Tag Archives: Starke Jett


“You couldn’t believe anything John T told you. He was a great fibber.” My new friend, Buster Moore, is explaining his grandfather and, as history happened, the youngest eye witness to the first flight. But Buster is not referring to that day, Johnny really was there, just his rascally character in general.

Friend Ed Beckley is writing an article on the history of Colington Island and asks me for information about the multi-use path project and anything else of interest that I might know. I tell him about the little yellow house that John T Moore, or Johnny Moore to historians, used to live in and describe it. Ed sends me a photo of what he thinks is the right house, but my description is off base as Ed has the wrong house. I tell him that I will get some photos for him.

I have taken several a few months back when I got the information about the house from Tanya Hill. John T Moore was her great grandfather. She is caretaker of the Hilltop Cemetery near the little house. I could not find my photos so I decide to not only take more but also take a photo of John T’s grave site.

moore grave

John T and Cloey Moore. John witnessed the first flight in 1903 when he was sixteen. He is famous for running up the beach, before there were dunes, shouting “They done it. They done it. Damn’d if they ain’t flew.”

It’s not a big cemetery, still I have to walk the entire thing, which is extremely interesting before I find John T and his wife Cloey smack dab in the middle. As I am straightening the silk flower cross to get a nice photo a gentleman walks up. Now if you do not know this cemetery, it is about a quarter of an acre on a hill but pretty much flat. You can throw a football from one end to the other or side to side. I was easy to spot wandering around.

He doesn’t say a word and I stand up explaining what I am doing and ask if he is Stanley. Stanley is the last living child of John T’s double digit brood and Tanya has told me that he lives nearby. This gent laughs and says words to the effect of not on your life.

He then begins to tell me about his father, Dallas, one of John T’s children, whose grave site is a few over. And his mother May, who as it turns out is Tanya’s grandmother, and still living. He tells me lots more family history, citing the names of all the children of John T. I listen so enthralled that I do not even think to take notes. I ask if he will let me take his picture, but he declines. He also is not interested in letting me take photos of his many clippings about the Wright flight and his grandfather. My new friend is part Indian and believes that photos take part of your soul. Later in our chat I ask his name. Buster he tells me, named after an uncle who was killed in WWII. One of my favorite uncles on my mother’s side was named Buster too. Buster Moore and I are instant kindred spirits.

I do think to ask if he had a relationship with his grandfather. He tells me he did and that he remembers sitting on the porch of the original house. It was a much bigger house than the abandoned current house built in 1954 that sits on about the same site.  He tells me that the crepe myrtles were as close to the road, then a dirt path, as they are today.

He tells me that Stanley would talk to me about John T but to not bank on anything that he says because he fibs as much as his dad did. He tells me a story about John T and the Colington game warden. Geese were out of season and the warden asks John T if he’d seen any. John T who always wore an overcoat smiles and tells the warden that he has not as he squeezes the dead geese tucked under each arm a bit tighter.

I do not know how to get up with Buster but I plan on going back to the cemetery in hopes that he’ll show up. He does live close by. I want to ask him if his grandfather talked about the Wright brothers, not as much about the day they flew, but just about them in general. John T did name one of his sons Orville Lindbergh Moore, so he must have some good memories. Trouble is can we believe anything he told Buster.

many greats grandfather

Starke Jett my great great grandfather

Seven year old grandson Edward was at fall camp recently getting some down time, as he told his mom, before his new baby sister arrives. While we were sewing a bed for shy cat Huey’s newly designed and created by Edward outdoor home, Edward notices a portrait hanging on the wall and asks who it is. I fumble through a few greats and give up, I need to review the time line. And yes, Edward did a lot of the sewing. He and Sebastian have now had a camp sewing machine lesson and both did really well.

Back to the portrait. I have an awesome book on the entire Jett lineage my cousin Jeter put together decades ago. It starts with Peter Jett & his wife Mary who settled in Peppertocks Creek near Bray’s Wharf (now Leedstown) in or around in 1663 and goes forward until publication in 1977 so fact checking is easy. Still the details of the painting escape me until today when I am wandering through my old blog posts on LiveJournal and find this. This first part is about a big birthday party we threw for Mom at the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum. She got to invite anyone she wanted to include and we provided all the rest.

The birthday party for mom was a lot of fun. She was in her element. The weather was perfect. A nice group of family and friends. The Melinda cake was awesome as always, and it survived the eighty flaming candles. 

While I was in Reedville I stopped by cousin Miriam’s house and found out some information on the mystery painting. Seems that the painter, Sidney E King, was Miriam’s art teacher. He went on to become rather well known in the area. He was even hired by Jamestown to paint a series of landscapes. Well, anyway, Miriam commissioned him to paint portraits of Starke I, her great grandfather, and Theodore Augusta, her grandfather. They now hang in the courthouse in Heathsville. The one I ended up with Mr King painted specifically for Miriam. She likes it more than the official portrait. My dad got it because he asked her for it years ago and so she gave it to him. 

And so for this generation of grands the portrait is of their great great great great grandfather, Starke Jett, a well respected minister with the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South. He was also a Democratic delegate to the Virginia Legislature.

Family matters are fun to matter.

