Category Archives: United States

Disturbing. Secluding misbehaving grade-schoolers? Reminds me of prisons like Gitmo.


No doubt I would have been locked away for awhile if my my elementary schools had these. Kids are rambunctious. It’s normal.

I want to know what behavior is considered aggressive, because I’ve met people who accused me of such for vociferously complaining about asinine policies and incompetent bureaucrats.

Thankfully, I am not the only thinking this policy needs review. Some parents and the paper’s staff have questions.



Every year, a journey through Iowa, each time different.


Every year Iowa hosts a cycling event called RAGBRAI, which crisscrosses the state. The route changes every year. This year it’s passing through a few towns and counties with personal significance to me.

Shenandoah is one such place. It’s a town in southwestern Iowa where my great-great grandfather lived. It’s where my great grandparents, George Hay and Geneva Darling, married in 1913.

My great-great uncle lived and worked there, as a reporter for the local paper, before shipping out for Camp Dodge, New York, and then Europe to fight in the First World War. Sadly, he was mowed down by German machine gun fire in July of 1918 while on the Western Front in France, where his remains have been ever since.

A few hundred miles later, to the east of Shenandoah — two hundred and twenty-five to be precise — the route passes through Washington County and the county seat also named Washington. This is where the Darling clan lived for many years, starting in 1853 or so, when Ezra Darling came from New York looking for farmland and opportunity.

Maybe one of these days I will do at least part of the route. I will definitely need to train a bit. Perhaps an electric bike would help. Would that be acceptable? I know nothing about the rules.

That’s an idea! Doing genealogy throughout the country, maybe even the world, by BIKE! Sounds like too much work though.


Blessed Are The Dead

Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord

Hear what the voice from Heaven proclaims
For all the pious dead.
Great is the savour of their names
And soft their sleeping-Bed
They die in Jesus and are Blessed
How kind their slumbers are
From suffring’s and from sins released
And freed from every share.
For from this world of toil and strife
They’re present with the Lord
The labours of their pious life
End in a large reward.

— from the gravestone of my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents

‘A devoted husband, a kind father, & a true friend’

130510344_1448998595 (1)Today while connecting up relatives on Find A Grave, I discovered a copy of my great grandfather‘s obituary. It’s probably from the Lake Preston Times, the paper serving the community where he lived and farmed. His son Everett, my great uncle, is still living, going strong at age 100. He looks just like him.

Unfortunately, his father George, as Everett explained to me a few years ago, had taken up a bad habit, passed on by his father Frank: chewing tobacco. Of course, today there are warning labels and such. But back then who knows how much they knew about the terrible consequences of tobacco. Sadly, the habit caught up with George Hay in 1941. It had taken his father Frank prematurely, too, in 1903.

In 1939, Everett had moved west, to Seattle. He was chasing after a girl, Grace, whose family had moved to Oregon. They were married the same year his father died. One day he got a call from his older sister Lois. She explained how sick there father was. So Everett packed up and returned home, taking over the family farm after his father had passed.

The move west would have to wait.


‘So That Future Generations Never Forget’


It’s great to see this on the front page of the hometown paper. Two Pearl Harbor survivors.

“I am so impressed to this very day with the bravery and cooperation among the guys during the attack. There isn’t an American who wouldn’t be proud of what we did that day.”

But it’s not just a day to remember and honor our veterans. It’s also a stark reminder to be prepared, to be ever vigilant.

“We really dropped the ball, and it’s bothered me ever since. It should not have happened.”

Let’s take note of that, in this era of suicide bombers and terrorists.


A Snapshot of Warren Hay’s Farm in 1860


Warren Hay, my great-great-great grandfather, was born into a family of farmers. He had a farm in Hanover Township, Ashland County, Ohio. On August 20th, 1860 the federal government conducted an agriculture survey of the area.

Warren had 44 acres of land, 34 that had been “improved,” and ten that hadn’t. The cash value of the farm was $1200, and he had equipment worth $300.

