The Gathering

The largest family ever in Catawba, Virginia began in 1889 when John William Garman married Luemma Marcena Jane Craft in Craig County, Virginia. They would produce seventeen children over a 24 year period of time from 1890 to 1914.

Will Garman (Dad)
Luemma Garman (Mama)









The last living member of that family was Elizabeth S. Garman who rejoined the family after passing away at over 103 years of age. It is shouting time in heaven for this Godly, talented and fun-loving family who left their mark as a family and as individuals. Let’s imagine what Elizabeth saw when she became absent from her body and present with the Lord Jesus. Tell us about it, Mama.

[Mama speaking] “Well, Ted, I remember waking up and seeing the most beautiful light as I walked down a lane and entered a larger area, and all of a sudden there was Jesus. I felt kind of swimmie-headed like the time I fell off my pony Ginger. Then in a blink of an eye, I had fallen down in front of Him and cast my  Crown of Salvation at his feet. You know we all get that Crown just for believing in Jesus and getting “saved”. Now I cannot tell you what he said to me, because the Lord said Ted and others would have to experience that for themselves. But don’t fret because it will be like——-nothing you have ever experienced before. After meeting with the King of Kings I would, oops, I almost forgot something. First I told Jesus that I would have liked to have been able to bring him some of my homemade rolls, but I knew that was not possible. He laughed and told me he had some food that he wanted me to try. Now where was I, oh yeah, I was taken by an angelic man over to a gathering place and a lot of people like we used to have at Mama and Dad’s.

Now you won’t believe this! There was my family, Mama and Dad setting on throne-like chairs looking spic and span, smiling and I just wanted to run to them and set on Mama’s lap. Around them were my 9 brothers and 7 sisters and every one of them was fit as a fiddle and every bit puttin’ on the dog.

Stacil, who had spent so many years in the bed with MS was a picture of health. And Widdie, she walked up to me and told me if she’d known me, Mae and Earl were going to live to over 100 she would have tried harder. See, Widdie lived to be 97. I told her she had done the right thing because those last few years you just want to be with the Lord, and Earl and Mae agreed.

Widdie (Lillie)







Gert, (Gertrude) was standing behind Mama I suppose since she was the firstborn. She said that me and her were the bookends of the family, Gert being #1 and me being # 17. Gert lived to be 102 ½, and I think she thought she would be the only centurion in the clan. She was for a great while. Got all the way down to #10 and Mae got the honors of being the oldest at 108 ½. At the time I thought that record was safe, but Earl beat that with her almost 109. I did not have any problem getting to “only” 103 ½ because I wanted to get up here as soon as possible and see everybody else.









Three men were standing together watching the others who had been making music, laughing and joking. Some things never change. I drew my attention back to the three I could not place. Oscar came running over and grabbed me, saying let me introduce you to 3 brothers you haven’t met. Oscar pointed to the first one and said this is Lucian who went off to war when I was about two. He got sick over there and died. So I am not sure I could recollect him, but I did tell him I saw his burial place in Arlington National Cemetery.  The other two looked younger, and Oscar said their names were Ballard and Walter. They had died young, especially Walter living just 2 years. Imagine meeting two brothers I had never seen and one I hardly knew.









The others were off to the side, and Claude walks up to greet me with a hug. He liked to pick at me back on earth, and that had not stopped in heaven. He said that they were worrying about Mae, Earl and me because we were taking so long to get to heaven that they thought we had gone the other way. Earl could always handle Claude, and she just told him she wasn’t in a hurry to put up with his foolishness.  Claude called Kermit over for support because the two of them and Earl were born between 1903-1907. Kermit with that smile told Claude he was on his own and we all just laughed. That brought back memories of playing and laughing that was a part of growing up in that family. Kermit lived near us for a while, our children played together.








I went over where the others were and saw John. John carried himself well, looking distinguished and more serious than the other men. Maybe that was what fiddle players were like. John was an excellent craftsman although I do not see any grandfather clocks around. Leo came up behind me and started cuttin’ up. He liked to live life to the fullest just like me. Tuck was, as usual, a little quiet but being just 2 years older than me we were very close. He could really play the guitar.








Two more left and I could not find Carra and Pearl. Then I spotted them over standing beside Dad. He was looking at what they were wearing, and it suddenly hit me. On Sundays, we girls wore our best and just before we headed to church Dad would inspect our attire to see if it was primp and proper. Usually, we were dressed nicely, but you better not have your petticoat showing. That was a no-no!

Let me get back to Pearl and Carra. I always was saddened that they left to come here so early. Pearl departed at  59 and Carra at around 64. Carra was a gentle soul and just real sweet. Her children favored her for sure. Pearl and Earl were just 2 years apart, so they were buddies. Pearl was so pretty, and that is reflected in her family of 9 children.









