Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Day in June

Mom and I were finally able to get away for the day - our first day trip in more than a year. 

I'm helping a friend of Mom's put her family history together.  She has macular degeneration and now has difficulty seeing her work of many years.  It's all paper-and-pencil (never been put into a computer at all) and needs to be put online.  She had started putting it on Ancestry but had not gotten very far.  That's where I come in.  

The thing is, I haven't put a gedcom and documents on Ancestry before, so I'm learning how to add pictures without adding the same person over and over - attached to different family members.  Can you tell that this was my first mistake?  I finally copied and pasted directions from the website and am working my way through those.

In the meantime, I plan to put the file on RootsWeb, the FREE genealogy place, although it's now owned by Ancestry.  I guess almost anything to do with genealogy is now under their name?  Seems like it, anyway.

RootsWeb's WorldConnect is where I have my own files.  I'll add this new one since I can type the text of all the documents supporting the family.  I will need to scan her copies, or save from the internet, the documents to add to Ancestry.

Monday was a perfect day to head out to Northwestern Oklahoma.  The weather was fair and the road mostly empty once we got past the city limits.  As we drove I-40 west, the sky ahead was full of clouds.  Funny little clouds - like brown cotton candy.  The sky stayed full of clouds all day - later turning into the whipped-cream-on-top flat-bottomed kind, while at the same time there were the wispy-spread-all-over-the-sky kind; then on the way home some of them were collecting into very large bunches.  There was never an empty patch of sky all day.  It was glorious.

The ponds were full to the brim.  That was a good sight to see! We have finally had rain: none since last November until Memorial Day when it began to pour, and has rained regularly all this month. 

We turned north where State Hwys 51 and 58 head that way until we reached Geary.  We looked, and this is what we saw:

The buildings on the north side of Main Street had fancy brickwork overhead.  On the south side of the street, the buildings were not so fancy, or the brickwork was hidden by ugly coverings.

Geary doesn't look as though it's a very prosperous town.  The main thing I remember about Geary is wrestling.  They were top contenders many years ago when I was in high school (yes, a thousand years ago).  I looked, and found this January newspaper article about the Geary Tournament.    

Oklahoma has red dirt.  Some people don't believe it, but that's the truth.  You can see it in this photo taken along the highway.

Those bits of white are gypsum.  Southard, Oklahoma is the home of the US Gypsum plant. Many years ago when I first began driving that road, the air would be a cloud of white for about a mile and my car would be covered with powder.  I guess they've improved their processing; this time the air was clear.  The plant has grown in size, too, over the years.  

Our next stop was Watonga, formerly home of the famous Watonga cheese, but now will be famous for Sweetie Wray's - a Yarn Shop.  

It's in an old building that is fabulous inside. The clerk explained to us that a dentist had bought the building some years ago and restored it.  (Please notice more fancy brickwork!) 

The shop has advertising on one wall and a beautiful tin ceiling.  They have a good assortment of commercial yarns, and some home-grown hand-spun alpaca.  

On to Fairview, where they were repairing the middle of the road in the middle of town.  Traffic was monitored by a flaglady and moved slowly.  We looked at shop names as we passed, but with difficulty.  

We inquired in a drug store where we could eat lunch and were directed to GB's.  We had trouble finding it since it was in the front of the bowling alley.  The inside was very bare, but clean, and we waited quite a while for our order.  But when it came, it was good.  I had the BLT and it was wonderful.  Mom said her sweet tea was just right, not as syrupy as most places made it.  

Having arrived at our destination and having regained our strength with good food, we set out for our first cemetery.  

This is actually the North Mennonite Brethren Cemetery, just northwest of Fairview, rather than the South MB, which is south east of Fairview.  There are many Mennonite cemeteries in this part of the state and I could spend a lot of wasted time if I didn't have internet resources.  

The cemetery was what you usually get in Oklahoma - flat, open, and able to see across the distance.  I make a point of this because of the other cemetery we visited later.  Mom took the smaller right side to look for our ladies, while I took the larger parts.  We had forgotten to bring a whistle (just one of many things we forgot), so that Mom could let me know if she found what we needed.  We find that shouting across several acres in an Oklahoma wind usually doesn't work.  The monuments across the back of the grounds were the oldest and probably what we were seeking.  

I found Hannah, but not her daughter Mary.  

