It was my welcome mat on genealogy’s front porch–an E-mail received in
response to a query my wife had posted on the GenForum site. She was inquiring about my Stover
connection. The posting mentioned my
paternal grandmother Sadie Alice Stover and her brother Forest.
The response to the posting came at 2:33 AM EDT on 15 August 1999:
Hey, who is this??????????? You have to be one of my cousins!! 🙂
You didn’t sign your name. My Dad was Herbert Jackson Stover and Sadie was his
older half sister. Tom, my grandfather md Jenny Holstein, had Aunt Sadie and
Aunt Gladys and then after Jenny died, he md Gracie Nicholas…. Gracie was my
grandmother And yes, I know Uncle Forest… 🙂
Email me back at
We are definitely related!!!!!!!!!
That E-mail was my introduction to genealogy and more importantly to my cousin
Gracie, my closest online relative. I
soon found that Gracie and I share more than just ancestry. Our bond is that we are both children of
fathers who died in the prime of life.
Since we were very young when it happened, we remember little, if
anything, about them. What we do know
has been handed down to us by friends and family members. Sure, oral legend paints with a biased
stroke, but we are hungry for any information.
Genealogy, we’ve often said, feeds that need and allows us to learn more
about our fathers. While it’s not as
satisfying as a son playing catch in the front yard or a daughter riding
“piggy back” through the house, it’s the best we’ve got. Learning about the families of our fathers
is our solace and our therapy.
Before that monumental E-mail, I was unaware that my Grandmother even had a
brother named Herbert. I only knew
about two of her siblings–Gladys and Forrest.
I have learned a little more about Gracie’s father and my great uncle
since then. With the assistance of oral
legend, genealogical records and a few souvenirs, I will attempt to tell the
story of Uncle Herbert.
Herbert Jackson Stover was born to the union of coal miner Linville Garrison
“Tom” Stover and Gracie P. Nicholas on 30 November 1925 in Marfork,
Raleigh County, WV.
It was “Tom” Stover’s second marriage. He had previously married
Virginia “Jenny” Holstein on 8 November 1902 in Boone County, WV.
“Tom” and “Jenny” had two daughters before
“Jenny’s” death on 26 March 1911 in McKendree, Fayette County,
WV. Gladys Stover was born on 8
February 1906 in Kayford, Kanawha County, WV and Sadie Alice Stover, my
grandmother, was born on 29 April 1909 in Cabin Creek, Kanawha County, WV.
After “Jenny’s” death, “Tom” Stover married Gracie P.
Nicholas on 22 December 1915 in Raleigh County, WV. They would have 11 children. Herbert Jackson Stover’s siblings
Ralph Edward Stover born 20 October 1916
Mary Ella Stover born 3 January 1918 (stillborn)
Cebert Ray Stover born 22 December 1918
Virgil Clinton Stover born 19 January 1921
Horace “Forest” Stover born 8 September 1922
Lillie Thelma Stover born 14 December 1926
Stella Beatrice Stover born 27 October 1930
Inez Marie Stover born 24 April 1935
Sheba Jewell Stover born 14 February 1938 (stillborn)
Mabel Stover (no birth date known at present)
According to his daughter Gracie, Uncle Herbert “was not very well
educated, went to the 8th grade I believe. But his sister Stella, said he loved
to read and do crossword puzzles, so he was self-educated.”
Herbert, the youngest son of “Tom” Stover, fought in WW2, as did his
older brothers–Ralph, Virgil, Cebert & Forest. According to his military records, Uncle Herbert was a 1st
Sgt./Master Sgt. in Company C, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division
of the United States Army. His service
in the Pacific garnered the following decorations, medals & citations:
American Theater Ribbon
Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with 3 Bronze Stars
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star
Good Conduct Medal
According to Uncle Herbert’s discharge papers, he sent all of his money home to
his family, claiming his young sisters as dependents. Cousin Gracie explained, “Tom Stover was really sick at the
time, too ill to work. So dad helped
his family in that way.”
After World War 2, Herbert returned home and married Betty Jo Stilwell,
d/o Shirley Stilwell and Octavia
Elizabeth Bowles, on 15 August 1946.
Gracie explained her parents’ special relationship, “Mother told me
that they would both wake up at night and find they had been dreaming the same
thing at the same time…”
Herbert would soon become the father of two children, a boy and a girl. Herbert Jackson Stover, Jr. was born 11
October 1947 in Marfork, Raleigh County, WV.
Gracie Elizabeth Stover would follow on 8 August 1949 in Charleston,
Kanawha County, WV.
Herbert was a secretary for the local miners’ union and also sang tenor in a
local gospel group known as the Packsville Quartet. Nyla Creed DePauk, a Raleigh County researcher, concluded,
“both of these tell me that he was a conscientious honest person with
respect from his peers. He obviously had musical talent if he sang with a
I learned a little more about Uncle Herbert when my mother gave me a letter
that my father had sent home from the Korean War zone.
It had been given to my mother by my grandmother Sadie Stover Peters, sister to
Herbert. It was postmarked 23 March
1951 and was from PFC Shelby H. Peters, somewhere in Korea, to his mother, in
Williamsburg, Greenbrier County, West Virginia. PFC Peters was a month past his 18th birthday. The letter is as
March 14, 1951
Somewhere in Korea
I will write a few lines to let you know I am alright.
I hope all of you are feeling good now.
We had an orphan kid we had been keeping with the squad & when we
moved out the other morning, he fell off the truck & the trailer run over
him. He died about 10 minutes later.
I was sorry to hear about Shirley Stilwell but I knew I would never see him
again. Has Herbert gone back to work
yet? Did you get Lloyd any shoes yet? I will close for now. Answer soon.