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The JETT Set

cottage sideReedville, Virginia calls our name in the summer. Home to generations of Jetts since Peter first stepped off of the boat near Leedstown with his wife, Mary, and their two sons and two daughters in 1663, we head there like migrating monarchs year after year.

In the late fifties my grandfather, using free cinder blocks my uncle Dick got from a job, builds us a cottage on the Chesapeake Bay between Reedville and Fleeton, Tibitha to be exact. Other Dad’s (my name for him that stuck) original plan is to buy Bayview at the end of the tiny finger of land the Jett’s call home the family homestead Sunnyside being just around the corner on Taskmaker’s Creek.  A cousin who promises my grandfather first refusal instead sells it out of the family. Decades later a rich buyer razes (my aunt begs him not to do it to the point of laying down in front of the bulldozer) the original home saved from certain destruction during the Civil War by the Sutton sisters, and which was in pristine condition, to build a more modern style. Then he decides the mosquitoes are too horrible and sells. To this day Bayview is still the perfect setting with a yard that slopes to the bay unlike our spot with a steep hill to clamor up and down as well as being a constant erosion challenge. It sits next to the family cemetery where many of Other Dad’s young siblings are buried. The results of two first cousins marrying we are told. Three children survive to adulthood, my grandfather one. He is so sickly his mother promises his life to the church if he is spared an early death. He becomes a beloved minister on the Methodist circuit. He takes his family to Tibitha every chance he can get. The heritage of life on the bay runs deep within his veins.  And he wants his grandchildren to know those same joys so he buys three lots nearby, selling two off to pay down the mortgage on one.

Our cottage is a one level affair, a basic rectangle, with a bedroom in three corners, kitchen in the fourth, a bathroom and one more bedroom between the kitchen and corner bedroom along the back wall. A T shaped open space for dining, viewing the bay through the trees and card playing by the rarely used fireplace make for socializing and overflow sleeping. Rope and pulley stairs to the open attic where we store inner tubes for swimming and snakes seek shelter for sleeping in the off season round out the deal.

cottage backWe have no TV, no radio, no fans, no air conditioning. We use wooden orange boxes from the grocery for clothes organizing and are happy to have real beds to sleep on. Screens only for the big windows. If a bad storm blows in we close the heavy wooden shutters.

We have mosquitoes. We are fair game night and day. We have chiggers. A trip into their territory becomes necessary when the septic system surrenders from overuse by so many people. My uncle rescues us from being total pioneers with a once a day trip to the local gas station.

We measure the success of a night by how strong the wind is blowing the smell of the fish factory away from us. When the ships come in, always at night, we rush in all cars available to see them unload. Such is entertainment. The smell cannot be masked even by perfume held under a nose. There just is no smell like a menhaden fish boat unloading.

reedville beach

Midge Jett (Mom), my uncle Martin Williams, my grandfather Rev Starke Jett II

We spend the entire day on the beach accessible by steps we carve in the sloping sandy drop to the beach dotted with eroding pine trees. Someone goes to the cottage, a short walk through the waving pine trees, to fix lunch for everyone else.

Mom and my aunts, Keese and I.G., make creative shade shelters for nap time. Many years into our summer adventures they haul water washed pine poles from down the beach back to our spot for my dad and uncles to build a dock. We play with black inner tubes that must be constantly turned over to keep from practically scorching a layer of skin off. We never use sunscreen. Sun burns are a rite of passage. Peeling each other’s burnt skin layers a labor of love.


My brother Starke Jett V, me, my cousin Jett Williams, Mom, my sister Suzanne Reynolds, my friend from Whitehall Ohio, Carol Brenning.

We have sea nettles to thwart our best attempts at playing in the water. We have a wonderful tide that bestows awesome sandbars for wading in the already shallow water. We have tricky blue clay on much of our private beach that will humbles us in an instant with a gooey slippery spill. We have endless shards of sharp broken glass that my aunt Keese collects by the bucket full to make our beach more user friendly.

To get to this slice of heaven we, more times than not, hop in the car at our parents command as we spontaneously race to catch the last ferry of the night. We are crossing the Rappahannock River where a bridge now ages. But we only know the ferry. We sit on the dock waiting for it to return from across the river. We spy huge red sea nettles and crabs swimmings. The air is filled with night sounds of crickets and cicadas.

I find a stash of Nancy Drew books one summer and read my way through these originals. I find Ian Fleming another and meet 007. We invent games for our days spent on the beach. Fallen pines are ships and homes. Our inner tubes are boats.

screen with holeDrift wood of amazing proportions is everywhere. Mom loses her bathing suit top trying to hoist a big chunk up the sandy cliff. My uncle pushing from the bottom laughs at his unexpected delightful view. Neither are willing to forgo the goal. They win. Topped with round glass it makes a handsome coffee table.

We thrive on fresh foods. We pick crabs. We savor salt roe herring fried crisp and set aside for the warm roe tucked inside mashed with butter and spread on a hot biscuit. We shell butterbeans. We snap beans. We pop sugar peas. We peel peaches. We slice warm tomatoes. We shuck oysters and corn.

We catch lightning bugs and fill our mason jars with their wonder. We explore along the lane picking Queen Anne’s lace and yarrow blooms. Even when it rains the days are as hot as expected. We know nothing else and life is good.

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