The warmth radiating from the fireplace melted the crisp chill in the air. Light flickered and bounced and the crackling sound was soothing to the family of three. But as Jennie stood and turned to peer outside the window, her eyes narrowed as she glared at her foe. A monster snowstorm was casting its shadow across Vida, Missouri. Snapping its tail with crushing force; leaving mountains of snow and disappearing roads.
It was Christmas Eve of 1910 and Jennie Knowlten's girls were five miles away in their little town home in Rolla. But as the monster laughed and spat at Jennie; the rolling hills of Vida fell victim to the fiercest storm central Missouri had seen. And five miles between a mother and her daughters on Christmas Eve felt like a black endless pit of nowhere.
Jennie turned her face away from the window and her husband George took notice of the shifting of his wife's eyes. Recognizing the glimmer in her stare, George immediately sprung from the sofa, shaking his head as he spoke:
"No you don't Jennie. You can not get out in this storm to ride to Rolla"
"Its Christmas Eve, George. My girls have never been away from home on Christmas and as long as I'm living, it won't happen! It just won't happen."
Dudley jumped up from the sofa like a soldier ready to take arms. "Let's do it, momma. Let's take the sleigh to Rolla. I know we can make it. We have to have Christmas with Bertha and Hazel."
George Knowlten slumped and shook his head. There was a hellish snowstorm hovering its dark silhouette over their farm but the willful determination of his wife could outmatch any creature, especially if it stood between her and her children. And George soon became resolved to the reality of their evening fate.
George and Dudley fought the snowy sting of the wind as they edged out of the house and into the barn. George gave a quick look-over of the blades of the sleigh while Dudley bridled the horses to the yoke. The barn door swiftly swung open and the monster's forceful wind whipped it from side-to-side like a pancake. And in stomped Jennie, looking like Santa, holding bags overflowing with presents for her girls.
Santa Knowlten and her two elves cajoled the horses out of the barn and onto the whitened road while the monster glared its teeth and spit at their forward move. Fighting to hold onto the reins, Dudley was willful and steady. But the strength of the storm was ferocious and suddenly; the tale of the monster wind snapped a rein in two.
"We can't go on Jennie. We need to turn back," George insisted to his wife. The horses raised high on their back legs, twisting and turning and Jennie finally reasoned that her husband was right.
Slowly turning to look straight into the eyes of her husband and son, Jennie calmly remarked:
"Your right. Take the horses and head home."
Jennie grabbed her bundled presents and jumped from the sleigh.
"But you can't walk to Rolla, momma," Dudley cried.
"I will walk. And then if I can't walk any longer, I'll crawl."
And so the men grudgingly turned their horses back toward the farm. The strong willed Jennie Knowlten walked the rest of the way to her daughter's little town home in Rolla, Missouri; surprising two achingly lonely girls on Christmas Eve. Looking like a big white momma bear; tossing out gifts and showering hugs.
And the mad, vicious storm of 1910?
It sputtered and whimpered; tucking its tail between its legs, as it realized it had been tamed by a much fiercer foe: a determined mother on Christmas Eve.
What's your family Christmas story? Tell it so it will be told to the next generation. Even if you twist it ever so creatively; it will be your family's own.
Have a Merry Christmas. And if this momma bear could ride her sleigh to Afghanistan, I would.
Keep searching for answers,
(Dedicated to my son Spc. Ryan Roach; stationed in Afghanistan)
*Reprinting of this story is strictly prohibited.
As our local DAR chapter's museum committee chairperson, I have the responsibility of providing a year-end report. Never having the pleasure of touring the national DAR offices and museum, I am relegated to taking virtual tours on-line. But as virtual tours go, the DAR on-line exhibits are quick, fascinating, and short of being there: fabulous!
