James Lee Showalter

My grandfather, James Lee Showalter was born November 1, 1898 in a log cabin at Allegheny Furnace near Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania. His mother was Margaret Kelley died in 1901, before he was 3 and his father, Solomon Showalter in 1908, when he was 10. Grandpa and his sister Grace, were sent to live with other relatives. Grandpa for some reason, seems to have been shuffled more often with different relatives.

I’m not sure why, but grandpa did not have a happy childhood and ran away from home a few times. Most of his grandparents and uncles were involved in the coal mines and they were determined that grandpa was going to work in them too. Well, grandpa had other ideas!

I have a seven page handwritten memoir(a copy of a copy) that grandpa wrote in 1970. The handwriting is very hard to read and the copy is poor. Grandpa ran away, for the last time, around 1914 or so and it was then that he changed his name to Fred James Lewis. Apparently, he had worked for a farmer named Lewis and took his last name. He finally settled in Toledo, Ohio.

In April 1919, he enlisted in the Army. He lied about his age, said he was 21 but wasn’t even 18. He met a nurse, named Eunice Marie Misson. They both worked for the same family and on November 21, 1919, they were married. They had 4 children, one being my mother. My grandparents were married almost 42 years when grandma died August of 1960.

My grandfather’s parents, two sisters, grandparents and great grandparents on his mother’s side are all buried in a small family cemetery known as the Colyer/Kelley Cemetery in Altoona, Blair Co., Pennsylvania. The cemetery is very difficult to get because it sits on top of a big hill, at the back of an auto recycling place. You have to go through the recycling place to get to it and the owner is not crazy about people going up there. I guess if you call ahead and make special arrangements, he will allow a person to go up to visit the graves. Years ago, several distant cousins of mine in the Altoona area sent me photos and the BCG Society did a plot diagram of the cemetery. At one time the cemetery must have been really nice. There was an old-fashioned wrought iron fence that enclosed it but the last photos I saw, nature was taking its course and the whole area was pretty overrun with weeds.

In reviewing funeral home records, I ran across an entry where 3 graves were removed from the Colyer/Kelley Cemetery and moved to Fairview Cemetery. There was no reference as to whose graves were moved and but a notation that no headstones were provided was listed. I suspect that the 3 graves were for Bessie, Pearl and Solomon Showalter, grandpa’s 2 sisters and his father especially since, theirs were the only unmarked graves in the Colyer/Kelley Cemetery. All the other graves are marked and accounted for. I thought this move was very strange. His mother’s headstone reads, Maggie A. Kelley-Wife of S.S. Showalter. It almost seems as if the Colyer and Kelley families had something against the Showalter families. I am still trying to understand and figure out what happened.

My grandpa said he “did not have a happy childhood”, but stated his life with my grandmother was “the happiest 42 years of his life”!

I miss them both a lot and their memories are deeply seated in my heart but the genealogy research has kept their memories alive in my mind too!


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