Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Happy Birthday Gr. Gr. Grandfather John

My great, great grandfather was born on this day (Oct. 3) 1843 in Illinois. I never met him, but Grandma often talked about him. One of the various stories was that he would get caught with his eyes closed during church services. He said he was just resting his eyes, but the others had heard him snoring.

The Fowler Christian Church where John Riley Keith and family attended service.

John Riley Keith married Nancy Ann Thompson in 1864. They stayed in Illinois for a few years before taking their young family to southwestern Kansas not far from notorious Dodge City.

These tintypes were given to me by my grandma Jennie. I believe they are Nancy Ann and John Riley Keith around their wedding time. The speckled appearance on John's believed photo is bits of plastic. They had been stored in a plastic/vinyl folder like notecards come in, and the plastic had melted onto the tintype. I consulted a photo archivist and he said it would be best to leave it alone. 

They had five children, Charles, Laura, Cora, Nellie (my great grandmother) and Willard, the only one born in Kansas. Nellie told of walking a good part of the way just as other stories about wagon trains reported.

They lived in dugouts in what is still known as Keith Canyon, now part of a large pasture.

Keith Canyon and the remains of the dugouts built around 1884. Photo taken 1990.

In 1895, a state census was taken in Kansas. Besides the usual information on the inhabitants of each household, agricultural information was listed. Part of John's list included one acre planted in Irish potatoes and one acre in sweet potatoes. He had 1500 lbs. of cheese made, 200 lbs.of butter made, three horses, 7 milk cows, 13 cattle, 1 horse died before March 1, 1885, and 1 dog.

John was a stonemason and built many buildings in the surrounding counties. He also built the Keith house in Fowler, Kansas where my sister was born 100 years after John Riley. 

The Keith House in Fowler. John Riley is with the wheelbarrow on the site of his brick making lot. The building is the Keith house which I visited in 1990. It was in terrible condition to the point I couldn't bring myself to take photos of the inside. 


John died in 1915 and is buried next to his wife in Graceland Cemetery in Meade, Kansas. Nancy
Ann had died in 1910. 

John lived a long life and left his mark on the land.
Just like thousands of other hard working pioneers
he is only remembered in a few documents, and
through family stories and research.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Love You, Arizona

 The official balladeer of Arizona, Dolan Ellis, has a song titled, "I Love You, Arizona." Is is a fun song about lizards and the beauty and diversity of this state.

I was reminded of this while sorting through some old photos. Here's a tour of Arizona and my memory land:

Montezuma Castle taken in the early 1970s.

Zane Grey's Cabin taken around 1981. This was the original which has since burned down. There is now a replica in Payson.

The tallest three-story building in the world. The old Elks building in Globe, Arizona. The story is there were left over bricks so the contractor just kept going. It was built in 1910.

A model of the Bird Cage Theatre in the Bird Cage Theatre, Tombstone, Arizona. I took this during my dollhouse/miniature phase, but I still think it's cool. Built in 1881 it is now a world famous museum.

Taliesin West, built by Frank Lloyd Wright and home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is in north Scottsdale. It is an amazing place where artists still live and display their work.

The House of Joy is located in the old mining town of Jerome. It is first a brothel and then a restaurant. Now a shop called the Brothel Botique.

The Superstition Mountains in the 1970s. Home to numerous legends including the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. Many have lost their lives in the treacherous terrain.

Hope you enjoyed the little tour.

Sometimes we just have to be reminded how wonderful our own backyard can be. I know people who live here who have never seen many of these places. I feel lucky I have.

Others I've seen are:

The Grand Canyon
San Xavier
Sedona and Red Rocks
BioSphere 2
Pima Air and Space Museum

Here are a few I still want to see:

Kitt Peak Nationa Observatory
Meteor Crater
The Painted Desert
Mount Lemon
Lake Havasu and the London Bridge
Lowell Observatory
The Butterfly Wonderland
Yuma Prison

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Books have always been a big part of my life. Children's books at home, including the Little Golden books, and later visits to the public library in my hometown. The children's library was in the basement but a special part of it with its own entrance. It was a wonderful old place with nooks for different levels. The Nancy Drews were all together in an alcove behind an arched entry way. The smell of that library tickles at my memory.

