This morning, our friend and neighbor Walter Simpson brought us the most awful news. Just what everyone feared! We are trying to grasp what this can mean for us. This horrible happening took place a few hundred miles from us, but the heartbreak and devastation have shrouded us in terror and uncertainty. Will we be saved from Mother Nature’s wrath for not caring for her soil after the harvest?
Walter told us that yesterday is being called Black Sunday. The sky brought a storm of soil so thick through the air that those outside could barely breath or see to find their ways home. More farms will be abandoned as their occupants pack up and move westward…they cannot feed their families and livestock. It is so incomprehensible to me how this all happened right here in the land we call “the bread basket of America”. Granted we have not made much profit from this farm we rent from Andrew’s uncle’s people in Mississippi.
My husband Andrew and I need to discuss if we will hold steadfast to our idea of farming and living on these Kansas plains. After all, our parents and grandparents came to this land in the 1870’s with nothing but dreams. With two young daughters, we have to plan how we will care for all four of us. Our president FDR has only been in office for a short amount of time…will he be able to save us from this next disaster of the Depression? The conservationists state that there is an answer to caring for the land, but it will take time.
The state motto of “Ad astra per aspera…to the stars through difficulties” reminds us that we are gifted with perseverance and resiliency. May Almighty God grant us those graces.
~Isabella Mary Boultinghouse Storer
Tilden Township, Osborne County, Kansas
Note: Isabella is my maternal grandmother. This writing is her imagined reaction to the news of Black Sunday.
Plat books are treasure maps that show exactly what lands an ancestor owned. How many acres did he/she own? What waterways were on or near the property? Did any railroads pass through the township? Who were that particular person’s neighbors? Where was the school house? Where were the cemeteries? Many questions tout the answers when viewing these maps.
Locating a plat book for Osborne County, Kansas, that was published in 1900 was a great find for me. I located both my great grandfather’s (W.I. Storer’s) and my second great grandfather’s (William Henry Stevens’) farms. W.I. and family lived in Tilden Township on lands his father had sold to him. W.I. owned 240 acres with easy access to the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The little village of Bloomington was close by where the post office was located along with a small general store and cafe. His brothers Willard and Charles lived on neighboring farms. They, too, had bought lands from their father. W. I.’s wife Sarah Almina lived near her brothers. The families were close in proximity if not also in reach. W.I. and Sarah had donated land from the southeast corner of their property to create the Bloomington Cemetery. (The location of this cemetery is marked on the plat.) By 1900, the Storers had lived in the county for almost 30 years.
William Henry Stevens’ farm also had 240 acres, but it was located in Kill Creek Township (which is south of Tilden Township). The Will and his wife Isabella had been obtained the land through the Homestead Act of 1862. A portion of Kill Creek went across his farm. Some of his daughters had married nearby neighbors. Part of his family remained close by while others lived hundreds of miles away. By 1900, the Stevens family had lived in the county for almost 30 years. (By 1900, the county was 33 years old. These two families were some of her pioneer families.)
Plats are, indeed, treasures and treasure maps. Gold and precious gems of information are contained within their drawings. They aid in mapping out one’s research.
It would definitely be a mistake to underestimate her…a mistake to ignore her internal strength. Little is known about her real struggles and challenges, or the way she perceived them. The paper trail she left behind is almost nonexistent. No mistaking that Rhoda Howell was a pioneer woman who was left widowed on the plains of Illinois in 1823. Her husband Daniel Boultinghouse had died at the age of 48. Rhoda was his third wife. Together, they had two children: Amos Howell Boultinghouse and Matilda Boultinghouse. Daniel had left behind 11 other children from his previous marriages; some were adults while the rest needed raising. That fell to Rhoda and her mature stepsons. There is no evidence that she married again so she could have the companionship of a man as devoted to surviving pioneer life as she was.
Evidence does show that she appeared at the White County, Illinois, courthouse three years after her husband’s death. Bearing her letter as administrator of his estate , she had come to settle his debts. Daniel had died without a will so this may have placed certain burdens on her. She received a widow’s dower of $40. In the probate report, it recorded that she had sold personal property to cover some of the debts. How was she going to care for her 12 year old daughter and 8 year old son plus several stepchildren? How would she feed and clothe them? How could she be both mother and father to them?
After the 1820 census where her life was documented by a tick mark, she is not found again even in looking at her stepchildren’s families on the census…no tick marks found that could possibly be Rhonda. Who protected and cared for her in her final days? Where was she buried?
No mistake that a testament to her ability to raise resilient and strong children was evident in her son Amos Howell Boultinghouse. Amos would enlist in the Army at the age of 19, start a family at 25, reenlist in the Army during the Civil War at the age of 43, and settle on a farm in Kansas at the age of 53. Yes, it would be a mistake to discount her strength and steadfastness.
Her little freckled face was styled in a frown. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Soft sobs emitted from her throat. Her auburn ringlets touched her shoulders that shook as she cried. Why would she be so upset on this most glorious of days? It was our first day of kindergarten at Saint James Catholic School, Falls Church, Virginia! We wore our new school dresses. We had old cigar boxes filled with pencils and crayons. We received coloring sheets. Our teacher Mrs. Doyle was smiling and beckoning to us to listen to a story. I was in kindergarten heaven, but what about my table mate? I reached over and put my arm around her shoulder so I could comfort her. I asked her her name. She told me that she was Dodi. From that moment on and the rest of kindergarten, Dodi Driscoll would become my best friend.
