenor(Franklin) who is sitting on (Laura's Dad)William Jefferson Trenor's lap. The fifth child, Willie Craig Trenor had not yet been born. Miss Laura's Mom, Mary Catherine is standing to the left of her. 

Miss Laura was 8 years of age before her first sibling was born. She, without question, played a major role in the caregiving position of raising her younger siblings. The first sibling, Spurgeon Trenor was born in 1890, and died near his birth. Next, Theresa was born in 1891, Miley in 1892, Bessie in 1894, and Willie Craig in 1898. 
'Miss Laura' was a strikingly beautiful young woman. Her features favored that of her own maternal great-grandmother, CATHARINE HAYNES SHREWSBERRY, (born Sept 18, 1805 in Bedford County, Va, and died Sept 5, 1885, in Breckinridge County, Kentucky) who was 100% Native American Indian. YES! Check out her thick shiny black hair, high cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes, heavy eyelids, and brown eyes. (* I pondered this particular photo above ๐Ÿ‘† and the one below ๐Ÿ‘‡ for an extended period  of time. They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and for some reason, I saw a certain unexplained sadness. Perhaps what I was seeing, was a result of what I had learned about her life...... a series of unfortunate events combined with poor mental/physical health. But then again, many portraits in this era were stoic, rigid, and without emotions.)
Miss Laura was 22 years old when she married my grandfather, Walter Henry Hamilton. He was 35 years old. They married on February 13, 1906. Oddly enough, she also died on her anniversary, years later in 1973. They lived in Clifton Forge with Walter's parents, Wilcher and Sarah.
Their marriage 'paper' is below๐Ÿ‘‡, which by the way, was quite an unexpected discovery. It was found in my Uncle Craig's stash of papers. 
The following year, Laura and Walter's first child, Bessie Madeline, died April 2, 1907. Three months later, Sarah(Sallie Missouri T. Shafer Hamilton), Walter's Mom/ Laura's mother-in-law, suddenly died at age 55. Both are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Clifton Forge, Va.  No doubt, the household was one of sadness. (It is doubtful that any of the STAGES OF GRIEF that we have come to embrace today, were allowed at this time..... sort of a 'suck-it-up-move-on-don't-talk-about-it' approach to life.) 
Lela Cardwell Hamilton was born to Walter and Laura the next year, July 6, 1908, in Clifton Forge, Virginia. Lela was 6 months old in the photo below๐Ÿ‘‡.
Wilcher, Laura's father-in-law, remarried in 1910 to Bessie Lillian Graves(Hamilton). Sometime during this year, Laura and Walter moved from their home in Clifton Forge to Nace (Buchanan), Virginia. 
(Miss Laura's parents lived in Nace, and I suspect that they moved into their house with them.) The year 1910 also brought another child into Walter and Laura's lives. Vera Jefferson Hamilton was born April 19, 1910. She is 11 months old in this 1911 photo๐Ÿ‘‡.
The 2 photos below are Miss Laura holding both of her girls, Lela and Vera, ages 2 yrs 6months, and 10 months. They are sitting in the side yard of the house that was in Nace, Va.(Though an educated guess on my part, the fence to the left of the house and in the background of the second photo appear to be the same.) Notice Miss Laura's beautiful dark hair!

The third move, now with 2 children, in 1912-1913 was to Roanoke, Virginia.  *The Roanoke City 1913 Directory listed their home as 435 Church Ave, SE. Walter worked as an accountant at Reams, Jones & Blankenship Inc(a furniture store).The photo below left to right: Vera Jefferson at 3yrs 12 mo 27 days, and Lela Cardwell 4 yrs 11 mo 18 days. 
Another move occurred in 1916 to 525 Washington Ave. 
And still another move in 1917 to 351 Elm Ave. SW. (Laura's younger sister, 'Ressie' lived across the street at 360 Elm). That same year, the twins were born, March 23, 1917 at 2:30AM and 2:36 AM. Photo below was taken at 7 months, 18 days of (left to right) Walter Craig Hamilton, and my Dad, Carl Cannaday Hamilton.
