Just One More Summer Sunday….

I wasn’t able to work on my 52 Ancestors story this week, so instead, I’m sharing something different with you.

I started writing “Sunday Stories” years ago. This is my way of sharing history with my family and descendants, the kind of history I wish I knew about my ancestors.  The daily, “what was my life like” kind of history.

I’ve been rather lax lately. My family doesn’t know it, but the 52 Ancestors articles ARE their Sunday stories for right now.  Still, from time to time, I write a separate Sunday story when something strikes my fancy.  This week, I’m sharing my Sunday Story with you in the hopes it will inspire you to do the same.

Years ago, a man named Mickey used to write Sunday Stories about his life in Italy before he immigrated. He faithfully took the hand-written letter to a copy machine every Monday and mailed a copy to each of his children.  Many didn’t even bother to open the envelopes – too busy – just threw them in a drawer.  Some even lost them.  But when Mickey died, all of a sudden those letters became precious, to the point that the kids had to make a list to see who had which letters and if any, God forbid, were entirely missing.

Mickey would have smiled. I don’t know if he had a father’s intuition and knew that’s exactly what would happen – but he told me he knew they weren’t being read when he sent them.  That made my heart sad for him, because I knew how neglected and unappreciated he must have felt.

I saw what happened in Mickey’s family after his death.  It was actually kind of humorous in a sad way – all the frantic scrambling.  I know they all wished they had paid more attention to Mickey when they had the opportunity.

I decided that Sunday stories were a wonderful idea – and it really doesn’t matter that they aren’t read today, even though I hope they are, because I’m writing them for posterity too.  Someday they’ll be read, maybe….and if not…it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part.

Please join me today for “Just One More Summer Sunday” and a peek into life on the farm in the Midwest with my Mom and step-Dad, who I have forever called my Dad.

Just One More Summer Sunday

Summer Sunday

What I wouldn’t give for just one more summer Sunday.

Not that Sunday’s were particularly special on the farm, it’s just that we were all home on Sunday. Even if we had moved to town, everyone came home on Sunday afternoon.  We talked and joked, sometimes played games like gin rummy, aggravation, dominoes and Yahtzee, and did whatever needed to be done.  And we ate, of course.  Life on the farm revolved around eating.

No one ever talked about coming home on Sundays, or planned it particularly, it’s just what we did. It evolved.  Everyone looked forward to Sunday family time to catch up with what everyone else in the family was doing.  It was Facebook face to face.

Sunday afternoons in the summer in Indiana were hot and sticky and uncomfortable. Fans were involved.  Sometimes a completely ineffective electrical fan for the entire house, and always, personal fans being waved back and forth made up of anything that moved air.  Magazines, cardboard, whatever.

So we sweat together. Sweat bonds people, ya know.

We also cleaned green beans together and shucked corn together, sitting on the metal glider under the old maple tree out back, with the corn silk sticking to our hands and arms because we were “moist,” as my mother used to say. Women didn’t sweat, for Heaven’s sake.

We took the kids along and picked out the best watermelon or musk melon from the melon patch that we had planted one Sunday afternoon in the springtime and brought it to the house. If it was particularly large, the child rode in the red wagon to the garden and the child got to pull the wagon back to the house with the melon in tow.  Often, we cut the melon outside to keep the mess out of the kitchen – plus – it was cooler out there in the shade.

We always had a “slop bucket” where any food waste, like melon seeds and rinds, got deposited with a splat. After dinner, we got to go out and feed the hogs who had been looking forward to the slop bucket “treat” since we began the food preparation process.  Hogs are a lot smarter than people give them credit for.  They knew.

Dad had an old red barbeque grill with the paint peeling off from years of cumulative heat. He put charcoal in the bottom and lit it using lighter fluid with enough time left before “dinner time,” which was lunch on the farm, or “supper time” which was late afternoon, about 5, for the charcoal to ignite, burn bright, then burn down to grey ash with the heat inside.  Dad somehow magically knew when the coals were “about right.”  Then he put the burgers on the grill.  It was a long, involved process and you could easily die of hunger waiting!  It didn’t make any sense to me that the coals were better for cooking than the fire, but I’ve learned a lot since then about cooking heat and the fires of life as well.

Before Dad had the red barbeque grill that we got him for one Father’s Day, he had an old barrel cut in half with some kind of grill or wire thing that he had rigged up that sat across the top. Sometimes food fell through the rigged mesh into the charcoal, and you just picked it back up with the tongs and put it back on the grill, after brushing it off of course.  If it was too bad, it went in the slop bucket.  Nothing was ever wasted.

Much of our life on the farm was “rigged up,” but we never viewed it that way. Today I look back at all of those things Dad made personally and cherish them along with the time he took to make them.  Then, they were just life, the way it was and what we did.  Nothing special.

Mom and I made the hamburger patties inside and put them on plates and took them outside to Dad to grill.  Yes, we used the same plates to bring the grilled burgers back inside, and no one died or even got sick.  We made potato or macaroni salad and cut up whatever vegetables were ripe in the garden.  By August, we had fresh corn to shuck and together, at the table, after one of the children said Grace, we ate buttered corn on the cob, grilled hamburgers and fresh warm tomatoes from the garden.  Life couldn’t have been better.  To us, then, it was just normal.  Nothing unusual or special.

We chatted about what happened during the week, plans for the next week, school, teachers and oh yes, about the crops, what was ripening next, or was wilting in the heat…and rain, always rain, or lack thereof. It was a farm, after all.

The women discussed who was dating whom, who was potty trained, who was sick,  what was on sale this week in town, and church doings of course.

Everyone talked about funerals, births, who bought a new car, or far more exciting, a new tractor, and who was going broke – and in farm country, someone was always going broke.

Oh, and pass me another burger and some of that “mater” too please…

There is absolutely nothing like a plump bright red tomato, fresh picked from the vine, warmed by the sun and sliced, its flavor exploding with the juicy hamburger and a slice of sweet onion too.

Sometimes we had buns, sometimes not – depended on how much we could get at the grocery that week for our $20 bill. Sometimes the choice came down to chocolate or Oreos or buns….and let’s just say that we often ate without buns.

And speaking of chocolate, the best was yet to come. Dad planned ahead and sometimes, on particularly hot Sundays, he would make homemade ice cream for dessert.  He churned it by hand, the churn sitting on the back step.  Actually, we all took turns since it was no small task and your arms got tired really quickly. He always helped the kids and absorbed way more than his share of the work without anyone noticing and without saying one word.

Because making ice cream was a slow process requiring patience, dessert usually happened about mid-afternoon.

We always made banana ice cream. It was Dad’s favorite, so somehow it became the entire family favorite. No one even suggested any other flavor – ever.  That would have been heresy…and besides that…no one even thought of it.

I remember company one time asked about chocolate ice cream and we all just stared at them like they were speaking a foreign tongue we couldn’t comprehend. They said they didn’t like banana ice cream.  Mom told them they would like this banana ice cream, because it was “special,” and that was that.  I don’t know if they liked it or not, but nary another word was spoken about other flavors!

It seemed like it took FOREVER for that ice cream to set up. And the more you had to crank, the hotter you became, and the more you wanted some of that ice cold ice cream.  Sort of seems self-defeating doesn’t it – but ironically – no one ever tried to get out of their turn at the crank.  Everyone thought it was fun – a novelty – at least for a little bit – until your arm got tired.  Then Dad would come over and “spell you for a bit,” because that’s just the kind of man he was.  In reality, we were all “spelling” Dad for a bit, giving him a little break, but we though we were really doing something special!

After what seemed like an eternity, the ice cream would be declared “done,” Dad would crack open the churn and we would finally get to eat the ice cream, whether it was done, meaning set up, or not. Sometimes it was nice and hard.  Sometimes it was more like soft serve and I distinctly remember once when it was almost runny, more like pudding, and Dad suggested we put the lid back on and crank some more.  He got soundly outvoted and we ate the ice cream just the way it was…with one important addition of course…chocolate topping.

But not just any chocolate topping. Nosireeeee…special hot fudge topping.

You know those buns we sacrificed? Well, instead we bought chocolate fudge topping and then we “doctored it up” by heating it and adding both bittersweet dark chocolate and fresh percolated hot coffee until the fudge topping was thick and rich, but not too sweet.  I know, that doesn’t seem to make sense, but it was TO. DIE. FOR.

I wish I had taken some pictures of those days, but back then, picture developing was an expensive luxury and photos were saved for “special occasions,” like when my grandmother’s last living sister, great-aunt Eloise, visited.

Note that by this time, the walkway to the outhouse, visible behind the garage, was semi-paved and Mom and Dad were wearing “good” summer clothes – translated to mean not threadbare and no holes or large stains – at least not that my mother spotted or my Dad would have been sent to change:)

Summer Sunday 2

Even though film and developing was expensive, we did of course take photos at Christmas, birthdays and when we had “special” company, but Sunday afternoon on the hottest day of the summer, sweating, eating burgers and cranking ice cream on the farm was nothing special, so not one picture.

Nothing special at all.

Oh, what I would give for just one more summer Sunday afternoon at home with Mom and Dad on the farm….

Summer Sunday 3

Rachel Barbara Estes, The Invisible Child, 52 Ancestors #118

It was an oppressively hot summer day on a Midwestern farm. There was no breeze and the sun was baking the corn on the stalks.  We hadn’t seen rain in weeks but the humidity level felt like water should be dripping out of the air.

I was 22 weeks pregnant, just past the half way mark.

The point where mothers begin to breathe more easily because they successfully passed that first trimester mark with no complications and things should be smooth sailing from here forward.