Do you see that small marker behind Hannah's?  I thought it must be for a child.  Here's the photo with my pencil laid up against it so that you can see it was only just above knee high on me, a 5 foot 3 inch person.  If you read the bottom line, Mr Schroeder was 57 years old.  I've never seen such a small monument for an adult grave.  This trip was filled with New Things.
Our last stop was Rusk Cemetery, east of Fairview a few miles.  It has to be the strangest cemetery I've been to.  There were hundreds of huge cedars next to, or over, the graves.  The marker below was under one of the trees and I crawled under the tree to photograph the marker.

The best thing about the cemetery was their map!! (Although we certainly got a crick in our necks reading it since it was oriented to the grounds.)   It appears to be exquisitely hand lettered with names and plot numbers.  The numbers didn't help much, since the trees created a forest difficult to maneuver.  I kept wandering around the same trees and markers, sometimes not able to go between two trees at all.  I kept losing my place!  Thankfully, it's a small cemetery and I wouldn't have been very lost - just a little lost.

By the time we finished here, we were ready to head home.  The day had become hot and we were tired, we two old ladies.  

On the way back, though, we made a pit stop in Watonga.  Mom noticed the wheat on the side of the elevators.                                                                     

We made it safely home 246 miles and 9 hours later.

And what is so rare as a day in June?  
Then, if ever, come perfect days . . . 
James Russell Lowell

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Being Welsh

I found this true story a long time ago and copied it into a notebook.  

I'm sorry to say that I didn't copy the source.      

In 1989 I took my son to Oakdale, Newport, to locate the address my father-in-law Arthur Purnell lived at before the family emigrated to NZ.   I couldn't find the Street, so called into a local shop which was also a tea-room.        

Here's how it went:

Enter stage right a rather hot looking stranger with an 8 year old boy in tow.

Everyone stops talking and then silence.

Stranger (me) goes to counter, buys child a drink  and says in her Manchester/Kiwi accent. (I originate from Manchester but have lived most of my life in NZ): 
Can you tell me where New Houses are?

"Oh, no, Luvvy" is the reply,

"Jones the union will Know" came a call from the behind me.

(I looked around at all the interested faces of the other folk in the tea-room).

"No" said another lady flatly, "Jones the union won't know".

A brief discussion was held by those present.

"Yes" decided a man, "Jones  the union will know".

"No” insisted the first lady "Jones the union won't know".

More quiet discussions,  finally the consensus  was "Jones the union would know".

Adamantly the first lady persisted he wouldn't,  finally from the shop proprietor came the question that was on my tongue, "Why won't  Jones the Union know".

"Because he has been dead two years",  replied the insistent lady.

Well I didn't find out any more about my Purnells, but with the logic involved I  left the shop with a warm feeling in knowing my father in law definitely came from these parts.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Soldier

There was an article in last week’s newspaper that caught my attention.

The Oklahoman, Friday, January 17, 2014:  "Oklahoma soldier’s remains return to state".  

After reading  the article, I thought about my great-uncle, David Morgan Richards, my Welsh grandmother’s brother.  He died in France, during the Great War, and is buried there.  My aunt and uncle - a nephew of David - made a trip to France a number of years ago to see the grave.  The story of how that came about is interesting and I hope I get it straight.  If I don’t, Mom will let me know and I’ll edit this article.

About 15 years ago, a fella from Wales went to the cemetery in France.  He was just travelling and while in the cemetery was looking for Welsh soldiers buried there.  He found Uncle David’s marker and took photos.  When he returned to Newport, Wales, he posted in the newspaper about the name and photos and was able to make contact with my aunt and uncle to give them the photos of the marker.  A few years later, they made the trip themselves - well over 70 years since David’s death and the first time any of the family had been there. 

David Morgan Richards was born in Treorchy, Wales, the 18th of November 1893.  Treorchy was the birthplace of all four children of John and Maggie Richards. 

Margaret "Maggie" Evans and John D Richards 
Annie Mary, Tom Euroswydd, Lilian Afanwy, David Morgan

John and Maggie eventually returned to John’s “hometown”, Llanafan, much farther west in the country.  David was an apprentice carpenter; his father, John, a master carpenter in house building. 

On the 1911 Welsh census, John and 17-year-old David are working in Treorchy, boarding with a family that is probably related.  That’s usually a good Welsh joke - nearly everyone is related! [It’s just a matter of figuring out how.]  Maggie and the girls, Annie Mary and Lilian, and son, Tom Euroswydd, were living in the stone cottage in Cardiganshire.

Along came The Great War.

standing: my grandmother Lilian, great grandfather John, 
great uncle David, great aunt Annie Mary "Lal"
seated: great uncle Euros, great grandmother Maggie

As you can see, David was a Very Handsome Fellow.  When he entered the service in December of 1914, he was engaged to a girl named Maggie.  The photo below is from July 1915, France.  

