52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Solo

Imagine taking a journey thinking that others will soon accompany you. Imagine them being so excited to join you that they cannot wait for the next leg. When you get ready to leave the station, the reality is there is no one joining you on the platform. Not one single soul is standing there with ticket in hand and luggage beside her. You are traveling alone…you are going solo.

As you travel from place to place, you are thrilled to become acquainted with small towns and farmland. You reach out to family you have never met. You look for their stories and clues left behind to explain exactly who they were and how they lived. With enthusiasm, you share with your folks back home all the family you have newly embraced…none of these folks is truly listening. To them, you are speaking of strangers that they have no intentions of welcoming. You are adventuring alone…you are going solo.

You choose to write poems and letters about these newly embraced ones. You design scrapbook pages to lay out photos and newspaper clippings. You are making a picture book that will showcase their memories. You share with the folks back home who merely glance at the pages. You have resurrected these lives only for yourself. You are creating alone…you are going solo.

Then, glory of all glories! You met newly found cousins. You join an online group. You talk with others who have gone on journeys of their own research travels. You have an audience that wants to know your stories. You have a comradeship with others who cherish their ancestors, too. You have come home and been welcomed. Now, you are traveling in the company of kindred spirits…you are not going solo.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Middle

Isabella Mary Boultinghouse, 1920

She was in the middle of her 17th year as she had lived out her youth in Osborne County, Kansas. She had substituted as a teacher at the one room schoolhouse. She had ventured off her little town to take the train to visit her married sister in Kansas City. There she helped take care of her nieces and a nephew. She had survived the Spanish influenza. Most days, she worked at her parents’ store and restaurant. At times, life was uneventful…it was autumn of 1920. Her name was Isabella Mary Boultinghouse, daughter of Lafe and Naomi.

He was in the middle of his 24th year as he had lived all his life in Osborne County, Kansas. He was the son of a farmer and made his living with his hands. He had ventured off to serve his country in the Army at Camp Funston during World War I. He trained other men in the handling of horses and wagons. His military experience gave him admission to the newly formed American Legion. Most days, he worked alongside his father and younger brothers in the fields. At times, life was uneventful…it was the autumn of 1920. His name was Andrew Earl Storer, son of Wash and Mina.

The American Legion held dances often in the middle of the week. A gentleman who attended and wanted to dance paid an admission fee of one dollar. If a gentleman wished only to be an observer, he paid 35 cents. Ladies were invited with no charge. Monies were used to support activities of the newly founded American Legion. It gave young people the chance to meet and socialize. Not knowing one another, Isabella and Andrew met in the middle of the dance floor. Friends introduced them. They talked and danced. They agreed to see one another at the next social.

During the next two years, they courted and grew sweet on one another. They decided to be married during the middle of October, 1922. They would remain married for the next 55 years when Andrew passed away.

There is a postscript to the story. Their daughter Merna Mae would meet her future husband at an American Legion dance in Topeka, Kansas, in 1942…right in the middle of her future husband’s army training.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Unexpected

Five years ago, I was cleaning out my parents’ home so it could be sold. In the linen closet, I noticed some bedding. The quilt lay folded and protected in a plastic encasement. I had never seen it before, and I had never heard my mother talk about its existence. As I unfolded it, I had discovered an unexpected treasure. The purple and white bedding featured signature squares of a friendship quilt. When I studied them, I read my grandmother’s signature, Isabella Storer. The last square read, “B.B.C. July 17, 1930”. She belonged to the Busy Bee Club.

Beginning an unexpected research adventure, I copied down the name of each club member. Using the 1930 U. S. Federal Census, I looked up each woman’s name. I wondered how old each person was in 1930, and where each was born. In that particular census, spouses were asked how old they were when married for the first time. I already knew that my grandmother was born in 1903 so she was 27 years old. She was married at 19. She was born in Osborne County, Kansas. The other 22 members of the club ranged in ages from 18 to 57. The youngest age that someone married was 17, and the oldest age was 27. Most of them were born in Kansas while others came from Iowa and Nebraska.

