Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Talented Tuesday: Musicians on Mom's Side

Here goes with a try at a different (for me) blogging prompt from the wonderful folks at GeneaBloggers, and this one is Talented Tuesday! As a new-to-me prompt, it gets me thinking along a different track and that's good.

I am drawn to the visual arts and often forget about the substantial musical talent in the family on both sides. I recently blogged about the Zeller Ensemble on Dad's side which you can see here. But Mom has some musicians on her side so let me tell you about them. She played the organ for many years and both of us confess to a liking for the Hammond b: her liking leans to standards and liturgical and mine to Booker T and the MGs.

The first professional musician is Mom's Uncle Joe Williams (1895 - 1948). Uncle Joe, and I've come to think about him this way even though he's my grand uncle, was a musical guy. He studied at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. I can not imaging the hoops a miner and his son would have had to jump to get him situated in such a prestigious place in the very early 1900s.

Upon graduation he performed professionally in Cumberland and Frostburg, Maryland.  At some point he married Bessie Carwell (1895 - 1918). They were both born and raised in the same community, Ocean Mines, Allegany, Maryland. They had one daughter, Hilda, born 1915. Little Hilda was only 3 years of age when her mother Bessie died. Uncle Joe and Hilda were living with his parents at that point and so Hilda was pretty much raised by her Grandma Williams.

Mom remembers that Hilda had a piano in the home and Mom was a tad jealous at the extravagance and easy access to such an instrument because Mom always wanted to play. Eventually, in the mid 1960s Mom got an organ and studied. She became quite good. Not too long ago that old organ was donated to a local small church and refurbished by them. (A 50 inch TV now occupies the space where the old organ sat in Mom's house.)

Mom also remembers that all of Uncle Joe's brothers went to work in the coal mine where their father, Daniel, was a supervisor. My grand father, Cambria Williams, hated being underground and he especially disliked the cramped quarters and admitted to being a tad claustrophobic. He always loved the great outdoors. Uncle Joe didn't work in the mines because his pursuit was music. The boys always kidded him, "Joe can't do real work because he has to save his hands." In a house with all boys, one can only imagine the ways the boys "tortured" Uncle Joe:)

Uncle Joe played the organ in movie theatres of the day showing silent films. Try a sample here on Amazon. Saw a documentary about the large and complex organs made just for movie theatres and they looked hard to play. Here's a photo of the console of one from Wikimedia Commons, below. I imagine Uncle Joe was respected and admired in a small town environment, and being the man behind the music in the darkness of romance and adventure at the "movin' pitures", a bit envied! After all he got to see every movie for free!


When talkies came out, as Mom says, Uncle Joe taught music where he could and took any work available. He married again to Helen Gillette (1900 - 1989) and had two children, Marshal and Josephine.

Unfortunately, Uncle Joe Williams died in a car crash in 1948, in Mt. Savage, Maryland, coming home from a music lesson.

Mom's Uncle Joe Williams (1895 - 1948)

OK, here's a photo I had to include when talking about the musical people in the family: Buford Alley (1854 - ?). Buford married Ellen Nellie Price Alley (1864 - ?), the daughter of my 2nd great grandfather, William Price (1829 - 1872) and 2nd great grandmother, Diane Thomas Price (1832 - 1871). Have to confess that we don't know too much about this couple and the only reason the photos are here is that they're kinda cool:)

Buford Alley (1854 - ?)

His wife, Ellen Nellie Price Alley (1864 - ?)

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2013/01/talented-tuesday-musicians-on-moms-side.html


  1. What a great post. I don't have a lot of musical talents in my home. However, my aunt and my mother loved participating in choir. My brother and I were in band. Now my kids are learning piano and quite good at it. So, although we don't know of ancestors who have musical abilities, we're becoming the ancestors with the musical ability.

    And I'm with you. The last two photos are kind of cool.

    1. Hi Devon--
      Thanks for reminging me of choir because Mom and her sister, Aunt Dot, were in the choir as kids... and I have a picture! Whoop! I feel another post coming on:)

      Cheers, Diane

  2. Lots of talent here. Interesting post.


  3. A great post! I love Ellen's dress...it is very unique.