I was all too familiar with complications, as my early married life was punctuated by several miscarriages. Some bearing the grim reality of horrible timing in grey concrete industrial restrooms with gripping pain – one at work in those circumstances.  I drove myself to the hospital at the end of my shift, not wanting to tell my male supervisor what was wrong and risk losing my job.  “Female problems” were one of the excuses used to justify discrimination against the hiring and to justify the firing of women – and you certainly didn’t want to give anyone ammunition.

Miscarriages in that time and place were treated pretty much like a fact of life, no different from someone getting the flu and then getting over it. You marched forward, went on, didn’t look back and never let yourself think of that child that might have been.  Actually that child that was, that you carried, but just for a little bit, unable to shelter them long enough for them to enter the world as a child.  You would never know why, what was wrong, but you would always wonder if there was something you could have done, should have done or might have done differently, or maybe not done.

The prevailing school of thought was that you could always “get pregnant again,” in essence depersonalizing that “individual” pregnancy and reducing “it” to a commodity that could be replaced shortly.

If pressed or if you were “too upset,” you would be patronized and told that it was simply “God’s will,” “meant to be” or that “God needed the baby” and that was supposed to comfort you and make the fact that your child died alright. If nothing else, you very clearly got the message that it was time to be “over this” now and to either get over it or shut up.

Getting past that 3 month mark, and then the half way mark of 20 weeks, gave you permission to start dreaming, to start buying baby clothes, a new bassinette, making curtains and thinking about what color to paint the baby’s room.

The baby started to move around and kick, asserting its individuality. “Hi Mom, I’m here” with little fluttery butterfly wings that made you smile to feel them.

You started to guess and attempt to divine using all of the folklore and midwife tales available whether the baby was going to be a boy or a girl. Everyone had an opinion too – and stood a 50% chance of being right!  Those were happy, joyful days ripe with laughter and stories, often of family members.

That was long before parents knew the gender of the new baby, before ultrasound, back in the days when, after that first cry, the first thing you listened for the doctor to joyfully proclaim was “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!”

On that sweltering summer day, with the windows wide open, the sun beating mercilessly on the landscape and no air conditioning, because it was before the days of air conditioning in homes…I was doing laundry when I felt something run down my leg…sweat probably. I looked down to see a rivulet of blood, dividing into branches on my calf, already soaking into my shoe, and I knew I was in trouble.

I began to cry and left a message for my husband at work. No cell phones then.  Someone went to find him.

I called my mother and asked her to meet me at the hospital. She was coming from the opposite side of the county.  The hospital was between us.  I was hopeful that if I got to the hospital quickly, that child could somehow be saved.

Maybe I was further along than I thought.

Maybe the child would live.

Maybe they could get the bleeding stopped.

Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

Maybe…

Maybe…

Maybe…

Hope against all odds.

I remember in the emergency room, laying on the table when my mother walked into the room. She looked at me and began to cry.  I didn’t realize how badly I was bleeding by that time, but she did.  She knew.  When I saw her face, I knew too.

They took me to delivery, because that baby was going to be born. I was hemorrhaging.  I vaguely remember someone talking to my mother about blood types and transfusions.  I remember seeing my mother standing in the hallway, clutching her purse and mine, sobbing, but trying not to, as they wheeled me inside and the doors closed behind the gurney, separating us…and how utterly terrified I was.  I desperately wanted to reach out to her.  But that was before the days of “family birthing” and even before the days of fathers being allowed in the delivery room.  So, I was alone in the room with a doctor and nurses and deathly silence except for the noises the equipment and I made.

The baby was born alive, but barely, a fraction of an ounce less than a pound. The doctor was anything but joyful when he said to me, “It’s a girl. She’s alive.”  There was no cry.  No sound at all.  In the brief glimpse I caught of her, she was grey.  The team of nurses was working frantically.

They immediately gave her oxygen and put her in an incubator. They took me to a recovery room and another doctor explained the situation.  This child was too small to survive.  The only extremely slight chance that she had was to be put in a 100% oxygen environment with the hope that her undeveloped lungs would function enough with the assistance of a ventilator.

The result of that environment were she to survive? She would be blind and probably severely “retarded,” in the vernacular of that time.  Regardless of what they called it, the meaning was very clear.  The chances of her surviving at all were extremely minimal – or in the stark reality of the doctor’s painful words that felt like anvils on my heart as he spoke each one – “this child will not survive.”

The question quickly became one of her comfort in the time she had before death.  We discussed options.  There weren’t many.

In order to provide the neonatal environment she would need to attempt survival, she would have to be taken to the children’s hospital in another city, and I could not go with her. So, in essence, she would go alone and she would die alone after some number of painful medical procedures.  The doctor held out no hope beyond a few hours or days.  She was just too small.  The future was horribly bleak, a life sentence or a death sentence, one or the other.

I could not condemn her to that fate.  I knew without any doubt that if she stayed with me, she would pass over, but she would pass over being held by her mother who loved her and not alone.  She was so tiny and fragile.

Today, some babies of about that size do survive, or at least have a fighting chance, but that just wasn’t possible then, and everyone knew it.  I chose to accept the inevitable with as much grace as I could muster and do what was best for her.

I held her.  My mother held her.  We kept her comfortable.  We loved her.  We cuddled her.  We talked and sang to her.  She died, quietly, peacefully, without any needles or struggles…just slipped away and passed over wrapped in a soft blanket where she could hear and feel her mother’s heartbeat, surrounded by love.  That was all I had to offer her.

I was grief-stricken that she died, but I had and have no regrets about my decision, although to this day, I can barely even write about it. I made the right choice for her, but it’s one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.

Oddly, I remember snippets of that time vividly, like they are burned in my memory for eternity, but much of the rest is extremely blurry.

After she died, they took me to a non-maternity floor of the hospital, thankfully. The nurses tried to be extra nice to me, bringing me books, flowers, boxes and boxes of tissues, and medicine.  I fell into a fitful, medicated sleep.

The next day, I asked about funeral arrangements to be made for the baby. The nurse looked at me strangely, said she didn’t know and would ask.  The doctor visited and I asked him.  He said he would check, but I was unclear who he was checking with, or why.

He left and returned, telling me that the baby had already “been taken care of.”

“Been taken care of????”

What did that mean?

They told me that because the baby was under a pound, she never officially “lived” so she never “died” so the body didn’t need to be buried and has already been “taken care of.” They tried to explain it in a way that inferred “this is really for the best,  you know.”

No, I didn’t know.

I became hysterical. They gave me a shot of some kind.  I was still hysterical but in a slow motion blurry dream.

I screamed and wailed.

“NO, NO, NOOOOOoooo.”

It was bad enough that my child was born too early and died. It was bad enough that I held her in death.  It was bad enough already.  But now this too?

They disposed of her like trash – never even thinking to ask me or anyone else in the family?  Really????  How could they do that???

I was insistent that they find my child, again hysterical.  My mother told me it was “too late,” whatever that meant.  They had what, already emptied the trash and couldn’t go through the dumpster?

They gave me another shot of something. They gave mother, who was also very upset, a pill.  My husband had gone back to work, or someplace, leaving me and my mother to deal with the aftermath.  It was over as far as he was concerned and this was all “women’s drama.”  He was soon-to-be an x-husband.

As far as the medical community was concerned, I was the problem, and I needed to be sedated. I should have gotten up and walked out to search for my child, but I had lost too much blood and was too weak and ill and traumatized – not to mention, I was already sedated and hooked up to IVs.

I went home a few days later. My doctor’s final words to me were to wait 3 months to get pregnant again.  Just like nothing had happened.

There was no birth certificate.

There was no death certificate.

No funeral or graveside services or comfort of any kind.  She somehow had slipped into never-never land – a purgatorial hell between miscarriage and live baby.

No validation of pain or loss of either her life or her body afterwards.

No closure.

And somehow, I had become “the problem.”

“It” wasn’t a child, just a medical procedure. Under a pound was just another miscarriage of sorts.  I should be used to this by now, right?  Right???

Going home and seeing the baby clothes for the baby who would never come home and the half-finished nursery. Used to this?

Never.

I never got to bury that child. I never got to properly grieve, to say goodbye, to set a gravestone to visit at holidays or to honor her existence.  I didn’t know when the nurse gently took her tiny body wrapped in the blanket after her death that I would never see her again and that she would unceremoniously be tossed away, in the garbage.  Did they even leave her in her blanket or did they strip her of that too?

Maybe no one else needed to grieve, but I did. She was a part of my body.  She was alive inside of me, until the unthinkable happened, followed by the unimaginable.  She was and is my child, ripped from my heart and life way too soon.

Nothing eased the pain, made her death “alright” or compensated in any way for what happened. No one at the hospital even said, “I’m sorry.”  The problem in their eyes was clearly “me,” not what they had done with her tiny body.

I felt then and still feel that their disposal of her was at best betrayal of trust and in reality a horrible dehumanizing violation of that child’s remains about which they did nothing when they still could. They could have found or recovered her body had they made the effort. They didn’t.

I named her in my mind and heart – the name I had selected for her, only to discover that my x-husband would one day name another child the same name – as if she had never existed. So, she got robbed of that too.

That daughter I generally think of as “the baby” would be approaching middle age today, had she lived. I think of her often in a positive light with a tinge of melancholy, of course, and wonder what life path she would have taken, given a chance.  I wonder what she would have looked like and what her voice and laugh would have sounded like.  Would she have married?  Had children?

I think of all my children playing together in the warm sun of my parent’s farm, chasing in the sunlight and shadows of years now long gone. She is with my parents now.  She is not now and never was invisible to me although she “never existed” to others.

There were no grief support groups then, no grief counseling…nothing. You simply went on.  The bills had to be paid, the barn had to be cleaned, the crops had to be planted and harvested, someone or something always needed to be fed…there wasn’t time for anything else.  Time for or “wallowing in” grief, as it was perceived, was a luxury no one could afford.  One foot in front of the other…day after day.  In time, it became less smothering, but it never went away.

