Sunday, December 29, 2013

Namesake of Two Grandmothers

Since the childhood eyes of Sarah Martha Moore McKinnon beguiled me into jumping into the middle of my Davis family narrative, I may as well take the time to position her on the timeline of this family history.

There are a lot of details to fill in, when it comes to Sarah Martha—though, on the other hand, her life is still quite the mystery to me. But let’s start with what we know.

First, I wouldn’t be surprised if the many palm trees in the background of yesterday’s photograph indicated a location far to the south of our own country. Remember, this Davis family came from Tennessee. While I’ve only been to Tennessee a few times, palm trees do not figure prominently in my memories of those trips. Nor do my Florida roots come into play here, as my mother’s McClellan line in Florida comes from the side of the family that was in-law to this Davis line.

Long before Sarah Martha was born, however, her mother had traveled to Honduras, El Salvador and the “Canal Zone” for “study and travel,” according to her application for passport in 1922. And after Sarah Martha’s parents were married the following year, they eventually moved to the nation where her father served as a railroad executive—Honduras.

My guess: those palm trees in yesterday’s photo were from Honduras.

It seems strange to think that a family from back home in the hills of Tennessee would be party to such an international lifestyle, yet that outpost in Central America actually played host to a number of Davis family members. I’ve found ship’s passenger records showing that Sarah Martha’s uncle—my grandfather, Jack Davis—and a cousin, H. M. Chitwood, both made the journey from Erwin, Tennessee, through New Orleans to Puerto Cortes to visit Sarah Martha’s family while they were living in Honduras.

Somewhere—whether in Honduras, back in Tennessee, or an undisclosed place in between that I’ve yet to discover—Sarah Martha entered this family scene on April 3, 1927. She became the only child of my grand-aunt, Lummie Davis Moore and her husband of the past four years, Wallace Moore.

Upon her arrival, her mother chose to bestow her with a name calling to remembrance the child’s two grandmothers: Wallace Moore’s mother, Sarah Good Moore, and Lummie’s own mother, Martha Cassandra Boothe Davis. Being a child of the south—though she didn’t even live there—she was destined to bear a two-part name which always would remain that way, as far as the rest of the family would see it. That middle name was part of her name, and was intended to be used that way, so “Sarah Martha” it would always be.

Having never met Sarah Martha or any of her immediate family, I have no idea whether that Southern notion carried itself forward in how she kept her name throughout the rest of her life—but for her Southern relatives, any time they spoke of her, they always, always called her Sarah Martha.

Perhaps that was one way to give equal time to the grandmothers on both sides of the family.


  1. Or to differentiate her from her grandmother named Sarah. They must have been real adventure seekers to go that far south:)

    1. I'm not sure they could really be classified as bona fide "adventure seekers" but I do know there must have been quite a bit more to the story of what drew them down to Central America. And oh, I'd love to know what that story was!

  2. She did live an adventure - that much is for sure! Can you imagine going to boarding school via steamship?

    1. The records of those steamships are providing a few clues of their own, too.


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