Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

“V” — Virginia is for Lovers–Lovers of Mountains, Beaches, History, Gardens, and Family!

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I was born and reared in Richmond, Virginia. My Mom’s family lived in Virginia since the beginning of our country, literally, in Jamestown! I think I’ve identified at least twenty ancestors who were present in Jamestown. Through my genealogical work, I even discovered that one of my great-great grandfathers designed and helped build the Capital building of Colonial Williamsburg, and the Governors’s Palace! Fast forward to the 1950’s and ’60’s in Richmond, with my Mom working in downtown Richmond, I was often left at the capital building of Virginia to tour and wait for her to finish work. Sometimes I was left at the State library, or one of the many museums! Mom was sneaky that way…absorb a little history and education while you cool your heels! LOL One thing I absorbed, was the beauty of downtown Richmond–the old churches and all the public buildings, it is just lovely. When we went up this week to see some of the Historic Garden Week homes and gardens, seeing the city through the eyes of my friend, brought the pride back of growing up in Richmond, with its Monument Avenue, fan district, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Everywhere I looked there were stories, family stories, historic stories, and personal stories. Parades, celebrations, the department stores with their grand windows, all that came flooding back!

My Dad’s family was from Petersburg, where we toured the gardens, some of which I showed you in my T for Tour of Two Gardens post. There’s more I want to share, but today, I think I’ll concentrate on Richmond. I just want to share some of my favorite pictures, and show off some of my favorite sites in my home town.

We drove in from Midlothian and over the Huguenot Bridge into the city, just as my family did many, many days from our home on the South side of the bridge, to visit my Mom at her office on Cary Street when we were young, later downtown at 10th Street and Main Street, in the financial district.  Crossing the James River on the Huguenot Bridge brings you right up the hill past the lovely Country Club of Virginia where my sister had her wedding reception, and across from the stately old homes .

On the way to the lovely Virginia Museum of Art in downtown Richmond, we toured our friend from North Carolina around town. First step a drive down Monument Avenue with the accompanying stories of the statues facing north and south and their meaning. We had to drive her through Capital Square to show off our beautiful State Capital building designed by Thomas Jefferson. Then of course, the Jefferson Hotel itself with its grand staircase! We passed through the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University and the Medical College of Virginia, admired the architecture of small and large city houses, and admired the numerous old churches of all faiths.

Historical information from richmondthenand now.com

Regarding the Virginia State Capital building: ”

Thomas Jefferson sent from France a plaster model he had prepared in collaboration with the French architect, Charles Louis Clarisseau, as a modified design of the Maison Carre, late Roman temple at Nimes. The capitol antedated by more than 20 years the Madeleine in Paris, first example in Europe of similar quasi-literal temple architecture.

The cornerstone was laid in 1785 but the capitol was not completed in time to house the ratification convention in June, 1788, although the general assembly met in the unfinished building in October. The original portion was finished in 1792 under the supervision of Samuel Dobie and the brick was covered with stucco in 1798.

The wings and the long flight of steps were built in 1904-05.Virginia State Capitol. “

” Washington Monument, Capitol Square, St. Pauls Episcopal Church in the background – Photo 1865. “

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“O’ is for Officer, Sir, Sergeant James Kearse, Irish Cop

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George "Gabby" Hayes as Police Officer from free-classic-movies.com

George “Gabby” Hayes as Police Officer from free-classic-movies.com

Before I started my genealogical research, I knew nothing about my great grandfather, my mother’s grandfather, except that hia name was James Kearse, and that his father  Robert had come over from Ireland, fought in the Civil War, and raised ten children along with his wife Margaret.  James, my great grandfather  became a cop in Richmond, Virginia like his Dad, as did his son, my grandfather Tom.  James married an Italian woman, apparently the love of his life, my great grandmother Mary Catherine Botto. Lots of friends gave him grief about marrying an Italian, but they were happy with  their four children.
As a police officer, James was apparently very popular as he was nonminated to be chief, and stories of him filled the pages of The Richmond Times Dispatch 1870-1890 after the Civil War.
As I read the articles, I was thrilled to feel I was getting to know the man born  almost 100 years before me!  There was one story in the paper that gave me a great glimpse into James’ personality! It was hilarious, and showed his sense of humor!   Such a cute story, I wish I had written it, and that I could have been there!  I want to share it with you here, hope you enjoy.
Source: storytime.readingchick.com

Source: storytime.readingchick.com

 Kerse, James, Cow visit police station Halloween 1913
Sergeant James Kearse has a visitor on Halloween night at the Police Station–fromThe Richmond Times Dispatch,
Nov. 1, 1913

 

 

 

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Marie Botto Kerse Maher- the Magnificent Musician–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #39

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Ali and Annie Colage of Marie B. Kerse Maher's studio and Ali and Annie for boog post

First photo is from the Richmond Times Dispatch showing Marie Kerse’s music studio in the year 1909, second shows sisters left to right, Ali Holshouser Orcutt and Annie Holshouser in 2014, talented musicians themselves who might have inherited their talents from their great-great Aunt Marie! Ali and Annie play piano, percussion, violin, saxophone, bells, and they both sing beautifully.