Today, every funeral home has booklets and flyers about the stages of grief, how to handle grief and what to expect. Perhaps we were stoic then or simply in denial.  Everyone seemed terribly uncomfortable with the topic.  It wasn’t until then that I learned that my own mother had lost a child too at about the same stage of pregnancy.  When I asked her what happened to that baby’s body, she didn’t know and I don’t think she had ever thought about it.  Or maybe she was haunted by it and no one ever knew.  Women suffered these tragedies in isolated cocoons of silence.

Every time I see a “missing” child on a census, that blank space of 4 years between children that silently screams of pain and loss, I think of the mother whose child died. And when I see 3 or 4 or 5 of those spaces, my heart grieves so for that woman.  How did she survive that kind of devastation?  How do you lose half your children and remain sane? Maybe for the sake of the other half, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and go numbly on, fumbling through the haze of grief, going through the motions of life through rote memory because you can’t do anything more.  After all, someone else is hungry and there is always laundry to do…

Today, there are local support groups everyplace. Even on Facebook, there are groups for everyone to find a kindred spirit.  People grieve publicly, through articles, blogs and social media – sometimes too publicly.  If anything, we’re awash in “help” today.  Maybe the pendulum has swung the other direction.

The only kindred spirits then were the whispered voices of older women, more experienced, urging you on, to forget, to get pregnant again because “you’ll feel better.” They shrugged and said, “It happens,” and that was that.  And to not accept that edict was to rebuke or question “God’s choice.”  Not something one did in the Bible belt.  So the grief became lonely, silent and unspoken, but never gone.

In a way, because I never buried her and she doesn’t have a known final resting place in a normal cemetery for me to visit, I have always kind of felt that she “went along with me.” Kind of like ashes I don’t carry but would if I could.  In an odd sort of way, it made it easier to leave and make a life elsewhere, because there is nothing to tie any part of my heart there.

I’m glad that today women don’t have to go through such a dehumanizing victimizing experience when a premature child dies. The grief over her death was exacerbated and magnified exponentially by what happened afterwards.  I’m still haunted by the thought of what happened to her tiny body and stunned at the inhumanity of that choice that I was never allowed to make, especially given how warm and caring the nursing staff was to me.  It was just so shocking and unexpected.  Who would imagine even for a minute your baby that had lived would be or even could be thrown away?  And worse yet, it wasn’t a mistake and no one was willing to address the issue.  Nightmare on top of nightmare.

I suspect that the employees in the hospital morgue simply looked at the birthweight or weighed the corpse and checked the appropriate box on the paper and did what they did under those circumstances – which was not to call the mortician. Nothing more or less.  No thought at all. Just routine.  Less than a pound = trash can.  If they thought about it at all, it was probably that they were doing us a favor so we didn’t have to spend the money on a funeral and burial.  I don’t believe that anyone’s acts were malicious in intent, just an unthinking and uncaring system in total with a devastating outcome for an already grief-stricken young mother.  There was no compassion or humanity built into that system.  And no one cared.

I can’t change any of that, today, but I can still do one thing.

That child existed.  She lived, even if not legally or for very long.  She lived for a few hours.  She deserves a permanent name, her own name, not one stolen by someone else later.

So, I’ve named her.

Her name is Rachel Barbara Estes.

Rachel because I’ve always had an affinity for that name and I was pleased to discover that it’s ancestral. Rachel Hill on my mother’s side would have been her great-great-grandmother, a woman who lost many children and understands grief. Perhaps she comforted baby Rachel after her too-early arrival on the other side.

Barbara for my mother who was named after her mother, Edith Barbara Lore, and her mother’s grandmother, Barbara Drechsel and two great-grandmothers, Barbara Mehlheimer and Katharina Barbara Lemmert. Mother was always my anchor, always there, until she wasn’t anymore.

Estes because Rachel is my child and Estes is my birthright name.

Rachel Barbara Estes is no longer invisible.  This is the story of her life, no matter how short, and her name.  She will live until at least my death.

Rachel Barbara Estes

Frank’s Ring Goes Home – 52 Ancestors #106

Sometimes the rest of the story is still unwritten, even 70 years later – seven decades after an untimely death.

Sometimes we don’t even know there is a “rest of the story.”

Sometimes we are granted breaths of life we never expected.

Sometimes our faith in humanity is restored.

Sometimes those who have gone on can reach across miles, decades and generations.

And so it has come to be.

Frank.

Frank Sadowski

Frank Sadowski

The man who was supposed to be my father – but was instead killed saving others in WWII.

Frank.

The man who had no children, no legacy, no future because he gave everything for another human in need. He made the ultimate sacrifice.

Frank.

The man my mother loved with all of her heart.

Frank’s ring was what she had left of him after the war.

That was all.

Just the ring.

Nothing else.

Life was harsh.

That ring comforted her and nourished her soul for the next 61 years.  Then, she joined Frank and left the ring with me.

Frank's ring

Life was not kind to my mother.

Mom spent the decade after Frank’s death just trying to patch her life back together in a large city where she had no family.

Mom dance

Mom continued to dance professionally in Chicago, with the Dorothy Hild dance troupe at the Edgewater Beach Hotel and performing across the country in major cities. It sounds glamourous, but it was a brutal life.  Mom said they practiced all day and performed all evening until late at night.  She said she often lost 10 pounds a day and she had to work hard to keep her weight up.

Dorothy Hild Dancers slick

To give you some perspective, a few years ago, some of the former Dorothy Hild dancers were interviewed.

Alice Ann Knepp, Dorothy Hild dancer: Dorothy Hild was terrible to work for. She was very unpopular, but she got results. Every month, she would always have some kind of big production number with a big band. Our job included room and board and our salary was $30 a week. If you lived at home, the girls got $40 a week. We were free to choose what we wanted from the menu.

When you’re young, you can do it. I think we were ahead of our time with aerobics. Dorothy was very strict. During the summer she would prohibit us from getting suntans, and we weren’t allowed to mix or mingle with the people in the hotel. The costumes were just awful.

Ruth Homeuth, line captain, Dorothy Hild Dancers: It wasn’t as glamorous as it looked. It was like a reformatory. We used to wear uniforms and we were supposed to go to our rooms right after the show. We did get by with things, though. We had a little door on the side of the hotel that went through the garage where we would sneak out. Once in a while we used to catch Dorothy coming in the same time we did.

Ironically, the key to how mother met Frank is held in that interview. Frank’s sister was a dancer too – and Mom went home with Frank’s sister to visit.  Or maybe Frank came to see his sister dance.  But the “mingling” rules didn’t apply to Frank, because he was a dancer’s family.

After Frank’s Death

After Frank’s death, Mom just lost heart…in particular…she lost her spirit for anything. Mom went through the motions but part of her had died with Frank.

Nearly a decade later, she would meet my father. Let’s just say that relationship was rocky and doomed from the beginning.  When it ended, Mom found herself alone once again, but now with a daughter.  Then in her 30s, Mom was no longer dancing, but trying to make her way as a bookkeeper, what she had always wanted to do as a profession from the beginning.

I have vague memories of my mother wearing a ring on a chain under her clothes when I was young. After my father died in a car accident, she dated a man for a few years and was “hopeful” but thankfully, they never married.  After the split with that man, I noticed the ring again, but I never said anything.

When I was about 10 or so, I found the ring in a ring box in mother’s “special” jewelry box.  Not realizing it was a ring with special significance, I took it out, put it on and came waltzing out into the kitchen wearing the ring and waving it around on my hand like a diva princess. Until just recently, it’s the only time I ever really handled that ring.

Mom whipped around like she had been shot.  I was stunned by the intensity in her eyes.  She snatched the ring away from me.  I began to ask questions, but she was very clearly unable to answer.  That wound wasn’t healed at all…it was still very raw and open, more than 20 years later.  I really didn’t understand what I was seeing, but I certainly understood the depth of those emotions.

I had no idea about Frank at that time except for some passing references.  She would share the painful story later, much later.

A Second Chance

Mom met my step-father in the early 1970s. He was a widower with a son about my age and their relationship began simply as friends.  That friendship blossomed and they married in the fall of 1972.  Dean was a wonderful man.  I loved him dearly.

Mom began to act differently after she married Dean and moved to the farm. She began singing little ditties as she would cook in the kitchen.  She danced too, mostly kicking up her feet in the kitchen as she moved from stove to sink and back again.  Sometimes, she danced while she vacuumed.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy:)

Mom laughed, and smiled. I never realized, before talking to Curtis about Frank, how sad Mom had been, for years and years.  I never really put two and two together before, realizing the stark difference.  When I did, I felt desperately sorry for my mother.  She did what she needed to every day to support us, she put one foot in front of the other, but never did I realize what a joyless forced march life was for mother for more than 27 years after Frank’s death and before she married my step-father.

The Dancing Stops

Then, in 1994, after 22 years of marriage, Dean died, leaving Mom alone once again. The dancing stopped, the singing stopped, the smiling stopped, and once again, Mom went through the motions.  She tried, but it was simply never the same.  This time I realized she was unhappy and lonely, but I had no idea what to do about it. There are simply some wounds that cannot be healed.

I realized once or twice that she was wearing something around her neck on a chain again. Sometimes it was a conglomeration of “stuff” my step-father had…like the bullet he accidentally shot himself with.  (No, that was not what killed him and the entire incident became a huge family joke.)  But sometimes, it was Frank’s ring again.  Sometimes she wore both.  By this time, Frank had been gone more than 60 years, yet my mother still grieved for Frank, for their lost life, for his lost opportunity…for those dreams…hers and his both – and theirs of course.

Lost.

She was lost.

