Monday, January 21, 2019

2019 #52Ancestors: Week 3 - "Unusual Name"

I could not have picked a more unusual woman to write about for this week's "unusual name" prompt! This week's post will feature my great-great-grandmother, Vazzie Angelee Hancock (1900-1984). She is the only person I have ever encountered, in person or otherwise, with the name Vazzie, or with the middle name of Angelee.

Vazzie Angelee Hancock was born on May 10, 1900, to Charles Wesley Hancock and Laura Belle Leftwich. Both the Hancock and Leftwich families have a long and noble history: Vazzie's ancestor, William Hancock, was a participant of the First Thanksgiving in the New World, and the Leftwich family was an ancient and noble house in England, descending from the de Vere family, which accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy (as recorded in The Leftwich-Turner Families of Virginia and Their Connections by Walter Lee Hopkins).

Vazzie in the 1920s.
While Vazzie's early childhood may have been relatively normal, her teenage years were not. She began helping her father dig coal in a "punch" mine in Witcher, WV at age 14, and even became proficient at making and using mining explosives. An article from The Charleston Daily Mail on March 23, 1972, described her mining career in great detail. She is quoted as saying "You can bet your life it is hard work. Anyone who gets his miner's pension or black lung benefits deserves it. You can't go in there and sit down. You have to work."

Perhaps the most unusual thing about Vazzie was not her unconventional job, but her love life. She had five husbands throughout the course of her life, and divorced four of them. Her first marriage was three days before her 18th birthday, on May 7, 1918 (her age on the marriage record is listed as "21"), to Goldie Woolwine. She had one child with Goldie, named Charles Woolwine.

The 1920 census finds Vazzie, Goldie, and Charles in the household of Andrew and Luticia Hunt. Luticia was 33 years older than Andrew and was very ill, so Vazzie was her caretaker. Although Goldie and Charles both lived in the home, Vazzie and Goldie are both listed as "divorced."

Vazzie Rucker article.
Thu, Mar 23, 1972 – Page 8 · The Charleston Daily Mail 

Vazzie's second child, my beloved great-grandfather, was born on January 9, 1921, and was named Ernest Zacharias Hunt. He was the acknowledged son of Andrew, and has been confirmed by DNA to be Andrew's biological son. Andrew was still married to Luticia at the time of his birth, and as far as I know, Vazzie, Goldie, and Charles were still living in Andrew's home at this time.

A little more than a year later, Vazzie married her second husband, George Hayes, on March 15, 1922. Their marriage lasted about the same amount of time as the first, and produced no children. by mid-year 1923 Vazzie and Andrew were back together, because their second child, Luticia Margot Hunt, was born in February of 1924. (She has also been confirmed by DNA to be Andrew's child.) She was named after Andrew's wife, who had died less than a month earlier on January 17, 1924. My great-grandfather had a very early memory of being on a train, traveling back to live with Andrew and Luticia after Vazzie and George separated. He also remembered going to Luticia's funeral.

Vazzie in the 1940s.
I have not found a marriage record for Vazzie and Andrew, but I know that they were married sometime between 1924 and 1930, because they appear together in the 1930 census. They went on to have three more children: Douglas Newton in 1926, James Franklin in 1931, and Alma Belle in 1934. Douglas was unfortunately killed at age 5 in November of 1931, when he was run over by a car.

Not long after Alma Belle was born, Vazzie and Andrew separated and later divorced. Andrew was reported by several family members to have joked that he "paid for two divorces to get her, and one to get rid of her." When my great-grandfather was about 14 or 15 (1935-36), his mother remarried again to a man named Taylor Clay, whom my great-grandfather did not like. (I have also not found a marriage record for them, but I have seen a copy of the divorce record.) My great-grandfather did not like Taylor Clay so much that he actually left home and set up housekeeping in a renovated chicken coupe. When Vazzie's divorce from Andrew was finalized, Andrew was awarded custody of all of the children, a very unusual ruling for the time. The 1940 census finds Andrew living in his hometown of Belle, WV with all of the children, including Charles, Vazzie's child from her first marriage. By this time Charles had assumed the last name of Hunt, to match his brothers and sisters.

Vazzie in the late 1970s.
Taylor Clay eventually went the same way as the first three husbands. In 1953, Vazzie married her fifth and final husband, Walter Rucker, and was married to him until his death on May 10, 1968 - Vazzie's 68th birthday. Walter was by all accounts a good man, and was known affectionately as "Uncle Walter" to Vazzie's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Later in life, Vazzie was known for her unusual mix of hobbies. The same newspaper article that described her coal mining career also told of her fondness for squirrel hunting (a hobby she shared with two great-aunts on my paternal side, Aunt Allie Clay and Aunt Elsie Keeley), and of her great skill as a quilter. Two of my most treasured possessions are quilts that she hand-made.

My great-great-grandma Vazzie was clearly a most unusual woman to match her most unusual name. She was ahead of her time in so many ways, and was an amazing woman. I had such a hard time choosing between this week's prompt of "unusual name" and next week's prompt of "I'd like to meet" to write about her, because she is at the top of my list of ancestors that I wish I could have a conversation with.

~ ~ ~

My descent from Vazzie is as follows:

Vazzie Angelee Hancock (1900 - 1984)
2nd great-grandmother

Earnest Zacharias Hunt (1921 - 2008)
Son of Vazzie Angelee Hancock

Phyllis Carolyn Hunt (1943 - )
Daughter of Earnest Zacharias Hunt

Lora Marlene Quinn (1961 - )
Daughter of Phyllis Carolyn Hunt

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Lora Marlene Quinn

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