Across an ocean and across a continent, they all wait to introduce themselves. Their faces are hidden in a mist. They are surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and forest lands. Most of them lived as peasant farmers; perhaps, they were serfs. They were under educated…they were hanging on to survive. How did they learn about the American dream? Who shared that with them? How many actually reached the shores of America? And the ones who were left behind and the ones who came before them, just who are they to me? I only know of nine of them. Through the mist, I cannot reach the thousands of others. They remain unknown to me.
Returning from this quest, I consulted the wise matriarch. I shared with her the unfulfillment of my journey. Her advise was to look close to home, for there I would meet thousands…right there at my fingertips. So I reached out…they were exactly where she said I would find them…close to home.
In the first part of my journey to look across an ocean and a continent, I searched for my father’s family. They were Polish peasants. On that half of my family tree, I grafted two branches and nine people. That is all I know…hidden in the mist. Can you imagine a genealogist with only nine people on one side of her tree?
The wise matriarch, my mother, told me not to despair. She guided me to look close to home right here in America. She bragged that we are related to everybody. Family stories stated that a grandfather was a Pilgrim right off the Mayflower…George Soule himself. Other grandfathers fought in the American Revolution, Civil War, World War I. There they were! There were pioneers, cowboys, housewrights and carpenters, seamstresses, teachers…strong men and women. This half of my tree had many branches and thousands of leaves. Can you imagine a genealogist with such a delightful assortment of ancestors…bet one can?!
Lessons learned: first, look close to home before checking the far horizons. Discoveries await right here. Second, listen to Mama…she flows in wisdom.
They left more than 50 years ago. They took with them pieces of my heart. Their partings were sudden and unexpected. What were you thinking, Lord? I was young…a teenager unformed in maturity and experiences. They were guiding lights and beacons to see the world out of the shadows. Why did they have to go? I was learning so much, and the lessons seemed to be abruptly cut off. Or were they? They left me a legacy, one of a social conscience and one of an attitude of gratitude.
They left more than 50 years ago. They are part of the long line of fallen heroes who graced my life and touched it. Forever grateful and forever remembering John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hiding in a drawer…tucked away from view…longing to be discovered…just waiting for someone’s intake of breath when viewed…I had never seen a photo like it. Was the photo taken to celebrate a wedding? The couple had been married on 27 April 1918 so the picture was more than 100 years old. In studying the photo, I was wondering why the bride was not facing the camera? To me, that added an exquisiteness to the pose. She appears to be wearing engagement and wedding rings when I look closer. The photo was taken at the Bennett Studio in downtown Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. The couple had been married in Hagerstown, Maryland, about 15 miles away. Daniel Johnston Haffner, 22 years old, and Anna Rebecca Flegel, 20 years old, were touted as a much loved and popular young couple according to the newspaper. They would be married for almost 40 years before Anna passed away in 1957. They would parent four children.
This little gem of a photo was discovered by me last year. The couple are my husband’s grandparents…it is a favorite of mine.
What was the question…what was the answer…what was the explanation? Who was involved in the decision-making? Who planned the moves forward and eventually westward? What compelled them? What led them? Were these moves each obviously a fresh start?
William Henry Stevens was born in London in 1844. During the Civil War, he immigrated to America and joined the Union Navy. Was that meant to be a fresh start in a new place? His assignments as a landsman were documented in his military and pension records. He was a mere 22 years old when this adventure began.
At the age of 24, he married Isabella Couchman in New York City. They also resided in Jersey City, New Jersey. They would parent a total of ten children…some born there and the remaining in a final start over location. Was this meant to be a fresh start in a new place?
For while, the family lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where Will worked at the gas company. Was this move to the South meant as a fresh start in another new place? It was a city albeit smaller in size than New York.
Will’s final start over was in Osborne County, Kansas. He became a farmer. A London-New York-Tennessee transplant making yet another fresh start in the early 1870s. What prompted this move when he knew very little about farming?
None of Will’s and Isabella’s real thoughts and ponderings have ever been discovered. Are they just dust in the wind?