She told me so

She told me so

Dear Mother,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you this week and missing you considerably.  I’m sure you’re gloating just a little bit over my feelings of abandonment, because I’m certain that at least once or twice you warned/threatened/tried to guilt me with a statement to this effect: “You’re going to regret not getting involved in my family genealogy with me. Because when I’m gone, you’re going to be left to do it on your own. And you’ll be sorry!” Your threats didn’t move me far enough or fast enough, and you’re right – I do regret it – fearfully so.

Mother's genealogy repository
Mother's genealogy repository

Remember all those files that I brought home from Dad several months ago? All those files that harbored your years of genealogy research? All those files that I wasn’t quite sure how to handle? All those files filled with names I only had a passing acquaintance with?  Well, I’ve cleaned and organized them several times since bringing them here, and this week I finally started the project of assembling my surname binders for “Compton”. Who knew you had such a treasure trove of family history memorabilia? I am impressed!

I’ve read the letters of research requests you made and marveled at your determination to find information back in the day before the internet. I even found a couple of letters Gram wrote in the 1950s. Oh, how you would have loved ancestry.com! How you would have been thrilled to find so much county record information online.

Marriage Record for Francis Compton & Mary DeVall
Marriage Record for Francis Compton & Mary DeVall

And I know you would have been as giddy as I was when I found the actual marriage record for Francis and Mary DeVall Compton, scanned and available on the internet, right from the comfort of my own home.  (If you’re looking, their names are 4th from the top)

I’ve studied the pictures and seen a lot of history in them. I’m fascinated with the clothes and hairstyles of both the men and women, and I look for family resemblance in an effort to connect to these ancestors that I never knew.

I’ve decided that I take after the Compton side of the family – a little bit like Great-Grandma Iva and a little like her sister Pearl.

Iva Compton Pratt - about 1909
Iva Compton Pratt - about 1909
Pearl Compton
Pearl Compton

But I hope not too much, because their mother, my great-great grandmother Mary DeVall Compton, didn’t age too well. Maybe she was just having a bad hair day!

Mary Emma DeVall Compton
Mary Emma DeVall Compton

I wish you were around to answer my questions. Did you know Pearl Compton (Grandma Iva’s sister) worked at a silk factory in Belding, Michigan and lived in a dormitory there? I discovered a memory book of her friends tucked down in a file, and did a little internet research about The Belrockton.   I wonder why she never married. And why did her brother LD not have a real name?

And even though you may not know the answers to those questions or a million others that pass through my mind, at least we could have a good laugh together when reading this letter Aunt Nonie sent with the obituary for Willard Parker Ross (haven’t yet figured out who he is):

“Of course you know Ross and Daisy Compton was my Mother’s brother. Maudie was their daughter. Willard & Daisy Ross, Daisy’s mother was Grandma Compton’s sister my aunt Matt. Also Willard was Aunt Matt’s second marriage. Of course we called him Bill. I hope this is clear.”

Are you kidding me?

So, Mom, know that you’ve been vindicated! How I wish I had spent more family history time with you – much, much more. How I wish I had responded to your pleas for help. How I wish I had you as a partner in this fascinating and addicting pursuit. But I’ll carry on, because I love it, and I know you did too.

And even though I probably don’t deserve it, could you drop me a few hints from time to time?

This girl would love a little help.

Serendipity!

Serendipity!

Ser-en-dip-i-ty:  noun.  The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

James and Mary Carpenter family - circa 1903
James and Mary Carpenter family - circa 1903

Last night while doing some random internet searching for the Carpenter family, I entered the name “James Buchanan Carpenter” into the search bar at ancestry.com.  James B. Carpenter is Don’s maternal great-grandfather (Leona’s grandfather) and he lived with Leona’s family when she was a little girl.    Using the site as a non-paying guest, I knew that if any possible matches came up I could go to the public library and look at the records.  Only the index of records is available to non-subscribers, but it’s a good place to start.

