Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Baseball Story

By Karen Utter Jennings

            What can you find when you research old family photos, old high school yearbooks and old newspapers?  You can find a great family history story.  Old photos may hold clues to where and how your family lived and what they did for recreation.  My dad, Ronald Utter, and his brother, Wayne Utter, played baseball or softball during their high school years at Rocky Comfort, Missouri.  I found many pictures of them in the old Rocky yearbooks.  After graduation, they played for local town teams in Rocky Comfort and Wheaton, Missouri.  I’m lucky to have their ball pictures in my photo collection.
            In one of the photos, Dad is wearing his ball uniform and holding his ball glove during the summer of 1953.  When I asked him about the photo, a smile spread across his face as he remembered that time long ago.  He said on the back of his jersey is “Nu Grape” and his ball glove was a Phil Rizzuto.  Rizzuto debuted in the major leagues in 1941 with the New York Yankees.  Rizzuto claimed the MVP in 1950 and won the Babe Ruth Award in 1951.  He was a five time All Star Selection, seven time World Series Champion and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. 
            I researched the history of baseball and found that prior to the Civil War, baseball, known as town ball, was played in the New England States.   In the 1860s, baseball expanded into a national game and the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) formed.   By the end of the War, there were almost 100 baseball clubs in the NABBP.  That number grew to over 400 clubs by 1867 and that year the championship went to the Chicago White Stockings, which later became the Chicago White Sox.  Baseball was on its way to prominence in national sports.
            Through the years, baseball and softball has evolved into a mighty pastime with Americans.  From the National and American Leagues all the way down to the little summer teams, the game is one of America’s favorites.
             My brother Bill Utter, found newspaper articles from the old Wheaton Journal (now on DVD) about the ball teams in Rocky and Wheaton.  Dad said they won more games than they lost and the articles back up his stories.  My grandfather, Perry Utter, owned the Conoco Station in downtown Rocky Comfort, Missouri and managed the Rocky Comfort Conoco team in 1953.  Dad pitched for the team that summer with the team composed of Wheaton and Rocky boys.
            Another photo in the family collection is the 1957 Rocky Comfort town team.  With the help of my dad and Jerry Payne, a family friend, the team members are identified as Noble Flaxbeard, Carl Richmond, Wayne Utter, Donnie Richmond, J.W. “Dub” Johnson, John Howerton, Stanley Ford, Ronald Utter, Dale Lee Flaxbeard, Donnie Dyer, and Dale Richmond.  Max Ford and Jerry Kerr were just youngsters back in 1957, but they are proudly posing with the team.
            While you are researching your family history, remember those old photos may lead you to great stories that otherwise might never be found. And learning more about an interesting topic, can add wonderful detail to a single photograph. Such is the case of my family’s baseball photos. I wish you luck in finding your family history… 

Cemetery Family History Research

Writing in the Ozarks.....FAMILY RESEARCH IN CEMETERIES by Karen Utter Jennings

            A favorite thing for family researchers to do is visit cemeteries where their family members are buried. In my early childhood, I grew up visiting cemeteries with my parents and grandparents. But not long after I began my genealogy journey, I discovered a few new cemeteries where many more family members are buried.
Before you go to cemeteries to do research there are some items you should gather. Include a flashlight, paper and pen, a measuring tape, old brushes, rags, a jug of clean water, children’s sidewalk chalk, and a spray bottle with a mixture of ammonia and water. Don’t forget your camera and wear appropriate clothing. Sturdy walking shoes are a must and if it is hot weather, a sunhat might come in handy. I usually throw in my hoe, just in case I meet up with a snake!
When you drive to a cemetery, write down the directions so you can tell others how to get there. Also write down the direction and distance of the graves you find so you can easily find them again. You may want to take note of any large and unique gravestones nearby. Record all the information found on the stones and take note of any symbols that might be used.
If the gravestones are very old, you may not be able to read the inscription easily. Use the sidewalk chalk to rub over the lettering. This will make the letters pop out and can be read better. If lichens are playing havoc on the stones, spray the ammonia on them and wait a few minutes. Usually, after a little bit of time they can be removed by using the brushes to brush them off.
Be sure to take measurements of the gravestones and take lots of pictures. Take note of the sun and make sure the glare does not block any portion of the headstones. You may want to sketch the layout of the graves you find.
            There is an Utter family plot down at the Owsley Union Cemetery, south of Longview and north of Powell on 76 Highway in McDonald County.  That is where my paternal great, great-grandparents, David Jefferson and Christina Utter are buried. I found it easily. It is old, but the caretakers do a great job keeping it neat and clean. I had no idea where the Utter plot was located, so I started on the far left front and walked the rows.  Along the way, I was enthralled with the old and new tombstones.  Ancient and modern are mixed together. 
            While walking the rows, I saw the graves of many people from the Rocky Comfort area.  I took pictures of their stones to put with my collection of Rocky Comfort information.  Eventually, I found the Utter family plot.  There are about 30 graves located there.  David and Christina Utter are located in the middle of the family plot.  Their double stone is about four feet high and on a base.  
            There are many field stones marking graves in one of the rows. I need to speak with Retha Mitchell, the Pineville Librarian, and ask to see the Owsley Union plot index to the cemetery so maybe I can figure out who are buried there.
            Another aspect of cemetery research is learning what the symbols on the gravestones.
We will learn more about symbols in another future column.
            A word of caution: when you go sleuthing in cemeteries, please do not go alone.  It is really best to go with a buddy. Always make sure you have enough gas in your vehicle, carry your cell phone with you, and always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to come back.
Be prepared; weather plays a huge part in cemetery research. Sudden thunderstorms can be dangerous. Be alert to your surroundings and always watch for snakes in the summertime. Keep track of your time and stay with your time constraints. Happy hunting!