In 1918, the family moved to 514 Elm Ave. 
In 1919, they moved to 918 Franklin Road.(*I know, from a hand-written letter from Wilcher to his second wife Bessie,  that this particular rental at 918 Franklin Road,  was $17.50 per month, for the lower floor, which was 4 large rooms and a bathroom) . During this year (Craig and Carl were 2, Vera was 9 and Lela was age 11), Miss Laura developed TYPHOID FEVER. All of her hair fell out๐Ÿ˜ฒ. This same year, Miss Laura experienced her FIRST nervous/mental breakdown. Wilcher Hamilton(her father-in-law who had remarried and now had 4-5 young children), had come to Roanoke from Clifton Forge, to look for housing, visit with his son Walter, and check on Miss Laura. He had tried, in vain, to encourage Miss Laura to come back to Clifton Forge. *Remember that this was also the time of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Miss Laura did her best to protect her babies from the flu.   
In 1921, Laura and family moved to 430 Tazewell Ave. The 2 girls (Lela and Vera) were enrolled in Belmont Elementary School and Commerce Street school, neither of which exists today. Imagine trying to keep up with these almost 2 yr old twins๐Ÿ‘‡! 
In 1922 they moved to 1008 Bullitt Ave. (Wilcher died in 1922, and Laura's father, William Jefferson Trenor died the following year in 1923.)  Walter had changed jobs and was now working as a  part-time collector at the Witten-Blankenship Furniture Co. 
In 1924, the family moved to 316 Day Ave SW. Lela was 16, Vera was 14, Craig and Carl were 7. (Phew! This makes my head swim, thinking about moving this often with this many children! It was not uncommon, however, for people to move around often, especially in this time period. I was told, by my Uncle, however, that the moves came when the rent was due. And there was no money for the rent. Walter had a job, but his DISEASE OF ALCOHOLISM took precedence over his family. While I never saw my Grandfather drink, I heard stories from relatives that 'he drank up the rent money'. WWII letters written by my Dad, pleaded with his father to 'please stop drinking'. That was heartbreaking for me to read. In later years, Miss Laura would hide as many of the 'Spanish American War Veterans benefit checks' as she could, in her underclothes, in hopes of having enough money to provide for her family.  She would find hidden bottles of alcohol and pour them down the drain, to no avail.)
The year,1924 was one of turmoil, turbulence, and trouble. That year Lela, age 16 and the oldest, ran away. She got married, and was gone for 4 years. No one knew where she was.(I pondered many possible scenarios : Was she tired of moving? Was she stubborn and contrary? Had she been abused? Was she fed up with the dysfunction in the family? Did she think that a better life would be had elsewhere? Was she a rebel? Was she exhausted in caring for her Mom and younger siblings? Did she think she could make it on her own? Did she want to be a flapper? Here is a profound article on Runaway Teens I do not know why she ran away! I do know that "The 1920s were regarded as a boisterous era of prosperity, fast cars, jazz, speakeasies, and wild youth. ....The United States began an unprecedented economic boom that produced the ROARING TWENTIES and lasted until the 1929 stock market crash....."  Regardless of the reason, it was a devastating event for her family members that were left behind. Her homecoming 4 years later was a jubilant occasion! She had been entrenched and possibly held captive in a physical/emotional abusive relationship with her now ex-husband. She was fortunate to survive and was welcomed home with open arms. 
