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The People of Penniman: Personal Papers?

February 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 1 comment

There’s no doubt in my mind that a “Pennimanite” left behind a personal reminiscence or journal or unpublished manuscript or something, telling about his war-time experiences at Penniman, Virginia.

The problem is finding these people, and then finding their descendants, and then finding a written record.

Thus far, I’ve had three good breaks, where wonderful vintage photographs of Penniman have come into my possession. Two of those good breaks came from people with relatives connected to Penniman. The third event was a fellow who purchased a vintage photo album from eBay, and later found me (and this website).

Below, I’ve listed the names I’ve found thus far in the hopes that we might find these folks, and perhaps find a personal reminiscence of a Pennimanite.

Within the tags (at the bottom of this blog) are more names.

To read about the soldiers at “Camp Penniman” click here.

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Allshouse, Atkinson, Austin, Barnett, Bell, Benesh, Browne, Byrne, Casey, Cavanaugh, Cheep, Curry, Davidson, Davis, Doubille, Dunsworth, Fitzgerald, Gaugler, Gluss, Gohegan, Goodrich, Hazlehurst, Hess, Hoke, Huger, Huntley, Jenson, Krebbs, Loughborough, Luderlow, Ludqig, Marable, McCourt, McLelland, McMannus, Miller, Moser, Newcomb, O’briean, Odem, Osiff, Parkus, Pennee, Peters, Plumer, Rhodes, Shevlin, Stowe, Stumzi, Sykes, Tragsdorf, Trask, Van Dyke, Wadsworth, Walbauer, Walton (Benjamin Franklin Walton, from Hanover County), Wellford.

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FF

Thanks to the "Penniman Projectile" (December 1918), we now have several names of the people at Penniman, including the members of the Penniman Baseball team!

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Face

After spending more than six years studying Penniman, it's a delight to have faces for the "names" and it will be even more delightful to find some of the families of these men.

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According to the Penniman Projectile,

According to the Penniman Projectile, these were "prominent men" at Penniman.

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Mr. Benesh was the superintendent of the plant. After the war, DuPont sent him to China.

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Will we ever know the names of these many children?

Will we ever know the names of these many children at Penniman? And an aside, the sign overhead says "Girls' Industrial War Service Club." None of these children would be alive today, unless they lived well beyond 100 years old.

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Ora Huston was the lead pastor at Penniman, and ministered to Pennimans sick and dying, throughout the flu epidemic. Did he leave behind a published account?

Ora C. Huston was the lead pastor at Penniman, and he and his wife ministered to Penniman's sick and dying, throughout the flu epidemic. Did he leave behind a published account?

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Did Major Gaugler leave behind a memoir of his time at Penniman?

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To read about the soldiers at “Camp Penniman” click here.

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Perhaps, Just Maybe, I’ve Turned a Corner Here…

June 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Wednesday morning, I met with my favorite minister who has been a great source of comfort, guidance and kindness throughout these last 14 months. At the end of our meeting, he prayed with me for at least 15 minutes. It was a lovely thing, and I felt a heavy burden of darkness fall away from me. It was quite an experience.

That same evening, Teddy and I took a walk and stopped at a friend’s house and sat on the back deck, less than 30 feet from her seawall, which overlooks the Elizabeth River. My friend sat with us, and chatted away about everything and anything, and as I listened, I thought to myself, “Perhaps this is heaven on earth - watching the sun set over the vast expanse of the river while listening to the melodious voice of a caring friend.”

Later in the evening, a brand new friend from the brand new church called and we talked for almost an hour.

“I know these are hard times for you,” she said softly, “but you’re going to get through this. This isn’t how the story ends. This is a valley. Good things are going to start happening for you.”

Last week, I talked with a friend who’s done much to help me research this Penniman book. He called to ask a quick question, and we ended up talking for 45 minutes.

“Rosemary, I don’t know how you’ve been able to finish this book,” he said with compassion. “I know it’s been hard, but you did it, and you have every right to feel proud of this achievement.”

I closed my eyes and soaked in his kind words like a sponge.

And then he said, “And I wanted to tell you, I found some more information on Penniman.” He’d found The Penniman Projectile, a company newsletter for which I’ve searched since 2011. He sent it to me, and it’s quite a treasure. That night, after poring over its pages, I fell asleep with a smile on my face: That hasn’t happened in some time.

My daughter called Tuesday night and we talked for more than an hour.

“Mom, maybe you don’t fully understand this, but completing that book was a huge accomplishment, and doing it this year, with all the hell you’ve been through? Wow. I’m so proud of you.”

And then in the wee hours of Thursday morning, I happened to connect with a Facebook friend (”Jane”) who shared some personal and profound insights about the unique struggles that I’ve faced these last several months.

Those insights are too personal to share here, but suffice it to say, she was married to the “same man, different body.” She nailed it. Top to bottom and left to right - she got it right. Her husband didn’t kill himself, but the other similarities were astounding, right down to the nitty gritty.

“Do not be his victim,” Jane told me. “He will not defeat you. No one who writes with as much humor and interest and passion as you do can be defeated easily. It will take some time to heal, and to untangle your mind. You need to learn to be gentle with yourself, but you will survive this.”

I’ve read that a baby chick pecks at its shell as many as 10,000 times before it finally breaks through. Perhaps these last 14 months, I’ve been struggling to peck my way out of this horrible shell of despair, darkness and despondency, and today, I caught my first glimpse of the new world, the world on the other side of this nightmare.

Subsequent to these events and lovely comments, I feel - deep down to my toes - that there are many reasons for hope.

And on a final note, many people have said, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” That’s exactly the right thing to say. And if you’d like to have a glimmer of what “suicide widows” endure, please read this article. It explains my life in shockingly accurate detail.

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This email arrived earlier this week from a friend. I framed it and put it in a place where I can read it daily. It has meant the world to me.

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Every week, I put up fresh inspirational messages by my desk. These came from my eldest daughter. She said she starts her day by reading messages like this.

Every week, I put up fresh uplifting messages by my desk. These messages were inspired by my daughter. She told me, "Mom, we have to focus on the good things, no matter how tiny or inconsequential they may appear at first."

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One of the loveliess surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter. The cover is so fascinating, for so many different reasons.

One of the loveliest surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter.

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Inside, I found a litany of familiar names, and now I had faces to go with those names!

Inside, I found a litany of familiar names! The "people of Penniman" - in the flesh.

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And more names and more faces!

And more names and more faces! The names listed in the "tags" are the family names I've found thus far at Penniman. Was your grandmother or grandfather at Penniman? Maybe now we can sort it out!

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My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was, Wayne will love this. But in fact, hell never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way.

My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was - "Wayne will love this." But in fact, he'll never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way. This man has caused me so much suffering. If I could travel back in time to May 2006, to our first meeting at the coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth, I'd tap that 46-year-old woman on the shoulder and tell her, "run like hell and don't look back." Perhaps I'm in my "anger phase" or perhaps, I am finally coming to my senses.

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If you’re here to read about the Sears kit homes, click here.

Click here to read about Penniman.

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