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Archive for January, 2012

This is the third installment on my “Travel Thursday” series of “Over the Rainbow” and our journey from Ohio to California and back in 1966. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

It was mid-September, and Mom, Dad, and I had just finished visiting their friends, the Manning family, and my great-aunt, Nellie Lilly, in Washington state. We were on our way south toward California. Next stop was Crater Lake National Park in Klamath County, Oregon.  The lake was formed from a massive volcanic eruption about 5700 B.C. (according to Wikipedia). We arrived just before the snow covered everything, and the view was breathtaking . . . 

. . . even to a four year old child.

       

We checked out the view, took lots of photos, and encountered local wildlife. It seemed the chipmunks had no fear – especially if they were fed – and the deer was injured, but didn’t get too close to us.

As we drove through Oregon toward California, we encountered logging operations.

On toward Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. According to the newspaper article, trees at Sequoia were over 3500 years old with the General Sherman being the tallest at a little over 270 feet high with a circumference of a little over 100 feet.

     

   

We were in awe at the size of those trees!  One hollowed out tree was on its side, and I thought it was really neat how people walked into the tree without having to duck! It was that big around!

And as we traveled on toward southern California, we saw these sights:

Olive trees and citrus trees – along with trucks taking fruit to wherever they needed to go in order to be processed and shipped.  We saw grapes going to wineries.  Some of this I remember and some I don’t.  Mainly we saw long stretches of highway!

But the journey is only beginning for me – soon we will be “Over the Rainbow”! Stay tuned for the next installment!

Sources: personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Photos: Photographer on all photos – Gene Amore; all photos – print, slide, digital in the possession of Wendy Littrell to be used as needed.  No reprints without permission.

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.

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(Original Photo and Digital Print held in possession of Wendy J Littrell. Do not copy without permission.)

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The USA Today article, Orphan Train Riders, Offspring Seek Answers About Heritage, (posted 25 Jan 2012) by Judy Keen, describes the search that descendents of those who rode the Orphan Trains in the early 20th century find themselves on. They want to find out more about those train riders, their parents, siblings, and heritage. Even some of the Orphan Train riders themselves are searching.

While researching my own family history, I came across two brothers who rode the train from New York until they arrived in Columbus, Kansas and were adopted by James William Goul (my maternal grandfather’s relatives). J.W. Goul was born in Ohio about 1839 to John and Martha (McManaway) Goul.  James William was the 2nd to youngest brother of my 2nd great-grandmother (Malissa Goul). He married Mary McAdams (b. 16 Sep 1840) and they had Martha E. and George Edward Goul. Before 1894, the family moved to Cherokee County, Kansas.

The Star-Courier newspaper of Columbus, Kansas of June 21, 1894 mentioned that two young brothers who did not want to be separated from each other were taken by “one kind hearted man.”  These two brothers were Matthew and Clarence Brown of New York.  Matthew was born about 1887 and Clarence was about 3 years younger.  Both reported on the 1910 Census that their parents were born in Italy.    

Discovering there were Orphan Train riders in the family history, led me to find out more about these children and the reasons they were sent from New York to other parts of the country.  The short version of the “why?” includes the fact that these children were abandoned or orphaned so the Children’s Aid Society and New York Foundling Hospital decided these children needed homes somewhere else.  Children were sent to Canada and the other 47 states. Some were adopted while others were foster children. Others were made to be “servants” to whomever chose them.  Children were picked the same way that slaves had been a century earlier – checking their muscles, sturdiness, and temperament. Some were loved dearly while others were beat constantly.

There are many places on the internet to read the history and stories of the Orphan Train movement including: Orphan Train History (has many links included), Children’s Aid Society, PBS Documentary, Iowa GenWeb Orphan Train project, Orphan Trains of Kansas, and Adoption History: Orphan Trains. There are some videos: Orphan Train in Michigan and Orphan Train Movie (1979).

With all of the newly digitized records on free and subscription databases, I sincerely hope that the descendents of the “riders” will find the answers they so desperately seek.  Perhaps they will be the recipients of Genealogical Acts of Kindness!

Do you have Orphan Train riders in your family? Have you learned about where they came from? Did they remember their background and parents? Were they treated like members of the family upon their “adoption” or was their life very difficult?  And what about the family they left behind or were torn from? What is their story?

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There Be Camels!

