During our weekly genealogy get-together, Amy turned to me and said, “So…which of your ancestors bears your favorite name? Whom do you pick and why?”
Without hesitation, I responded, “My great grandfather, Lafayette Edward Boultinghouse. I never met him, but I was introduced to him by my mother. If I silence myself, I can hear his name whispered in the wind as it rustles the shafts of wheat across a Kansas prairie. I can see his face up in the stars of night…just as God had told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as those stars. He used to be a mystery to me, but I sought out his company in old photographs and family history. Now I can pass on his story to you.”
Smiling and nodding, Amy prompted me to continue. “Tell me about the grandfather you met.”
“Lafe’s story…his family’s nickname for him…begins as the end of an adventure. In 1871, his parents, Amos and Mary, had gathered up their youngest children and come by wagon train across Illinois and into Kansas to settle in Osborne County. Mary was pregnant with her 10th child so the trip must have been a challenge for her. When they arrived at their Homestead Act property, a tent was pitched to shelter them. Inside the tent, Mary gave birth to Lafayette. He was the first white male born in that county. Why he was named Lafayette is only my guess. Amos the father came from a patriotic family. Mary the mother came from a French emigrant family. In American and French histories, the Marquis de Lafayette was a hero to both American and French peoples. Was the name a way to celebrate both family origins? Having the middle name of Edward is a puzzle…no Edwards in either family existed. And so, Lafe grew in age and wisdom,” I said with a smile.
Encouraging me to continue, Amy asked, “Who did Lafe become? What makes him special to you?”
“Young Lafe learned to hunt and fish from his father, who had lived on the Midwest prairies and survived the Civil War. The Kansas farmland gave them buffalo to hunt, and the river and streams to fish. Lafe learned what it takes to feed a family. Throughout his life, hunting and fishing became his passion. He really did not fall in love with farming. At one time, he obtained 14 acres of farmland through the Homestead Act. A few years later, he sold off the land and farm equipment. He and his wife Naomi opened a general store and cafe in the little town of Bloomington. He did discover another love…carpentry. He could build anything. He added tourist cabins to an area by the store-cafe. He would pass on his love of hunting to his son Edward while his daughters, Pearl, Helen, and Isabella, learned flower gardening from mother Naomi. When grandchildren blessed his life, they called him Grand B,” I responded.
Amy asked her final question, “How does his name endear him to you?”
“I envision him as a person with a distinguished name who led an ordinary life in an ordinary town. He sought no greatness other than to serve his family, friends, and community. I wish as his great granddaughter, I could have sat at his knee and savored his stories and, perhaps, tall tales. I wish…”