He had five horses, three milch cows, three cattle, forty-two sheep, ten pigs, with the total value of the livestock amounting to $450. He had one hundred bushels of Indian corn, fifty bushels of oats, and sixty lbs. of wool.

Sadly, Warren died four years later, in 1864 at the age of 42.


Seventy Five Years Ago

A man tries to escape from a soon-to-be collapsing Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
A man tries to escape from a soon-to-be collapsing Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Seventy five years ago today — November 7th, 1940 — the Tacoma Narrows Bridge began swaying in the wind, eventually violently so. The concrete and steel couldn’t withstand the wild contorting, soon collapsing into the waters of Puget Sound below.

A film of Galloping Gertie, as the bridge came to be known, was made. One day while browsing the shelves at the school library I discovered a copy of it and soon grew fascinated by it. I was young and watched it again and again. It’s still captivating.

And I have an even more personal connection to the story. Until yesterday, I hadn’t thought about it. My great uncle, who celebrated his 100th birthday in July, was living in Seattle at the time. He had arrived with friends from South Dakota in 1939. He was following his girlfriend’s family, who had moved to Oregon. One of his sons and his family have called Tacoma home for many years. They still live there.


The Conners — Always On The Move

John W. Conner, uncle and namesake of my great-great grandfather, John W. ‘Pap’ Conner, poses with his wife Catherine Sheets and their dog.
John W. Conner, uncle and namesake of my great-great grandfather, John W. ‘Pap’ Conner, poses with his wife Catherine Sheets and the family dog.

The father of my great-great grandfather, John ‘Pap’ Conner, was born in May of 1819 in Virginia, probably in Augusta County. That’s according to multiple sources, including the 1900 census, on which the census man had mistakenly recorded John’s father name as John Senior. For years I thought his name was John Conner, Sr. But it was a mistake. Whether the census man had poor hearing or Grandpa Conner had dementia, we will probably never know the circumstances behind the story.

For years I’d been wondering why I could never find any trace of the family. I was looking for a patriarch with the wrong name. I developed all sorts of theories. Was it because they were hillbillies who shunned society, including the census man? Did they harass him? Did they scare him away, perhaps taking a shot or two at him, refusing to cooperate with the federal census? Or was it because they were a bunch of illiterates?

Well, none of these theories proved correct. They may have been illiterate hicks, but there was no avoiding the census man. They were there all along, recorded with just about everyone else.

I include these details not to denigrate the Conner clan, but to record what their lives were like. Not being able to read and write I’m sure was a huge burden.

The clue that broke through the brick wall was finding information from Pap Conner’s death certificate, which I was about to order from the vital records folks in Iowa, and which I may do anyway to confirm what I’ve learned. Someone had transcribed details from Polk County death certificates, including maiden names of the mother’s of the deceased. And, lucky for me, this included John Conner’s mother. Her maiden name was Reed.

A cursory search of Ancestry and other genealogical databases brought up only one couple with the names Conner and Reed, and they fit perfectly into the time frame. And they had a son named John who was born in Ohio in 1846. A perfect fit, besides of course, the name confusion from the 1900 census.

This was enough to convince me that James Conner and Nancy Reed were John ‘Pap’ Conner’s ma and pa. A few days after this terrific discovery I tried tracking them through the census. It took a little effort because they seemed to always be on the move.

In 1850, James and the family were living in Trenton Township, Delaware County, Ohio. This is probably where John was born in August of 1846. A decade later, in 1860, they had moved further west to La Harpe Township, Hancock County, Illinois. They continued pushing west. In 1870, the family was recorded living in Jackson Township, Andrew County, Missouri. Ten years later, in 1880, the Conners were still in Missouri, in Polk Township, Nodaway County, minus son John, who was living in Iowa.

By 1900, John Conner had been in Iowa for at least 25 years. He had married Ellen Lint there in 1875. James was still alive, living with John and his family on a farm in Washington Township, Polk County, Iowa. Of course, the census man recorded his name as John Senior, resulting in years of futile searching on my part. Now, however, the puzzle has been solved.