Bookend Love – Walton & Wylly

Wylly and Walton were brother and sister, they were also my great-aunt and my maternal grandfather. Wylly, christened William Michael, was two years older than her brother Walton. Linked by more than blood they shared a love of books and the written word. Wylly grew up to be a writer and journalist and Walton owned a book business, selling rare books and civil war reprints.

I have copies of the books my aunt wrote and the gifts she gave me over the years, but I have nothing except a few photographs of my grandfather who died when I was two. That changed the other day when my cousin, McKenzie surprised me by sending a set of bookends my grandfather, Walton made for his sister, Wylly.

They arrived in a small box that had a familiar smell even before I had it opened.

You may remember this post where I wrote about gifts from Aunt Wylly over the years and how much my sister Margaret and I loved the smell when we would open our presents at birthdays and Christmas. Seeing the package of mothballs and thinking about why McKenzie had gone to the trouble to put some into my package made me smile.

Here are the bookends my grandfather made for his sister, Wylly Folk St. John. It feels right that they should be tucked in tight around the books she wrote. I’m not sure how old he was when he built them for her, but I have a feeling it may have been a task for one of his boy scout merit badges. I’ve placed them in a slightly different way than they were intended, but I can see them more clearly from where I sit and write.

I moved this particular book to the side so you could see a bookend next to one of my favorite books my aunt wrote called, ‘The Ghost Next Door.’ It’s the book I took my daughter Miranda’s name from to honor my aunt. Her parents named her William Michael even though she surprised them when she was born by being a girl. Everyone called her Willie growing up which she later changed to Wylly and I never heard her complain about her unusual name. She was like a dear grandmother to me, but I couldn’t bring myself to give my daughter a boy’s name and Miranda seemed like both a perfect fit for baby girl and a sweet way to honor my connection to my great-aunt.

I like how the initials ‘WF’ could be Walton or Willie ‘Wylly’ Folk. The style of the initials makes me think of the Art deco period in the 1920s. My grandfather was born in 1910 and would have been in his teen years as the style was becoming popular. I don’t remember ever hearing stories about him being handy with tools or doing any woodcarving as an adult so I think I may be right in assuming these were made by a young Walton.

The University of Georgia has all of my aunt’s letters, manuscripts, and personal correspondence in its rare books and special collections library and I’m hoping a bit of research the next time I’m home will give me more details about the history of the bookends.

Lacking the real story, the writer in me has already created several versions of when and how my grandfather made them which will have to do until I can discover more. I feel sure both my aunt and grandfather would be pleased to know how valued and well-loved they still are and I’m terribly grateful to my cousin McKenzie for giving them to me. They’ve had a special place on her bookshelf for many years and it’s a sweet gift of family connection that she has shared with me by passing them on.

Tom Selleck Or My Great-Great-Great Grandfather

HWC Folk and His Famiily, ca 1876

At a glance, most Americans or those familiar with American television and film stars might think the older man in this photo was actor Tom Selleck all dressed up for his next movie role. I saw the likeness the first time I came across this photograph of my great-great-great-grandfather, Henry William Capers Folk with his family.

The younger boys on the right and left sides of the photo became physicians like their father, HWC Folk, the Tom Selleck look-alike. The boy to the right of his mother, grew up to be my great-great grandfather, William Nicholas Hemeter Folk who is also the adult male you see in the image below. Standing at his knee is my great-grandfather, William Obed Folk.

Mahala Clementine & William Nicholas Hermeter Folk With Their Children, Mikellah & William Obed, ca 1899

Willam Obed, grew up to marry Annie Claire Mattox, my great-grandmother pictured below. I still have a few gifts she gave me when I was a little girl and some of my earliest memories are being small enough to walk under her heavy oak (I think) table in a darkish dining room.

I wish I had known her when she was a young woman or could find more stories about her now. She looks so sure of herself in the image below. I think she looks like she’s smiling with her eyes even though her mouth is set in a straight line. She’s got a sassy look about her that I like.

I do know that she had an interesting history prior to meeting and marrying my great-grandfather and it was very unusual for the time. She had a first marriage that was annulled according to my mother’s research although I had always heard she was divorced. For the daughter of a Primitive Baptist Minister and a woman born in 1879, I’m sure either would have caused a bit of a scandal.

Annie Claire Mattox

Annie Claire and William Obed had three children, one being my great-aunt, who was christened William Michael Folk, a name which evolved into Wylly Folk with the addition of St. John after her marriage. The baby below with ” Willy Mike ” as they called her, is my grandfather, Walton Obed Folk.

Walton, Wylly & Minnie (Her Doll)

Walton as a baby with older sister, Willy Mike.

Here you see my grandfather, Walton with my great-aunt Wylly and their baby brother, my great-uncle Johnny. ( Photo was hand colored by my sister Margaret )

My great-grandfather, William Folk with his boys, Johnny and Walton around 1928.

My grandfather Walton grew up to marry Elizabeth Procter shown in the photo from the 40s above.

Their only child was my mother, Elizabeth Judith who was born in 1940 and is shown here with her father, Walton.

She married my father, Gene Harper in December of 1959.

Gene & Judy Harper With Daughter, Elizabeth - 1960

Nine months later I was born. That’s me, Elizabeth Elwyn Harper when I was about 12 weeks old. You can find out interesting things when you spend time searching through your family history.

I had always thought I was the fourth Elizabeth in a row in my family, but it turns out my great-grandmother Bess Proctor was not an Elizabeth after all, but a Bessie making me only the third Elizabeth and not the fourth as I have always said when telling stories about my family history.

What about you, have you ever discovered some bit of family history that you’d thought was true that actually was different from what you’d always believed?