Marie Botto Kerse Maher was a twin and my great-aunt. I wrote about her twin sister Kate who died at age 17 week before last and you can find that story at this link to the post titled Kate Kerse, Twin and Young Artist Dies at 17 –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #37. What a duo they must have been growing up! Think of all the passion and joy such talented artists would bring to the family. They must have been recognized in their church and community as well, as the stained glass window depicting sisters was dedicated at their church when Kate died. Apparently Marie played the organ there at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on a regular basis. Now, a hundred years later, I  am thinking about them and trying to preserve their stories for our family.

Marie, 1878-1961, was the daughter of James Kerse, a Sergeant on the Richmond City Police force and his wife Mary Catherine Botto. I have written of these families before and you can find links to them and others about the family below. This post is about Marie, one of four children, whose baby brother Andrew Leo Kerse died  at age one when she was 9, and whose twin sister died when they were 17. She was no stranger to death when her mother died and Marie was only 28 years old. She married Joseph Franklin Maher in 1913, when she was 35, had one child, Joseph Jr. at 36.  Both of her parents were gone by her age 43. That is a lot of loss in a lifetime. I wonder if her music sustained her, or just kept her so busy, that she didn’t have time to think! 

I know her music kept her busy, because I have found a treasure trove of information about her on genealogybank.com from the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper in Richmond, Virginia. The picture of her studio in 1909 shown above was one of the treasures found there!  I never met this great Aunt of mine and it was so much fun to get a glimpse inside her home and studio! 

Marie Kerse Maher ad for music lessons

I found an interesting pattern when searching for articles about Aunt Marie. From 1903, when she was 25, until her death in 1961, she operated a music studio out of her home!. Granted, she had a nice home in downtown Richmond, but it is reported that she had over 100 students some years! Every Fall you could find an article about her school starting and the need to register. Every June, you can find an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch about her recitals! She awarded medals and recognized her students liberally. Many were recognized for their talents in the newspaper. As I perused the articles, I was interested to see  pupils from some families I recognized. In 1903, she was teaching two of her own Botto nieces, Kate and Marguerite. There is also a Josie Clements in this article. One of my  genealogy researching cousins is Elizabeth Clements Mims, I suspect this student was in her family. Another family connection is the Bickerstaffs, and there in the review for 1912, you find students named James and Anne Bickerstaff! There are Spindle and Hancock students as well, all names I recognize. How much fun is that! There are other names I took note of. One name that was very interesting to see, was in 1905, Joseph Maher was Marie Kerse’s student–ten years later he became her husband! Took him long enough!

The recitals were obviously elaborate.They were held at venues like the Thomas Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond, and other Halls around town.  There were all kinds of performances as you can read in the articles below, it was amazing. My sister Anne remembers attending one of the recitals when she was a young child of six, shortly before I was born. She remembers that it was held at the luxurious Women’s Club in Richmond, and that our Aunt Gwendolyn Youngblood Tucker took her to the recital, my father’s sister! (the other side of the family, seems curious?). She also remembers something I find amazing, that our mother made her a coat and bonnet out of a wine red velvet! Anne still remembers Mother talking about what an important event the concert was. Anne was the first of four children born to our Mom who worked full-time–I don’t remember her ever sewing! Anne remembers Aunt Marie fairly well, and says Marie was always good and kind to her. I found this picture of a coat and hat very similar to that which Mom made for Anne in 1947. 

velvet coat, marron

I never met our Great Aunt Marie, and was surprised when my research showed that I was 12 years old when she died! She was well known in my home town, why had I never met her? In fact, my sister and I both took piano lessons, but not from her. My older brother and sister sang beautifully! Musical talent apparently runs in the family. It didn’t take much asking around until I began to hear that of course, once again there had been a split in the family! I am genuinely surprised, because I had always thought it was only my father’s family that did that, not my Mom’s. It seems they were just quieter about their estrangements! I learned there were several “incidents” that played into the split relations. I found one in the newspaper archives!In 1915, Marie apparently sued her brother Thomas P. Kerse, my grandfather (my mother’s father) and the courts made him sell some land I assume they had inherited from their mother Mary Catherine Botto who died in 1906. She had inherited the property from her mother, Marie and Thomas’ Grandmother, Catherine Botto Raffo who died shortly before her in 1903– she was a business woman who owned several properties around Richmond. Earlier I had learned that Mary Catherine’s brothers, Marie and Thomas’ Uncles, had sued each other over the property they had inherited,  forcing the sale of  five prime properties in Richmond.      

Kerse lawsuit bet. Marie and Thomas

Apparently there was another reason for the falling out, so much so that Thomas forbid his children to have anything to do with their Aunt Marie or their cousin, her son Joe, how very sad! Or maybe Marie is the one who did the forbidding, I really don’t know, all I know is that we didn’t know each other. Anne says she does not remember seeing Aunt Marie after she was about 7 years old. The other story that I have been told by several family members, is that when James H. Kerse, my great-grandfather,  father of Marie and Thomas, died in October, 1921, even though Thomas, his wife Kate and their six  little children  had taken care of him for many years, Marie inherited the house.  James probably thought Thomas and Kate would be fine on their own and thought he should take care of his daughter. According to the story, Marie  demanded that they move out  even though they were living there one year after James’s death when their own 8 year-old son Thomas Jr. drowned in October, 1922.  Kate was pregnant with their seventh  child by January 1923, when Marie made them move. So much stress, it had to have compounded the emotions.

