By Betsy Cross Thorpe
“They love each other. They’re brother and sister. It’s one for all and all for one.” Joseph Ziemba
The 52 Ancestor’s in 52 Week’s topic for this week is Prosperity. As soon as I saw the topic, I knew that I wanted to tell the following story.
This story is from 1946. That’s when my eldest maternal uncle, Eugene Roe, sent a portion of his military pay home to my grandparents, Henry David Roe and Ruby Elizabeth Isaacs Roe. He sent the money so they could move his younger brothers and sisters out of the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta where he had spent his entire life before joining the Navy.
My grandparents purchased Greyhound Bus tickets for themselves and their five younger children with some of the money he sent. Starting in Greenville Mississippi they traveled two thousand, three hundred and seventy-three miles across the country in search of a better life. They ended up in the little town of Dorena, a wooded enclave in the Willamette Valley area of Oregon.
Dorena offered the hope of a brighter future due to its thriving lumber industry and the promise of work with the Army Corps of Engineers on the Dorena Dam building project.
My uncle was wise beyond his years. Thanks to him giving my grandparents the resources they needed to get out of Mississippi his siblings all went on to live lives of security and comfort. They all prospered far beyond what he dared dream for them in 1946.
And so did he. My uncle eventually joined his family in Oregon after he left the military in 1952. He continued to live there for the rest of his life.
Me and many others in my family believe that it was the foresight and generosity of my uncle that changed the course of our family’s history forever. And we are thankful
This one of my favorite family stories and I have heard many different versions of it throughout my life.
But as so often happens with family stories , I found that there is much more to this story than I originally thought.
This story has a backstory. And it’s a good one!
Please read on.
My Great-Uncle Kelly and His Time in the CCC
My uncle and my grandparents learned of the opportunities awaiting them in Oregon from the two eldest of my grandmothers’ three younger brothers, Benjamin Franklin Isaacs, and Herman Kelly Isaacs .
The two young men had been stationed at different camps in Oregon during their second stints in a voluntary public works program named the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program also known as the CCC. From 1933 to 1942 more than three million unmarried young men—aged 17 to 28 served in the program and my grandmothers’ brothers were among them.
The year 2020 marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the birth of Herman Kelly Isaacs.
I just learned this eighty-four-year-old story about him and his first short stint in the CCC.
When Herman Kelly was not yet seventeen years of age, he joined the CCC. He was sent up north to a camp in Pennsylvania. Not liking the cold weather up there he soon left his post and returned to the home of his older sister Effie Marie Isaacs Moore and her husband Albert Moore down in Leflore County. The poorest area in the Mississippi Delta.
A depression era recording of a song titled the CCC Blues is posted below. The song expresses the nature of the thoughts that most likely went through the mind of Herman Kelly Isaacs before he decided to leave the CCC.
As you just heard , in the song above, the song warned enlistees that one consequence of leaving the CCC early was that they would never be able to go back into the program or join the U S military at a later time.
But Herman Kelly was a clever boy. He figured out a way to beat the system. Two years after leaving the CCC camp in Pennsylvania he changed his name and signed up with CCC again. He signed up again using a different name. He changed his name and enlisted under the name of Henry Kelly Isaacs.
This time around he was sent to a place that was much farther away from home. He was transported all the way across the country to the Triangle Lake Camp in Lane County Oregon, where he stayed and completed his term of service.
Herman Kelly Isaacs continued to go by the name Henry Kelly Isaacs for the rest of his life. However, those who knew him best called him by his middle name Kelly.
Many people, including some close relatives, never knew that he used an alias. They believed his birth name was Henry Kelly. But now, knowing that his name really was Herman Kelly, explains away the confusion that followed when he named his first born son Herman Kelly Isaacs Jr.
Herman Kelly Isaacs wasn’t the only young man in our family to change his name so he could join the CCC a second time. His older brother Benjamin Franklin Isaacs liked the program so much that he didn’t want to leave once his time was done. He dropped the s at the end of his surname. He changed his name to Isaac so he could enlist for another six months. He used the Isaac version of his surname for the rest of his life. His descendants continue to uses the name Isaac to this day.