What a great gathering this was, to be together as a family of 17 plus Mama and Dad. Our family spanned 129 years so it will take an eternity for each to share our individual stories. I forgot (just arrived here you know) I forgot we have an eternity to do that.

I heard the music start up and asked myself, can we dance in heaven? Someone beside me said, yes indeed. Found out later it was someone named David. And, now, here comes Dorsey Taylor yelling grab your partner and circle to your right. Everybody now doe-si-doe.  Looking forward to seeing all of you up here.

Mama signing off.”


All that large family is gone leaving behind an already huge family that continues to grow larger.

Again use your imagination as I look ahead to the future of this great family:

Picture in your mind a long bench (like a church pew) that is empty. Now picture 2 people setting down on the long bench at one end. Those two people are Will & Luemma Garman, just married (February 9, 1889, Craig County, VA) and ready to start a family. One year later, 1890, Grandmother Luemma has her first child. She will proceed to have 4 more (1891, 1892, 1893, 1894). [Note]: The bench has 7 people. Grandmother Luemma rested in 1895 but birthed another in 1896 and another in 1897. Now sitting on that bench are 9 people made up of 2 parents and 7 children. The bench is half full. Stay with me now we still have to have 10 more children. I think I have lost track. Okay, I found my place. The year 1898 Luemma told Will that she had to take off one year. I think he agreed, but with the stipulation that she do 2 in a row in 1899 and 1900. She agreed and birthed 1 in 1899 and 1 in 1900. Let’s check that imaginary bench as we start the 20th century (1900s). If I am counting correctly there are now 2 parents and 9 children for a total of 11. [Note]: Had I been talking about Paris and Pearl Taylor, the family would be complete. Of the 14 Garman children that had families, only 2 had huge families. That would be Oscar at 14 in his family and Pearl’s family of 9.

So after having a daughter in 1900 Grandmother took 1901 off. She must have rested up pretty good since she had another child in 1902 and another in 1903. In sports, we call that going back to back.  We are now up to 11 children and more to come. They did not have television back then, you know. No children born in 1904, but she started back in 1905 with the birth of a son.

Time for another bench count. There are 2 parents and 12 people for a total of 14 on that bench. At that point in time the 7th child, Walter had died but God is letting him come down from Heaven until I get this article finished. Moving right along we are going back to back again. Grandma Garman would have a child in 1907 and one in 1908. That would be Earl and Pearl, they grew up close to one another.

Another break was coming to her in 1910, yay, yay baby free. Not so fast now, yes, you guessed it: Back to back in 1911 and 1912. Two more babies, as she had a daughter and son. And, finally, the last one, my Mom was born! Thank God for letting there be 17 kids, otherwise, I would not be doing this blog. Yes, the final baby in 1914.

gathering (2)

Grandma Luemma had her first child at 20 and her seventeenth child at age 44! Seventeen children born within 24 years! She would live forty more years and go to be with the Lord at age 84 to get her eternal rest. There will be no making babies in Heaven. Luemma is smiling.

The bench is full now, but it would empty out over time, having started In 1889 ending in 2018. That comes to 129 years of existence and influence of the Garman family.  The original family produced 66 grandchildren of which 24 are alive today. Now the time has come for we 24 grandchildren (first cousins) to sit down on that empty bench. Our role is to preserve our heritage by leaving the great-grandchildren with recorded family history to pass down. The torch is passed.


“Be Fruitful and Multiply and Fill the Earth” – In the Beginning

Luemma Marcena Jane Craft and John William Garman

I assume that on their honeymoon John William Garman and Luemma Marcena Jane Craft were reading from the Old Testament, Genesis 9:1 which was God’s Blessing and Commandment to Noah and his sons. On the other hand, maybe not. More likely, they agreed to have lots of children which would have been typical of the 1800’s families who ventured west in search of land and opportunity. Such families had to live off the land and it would take large families to work the land and survive. Granddad and Grandma Garman would build on about 100 acres of land with a good water source. They would have seventeen children over a period of twenty-four and one-half years, from April 17, 1890 to October 27, 1914. My mother was the last born at number seventeen, which me and my three sisters are thankful for or else I would not be writing this blog. So, 17 children in 24 years is quite amazing and unusual, even at that time, although the Martin family of Catawba had thirteen. Between those two families that comes out to 30 young’uns. We’re talking about a small village right there folks!