Mom’s Ring

Mom wore one particular ring all of her life. Her parents gave it to her when she turned 16.  She wore it literally until her last hospital stay when I took it off of her hand for safekeeping because she was in a coma.

A few months before Mom had the stroke that took her, she decided it was time to give me some valuable things. Not valuable in terms of money, but valuable to her – and me.

One of the most difficult discussions I ever had with mother was the “end planning” discussion. Oh God, spare me from anything like that ever again.  Mom told me she thought she had maybe 6 months left.  She was very close to right.  After a discussion about her wishes, Mom picked up a ring box from her vanity.

Frank ring box

I knew the box well. After all of the years of opening and closing, the hinge was a little worn and the top slightly crooked.

Frank's ring in box

Mom tried to give me both Frank’s ring and her ring, the one on her hand I had never seen her without – ever. That was probably one of the most difficult moments of my entire life.

I simply gave them back to mother, put her ring back on her hand, even though the ring was by then far too large as she had become very frail, and told her those rings needed to be with her.

It wasn’t time yet.

Time would come all too soon.

It arrived in late April of 2006.

Some years earlier, I had chosen to inherit the small modest ring Mom wore daily instead of the “valuable” diamond cluster ring that went to my brother’s family. Money means very little to me and I knew how much the ring my mother wore meant to her.  That’s the ring I wanted.

After Mom’s death, I wanted to wear her ring, but I didn’t want to have it sized. I wanted it to remain much like she wore it.  I had my local jeweler attach loops on the shank for a chain which allowed the ring to lie flat…and I wear it…you guessed it…beneath my clothes next to my heart.  Not every day, but often. And especially on difficult days.  Mom goes with me that way.  It feels good to have her along.

Mom's Ring

After Mom’s death, Frank’s ring remained in Mom’s special jewelry box, it’s home for the past many decades. Of course, that jewelry box is now mine.

I didn’t really know what to do with Frank’s ring.  It felt far too personal for me to even handle the ring – like I was intruding into a very private and sacred space.  I knew what a hole in my mother’s heart Frank had left…and conversely…how blessed she had been for a very short time to have known love to that depth.  That love and grief was just too private for me to intrude, even by handling Frank’s ring after her death.

I looked at the ring in the box from time to time and then put it back away, wondering what my children would do with it. There was no evident answer.

That question haunted me.

Memorializing Frank

On Memorial Day 2015, I felt the unexplained need and inspiration to memorialize Frank. True, he was not my father nor any relative, but still, he was near and dear to my mother’s heart…and if I wasn’t going to do it…who would?  There was no one else.  Frank deserved at least what little I could offer.

I wrote the article, “Frank Sadowski (1921-1945), Almost My Father,” about his service, his life and his death.  I felt like I had done what I could do for Frank.  I included every tidbit of information I had or could find about Frank…except one thing.

What did I leave out?

A photograph of the ring. Somehow, I just couldn’t.  I don’t know why.  It still seemed so raw.

Little did I know about the rest of the story…that part yet unwritten that would unfold shortly.

Curtis

On June 26th, one day less than a month after I published the article about Frank, a man named Curtis Sadowski in Illinois got a strange urge to type his uncle’s name into a google search engine.  His uncle, Frank Sadowski, had been dead since before Curtis was born.  Frank was killed in WWII, in 1945 – so why Curtis suddenly decided to google Frank in 2015, 70 years later, will forever remain a mystery.  But he did.

In Curtis’s words, he was utterly stunned when my article was the first item returned in the Google search. Curtis clicked, and for the first time, saw a photograph of his grandparents.

Frank Sadowski and father

Due to a family situation beyond the control of Curtis’s father, Frank’s brother, the family had no, and I mean no, photographs of their grandparents, or of Frank.

Curtis told me that for years after Frank died, on the piano in the living room in Frank’s parents’ home, a single photo of Frank in his military uniform “watched” the goings-on of the family and household. Curtis’s father told him that it seemed that Frank’s eyes followed you everyplace you went.

Frank’s sister lived in her parents’ home after their death, and her husband continued to live there after her death. They had no children, and when the sister’s husband died, all of the Sadowski family photos and memorabilia bit the dust – or more likely the trash can by the road.

That just made me sick to hear, but it’s not an unfamiliar story and happens all too often.

So imagine Curtis’s shock when he clicked on my blog to see his Uncle Frank, his grandfather, also named Frank Sadowski, and his grandmother looking out the door in the background.

Curtis posted a comment on my blog which started an intensely emotional back and forth exchange lasting several days. Both of us had to take breaks from time to time to gather ourselves.  Frank’s siblings joined in the conversation, and so did his son, Bert.

Bert, short for Robert, posted the following:

“Thank you for sharing this touching story with the world, I know it must’ve been hard. My name is SPC Robert Sadowski. PFC Frank Sadowski Jr. was my great uncle (my grandfather’s brother). I heard the he died as a medic during WWII, but no one in my family had any more details than that. I’m glad I got to learn more of the story, even if it’s so sad. I’m proud to be carrying on his fight.”

But there is more to Bert’s story that he didn’t share.

Bert

Before Bert enlisted in the Army four years ago to serve our country, he drove with his father to Chicago from central Illinois specifically to visit Frank’s grave. For some reason, Bert draws inspiration from his great-Uncle, Frank.  Bert had never seen a photo of either his great-grandparents or the man, Frank, who inspires him so.

Bert told his father he was taking up where Frank left off and he was going to “get it right.”  Bert is assigned to the medical corps…but right now…he’s on special assignment in the honor guard – laying to rest fallen soldiers and bringing a modicum of comfort to their families.

Bert is extremely proud to be assigned to this detail, having volunteered for a second “tour.”  A soldier can only serve in the honor guard twice.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of this exemplary young man.  I wish I had a younger unmarried daughter:)

Bert Sadowski in uniform

Here’s Bert on his way to a weekend funeral in Texas – proud to be serving.

I was also struck by how much Bert looks like Frank. Now, I do realize they are in the same family…but still.

Bert and Frank Sadowski

I knew in my heart as this scenario unfolded like scripts from a play in front of me where Frank’s ring needed to go.

Beyond any doubt.

I knew.

Yet, it was so hard to do…to wrap my head around…that I was considering giving away the ring so valuable to my mother. Without doubt, one of her most cherished possessions.

I spent several agonizing days going back and forth… talking to myself…taking both sides of the argument. Playing devil’s advocate.

I asked mother what she wanted.

I asked my quilt sisters what they thought.

I asked my daughter, my son, my daughter-in-law, my husband, my friend in NC, my friend in SC – all people who are my family of heart.

Yes, I was pretty much a wreck over this decision.

Curtis knew nothing of this. I didn’t share any of this with him.

My husband, always the pragmatic one, asked how I knew that someone in the Sadowski family wouldn’t just hock the ring. It is gold.

I told my husband that if Curtis was willing to drive half way, to meet me in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to pick up two original photographs, one of Frank and one of Frank and his grandfather…both of which were already scanned on my blog and free for the taking…that they would never hock the ring. That trip represented a several hour investment over 2 days and an overnight stay.  The photos on my blog were already there and free for the taking with no effort, at least not as compared to a trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Not exactly a tourist mecca.

So, that was to be the test.

I offered Curtis the original photos but told him I was not willing to mail them. He never suggested that I should.  We discussed arrangements and decided to meet in Fort Wayne on July 15th.  By this time, we wanted to meet each other…it wasn’t just about the pictures.  The trip was a several hour drive for both of us, and Curtis is not in good health, so it was a real commitment for both he and his wife, Janet…far more than I realized initially.

Curtis never asked me about the ring, even though I mentioned it in the original article. So he had no idea if I even had the ring.

Rings Reunited

As long as I was going to visit Fort Wayne, I was going to research at the Allen County Public Library – a world-class genealogy research center.

I left for Fort Wayne the morning of the 15th and was planning to spend half a day in the library…but what to do with Frank’s ring during that time?  I wasn’t about to leave it in the car.  I couldn’t check into the hotel at noon and I wouldn’t leave it there anyway, and I was even afraid to leave it in my purse in case I turned my back in the library.  If anyone was ever going to steal my purse, it would have been that day.  I’m down to only one option – wear the ring.

Yes, wear the ring.  The sacred ring.

Would lightening strike and would I turn to dust?

I took the ring out of the box and put it on the chain around my neck with Mother’s ring. Somehow, to let the rings spend one last day nestled together, touching, as they must have when Mother and Frank held hands, seemed somehow very fitting.

I could feel their combined warmth, next to my heart.

I also took the opportunity to photograph Frank’s ring. His initials, FS, are engraved inside the band.  Frank graduated in 1940.

Frank's ring initials

Recovery

Curtis confirmed that Frank was in medical school at Northwestern University when he enlisted. Franks death not only tore my mother’s life apart, it did the same thing to Frank’s family.

Frank’s mother blamed his father for encouraging Frank to enlist.  Their other son, Curtis’s father, also served in the war and survived, but suffered terribly from survivor guilt.  Curtis said the family never really recovered.  Neither did my mother.  It’s a real testimony to Frank that he was so deeply loved, but I know that Frank would not have wanted his death to destroy the lives of those he left behind.  That’s not the kind of man Frank was.  I think Frank was the shining star, the “brightest hope” of many who loved him and he took a lot of light out of the world when he left.

The night before I left for Fort Wayne, I realized I had to SAY something to Bert. Bert doesn’t know, as I write this, that he is going to receive the ring.  Curtis is waiting until Bert comes home on his next leave, probably at Christmas, because Curtis isn’t willing to ship the ring either.

The letter to Bert began:

“Dear Bert,

You’re probably wondering what kind of crazy woman would give her mother’s soul mate’s ring to someone she doesn’t know. I’ve been asking myself that very question now since I met you and your father online after your Dad reached out to me when he found the article about Frank.”

