The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Kerby

Look at that fox!

When a photographer came around in the early 1900s, people gathered themselves together and got their picture made quickly while the opportunity presented itself. My grandmother told me about the day a photographer made this photo of her parents, Minnie Viola Russell and Andrew Ethelbert Kerby. They saw the photographer coming up the road while out in their yard on Trade Street in Florence, Alabama around 1923. Not dressed up for pictures they hurriedly put on a jacket and a fox stole. My grandmother, Marie, was particularly fond of this picture. She would laugh every time she looked at it.It was a little perplexing to me to see that around my great-grandmother‘s neck. I wasn’t used to seeing animals fur with the head still on it.

I remember seeing the fox stole, I think my Aunt Irene had it. I thought it was pretty morbid — head and all! I wonder if anyone else has a picture of their ancestors with a fox stole? Well, needless to say the picture  is a keepsake to me!

Minnie Viola Russell Kerby and Andrew Ethelbert Kerby 1923

Minnie Viola Russell Kerby and Andrew Ethelbert Kerby 1923

Hey Kerby cousins out there… do you have any more info on the fox stole?


The famous factory in Florence…

was sometimes referred to as Florence Wagon Works. It was also called Florence Wagon Factory. Regardless of what it was called, it was the second largest manufacturer of wagons. Business in the wagon factory was booming until that Henry Ford had to spoil things. I would suppose that the glue factory may have had an uptick at the demise of the wagon which would have been horse-drawn. Consider this, had there been no Henry Ford, there would likely be no reliance on OPEC for oil today.

Please aid in identifying these fine gentlemen of the Florence Wagon Works in the photo. Third from left of those seated is Chester Kerby. Who are the others? The photo is vintage 1915 and was published in the Florence Herald.

Florence Wagon Works


Pretty ribbons, pretty paper…

of blue; wrap your presents to your darling from you were lyrics to one of her favorite songs. Her favorite color was blue. Her favorite people were her grandchildren. She lived a lonely life alone for most of her adult years. But when

My Darling Kim 1964

My Darling Kim 1964

she died she left a hole in the hearts of four grandchildren: Kim, Gary, Mark and Julie. She left them behind with only her memories; she left little of monetary value but that mattered little to them. 

What she left was mostly pictures that were valued beyond gold that were left to be treasured. And every card that her granddaughter had sent to her or given her was stacked and tied together. That was a tender moment watching her as she held that stack. The biggest treasure for her granddaughter was the little photo of her when she was born that Mammy had written “Darling Kim” on it.

Mammy was Marie Kerby Wright. The photo with the three adults leaves us to wonder, just who is that handsome man dressed to the nines and who is so suave and debonaire in the photo? On the left is Marie Kerby’s brother-in-law Jimmy Marks. In the middle is Marie Kerby all petite and young. And her sister Irene Kerby Marks took the photo as her shadow can be seen in the photo as she held the camera.  But the gentleman on the right is not identified. Could it be a Butler who lived nearby? Perhaps, a Butler descendant can answer that question and solve that puzzle for us. The  photograph is vintage 1944 or 1945 and the photo was taken at Seven Points in Florence, Alabama.


What is the difference between a wooden pencil and a nice fountain pen?

The difference is huge to the child receiving the gift of the wooden pencils while their sister receives the nice fountain pens. Huge. The same is true with broken dolls for the twin of the favored grandchild.

Catherine E Ruth Jones Kerby has been so elusive, but finally we found a photo of her. The story of the  pens and

Grandmother Ruth Kerby

pencils and porcelain dolls follows as great-great-grandchild, Kimberly Ricketts recounts the story told of Grandmother Ruth Kerby:

My Great-Aunts (twins Irene and Pauline) told a story about “Grandmother Kerby” and the Christmas dolls. Andrew, Ruth’s son, (my G-Grandfather) had a stroke when he was still a young man which made it hard for him to make a living for his family.

He was a painter by trade (Wagon Works in Florence had him listed as an employee – even though the girls never remembered him working there) and did some gardening and painting, but after his stroke around 1909 (in TX) he was forced to relocate back to his “home” near his family.

Andrew’s wife, Minnie, was pregnant with the twins during their journey back home. Apparently, Richard Marshall Kerby and his wife Ruth gave Andrew’s family their previous home (they had lived there on Trade Street since about 1883.) Back then families took care of each other the best they could.

Grandmother Ruth, according to the twins and my grandmother, was snobby and thought she was better than Minnie’s family. She would get on to Pauline for playing and eating turnips in the garden with “little negro” neighbors. She told them they were “blue – blood” and should keep themselves neat and proper at all times.

She would make a difference between the twins and Minnie didn’t appreciate it. She would mail the kids gifts and would always send Irene the nicest gift. Irene was her favorite (Pauline explained to me when she was in her nineties, that Irene was a “suck up” when it came to Grandmother Kerby.)

When their grandfather died Grandmother Ruth left Florence, AL to live with a daughter in Warrior, AL. She would continue to send Irene nice fountain pens, while sending Pauline wooden pencils. One Christmas Grandmother sent all of the children gifts that were wrapped and tagged neatly.

Pauline decided that even though she couldn’t see the gifts she knew Irene’s was the nicest. So, she switched the name tags on their gifts. Much to Irene’s chagrin on Christmas she opened a doll that had a flat head and crooked eyes. Pauline of course opened a beautiful doll with eyes that opened and closed. Pauline’s doll had a beautifully shaped head and was much superior to the doll Irene had received.

