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Some of my earliest memories involve family reunions – whether they were impromptu gatherings with the local family members on the weekend or planned affairs requiring travel to another city or state.  There were reunions that continued throughout my childhood and reunions that began during my childhood.  Before I came along there had been others.

On the paternal side of the family, what once had started as the Amore-Werts Reunion became the Amore-Baker reunion.  Originally, it was to bring together the families of my Great-Grandfather William Henry Amore and my Great-Grandmother Mary Angelina Werts.  The very first reunion was held May 25, 1924 in Roscoe, Coshocton County, Ohio at their home with about 100 persons attending.  This is the newspaper clipping about the gathering:

Other reunions were held and by the time I began attending (in the ’60s), they had changed to the Amore-Baker reunion.  This merged the Amore family with the Baker family (my grandfather’s sister – the only daughter of Henry and Annie Amore – married a Baker).

These reunions were held at the Grange Hall on the Coshocton Fairgrounds in July each summer.  There was plenty of good food, games (horseshoe, softball, frisbee) and family chat interspersed with the normal “business” part of the reunion – election of the following year’s officers, reading of the business minutes, a treasurer’s report, and planned entertainment.  Up to 80 persons attended these reunions.

My dad’s siblings held a reunion once each summer as well.  The first one was at my Uncle Paul’s home in St. Clare Shores, Michigan in the summer of 1967 attended by all but one of the children of Lloyd and Ella (House) Amore and their families.  Each summer the Descendents of Lloyd and Ella Amore met at one of the sibling’s homes.  The second year we held the reunion at our home outside of Dayton.

(Left to Right: Norman, Gene, Gail and Paul Amore)

My grandmother’s family had the annual Wilt reunion every year.  For many years it was held in New Castle and some times at individual homes.  A newspaper clipping about the 1959 reunion follows:

(Left to Right: Clifford, Vesta, Nellie and Clarence Wilt)

When I was close to adolescence, my grandfather and his two first cousins, Glen O. Blazer and Ada Blazer Black, decided to hold the Johnson-Blazer reunions.  Most of the time these were held in Urbana, Champaign County, Ohio at the home of Glen and Nina Blazer.  Once we hosted the reunion at our home.

(Left to Right: Glen Johnson, Glen and Nina Blazer, Ada Black Blazer)

The descendents of my 2nd great-grandparents – Emanuel Bushong Stern and Nancy Caylor Stern – (Stern Reunion) was held at Beaverton, Michigan in the early in July 1972.  It was held on a descendent’s farm.

Long before I came along, there was also the Caylor reunion for the descendents of Abraham and Susannah (Miller) Caylor.  The only information I have about these reunions is a few pictures with the words “Caylor Reunion” on the back.

My grandfather’s family also held reunions prior to my time.  They ended about 20 years before I was born.  These were the Johnson-Shively reunions.  I have as much information about these as I could hope since I have the actual Reunion Book in my possession.  It includes minutes from each reunion held, those invited, births, deaths and marriages recorded each year, and addresses.

One of my Johnson cousins scanned the photo taken at the first Johnson-Shively reunion and shared it with me.  I don’t know who the photographer was so I would like to thank my cousin, Virginia, for allowing me to have a copy of this.

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Minutes (transcribed) from the Minute Book:

Organization Aug 16 – 1915

Johnson and Shively reunion organized Aug 16, 1915 at the home of J.L. Johnson 99 Indiana Ave. Anderson, Indiana. Several relatives and minds were invited to this home in honor of J.W. Johnson. “J.L. Johnson’s father”. It being his birthday. He being the oldest of the Johnson family now living.

A great number of relatives responded from all over the state and a general good time was enjoyed by all.

At the noon hour a sumptious dinner was served. This being one of the most important events of the day was enjoyed by both young and old to the fullest extent.

Before departing for their several homes it was decided that we meet yearly and the following officers were duly elected

                        President          J Milton Johnson, Lapel, Ind.
                        Secretary          Frank Shively, Anderson

A motion was made and 2nded to meet the next August at Riverside Park, Anderson, Indiana.