I explained to Bert that Frank was still alive to my mother, through her memories and Frank’s ring that she cherished so dearly her entire life. By passing the ring to Bert, and along with it, the torch, I can in a small way give Frank another breath of life.  Frank can be the wind beneath Bert’s wings, his guardian angel, his inspiration.

Bert wants to live to carry on what Frank could not do.

Mother would want Frank to live on in this way. It’s the only way left to give Frank life, through a legacy of inspiration and hope.

And like I told Bert…it’s up to him now. Frank did his part, Mom did hers, I’ve done mine…and now…it’s up to him.

I have sent Frank home.

Life has come full circle.

I know, beyond a doubt, Frank’s ring is once again right where it is supposed to be. You see, it fits Bert perfectly.

When I saw this picture, it literally took my breath away, and still does every time I see it!

Mom needed Frank’s ring, but I was only it’s keeper for a little while. It has a job to do, a life of its own.  I hope Bert wears it with honor for the rest of his life and cherishes it like Mom did.  I hope that Frank’s, now Bert’s, ring continues to inspire the Sadowski family for generations to come.  What better legacy for Frank.  For Bert to achieve what Frank could not.

God Bless and protect Bert as he serves his country, and after, and may he walk in the Grace of protection, with Frank as his guardian angel. May Frank truly be the wind beneath his wings and his protector as Bert is deployed shortly to Kuwait.

Bert, may Frank raise you up so you can stand on mountains, and may you be that same inspiration to others. The torch is now yours, for a while.  Then, someday, in some way, you too will pass it on.

But until that day, may you and Frank walk together as partners in silent camaraderie.

God Bless you both.

army seal

January 2016 Update – Bert’s Comments:  I shed a few tears when I read the letter, and again just now as I lie in bed, about to get up to face the day. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I’ll try to do Frank’s memory justice. The ring is currently with me in San Antonio, and while I haven’t worn it since that picture was taken, I see it every day on my dresser, and it fills me with determination. Thank you, Roberta, for this gift that was so hard for you to part with. I’ll treasure it and keep it safe until it’s time for it to inspire a new Sadowski. Until then, it’ll remind me that I’m fighting with the willpower of two men, and that I’ll always have someone watching my back, even when I feel alone.

2017 Update – Bert is now deployed in the Middle East, with Frank’s ring.  May it bring him protection and comfort.

Giving the Gift of Memories

The holiday season is so chocked full of memories. We don’t realize as we celebrate these seasons, as children and young adults, that we’re making memories, but we are.  They will come back to warm us as we age.  In the end, the memories of those early years will be all we have – so cherish every shred of them.

A few years ago, after my mother passed away, I took all of the old family photos I could find and sorted them into categories. I have since written several “books,” but I don’t think of them as books because the idea of writing a book is too daunting.

So, what I did instead, is grouped the pictures into logical assemblages and then wrote the family stories about them.  I then printed these and gave them as gifts.

What “books” do I have now?

The Family Christmas Book

I bought this book for Mom in 1987.  It’s a “blank” book that you fill in every year.  Mom did more than answer the questions, she included photos and clippings of interest for that year, mostly about her grandchildren.  She kept this faithfully, in her own handwriting, until she couldn’t any more.

This book is incredibly valuable, an heirloom, and makes me cry every time I see it. I scanned this book and gave it as a Christmas gift to her grandchildren after her passing.

christmas book page 2

What a year this was.  Two trips, awards, ribbons, a tornado, my Dad shot himself……and then a hilarious episode wherein my daughter, Mother and I rescued a baby bird.  I won’t bore you with this, but I guarantee you, my daughter will burst out laughing at the mere mention.

I must admit, some of these are exceptionally difficult for me to read, still.  I must be my mother’s daughter, because I cry more at Christmas time than any other time of the year. I don’t want to paint the Christmas memory book as negative though, because as I look through the book, I smile at the good memories she recorded from her perspective.  And I am exceedingly, exceedingly grateful to have her stories in her words and in her own penmanship.

Mom included lots of things that happened during the years.  For example, when her grandkids hit home runs, or even just managed to hit the t-ball, were on the honor roll, or won a ribbon at the local 4H fair.  She even recorded which grandchild came over and helped her decorate her Christmas tree, the weather at Christmas, which made a huge difference in who visited when, and everyone who came by to visit.

In the photo below, Mom and I are at an awards banquet together.  Someone must have taken this photo with her camera, because I never saw it until I opened this book after her passing.

Mom Me Awards 1988

Mom’s Recipe Box

Everyone’s all-time favorite book is Mom’s recipe box. I used it just this morning.  There was only one “recipe box” and Mom had two children.  Those recipes are so full of memories.  I scanned each one and then wrote about my memories of that recipe.  Of all the gifts I’ve ever given, I think this one, from me and Mom, is the most utilized.

Mom's recipe box

One of our favorite recipes – gingerbread of course.

gingerbread original

This recipe card may look dirty and messy to you – but to me, it’s the spice of my mother’s life as she made this recipe repeatedly over the years. It even reaches back to my grandmother’s generation with Mom’s note about what her mother did.  Yes, there is a second copy on a newer, cleaner card – but I love this vintage one.

Later this weekend, we’re making new memories by having a holiday “taste-off” between Mom’s traditional gingerbread recipe and a newer one. Both, however, will be topped with home-made whipped cream – so everyone wins!

Family Christmas Ornaments

I photographed every single Christmas ornament and wrote what I know about its history. I also assembled the various heritage tree photos. This picture, from 1956 is only one of two photos in existence of my grandparents 4 grandchildren together.

Grandmother's tree grandkids

This ornament was one of those on my grandmother’s tree, above.

grandmother's tree ornament

I have photos of it on Mom’s trees and now of course, on my own as well. My new family tradition is that I let each of my grandchildren select an ornament from my tree each year and I tell them the story behind that ornament.  They have a special ornament box to hold all of the “grandma ornaments.”

The Dancing Years

Mom Dancing slick crop

My mother was a professional tap and ballet dancer. Her early years were spent in Chicago and touring with a professional company.

My mother and grandmother both kept scrapbooks of this time, full of newspaper articles, reviews, ads, theater billboards and photos.

My Mom, especially in later years, was a bit embarrassed by all of the attention and few people really knew about her early dancing career.  Not what one really expects from a Baptist church Deacon with Brethren grandparents.  She was truly one of a kind.

Mom was a dance student for years, then taught, then was a professional dancer. This book isn’t just about her dancing, but intersperses the rest of her life during that time, like church camps and high school events.  It was interesting to discover that one of her dance “reviews” was the same day she graduated – and she performed – probably going from her graduation directly to Fort Wayne to the Masonic Theater.

One of my favorite stories from this timeframe was when my uncle painted my mother’s face. He was supposed to be painting the screens on the front porch with black paint to keep them from rusting.  Mom and her cat were in the way, so he dobbed the cat’s nose with paint.  Mom was furious, cleaned up the cat and started yelling at him – which of course was the entire point of his actions – to upset his sister.

He finally slapped her across the face with the paint brush, full of black paint – and thought it was hilarious.

However, later that afternoon, Mom was supposed to perform on the courthouse lawn for some event in Wabash, Indiana.

Mom ran screaming to her mother, who got the turpentine and started scrubbing Mom’s face. Needless to say, her brother was in a heap of trouble and by the time my grandmother got done with him, no longer thought it was funny.

And yes, Mom did perform, but she said she had never worn more stage makeup for any event – ever.

I wish we had a picture of that.

Kirsch early gen

My mother’s grandfather was Jacob Kirsch, a German immigrant and founder of the Kirsch House, a tavern and hotel in Aurora, Indiana on the Ohio River. This book documents that side of my mother’s family with history and photographs.

Mom went along for much of this research, although I published it after her departure.

Kirsch House 2008

Mom and I found the original building, and at the time we visited, the original bar was still there.

Kirsch House Bar

During that visit, we found a local man, Telford Walker, then in his 80s, who knew Jacob Kirsch when he was an old man, in the 19-teens. Jacob, it turns out, had a glass eye.  He used to pop it out and show it to the local children, including Telford, making them all scream and run away.  Of course, they all came back and he did it all over again.

Mom and I stared at each other dumbstruck. We had no idea. Amazing what you discover about your ancestors!!!!

The Lore of the Lore Family

My grandmother’s maiden name was Lore. Her father, Curtis Benjamin Lore, married Nora, the daughter of Jacob Kirsch.  When I started researching genealogy, Curtis, known as CB, was a mysterious handsome man with no history.  But we found his story, and what a story it is.

Lore of the Lore

CB, shown above at the bottom beside Nora, was a bit of a scoundrel it seems, a rogue – two wives, at the same time, children showing up on his wife’s doorstep after he died, and a family history of Acadians and French voyageurs that would make a soap opera producer jealous. Ewww-la la.  My daughter-in-law just loved this book for the story line.  And I suspect my grandchildren won’t be allowed to read it until they are adults.

I brought this to the current generation, although perhaps I should have split this into two books. There didn’t seem to be a good stopping point.

3 gen quilt crop

My mother’s grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore, was an extraordinary quilter. My mother, my daughter and I are standing in front of her quilt that represented the State of Indiana in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

I included lots of family stories in these books, like the story about when the family visited this quilt at the World’s Fair. It was during the Great Depression, so they could not afford an overnight nor to buy food along the way.  They packed picnics and ate in the car or at roadside tables, which were common then.

My grandparents, Mom, her brother and Nora left in the middle of the night, in an old Model T Ford, and drove from Silver Lake, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois, visited the fair, saw the quilt, and drove back home.  In all, a 24 hour round trip.  Exhausting, yes, but the experience of a lifetime and something none of them would ever forget.  Mom talked about seeing her grandmother’s quilt in the Sears Pavilion for years.

