Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .


The word “tumultuous” best describes my personal little world over these past 30 or so days. I know my family’s events pale in comparison to the tragic and horrific events precipitated mostly by mean-spirited, greedy, and angry people of our world at large. To maintain my sanity and not be overwhelmed or sickened inside by these larger tragedies I choose to focus on my biological and spiritual family and how we love and support each other through the good and sometimes challenging times.

chesapeak-beachSo, let’s start with the obvious, that is the “tumultuous” August weather along the Delmarva coast.   We experienced severe periods of record setting weather – from the very high temperatures, to threats of tornadoes and hurricanes, high winds, and unusual flooding conditions due to heavy downpours of rain in very short periods of time. Roads were closed, trees were toppled, electricity came and went, but together, we “weathered” these days.

Among the Dickinson and Boling extended family we celebrated still having five living generations – a rarity in today’s world.  And, on this rare occasion we gathered everyone available from down the east coast and across the world from among our family total of 42 members.  In fact, we celebrated five of them on a single day in August at our daughter Jen and her husband, Brian’s, beautiful and spacious new home. The birthday celebrants ages were 16, 24, 25, 48, and 89 – a broad mix of personalities and generations that range from the millennials, (16-34), to generation X (ages 35-50), to me, (the only baby boomer), and then the silent generation (ages 72-93).  From a gender split perspective, only 2 out of every 5 family members are female.  The youngest and the oldest of those being celebrated were females; three were born under the sign of Leo, the Lion (the earlier mentioned two females and one male); two of the guys birthdays fell under the Virgo sign (a father and son).  And, when all of us converged, it made for more fun times, great memories, and interesting, often amusing, conversations.

fr-worch-in-heartsOn the day of the big birthday party, we learned of the death of a very near and dear family friend, (he passed on our son’s actual birthday). Father Don pastored to our family during some challenging times in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  He was the man in our lives that most closely followed in Jesus’ footsteps and lived his life as Jesus would have wanted him to.  So now,  just four short days after spending good times with family, it was time to switch our attention and emotional gears from celebrating birthdays to attending our friend’s very large and sobering funeral in Potomac, MD.

Following the funeral, God came to me.   He said to me in but a whisper;  “I’m adding an item to your bucket list.  You are to get up on your church’s stage and publicly share my word among your biblical community.” Next, Satan tried to steal me by infusing great FEAR into me. But, God was there as He always is. He said “I am calling you to do this!” And, the next week, at the meeting of our EDGE drama ministry, it appeared that most everyone would be off doing end of summer vacations or had other business and family commitments.  The EDGE was one actor short of completing its cast for next week’s message.  So there it was, God’s plan for me once again put in place.

So, this weekend, at my age, I took to the stage for my very first time.  The experience was well worth it.  I’m told that not only am I now an “actor,” but that I should ignore all those who have told me that I can’t sing – or, that I should sing “solo,” i.e., so low no one else can hear me. – I think I might possibly return to that stage at some point in the far distant future, but I probably will forego the singing, (because I think someone fibbed to me about my singing talents).

jackson-dickinsonAnd, on the evening of my first acting experience, our family got some fantastic news. Our eldest grandson, Joe, and his lovely wife Corrie had become a family of three, with the birth of their first child, Jackson.  This means I’ll have to add a trip South to my bucket list so we can meet  face to face with our fifth great grandchild.

Although I married very young, and am no longer a spring chicken, this baby boomer’s count of grandchildren and great grandchildren has already exceeded my wildest dreams at 14!   chelsea-six-monthsAnd by thanksgiving, we’ll likely add one to this number, making it 15. That’s when our second oldest grandson, Justin, and his wife, Chelsea’s, little boy is due, making them a family of five.

And, despite my attempts to end this post on a happy note, we have just contacted the FBI to report that we have been scammed out of half of our property tax savings for this year.

BEWARE:   If you are in search of a part time job and come across an offer to be a mystery shopper for “Applied Research Masters Center,” it’s a new scam out there.  They will send you a check for $1,850 which you are to deposit in your savings account; keeping $350 as your commission.  You are then go to a store that sells iTunes Gift Cards and purchase $1,500 worth among three cards, to ready yourself for your next assignment.  Here’s the crux of the scam:  you send them photos of the newly purchased cards with the serial numbers on them and the place of purchase.  Needless to say, after the bank returned the check  to us this morning and we called iTunes, we found that the cards had already been redeemed.  We can only pray that this is where the scam ends.  My husband is at our bank now as I share this post with you. I guess this final event, puts the capital “T’s” on “tumultuous” and “tragic.”  And, a big “L” on “Lessons Learned.”

 

Thanks Charlie–One Man’s Genealogical Random Act of Kindness


This video shows the great work ethic and commitment this man has for honoring those who paved the way for the rest of us in this world.  As a genealogical enthusiast, I can relate to this man’s passion for identifying and uncovering the lost people and histories of our families. In fact, I volunteer for Findagrave.com.  When family members who do not live locally want pictures of their loved ones’ grave markers, I go to the cemeteries within my locale to find those gravesites and to create or add to a memorial page on findagrave.com for that person and his family.

Founder of Find A Grave Website

FindAGraveFounder-Jim TiptonIt was Jim Tipton, who created the Find A Grave website in 1995 because he could not find an existing site that catered to his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that there were many thousands of folks around the world who shared his interests. What began as an odd hobby became a livelihood and a passion. Building and seeing Find A Grave grow beyond his wildest expectations has been immensely satisfying for Jim. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records, thousands use the site as an educational reference tool, to locate long-lost loved ones and millions of lives are fondly remembered.