My great grandmother, Nellie, must have had a great love of books. She became a teacher for a short time. Here she is (center) on a school outing in the hills of southwestern Kansas.

This distinguished gentleman is her uncle. I've always liked this photo for some reason. Perhaps it's the book.

Next in line is my grandmother, Jennie. This photo is the all-time favorite of the whole family.

Here I am with Natalie Goldberg, an author who has inspired and influenced my writing career. My daughter always loved books. We had a disagreement over who would keep the Little Golden Books when she moved out. I still have some of them. Smokey the Bear was always my favorite. 

It's been interesting to find the photos of my family with books over the years. I believe books will always be with us. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Paranormal Experiences

As with many others my family has become interested in paranormal investigation. I look forward to trying new or visiting prior locations when I head to Washington.

These are my favorite tools: a digital recorder and a SB-7 or Spirit Box which scans radio frequencies to give spirits a way to speak.

I was walking through one of the cemeteries when I saw this jar. I was talking about it and trying to decide what it most looked like when a voice came through giving its own view.

I also heard this female voice:

What do you hear?

Here's my daughter in another location taking photographs.

This is the back of a hotel I stayed in.

I'm still listening to the recordings. It takes a lot of time to go through this kind of audio. Someday I'll have a good video camera. And there is always more to learn.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Smoky Week

I just haven't been able to get into writing my blog this trip. Sometimes we just need breaks.

The smoke here in the Yakima Valley of south central Washington has kept us inside most of the time. One night ash fell and covered the ground and cars. It was eerie. It made the moon a bright red.

Here are a few photos from my time here:

The boys have birthdays in the fall so while I'm here I put on a "pretend" birthday 
party to share in some of the fun. 
Chocolate Cake!!

I also take each boy out for Grammy Day. We go to lunch at Red Lobster and then sometimes a bit of shopping. So I had two of my favorite foods in one week: snow crab and chocolate cake. Mmmm

One morning the smoke cleared a bit so Jessica and I went to downtown
Yakima so I could shoot some photos for a possible article. 

The Capitol Theatre burned in the early 1900s and was completely rebuilt. It is gorgeous.

A military memorial I need to research.

Back to school. Yes, I also got to celebrate my favorite time of year with the boys: Back To School. I love all the supplies. I made sure they are stocked up and added a few things to my stash.

Another somewhat clear morning we went to visit Doug's great grandparents. 

Joseph and Mary Jane Remley came to Washington around 1850.

Three more days here. It's always bittersweet. I want to get home, but I'll hate to leave.

I way lying in bed the other night and made a mental 
list of some of the things I miss (besides the obvious)

my own bed with all my blankets and pillows 
my work space 
 the quiet of being alone all day
my friends
my writing groups
Barnes & Noble (there aren't any bookstores here)
my essential oil diffuser/mister
my art supplies

Okay, I'll say it: My hubby and my dog.

Praying for the firefighters, families, animals, and the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Days One and Two

I'm sitting in Bliss, Idaho, which isn't. It's just a couple of hotels, a market/cafe and a few other things. People must have loved it here once.

It's been a very long and hot two days. It seems that traffic has been heavier 
and slower than usual. I have made a few quick stops for photos so here's a brief tour.

Flat Stanley near Kingman, Arizona the home of actor Andy Devine.

The view from most of the way through Arizona and Nevada.
The long and dusty road. 

The view above was on the west side of the road north of Las Vegas and the view below was on the east. So amazing how the road, known as the Great Basin Highway is so different on each side. Makes me wish I knew more about geology. 

Of course, there was road construction. I sat staring at the back of this truck for about 20 minutes. We were on the northern end of Caliente, Nevada. At one point an ambulance and police cruiser tried to get around us and on up the highway. The ambulance made it, but the cruiser had a hard time because that was just when the pilot car brought the long line of cars from the other end.

The police car made it through and then when we got just a couple of miles north they were coming back with no lights so thankfully it wasn't a big emergency.

Now imagine this. I was five or six cars back in the line following the pilot car. The road was all gravel ready to be paved and that went on for many miles. (One of these days I will remember to make note of exact times and distances in these circumstances.) Anyway, just a little ways along we passed a few trucks and a couple of construction guys standing around talking. There wasn't any  other equipment on the highway and nothing being done. 

