“You are college material,” she noted as I stood by her desk. This was the first time ever my 5th grade Catholic school girl brain had heard those exact words from anyone. At that moment, my whole world got bigger: I was going to college! Sister said so! It had to be true!
My mentor that year was Sister Mary Charles of the Sacred Heart. She was a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. We were together at Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester, Virginia. She opened many doors to me. She instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish much with the talents I had been given. I adored her!
I always loved school…loved learning…loved reading and writing…loved working and studying hard. When Sister planted that seed about going to college, I knew to choose that fork in the road. That school year, Sister helped me realize my potential in many areas: writing stories, praying, goal-planning, risk-taking. I enjoyed each day being in her presence and under her wing.
At the end of the school year, Sister was transferred to a school in Tampa, Florida. It hurt that I would not get to see her the following year. We kept in touch by letter from that time until her death in 1995. During the 1970s when religious sisters changed their habits, each one had the option of reverting back to her baptismal/family name. Her name became Sister Gertrude Roberts.
Sister Gertrude did know that I went to college. She also knew about my career choice: I was a teacher in a Catholic school for 38 years. Saint Andrew the Apostle Catholic School, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was where I taught. It was my turn to mentor and encourage my students. I loved every minute of it!
Footnote: The above picture is not one of Sister Charles, but another sister from her community. I wanted to show how her habit looked when we spent our time together. Also, Sister played with us at recess…she wanted us to enhance our jump-roping and baseball playing skills.
Imagine having a big brother who loved nature, hunting, and fishing. That same brother enjoyed climbing on the roof of the house so your mom could not find him to do chores, and he taught you that same trick so you could do the same. As an adult, that brother brought his family by motorcycle and sidecar from Wyoming to Kansas to visit you. That brother was my great uncle Jack whose legal name was Edward Ralph Boultinghouse (1896-1943). His sister was my grandmother, Isabella Mary Boultinghouse (1903-1996). They had two other siblings, Pearl and Helen.
Jack is another leaf on my family tree who had the gift of wanderlust. Like his dad Lafe, farming was not for him. In his late teens, he moved from Osborne County, Kansas, to Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming. There he wrangled horses for a rancher as he loved riding and roping. He also worked as a roustabout on the oil fields. There he met the daughter of a Swedish immigrant and married her. Her name was Zola Snyder. Together they became the parents of Betty Lou. After a few years of marriage, they divorced…being a family man was not his true calling.
After a time, Jack moved on to Nebraska. He had a new wife, Marie Hammer. He managed a wildlife preserve. He was very much at home in this environment. He seemed to have found a home, but…
World War II happened. Brother Jack was an expert on Remington rifles due to all his hunting experiences. He was hired by Remington Arms in Denver, Colorado, to help in the designing of new military rifles. Unfortunately, Jack developed cancer and spend much time in the Saint Anthony Hospital. He was often delirious from the painkillers. To ensure that he not blurt out any military secrets armed soldiers supervised his hospital room. Jack died quietly in May 1943 at the age of 47.
Once her big brother Jack left Kansas, my grandmother saw him every few years. What did she miss the most about him? What stories did she wish to share with him?
In the end, Jack came back to Kansas. He is buried in the same cemetery as his parents and little sister Isabella. Big brother Jack, you were one of Isabella’s heroes.
Having devoted this month’s blogs to my 4th great grandparents, Joseph Story/Storer and Rachel Low, I have researched their lives beyond the basic facts. Attempts have been made to flesh them out and bring small details to the surface. Questions about them guided me on my research travels.
Much of this journey has been easy due to finding excellent birth, baptism, marriage, and death records for them. It appears that those New Englanders in the 18th Century were great record keepers. Many of the clerks possessed super penmanship that made discoveries easy to read. Since the Storers were early settlers in New Hampshire and Maine, local history writers were precise in relating the exact location of the lands where they built their farms and homesteads. The names of their children were shared. In addition, records of Joseph’s enlistment in Captain Benjamin Sias’ regiment during the Revolution were well presented.
Thank you to those who are guardians of these records…for preserving, for digitizing, for managing. Thank you to authors that compose digests about settlers’ every day living so information is easy to read and comprehend. Thank you to historical societies that readily answer questions and emails. Thank you, dear ancestors, for bringing your life stories to mine.
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. One 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…
My earliest memory of him was riding together on his horse. I was bundled up in a baby coat with a scarf wrapped around my head. He wore his farm jacket as he held on tightly to me. My mother had lifted me up to him so he could place me safely on the saddle in front of him. We rode out to check a pasture and his Black Angus cattle. He was my Gramps, and I was his little Punkie. All was right in my precious world. I wonder what stories he told me as we plodded along the trail through the pastures. Did he explain to me about farming? Did he share with me tips on handling horses?
My earliest memory of her was being held in her arms as we walked around the farmhouse and chicken coop. She instructed me in how to gently pick up a hen’s egg from a nest. Some of her hens she called by name as she taught me how to make clucking sounds. She was my Grammy, and I was her little Punkie. All was right in my precious world. What did I learn about chicks and chickens that day? What stories were there about the roosters strutting around the yard?
Earliest memories can lay the foundation of what remains of our recollections of grandparents and parents. How treasured these memories are…how revered…how engraved on our hearts! In the winter of 1951, my mother and I flew from Washington, D.C., to Salina, Kansas, to visit with my Gramps and Grammy (Andrew and Isabella Storer) for the first time. My father would join us two months later. (My dad was a city boy.) On the farm in Kansas, a little city girl like me learned about horses, chickens, pigs, cattle, dogs, and cats. Earliest memories…earliest dreams…
Dear Diary, today I listened to a message on our answering machine. The content left me stunned and teary-eyed. The gentleman caller stated that he was not sure if he had the correct number. He was calling from Colorado. He had found our phone number in his desk as he was cleaning out. He said he was trying to reach Merna Mae Storer. Would Merna Mae please call him back as he wanted to chat? He did not state his name.
Merna Mae is my mother, who passed away five years ago. I knew from some of the caller’s clues that he was my mother’s cousin Mitch…my cousin, too. I decided to call him back, but first I had to regain my composure. He answered on the first ring, “Hello, this is Mitch.” I introduced myself and told him about my mom. He stated that he had wondered why he had not heard from her. They had graduated from high school together and would meet up at their annual reunions.
He went on to tell me that he is now 96 years old. His wife died in 1977, and he has remained unmarried. He works in his yard. His favorite activity is volunteering weekly at the Wings Over The Rockies Air And Space Museum in Denver. Staying busy has helped him remain young in body and spirit.
We only talked for 10 minutes or less. He baited me…little did he know…when he said, “That Merna Mae was a real little lady growing up.” I am calling him back soon. My gentleman caller knows stories and tales about the Stevens side of my family! I am collecting questions for Mitch.