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WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND

WOYM: Old city directories useful in tracking family history in Roanoke

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What have they done to the old home place

Why did they tear it down?

- Dean Webb and Mitchell Jayne

Answers to such wrenching bluegrass ballad-style questions are often difficult to find. The search may be instructive even so.

Q: I am trying to locate my family’s Roanoke home during the early 1900s. I have a letter dated 1914 written to my grandfather at 1326 Third Ave. N.W. A later address I found was 1326 Loudon Ave. N.W. Was there a change in street names? That Loudon Avenue address now appears to be an empty lot. What more is known?

Loretta Manning

Roanoke

A. The house at 1326 Loudon was occupied by Taylor Wilson Epling, his wife Annie Beamer Epling and their three children Irene, Etta and William from 1912 until 1919, according to the City Directories for those years. Apparently, the family shared the residence with L.A. Trout in 1916 and 1917.

Trout was not listed at 1326 the last two years the Eplings lived there.

The Eplings were the reader’s maternal grandparents. Irene, the eldest of the three children, was her mother. Grandmother Annie died in 1916 from one of the deadly health scourges of the era, tuberculosis, Loretta Manning said.

Annie Epling’s death was likely to have led to the shared living arrangements the next two years. T.W. Epling was a conductor for the Norfolk & Western Railroad, a position not known for particularly lavish compensation. Left with children ages 11, 7, and 6, providing for the family certainly must have been challenging on a number of levels for a widower.

As for the questions about the discrepancy in street names, Third Avenue’s name was changed to Loudon sometime before 1911, the last year J.S. Raikes lived there prior to the Eplings moved in.

City directories from that era listed in their street guides the current and former names of streets for those thoroughfares for which the duel listings applied.

That explains the Third Avenue address on the aforementioned 1914 correspondence to the Epling residence on Loudon. The use of former street names by longtime residents of a locality is not uncommon. For instance, many Roanokers still knew First Street as Henry Street long after that name had changed.

When the Eplings moved in 1920 (the granddaughter believes the next residence was on Orange Avenue; the writing of that chapter of family history is left for another day) their successor at 1326 was Walter Lee Linkous and his wife Beatrice, who had no children.

Lorretta Manning’s personal family research shows connections to the Linkous family. Both the Eplings and Linkouses have deep New River Valley roots. That aside, relation to W.L. Linkous is uncertain and if any must be confirmed, that time is not now. In any event, Loretta Manning leaves open the possibility that 1326 changing hands may have started through a family connection.

Another potential connection is the railroad. Linkous was listed in the 1920 directory as a conductor, same as T.W. Epling.

Evidence suggests that Walter and Beatrice Linkous enjoyed less than wedded bliss after moving to Loudon Avenue.

On Aug. 23, 1924, a transaction listed in city deed cards detailed 1326 being signed over to W.L. Linkous (“grantee”) by grantor Beatrice Linkous. The property on that year’s city land book listed on line 9239 and was described as having 50 feet of frontage and totaling 6,500 square feet of real estate.

The next legal proceedings we find involving the Linkouses is covered by a state Bureau of Vital Statistics-Board of Health document dated Dec. 21, 1927, granted plaintiff Walter Linkous divorce from Beatrice after 14 years. The split was uncontested on account of the defendant being a “fugitive from justice.”

The property stayed with Walter Linkous until Aug. 28, 1945, when it was granted to Henry Wiseman.

It is unclear what the ultimate fate of 1326 was. On the deed card, the lot was denoted 1324 with a prior 1326 crossed out in ink by hand. During the Eply’s residence, the house was flanked by 1324 and 1328. The current city GIS tax map shows three houses beginning with 1330 Loudon at the corner of 14th Street then going east to 1328 then 1324. The next lot east of 1324 is vacant.

That arrangement suggests a previous subdivision in which 1326 was demolished in order to enlarge 1328 or more probably 1324 or both.

That’s for another chapter awaiting a writer.

If you’ve been wondering about something, call “What’s on Your Mind?” at 777-6476 or send an email to whatsonyourmind@roanoke.com. Don’t forget to provide your full name (and its proper spelling if by phone) and hometown.

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