You can imagine my surprise when the first hit was a tiny thumbnail picture labeled “James and Mary Carpenter and family” – WHAT?  Somebody else knows these people?  And has pictures of them? I could see a young boy in the front of the picture and was quite certain that it was Ream Carpenter, Leona’s father and Don’s grandfather.  As I’ve been assembling the Carpenter genealogy binders, I’ve realized that we have almost no pictures of the Carpenter family; if any ever existed, they have been lost or destroyed over the years.  And although I get excited about a census or a birth record bearing an ancestor’s name, a photograph truly adds reality to a family history.

I let out a squeal of excitement, and I felt a little like the featured celebrities on “Who Do You Think You Are?” who always find cool things in their research.  However, my delight quickly turned into a groan of dismay when I realized that the picture was only available to members.  I didn’t want to wait until the library opened  Thursday morning, and I wasn’t even sure that the library edition of ancestry would allow me access to family pictures that someone else had posted.  Well, it didn’t take me long to decide that I was changing my status from guest to subscriber, and I whipped out my credit card and established a user name and password right then!

Some further clicking around  (I have a lot to learn about using ancestry) produced this additional picture of James & Mary Carpenter.  She died in 1916, and Leona had never seen a picture of this grandmother.  We were thrilled!

James Buchannan and Mary Adeline Parker Carpenter
James Buchanan and Mary Adeline Parker Carpenter

A huge thanks goes to a kind soul – who is most likely a distant relative – for sharing pictures.  And a huge thanks to ancestry.com for providing the vehicle for this connection.  They haven’t paid me a thing for writing this, and I’ll have to continue to pay my subscription, but these two pictures are well worth the money spent!

Watch for further posts over here as I continue this journey.

Family Friend

Family Friend

susan_b_anthony

When my mom turned 50 years old, we had a family party to celebrate the major milestone.  One of the gifts we gave her was 50 shiny, new Anthony dollars.  These coins had just been released in July of that year, and not only were they the first dollar coin to be released in a long time, but Susan B. Anthony was the first women to be honored by having her “picture” on a US coin.

Susan Brownell Anthony was an influential American civil rights leader who played a crucial role in the women’s rights movement in the 1800’s.  She was arrested in 1872 for voting illegally, but her influence eventually led to the adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution which gives women the right to vote.

However, in spite of all Miss Anthony’s accomplishments, the dollar was very unpopular because of its similarity to a quarter in both size and weight.  In spite of the government’s best efforts in promoting the coin, it never really became mainstream and eventually was replaced with the golden dollar coin – so you probably haven’t see very many of them.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with me or you?

This past week while continuing my genealogy organizing project, I came across a piece of paper that caught my eye.  My mother had in her files a letter from the Fort Edward, New York Historical Association which was a response to her request for information about the marriage of Benoni Pratt and Caroline Taylor – my 3rd great grandparents.  Mr. Paul McCarty, director of that organization, wrote that he had been unable to find any information about the marriage, but did have some additional information on the Taylor family.

Susan B. Anthony - really?
Susan B. Anthony - really?

“However, I do wish to convey to you some additional information on the Taylors.  Lansing Taylor built a large home on the corner of what is today US Route #4 and Patterson Road at Moseskill, which is very near Fort Miller.  The house has since been destroyed by fire and the location is today occupied by another house.

“Susan B. Anthony was employed by Lansing B. Taylor for a period of two years after 1839, most likely Caroline was one of her students.  Miss Anthony’s  family lived in nearby Greenwich, New York.”

A little searching on the internet produced this information from Wikipedia:

“In 1837, Anthony was sent to Deborah Moulson’s Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia. She was not happy at Moulson’s, but she did not have to stay there long. She was forced to end her formal studies because her family, like many others, was financially ruined during the Panic of 1837. Their losses were so great that they attempted to sell everything in an auction, even their most personal belongings, which were saved at the last minute when Susan’s uncle, Joshua Read, stepped up and bid for them in order to restore them to the family.

“In 1839, the family moved to Hardscrabble, New York, in the wake of the panic and economic depression that followed. That same year, Anthony left home to teach and pay off her father’s debts.”