Regardless of the cause of the split in the family, Marie was obviously a very talented musician. Perhaps she was temperamental and high-strung like many artists are. She was also a very busy business woman when few women were professionals! She was an entrepreneur who ran a music studio out of her home, and had over 100 students enrolled year after year! I find it very interesting that we come from a long line of professional women. In this line especially, Catherine Botto Raffo, born 1825 in Italy,was a professional businesswoman, owning property and collecting rents. Her daughter Mary Catherine Botto Kerse, b. 1858, took over for her. Mary Catherine’s daughter Marie,b.1878,  is the talented musician and business owner herself! Kate, b. 1883, Mary Catherine’s daughter-in-law, Thomas’s wife, was a professional nurse, and before 1915 had a business where she and her partner sold jewelry and did watch repairs. All six of her daughters were educated and worked as realtors, teachers, and social workers! Our generation of women has continued this professional  identity as teachers, financial advisors, psychologists, nurses, etc. We have been told women didn’t work until after WWII and the 1950’s. Well, in our family, we come from a long line of women intrinsically motivated towards professions which makes me proud. 

Besides having her elaborate recitals covered in the newspaper,  Marie placed regular  memorials to some of her loved ones in the newspaper on the anniversary of their deaths. She wrote them poems as you can see in my post about her grandmother, Catherine Revaro Botto Raffo. She posted for her mother as well. But one amazing thing I found, was a memorial she published for her twin sister. It was amazing because the name we had from the records at St. Patrick’s Church were different from the name published in the newspaper, given by Maire.  The church said her sister Kate was named Kathleen Kerse. the memorial left by Marie for her sister, named her as Katherine Vernoica Kerse! I wonder if the middle name was a typo on the part of the newspaper. But my sister nor myself ever heard the name Veronica or even Victoria being in our Kerse  family, much less Vernoica!  Katherine however, is a popular name in our family, every generation has one or more, and I’ve never known anything but good things about any and all of our Katherines, Kathryns, Catherines, Kates and Katys! I’m going to have to do some more research for Kate.

Marie Kerse remembers twin sister

 

I am including articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch archives from Genealogybank.com, although I know they are hard to read.  I believe some family and friends will be interested enough to be thrilled to find these clippings here. They are much easier to read on genealogybank by the way, the problem is in my photography of the articles! Thank you for joining me in my family reminiscing, please share yours with me. 

 

 

 

Former blog posts about the Kerse and allied families:

1. Kate Kerse, Twin and Young Artist Dies at 17 –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #37

2. Catharina Revaro Botto Raffo–My Italian 2nd Great-Grandmother–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #36 

 3. Kerse (Kearse, Kierce, Kearsey) James H. — Irish Cop, Yachtsman, Animal Lover– 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge

 4. Thomas Philip Kerse– Irish Cop like his Dad–52 ancestors in 52 weeks!

5.    Thomas Philip Kerse Captains the Lady Jane! 52 ancestors in 52 weeks

6.    Five Generations of Women, Daughters, Mothers, and Grandmothers   (About Katherine Steptoe Kerse, Thoma’s wife)

7.   Eight-Year-Old Drowns! 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks #4

8.   Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood, My Mother, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #33

9.    Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, 1923-2002, Brillance and Joyfulness Dimmed by Altzheimers-52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #23

 

 

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Kate Kerse, Twin and Young Artist Dies at 17 –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #37

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Stained glass window dedicated to Katie Kerse

 

This beautiful stained glass window was dedicated to Katie Kerse, twin of Marie Kerse, pronounced Kearse, who died at age 17, in 1895. She died of a burst appendix.  Kate  was a very talented artist, and her sister Marie was a talented musician, a pianist.  It is not a coincidence that the stained glass window dedicated to Katie  at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, depicts sisters Martha and Mary.  This window is not only appropriate because it honors the twin sisters Kate and Marie, but also because  Martha and Mary begged Jesus to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead. Kate and Marie had a little brother, Andrew Leo , who died at 13 months old, in 1887. The twins would have been 9 when that happened, a very impressionable age for young girls to lose their baby brother! As good little Catholic girls, don’t you think they spent time asking Jesus to bring their little brother back to life ? I suspect they did.

Even though Kate was my Great Aunt, because she died so young, the  family living now knows little about her. We know she was an artist, a painter, whose work was admired by family and friends. Unfortunately, no one in the family has a piece of her work today. However, this stained glass window hangs in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, reminding us that a lot of people loved her.  Her sister Marie played piano beautifully, and played the organ for her church for many years, another good reason to know that the window honors both sisters.  I will write more about Marie  in a separate post.

