The Children’s Blizzard, a book by a man named David Laskin, is “the gripping story of an epic prairie snowstorm that killed hundreds of newly arrived settlers and cast a shadow on the promise of the American frontier.”
My mother’s grandparents had arrived the year before, in 1887, from Germany with two of their children, Emil and Otillie, who was named after an aunt. What happened to these two no one knows. I’ve been looking and looking for years.
Obviously, death must have taken them away, since besides the immigration paperwork, they are never mentioned again. Did they get caught up in the blizzard like so many others? I will keep hunting for details. They deserve to be remembered and their stories told.
By the Numbers
Six bushels of Irish potatoes. Are Russet potatoes Irish potatoes? That’s what I am assuming.
Two hundred pounds of butter! He and Caroline, who I am sure did most, if not all of the churning, had 200 lbs. of butter on hand?!
Ten tons of hay. That’s a lotta hay. And their granddaughter Geneva, my great grandmother, would go on to marry a man named Hay.
Forty gallons of molasses. What’s that for, cooking & baking?
Eight pounds of beeswax. Candles? Soap?
Ezra had 180 acres of land, 40 of which were deemed “improved” and 140 considered “unimproved.” What these mean beyond the basic, fundamental understandings I don’t know. The cash value of the farm was recorded as $1440.
One working ox. Or given that it reads oxen, is that two?
And one “other cattle.” What’s the purpose of this one? Why a separate listing?
Twelve pigs. Or swine. Man, how I love bacon.
The value of the livestock was listed at $238.
There were 60 bushels of wheat and 300 bushels of Indian corn on hand.
It’s quite the list. Everything was tabulated on June 12, 1860 on his farm in Lime Creek Township, Washington County, Iowa.
There is a precipitous decline in these numbers on the 1870 ag census. Why? It is unclear. But did Ezra focus on other endeavors, such as the post office?
I am trying to decipher my great-great-great grandfather’s probate files. He died unexpectedly after an accident with his horses and his wagon in 1878. The man’s handwriting is terrible. He may have been a copyist. This looks like a transcribed copy from the original, which may have been in rough shape.
The site where Abraham Lincoln’s parents, Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, lived during the 1840s is planning a celebration of his birthday. They lived near some of my ancestors, the Parkers and the Goodells.
I learned something, a historical sidenote, that I did not know.
“The original cabin was disassembled and shipped to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and was never seen again.”
Why would anyone dismantle and send the cabin to Chicago? Why not just make a replica?
I am convinced that some of my relatives knew Thomas and Sarah and possibly Abraham as well, when he was working as congressman and then a lawyer in Illinois.
And another strange fact is that a great-great grandfather and his family lived in Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition.
So don’t forget, everyone is a witness to history— you, me, every single one of us.
It took awhile, quite a bit of tweaking and playing about using software such as GIMP and Inkscape, but I have finally got the photo of grandpa to a point where I can blow it up, easily copy it by hand. So now I have to determine how I am going to use it. I am thinking about an etching or engraving. We will see. I will start playing around. The lack of contrast in his face presented numerous problems.
I just learned that the town in Germany where my great-great grandparents married in 1880 did indeed have a synagogue, which was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, when the Nazis encouraged people to target the Jews after the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris. I am hoping to learn some of the names of these people, the Jews of Bütow.
One of ’em is Nancy Reed Conner,
my great-great-great grandmother
Finally, I can see Grandma Conner’s grave with my own eyes, thanks to a volunteer at Find A Grave, who snapped a pic for me today. Volunteers are terrific, aren’t they?
I was afraid the marker might be damaged or missing. Unfortunately, the roots of a nearby tree have been displacing the base of the gravestone for quite some time so that it is leaning pronouncedly.
Nancy Conner is buried in Maryville, a town in northwest Missouri not far from the borders with Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
For years I didn’t know her name. I didn’t know much about her. But thankfully her son’s death certificate recorded her maiden name, Reed, which helped to piece together the family tree.
She was born in Ohio, though precisely where hasn’t been pinned down. She married James Conner in Delaware County, Ohio, where their son John W. Conner was born in 1846.
Because James was illiterate, I don’t know how he would have preferred the spelling of his surname or even if he cared. My guess is that he didn’t.
Illiteracy and a certain back-country, hill-billy backwardness may help to explain why the name is spelled Connor on Nancy’s gravestone. Granddad passed on stories to my father about how odd the Conners were.
To me, it makes them wonderfully colorful characters. I can’t imagine what it’s like not to be able to read and write. I think it would drive me nuts.
Now if we could only figure out where her husband James is buried. I hope he is resting in a marked grave somewhere. I’d love to know what happened to him.
He lived until at least 1900, when he is recorded living with his son John W. in Washington Township, Polk County, Iowa. He was born in May of 1819, so he would have been eighty-one years old. I can’t find him after that, so I am assuming he died sometime during that decade, 1900 to 1910. But where?
Where did he end up? Did he stay with John and Ellen until his death? If so, then where the heck is buried?
A corporate food producer plans on building a big egg farm near Lake Preston, South Dakota, hometown of my grandmother and great grandparents. The place will house three million cage-free egg-laying hens. It sounds like it will be quite the operation.
I visited my great grandparents farmstead a few years back, during a family reunion. It was fun. I was there with my nephews and lots o’ cousins.
I don’t have many memories of the place, though cousins have told me that we did visit the homestead as kids. I do recall my great grandmother’s funeral, which must have been at the now-shuttered Methodist church in town. My younger brother was crying, having been scared by seeing her laying in an open casket.
There’s a museum in town with items related to the family, including a lot of her father’s items from his dentistry practice.
I spent quite a bit of time in South Dakota that summer and just scratched the surface doing research on the family. In Watertown, my mom’s hometown, I pored through microfilm of old newspapers for a few days and only got through a year or two.
I also learned that I had lived there for the first two years of my life, which I didn’t realize, as I was born in Iowa. I really need to get back there to explore some more. Maybe I should just pick up and go for a bit this summer.