Thursday, August 21, 2008
Netherland Family Reunion - Coxburg, Mississippi, Sunday, August 31, 2008
The Netherland Family Annual Reunion will be this Sunday, August 31, 2008, at the Coxburg Community Center, Coxburg, Mississippi. But my mother and father will not be attending this year. My mother and father have always enjoyed meeting up with my mother's Netherland family relatives each year who come from several states and from as far away as New York City. Each person or couple attending the reunion bring a covered dish and share an afternoon together catching up on the latest family happenings since the past year. My mother's mind and her memory are miraculous, but her mobility is limited by osteoarthritis to such an extent this year that she and my father have decided they will not drive to Coxburg for the reunion. Her decision marks a specific point in her life, and in that of her family, because this was the once a year trip that symbolized the tie to her Netherland family and her roots in Holmes County, Mississippi.
My mother's father was Ralph Ernest Netherland, and her mother was Rosa Mae Pettus. Rosa Mae was born in 1908, and she was not even 18 years old when she married, Ralph, who was twenty-three years her senior. They had two children, my mother, who was born on October 8, 1926, and her only sibling, a brother, Reuben Netherland, born four years later.
Ralph Ernest Netherland was one of nine children born to William Bailey Netherland and Martha Elizabeth Garrard. According to the U. S. Census Record of 1850, William Bailey Netherland was born in Scotland. This explains the red hair that was so prominent on the Netherland side of the family.
Rosa Mae Pettus was born in Holmes County, Mississippi, the daughter of William Elza Pettus and Lucy Lula Trigleth. Ralph and Rosa Mae were divorced when my mother was 14 years old. A divorce in 1940 was almost unheard of and must have been traumatic for all family members involved, especially two children who were about 10 and 14 years of age. Rosa Mae Pettus Netherland remarried a few years later, and that husband died about 1953. Ralph Netherland never remarried and died in 1959 of stomach cancer. I saw him only once as a child just before he died of stomach cancer. Ironically, 6 of the 9 children, including Ralph, who were born to William Bailey Netherland and Martha Elizabeth Garrard, died of stomach cancer. A few died during their young adult years.
The stomach cancer information was unknown to many Netherland family members, including my mother, until a book entitled The Neatherlin, Leatherlin Connections and their Allied Families, was written by Gena Ayres Walls, who lives with her husband, a Netherland descendant, near Houston, Texas. Gena has written a genealogy column for her local newspaper for a number of years, and she used her very good research skills, coupled with her writing experience to compile the Netherland book. The book is complete with photocopies of actual documents, including death certificates for some of the family members who died of stomach cancer. Publication of the book was funded, in part, by Clarence Netherland, one of my mother's distant cousins.
I met Clarence Netherland because of the book. I discovered a copy of the Netherland book in the Erikkson Public Library in Dallas, Texas, where it had been donated by Clarence, and I later contacted him and asked if I could buy a copy of the book. Clarence owned Netherland Engineering in Dallas, Texas, until his death earlier this year. I purchased a copy of the book for my mother, and it was one of only three copies remaining at the time.
Now a quick plug for the Erikkson Public Library: it has one of the best, if not THE best genealogy collections of a modern public library, with almost an entire floor devoted to books, microfilm, and other types of publications. A bank of computers is available to access other documents contained in online collections. Paid staff, as well as many volunteers from the very active Dallas County Historical Society are on hand daily to assist researchers.
It makes me sad that my mother will be unable to attend the reunion this year. But time goes on, people get older, and things change.