Unfortunately, there is confusion surrounding the correct date of birth for the twins.  The 1880 census found on ancestry.com, shows the twins at one month old, living with their mother and father, Mary Catherine Botto Kerse,and James H. Kerse in the home of their grandparents–James’s parents, Robert E. and Margaret Kerse.

Name: Kate Kerse
Age: 1m
Birth Year: abt 1880
Birthplace: Virginia
Home in 1880: Richmond, Henrico, Virginia
Race: White
[daughter of James Kerse and Mary Botto Kerse, granddaughter of Robert and Margaret Kerse
Gender: Female
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Marital Status: Single
Father’s Name: Robert Kerse
Father’s Birthplace: Italy
[Richmond, Virginia, USA
Mother’s name: Margaret Kerse
Mother’s Birthplace: Italy
Neighbors: View others on page
Cannot read/write:Blind:Deaf and Dumb:Otherwise disabled:Idiotic or insane:
Household Members:
Name Age
Robert Kerse 45
Margaret Kerse 40
James Kerse 23
Robert E. Kerse 19
Maggie Kerse 12
Lillie Kerse 10
Leo Kerse 5
Mary Kerse 22
Marie Kerse 1m
Kate Kerse 1m
View
Original
Record

View original image
V

Knowing that the Kerse family had been active in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, I called the church and discovered that they had records going back this far and further. Making my request in writing,  I soon learned that Kate’s name  was truly Kathleen.  The church records stated:   “Citation Information Transcription of text Detail Listed parents of Kate and Mary, twins, as James H. Kerse and his wife Mary Catherine Botto. Their written records state they were born on 17 May, 1878, baptized on 25 June, 1879, and Kate died at age 17.”  The church records also state that James H. Kerse and Mary Catherine Botto married  on November 27, 1879, over a year after the twins were born! Born in 1878 or 1880, interesting conflict.

There is another part to Kate’s story that is serendipitous perhaps, or perhaps a direct result of Kate’s work from heaven on behalf of her family–what do you think? Kate’s brother, Thomas Philip Kerse was my grandfather. After losing Kate to infection from her burst appendix, the family was terrified when their only living son Tom came down with the same condition! They hired a private duty nurse to care for him around the clock at the doctor’s suggestion. That nurse was a young woman named Katherine Steptoe Houchins, already engaged to marry another man, but fated perhaps to fall in love with Tom! Katherine was also called Kate.  She helped Tom get well then married him , becoming my mother’s mother, my grandmother! Tom and Kate had seven children, one son and six daughters. They have twelve grandchildren, 15 great grands and twelve great-greats still new to the world!

Life stories are so very interesting, as our families are. With all the twists and turns we are reminded that life is an adventure, with different stories for every individual! I wish I had known Kate, I wish she had lived to be a part of our life! I wonder what it might have been like to have an artist in the family, perhaps encouraging other artists! We never know when we have lost a loved one at a young age, just what we’ve missed by not having them in our lives to learn from, to love, and to be loved by them.  Angels surround you Katie Kerse, and keep you always.

 

St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, --available on facebook

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, –available on facebook

 

 

 

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Catharina Revaro Botto Raffo–My Italian 2nd Great-Grandmother–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #36

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Mirror from Revaro family in Italy

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…tell me your stories, tell them all!”  (by Helen Y. Holshouser with prompting by sister Anne) This beautiful mirror hangs in my sister’s home today in 2014.  It has been in our family for  almost 200 years, maybe more. It belonged to my second great-grandmother, Catherina Revaro, born about 1825. I do not know where Catherina got the mirror, or how long it might have been in her family, but we are told it is a family piece from Genoa, Italy where she was born.  We have an oral history story passed down in our family about Catharina.  Mother always said that Catherina, called Catherine in our family, was the daughter of a wealthy family in Genoa, Italy. They had a large department store there and in Rome perhaps. Catharina was a student in a private girls school, located  in a convent. However, she had fallen in love with a boy named Luigi Botto!  They supposedly left Italy together, coming ultimately to Richmond, Virginia where they married and had two children, James Lewis Botto 1857-1923, and Mary Catherine Botto, 1858- 1906, who married James Kerse and became my great-grandmother.  Catherine married a second time to Nicholas Raffo in 1866, and had another son named John Francis Raffo, 1867-1951.

I have always loved all things Italian, perhaps this line of relatives explains that trait or propensity! In fact, it was pursuit of knowledge of this, my Italian heritage which originally got me started in genealogical research! I quickly learned that they were not easy to research, because a lot of the records were written in Italian and/or Latin! However, after many years of working on this effort, and help from other researchers, I have put together this picture of the Italian branch of our family. 

