Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throwback Thursday - April 1994 - Uncle Aster

My Grand Uncle Aster Lewis and me in front of a historic general store in Jonesboro, Tennessee - 1994

This week's Throwback Thursday is a recognition of my grand uncle Aster Lewis (1919-1997).

The photo in this posting is of my Uncle Aster Lewis and myself taken in the historic town of Jonesborough, Tennessee (in 1994 - over twenty years ago)!

Uncle Aster was significant in my life because he opened the way for my genealogical research into my paternal family line.

The spring of 1994 was the first year I met my grand uncle Aster.  Before that date I didn't even know he existed.  How it came about that I knew I had an Uncle Aster was from my Aunt Peg Tipton.  

Aster was the son of Isaac Ledford Lewis, my great grandfather and the father of my grandmother Hester Lewis Tipton, who married my grandfather Fieldon Tipton. 

Uncle Aster's father and my great grandfather Isaac Ledford Lewis - abt. 1940

Aunt Peg knew I was interested in researching my paternal line of Tiptons from whence they came in western North Carolina.  

My great grandfather Isaac Lewis (no relation to Jerry Lewis)

When I left my job at the bank in Philadelphia on April 1st, 1994 (I quit), I made plans to visit my brother John in Greenville, South Carolina.  From John's home it is a two hour drive to the mountains of western North Carolina which borders on eastern Tennessee and the city of Johnson City, Tennessee.  Aunt Peg gave me Uncle Aster's phone number and suggested I call him knowing that he would know folks who still were living who knew my grandfather Fieldon Tipton before he moved with his family to southeastern Pennsylvania during the late 1920's to seek work (they were starving in the mountainous hills of western North Carolina - oh yes - they were hillbillies - when his lumber business went belly up. 

Me headed up to the top of the mountain to Goldwater Cemetery where my great grandfather Isaac Lewis is buried

Uncle Aster was a traveling, fire and brimstone, preacher.  He was very poor but generous with his time and knowledge in helping me research my family history.

I specifically remember one thing he said to me when I left.  He said "God be with you Ron because I know I'll never see you again."  And you know what folks, I never did again.  He died three years later but I will be forever thankful to him form providing me the path to research my family history through his introductions.  

The headstone of my great grandfather Isaac Lewis's grave at the top of the mountain which is now inaccessible

The Coldwater Cemetery, a private Lewis cemetery located at the top of a mountain on Upper Pigeon Roost Road, Green Mountain, Tennessee.

Pictured above are Glenn Renfro (who owns the land and is married to Wanda Byrd who is the granddaughter of Pansy Tipton, who was the sister of my grandfather Fieldon Tipton - I hope you go that and your head doesn't hurt now).

Aster Lewis is in the center of the photo and my brother John is to the far right.  He was taking a video.  You can see him shouldering the video camera (this was before iPhones and videos).  

This was and is a beautiful and peaceful cemetery now inaccessible.  A side note; during my last visit three years ago Glenn Renfo's son Jerry asked me if I was gay (specifically he asked "There is a rumor that you practice the gay lifestyle, is that true?"  I told him I was (I answered his question by saying "If you're asking me if I'm gay, I am").  He was the relative (second cousin, once removed) who  threatened me by saying "If you ever visit my parent's again you'll have me to deal with!"  

Of course I haven't been back since but I am so appreciative to my dear Grand Uncle Aster who providing the hospitality that the South is known for when I visited him over twenty years ago.  

Uncle Aster at his mother's grave (not my great grandmother, my great grandfather married a second time after his first wife my great grandmother died) in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Aster's wife is to the left. Aster is now buried in this cemetery.


  1. My Glenn has worked on both of our family trees for the past six years. His maternal grandfather, the Somers, are originally from North Carolina, I have an uncle, he lived in the Philadelphia area in the mid 17 hundreds, he was the father of American botany. His home and farm are now a nation historic place called 'Bartram Gardens'. Glenn's maternal grandmother's family are Canada. There is a town northeast of Toronto Ca. called Gores Landing, on Rice Lake. This town is named after his great great great grandfather. You can find this stuff in our family website called, "Miller Somers Wilson Wynn family trees". It's a work in progress. Glenn is working on some of our history as I write this.

    1. Mike,
      Good to hear from you again! But don't feel obligated to comment on my blog postings. I understand you taking a break. Isn't researching family genealogy fascinating? I wish I had more time to devote to it. There are so many stones that I have to turn over. I'll ask Pat (a Toronto resident) about the town of Gore. I'm sure he knows it.
      Take care Mike,

  2. Ron,

    Another common thread between us. We both had grandfathers in the lumber business. Mine was Great Grandfather William Townsley and my Grand Uncle Jim Townsley, who had a lumber business in Pennsylvania.

    1. Lar,
      Many of our ancestors were farmers too. In fact I think just about all of my ancestors were farmers until my father. Nothing special in my lineage. Oh, my grandfather was a train engineer.

  3. That was the longest comment I have left on a blog in more than tree years. But as they say, 'if it feels good, do it.'

    1. Mike,
      Well, you comment was very much appreciated in this quarter.
      Thank you

  4. . Your work is very good and i appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts.


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