The next part of my unexpected adventure led me to the newspaper archives of the Osborne County Farmer. What could I find out about the Busy Bee Club? Several of these clubs were in Osborne County. The one to which Isabella belonged was the Riverside Busy Bee Club. (The Solomon River weaves itself through their farmlands.) Combing through the articles, I discovered that this club was started in 1926 with a dozen charter members…my grandmother among them. They met twice a month at each other’s homes for lunching, sewing, chatting, and playing star checkers (Chinese checkers). The lunch menu was to be “two eats, a drink, and pickles”. Their motto was, “Let us all do the good we can, in all the ways we can, for we pass this way only once.” The chapter’s colors were purple and white. Members brought their children along so they could play together since babysitters were unknown in 1930 rural Kansas. In July 1930 (the year of the quilt), my mother (Merna Mae Storer) was five years old so she had many playmates to enjoy. My aunt (Mary Lee Storer) was only one year old; when it was time for her nap, she rested in an open drawer or cardboard box…whatever the hostess could provide. Mention of each gathering could be found in the weekly county newspaper. For the rest of her 93 years, my grandmother remained a member of this group.

The third part of my unexpected adventure took me to a Google search. Could I locate a history of the Busy Bee Clubs? There it was…Busy Bees was started by a farm wife in 1920 in Nebraska. Her intent was to gather her farm wife neighbors to her house to quilt and have lunch. It gave the women socialization since farm life could isolate women. Why quilting? Often farmhouses had no heat in the bedrooms so layers of quilts would keep sleepers warm and comfy. When they gathered, they would sew this needed bedding. Sewing friendship quilts was a part of their ritual. Often during meetings, young children would play beneath the quilting frames. News of this club spread across the Midwest, and other chapters sprang up. So, my grandmother’s club started in Nebraska and ended up in their little town in Kansas.

An unexpected discovery of an unexpected treasure led to an unexpected research journey. With loving hands, I can caress the memories that my grandmother helped create 90 years ago.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Handed Down

Well, it was certainly no surprise…no surprise at all. Professional genealogists had warned that this could happen with handing down family stories. In fact, one professional listed types of stories that are often just that…stories. Well, my Boultinghouse family has one of those handed down myths. Time to lay this story to rest. So here it is…

One story that genealogists warn about is the story that three brothers came from Europe. One went north, one went south, one went west. The handed down story relates that the three Boultinghouse brothers, George, Joseph, and Bedford, came to America through the port of Boston on 16 December 1773. That is the date of the Boston Tea Party. In the story, the brothers witness the protest and jump off the ship to help the Colonists throw the tea in the harbor. Hold your pen…this is historical fiction. The brothers were born in the Colony of New Jersey in the 1740s to their parents John Boltenhous and Mary Elizabeth Bedford.

Brothers Boultinghouse: Not Present At Boston Tea Party

During the American Revolution, brother Joseph did join the 3rd Regiment of the New Jersey Militia. He would show his allegiance to the Patriot cause in that way. Alas, he deserted for unknown reasons. Was it the lack of pay, supplies, and clothing? Was it the harsh winter spent with Washington? Was it an emergency at home? That part of his history is not known.

Boultinghouse Brother: 3rd New Jersey Regiment

I feel compelled to amend the handed down story of the Boultinghouse brothers. I have seen that story repeated in several Boultinghouse genealogy books. I found a copy of it among my mother’s family history papers. I have seen it surface on a Boultinghouse family group page. When possible, I have refuted the handed down story so cousins may know the real story to hand down. My main message is simple: research documents for answers rather than repeat stories.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Uncertain

April 7, 1862

Dearest wife Mary,

These past two days near Shiloh have been horrific. I have seen the men of my company die all around me. I have not known if God would spare me or send me to my eternal reward. I have put my trust in the Almighty and my leader General Sherman. How I have dreaded being so far away in Tennesse from our Illinois home! I pray for all of you each night as I study the stars and wonder what these uncertain times will bring.

Your loving husband,

Amos (Boultinghouse)

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September 17, 1918

Dear Mother and Father,

My job as an ammunition wagoner demands that I have nerves of steel to guide the horses through the rough roads and pathways. It is quite a task to keep the horses calm and steady. Here in France, it is a mishmash of trenches, uprooted trees, and devastation. I pray this war may end soon, and that we may bring our allied nations to victory. Many days I feel so uncertain as to whether I will greet you again. My best to little sis Isabella.