My first effort was to prove just how my great grandparents came into the country! My first find was a family of Bottos (I did not have her maiden name Revaro at the time.) who arrived on July 18,1844, on the ship Constantine in the port of New York from Genoa, Italy! I was so excited! On board you can clearly see the family with Joseph Botto, 38, Marie, 36, Luigi 12, Catharina 14, Benedict 10, Maria 8 and Giacomino! Wow, what a family! Luigi at 12, matched the 1832 birthdate I had. But weren’t they very young to be marrying? And the whole family was with them! Hmm, didn’t quite jive. But it was all I could find, in this my first week of ever doing genealogical research! I still thought this must be my family. Maybe this was Luigi, and Catherine was elsewhere, or maybe the other way around. Or maybe they were already married, a shotgun wedding?! LOL Obviously, I needed more information. This is the Constantine’s passenger list for you to see:  

Botto family on ship Constatine, July, 1844

source: ancestry.com

 

I decided the family above could not be my Bottos, when I followed them to Kentucky, then when I actually met on ancestry some of their descendants, living in Boston, Massachusetts, I learned  this was their family, not mine!  Back to the drawing board, I found many Louis Bottos,  and few Catherines. But finally, I found this document, and I believe it fits better than most, the ship’s passenger list includes both a Luigi Botto age 26 and a Catharine Botto age 20, on board the ship Switzerland, arriving in 1855! That would be perfect timing for them  to get to Richmond,Virginia and have two children in 1857 and 1858!  However, if the marriage certificate below is correct for them, they should have been in Richmond by 1853! Oh dear, this is the way genealogical research works, just search, and search, and eliminate and search some more! 

Botto ,ship passenger list with Luigi and Catherine

source: ancestry.com

source infomation for passenger list for Luigi and Catheribotto

source: ancestry.com

 

Keeping this, I went on to research more and see what I could find.  I knew that Catherine had married a second time because she had a son named John Francis Raffo that I could see on the censuses. So I searched for both Raffo and Botto information. Finally i found a marriage certificate on ancestry.com for Nicholas Raffo and Catharine Botto also Catharine Revaro, father Anton Revaro! There was her maiden name! Alleluia!  

Name: Catharine Botto
[Catharine Revaro] 
Gender: Female
Age: 43
Birth Date: 1823
Marriage Date: 7 May 1866
Marriage Place: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Father: Anton Revaro
Spouse: Nicholas Raffo
FHL Film Number: 33620
Reference ID: p 90

 

It wasn’t long before I decided to take my DNA through ancestry.com, which showed I was 5% Italian in my ethnic makeup. Cool! That combined with knowing Catherine’s maiden name, helped me learn much more about my family, including meeting  cousins and other people researching them! One of those folks was a researcher who spoke Italian and Latin and researched original records even from the Vatican! I was very impressed! Diane ended up finding the birth certificate of  my great, great grandparents, Louis Botto and Catherine Revaro. On the certificate you will notice that her name had been anglicized to Rivers, and his was written as Botte, typo or a name change, I am not sure. I already had the date of the Raffo marriage from censuses, and the date on the Botte marriage certificate agrees. However, the Botto name appears on censuses and many other records. the ages and dates of birth don’t match for Catherine, but this doesn’t overly worry me as I find this often the case.  This gave me his parents names as well! My Italian roots were growing! 

Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940 about Catharine Rivers

Name: Catharine Rivers
Gender: Female
Age: 22
Birth Date: 1831
Birth Place: Italy
Marriage Date: 3 Sep 1853
Marriage Place: Richmond, Virginia
Father: Andrew Rivers
Mother: Mary
Spouse: Louis Botte
FHL Film Number: 31855
Reference ID: p 1 # 39

 

So, we have Catherine Revaro coming to Virginia from Italy and marrying Lewis Botto in 1853,  naming their children James Lewis and Mary Catherine Botto.  In 1866, Catherine married for the second time. I have not been able to ascertain what happened to her first husband, however,  no death notice, find-a-grave document, no military record that I can find! There are other Louis Bottos in the United States as well.  In the Richmond City telephone directory of 1876, Catherine is listed as Catherine Botto, widow of Louis Botto! In 1876, she was a widow all right, but the widow of Nicholas Raffo who had died in 1873! Catherine ‘s first husband must have died, besides being listed as a widow in the phone directory, when Catherine herself dies in 1903, we can find an obituary in the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper that states that a “solemn requiem mass” was said at her funeral at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, the church where the family attended for years. She would not have been thus honored if she had divorced. The Catholic Church would not have allowed it. 

 

Obituary

Mrs. Catharine Raffo

Mrs. Catharine Raffo, mother of Mr. James L. Botto and Mr. John F. Raffo, of the fire department, and Mrs. Mary C. Kerse, wife of Sergeant James H. Kerse, of the First Police Station, died Saturday morning.  Her funeral will take place Monday morning at 10 o’clock from St. Patrick’s church. The interment will be in Mt. Calvary.

The following gentlemen will act as pall-bearers:

Honorary-Richard M. Taylor,

H.M. Smith, Junior

Dr. David Coleman

Dr. W. H. Scott

John Frischkorn

John Mann Jr.

Joseph H. Webb

Edgar Shine

Active:

F.J. Purrater,   Anthony Griffith,

Claiborne Epps,  Andrew Donald,

Frank Overman,  Peter Gonella,

Captain W.B. Whitlock,

James Burke

Raffo died April 25, 1903, at the residence of her son-in-law, James H. Kerse.  2612   East Grace St.

