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The Black Sheep

18 Jan

We all have one, maybe even two…or three. You know, the person in the family that no one wants to talk about. The rule breaker, the rebel. The one that lives outside of “polite society” or just doesn’t “fit in” with the rest of the family.

Meet O.P. (the “O” stands for Oscar, the “P” for Percival—I can’t imagine a better British name!) O.P. was my grandfather’s uncle. He was born to my great-great grandparents, who were English immigrants, on January 22, 1873, the fifth of eight children.

The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep

Now, O.P., like many sons in those days, followed his father’s footsteps into the family business. In the case of the Holloways, it was the rolling mill. If you were a male and born into this family, you were destined to work in the hot blast furnaces that were rolling out steel and sheet metal for the booming global economy. O.P.’s father, Jeremiah, was the chief roller at the local mill and his sons worked alongside him.

O.P. met a girl, Anastasia Gray, got married, had a couple of kids and decided that the rolling mill and the small town of Piqua, Ohio, was not for him. The family packed it up and moved to the bustling city of Dayton, Ohio. O.P. got a job at National Cash Register and worked there for a while, but it was in Dayton that everything began to unravel for O.P. and his family. He’d leave for days, often weeks at a time, forcing his wife, Anastasia to find work while raising their three children. He became a drifter, a wanderer who could not (or would not) hold a job. Family legend says O.P. tried to heartlessly gamble away his daughter Mildred in return for a horse. You can imagine how that was received by the wife. From that point forward, O.P was on his own. Anastasia kicked him out and told him to never return. O.P. jumped from one relative’s house to the next, living with various family members in Detroit, Michigan; Piqua, Ohio; Erlanger, Kentucky, and finally, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in the early 1930s.

O.P. did not have a job at the time, like thousands of other men. Jacksonville was home to a work camp for homeless men who needed work, food and shelter. Men flocked by the hundreds to this Camp Foster because for most, there was no place else to go. (Camp Foster later become the massive Naval Air Station at Jacksonville.) O.P. died penniless and alone at this work camp on May 21, 1935, at the age of 62.

O.P. was to be buried in Piqua, but his family, especially his daughter Mildred, did not want to pay for his body to be brought back to Ohio. In the end, he was their father and they brought him home. O.P. rests alongside his siblings and his mother and father at Forest Hill Cemetery in Piqua.

Who’s your family’s “black sheep?”

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