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The Thurston Family of Rhoadesville

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

My name is Joan Gaither Graves and my great, great grandfather was Ruben Brooks. From family history, Rhoadesville was their home and their daughter, Sarah Frances Brooks, was my great grandmother. My great grandmother’s only child, Ruben Thurston was my mother’s father. The following panel describes my grandparents’ life.

It appears from family history, that Rhoadesville has always been the homestead area for my grandfather’s maternal family. Ruben built the Thurston home on Route 602 (pictured above), less than a quarter of a mile from where he was born and raised.

Pictured, is the Thurston ‘s homestead in 1936. “Dollie” the cow, provided the family with milk and was the subject of “moo-dy” cow stories. My grandparents were farmers and raised all of their food: chickens, pigs, vegetables and a variety of fruit trees.

A portion of the produce, especially eggs, was used in exchange for staples at the Rhoadesville and “Tick” Talley stores, such as sugar, flour, bluing for washing clothes, and other items that were not produced in the garden or raised on the farm. The fruit, vegetables and some meats were canned to provide for the winter months.

In the early 1900's, many people migrated north to find work.

My grandfather Ruben Thurston, pictured above with my grandmother, was one of several African Americans who left the area for Pittsburgh to work in the steel mill.

He would return in 1912 and leave again, later for Rochester, New York to find work and provide for his family, perhaps in the flour mills.

Around 1920, he returned to the area where he lived until he died January 1955.

My grandparents’ home was destroyed for safety reasons in the late 1970's.

However, many of the landmarks still remain such as the large oak tree that was in the rear of the house behind the covered well, the hydrangea (snowball) tree that grew near the dining room window, where Sunday dinners for the preacher and guest were served, and the Coffee tree that provided shade for the front yard and porch on hot summer afternoons.

My Great Grandmother, Sarah (Saddie) Brooks pictured above, said what she meant and meant what she said. She had a specific time to do everything. I am told that I have her ways.

The family cemetery is now located in close proximity to the original cemetery, which is now a wooded area and covered with underbrush (not pictured). The tomb stones in the background are my grandparents’ graves. The family plot in the woods likely contains the resting place for my great grandmother and her parents. Both cemeteries are located on the Ruben Brooks’ Estate property.

thurston family
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