I realized quickly that I’d have to “think outside the box” to learn about my ancestors. I LOVE to interview people, and listen to stories about "the older days" when life seemed a little slower and simpler. I study USGS maps, plats, read chanceries, look for long forgotten cemeteries and try to help preserve memories people share with me. This blog is ad free, so it's easier to focus on sharing stories. Feel free to sign the guestbook, or join the FaceBook group. Even if we aren't related by DNA, I'd still love to hear about your research efforts and family stories. I am interested in posting (to this blog) stories relevant to the Mecklenburg-Brunswick families.

20 June 2017

Interview: Virginia Oakley Shutt

June 2006 Virginia and Julie (me)

I wanted to find Virginia Oakley because I thought she could tell me some good stories and help me understand some things about my family. I heard she lived in Winston Salem. I mailed out 15 letters to people there with the surname Oakley, even though I knew she was married. Amazingly, almost everyone replied back saying sorry, they weren't related and wished me luck. But thankfully her nephew also replied and Virginia and I got to be pen-pals for about 3 years. I really enjoyed being pen-pals. And I was really excited to go meet her in 2006. She enjoyed playing card games, a favorite was gin rummy. I challenged her to a game of Skip-Bo for our visit. In one of her letters, Virginia told me she collected thimbles from tourist shops. When I went on two trips to Annapolis and Niagara Falls I got her a thimble from each place. Two thimbles for her and I got matching ones for me. I do try to type up interviews right away before I forget things, and I like to type in paragraph format as things were spoken. Unfortunately, I didn't transcribe this until a year later. So, I typed up exactly as I wrote my notes while the interview happened (which was in bullet format), so I wasn’t assuming or making errors. I especially loved the stories about sewing and their amazing gardens. That’s two subjects we liked to write each other about.
Martha was born in Mecklenburg, Virginia 27 July 1884. About 1895 the Dortch's moved to Southampton VA, then Petersburg VA, then to Kankakee IL near Chicago. That included Martha’s parents and unmarried siblings. Virginia and her siblings were born in Chicago Heights. Several relatives worked in the Hanes knitting mill. Artie Oakley, Virginia's father worked there and got a transfer to Winston-Salem about 1925-ish. Martha and Virginia lived the rest of their lives in Winston Salem, their houses close to each other. Here's my notes about two amazing women that I admire and respect a lot.

*Note 20 Jun 2017: Appreciation and much thanks to Virginia's nephew for coordinating the visit, helping with the interview, giving me copies of pictures, saying prayers for me on my bad health days, and being my friend since then. 

Some Memories of Virginia Oakley Shutt
By: Julie Cabitto
2 Jun 2006

Winston-Salem, North Carolina (in a hospital)
Assisted by Virginia’s nephew
Transcribed 17 Mar 2007