David is on the right, in uniform, without cap.  

The full uniform photo 
of David is dated August 1917.  

In November of 1917, David died two days after his 24th birthday.

Here is his obituary from a Cardiganshire newspaper, 1917

Sapper D M Richards, R[oyal] E[ngineers], was killed in France by a piece of shell on November 20th, while working on a concrete gun emplacement.  

He was born at 74 High Street, Treorchy, twenty-four years ago, within 2 days of the date of his death.  He was educated at the Treorchy school and Higher Grade, Pentre, and was for some years at Llanfan school.  At the age of fourteen years he went as a booking clerk to Treorchy T V R, and after 3 years served 3 years apprenticeship with Mr Alban Richards, contractor, Ton Pentre, as carpenter.  Before enlisting he was working with King and Davies, Marlborough road, Newport.  

He joined the R E at Christmas following the outbreak of hostilities in August and after training at Porthcawl, Abergavenny and Winchester went to France on November 27, 1915.  He went through many a hard night including Mametz Wood and Pilkem, and served 12 months in Belgium on the Ypres Canal.  

His parents now reside at the old home at "Bontfach", Llanafan.  In a letter to Mrs Richards, Liet. Doyle says that Sapper Richards was hit by a splinter from a shell whilst on duty.  He was most concientious at his work and his death cast a gloom over the whole company.  

The funeral took place at Erquinghem Cemetery (British) on Wednesday, 21st November.  Second Lieut. Daman, who was with Sapper Richards when he was killed, writes: - "your son was working on a concrete machine gun emplacement behind our support lines.  The Corporal in charge of the building of the emplacement was there and I started to give instructions.  I asked for a foot rule which your son handed to me.  About a minute afterwards the shell came along.  For a second I thought we were all alright, but your son suddenly ran to me with his hand on his side and said quite quietly, "I'm hit, Sir." and fell down at my feet.  

I sent immediately to the R A M C Dressing Station, which was quite near, and meanwhile dressed the wound.  The doctor shortly after came along, but he saw at a glance that your son was dead.  He was unconscious thirty seconds after being hit and must have expired within 3 minutes.  He felt absolutely no pain.  The wound was a small one in the right side about 10 inches from the underside of the shoulder." 

[eliminating one brief paragraph]  Second Lieut. A F Thomas in a letter says that David was buried by a Welsh Nonconformist minister and nearly all the old boys of the section and two officers of the company attended.

David was buried in Erquinghem-Lys Cemetery, which has this information on the Internet:

The village of Erquinghem-Lys is situated approximately 1.5 kilometres west of Armentieres. Take the D945 from Armentieres toward the centre of Erquinghem-Lys and then turn right immediately before the Town Hall. The cemetery is 50 metres along this road on the right hand side.

The village of Erquinghem-Lys was occupied by German forces early in October 1914, and taken by the 1st Somerset Light Infantry on 16 October. It remained in Allied hands until 10 April 1918, when the 101st Infantry Brigade and the 1st/4th Duke of Wellington's, after a stubborn defence, evacuated the village during the great German offensive. The village was finally retaken in September 1918. 

The earliest Commonwealth burials were made in two places in the churchyard itself, in October 1914 - January 1915, but these 27 graves were moved into the extension (Plot II, Row G, and Plot III, Row G) in 1925, the churchyard being closed for burials. The extension was begun in April 1915 and used by units and field ambulances until April 1918. It was continued down to the stream by the Germans (who also used the churchyard) in the summer of 1918, and in September and October 1918, it was used again for some Commonwealth burials. 

The extension now contains 558 Commonwealth burials of the First World War (eight of them unidentified) and 130 German burials. One unidentified Russian servicemen is also buried in the extension.

You can Google "Erquinghem cemetery France" for a lot of images, including the cemetery plan.

82588  Sapper / D M Richards / Royal Engineers / 20th November 1917 Age 24

My uncle has on display in his home the medals that were given to the family for David’s service, along with a letter:
R[oyal] E[ngineers] Record Office, Chatham, 23.12.21  [23 Dec 1921]
I am directed to transmit to you the accompanying British War and Victory Medals which would have been conferred upon No 82588 D M Richards, R E, had he lived, in memory of his services with the British Forces during the Great War.
-In forwarding the Decoration I am commanded by the King to assure you of His Majesty's high appreciation of the services rendered.
-I am to request that you will be so good as to acknowledge the receipt of the Decoration on the attached form.
-I am Your obedient Servant, (can't read signature), Colonel, y_ Records R E
-Mr J D Richards, Crosswood  [David’s father]

Do you realize that this August it will be 100 years since that war began?  I think I need to read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”.

from obituary: Mametz Wood
from Wikipedia: Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July - 2 August 1917, the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres
from Internet:  Battle of Pilkem, 31 July - 2 August 1917

Friday, January 17, 2014

Books Again . . .