And that would have taken her to my great-great-great grandmother’s home!

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906

An old fashioned engagement

An old fashioned engagement

My 3rd great grandfather, Benoni Preston Pratt, asking Lansing Gaylor Taylor for the hand of his daughter,
Caroline Wing Taylor, in marriage.

They were married 30 August 1849.

May I please marry your daughter?
May I please marry your daughter?

(On) July 14th 1849

L.G. Taylor Esq

Dear Sir

I have the consent of the hand of your Daughter Caroline should it meet the approbation of the parents.  Will they favor me with an early reply.

I await their pleasure

very Respectfully

B.P. Pratt

the parents cheerfully consent
the parents cheerfully consent

Fort Miller 14 July 1849

Mr. B.P. Pratt

Dear Sir

Your note dated 14 July came to hand this day and in reply to the matters set forth in the same I would say that the parents of Caroline cheerfully consent and hope that the arrangement may prove ( ?) happiness to all the parties concerned it it.

Yours

Truly

L.G. Taylor

Faith in Every Footstep

Faith in Every Footstep

Jemima Brown Rogers
Jemima Brown Rogers

Among my ancestors in the Berrett family are many pioneers who made the trek from England and Wales to Utah in search of religious freedom.  They traveled by ship, covered wagon, and foot to establish their new homes in the Salt Lake Valley.  One  great-great grandmother, Jemima Brown Rogers, was a handcart pioneer who arrived in Salt Lake City in 1856.  Her story, which I remember hearing from the time I was a young teenager, is remarkable, and I have always been in awe of her courage and determination.

Pioneer Pete
Pioneer Pete - far left

In June 2003 as Youth Conference attendees, Peter and I made a trek of 20+ miles along part of the same route that Grandmother Rogers followed through Wyoming.  The handcarts were heavy and awkward to maneuver – wooden wheels on rocky roads don’t pull smoothly. Our days were hot, the nights were cold (frost on our tents in the morning), and we felt near exhaustion when we crawled into our sleeping bags at night.  But our experience truly pales in comparison to the hardship Jemima endured during her trip many years earlier.  Some excerpts from her history as recorded by her grandson, Nephi James Brown, follow (in green print.)

The Elders found Jemima in her native land of England, and she was baptized [as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] about 1844.  She saved all the money she could, so that by the early summer of 1856 she had enough, together with some aid given her by her son Thomas who was already in Utah, to start on the long journey to Zion.  At that time she was fifty-three years old.  She and her adopted daughter Lizzie who was 8 or 9 years old, sailed from England in an old fashioned sailing boat, The Thornton.  It took them six weeks to cross the ocean.  This old vessel was at the mercy of the wind and the waves.  They did not have enough food or water on the ship.  They ate a kind of sea biscuit that were so hard they had to break them with a hammer and then soak them for quite a while before they could be forced down.

They continued traveling with a difficult journey across the States to the edge of the Great Plains, but their real difficulties had only commenced.  They were to cross the Plains by handcart.

Replica of a handcart
Replica of a handcart

Three successful handcart companies had crossed the Plains that summer of 1856, arriving safely in Salt Lake City the latter part of September.  However, the fourth handcart company, a group of about 400 under the leadership of Captain James G. Willie, and the fifth, numbering 576 led by Captain Edward Martin met with tragedy.  They were delayed at Iowa City and Florence while gathering tents and supplies and waiting for their handcarts to be constructed.  But rather than waiting until spring to begin the trek, the majority of the group allowed their enthusiasm to overshadow good judgment and they started too late in the year to be reasonably sure of reaching their destination before winter.  Their handcarts had been constructed of green timber and before long they dried out and began to fall apart, requiring repairs that caused further delays.

Area of Rocky Ridge Wyoming - June 2003
Area of Rocky Ridge Wyoming - June 2003

Wyoming is desolate in the summer.  I find it hard to imagine making that trip in the winter.