Later that year Grandmother Kerby came to visit. The twins would imitate the “blue-blood” attitude that Grandmother exuded when telling this story. Irene remembered her coming into town in a wagon. After Grandmother got settled, she asked all of the girls to get out the dolls she had sent them. She was going to inspect them to see if they had taken good care of them. If they were in perfect shape, Grandmother told them, “she had brought some beautiful cloth to make their dolls a dress.”

Grandmother was mortified when Irene ran to bring her doll to her. Grandmother says, “Irene this is not YOUR doll, this is Pauline’s.” Pauline and Irene’s mother,Minnie, stepped in and told her that if she couldn’t get them the same gifts, then she should get them nothing at all.

All my life I will never forget the twins different versions of this story. Each Christmas I asked the twins to tell us all the story of Grandmother Kerby and the Christmas dolls.

 Pauline and Irene Kerby were born in 1910, so they would have no memory of their father’s work at the Wagon Factory if the date of his stroke is correct at 1909.


Picture perfect…

was the day this photograph ca 1930 was made. Minnie Viola Russell who was married to Andrew Ethelbert Kerby and her family lived in Florence; and on this day all but one daughter would be pictured with their mother. Those little twins lived into their nineties. Irene was the soft voiced one and seemed be the mother figure to others though childless; studied and down-to-earth is how she might be described. Pauline, on the other hand, well, was Pauline. She was talkative and never met a stranger. Much to her dismay as she aged her hearing became less acute and that must have been frustrating for her.

The twins and their younger sister, Marie, would sing on the radio in their youth. And, oh how you would love to hear these two little petite dynamos talk of their childhood, of their courting years, and about the close knit family life they lived at home with their Mama and Papa. One story Pauline could tell in her adulthood for then there was no fear of getting in to trouble, had to do with dolls that she and Irene received from a relative that Pauline thought favored Irene juuussst a little bit. Pauline unwrapped Irene’s doll enough to see that the porcelain face was cracked. So, little miss priss went about re-wrapping the doll and…

exchanging the gift tag with the one on her package. So on Christmas, when presents were unwrapped, Pauline was happy with her perfect doll.

Pauline was the contest winning queen back in her day. She won lots of prizes and really nice things like a boat, a car, and washer and dryers. She had a method to the contests and she was good at her hobby. It was Irene who was the keeper of the memories and treasures of the family. At Irene’s death she still had the original trundle bed that all her mother’s children were born on over a span of a hundred years even at that point in time, a pump organ, and an antique view finder with all the scenes on cards still with it. And, that is not even to mention all the treasures of family photos over the years.

By the way, you don’t believe that Harriet and Barbara middle name stuff, do you? The twins felt left out because they had no middle names, so they adopted the names of their favorite Kerby relatives for their middle names. Thus, Irene Harriet Kerby and Pauline Barbara Kerby were born. These little ladies were a delight to be around. The last time they attended the Sweetwater event was when their great grand-niece took them. They were the hit of the event that year. They grew up near Sweetwater, so it was always special to them.

Minnie Viola Russell Kerby and Daughters


Brunette “Nettie” Kerby

was beloved by her family and was a friend and colleague of Maud Lindsay.

Brunette "Nettie" Kerby Walters

Fondly referred to as “Aunt Nettie” by my grandmother is my great-grandfather (Andrew Ethelbert Kerby’s) sister. She and her siblings were reared in Dixon Springs, TN. Her parents were married shortly after the Civil War. Her father, Richard Marshall Kerby, was in the 8th TN Infantry Co. A during the war.  His unit saw action in most of the big battles of the Tennessee arena. In a book entitled the History of  Trousdale County, (Tennessee) a letter was published which was written the morning after the Battle at Chickamauga which mentioned “Marshall”. It was a letter written from a son (Daniel Burford) to his mother (Ms. Ward) which were neighbors of R.M. Kerby’s family. One of the Kerbys had been killed during the battle (I believe he was a cousin of R.M.’s ) and Daniel asked his mother to reassure “Mr. Kerby” (Francis Kerby, R.M.’s father) that Marshall was alright.

Shortly after returning home Richard Marshall married Catherine (Caron) Ruth Jones and they raised a large family there in Dixon Springs. A letter was written from R.M. to his sister, Medora Kerby Fergusson, in 1883 telling about his move from Dixon Springs to Florence, Alabama. R.M. and his children had intended to move to Texas but were wearied by their trip. They found a desirable place just “north of South Pittsburgh” (Sheffield)”along the Tennessee River.”  His family settled into Florence, Alabama during its boom in the 1880s.

Several of Richard Marshall Kerby’s relatives were school teachers, some were of the most prominent in the earliest schools in Florence.One of these teachers was R.M.’s daughter, Brunette, who taught at the famous Maud Lindsay’s Free-Kindergarten in Florence. She lived on N. Walnut Street, near the parking lot of the new Florence Public Library. I can just imagine her immaculate, warm, cozy home full of the best southern hospitality. I discovered an article that my Aunt Irene Kerby Marks had clipped and placed in her scrapbook. I thought you might enjoy it. It was from the Florence Times but I do not know the date on which it appeared.