I decided against keeping Mrs Aldrich after all.  I read it through.  I love some of her passages that describe daily life.  Some authors tend to over-do a description and it drags on and on.  She gives you enough information to easily picture it, without wishing that she’d move on to something else.  So, I decided that it’s someone else’s turn to love those passages and put it in the sack for the Friends of the Library Sale.  That happens next month and you can read about it here.

Speaking of links, there are a lot of them in this article.  That’s as close as I can get to lending you the books.  If anything sounds interesting, check your library for a copy.  If a title sounds like something you just couldn’t live without reading, and it’s not available locally, request a copy through Inter-Library Loan. 

Last night I pulled down my four Gladys Hasty Carroll books:  As the Earth Turns, Sing Out the Glory, One White Star, and Only Fifty Years Ago.  I read the first two chapters of Earth and decided that I didn’t need to read those books again.  It’s probably the mood I’m in, but not much fiction is getting my attention right now.  Maybe I’ve moved past these books - who knows. 

In the meantime, I did read - and decided to keep - On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells.  

Yep, the same gal who does the Max and Ruby little-bitty-kid books.  “Say apple, Max.”  

This story is about model railroads and real ones - here's a link to the real Blue Comet train.

The On the Blue Comet is a kids’ story and I like it - except for one thing.  Some editor slipped up and allowed a modern word to be used in a paragraph towards the end of the story.  The book is set in 1931, 1941, and momentarily in 1926.  My reading-brain screeched to a halt when I ran across the anachronism.  Things like that an ruin a story!  I managed to get myself back in the right time and read on.  It’s on my shelf for a while longer.

I read a lot of young adult books.  I buy very few.  Seems like young-adult writers, nowadays, write in series - -  the-longer-the-series-the-better? - - and I have an objection to a format that comes in 47 parts.  I read the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, series books when I was a kid, but they had all been written long before I was reading them and I could go from one to the other without pause. 

Now, I generally wait until a series is “finished” before beginning.  One exception has been the Rick Riordan books.  One of these days, when he’s finished writing, I’ll start again at the beginning and go through them in one fell swoop.  

We older readers at our house (an ancient me, a 16-year-old grandson, and a 14-year-old grandson) also like The 39 Clues series - one that drives me crazy with all the parts-to-come. 

For some reason, the girls (12, 10, and 7) read different books.  They don’t seem to care for adventure - except for young-reader TheMagic Treehouse stories.  There are a lot of these books on the home-library shelves in the back room.  We’ve all read them; well, not all: the 7-year-old is still working her way through them.

Here are two that I would buy and keep, if I were rolling in dough:  the 5 Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull and the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini.   

Grandson number 2 is re-reading the Mull books - we each read them about 6 months ago.  When one of the boys brings home from the library something interesting, there are two more of us waiting to read before the book goes back.  If it’s recently published, we have only two weeks for the three of us to read it before the book has to move on to the next person on the reserve list.  That makes for some pushy behavior:  Are you finished with it YET!?!?!

One more “kid” book that I have on my shelf, and will keep, is Ted Bell’s “In the Nick of Time”.  I have read the second book, but don’t have a copy.  I seem to remember that it was to be a series, too, but haven’t noticed a third book listed anywhere.  Maybe I ought to check again.  He writes a really good story.  I tried one of his adult adventure stories, but didn’t get very far into it for the language.  I figure if an author can write a Really Good kid’s book without foul language, then they ought to be able to write one for adults that way, too.  Will someone please tell them that?

I’m down to about 155 books now - probably the least number I’ve owned since I was a teen-ager.   Yikes!  I found another Gladys Hasty Carroll - The Light Here Kindled.   It will join the others in the library sale sack.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Abel Davis

I’m trying to do two things at once.  Only two you say?  Well, then, only two to write about.  Cousin Pam and I are working on our Davis line.  Make that ONE of the Davis lines in our family.  We have two of those, both in Virginia.  Did you know that Davis might as well be Smith or Jones?  I think we’re more determined this time to find the clues.  We do have some good leads and promising correspondence initiated with researchers.  Can you believe we’re back to letter-writing to discover our family?  