Grandmother Rogers and Lizzie were with the Willie Company.  They all had a scant supply of clothing and bedding and found it impossible to keep warm at night even by the middle of September because of the early  heavy frosts.  Heavy snows and extremely cold weather set in much earlier than had been the case for many years.  Their food supply was rationed, and they didn’t have nearly enough to eat.  Snow storms came every few days, and accompanied by fierce howling winds, piled the snow more than a foot and a half deep on the level.  A number of the weaker ones soon died of exposure and lack of food, and were wrapped in sheets by their loved ones and buried in graves hastily dug by the wayside and covered with rocks to keep away the hungry wolves which were a constant menace.

When will it end?
When will it end?

The courageous emigrants continued on pushing and pulling their handcarts,  but their food supplies were rapidly vanishing and there seemed to be no chance of having them replenished.  They slowly trudged forward seeking shelter in hollows and willow thickets until from sheer exhaustion and with scarcely any food, these destitute pioneers established a camp and decided with little hope of survival to await their fate.  Grandmother Rogers recalled that when their food was all gone, all she had to eat was what she called pepper corn – kernels of black pepper which only helped to keep her stomach warm.

Jemima used all the extra clothes and covering she had to keep her young daughter from freezing to death, and as a result suffered such exposure herself that her scalp was frozen and all of her hair dropped out.  She wore various little black lace caps all the rest of her life.

Already established in Salt Lake City, upon hearing of emigrants struggling to arrive in Salt Lake City, by inspiration President Brigham Young organized relief parties in early October, not knowing the real plight of these two handcart companies.  The rescuers started out to meet the handcart pioneers with horses, mules, good wagons and plenty of warm clothing and food.  As the caravans approached the camps of these starving Saints they saw some of the children eating bark from willow trees and in some cases they saw small groups of Saints huddled around and sitting on the bodies of those who had just died until the heat had left those bodies.  Most of the emigrants had given up hope knowing that death would overtake all of them very soon unless help arrived.

Plaque marking the site of the Willie Company rescue
Plaque marking the site of the Willie Company rescue

After initial contact with the rescue teams, the Willie Company waited two days hoping for more supply wagons before undertaking the worst ordeal of the journey – the five mile climb over Rocky Ridge in a howling blizzard.  The distance between their initial rescue and the campsite was about 12 miles and took some emigrants more than 20 hours to complete.

Rocky Ridge is aptly named.
Rocky Ridge is aptly named.

The surviving pioneers were provided with food and warm clothing and under the direction of the teamsters and their own Captains, they arrived in Salt Lake City the latter part of November 1856.

Grandmother [died] on 25 January 1891 when she was 87 years old.  She was one of the stout-hearted, noble and devout pioneers of Utah.  She did lots of good, her faith was unwavering, and she had a genuine and sincere testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel.

I hope I never forget the feelings I had as I pulled a handcart over Rocky Ridge on that summer day in 2003.  I tried to imagine my grandmother struggling in a blinding snowstorm, worried about her young daughter, and cold, tired and hungry beyond my comprehension.  I was humbled as I considered the sacrifice she made – and the blessings I enjoy – because of her faith and testimony.

For a greater explanation of handcarts and the role they played in the emigration, go here.

Images of  handcart and Rocky Ridge here

Here we go again

Here we go again

I came home from my dad’s house last week with this.

Pratt family history
Pratt family history

And as I’ve starting sorting, I’ve created some messy piles.

Pictures and documents galore
Pictures and documents galore

This desk was clean a couple of days ago
This desk was clean a couple of days ago

I’m attempting to work the new treasures into my current filing system.

Our family genealogy files
Our family genealogy files

I think I’m going to need another file box.
And a lot more hours in my days.
But I don’t lack for enthusiasm.
Maybe I’ll create another blog  like this one, for my side of the family.
I love this stuff.