Se we go along following the pilot car like a train first on the right lane and then swerving over to the left lane. I could see the train following far behind. After awhile the pilot car would go back to the right lane and the train would follow. He did that about eight times before we got to where he turned around and we were allowed to find our own way along the newly paved highway. 

As we passed the pilot car I looked right at the driver and raised my hands like "What the heck?" I'm sure he saw me but I couldn't see him. I really think he was just having fun with us. 

It brought home to me how programmed we are. Just follow the leader. 

I finally made it to the old mining town of Pioche, Nevada and the haunted Overland Hotel. (For more about that look for the past episode of "Ghost Adventures.")

I had the same room I had before with this fake head on the wall. I thought Flat Stanley 
should have his photo taken again. 

I also took a photo of my other traveling companions. My key chain owls.

For some reason my left ankle swelled up so I didn't do much walking around town. I did 
find this cool rock house back behind the hotel. 

It's hard to imagine a whole family living there. 

Just into Idaho I passed this amazing scene. I couldn't get close enough to get a decent 
photo but there is a large lake and a number of waterfalls. This is at 1000 Springs Resort. 
The resort itself seemed to be pretty much closed down.

So here I am a few miles from that beautiful site in Bliss, Idaho. There is a lot of smoke 
from some of the wildfires. Tomorrow I will cross into Oregon and head north to central 
Washington. The fires there are really bad and my family can't even go outside. 

Who knows what adventures lie ahead. Thank you for joining me along the way. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

On The Road Again, Almost

Summer is almost over and I'm getting ready for my yearly trek up North.

The first order of business is to prepare my Moleskine travel journal. I so love these and 
when I get a moment I will get a picture of all of them sitting on a shelf. I'm not sure how many 
there are, but quite a few. 

The most important part is a safe pocket for Flat Stanley. 
This year he has a title: Tour Guide.

It's funny when I start packing my art supplies each year. There is always some change. This year I am traveling light. I hope. That's the plan. I will have some stickers, scissors, watercolor paints, colored pencils, washi tape, glue stick, and a few other odds and ends. 

The biggest addition is my adult coloring book. I'm loving it. If you are on FB you've probably noticed that I'm not the only one. Sometimes I take my laptop and journal and go work in the cafe at Barnes & Noble. They have had an end-cap right next to where I set and it stops just about everybody, men and women. It is so wonderful to see so many people thinking about dipping into their creativity, and dealing with some stress. 

Back to the trip. I will be taking my grandsons on some walks and doing other activities. I always have a composition book for each of us for gluing in things we find, writing, and drawing some of the things we see. We also do collage and whatever else I can come up with. 

I'll soon be on the road again. 

Are you finishing up the summer with some special adventures? Please share.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Clan Keith

My great niece has taken an avid interest in our genealogy since visiting a Scottish Clan Gathering. 
She traced down a few of our Keith ancestors on line and has been appalled at the state of some of the cemeteries in Find-a-Grave on the Internet. 

I thought I'd share a few more from pictures distant cousins have sent me over the years.

The first is Abner Keith. He is my fourth great grandfather and was born in Pennsylvania in 1778. He died and is buried in Perry County, Illinois in 1866. He served in the "Cornstalk" militia in Kentucky in 1803. 

 He is buried in the Nine Mile Baptist Church shown below. 

Abner was married to Magdalena Hunsaker. She passed away young and is buried in another county.
Their grandson, John Riley Keith married Nancy Ann Thompson. Many members of her family are buried in this cemetery including her grandmother, Margaret Norton Thompson who was born in 1784 in South Carolina and died in 1857. She married James Thompson who died in 1861.

This is James' sister, Martha Jane Thompson, who died at age 19. So many people died young in those days.

The files I can get to right now don't show who this is and I don't have time to search the records down. I'm putting it in to show the bad state of these stones.

The Keith's can be traced back to Alexander Keith who was born in Scotland 
around 1661 and immigrated to Maryland. 

I'm always excited to have younger generations get interested in our family history. 
I know all the work will be saved. 

Now I need to make sure it is in better state than it is.