Your son,

Jack (Edward R. Boultinghouse)

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May 31, 1933

Dear Sister,

Each day seems so filled with work. Working to feed Andrew and the girls, working to grow vegetables, working to keep my hens fattened, working on all the chores of being a farmer’s wife. When I sit, I am mending and sewing. My greatest joy is attending the Busy Bee Club for the monthly meeting. Each lady is making enough quilting squares so each member of the club receives one. We write our names in embroidery stitches on the squares. Each lady will make her own quilt. It is a wonderful time when we ladies can all chat, catch up on the news, and encourage one another. These uncertain times fill me with dread and anxiety. Praying our new president can get our country back into shape. My best to your girls.

Your sister,

Isabella (Boultinghouse Storer)

When are times not uncertain? When are we certain that all is safe?

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Tombstone

Exhausted, stumbling, he fell to the ground that November, 1893 day. Passersby carried the ill gentlemen to his home. He was fragile and physically broken from life’s journey. Placed into a sick bed, he spent his final hours with his wife and several of his adult children.He passed into Eternity on Saturday, November 18. His funeral was held that Sunday with many in attendance. Amos Howell Boultinghouse was known in Osborne County, Kansas, as a homesteader, Civil War veteran, and Godly man.

A mere mention of his passing was covered in the weekly edition of the county newspaper. Neither a formal obituary noted his life’s summary, nor a tombstone noted his final resting place. Fifty years would pass before this pioneer, family man, and veteran would be honored with a marker.

When his beloved wife Mary died in 1901, she was buried beside Amos. Side by side, they rested in unmarked graves by the fence of the Bloomington Cemetery. Family members laid flowers on the graves and visited to remember these parents, grandparents, great grandparents. Stories were told and retold about the man who came from Illinois with his French bride all those years ago. Tales were told and retold about courage, resilience, and faith in God. Committed to memory, family noted the spot where Amos and Mary laid.

In 1943, Amos’ son Lafe applied for a tombstone for his father…tombstones were available for military veterans in unmarked graves through the government. The tombstone arrived on the train that passed through the town. Lafe would be responsible for transporting it to the cemetery and installing it.

Now, Amos had a proper resting place that honored his memory and service to the his country.

What about Mary’s memory? Eighty years after her passing, second great grandchildren put their funds together. “Grand B is buried by the fence, ” they recounted. A granite tombstone was commissioned and placed by their graves. Now, their memorials were complete…but had always lived on in family’s hearts.

Final note: When Lafe applied for the tombstone for his veteran father, he applied for another one. Lafe’s own son, Edward Ralph Boultinghouse, was a veteran of World War I. He lay in an unmarked grave in Osborne Cemetery. On another day, Lafe met again a delivery at the railroad station.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Air

In June, 1875, the morning air felt crisp and clean to homesteaders Andrew and Mary Etta Storer. In the night sky the evening before, the stars had shone like diamonds. This was one of the bonuses of living on the plains…the glory of the stars. It reminded them of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the stars. Would they receive the same God-given gift?

Today the morning air brought its own set of promises. The promise of light and air in which to move the sheep to another pasture…the promise of air to dry the clothes on the line…the promise of air to sweetness the inside of the house…the promise of air to fill the children’s lungs as they helped with chores and played in the sun. These were just some of the promises of the new day.

Since coming to Osborne County, Kansas, four years ago, the Storer family had experienced several terrifying ordeals brought through the air. Several times, the family had to hurry to the storm cellar for shelter when cyclones would soon bear down on them. Thankfully, all the family had remained safe. The year before, grasshoppers has invaded the air so thickly that the skies appeared black. The hoppers had destroyed property, crops, and even curtains at the windows. They soon learned that the air could bring blessings, or it could bring damnation.

In June, 1875, the air was filled with the newness of the day. It was filled with breakfast chatter as family members set out to work. The air was filled with the clucking of Mary Etta’s hens and chicks. The air was filled with the bleating of Andrew’s sheep. The air was filled with familial love and strength.