Mom dna report

Of course I wrote a Personalized DNA Report for my mother before she passed.  I’ve updated this a couple of times since, with new discoveries as more people tested.  I have given copies to all of her grandchildren.

Mom absolutely loved this report, written in an understandable story fashion and including our family photos.  Her last Christmas letter was all about what her DNA told her about her ancestors.  And yes, these reports are available as Personalized DNA Reports today either through my website or through Family Tree DNA, although I only accept a very limited number of orders, which is why I seldom mention them.  One of Mom’s extremely prophetic comments after she read her report was, “You should do these for people.”  Well, Mom, thanks, and I do.

Holiday Giving

No matter what faith you practice, and no matter when you celebrate – the gift of memories is the best gift you can ever give. Make good ones, memorable ones – and then document the ones your ancestors left behind.  If you don’t, no one will ever know that your great-grandfather had two wives at the same time, that your German great-great grandfather tortured young children by removing his glass eye, or that your great-grandmother was a world class quilter.

And don’t forget those DNA tests either, because they can reach further back in time than stories ever can.

What family stories and legends are waiting for you to document and pass them on in your family?

Have a wonderful and joyous holiday!!!

Talking to Yourself aka E-Mail Spoofing

Have you ever gotten an e-mail from yourself that you didn’t send?

Here’s an example from my inbox.

inbox

Yep, there are 4 messages to myself from myself that I never sent.  The modern day version of talking to yourself – except they aren’t legit.

They are supposedly from my e-mail address – but I didn’t send them.

That is something called “spoofing” on the internet.  It happens when someone, a “bad guy” for lack of a more descriptive term, wants to send spam or junk mail, or worse, and hijacks your internet e-mail address to do so.

No, they have not broken into your e-mail account, they are just appending your address as the “sent” address so that it gets through filters and such.  However, if this happens to you, the FIRST thing you should do is to check your “sent” folder to be sure you don’t have a virus or some kind of malware sending things from your computer.

The bad news is that there is nothing at all I can do about this – except wait until the wave is over and hope there isn’t another one anytime soon.

Why did they pick me?  Because they can – they search for valid addresses and the more widely received, the better, because it makes their target audience larger.

A few Internet Service Providers use “source assured addressing” schemes where they connect the sending ID with the address it’s supposed to come from and “flag” suspicious e-mails.  You can see that AT&T did just that and put it the messages into my spam folder, labeled “bulk.”  It’s up to me to delete them.  Some spam never makes it this far and the vendors just throw the messages away.

Now the bad news on my end is that my address may become associated with spammers and get blacklisted.  There’s nothing I can do about that.

On your end, consider this a heads up – for my e-mail address and others.  If you receive something you don’t expect from someone, or just a link to click – DONT CLICK.  Don’t EVER click.

If you receive something from someone you know with a vanilla sounding message like:  “You have to see this,” followed by a link – your internal neon danger sign should be flashing like crazy.  And for goodness sake, DON’T CLICK.

Another tactic is to attach a document of some sort that you are instructed to open.  Don’t do that either.  If you’re not expecting a refund or a package or whatever…the message is fake.  And by the way the IRS does not contact you via e-mail and neither does the court requesting jury duty, etc.

Conversely, if you’re sending a link to someone, send at least enough of a message that the recipient knows it really is from you.  For example, “I found this link about the first Algonquian Bible which was the first Bible printed in the US.”  Then add your link.  My friends will know that is something I would be sending – not a message that’s so generic they have no way of knowing if the e-mail is legitimately from me.

I received an e-mail last week from Justin, someone connected to genealogy with whom I communicate regularly.  The e-mail said Justin had sent me a message through XYZ and to “click here” for the message, shown below.  I found that odd since Justin regularly e-mails me and has never used any kind of message service.

scam email crop

I was suspicious, so I didn’t click.  I didn’t want to miss something from Justin, so  I forwarded the e-mail to Justin and asked if he sent it.  He said that he had clicked on that same link in an e-mail he received and it then sent itself to his entire e-mail list.  You can rest assured that’s not all it did and now he has some malware someplace on his computer as well doing who-knows-what.  The bad guys don’t do these things just for fun.

I quickly deleted that e-mail and was very grateful for my second sense that told me something was amiss.

While most genealogists do talk to themselves, it’s not quite like this.  Stay vigilant and if there is any doubt, don’t click.  Better wary than sorry.  Otherwise, you won’t be talking to yourself, you’ll be swearing at yourself!

Finding Hidden Treasure in Estate Inventories

Recently, I spent an entire day in Richmond at the Library of Virginia, also known as the State Archives.  Like always, I prepared a research list.  While most of my research procured nothing, which isn’t unusual after you’re already plucked all the fruit you can readily see – I did come up with one big winner.

The estate inventory of Edward Mercer who died sometime between May 4th 1763 when he last appears in the Frederick County, Virginia court minutes in a road order, and November 1, 1763 when his estate was probated.  At that same court session, he was replaced as overseer or the road, so he apparently was still “working” up to a few months before he died, even though he prepared his will “being sick, aged and weak of body” in September of 1762.  Edward was probably just shy of 60, certainly not an old man – so his estate should reflect an active life, not a “retirement,” if there was such a thing then.

The first bingo I found in the library was a book of transcribed wills and estate inventories.  I was quite relieved because that meant I might not have to ask them to pull the microfilm and read that.  Old books on microfilm are not always legible nor is the indexing ever complete.  The only individuals indexed are the primary individual – not witnesses or wives or anyone else.  Many times the “rest of the story” is told in who surrounds individuals during their lifetime – so we need all of that additional information.

So, when I found Edward Mercer’s estate inventory listed in the transcribed book, I was ecstatic.  I read the estate inventory, and it was short and general.  It listed things like, “agricultural produce and farm animals.”  Well, I have to tell you, I’ve seen a lot of colonial wills and I have never seen one list something like that.  They list the produce and they list the animals, individually, or at least by breed.  In other words, you in far more danger of receiving far more information that you wanted than not enough, if an estate inventory was taken and filed.

It appeared that I was going to have to get the microfilm after all.

Estate inventories are a vastly overlooked source of information not available elsewhere.  The wills tell who your ancestors left his or her worldly goods to, but the estate inventory tells you what those goods were and those goods tell a huge story about your ancestor’s life.  In addition to what IS in the estate inventory, what ISN’T in the inventory tells a story too – especially in the context of the time and place in which they lived.

Many men did have a will.  Most wills were not written much in advance.  Sometimes wills were made verbally as the individual was on death’s doorstep to whomever was nearby.  These are called noncupative wills.  Sometimes, death was unexpected and there no opportunity for a will.

Most women did not have wills because most women did not own items outright, meaning outside of a marriage where the man was assumed to be the owner of the land (except for her dower rights.)  Often women retained what is known as a “life estate” where the woman holds either property or other items for the term of her life, at which point their ownership reverts to others, generally one or several children as specified in her husband’s will when he died.

If the woman dies before the man, the husband automatically owns everything so no will for the wife is necessary.  I’m talking about historical US wills, not current law.  I’m not a lawyer…I don’t play one on TV or anyplace else:)

Understanding how wills and ownership of both property and personal items worked helps in unraveling what estate inventories tell us.

When the man died, an inventory of everything was taken, even if the wife was to retain “household items.”  While that seems vastly unfair, especially since she often had to bid to buy her own cooking utensils back at a sale, it’s a huge boon for genealogists.

Sometimes individuals are mentioned in inventories – and in some cases, an item is left to a daughter in a will, but by the time she collects that item, she is married and a married name is listed.  In other cases, if something is left specifically to an individual, it is not included in the appraisal.  It doesn’t seem standardized, you say?  It’s not – and often it helps to look at other wills and estates from that county and time to observe what was customary.  Any deviation from custom must have been caused by something…and that something could be interesting to a genealogist.

Even the individuals who appraise your ancestor’s estate are important.  In Virginia, if your ancestor’s spouse was still living, one person who was from the “wife’s family” was chosen, keeping her interests in mind, the largest debtor of the person who died was selected, keeping their interests in mind, and one person completely disinterested in the outcome of the estate appraisal was selected.

With that information, you can sometimes add to your knowledge of the family, especially if you know the wife’s family is likely in the area.  How would you know that?  If your ancestor lived in that area when he married, his wife’s family would have been from that area too.  Young people often met at church or social functions – and with limited transportation – that social group wasn’t from any great distance.

People often married their neighbors or individuals from just a mile or two away.  Courting was likely done on foot, or maybe on horseback.  You can’t marry someone you can’t court!

So, let’s take a look at Edward Mercer’s will and see what is actually in the estate inventory.

The subscribers by virtue of an order of Frederick County Court being first sworn has met and appraised such of the estate of Edward Mercer, deceased, as was brought to our view by Ann Mercer and Joseph Fanset the executors – viz –

The values would be given in pounds, shillings and pence.

