It’s Sentimental Sunday and this daily blogging prompt allows genealogy bloggers a chance to focus on a sentimental story or memory about an ancestor, or a wonderful family tradition.
I had the pleasure of visually introducing my maternal grandfather, Joseph Chapple, to the World Wide Web community on Wordless Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Joseph is the son of Louis and Carrie Blanton Chapple. He was born in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas on June 2, 1902.
Even though he was born in the city of Eagle Lake, according to the April 1910 United Stated Federal Census, at age 7.5, he was living at 1609 Saulnier Street in Houston’s 4th Ward – Freedman’s Town community with his parents. Joseph’s baby brother, Lewis, was born October 19, 1910, but died a month later from lung complications. Baby Lewis’ death certificate indicates that his death took place at the family’s home at 815 Schwartz Street in Houston’s 5th Ward community. It is this death certificate that confirms the year, Grandpa Chapple came to live, work, and raise his family until his death in this area of Houston.
According to the Social Security application Joseph filed on March 12, 1937 below, he was employed by Texas & Northern Railway as a Blacksmith Helper at the Englewood Yard, one of the largest Hump yards in the United States. He worked as a Blacksmith Helper for many years. But when the older white gentleman he worked with retired, he applied for the position but his application was denied. The reason they gave for turning him down was — a Blacksmith was a white man’s job! So instead of the company recognizing him as a competent and experienced Blacksmith, they decided to bring in some white college graduates to do the job. They also expected Joseph to teach them everything he knew and show them the ropes. Well, teaching them everything he knew and showing them the ropes wasn’t going to happen and as a result of his defiance, the company shut the Blacksmith shop down. That wasn’t a problem for him because he simply transferred to the Creosote Yard and began treating the cross-ties of train tracks. He continued in the Creosote Yard until he fell off of a ladder, while working on the garage apartment he built , and broke his back. This fall eventually resulted in him retiring from the railroad industry. According to the letter I received from the Railroad Retirement Board in 1994, Joseph had put in 111 service months prior to 1937, and continued working in the industry until 1958. Then he retired and drew his Railroad Retirement until his death.
Joseph met, fell in love, and married Estella Smith. I’m not sure when they met, or how they met. It is possible that their paths crossed on a regular basis because they grew up and lived in the 5th Ward community. It is also possible that they met by association, because Estella’s father, Richard Smith, worked at the same railroad yard Joseph did for many years too. Regardless of how they met, they married and from that union came 6 births — 2 miscarriages and 4 children – Ella Louise, Joseph Lee, Estella, and my mom, Carrie. Unfortunately at age 26, Estella died from Tuberculosis on July 30, 1930, and left Joseph with 4 young children to raise. With the help of his beloved mother, Carrie Blanton Chapple, all of the kids grew up happy and healthy despite the lost of their mother.
When I ask family members to recall their fondest memories of Joseph, this is what they had to say:
“He had a wonderful sense of humor!”
“He was noted by the community for being a very reliable and honest man.”
“He sure did love his mother.”
“He was an excellent cook!”
“He was trustworthy and a man of his word.”
Grandpa Joseph Chapple was indeed a favorite of mine and his death on August 23, 1966 was very sudden! He died 28 days before my 7th birthday and the week before his death, we spent an afternoon together eating cotton candy. Actually, he introduced me to this sugary treat and then spent the whole time laughing at me as I complained and pouted about how the stuff melted in my mouth before I had a chance to chew and enjoy it. Today when I see a bag of cotton candy, I’m reminded of my wonderful last day with Grandpa Joseph Chapple!
If you have a — Joseph Chapple — falling out your family tree (especially if he’s a native Texan and lived in Houston) let me hear from you because – I’m Claiming Kin!