Andrew and Mary Etta Storer are my second great grandparents. They were the parents of nine children who would all live to adulthood, marry, and parent their own children. So, yes, God’s promise to Abraham reflected His promise to them.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Fire

As soon as it touched his lips, he knew he had never before felt as if he were on fire. It burned going down his esophagus…it burned his nostrils…it was potent and intoxicating. The after effects were brain numbing, and he could forget his worries. He heard the beat of a different drummer from the rest of the men in his family. He was not quite settled. He did not yearn to follow farming. Hunting and fishing were the fires in his soul. In some ways, he felt trapped…the fire of the whiskey stoked his fears and insecurities.

As time went by, he became a functioning alcoholic making a living and supporting his family by being a carpenter and storekeeper. Did his family feel the backdraft of that fire? His business was a success although it was his wife and children who handled most of the duties at the store. From time to time, he would leave for hunting trips to Idaho and Wyoming. Packed with his gear was a bottle to quench the fire within. Somehow, he managed to keep his hands steady and his aim true during the day, but around the campfire at night…

From the time he started drinking, he had to find sources for the whiskey as his county was dry. Bottles and money changed hands. Identities of the distillers were secret and names not to be repeated. Local law noticed his frequent intoxication…where was he getting the firewater? The sheriff questioned him to find out his suppliers. With his feet to the fire, he caved in and revealed a few names. When authorities started to watch these men, the accused took notice. To teach the informant a lesson, they set his house on fire. They had waited purposely for the accuser to leave the homestead with his family so no one would be home. This would teach him to keep his mouth shut! Later, he recanted his story to the police and denied everything. But small towns harbor gossip and insinuations.

In time, the house was rebuilt. As a carpenter, he was able to build a better design…make it cosier for his wife who loved to care for her flowers and gardens. He cut back on the amount of alcohol that stoked his inner fires. He spent more time at his favorite fishing holes. Maybe, at last the fires had burned out and left his soul at peace.

The man in the story is my great grandfather whom I never met…he died the day after I was born. My mother shared this story with me. May his sweet soul rest and be at peace.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Water

The vastness of it did not terrify her. The majesty of it did overwhelm her. She and the other orphan girls from her village would stand at the rail and pay homage to it for hours each day. She, the girl Anna, shared that the only water she remembered was the stream in the woods near her home. How cool the water seemed as it touched her ankles! How she enjoyed splashing her brother! Now each day she and her girlfriends were surrounded by passels of strangers and the ocean water.

Anna and her friends talked each day about the lady they would see once they reached land in this new America. The lady had been described to them: tall, stately, welcoming. Was she as beautiful as the statue of the Madonna in their village church? How would they know it was she? The lady would be standing in the harbor with a light. She would signal to them that their journey across the water would end. They would make their ways across a gangplank over the water…a new home…a baptism of freedom.

Fourteen year old orphan Anna Mroz made her journey across the water from Poland via Trieste, Italy. It was May, 1906. She was listed on the ship’s manifest as 16 years old. Why the deception? She had $9 in her possession, and her brother Jan would be meeting her at Ellis Island. She would be working as a domestic. The water had brought her to a new life.

Anna Mroz is my paternal grandmother. She died two years before I was born. Oh, how I would have enjoyed her stories about crossing the great water!

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Forgotten

As she lay dying, she decided to reveal a secret. A deathbed confession that could ease the guilt…a cry for forgiveness for the duplicity…a pathway to a hidden truth? Was this truth best forgotten, or should the family know? Once it was revealed, it would not be forgotten but unforgettable. So she told her daughter what she believed to be the truth about her older daughter’s paternity. The dying woman did not, however, reveal the child’s father’s name. Pandora’s box had been opened.

Through time, the daughter kept the secret hidden and forgotten. Life went on while the people who could be hurt by the secret continued to live their lives. The daughter did realize that her father knew the secret and had lived with it during the length of his marriage. Should the daughter tell her sister about her paternity, or leave it forgotten and buried? The truth would be far reaching with its emotional damage.

Through time, the daughter decided that the truth should be known. She would be the revealer of this truth. (What her motives and intentions were in proclaiming this secret are unknown.) She released the secret to selected family members. How did she perceive the shock, the disbelief of the listeners as they internalized what was spoken? Did she ever wish that all was forgotten and not revealed? Pandora’s box had been opened.

Families are the repositories of secrets that can linger and overcloud their members. Should the real truth and secrets be shared or forgotten? As time goes by, what really is the truth?