Always intrigued with the unusual, I was pleasantly surprised to step into the current virtual tour: By, For and Of the People: Folk Art and Americana at the DAR Museum. It is the DAR's first ever exhibit of American Folk Art. A taste of purebred Americana; folk artists were untrained in the "fine arts" and produced folksy art pieces that also were sometimes utilitarian.
Winding my way through the exhibit, I was struck by the colorful and often playful works of art. And then I paused to gaze at one piece that "tickled-my-fancy": The Battle of Bennington by Anna Mary Robertson Moses. Yes, the ever-famous grandmother of the American Folk Art movement, Grandma Moses.
The 'Battle of Bennington' by Grandma Moses
The painting is lovely and whimsical, just as her other works. But the subject caught my attention and I peered at the American Revolutionary soldiers dancing with danger across the canvas; firing their cannons and waving their flags.True to her life, Grandma Moses painted the Battle of Bennington
after she discovered, at the young age of ninety-two, that her great-grandfather fought in the American Revolution. Feeling inspired with her discovery, Anna Mary not only provided her interpretation of the Battle of Bennington
on canvas; she also became a member of the DAR. When others at such an age would forego the adventure or lack the stamina to participate in a new organization, Anna Mary dove in and took off.Myself becoming inspired by Grandma Moses' tenacity at life; I contemplated her budding interest in genealogy in her early nineties. When many of us peak with our ancestral search by our fifties and sixties; Anna Mary was invigorated with her newly discovered family tree while whisking into her nineties. One wonders where her creative mind would have taken her, if she had lived past her 101 years!I suppose one can draw lessons from Anna Mary Robertson Moses; not only in her thirst for life but also in her quest for truth. To keep searching for the next intriguing story of your past. And whatever your timeline of life might be; always know that there is one more door to look behind.And one more newly discovered ancestor waiting to "tickle-your fancy.
"Keep searching for answers,Cheryl(Take your own DAR Museum virtual tour and check out the DAR Descendants Database to help with your ancestral search)
I have mentioned on more than one occasion my amazement at the kindness of strangers. The little county courthouse workers and the tireless underpaid librarians, researching and copying precious documents at my request. And yes, there are the others; the "distant cousins" discovered on websites touting their evidence of knowledge on ancestors but provide little response when inquiries are made.
But the "others" are quickly forgotten when you run across a gem of a genealogist: One that unselfishly pours forth realms of genealogical documents. And you are suddenly provided with knowledge and research that would have taken months, even years to discover. Which is just what happened to me when I began digging further into my Hobbs lineage.
Stumbling onto a Rootsweb surname site, I entered Hobbs in the search engine and like a casino penny jackpot, out rolled what I had been frantically looking for: details on my Hobbs ancestors. Buzzing with excitement, I rolled the dice again and sent an e-mail to the "cousin" listed as the source. And gleefully, my newly discovered "cousin" immediately wrote back.
Asking what information I wished to obtain on our Hobbs ancestors, I responded with "everything," not realizing this genealogist gem had volumes of research at her fingertips. And her fingertips are fast; scanning and e-mailing and snail mailing letters and articles and pictures and family group sheets until my eyes began to cross and my head began to swim.
Sensing a need to calm my excitement and organize my prize of new genealogical information, I sat this weekend with the stack of documents as I slowly read through each one:
"Thomas Hobbs was most likely the first known ancestor of our lineage, settling into Salem and participating in King Philips War."
"His son, Abraham Hobbs, born in 1720 in Topsfield, Mass, was the next of our ancestors, well regarded as a Selectman and Massachusetts legislator."
"Abraham's son, Isaac, born in 1743 in Topsfield, Mass, moved to Addison, Vermont and was murdered by his son-n-law, Mr. Hickox, in 1815."
"Isaac's son Samuel, was born in 1776 and migrated to Meadville, Pennsylvania..."
Did that say murdered?
Let's back up just a tad bit.