Love to All
Shirley Stilwell, Uncle Herbert’s father-in-law, had recently passed. Cousin
Gracie explained further, ” … my Grandfather Shirley Stilwell died and
Dad sang at the funeral, even though he was sick himself. A Stilwell uncle remembers that he looked
Herbert Jackson Stover died some four months after my father’s letter, on 30
July 1951, from complications associated with stomach ulcers. His obit as it appeared in the August 2nd
edition of The Charleston Gazette is as follows:
“Stover, Herbert Jackson – 26, of Marfork died Tuesday in a Charleston
hospital. Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Betty Jo Stilwell Stover; one son,
Herbert Jackson, Jr.; one daughter, Grace Elizabeth; mother, Mrs. Grace Stover
of Paxville; four brothers, Ralph and Virgil of Marfork, Cebert of Bloomingrose
and Forrest of Paxville; six sisters, Mrs. Gladys Jarrell and Miss Inez Stover of Paxville, Mrs. Sadie
Peters of Williamsburg, Mrs. Lilly Anderson and Mrs. Mabel Jarrell of San
Antonio, Tex., and Mrs. Stella Dameron of Marfork. Service will be at 2
p.m. tomorrow at Paxville Free Will Baptist Church with Rev Ernest Bias and
Rev. Kenna French officiating. Burial
will be in Adkins Cemetery at Naoma. The body will be taken to the home
at 3 p.m. today. Armstrong
Mortuary of Whitesville is in charge of arrangements.”
The funeral home book, in which the guests and friends sign, contains many
Raleigh Country surnames, as would be expected. Closer perusal finds my
grandparents and uncle–“Mr. & Mrs. Burton Peters &
Lloyd.” There is also “Mr.
& Mrs. James Peters & family”–my father’s older brother, sister-in-law
Gwendolyn “Tootie” Jackson Kidd Peters, nieces Carolyn Jean and Sonja
Kay and nephew Ronald Gene. There is
“Mamie Peters,” sister-in-law to my Grandpa Burton Peters. There are more great uncles, aunts and
cousins listed: “Mr. & Mrs. Hughie Jarrell, Inez Stover, Mr. &
Mrs. Virgil Stover & Loretta, Mr. & Mrs. Cebert Stover & family,
Mr. & Mrs. Elmer Ashley.”
Other surnames included in the book are Mullins, Stilwell, Bowles, Chapman,
Spradling, Vergis, Canterbury & Lee.
Gracie, Herbert’s daughter, reads the book 50 years after the fact and puts a
unique spin on it, “He sure had a LOT of flowers, and a lot of people
signed the book. He was 26 yrs, 8
months and 1 day old. It seems a bit weird to see my name in here as his
The funeral service included the Packsville Freewill Baptist Church Choir’s
renditions of “Peace in the Valley,” “Precious
Memories,” and “Will you Meet me Over Yonder?” According to Herbert’s widow,
Herbert’s mother Gracie Nicholas Stover, kissed Herbert and said, “I
will meet you in the morning.” It
was a mother reassuring her son, telling him he was safe and that she would see
him in the morning when they wake up in heaven. Gracie P. Nicholas Stover also
sang gospel. According to her
granddaughter Gracie, she “sang on some Christian program out of Oak
Judy Turner Griffy sent me the words to “I’ll Meet you in the
Morning.” I feel it appropriate to
include one of the verses from this old hymn:
“I’ll meet you in the morning by the bright river side
When all sorrow has drifted away
I’ll be standing at the portals, when the gates open wide
At the close of life’s long dreary day.”
In the end, we are all measured by what we leave behind. Some may look at the final product in terms
of dollars, since that is how they measure success. I chose to take the approach of an amateur genealogist. We are measured, I believe, by who we leave
behind. An up-to-date account shows
that Herbert Jackson Stover left a wife, 2 children, 6 grandchildren and 11
I think that Uncle Herbert understood this amateur genealogist’s take on
success. Gracie talked about one of her
conversations with Herbert’s sister and our Aunt Stella Stover Dameron,
“Aunt Stella told me, last time I saw her, that he always was talking
about his little boy and girl and that he loved me and my brother very
much.” He was also described as a
“doting father” who “spent time playing and being with his
children.” That sounds to me like
a man investing in the future and aiming toward success.
When I undertook this project, I wanted to find out everything I could about my
uncle since my information on him was scant at best. For you see, he died before I was born, died before my parents
even knew each other. I also wanted to
find something new about Uncle Herbert, something that Gracie didn’t even
know. It was to be my present to her. I
sent my Uncle Lloyd Peters an E-mail, for he was a major source of information
on the Stover family. He would know something extra. I would follow up the E-mail with a phone call later in the
week. I instead got a phone call. It was my cousin, Debbie Peters Milam,
informing me that Uncle Lloyd had died.
I found nothing new about my Uncle Herbert.
But, I think I now know him a little better.
Three things helped me toward this goal, helped me get a grip on just
who Uncle Herbert really was. Beyond
the dates and the oral legend, this is what I know about Herbert Jackson
Stover. First, I know my father thought
enough of him to mention him in a short letter written home from the cold hell
that was the Korean War. Second, I know
my grandparents thought enough of him to take his widow and children in after
his untimely death. And third, I know
his daughter Gracie, as many of you do.
I know Gracie as a kind and giving soul who is very passionate and thorough
about her work in genealogy. Without
her dedication, many of us would be less informed about our families. And that would be a tragedy.
I am proud to know her, proud to list her among my mentors and, most
especially, proud to call her cousin.
In genealogy, a cousin is about as good as it gets and to paraphrase a
cliche, they don’t get any better than Gracie.
If we are measured, as I stated before, by who we leave behind, then Cousin
Gracie is a perfect example of just how successful my Uncle Herbert was. And we are all richer because of his