A week and a half ago, I posted a picture on my Wordless Wednesday post that showed my mom riding a camel. Where? When? How?

From the time I was young, Mom had always wanted to travel to far off countries. She got an opportunity when my dad was stationed twice in Japan in the 1950s with the Army Air Corps (US Air Force). However, I remember her mentioning that she always wanted to go to Australia.  Why there? I don’t know because she never gave an explanation. There were other countries she wanted to visit, too.

In the late ’90s, Mom became very excited when she realized that she might be able to take a trip to the Holy Land as part of a church group.  She told me that she had always wanted to see Israel, although I don’t ever remember her mentioning that. Perhaps it was due to the fact she was getting older or it was something she hadn’t ever shared because it was so personal to her and her faith.

She was working full time and had put money back for the trip. Her minister and another lady from her church would be part of the group. At least she had another woman she knew to room with. Mom was still in pretty good health although I was concerned about the distance and speed at which any walking would take place, and if she would be able to keep up.

Then the time came – even though there was still quite a bit of unease in the Middle East (this was prior to the War) – she told me that if security was too risky, they wouldn’t have been allowed to go.

I waited until she returned from her trip, anxious to hear that she was okay and it had all been worth it for her. She loved seeing places where Jesus had taught and preached during his life. She had taken several rolls of film that she promised she’d send to me – just to look at but I’d have to immediately mail it back afterwards – as soon as they were developed.  The only hitch of her trip had come afterwards when they landed in Egypt for the international flight home. She had stepped off the debarking stairs and twisted her ankle. If it had to happen, I was glad it was after the trip instead of before.

Finally the box of information arrived.  Pictures, pictures, and more pictures – along with small posters, travel guides, and purchased pictures and postcards. It took me over a week to absorb it all. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever “got” the entire picture at that time.

No, it would be years and years later – after she passed away – that my sister and I were discussing her trip – that the emotions she must have felt finally seeped into my heart. She had taken a pilgrimage to Israel – alone – without any blood relatives with her.  It was Mom and her faith and love of the Lord that had carried her to see the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the hill where Jesus was crucified on the cross, the tomb that he had left after his resurrection. These places and the emotions she felt would never be something she could explain. Yet, she had all the reminders that she could look at every day through the photos she took and the maps of places she had seen.

While in Israel, she rode the camel. It was probably dirty and smelly but that was her way of being “really there.”

After her death, I became the keeper of all her mementos and photographs. She loved being able to travel there. I wish I could have been with her so I could have seen her face as she saw all those things up close. That would have been part of my memory. The camel photo was one that was used on the DVD I made for her memorial service. It showed her in a humorous setting (Mom on a Camel!) and in a country that she repeated over and over again as she aged that she was glad to see before she died.

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When I was a young girl, my mom mentioned something in passing about my Grandad’s brother.  What? A brother? I thought my grandfather was an only child. So I pressed her for some elaboration. The story she told (which had to have come from her dad or his parents) was that Letis Johnson was 13 years older than my grandfather, and that he was “crazy”.  My grandparents had to commit him several times to the Insane Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Sometimes Letis would come home for visits. One time he threw a brick through the chicken coop.  Another time he was so engraged he tried to cut off my grandfather’s ear. Grandad carried the scar the rest of his life.  Mom also mentioned that it was believed Letis had falled at some point in his infancy or early childhood, and it was thought the fall had caused some sort of brain problem.

As a young girl and teen, this story was fascinating. A loony great-uncle who died at the age of 28.  As a budding family historian over ten years ago, this was the type of information that needed to be delved into.  But as a mother – it was heartbreaking.  I wrote about this in Katie’s Story.

On the Friends of Allen County website (Friends of Allen County), I found information that showed that Letis had been admitted to the Fort Wayne State School (Home for Feeble Minded Youths) due to epilepsy (probably caused by the fall), and he died from pneumonia.  What makes this story even sadder, is that it happened decades before there were medicines to help with epileptic seizures. Today, Letis could be a functioning member of society.  I don’t know if he attended enough school to be considered educated.  I don’t know if he ever felt romantic love for someone.  I don’t know if he felt all alone when he was far away from his family.  And until two years ago, I didn’t even know what he looked like.  Then I found the pictures.  Suddenly I had a face to go with the name.

