She found an obituary for Penelope Johnson Allen, a Tennessee native, historian and author, who worked at Penniman. The “important part” of the obituary says simply,
During WW1, Mrs. Allen worked in the DuPont shell loading plant in Penniman, Virginia, where she was an assistant to the supervisor in the large caliber area.
This was an exciting discovery. When Mrs. Allen left Penniman, she returned to her home in Chattanooga and took a job with the Chattanooga News, working as an editor and reporter through the years. Surely, someone like Mrs. Allen – a writer by trade – took the time to pen a personal reminiscence of her life, including the important work performed at Penniman.
However, I’m learning that so many of these stalwart souls didn’t talk about Penniman after leaving there.
For instance, there’s Dr. John Henderson, who was the chief physician at the Penniman Hospital, and was present during the Spanish Flu outbreak in October 1918. Late in life, he had two children, both of whom are alive and well today (and in their 90s). Dr. Henderson’s children and grandchildren tell me that, for the rest of his long life, they never heard Dr. Henderson talk about Penniman.
And then there’s Sadie Bowers, a native of Newberry, South Carolina that traveled to Penniman in Spring 1918 and took a job inserting boosters into large caliber shells. Despite the fact that she was the daughter of a college professor, an educator and a writer, she never wrote a word about Penniman. Family remembers don’t recall that she ever spoke of her time at DuPont’s 37th munitions plant.
And now we have Penelope, who was a devout historian, researcher and writer, authoring several books on genealogy. I can only hope and pray that Mrs. Allen shared something about Penniman during her long life.
If any readers here have any insights, please leave a comment below!
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