MRS. CATHARINE RAFFO

The funeral will take place Monday morning, April 27th,  at 10 o’clock, from St. Patrick’s Church with a requiem mass.

Friends invited to attend Interment Mt. Calvary.

Washington and New York papers please copy.

 –published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, April 26, 1903

_________________________________________________________________

 

 

Catherine Botto Raffo's funeral announcement, Apr. 28, 1903, The Richmond Times Dispatch

–published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, 1903 

 

Five years after her death, her granddaughter Marie Botto Kerse, my Great Aunt, wrote this tribute to Catherine which was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch as well, in 1908:

In Memoriam

In sad but loving remembrance

of my devoted Grandmother,

Catherine Botto Raffo

who died five years ago. 

April 25, 1903.

Every year the good God calleth

some loved one to endless rest,

and our hearts, though filled with anguish, 

can but cry, “He knoweth best.”

But a year and distant cometh,

when we tread the vast unknown, 

we shall find our ransomed loved ones,

seated ’round the great white throne.

Marie B. Kerse–genealogybank.com, Richmond Times Dispatch

“Loving remembrance of my devoted Grandmother”! Those words say a lot about Catherine Botto Raffo! How interesting. I’ve been thinking of her children. James Lewis was born in 1857, his sister Mary Catherine in 1858, they were only 9 and 8 years old when their mother remarried. Had they known their Dad at all? Then their stepfather dies when they are 15 and 16! After her marriage in 1866 to her second husband Nicholas Raffo, her son John Francis Raffo is born in 1867. His father dies in 1873–at six, he probably only had hazy  memories of his father. Those are rough  events in young lives. The Civil War was waged during their childhoods, Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy! What must they have seen and heard! 

Yet, we know that John Francis Raffo grew up to become a firefighter, then chief of the Richmond City Fire Department, spanning a fifty year career with them!  One of John Francis’ great, great-grandchildren sent this picture to me, which I treasure. Yes, his descendants are alive and well and going strong.  I am regularly in touch with one of them on facebook, and another I have met in person. (more of that at a later time) Among them are soldiers, a priest, and many other s including genealogists. This is a line of descendants any mother would be so proud to call her own! 

Raffo family

left to right in this photo of the Raffo family taken on their front porch in the Churchill area of Richmond, Virginia: 1. John Francis Raffo, Jr. (Jack) 2. Nicholas Coleman Raffo 3. Frank McLaughlin Raffo 4. John Francis Raffo 5. Mary Margaret Finnegan Raffo (Minnie) 6. Anita Raffo 7. Catherine Raffo Beaty 8. James Coleman Raffo 9. Anna Raffo Eagle 10. Mary Margaret Raffo (Minnie) abt. 1918 Churchill, Richmond, Virginia, USA, given to this author by Coleman Raffo, 2014

Catherine’s daughter Mary Catherine Botto married James Kerse and became the mother of my grandfather Thomas Philip Kerse.  She had four children in fact,  but two of them died young, Andrew Leo in infancy and  Kate, the twin of Marie, died at age 17 of a burst appendix.  In fact, because Kate died of a burst appendix,  when her brother Thomas Philip came down with appendicitis in his early twenties, the family hired a private duty nurse to take care of him. That nurse turned out to be Katherine Steptoe Kerse,  who married Thomas Philip and became my cherished grandmother! They went on to have seven children, twelve grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and so far, 4 great- great- grandchildren!  We have several college professors, lawyers,  building contractors, teachers, and firefighters! Catherine can be proud of this line of her daughter’s.

Now James Lewis Botto was very different from his sister and half-brother it seems. He was a local politician, and owned a night club in downtown Richmond called  St. Helena’s.  He was married with six children, four sons and two daughters. Both daughters married men of excellent standing from great families in Richmond. The father and two of his sons went to jail. The father, James Lewis,  for only 3 months for bringing illegal liquor into the state to sell at his club during prohibition! A rum runner in the family! The other son, William Joseph Botto, a policeman forced to resign, went to jail only 30 days on this same charge, but then he was charged with domestic violence in 1914, assaulting his wife!  He left his wife and disappeared. She had him declared dead after several years! In 1930, he disclosed who he truly was, just  before he actually died in a hospital in New York! It is hard for me to believe this happened in my own family! Another son,  John Francis Botto went to the penitentiary for 15 years for attacking a 13-year-old girl! Good gracious–what happened in this line of family?! As bad as this seems, we must remember that four of the six children in this family turned out to be excellent citizens, it is not right to judge them poorly  on the merits of their father and two brothers! However, it is curious, just how is it that some siblings make such bad choices with their Dad, and most make great choices. The heirs of this family were all female, so the Botto name from James Lewis’s line died out, there are descendants, just not with the Botto name. Since he was the only male heir of Luigi Botto, his line of Bottos did not continue. 