So the question I still go back to – was Letis really “mad” or just suffering from a medical condition?  Epileptic seizures have ocurred in many people throughout history – from Biblical times until now – sports figures, celebrities, and normal people trying to live their lives. How debilitating one must feel when a seizure strikes – especially in a time when others wondered what the person had “done” to be cursed with this illness. Did Katie and John (my great-grandparents) blame their son for having epilepsy? Themselves? The universe? Or did they just feel helpless?  They weren’t wealthy enough to travel to a “big” city to have a fancy medical doctor treat Letis – if there even was a treatment then.  All they could do to protect themselves, their younger son, and their home was to send him to a place where he would be treated, cared for, and kept from hurting himself or others.  My heart goes out to my great-grandparents because that type of decision must not have been made lightly.

So the Great-Uncle I didn’t know much about, has aided me in the way I look at the other members of his family.

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My mom, Mary H (nee) Johnson, attended Bath Consolidated School in Bath Twp, a part of Greene County, Ohio, in what had been at one time two cities – Fairfield and Osborn. Those two cities merged to form Fairborn, Ohio. She graduated in 1939, and during her high school years, Mom was active in sports. Her game of choice was basketball. She was part of the high school girls’ team.

Mom is at the lower right.  My aunt (Mom’s older sister), Genevieve, is in the 2nd row from the bottom, 2nd from the right.  Their future sister-in-law, Mary Van Tuyl (who would marry their older brother, Glen Johnson) is at the top row 2nd from left.

Mom told me that when her school played in Beavercreek (the town where I graduated from), they would play at the high school – which today is Main Elementary.  It didn’t have a gym so the game would be played on the stage in the auditorium.  Every time I was in a theater production in high school, we would use that stage to perform, and I used to imagine my mom as a young high school girl running to and fro shooting hoops several feet above the floor.  Someone could have fallen off the stage and been injured. 

While Mom was on the basketball team, she fell one day (not while they were playing on the stage) and another player stepped on her foot which crushed several bones in her toes. She ended up having three toes fused together to the foot bone.  That was a reminder throughout her life of her time in sports. 

  Mom also loved to play golf – even if that meant playing Putt-Putt with me when I was young.  She followed college football all of her life (especially Ohio State), college basketball, all the Golf tournaments, and the Cincinnati Reds.  She knew stats better than a lot of people.  I think if she hadn’t married young, she might have gone on to golf professionally – or at least given it a good try.

  When I was young, she bowled weekly.  She and Dad would always take their bowling balls wherever we went – just in case they found a bowling alley.  And Mom was a left-handed bowler (even though she did most things right-handed)! 

  Mom was proud of her letter that she earned playing basketball in high school.  We displayed it on the table at her memorial service.

But one thing I will never forget – every time I pass Main Elementary in Beavercreek, I think about Mom dribbling a ball on the same stage that I performed on. 

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In between the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, the grandson’s school schedule getting back to normal, starting back to my class schedule on Wednesday, work, normal life, and wanting to reach through the phone to strangle doing my best to keep my cool with a customer service rep for our health spending account, I did manage to get some blog reading accomplished!  My happy dance this week was installing the Google Reader app on my kindle fire so that I have all my genea-blogs in one place!

I want to highlight a few outstanding (in my opinion) genea-blogs that I enjoyed in the past week.

First is Ginger Smith’s To Cite or Not to Cite? That’s not really the question! at Genealogy By Ginger’s Blog. This post was written on January 13 but I had not read it before publishing my Follow Friday post (I apologize, Ginger!)  She discusses footnotes and the mysterious disappearance of said footnotes – even when she tries really hard to include them!

Second, the wonderfully informative (tongue-in-cheek humor) post on The Sound of Music Effect from Donna Pointkouski at What’s Past is Prologue. As only she can, Donna explains the difference between “a true story” and “based on a true story”.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze is much braver than I ever would be in her post, Sharing Memories – Week 3 – Hair! at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. I’ve had some of those “wild” hair-do’s as well!

Many of my fellow genea-bloggers were discussing SOPA and PIPA in the past few days and some blacked out their sites on Wednesday in protest (along with Wikipedia and other well known websites).

If you haven’t read the above posts that I mentioned, go check them out, leave a comment and add them to your “must reads”. And as always check out Randy Seaver’s “Best of . . .” on Sunday.

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