During these 4- years, Vera(standing) helped(and was more than likely the major caretaker) Miss Laura with the 'rambunctious' twins(left to right, W.Craig, and Carl C).๐Ÿ‘‡ Great Grandfather, Wilcher, was quoted in a letter as saying: "Laura and Walter are kind but the twins are tough customers and are in meanness from morning til night, and make more noise and confusion than a dozen should make."๐Ÿ˜
The summer months would be a welcome relief for 'Miss Laura', as the twins and Vera would spend time in Sinking Creek, Craig County, Va. It was the perfect place for kids to safely roam, climb trees, bike ride, spend time in nature, and be clothed and fed.  The house belonged to Emeline Shrewsbury Garman, Miss Laura's maternal grandmother(This was also the birthplace of Mary Catherine Garman Trenor, Miss Laura's mother, who died in 1927 at age 65. Miss Laura's Dad, Willie Jefferson Trenor was also born in Craig County. I'm not sure when Mary Catherine and Willie moved to Nace.). Emeline had died in 1921 but family members continued to reside in the farm house pictured below. In the photo are included W.Craig and Carl C, Vera, and an unknown person)
The photo below is Emeline, taken in 1914.
The Sinking Creek area was a preferred destination during the early years for Miss Laura's children, Vera J., W.Craig, and Carl C Hamilton. It was their summer 'home-away-from-home'. ( I remember my Dad and Uncle Craig telling me stories of their biking adventures. Evidently they rode thousands of miles on 'un-adorned', 'no-gears' bikes. Nothing stopped them from going where they wanted to be!)

The year 1930,  the twins turned 13. Vera was 20, and Lela was 22. 

'Miss Laura' developed acute Scarlet/Rheumatic Fever in 1930. This disease can be, and was very serious for 'Miss Laura'. Her fever was extremely elevated. Her sister, Ressie, came in the room where she was bedridden and covered her with a sheet, assuming she had died.(I can't imagine what my dad, uncle, 2 aunts, and grandfather must have experienced๐Ÿ˜ข.)  Her immune system was not what it needed to be, which caused a heart murmur and other long-term health problems. In addition, she experienced her SECOND Nervous/Mental Breakdown.  Depression? Anxiety? Exhaustion? Living with an alcoholic spouse?  (*As I pondered yet another piece of information concerning my Grandmother, I thanked God for top-notch physicians, for mental health providers, and for prescription medicines to treat physical/mental health issues. None of these were available for my grandparents. Her fever and breakdown left my grandmother scarred for the remainder of her life. She endured as many mental issues as physical issues.) 
All 4 children remained at home (316 Day Ave) until at least 1937. They made sure that the rent was paid, and life remained as close to 'normal' as possible. My Grandfather, Walter, was employed part-time, due to health issues. Miss Laura "took in laundry/took in ironing"(This is an old phrase for someone who makes a little income on the side by washing other people's clothes for them and or ironing clothes.)  .*The Roanoke City directories indicate that  Lela worked as a checker at Magic City Launderers; Carl worked as the warehouse manager at Advance Stores and was paid $5.00 a week; Vera was a sales clerk at McLellan Stores;  W.Craig was manager in the parts department at Elliott-Pontiac Co. and was paid $8.00 a week.) The twins also had paper routes in addition to their other jobs.

Fast forward to 1936, her youngest children(WCraig and Carl) joined the Army Reserves. Their involvement required many out of town trips, which added to Miss Laura's WORRY/STRESS LIST.  The trips would eventually lead up to their departure as soldiers in WWII. Indiantown Gap was one of the preparation facilities. Miss Laura's second daughter, Vera,  married in 1939 to Hyatt Evans Bandy. They moved to Shawsville, Va. and then to Martinsville, Va.
Miss Laura's oldest daughter, Lela, married Eugene Earl Mitchell (born in Roanoke, Va  August 14, 1910) in 1944, and moved to the Portsmouth, Va area.(Notes from my interviews with Uncle Craig years ago, state that Lela had moved away from Roanoke, and lived in the Norfolk area with Bessie, Laura’s youngest sister.)
That same year, 1944, Lela and Gene had their first child(Laura and Walter's first grandchild). Eugene Jr , born July 29, 1944, and sadly lived for only 7 months. He died March 25, 1945. He was buried next to this paternal grandparents, Annie Lee Howell Mitchell, and Benjamin L Mitchell in Evergreen Burial Park, Roanoke, Va. The photo below was taken in Roanoke, where my grandparents were living at 316 Day Ave. sometime during that 7 months of baby Eugene Jr's brief life. 