Beatrice Issacs Lisenby was the youngest sister of Ruby Isaacs Roe. She married Herbert Lisenby shortly after he returned home to Mississippi after completing his six month term of service in the CCC. While in the CCCC, Herbert Lisenby was stationed at a camp in Oregon. Herbert and Beatrice Lisenby eventually moved to Oregon, where they raised their family. They lived out their lives there.
All seven of the Isaacs siblings left Mississippi. Most of them settled in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon.
Three Isaacs sisters ( Effie Marie, Ruby Elizabeth and Beatrice) were laid to rest in Fir Grove Cemetery in Cottage Grove Oregon. Along with their husbands and a number of their deceased children. Isaacs brother Herman/Henry Kelly Isaacs and his son Herman Kelly are also buried there.
Thpre song CCC Blues comes to us from a field recoding made by Margret Valiant. She recorded the song in a migrant camp in Northern California, for the Farm Security Administration in 1936.
For 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. From the prompt for the week of February 18 to February 26. Prospertiy
9 thoughts on “PROSPERITY”
I want to thank my Uncle Frank and Uncle Kelly who after coming to Oregon, wrote back to my parents, aunts and uncle about the job opportunities. Uncle Frank after changing his name and also his birth place eventually ended up at Brice Creek above Dorena with the CCC. He worked on the Rujada Campground which is still a very popular site for camping. June Frier who went with a friend to a dance with the men at the camp. My Uncle Frank saw her; he sent a “spit wad” at her. Their eldest daughter, Earline said her mother told her it was “love at first site”. They married shortly thereafter and settled in Dorena. When brother Gene sent money for us to come to Oregon; we stayed with them before we rented Mrs. McCormick’s house. It with just up the road. Coming by bus mama couldn’t bring much. The house was furnished so for $100.00 they bought everything in the house. We siblings and cousins owe a debt of gratitude to these who forged the way to our prosperous life in Oregon. Thank You!
Thank you Conny Isaacs for sharing such treasures in picture and postcards to add to the story. For Uncle Kelly saving everything for so many years. Prosperity yes!
I agree with you. . Uncle Gene will hold a place of honor in the rolls of our family history for many years to come. He name will be repeated with gratitude down through the generations.
Thank you for Uncle Gene.
I remember talking with Gene about his generosity to our family after I learned about it and he just shrugged his shoulders like NO BIG DEAL!
My late twin brother Frank’s full name was Herman Frank Roe – quite sure he was named after our Uncle – original name Herman Kelly Issacs – later changing his name to Henry Kelly Issacs and we all knew his as Uncle Kelly!!
My family got out of Mississippi, but not in a happy way like yours did. My daddy died and then my mama married a man from Detroit and we moved up north. It all turned out good, my step dad is a good man, and our life is so much easier than if we hadn’t moved away. I’m happy to live here, but it is still nice to read stories that remind about where I grew up so I can remember what it was like when I was little.
I heard that I was named after a woman named Molly Brown. She was on the Titanic when it sank but she lived. I don’t know if that is a true story or not, I only heard that I was named after her after my mom saw a movie about her when I was a kid.
Molly Lynn that is a sweet for your mama to name you Molly after Molly Brown whether actually true or not! All of our family were/are very grateful we moved to Oregon from Mississippi and I’m sure my aunts, uncles and cousins who came also were very happy to leave Mississippi.
Your photographs are outstanding. Good telling of history here. I too had uncles as well as a much older first cousin who served in the corps, but I don’t have any photographs of them during their time of service. I know one uncle was sent to Wisconsin ,and my cousin was sent to Arizona. I’m not sure where my other uncle went, but I heard it was California, which is where his family lived.
As I recall we always called Uncle Kelly “Uncle Kelly” but I remember his lovely wife Aunt Eleanor always called him Henry! I never thought to question why or why was my twin named Herman Frank Roe or my cousin named Herman Kelly ? Very good writing of this family history Betsy!