As most should know by now, I am always looking for the next story. Other family historians may relish in the discovery of tiny droplets of royal ancestral blood; but not me. I like the juicy, jaw dropping, "pull the skeleton-out-of-the-closet" story and my newly discovered Hobbs saga is more than winning the penny jackpot: its taking home an entire lottery!
Stunned at what I read, I whipped off e-mails back to my informant. "Is this Isaac Hobbs from Vermont our ancestor?" "Was he really murdered by his son-n-law?"
"Yes" and "yes" shes responded; zipping back further obits and recorded court reports providing further details to the deadly deed:
"Near Middlebury, Isaac Hobbs, aged 73, was murdered by his son-n-law, Selab Hickox. It is said, that a family quarrel had long existed; on the day of his death, Mr Hobbs was at the house of Hickox, a contest arose, he was ordered out of the house, was followed by Hickox, and beaten by him with a club, so that he died. A jury of inquest pronounced a verdict of willful murder." (The North American Review (July 1815)).
Well, so that is that. I played my pennies long enough until I discovered a gem of a genealogist and a jackpot of juicy ancestral stories.
"Isn't genealogy grand?"; my genealogist gem happily quipped back.
Keep searching for answers,
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Maxine Beatty stared through the living room window admiring the sunlight as it glittered across the carpet of snow. Arriving home from church, Bertha and Nanny could be heard chattering in the kitchen as they cooked Sunday dinner. And the aroma of freshly baked yeast rolls floated from room to room, wrapping around everyone who came near.
A few miles down the road, Paul Capps and his father pulled up the hood of their 1935 Dodge, checking the plugs, then the valves. Moving on to the oil stick, Paul's dad reached for the red rag dangling from his back pant pocket. "Plenty of oil, son. I reckon it might be the radiator." Both men continued their inspection, diligently scrutinizing every part of the engine until each piece was thoroughly examined.
Farther up the road, at the Adair's house, Hazel and her husband "Speedy" unwrapped the newspaper and layed it across the living room coffee table for a lazy Sunday afternoon read. The squeak of the front door caught the attention of both and their son's voice boomed through the house: "Hey mom and dad, I want to tell you about a swell girl I just met!"
The crisp winter wind whipped its tail around the corners of the Jones' white clapboard house in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Clinton Jones and his wife unbuttoned their coats as they entered their front door, shivering from the brisk wind. Retiring from a long afternoon at the hospital visiting their elderly neighbor, Nellie remarked: "Poor old dear. I don't expect her to last much longer."
And then Nellie turned the knob of the radio to listen to the day's news.
As did the Adairs and the Capps and the Beatties.
The four families went about their usual Sunday routines. The day moved as it always had. The sun rose, the clock ticked, the coffee percolated. The sound of the car engines rumbled across the city roads and the thud of the morning newspapers were heard as they slapped the porches of houses from New Jersey to Oklahoma.
And across the Pacific Ocean, a plane with a round red circle on its tail, swooped down from the warm Hawaiian morning sky, dropping an unexpected Sunday Surprise:
A bomb that would be followed by another and another and another...
Seventy years ago on the 7th of December 1941, our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles woke to a usual Sunday morning. But what was to be an ordinary day, ended in the extraordinary. Plans changed, lives were altered and what started as the familiar, ended with the most frightening of events.We all know the story...but do we?Be the biographer of your families' Pearl Harbor story. Learn and write where your parents were living; what their morning was like: where they were standing the moment they heard a strange and fear-provoking announcement from their radio.It was their history. And as the world was altered on that December day seventy years ago, it became our history too.To learn more on the events of Pearl Harbor, go to PearlHarborOahu.com. And to follow a week long history
tour on the seventieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, go to NPS.gov
.And to learn more on the events of your own Pearl Harbor history, go to your family elders to pen their story. So it will not be left to the limitless bou
ndaries of your imagination; as it has with mine.
Keep searching for answers,Cheryl(Read about Marine Corporal
E.C Nightingale's Pearl Harbor experience aboard the Arizona at EyeWitnessHistory.com)