During that school year, we learned to write our names. I could spell/write Dodi’s name before I could write my own. Together, we mastered those sweet little kindergarten skills of becoming good listeners, becoming well mannered little ladies, and becoming ready to read and do math. Those half days of school gave us the gift of spending time as best friends. On the weekends, I was invited to play at Dodi’s. Her father was a photographer for The Washington Post so he was camera ready to snap pictures of us. He also took great pictures of our graduation day. At the end of the school year, my family was moving away. It was my first experience in leaving a best friend.
Now 60 years later, I wondered what happened to her. I found her parents’ memorials on FindAGrave. Oh, no…on the page was written that their daughter Dolores Mary (Dodi) had died in 1999. How could that be? I searched for an obituary and found one. Dodi had never married, and she was dearly loved by her nieces and nephews. She was a dedicated children’s physical therapist. She had died of cancer against which she struggled for several years. As I read her obituary, my face was styled into a frown. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Soft sobs emitted from my throat. My dear school days friend was now tucked away in heaven. Dodi, you are remembered.
Wanted: Individuals with patience, perseverance, private eye skills who can work for hours at a time in assembling and documenting facts. Must know fundamentals of citing sources and references. Organizational and planning strategies are essential. Willingness to share research with others who may or may not be related to them. Allowance for travel time. Flex time schedules are available. Apply in person at your local historical or lineage societies, libraries, online interest groups.
Gathering the leaves on a family tree that are laced with tragedy is a journey seeped in sadness. Which story bears retelling? Which recounting poses a moral? Which remembrance bears the greatest measure of grief?
Riding the trails of my family tree, I come to many forks in the road. These forks lead to different families and their histories. What tragic loss will I revisit and review? The cries of anguish of those grieving souls beg for attention.
Consider the first wife and child of my second great grandfather who were lost in childbirth fever. Look at the second great aunt who died in an accident when a shotgun blast left her children motherless. Think about an uncle whose home burned to the ground, whose child died from a snakebite, and whose orphaned children were split apart when adopted by strangers. Remember aunts and uncles who lost their farms during the Dust Bowl and the Depression likened to chapters from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Recall wives and mothers who sent their loved ones off to war, not knowing if they would return with untouched souls. Mourn for little toddlers lost to childhood diseases. Their stories are affixed to the leaves…one sorrow as far-reaching through the generations as the next.
Every family owns tragedies…which one would you share?
Re: Messages Received and Sent To/From My Ancestry Account
Ancestry has a wonderful message center attached to each account. Fellow members can reach out and ask questions about your public trees. Cousins can meet…information and photos can be exchanged. Help can be gotten and given. That is until (drum roll and sound of a drum cymbal here) you receive messages that are confusing, confounding, and comedic. (I have four public trees on Ancestry.) Let me just share some messages with you that will tickle your funny bone…they are written exactly as they were received…no content is missing.
Received: I see Catherine is in your tree. How are you related to her?
Received: Where did you find that picture of Uncle Jim’s tombstone?
Received: Can you share your information on James Smith who was born in Walker County? He was born in 1852. His father was John Smith (1856-1900) and his mother was Jane Howard (1857-1903).
Received: We are a DNA match. How are you related to me?
Sent: I noticed that you have W. I. Warner on your family tree. He is my great grandfather. How are you related? Answer Received: I am not related to him. He is my first cousin’s wife’s fifth great uncle. Somehow, I connected our trees.
Received: You can find my uncle’s tombstone by looking in the third row, fourth grave. You can also look for his parents. (No prior messages had been received.)
Do not get me wrong: I have received some very informative messages and have made many cousin connects. It is just once in awhile that some messages are cryptic and comedic.
PS The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Imagine spending nine months alone with your brother…your twin brother…as you listened to your mother’s heartbeat. Then, take that imagining a step further…you came into this world when you were born in a cave on your parents’ farmstead. (Pioneers often had to make temporary homes until the house could be built.) Andrew Earl Storer and his sister Angie Pearl were born on 10 June 1896 in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. Their twin connection would extend over their lifetimes.
In birth order, Andrew and Angie were the second son and the second daughter in the Wash and Mina Storer family. In learning to care and manage a farmstead, each would be under the wing of a different parent to learn skills and develop talents. Andrew would always have a love for horses while Angie would always have a love for needle crafts. As the two completed eight grades in the local one room schoolhouse, they had perfect attendance records. Their formal educations were end there, but family forever taught the values of hard work, perseverance, and resiliency.
In 1917, Angie married a friend of her brother, Carl Otto Britt. They planned to settle on their own farm. When the U.S. entered World War I, both Andrew and Carl were called into the service. They were stationed for training at Camp Funston near Fort Riley, Kansas. Whenever Carl had a pass, Angie would meet him and spend the weekend. Surely, she visited her brother. Both Andrew and Carl remained at Funston during their Army experience…they were not sent overseas. Both men never considered themselves real war veterans.
In time, Andrew married Isabella Boultinghouse. They settled on a farm in Alton. Andrew and Isabella had two daughters while Angie and Carl had three daughters…no sets of twins. On Saturday nights, all four would meet for square dancing. On Sundays, they would have family dinners. Angie and Isabella belonged to the same ladies’ club. Andrew and Carl belonged to the Masons.
Andrew passed away in 1977 while Angie lived until 1989. How do you measure the loss suffered when the twins were separated?
“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.