Remembering Eliza Brown

Remembering Eliza Brown

Eliza Brown White Brown

Eliza Brown White Brown
January 30, 1847 – January 28, 1929

For as long as I can remember, I have giggled at this great grandmother’s name (my father’s maternal grandmother).  After all, “Eliza Brown White Brown” has quite a rhythm – she was born Eliza Brown, married John White, then married Thomas Brown.  But after reading – really reading – her history, my feelings have been focused, and her unusual name has become a standard of hard work and perseverance and deserves my greatest respect.

As I read the account of her life, I found myself studying her picture and pondering.  How I wish I had known her!  My heart was touched when I thought about that little girl living in an unfamiliar home as a housekeeper and nanny when just a child herself.  What a heartbreak that must have been for her parents, and what a difficult experience for her.

In honor of her birthday, the following is an excerpt from her history written by her son, Nephi James Brown, detailing her early years.  In later posts I’ll share events of her adult life.  She truly was a remarkable woman.

Eliza was born in the country town of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England – the daughter of John Brown and Sarah Mundy.  When she was about three years old, her mother died of a sudden illness at just 34 years old.  Eliza went to live with her maternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth Mundy, who were very kind to her.  About the first things she remembered while she was living with them was having a little red chair and two or three very meager toys to play with.  The grandparents were not really in a position to keep her very long.  About a year later, Eliza’s father married Jane Wilkins, and Eliza then returned home to live with them.  When she was about five years old, she began to go to school in a little thatched roof schoolhouse where the morning was spent in reading, writing, and spelling.  In the afternoon she was taught sewing.  Owing to the poor circumstances of her father, she was only permitted to go to school a short time after she was eight years old.  It seems incredible that she ever learned to read and write as well as she could during her lifetime with such a meager amount of school.  At that time in England it seemed that child labor was encouraged rather than restricted, unlike later years when they were compelled to keep children in school until 14 years of age.  Eliza always greatly regretted that she only had about two and a  half years of schooling.

Her first employment commenced when she was a little past eight years old in a silk factory [winding silk threads on little spools] – hard work, and long hours for the unbelievable small amount of 10 cents a day – a ten hour day – one cent an hour – 6 days a week.  She continued her work at the silk factory for about 9 months.  She paid 12 cents a week for a place to sleep.

Eliza next went to Bristol as a servant girl for her Aunt Ann Dyer.  She lived there and at two other places in Bristol, working hard for her board and lodging.  She received however, in addition thereto, a salary of 12 cents a week. At the last two places, her work was very hard, and food in very scanty quantities.  From Bristol, she returned to West Lavington and worked in a bakery, where she was given quite fair treatment.

From there she went to Potterne and worked in a grocery store.  Here she endured the greatest hardships of any place she worked in England.  Besides her daily grinding routine of hard work, she had the care of four children, including a pair of twins.  Her living consisted of only bread and molasses, and was dealt out to her in meager quantities.  Her strength was so reduced, and her undernourishment through lack of food so apparent, she left and went back to her father and stepmother.  After regaining her health and strength at home through having sufficient food, she again went out into servitude.  At one home where she worked for a period of 6 months she was given her board and room, and in addition an increased salary of 24 cents a week.

Eliza worked at the silk factory and a driving, unrelenting housework for six years, from the time she was eight years old until she was fourteen.  She left the driving routine which had hounded her youthful years in March, 1861 – and also the harsh discipline of her hard-hearted bosses, and returned to her father’s home to live.  Her prior employers had demanded all work from her without giving her any time to play.  This change [move home] was made necessary because of the death of her stepmother, Jane Wilkins Brown.  Eliza kept house for her father and her brother George, , a rented house in the beautiful peaceful country town of West Lavington for a little more than two years.

Granddaughter, Myrtle B. Maathuis (my aunt) recalled that Grandma had marks on the back of her hands where she had been whipped for picking up scraps from under the table at one of the early places where she worked.

Granddaughter Afton B. DeHaan related that Grandma told her that while working in homes the days were hard and she had very little food.  In one home she had to sleep in the attic.  The lady of the house would give her one slice of “current bread” a day.  She [the lady] would butter it, then scrape the butter off – “bread and butter scrape.”

I am humbled.