Info on Virginia’s parents Martha Dortch and Artie Oakley:
  • Did not remember how her parents met
  • Artie’s brothers Edgar & George lived in Virginia
  • Grandma and grandpa Oakley lived in Horsepasture Virginia. (Southern VA, not too far north of Winston-Salem) There’s a family cemetery at Horsepasture with Dunavents and Marshalls there.
  • Artie’s siblings:
    • George: policeman in Winston Salem
    • Edgar had a store in Petersburg
    • Beula married and became Beula Sink
    • Blanche married and became Blanche Matthews. Virginia loved and was friends with her.
    • Also Aunt Davis, aunt Hunter, Aunt Novel, and aunt Mamie
    • Totaling 7 sisters and 2 brothers
  • Artie was a superintendent at the chem. plant, sold insurance in Winston, was a watchman at Haynes.
    Martha Dortch Oakley
  • I pointed out on a Census he was listed as working with furniture. Virginia said her father Artie was a furniture maker before he was married, while living in Virginia. After he retired from Haynes, he worked at a concession stand at the Country Club.
  • John Henry Oakley was the father of Artie Oakley.
  • Martha’s brother went west
  • The Dortch’s were thought to be from Ireland.
  • The Oakley’s were from England and it was spelled “Oakleigh” in England.
  • Mary Belle Dortch came to her sister Martha’s house for a week when she (Virginia) was 8 years old.
  • Hoyt (Gray-Brown) took Virginia horseback riding the summer she was 16.
  • After Martha died, Artie got emphysema and moved in with his son Robert. Robert quit smoking then.
  • (A note that Burly Tobacco was grown and smoked to dry. Did Oakley’s grow it on farm in Southern Virginia? Can’t remember now)
  • They used to eat grapes on the way to visit Martha and Artie. Martha made Fried chicken and gravy every Sunday.
  • When asked what she remembers of her father she replied, “He was just a good ol’ daddy!”
  • Her sister-in-law Gyneth (married to Robert) was called “Gynie”. Virginia said Gynie was one of her best friends.
  • Martha made doilies and crocheted afghans. She was an excellent seamstress. Virginia said she took home-ec but didn’t learn much there. What she couldn’t do for sewing over the years, she took to her mother to learn how to do it. Virginia was taught by her mother and also self-taught. Martha sewed all her own clothes. Virginia never bought a dress ever. She made all her own clothes. When Virginia’s husband Fred died, she bought a pair of dress pants and wore them to the funeral.
  • Virginia and her mother grew grapes. Artie would go fishing and bring home fish for dinner. Virginia loved gooseberries and snowball bushes. But she did not like gardenia. She thought they smelled terrible. But Martha loved them. Martha grew lots of flowers. Virginia liked the sweet bubby bushing and the Carolina sweet shrub. The Carolina sweet shrub was red and smelled good. Virginia grew big blue hydrangeas and used Martha’s chicken manure. Virginia had a pecan tree in her back yard and made pecan pies from it.
  • Martha liked her coffee with 2 creams, no sugar. She also liked to get saltine crackers and dip slices of cheese into her coffee, scoop it onto the crackers and eat it.  Martha also liked rum and coke.
  • Martha had sinus surgery

Information regarding Virginia:
Jun 1959-Virginia with son Pete
  • Virginia raised parakeets, about 40 at a time. She had two sheds and kept the parakeets in the middle between them
  • Once she had 1 hen and 15 babies
  • Had a cockatiel
  • My son Samuel wanted me to ask Virginia if she ever rode trains or saw them. She said she’s been on a steam engine train. She also said in the 1950’s Haynes had a mail bag with a hook and a train would deliver the mail to the mail hook across the street from the factory.
  • Virginia’s husband Fred is buried at the New Phil. Moravian church. It used to be a white building. They built a new church and it’s all brick now. (I took picture of the brick building. Very near Virginia’s house)
  • Virginia was a substitute and Home Economics teacher at South Fork School. Her nephew went to school there and taught there for 15 years.
  • The picture Virginia sent me of Fred with the car, was just before he married. While married to Virginia, he only worked at the Country Club, within walking distance of their house.
  • Virginia’s fish at her fish pond ate oatmeal
  • Virginia loves horses
  • She loved Peach brandy #47 and made a great cake with it.
  • Virginia and her sister Marion sold Moravian Molasses cookies
  • Virginia remembers splurging and paying 250$ for a piece of material about 40 years ago.
  • Virginia was at a baby shower for her nephew. She suggested his name, and that’s the name he goes by.
  • Fred’s sister was named Mildred.
    Abt 1944-Fred and Virginia
  • Virginia had a cat that loved baths.
  • Virginia didn’t think hyacinths grew tall enough but she loved foxgloves. She also loved “red hot poker” that grew and spread all over.
  • Virginia loved to make a sugar cake that was from a Moravian recipe. It used potatoes and the water the potatoes were soaked in.
  • Virginia’s son Pete was in the Army.
  • Virginia made dolls (took picture)
  • Virginia collected thimbles on trips and asked family to pick up thimbles on their trips (took picture)
  • Virginia loved violets and still has some very old ones in her house   
  • 1930s-Artie and Martha Oakley Family
  • Virginia, sent me this picture 2003, in her garden

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