I knew we had Italian ancestors, my mother talked about it a lot. But I did not know they were alive and that I could have gotten to know them while growing up!  What a shame to miss knowing family until you are in your sixties! I have a clue as to why this might have happened .  Catherine Botto Raffo died in 1903, having outlived both husbands by many years. We were told that Catherine was an excellent money manager, and indeed, when she died several things were published in the Richmond Times Dispatch giving us a glimpse into her business acumen. As a successful business woman, she had amassed  a fair amount of property. I don’t know how she left it, or if she even had a will, but according to the paper, in 1907, John Francis Raffo sued his half-brother James Lewis Botto et al (did that include my great-grandmother Mary Catherine Botto Kerse? Probably.)  I don’t think that is all that unusual however, heirs who inherit equally–one or more want to keep the property, others want their money for their share perhaps. Whatever the situation,  John Francis Raffo sued and the court ordered that the lots in downtown Richmond be sold, and the money divided.  I imagine that caused great division within the family. Perhaps the Raffos and Bottos no longer spoke, how sad. What would Catherine think? Would she focus on the positive, the many descendants who’ve done well, been responsible and active citizens. Or would she just be devastated about her one son’s family and the  two of his sons who got in so much trouble! What an interesting family, wish I knew more, perhaps I will learn more one day.  Finding interesting stories like these, and meeting living cousins, discovering lines of relatives you didn’t even know existed, that’s what makes genealogical research so exciting!  

Che cosa hai intenzione di fare sulla famiglia ? Loro amore ! What are you going to do about family? Love them! --Helen Y. Holshouser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This gallery contains 12 photos

Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, 1923-2002, Brillance and Joyfulness Dimmed by Altzheimers-52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #23

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Janey Bell Kerse Sommers

Janey Bell Kerse Sommers

Did you ever have a favorite aunt? You knew you couldn’t say that out loud because you might hurt someone else’s feelings, but yes, Janey Bell was my favorite aunt, one I idolized from a young age.

Kerse Sisters, improved picture

l to r, The Kerse sisters, abt. 1942, Katherine, Julia, Evelyn, Janey Bell in black, Nancy, Margaret

 Janey Bell was the youngest of seven children, six girls and one boy. Her brother died when he was  young, and as my mother’s sister, we grew up under the influence of these incredible women. I’m sure being the baby of seven is one reason she had a very playful, joyful spirit, as the youngest child in any family often does. It turned out that she never had children of her own, but had 12 nieces and nephews all of whom she adored. We adored her right back. Janey Bell had a gift for making you feel special. First of all, she would listen to us even when we were tiny children.  She always made you think that you were important when most adults didn’t seem to care.

 Janey Bell was also quite brilliant. Born in 1923 in Richmond Virginia, she graduated from Radford University in the mountains of Virginia. While at Radford, she received the John B. Spiers award for the highest grade average. She went on to earn her Master of Arts in Education from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Just think, when World War II was going on, this young woman was already married, her husband was off at war, and she was breaking records at the University. Like her mother Katherine Steptoe Houchins Kerse, and her Aunt Julia Elizabeth  Nichols, who were professional women in the early 1900s, Janey Bell became a teacher in 1952, when most women were encouraged to be housewives. Janey Bell was not just any teacher either. She taught children with learning disabilities and with emotional handicaps. She did this for 37 years. Towards the end of her career, Janey Bell served as the supervisor for Special Education in the Forsyth County Schools of North Carolina. She had been recognized as the Teacher of the Year in 1980-81 for Forsyth County, and was one of the top three finalists for the State of North Carolina. She was dedicated, creative, and committed  to her students and her profession. As a child growing up, I was inspired by this incredible woman. I remember clearly visiting her one particular summer of many, when she was teaching summer school. She was teaching in the building of the Bowman Gray Medical School, an old castle like mansion. One day she took me with her to her school to observe. As I watched Janey Bell interact with her students,  my own future career was born. I was only about 12 years old, but indeed I went to college, got a degree in psychology and special education, and taught emotionally disturbed children and teenagers myself. Later I earned a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and became a family therapist. Much of that career was modeled after my stellar aunt.

 Janey Bell was married to her husband Roy Sommers for 60 years, she was 78 years old when she died. She was active in her church, Highland Presbyterian, where she served as an elder for many years. Amazingly, I also served as an elder in my own Presbyterian Church later in life. Obviously Janey Bell was a huge influence for me.

 When Janey Bell was about 59 years old, she was diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s. She had begun to forget things in the year or so prior to this. She began to miss meetings that she had scheduled. She would get lost driving home from work, a route she had taken for almost 40 years. I remember one Thanksgiving as the family gathered together for dinner, about 30 of us were together, including five of our six aunts. We said the blessing as was our family tradition. However about five minutes later as we began to go through the buffet line, Aunt Janie Bell said, “Stop! We can’t eat! We haven’t said the blessing yet!”  Murmuring our apologies and our wonderment at her memory loss all 30 of us bowed our heads and said another blessing. The move through the buffet line commenced again but within minutes our precious Aunt Janey Bell stopped us again, very upset that we had neglected to say the blessing. For the third time our whole group let the blessing be repeated. Our Mother’s was a very loving, supportive family. However when the fifth outcry came from Aunt Janey Bell to stop what we were doing and say another blessing, the oldest sister confronted her! She said. “Now Janey Bell, we already said the blessing. You need to let everyone enjoy their dinner. Come and sit with me.”  Janey Bell had us all repeating our names, the schools we went to, and our stories over and over again that day. We were all devastated.

