The summer of 1961 brought free from school fun. Jack and Jackie headed the First Family and the nation. Patsy Cline cried “I Fall To Pieces” on the radio. The Mercury 7 astronauts were America’s new heroes with Alan Shepard being the first man in space. Barbie Dolls had been born two years before. I was 11 years old. All in all, it was the perfect time for our family to hit the road.
Our departure point was Winchester, Virginia…the home of Miss Patsy Cline and the “Apple Capital of Virginia”…just to add a side note here. Our destination was Livingston, Montana…the home of my aunt and uncle and near Yellowstone National Park. We would roll up almost 2,400 miles as we traveled in an auto with six people, no air conditioning, no radio. Along the way, we had picked up my grandparents who farmed in Osborne County, Kansas…they completed our half dozen passengers.
My dad was the master planner for the trip. He loved to collect road maps and plot out routes. Also, he researched points of interest to visit along the way. We took in the breath-taking splendor of the Rockies and the Grand Tetons. We visited the Buffalo Bill Cody Center and Whitney Western Art Museum. There I fell in love with the paintings and sculptures of Frederic Remington. I was much impressed that stores gave customers silver dollars as change instead of one dollar bills. Often, I would ask my dad to buy me state map postcards so I could trace our routes. I shivered when the temperature dipped to 32 degrees at night in the mountains.
The highlight of our trek was visiting the grandeur of Yellowstone. Erupting Old Faithful, bubbling hot springs, mama bears scaling trees with their cubs in tow set the foreground of our visit. Antelopes and elks basked in the background. To this day, I still wonder what happened to these tourists: they were frying bacon over a fire next to their camper while unbeknownst to them, bears were running down the road toward them.
When we reached my aunt and uncle’s, we visited and had family time together. On night at dinner, it was announced that we were having steak. That got my taste buds primed! As we were eating, I thought that this steak was a little different so I asked about it. I learned what it was venison…I did not know what kind of meat it was…imagine my horrid surprise that we were feasting on deer.
Today as I look at the photos my mother took, I remember that she bought her first rolls of colored film…we would appear in living color, not black and white. Today as I replay the details of that road trip in my mind, I smile to myself and feel blessed for living such a family adventure.
What remains challenging is in the eye of the researcher. As a family history writer, I have often challenged myself to go beyond the obvious genealogy fact finding. Just who were my ancestors? Just how did they live? Stepping back in time to get into their minds, worlds, and lives presents a challenge in finding resources and clues for my ponderings.
My focus the past few blogs has been on my 4th great grandparents, Joseph and Rachel (Low) Storer. Having challenged myself to finding out about farming in Maine in 1820, I located a great resource. (The website is cited at the end of this blog.) After studying the article, a clearer picture of life for the Storer family came into focus.
The Storers had settled in Weld, now Franklin County, Maine, in 1807. They would have found temporary shelter near their homestead until the wilderness could be cleared and a log home built. This took four years of labor. Before heading into the wilderness, the Storer men would plant at their temporary home a garden which the wife and small children would attend. With his three oldest sons, they would work together to clear 5-6 acres during the first year. During the second year, the men would burn the slash and build a log cabin. Corn would be planted among the stumps. During the third year, a barn would be constructed as well as clearing 5-6 more acres. In the fourth year, rye and English hay would be planted and harvested.
For livestock, most farms had 2-20 Devon cattle and oxen. Most farms did not have horses. The Devon cattle’s milk nourished the family plus added to the autumn making of butter. Oxen served as draft animals. Livestock that was raised for food were turkeys, sheep, chickens, ducks, and geese.
It is challenging to fuse together this information to get the truest picture of my beloved Granddaddy and Granny Storer’s daily lives. The challenge comes from wondering about their thoughts, their daily conversations, and their family decisions. These questions will never be answered.
Last October, I had walked down the lane to my fourth great grandparents’ home…to Joseph and Rachel (Low) Storer’s farm. As I ambled around the bend in my dreams and imagined wanderings, I anxiously awaited my initial meeting with them. The time was about 1820. I had told them of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who in the future would migrate and pioneer themselves across the nation.
Today, this second visit would be a reunion of sorts. I was interested in why they had moved on from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine. What drew them on to start over twice? To clear the land and build homes? To be self-sufficient in meeting all their family’s needs? To raise children devoted to the land and to the new nation?
I was curious about what encompassed Joseph’s day with farm work. How and what did he teach his sons? In what ways did he share his knowledge about animal husbandry and livestock management? What services and goods did he use to barter with his neighbors?
I was curious about what encompassed Rachel’s day with child care and food preparation. How and what did she teach her daughters? In what ways did she share about gathering herbs and wild berries? What did the girls learn about making clothes? How did her family socialize with neighbors, or were they isolated?
As parents, did they share God’s Word by reading from the Bible each evening? By praying together? Could they themselves read and write? Many, many questions would be asked.
A reunion is a cherished time with those one loves. Sometimes, that time is short and brief. Sometimes, questions go unanswered. Sometimes, much is shared and divulged. Always as the parting ends the visit, hugs and blessings are exchanged.
After the French and Indian War, many citizens of the colony of New Hampshire yearned for a different relationship with the Crown. Why not play by their own rules? Ideas, discussions, and debates took place among those citizens… the winds of revolution in Boston blew in their direction. By 1774, they were ready to prepare themselves to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. A year later, gunpowder would ignite as the King’s Army faced the Minute Men. Joseph and Rachel Story would receive word that their nephew Jesse Story had been killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The Joseph Story family lived in Hopkinton, Merrimack, New Hampshire in 1776. He and Rachel had been married for three years; he was 25 years old with two small children. They farmed the land. In that year, the colony requested that those who sided with the Patriot cause sign an association test. Joseph along with his family members Jeremiah and Zechariah signed the test. The pledge reads as follows: “WE, the Subscribers, do hereby solemnly engage, and promise, that we will, to the utmost of our Power, at the Risque of our Lives and Fortunes, with ARMS, oppose the Hostile Proceedings of the British Fleets, and Armies, against the United American COLONIES.”
Joseph wanted to do more than sign the test. How could he pledge his sacred honor? He joined the fight by enlisting in Captain Benjamin Sias’ troops who were under Stickney’s Regiment of Militia. He enlisted in April 1777 and stayed with the troops until they disbanded in that October. What all he faced in battle and on the field was not been recorded by him…perhaps, he told those tales when he returned to his family.
His tale of standing with the Patriots as his wife took care of family and farm was a common one from those revolutionary times. “Independence!” was their cry and creed. Thank you, Joseph and Rachel.
The legends banded together and settled near the hills and waters of Franklin County, Maine. Born in the coastal town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, they longed for land near water. Having also lived in New Hampshire, this family knew the closeness of hills and mountains. This would be a settling in and home-making for the patriarch and matriarch. Time would bring other choices to some of their children.
The legends, or as they appeared to their descendants, came from families that had settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the mid 1600s. The men had been ships’ carpenters, millers, farmers, and highway surveyors. The women had worked tirelessly by their husbands’ sides. Ipswich was their first homes.
The legends’ surname was Story…also spelled Storey. It was after their move to Maine that a spelling change would evolve. The tale goes that when patriarch Joseph registered the deed to his farm, the county clerk recorded his last name with the spelling Storer. From then on, many family members chose the Storer spelling.
The patriarch and matriarch of this telling are Joseph Story/Storer and wife Rachel Low. During the next four weeks, their legend will be revealed through the prompts from 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Until we meet again…