Edward Mercer estate 1

  • One old loom 0-15-0
  • Red Cow 0-15-0
  • 1 Cow and bell 3-0-0
  • 1 brindle cow 2-10-0
  • A brindle cow 2-0-0
  • A white cow 2-10-0
  • White back heifer 2-0-0
  • White bull 2-0-0
  • White heifer 1-15-0
  • Speckled heifer 2-0-0
  • Red yearling steer 1-0-0
  • White steer 1-7-0
  • White faced heifer 1-10-0
  • Brindle calfe 0-15-0
  • A pide yearling 1-0-0
  • A brindle yearling 1-0-0
  • Six calves 3-6-0
  • 2 pide steers 3-15-0
  • 2 heifers 2-10-0
  • One stear 2-10-0
  • A roan horse 6-0-0
  • An old mare 2-10-0
  • A mare and colt 3-10-0
  • A bay mare and colt 5-0-0
  • Old wagon and gears 9-0-0
  • A pen and gears 1-3-0

Edward Mercer estate 2

  • Eight swine 0-?-0
  • 2 sows and pigs 0-16-0
  • Harrow pens 0-10-0
  • Cart wheels 1-0-0
  • A rick of hay 3-0-0
  • 2 ricks of hay 6-10-0
  • Hay in the barn 2-0-0
  • Grain in the barn 12-0-0
  • Unbreak flax 0-5-0
  • 2 caskes and flax seed 0-9-0
  • Corn foder 0-10-0
  • Hay in the stable 0-15-0
  • A mall and wedges 0-5-0
  • 2 old axes 0-5-0
  • Indian corn 2-0-0
  • 2 old hoes 0-7-0
  • Small grind stone 0-3-0
  • An old gun 0-15-0
  • Another old gun 0-10-0
  • 2 bells and collar 0-5-0
  • Some old carpenters tools 0-14-0
  • Old iron 0-2-6
  • A pair of small stilliards 0-5-0
  • Few nails 0-2-0
  • Some more carpenters tools 0-10-0
  • An old saddle 1-5-0
  • Suit of cloathes 5-10-0
  • Side saddle 1-5-0
  • Old lumber 0-6-0
  • 8 old chairs 1-0-0
  • Old dough trough 0-3-0
  • A chaf (?) bed and cloaths 1-15-0
  • One bed and furniture 4-0-0
  • Seven old bags 0-7-0
  • Old casks and reel 0-5-0
  • Old chest 0-10-0
  • A morter 0-2-6
  • A warming pan 1-0-0
  • Old reeds and wifts (or mosts or wefts) 0-4-0

Edward Mercer estate 3

  • Some salt 0-6-6
  • Smoothing box and candlestick 0-3-0
  • Hand and gridirons 0-8-0
  • Iron poths (pots?) hangers and frying pan 1-3-0
  • Old books 0-6-0
  • Puter (pewter) 2-6-0
  • Some old tins 0-2-0
  • Sythes and hangings 0-14-0
  • Old copper 0-1-3
  • 3 old casks 0-5-6
  • 1 cask of cyder 1-4-1
  • 2 old whelbs(?) and branding iron and old tea kettle 0-11-0
  • Warping barrs and boxes 0-5-0
  • Hannah Mercers puter 5-0-0
  • Her bed and furniture 8-0-0

Jesse Pugh, Joseph Babb, Peter Babb

At court held for Frederick County the first day of May 1764.  This appraisement was returned and ordered to be recorded by the court.

The first thing this inventory tells us is that Edward Mercer was very involved in animal husbandry and likely only farmed enough to feed his animals.  He did not have plows and other typical farming implements and had many more animals than the typical farmer.

Edward’s family had chairs, not just a bench to sit on. And almost enough chairs for each person to sit at the same time.  He had 7 children, so the estate is one chair short for the entire family to sit together.  Perhaps one chair broke.  They are described as “old.”  However, there is no table listed.  That’s rather odd.

Edward was a good-hearted person.  He did not kill his old mare who was probably no longer useful.

Edward was likely a carpenter.  Every man on the frontier had a specialty skill, and his appears to be carpentry based on his tools.  This means that when you find homes built in that timeframe in that area, Edward may have worked on those.

Edward owned no slaves, but he clearly could have afforded slaves had he so chosen.  His lack of slaves then must have been either a personal moral judgment or a religious conviction.  However, other Quakers did own slaves including the family his daughter, Hannah, married into.

The flax and loom suggest that his wife and daughter spun and wove, although interestingly enough, a spinning wheel is not listed.  However, you can’t get from flax to weaving without spinning it into thread first.

There is cyder, but no alcohol.  There is no still.  This is highly ironic, since Edward Mercer was kicked out of the Quaker church in 1759 for…you guessed it….drinking.  In fact, “too frequently drinking strong drink to excess.”

Edward Mercer signed his will and owned books, so obviously this man could read and write.  How I’d love to know what those books were.

There is no Bible, although Edward was a Quaker up until he was kicked out of the church in 1759, ironically, for drinking, not attending meetings and not being penitent about either.

Other than Hannah’s furniture, which did include a bed, there were two other beds mentioned.  Was there a bed for the parents, then a boys bed and a girl’s bed?  There were two girls and five boys.

And speaking of Hannah, she is mentioned in the estate inventory, but it’s very likely that she was married by this time.  However, the fact that she is mentioned by her maiden name does not prove that Hannah was not married.  They may simply have referred to her as she was listed in the will. I have often wondered if she was already married when the will was written, even though Edward does not refer to Hannah by a married name.  The reason I question this is because Edward says that the “puter” (pewter) is already “in her possession.”  That would likely mean that she is not living at home, but unless she were married, where else would she be living?  Edward said the same thing about Hannah’s 6 head of cattle as well, that they are already in her possession.  But then he goes on to say she can leave her mare on his plantation as long as she remains unmarried, so obviously she is not married at that time.  There must be something here that I’m missing.  Perhaps she was living with another family member before she married.

Edward does have two old guns, and he fought in the French and Indian War, so this makes sense.  These are likely the guns he carried with General George Washington at Fort Necessity.  What I wouldn’t give to see those guns.

And speaking of things I’d love to see…that old chest is one.  I want to open that chest and see what is inside.  I’m guessing that might be where Edward kept any spare clothes he had or anything of value – like maybe letters!!!

We also know that Edward’s wife, Ann, was living because she was one of the individuals who administered his will and “presented” his estate to the court.

We know that the family had candles.  The poorest families didn’t and worked only by the light of the sun.  Sundown meant bedtime.

In Edward’s case, either his estate was not sold at public auction, or there is no court record of the sale.  Many times, the sale is recorded, item by item, and who was present at the sale can tell you a huge amount.  In some cases, you can track valuable family heirlooms this way.

In one case, I knew who bought my ancestor’s family Bible – which means I know who subsequently lost it by leaving it when they sold a house and moved (in the 1880s.)  Yep, it’s in the possession of the family of the new homeowners who have no idea WHY they have this old German family Bible – but they are convinced that it’s important and valuable.  The good news is that they are protecting it.  The bad news is that they do not wish to part with it.

The moral of this story?  Don’t think you’ve found everything when you find your ancestors will, or even if you don’t find a will.  There is likely to be an estate appraisement with or without a will, and sometimes the information in the estate inventory tells you far more about your ancestors life and how they actually lived than the will itself.  Wills tell you who is supposed to get what, but estates tell you the story of your ancestors life through what they left behind.

If you look around your own house, you’ll realize that your sewing machine and quilting tools, for example, at my house, are far more personal and representative of what you do with your daily life than the land you own.

In terms of getting to know your ancestor, their stuff is far more important than their land.

Let me close with one very personal example.

The farm I grew up on was lost to the family through a long series of estate errors and complex legal maneuvers.  I swore I’d never return.  However,  I decided a couple years ago to “drive by” out of curiosity when I was driving cross country to a speaking engagement and had to drive within a couple of miles of the property.  The draw was just too strong and several years had passed since all of the drama.  The individual who wound up with the property immediately sold it, so there was no one living there that I knew.  The coast seemed to be clear.

I pulled into the driveway by the road, not pulling up any further, and about a minute later, a man in a pickup truck approached from behind asking if he could help me.  I could tell he wasn’t terribly happy.  I explained who I was and why I was there.

The man in the truck was the current owner (who I didn’t know and who was not involved in the legal mess) and he was very kind and gracious.  It was a very emotional visit for me (understatement!), as it was the first time I had been back since I moved my mother to town back twenty years before, after Dad’s death.

We chatted for a few minutes, talking about the property, and he asked me if I wanted to walk around with him.  The house had burned, which was another shock, but the barn looked just the same, just with a new coat of paint.

It was the barn that represented Dad in my mind anyway, so we walked in that direction.  We went inside and I was sharing with him my memories of how the barn used to be, when I spotted something in the hayloft, right above where my Dad used to sit in his favorite “barn chair.”  I asked the owner what it was.  He climbed up in the hayloft and retrieved an old box, handing it down to me.

It was Dad’s old box.  I recognized it right away.  He made it years ago and kept “stuff” in it.  Dad was always making something utilitarian like this out of almost nothing.

There were only a couple small things of no value in the box, plus some straw, but it was undoubtably, unquestionably his box.

Dad's box open

I no longer cared about the land or the farm, but I desperately wanted this box that my Dad had made with his own hands.  The current owner said he liked old boxes like that, and my heart just sank.  He had every right, of course.  But then, he gave me the box. I was ever so grateful.

This box which carries the spirit of the man who crafted and made it with his hands means far more to me than the land.

Dad's box closed2

I feel like this was a wink from Dad.  A special gift to me some 20 years after he left this earth.

Perhaps there is a surprise ancestor-wink waiting for you in an estate inventory too.

The Huge Surprise on Contrary and Northeast Creeks in Louisa County, Virginia

Louisa1

Google maps has been such a gift to genealogists. Today, we can look at the deeds of our ancestors, and if they have landmarks, especially multiple landmarks, we can then check Google maps and sometimes find those landmarks today. Utilizing the satellite view, we can “see” our ancestors land, and if street view is available where they lived, we can even virtually “drive down” the roads and take a look today, providing the road is paved. That rules out about half my ancestral lands right there.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I drove all over the eastern part of the US chasing down deeds in courthouses, road orders and eventually, my ancestor’s land. Google maps makes it tempting not to make the effort to visit if we don’t have to.

Today, I’ve become quite selective about limiting my DNA speaking engagements to places I really want to visit.

Louisa2

Recently, I visited Virginia to speak at a conference and let’s just say this was a home run of unprecedented proportions.

