52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Family Legends

Discovering family legends is like finding a gold nugget. Some nuggets are right on the surface and staring the finder in the face. Some are buried beneath the surface and waiting to be assayed. Some are merely pyrite, fool’s gold, with no great truth or value.

The journey taken was not a call to the gold rush of family discoveries. The little nuggets of stories were hidden among bedrocks of facts and dates. Nothing shiny lie on the surface. It took a keen eye and focus to spot the nuggets.

The legends were discovered in sifting through digitized copies of a small Kansas county weekly newspaper, The Western Empire. The print was so tiny that it needed enlargement to view the sparkle of the nuggets. The nuggets belonged to my second great grandfather. He was touted as a pioneer in having settled newly established territories in what would later be the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kansas. On those Kansas plains, he was recognized as a sheep farmer, who prospered by selling parts of his flock each year along with their fleeces. Raising hard working, God fearing children was a sparkling character trait of both him and his wife Mary Etta. Using a grant from a Mississippi agricultural college, he raised cottonwood trees on his property as the plains yielded only a small amount of tree groves. Tiny nuggets of his life story that may have gone unnoticed…undiscovered…untapped.

These nuggets of truth and value were left behind by Andrew Storer (1817-1895). He came with his wife Mary Etta Soule and family to Osborne County in the 1870s. One tiny nugget was that he brought the first pig to the county…that little piggy rode in a covered wagon to its new home.

A lesson learned is that flecks of gold and little nuggets of truth lie right in front of the genealogical miner…find your treasures!

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Beginnings

The beginnings of love affairs are always revisited, recounted, and remembered. Over 65 years ago, I experienced the beginnings of such an affair. To this day, I remain in love. This love has grown to a vastness all its own.

It all began when I was a toddler. There was something magical that lived right in our home with me. I was curious as I longed to discover what was hidden inside my toy chest. My mother treated those treasures with respect as they were carefully laid in the top of the chest. When they came out at bedtime, they were glorious in holding my attention. Excitedly, I looked forward to each nightly visit. I was in love! They were picture books whose story lines and illustrations cast a spell over me. The objects of my affection were Mike Mulligan who had a steam shovel named Mary Anne…that was my name, too. My other new love was a bull named Ferdinand, who was a peaceful soul. When my mother presented these stories to me, she was cracking a code called reading. I could not wait to be able to do that on my own.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel:
Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
The Story of Ferdinand:
Munro Leaf, 1936

As I grew in age, I fell deeper in love with reading. We had our own secret rendezvous spots. A favorite meeting place was my town’s library. What a sacred place that was! It was filled with the most glorious books. To add to my thrills, I received my own library card which entitled me to borrow my selected treasures…only to return them to savor more.

John Handley Library: Winchester, Virginia

Since my childhood, I have never stopped loving my books. The beginnings of my literacy journey have taken me far and filled me with the joy of reading.