 It wasn’t long before Janey Bell lost the ability to speak except in garbled, unintelligible language. She went to live in a nursing home and used a wheelchair to wander the halls. One day when I went to visit, my husband and Uncle Roy her husband, were with me. At first I didn’t think she knew who I was, but as we began to talk together, it seemed like she knew me after all. She looked  right at me and gave a long  spiel of words, none of which I could understand. When she finished her obvious dissertation, instead of admitting that I could not understand her, I placated her by saying, “Yes, I understand.” She looked right at me, and with an expression of pure joy on her face, said as clear as day, “Good, then tell Roy!”  I was floored when she gestured that I should talk to my Uncle Roy right then. I panicked and made a sign of surrender with my hands in the air. Seeing this, my precious Aunt Janey Bell, turned her wheelchair away from us and paddled away with her feet. It broke my heart. We decided to leave, and when I approached her to say goodbye, there was no sign on her face that she had any idea who I was. She had already retreated into another world it seemed.

 Aunt Janey Bell’s decline and death was painful to watch. However, when you look back at her lifetime, you see a huge trail of children including her students, her nieces and nephews, and me–who bloomed because of her loving, dedicated guidance. Here’s to you-Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, thank you for all the lives you touched, and I love you to infinity and beyond! Helen

 

Relationship chart:

Jane Bell “Janey Bell” Kerse (1923 – 2002)

is your aunt

Thomas Philip Kerse (1884 – 1939)

father of Jane Bell “Janey Bell” Kerse

Margaret Steptoe Kerse (1918 – 1980)

daughter of Thomas Philip Kerse

Helen Spear Youngblood

You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse 

 

From the Langhorne family:

–James Steptoe Langhorne,1822, great-great-grandfather

-Evalina Langhorne Houchins, great-grandmother

-Katherine (Kate) Steptoe Houchins Sommers, mother

-Janey Bell Kerse Sommers

This gallery contains 2 photos

Thomas Philip Kerse– Irish Cop like his Dad–52 ancestors in 52 weeks!

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Photo of Richmond Police Dept.

Police wagon paddy wagon, Black Maria, driven by Thomas Kerse in 1910

Example of police wagon, Black Maria, driven by Thomas Kerse in 1910, actual picture from Wikicommons.

My grandfather Thomas Philip Kerse, was a police officer in Richmond, Virginia as was his Dad before him–Sergeant James H. Kerse. I wrote about his Dad just a week ago which you can read here if you like. Thomas Philip Kerse was born in 1884 and died in 1939, at 55 years old. He started working for the police department in 1910 when he was 26. In 1911 he married my grandmother, Katherine Steptoe Houchins. Together they had seven children, one son and six daughters! Their only son, called Bucky,  drowned in the James River when he was only 8 years old.  You can read his story in this blog post if you’d like. The six girls were a moving force! They were a close-knit family and “the sisters” were the matriarchs of our collective families, and my mother Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood was one of them! Unfortunately, they were no strangers to tragedy, as their mother, a nurse was shot in the head by a private duty patient she was attending–blogged about as well.

We were told that our grandfather drove a police car, but I never really thought about what a remarkable thing that was until I began researching and realized that automobiles weren’t often found in public in the United States  before 1907! Police departments generally still used horses and carriages. For him to be hired specifically to drive one of the first police cars for the Richmond City Police Department in 1910 in Virginia, now means a lot more ! I found several articles about his driving the “Paddy Wagon” or the “Black Maria”. Both of these were slang names for the police wagon used to pick up prisoners–especially those resisting arrest. I was so pleased to find these newspaper articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch on genealogybank.com, about his being hired, about a police parade review with him driving the “Black maria”, and about his shooting a rabid dog!

The story I like the most however, is the story about Grandpa Tom’s own dog! Apparently he had a beloved setter whom he walked around town regularly. One day the setter got loose and ran up on a train trestle crossing the James River. Tragically, a train was coming! The dog realized it, but didn’t have time to run off the trestle! Apparently several witnesses saw the dog panic, running wildly back and forth between the trestles, and they all thought he would be killed instantly!  However, at the last moment, Tom’s dog went to the very center of the tracks, laid down flat between the rails, and the train ran right over him! When the train cleared the trestle, the townspeople ran onto the bridge, expecting to find the worst. Instead, Tom’s dog jumped up to greet them seemingly unharmed! What a miracle!

Please share the next chapter of my story of Thomas P. Kerse as I get to tell you about my amazing discovery of another blog about what was once his boat–the Lady Jane! Thanks for joining me in my family stories, have a great week, Helen

Kerse, Thomas, dog caught on train trestlle

Thomas Kerse’s dog caught on train trestleKerse, Tom, hired as driver for police dept.

Kerse, Tom , killed rabid dog , close up

Kerse, Tom, police parade,pg. 2, close upKerse, Tom, police parade, 1910, page 3, close upKerse, Tom, police parade, 1910, page 4, close up

This gallery contains 26 photos