Business being concluded all departed for their homes thinking it a day well spent.

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In July 2002, the 1st “Cousins” reunion was held for the Descendents of Glen Roy Johnson and Vesta (Wilt) Johnson – my grandparents.  It was held at my cousin’s home outside of Dayton, Ohio and attended by all but two of the cousins and their families.

Other gatherings that we generally don’t consider “reunions” are when we are in Ohio or Missouri to visit.  This past summer most of the family gathered at my in-laws’ home to celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary.  The last time most of my husband’s side of the family was together were either at funerals or the 50th Anniversary celebration of his parents.  In Ohio, most of my cousins gather together for a pot-luck meal so we can all visit.

 

News Clippings:

Amore-Wertz Reunion: Coshocton Tribune, 550 Main St., P.O. Box 10, Coshocton, OH 43812; May 5, 1927

Amore Family Has Reunion: Xenia Daily Gazette, 30 South Detroit Street, Xenia, OH 45385; August 22, 1968

Wilt Reunion: Anderson Daily Bulletin, 1133 Jackson St.; Anderson, IN 46016; September 8, 1959

Johnson-Shively Reunion: Unknown newspaper; clipping emailed from a cousin.

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The summer months signal the end of the school year, the smell of chlorine as we spend time at our backyard or community pools, the sound of ice cubes melting in the tall glasses of water or iced tea, and the call of our nomadic beginnings as we think about travel plans.

Many families will travel from several locations to the “old homestead” or a centralized location for the annual Family Reunion.  Fundraisers may have been held to help pay for the festivities.  Extra hours worked for the overtime pay in order to purchase the airline or bus tickets or to put that (high priced) gas in the tanks of vehicles.  Invitations via email or internet message boards have been sent or posted and replies received.  Luggage will be packed and travel “entertainment” chosen for the young ones.  Genealogy information has been downloaded, compiled and printed out to be shared.  Photo CDs have been copied for those who have requested them.  The agenda for the reunion has been planned – probably a catered meal or pot luck; games to enjoy; a side trip to the cemetery, homestead or Civil War Battlefield; and the business meeting – how much in the reunion treasury, recording of the births, marriages, divorces, and deaths of the past year, a formal portrait of the participants, the planning of the date and place for the next reunion; and then the good-byes.

For those who have never attended a family reunion or can’t understand why anyone would care who their third cousin twice removed is, this is a mystery they really can’t fathom.  For those who have enjoyed or endured at least one family reunion, there was at least one thing that happened that has stuck with them.  Possibly it was trying to hide from a cousin who always has picked on you or being excited to see your favorite aunt.  Maybe there was a terrible storm and rained everyone out of the picnic area.  Or you collected recipes of dishes you’ve been dying to have.  Or you discovered other relatives have the same interests you do and now live close to you.  There is something for everyone.

My experience with reunions was (as the Carpenter’s song goes) Long Ago and Far Away.  As a child I attended at least four reunions a year.  One was a reunion of my dad’s siblings (the descendents of Lloyd and Ella Amore).  We would meet at one of the brother’s or sister’s home for a weekend of food, fun, laughter, drinking (if you were of legal age), poker, singing (courtesy of two of my cousins), puppet shows (courtesy of my Aunt Marie), and arguing from someone!  I remember reunions at my Uncle Paul’s and Uncle Gail’s (both in Detroit), my Aunt Gertie’s (in Zanesville, Ohio), my Uncle Norman’s (in Chicago), and my childhood home in Beavercreek, Ohio.  One of my dad’s brothers, Bervil, made it to (I think) one of the reunions but generally just stayed away.  Most of the pictures I have of the siblings don’t include him – so instead of seven there is only six.  One other thing I remember very clearly was there was a scrapbook or photo book that everyone spent time looking at and reminiscing about.  I don’t remember any pictures that were in that book – I do have photos of people looking at it.  I believe my cousin has that book and unfortunately no one has been able to obtain the rights to even look at it in the last 35+ years. 

