Thursday, January 12, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: 1937 Diary Found in Local Dairy Barn

Yesterday, an employee at my place of work brought me a five-year diary she found in an old barn her family owns near Lingleville, Texas:

Inside the front cover is the name of its previous owner, Betty Goodwin of Philipp, Mississippi.  Inside are some entries for 1937 (Betty did not write every day and stopped making entries on March 7), as well as some lists of names and a few birth dates near the end.  The question was - who is Betty Goodwin, and how did her 1937 diary written in Mississippi end up in Texas?

I read through all the entries in the diary and noted locations mentioned.  Betty had also put her own month and day of birth in the birthdays list, so I knew she was born on May 30.

A search in with her name, that date, a guess for birth year of 1925 (plus or minus five years), and Philipp, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, as a location for any event in her life, brought up an entry in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, for an Elizabeth Whitten Goodwin, born May 30, 1921, in Coffeeville, Mississippi.  Her father was listed as James L. Goodwin and her mother as Fannie Whitten (hence the middle name).

I was able to find Betty in Philipp on both the 1930 Census and the 1940 Census at  Betty was an only child, and was born late in her parents' lives.  Her father, a salesman in a retail general store, was about 50 when she was born, and her mother was somewhere between 42 and 49.

I used Google Maps to map Coffeeville, Philipp, and all the other places mentioned in the diary:

This made me feel pretty confident that Elizabeth Whitten Goodwin was the same person as Betty Goodwin.  She would have been 15 when she started writing in this diary.  Now the next step was to try to figure out how the diary wound up in a dairy barn in Texas.

The Social Security application indicated that in December 1941, her name was listed as Elizabeth Whitten Goodwin.  However, in October 1952, her name was listed as Elizabeth Goodwin Walker, so my guess was that she married about that time.  I did some more searches in both and, adding in the last name of Walker, and learned that Betty had at least one daughter who was born in Texas.  I found the daughter on Facebook, and from there learned that Betty had at least one granddaughter (who attended the university where I work), and at least two grandsons.  None of them are named here, because they are all still alive.  I was not able to find more about Betty's husband, because his name is fairly common.  It is possible he is still alive, so he is also not named here.

The Social Security application, however, told me Betty passed away on May 16, 1995.  Further searches in Ancestry found her in the Texas Death Index, having died in Tarrant County (Fort Worth area).  That's not too far from Lingleville.  A search in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in a database available at my university, found Betty's death notice, on May 19, 1995, in the Final AM edition, Metro section, page 35.  It indicated that she was 73 when she died in a Fort Worth hospital (she would have turned 74 in 11 more days), and was a retired civil service employee.  It also indicated there would be a graveside service at Skyvue Memorial Gardens in Fort Worth.

There is a minimal entry for Betty in FindAGrave, but the date of birth is incorrect there, and there is (currently) no photo of the marker, if one even exists.  I've sent in some edits and requested a photo.

A little more research uncovered the fact that Betty's daughter lived in the Lingleville area for a while, from at least 2000 to at least 2009, and operated a dairy while she was here.  When I presented my research to the employee that found the diary, she confirmed that a woman had leased the dairy barn and operated a small dairy around that time.

The employee who shared the diary especially liked these last two pages, where 15-year-old Betty wrote about her cats:

© Amanda Pape - 2017 - click here to e-mail me.

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