Standing left to right: Claude M. Garman, Oscar A. Garman, John O. Garman, Leo W. Garman, Kermit L. Garman, Leon A. Garman      Sitting left to right: Elizabeth S. Garman Carroll, Pearl E. Garman Taylor, W. Earl Garman Taylor, M. Mae Garman Peters, Aunt Aimmy Henderson, Carra E. Garman Shepherd, Gertrude M. Garman Damewood, Lillie G. Garman Crawford,  Stacil V. Garman Garman

Ant Gert (Gertrude M. Garman Damewood) would be the first child born in this family on April 17, 1890. Interestingly, she would also be the first centurion with a lifespan of 102 years and almost 5 months. Now, number one born lives to 102 plus and number 17 (Elizabeth) is still living at 103 plus. I find that noteworthy. The longevity gene remained strong for 24 years.

We have accounted for two centurions so far and two more to go. The 10th born in the family was M. Mae Garman Peters, who was born April 27, 1902, and passed away November 5, 2010, having lived 108 years and 6 months!

The record as of now is W. Earl Garman Taylor born July 16, 1907 passing away June 28, 2016 having lived 108 years and 11 plus months. I like to state it as right at 109. Actually, since life begins at conception both of these fine ladies get credit for 109. When you author an article you can take certain liberties.

So out of that family there will be four who have lived over 100 years almost 25% of the family.

Fourteen of these family members would raise families. Of the other 3, two died very young and Lucian died of an illness in France in December of 1918.

Second Generation: Grandchildren

I will not list them all now but will state that there were 66 grandchildren of the 14 families that had kids. Of the 66 there are 24 living as of the date of this blog. FITNESS ALERT: If you are one of these living 24, and are in your 80s now, especially you ladies, then take good care of yourself because 25% could see 100 plus! Back to the grandchildren.

There were 2 children each born to Lillie Garman Crawford family, Leo Garman family, Claude Garman family and Stacil Garman family. There were 3 children born to Earl Garman Taylor family. Four families had 4 children each: Gertrude Garman Damewood family, John Garman family, Kermit Garman family and Elizabeth Garman family. Leon Garman family had 5 children as did Cara Garman Sheppard family. The Mae Garman Peters family had 6 children and the Pearl Garman Taylor family had 9 children. Lastly, the super-sized family of Oscar Garman had 14 children.

[My thanks to Hilda Wright and Barbara Carroll Shelor for ‘counting the flock’.]

I know much of this has sounded like the Old Testament book of Numbers, but some family facts from this litter of 17 is needed for reference to whom belongs to what family. Also, over time I will write about or reference many of these families and individuals. Think of it as a big family reunion, blog-wise and we are doing the introductions before the conversations begin.

This Garman family had a great impact on Catawba other than just the numbers. They were Godly people, very talented musicians and vocalists with a tremendous work ethic. A love of life and a spirit of joy, peace, and contentment was in the marrow of their bones.

I want to pay tribute to that life in the Appalachians and to the Garman family from whence I sprung. There are many that love Catawba as much as I do. All of those experiences have taken on voices and have called me back to the place and people I dearly love. Those voices calling me are also calling those who connect to Catawba in some way big or small. And all those who read this blog and eventually the book will be blessed with the Echoes From Catawba Valley.

Like articles like this? Then you would love Echoes From Catawba Volume 1, Growing Up In Catawba Valley, Appalachia. 

Click here to order Echoes From Catawba Volume 1  hardcover, collector’s edition: $27.99, includes shipping.  Also available on Amazon. Paperback: $18.99 and Kindle: $5.99

Also available at the Salem Museum Book Store in Salem, Virginia and The Emporium on Main Street in New Castle, Virginia.

Echoes From Catawba

familyGrowing up in the 40’s and 50’s in Catawba, Virginia, I was known as Teddy Carroll. I was born to a mother who was the last born in her family of 17 siblings and a God-fearing, well-respected father.   At the age of 4, my father became ill and was diagnosed with tuberculous. I spent much of my childhood while he was a patient in the TB Sanitorium which is, currently, called Catawba Hospital.  With three sisters, I became the “man of the house”.  Life in the Appalachian Mountains requires one to grow up quickly. I was involved in all areas of living off the land, raising animals, growing crops and earning money, however, I could. Times were hard but I am thankful for them.  However, with many cousins I enjoyed many happy times and treasure those memories to this day. That mountain living made me who I am today. Proof of God’s promise, that all things work together for the good for those who love him. Romans 8:28 says it all! After college, I left the mountains to make a living for a growing family.

The Spirit of the Appalachian Mountains remained strong and it spoke to me as I experienced the next five-plus decades. Thoughts of majestic mountains, wonderful people and the legacy left to me by my daddy Clarence never wavered. It took but a thought to bring back those memories as Catawba was always speaking. How could that happen, you may ask? It was the echoes of all those memories and experiences and am so grateful for that.

The time has come to preserve and share those treasured times and the people of Catawba. I invite you to be a part of this through ECHOES FROM CATAWBA.