Miss Laura's two twin sons remained in Roanoke (I suspect the boys became Miss Laura's 'life-support', as there was no one else around to help her survived the pitfalls of alcoholism, combined with her on-going mental illness.).  In fact, they remained in the 316 Day Ave house until they were 30 years old. Pictured below are the twins at their home, during a furlough in the Army, in 1943. Their allegiance and adoration for Miss Laura to honor and protect her was undeniably transparent. They loved their Momma! 
The twins married (in 1947 and 1948) within a month of each other. W.Craig did not want to leave Miss Laura alone, and insisted that he, his wife, and son live with his parents until  1949. It was crucial that the rent was paid, and she was not in harms way.
After moving out, Miss Laura and Walter moved to 1705 Melrose Ave. This was also the year that Walter experienced a hemorrhage(No details on what kind) on his construction job. (Imagine the anxiety and fear experienced by everyone. I do not know how long that he was hospitalized) 
Miss Laura and my Grandfather lived with us beginning in late 1952-1953. Pictured below was a joyous Christmas(1953). Oh how Miss Laura loved her grandbabies! I was barely 5 and my younger sister Judy was 3. My cousins W.Craig Jr and Edward Carl were 5 and 2.๐Ÿ‘‡
Miss Laura adored being around young people, always with open arms! Photos below were taken in 1954 and 1955.
In October 1954, my sister Nancy was born. My Grandfather entered the VA hospital in February of 1955 and died in August 1955. Miss Laura stood by and with my Grandfather, Walter, until he died.(such a touching tribute to her husband of 49 years!)
Miss Laura continued to live with us, as well as sharing her living arrangements on a monthly basis with my Dad's twin brother, W.Craig, wife Flora, and my cousins W.Craig, Jr, and Edward Carl. In December 1959, my sister Kathryn Lee, was born. The next several years were demanding, difficult, and crowded, as well as stressful for those responsible for Miss Laura's care. Her declining physical health combined with her undiagnosed mental illness added to the unmanageable scenario. My Dad and Uncle located a boarding home in South Roanoke, on Jefferson Street,  designated for 'elderly' people. I remember my Dad taking me to visit with her. She remained in the home until she sadly became 'unmanageable'. Miss Laura was then admitted to the Staunton Western State Hospital.(The hospital first opened in 1828 and provided a place for the mentally ill. It was known as the "Western State Lunatic Asylum'.) Miss Laura died in Staunton in 1973. 
She and my Grandfather are buried in Evergreen Memorial Park, Roanoke, Va. 
Although I vaguely remember her, I have several treasured items that belonged to Miss Laura: A patchwork quilt, a gold cross, her bedroom furniture, and the special rocking chair where she rocked her precious babies. (I can only assume that the rocker and furniture originated from Walter's place of employment, Reams, Jones & Blankenship Furniture Store. The gold cross is adorned with a new gold chain. No doubt, this was a gift, as there was no money for extraneous purchases. The patchwork quilt is used under my Christmas Tree.. Miss Laura repurposed worn out garments, even in her failing eyesight.)
"Miss Laura, you are gone, but not forgotten. You will always be a part of me. Thank you for your unwritten words."
"You would be so very proud of your children. They were as different and unique as night and day, but loved and supported each other until the day they departed. 1993 was the last year that all 4 of your babies were together": 
I can only imagine the stories that were shared amongst these 4 characters! ๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿ‘†๐Ÿ‘‡
"Miss Laura, You would have loved to have watched all of your 4 children's children (your 7 Grandchildren) grow up!" (Photo taken in 2007)๐Ÿ‘‡
"AND your  11 Great-grandchildren!" ๐Ÿ‘‡

"AND all of your Great-great-grandchildren! "