Behind the Scene – Annie Withers’ Losses: Influenza Pandemic Article

Annie Johnson Withers
(b. 1850 – d. Aft. 1920)

Sammie Shanklin, a fourth generation Alexandrian on his paternal family side migrated to Alexandria from King George, Virginia prior to the Civil War. On Sammie’s grandmother side of the family, the Withers and Johnson came to Alexandria during the Civil War.

Sammie and his cousin, Helen Shanklin Coles remembered family members telling them about the death of their grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Withers Shanklin and her sister, Annie Maria Withers Gray who both died in 1918 from the Influenza Pandemic.

These two sisters’ parents, Archibald and Annie Johnson Withers migrated from Culpeper, Virginia during the Civil War. Archibald and Annie got married in Alexandria in 1869. After their marriage, they continued to live in Alexandria, Virginia with their four children, Preston (b. 1874), Andrew (b. 1883), Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) (b. 1886) and Annie (b. 1893).

By 1890s, Archibald was a landowner. On the 1900 census, Archibald stated that his house at 706 South Columbus Street was mortgaged. In 1906, Archibald Withers died leaving Annie Withers a widow.

You can read more about Annie Johnson Withers in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper dated September 16, 2020 at http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2020/sep/18/other-alexandria-annie-withers-losses-influenza-pa/

Grandfather and Us: Wilmer Benjamin Henry

Backstory of the article that was in the Alexandria Gazette Newspaper on September 2, 2020, gives insight into Wilmer Benjamin Henry and his grandchildren.

Wilmer Benjamin Henry at Virginia Episcopal High School

Wilmer Benjamin Henry was born on February 22, 1898 in Accotink, which is located in Fairfax, Virginia near Fort Belvoir. His father was from Bedford, Virginia and his mother was from Fairfax, Virginia.

Wilmer had several careers including janitor, barber, waiter, and a mail carrier for his community. He loved his family and especially his grandchildren. Two of his grandchildren shared their memories of their grandfather with me.

Rita Murphy Harris was one of his grandchildren. She is the

Left to right: Rita Harris and Toniette Duncan

daughter of Elrich Murphy and Marie Elizabeth Henry Murphy. She grew up in her grandfather’s house. Toniette Henry Duncan is the daughter or Corrine Idella Henry and John Sydney Holland, Jr. She also grew up in her grandfather’s house. Both women talked about the adventures they experienced in their grandfather’s house

Also in their grandfather’s house on Johnson Lane prior to urban renewal, they experienced life in the rural area of Seminary. The women enjoyed the closeness of family members and friends in their community.

“Our friends were like family,” stated Toniette. “We all were very close like family.”

Life in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in the Seminary area include extended families and friends who looked out for each other and enjoyed the simply life.

Rita is the only child of Elrich Murphy. Her mother Marie Elizabeth Murphy-Spinner remarried and had two sons, Blair Spinner and Albert Spinner, Jr. Toniette is her mother’s youngest child, but she has an older sister, Sylvia Delores Henry. In addition, Toniette and Sylvia have other siblings through their father and they are Ceyonne, Deborah, Leslie, Lisa and Lynne.

Grandparents are special human beings. For Rita and Toniette, their grandfather found his youth again through his grandchildren raising them and providing for them.

Wilmer Benjamin Henry died at the age of 83 on December 16, 1981. Up until he died, he was employed at the Virginia Episcopal High School as a janitor and he was the neighborhood barber.

You can read more about “Grandfather and Us: Wilmer Benjamin Henry,” in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper dated, September 2, 2020 on page 6 at
http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2020/090220/Alexandria.pdf.

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