My other current Serious Project is to whittle my library to fewer than two-hundred books.  I will need to move one of these days soon, and it would be better if I didn’t have so much to cart around.

It shouldn’t be so hard to let go of books.  They’re stories put to paper that at some point in my life have meant a good deal to me.  The trick is to find out if they still do, which really requires reading them again - each one.  If they are still resonant, they stay. 

The other trick to a book earning keeping-status is whether or not I could ever find it again, if I decided in future years that I needed to hear that story one more time.  The libraries these days often disgorge from their shelves the most wonderful older books to make room for general faddish printings or just pure garbage.  I wish they would leave the pop philosophy, politics, health crazes, etc, for bookstores to fend off on people (I love you, book smiths!), and spend their money instead on books that will “stand the test of time”.

Here’s why I love old books.  

Bess Streeter Aldrich.  I’m starting, again, “Song of Years”, printed in 1939, and this is part of her opening chapter:

The author is describing a pathway . . . 
      "But if the corn is high you must come to the second gate before you can see the tall white tombstones,the close-clipped grass of the plots, and the graveled paths that lie between.
       Here rest those first settlers.
       It is a place of utter peace. . . . But though there is a deep peace about them now, almost can you hear their loud laughter that this is so.  They would tell you that peace may be here at the end of the trail, but there was very little at the end of that other one which led westward from Dubuque.
       Because they who lie here are all connected by blood or marriage or neighborhood ties, the life of one in its bare outlines is the life of all."  

I can read that section over and over; it makes such an impression in my mind.  It’s the core of genealogy.

I can hardly wait to re-read this one.  I guess it has earned a place in the bookcase.

I’m going to add here a bit of the record of Abel Davis of Maryland, of Monongalia Co, Virginia (he was long-gone before it became West Virginia), of Champaign Co, Ohio, and finally of White Co, Indiana.  If this trail sounds familiar, please let me hear from you (address in right panel, under the flowers).  There are a lot more guesses and probabilities in my file for Abel, but these are the things we are now pretty sure of.

~~~~~I've come back to take Abel away.  He is on a separate posting.~~~~~~

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Garden in January

I haven’t been in the garden for a long time - not since the end of August or first part of September.  I injured my arm and had trouble with it for months and months.  It turned out to be a pinched nerve rather than muscle strain and finally got itself un-pinched.  Thank goodness!  The moral of this story is that there hasn’t been any gardening done all that time.

Then - the weekend before Christmas we had an ice storm in Oklahoma.  It was a doozie!  I've posted pictures of the ice at our house; these are from Mom's place.

 The sage and the thyme survived nicely and looked beautiful in ice.

 The centerpiece of our flowerbeds - the redbud tree - split and toppled.   

A few smaller branches were hanging brokenly - 
mostly resting on bird feeders.

Rob, the handyman extraordinaire, came when the weather warmed up and cut everything down to a two-foot stump.  Younger Brother came to get that last bit for the lathe-turned ballpoint pens that his woodshop class makes. 

When the weather warms up again, Rob will get a stump grinder to remove the roots, then we’ll plant a flowering shrub in the middle to replace the tree.  It surely will be missed.  The Redbud was old, had lost a lot of its branches until it was more sculpture than full tree.  Just the way we liked it.

So, I guess I’ll be starting over with the garden this year.  

That’s ok.  I get to dig in the dirt.

~~~Why a shrub?  'Cause I'm in my sixties and Mom is in her eighties.  We can't wait around for a tree to grow.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December Ice Storm

In the late afternoon it began to drizzle and freeze on contact.  

The branches are bent to the ground from the earliest of the 
freezing drizzle. Usually I can't see the house across the street.  

This is our Nandina, icy but still fairly upright.

Even with the boxwood beginning to seriously droop, 
you can see that there's usually a lot of room under the branches 
to get near the bench and sit without getting clobbered. 

By morning the ice was at least half-an-inch thick, 
depending on whether it got direct drizzle, or an accumulation.

The glider has been completely closed in by the limbs.

The Nandina is bent parallel to the ground.

The next morning, inside the dining room, 
waiting for enough daylight to take more photos.

The bent-to-the-ground boxwood.

The longest icicle was about 18 inches long.

Another cedar brought down to the roof - 
and the power lines.

We were fortunate.  
We never lost power as did some tens of thousands 
in Oklahoma.  It was fascinating to watch the weather unfolding 
that evening and morning.

That morning, birds - robins and starlings, mostly - were on the
dry underside of the cedar and boxwood outside my window
pulling off the berries that weren't encased in ice.  
I guess they were having a hard time finding food.