Louisa County, Virginia

Let’s take a look at Louisa County, for example. My Moses Estes lived there when he was first married. We don’t know when he first arrived, because Louisa was created out of Hanover County in 1742. That was a huge benefit, because Hanover County’s early records are almost entirely gone, except for deed books from 1734-1736, but Louisa’s still exist. We do know that Moses is first found in Hanover County when he buys 100 acres land jointly with his brother, Robert, in 1734. Moses married about this time to Elizabeth whose surname is unknown, so his wife’s family likely lived in this area as well.

In 1736, Moses patented 370 acres in Hanover County adjacent his brother, Robert’s patent.

In 1742, Louisa Splits from Hanover, and sure enough, in 1744 and 1746 we find both Moses and Robert assigned as road hands in the Louisa County court order books.

In 1748, Robert Compton sells 185 acres he bought in 1742 from Moses Estes and that land is located on Contrary and Northeast Creek. Then, in 1749, Moses, now listed as “of Amelia County” sells another 185 acres in Fredericksville Parish adjacent John Cumpton’s corner…on said Estes line adjacent Robert Estes line. So we have been gifted with two key coordinates.

When I wrote the original article about Moses Estes Sr., I found this land on a current map based on the description of land that included both Contrary and Northeast Creeks, or parts of them. That was a very lucky break, because there is only one section of land that conforms to that description allowing us to find that land almost 300 years later. That, alone, is absolutely amazing.

Moses would have lived on this land from the time he married in 1734 or 1735 until about 1748 or early 1749 when he moved to Amelia County – about 15 years. He and Elizabeth only have 3 known children, John, Moses Jr. and William, all born between their marriage and 1742 or so. This means that all 3 of those children were born on this land. It also means that probably many more children are buried someplace in this earth – on the land that Moses owned. That’s speculation of course, but given that couples if they were fertile had children every 18 months to two years, that means that Moses and Elizabeth would have had a total of about a dozen children – and we only know of three males.

Here’s what we know about Moses and his land in Louisa County.

This land is rich in minerals, or was at one time. The town of Mineral is either adjacent this land, or on this land, and was named Mineral because of the rich mineral deposits. There were pyrite and sulphur mines, and there are hidden mineshafts lurking today on this land as booby-traps. And there was and is….gold.

It is extremely rough and overgrown today.

Louisa3

The town of Mineral was originally known as Tolersville, but adopted its current name when it incorporated in 1902 due to the mining industry that supported the community. It was the center of gold mining activity in Louisa County, and during its heyday, there were fifteen gold mines located within two miles of the town.

Clearly, Moses Estes never knew the bounty on his land, or he would likely never have sold. Talk about literally sitting on a goldmine.

Ironically, the Native people may have known about this. The current land owner told me that when she was digging to put in a garden, years ago, they dug up many Native artifacts and arrowheads. This is very near the headwaters of Contrary Creek, an area that would be very attractive to both Native people and settlers due to the need for clean, fresh, water. Given that Moses patented this land, it begs the question of whether there was an Indian village there at that time. This was likely the Monacan people, but could also have been Powhatan.

Native people valued minerals for their medicinal value and for both trade and jewelry. We know that when the first Native people visited the earliest settlers and explorers, they wore copper, possibly gold, and pearls. Everybody loves jewelry. It’s not unlikely that the Native people knew about the valuable minerals on Moses Estes’ land – even if Moses never did.

Visiting Moses’ Land

It was a cloudy afternoon in September. I was driving along I64 between Beckley, West Virginia and Richmond, when I saw the sign on the road that announced I had crossed into Louisa County. I had been grateful that this day would only entail about 5 hours of driving, after a hard day the day before – although much of the day’s drive was through extremely hilly mountains. I hate being passed in curves in the mountains. And I hate rain in the mountains too. It had stopped raining by the time that I saw the Louisa County sign – a good omen.

I quickly asked my husband to check on his gadgetry to see how far Mineral was from I64 – because it occurred to me that it would be better to visit “now,” if I could, rather than “later” which would take a special trip. Right? Hubby was not nearly as impressed with my bright idea but we detoured anyway.

It was a bit further than we thought – but we got to see Louisa Court House too, in the town of Louisa, and travel down the road from Louisa to Mineral that Moses would have traveled every time he went to court and back home. Since court days, then, were the primary source of entertainment, all able-bodied men attended when court was held, four times a year – hence the name “Court of Please and Quarter Sessions.”

This was the road Moses would have been assigned to as a road hand too – to keep in repair.

As it turns out, I know all too well what that means – because part of that old road has been abandoned by the state and has returned to its natural state, or at least it’s trying to.

Louisa4

Moses owned a total of at least 470 acres which includes his 370 acre grant and the 100 acres he owned with his brother. There could have been more, but with the loss of early Hanover County records we’ll never know.

First, we found the headwaters of Northeast Creek near Shortman’s Road.

Louisa5

That too is a dead end, but we drove to the end and took photographs. It looks low here, so I’m guessing this land was never directly farmed, but it has clearly been logged since then.

Louisa6

Next, we drove into Mineral and back out again, down 208 to the other end of Chopping Road and then along Chopping road which parallels Contrary Creek back to 208 which is also 22.

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Confusing? Think of this as a big triangle. We know that Moses owned the bottom part of the triangle.

Along 208, we crossed Contrary Creek. You can tell by looking at the creek that there are lots of minerals. Keep in mind that the headwaters are only a couple of miles away – and it’s already this mineralized.

Louisa8

The creek and tributaries are beautiful just the same. Look at this stunning boulder.

Louisa9

I can just see Moses or maybe his boys sitting there fishing – can’t you?

We don’t know how far north, but we know Moses owned the land across the road and where the Louisa County High School is located today because that land is between Contrary and North East Creek.

Louisa10

As we drove down Chopping Road, we drove into a subdivision that is just being developed. The lots are for sale, and these would likely have been on Moses land. You can see that some of these very old trees have likely not been logged and may have been here when Moses owned the land. If trees could only talk, what tales they could tell.

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When we arrived at the intersection of Chopping Road and 208/22, we noticed a road named “Old County Road” that paralleled 208/22 on the north side of the RR tracks, so we turned down that road to see where it led. It looked to be closer to the headwaters of Contrary Creek than any other avenue we attempted.

We turned east on Old County Road, and came to the end where the pavement ended and as sign said “state maintenance ends” and it turned into a 2 track.

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There were houses on both sides of the road, both with no trespassing signs. I wasn’t about to go further, but I did turn into the edge of one driveway to turn around – and to take pictures of the raptors that were flying in circles and landing in a field. I figured that was as close to Contrary Creek as I would get.

But then…a woman came walking down that two track, towards me. I started walking towards her.  I was incredibly glad to see her, although I don’t think she was nearly as happy to see me.

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She is the landowner of the land beyond where the state maintenance ends – on the part of the road still “au naturalle,” so to speak. Just like it was when Moses maintained that same road and rode his horse up and down that road to town and back. That lady was so nice and helpful, and even gave me a rock from Moses’ land. She too loves rocks.

Louisa14

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We had such a nice visit. And she had such wonderful historic stories about the land and its current and former owners.

Louisa16

Sure enough, the old road labeled 745 is the original road, abandoned by the county and state at one point, and then when the road turned into a sea of mud, the residents once again deeded the land back to the government to get it paved. Well, at least partially paved. It seems that the state would only pave the road if everyone deeded their land back – meaning the land that was the original road – and like always there is always one person with a “different” view. One resident deeded the land in front of his house back, but not his land further down because he wanted an assurance that a particular pear tree would not be cut down.

Louisa17

So the road is paved in front of his house, but his neighbors further east not only don’t have a paved road, they have to maintain it themselves and they have assured me, it’s muddy and mucky and in some places, past their houses, impassible. In the aerial photo above, the green treed area is pink and is where the head of Contrary Creek is located. This is also where the old mines are located, and abandoned shafts, and an old pyrite furnace. Not terribly safe there. The owner knows where it is, but I’ll not be hiking back to find it. She was also bitten by a copperhead a couple years ago. No thank you. Moses can keep his copperheads.

But as I look down the abandoned part of this road, I can look into the past and feel Moses there…

Louisa18

Directly across the main road from this area, just to the right of the oval track by the school, sits a log cabin, restored beautifully. The land is for sale today, including the cabin.

Louisa19

I just caught my breath when I saw this, because this was unquestionably Moses land.

Louisa20

Was the cabin there when Moses owned the land? Was this his cabin?

Louisa21

If this was not Moses’s cabin, they it was likely built during that same time period.

Louisa22

Because the cabin and another house are for sale on a 15 acre parcel, I was able to visit it on the web. It’s truly my lucky day.

Louisa23

This chimney has likely been rebuilt. Often the chimneys are rebuilt using the original stones. The cabin has also clearly been rechinked as well. Someone took very good care of this cabin, while retaining its original flavor.

Louisa24

Wouldn’t Moses be surprised to see today’s kitchens? He wouldn’t know what to think.

Louisa25

I’m betting that is the original floor.

Louisa26

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/475-Davis-Hwy-Mineral-VA-23117/90114638_zpid/

If you want this cabin…and oh yes…the house that goes with it, you can have it for an incredible price. Just for the record, I bought an extra lottery ticket, and if I win, this cabin is my new office!!!!

For me, this journey, and in particular, running into the land owner, was an incredible gift. Like I told her, driving down that old abandoned section of county road, the original road, the one where Moses owned land…was like driving back into time. I couldn’t have asked for anything more on this impromptu Louisa County adventure. No google map trip can ever compare to the real thing – it’s only a distant second best – but it’s a wonderful starting and sometimes ending point. Never forego the opportunity to visit in person. You just never know what surprises might be waiting for you!