The second reunion was the Amore-Baker reunion (formerly Amore-Wertz) reunion.  These were the descendents of Henry and Annie Amore and their daughter Clemmie and her husband Benjamin Baker.  We would meet every August at the Coshocton Fairgrounds at the Grange for a day or eating, meeting, and playing.  I remember one year (one of the last I attended before my parents’ divorce), I was enthralled watching some other girls about my age playing across the way.  I asked my mom if I could go play with them and she told me they were related to me.  Unfortunatley I don’t remember their names or who they “belonged” to.  They were part of my great-aunt’s clan of Bakers.  I thought it was sad that our two halves of the family never ate together or met together.  We were just sort of at the same spot.

The third reunion I attended was my Grandmother’s family.  This was the Wilt Reunion and we would travel from our home in Southwestern Ohio across the Indiana border to Noblesville.  It was at the same place every year except the last few I heard about.  Up the hill was an elementary school with a playground.  That’s normally where I would spend most of my day instead of listening to the business meetings or folks trying to “entertain” everyone with their singing or joke telling.  As a child, I wasn’t much interested in how anyone was related to anyone else.  I knew who my first cousins were and I even knew who my mother’s first cousins were and who my grandmother’s siblings were.  The rest of them sort of got lost in the crowd.  One year the Wilt reunion was held at my Grandparent’s apartment party room and pool area.  I wasn’t able to attend as I was already living far from home.  Another year it was held at my brother’s home.  I showed up pregnant with my second child which no one had heard about yet.  I just remember that my mother didn’t attend that year.

The fourth reunion I attended was as an older child and teen.  It was my grandfather’s maternal side – the Johnson – Blazer reunion.  My great-grandmother – who I wrote about in Katie’s Story – was Katie J. Blazer.  We met at the Glen Blazer home in Urbana, Ohio or at our home in Beavercreek.  Glen was the son of Katie’s brother – making him my grandfather’s first cousin.  He and his sister, Ada, were the last of my grandfather’s first cousins, whom my grandfather knew about, who were around.

The last reunion I attended was a Cousin’s Reunion designated as such for we are all cousins and descendents of my maternal grandparents, Glen and Vesta (Wilt) Johnson.  We met the summer following my brother’s death at my first cousin’s home in Ohio.  Three of us who live in other states (my sister and I and the daughter of a cousin) were the only “out of towner’s” to attend.  Two other cousins and their scattered children were unfortunately not able to attend.  Needless to say we didn’t have a business meeting or any agenda to decide how often we wanted to “reunite”.  Several of us started the day out by caravaning to the cemetery where our grandparents and my mom’s baby sister are buried and to the cemetery where my aunt and her husband are buried.  We took dozens of pictures and ate a lot of good food.  There were eight of us “first cousins” and now that my brother is gone, there is seven.  The last time all eight of us were together was my grandparents’ 50th anniversary in 1966 at their home in Kettering, Ohio.  Since then, at least one of us haven’t been able to attend an event.

This year, as you prepare or plan for the big reunion or family event, make sure you make your list of what you want to get out of it.  Do you want to digitally record each family member sharing a story or a memory?  Do you want photos of the whole gang or just the principal family members or the patriarch/matriarch with separate families?  Do you want to share family history research?  Visit a prominent spot of your family history or ancestory?  Then how do you stay in touch the rest of the year? 

Family reunions are important.  It’s a way to connect and actually meet those who share the same ancestors.  However, what’s most important is how do we keep those connections?  We can cultivate them through frequent phone calls, individual visits, or email/snail mail.  One reason is because – someday that family photo book may belong to the individual who has felt “outcast” from the family and you may never see it again!

(Pictures: Top – My dad & his siblings minus my Uncle Bervil; Detroit 1967; Bottom – Amore Sibling Reunion at my house with most everyone in the picture).

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