We often are disappointed when we find a headstone that is illegible due to the weather and the passing of time.  Some of us try cleaning the headstones as best we can.  However, if  we use the wrong techniques and solutions, we risk permanently damaging or destroying the grave marker further over time.

So, I’m very glad “Charlie,” made it his mission to clean each gravestone at the West Dennis Cemetery, (AKA Crowell Family Cemetery) as a tribute to those whom have passed as well as their families.  The dates of death on these gravestones range from 1809 to 1849–about 150 to 200 years old. After three years, 3-to-5 days a week, and about 800 gravestones already cleaned, Charlie probably still has another year before finishing all the grave markers in this cemetery!  Let’s hope this story triggers more volunteers at more cemeteries.

Our Ancestors’ Died From What?


Death Certificates Validate Our Lives

The primary purpose of a death certificate is to explain how or why people died. The only thing we know for sure is that people died because they were born; because they were mortal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that roughly fifty million people in the world this year will die.  This figure includes every fatality in every developed nation on earth. Yet, only about half of all deaths will be recorded with a death certificate. The other half of the world’s people will die in the poorest of places, which maintain no end-of-life documentation.

Before modern death certificates, England, in the early 16th century, had a form known as the Bill of Mortality. No earlier civilizations kept track of their people’s deaths. However, church records of baptisms and burials and recordings of these events by family members within their family bibles offer good proxies for formal records of births and deaths.

Other Vital Statistics Information

The registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history in the United States, beginning with a registration law enacted by Virginia in 1632 and a modification of this law enacted by Massachusetts in 1639. Later, when the U.S. Constitution was framed, provision was made for a decennial census but not a national vital registration system; this latter function remained with the states. To obtain national data, the decennial censuses in the latter half of the nineteenth century included questions about vital events, but the method was recognized as inefficient and the results as deficient.

Deaths Registered in Harwich, MA, for the Year 1870

The copy below of a page from the death registry of 1870 in Harwich, Barnstable County, MA, includes one of my ancestors, “Betsey Doane,” who died of “childbirth fever,” soon after giving birth.  “Childbirth fever,” is explained later in this post.

Death Records - MAAccordingly, in 1902, when the U.S. Bureau of the Census was made a permanent agency of the federal government, legislation authorized the Director of the Census Bureau to get, annually, copies of records filed in the vital statistics offices of those states and cities having adequate death registration systems and to publish data from these records. A few years earlier, the Census Bureau had issued a recommended death reporting form (the first “U.S. Standard Certificate of Death”) and requested that each independent registration area adopt it as of January 1, 1900. In 1915, the national birth-registration area was established, and by 1933 all states were registering live births and deaths with acceptable event coverage and providing the required facts to the Census Bureau for the production of national birth and death statistics.

In 1946, responsibility for collecting and publishing vital statistics at the federal level was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service, first in the National Office of Vital Statistics and later (1960) in the NCHS. In 1987, the NCHS became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lives, Deaths, And Medicine Over The Past 300 Years

For over two centuries doctors have defined people’s medical conditions like burns, asthma, epilepsy, and angina–terms still familiar to us today. However, they also used terms for other commonplace causes of death that we may not recognize today. For instance: ague (malaria), dropsy (edema), or spontaneous combustion (especially of “brandy-drinking men and women”).  Sometimes you might see Causa Mortis Incognita, which means the cause of death was not known and the doctors  wrote it in Latin and not admit in English they didn’t have a clue! Happily, many early 19th and 20th century health conditions that led to death have all but disappeared not only from doctors terminology but the diseases and illnesses themselves, thanks to dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine.

Yellow fever was the noted cause of death on the majority of 5,000+ death certificates issued in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between August 1 and November 9, 1793.  This virus, like malaria, and today’s Zika virus, was carried and transferred by mosquitoes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women died needlessly following childbirth from puerperal fever.  Unwashed hands and medical instruments introduced bacteria into women’s uterine tracts triggering this killer infection.

Before the mid-20th century, my family and I were fortunate enough to be among the first people in the United States to receive vaccines to fight smallpox, polio and measles – diseases which once killed thousands of people each year.

Prior to Sir Alexander Fleming’s, accidental discovery of Penicillin in 1929, the use of maggots to clean away dead tissue from infected wounds was commonplace.  Leeches were popular with doctors for blood-letting to “balance” the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and to bring an ill patient back into good health. Many quacks also peddled “snake oil elixirs,” as “cure-all medicines.

Below, I used my genealogy software to generate this sample report of 15 persons causes of death from various branches of my ancestral tree dating back to 1617-1944.  Aside from name, birth and death dates, it gives age at death and causes as written by physicians on their death certificates, with only one exception.  The last entry–Pocahontas’ cause of death description–comes from many historical writings about her life and death.

Causes of Death - My Family Tree Sample

 

 

You can follow and understand my ancestor’s causes of death rather easily with only a few exceptions of now archaic terms like “acute gastrointestinal auto intoxication,” “childbirth fever,” and “diphtheria,” similar to other now dated causes of death that I mentioned earlier. In today’s terminology infant “Bessie Charlotte Chambers,” died of blood poisoning; i.e., “toxemia,” a condition in which the blood has toxins produced by body cells at a local source of infection or derived from the growth of microorganisms, possibly from her milk.

Death Certificate-Bessie Charlotte ChambersDiphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children.  It is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of appetite, and fever. The most notable feature of diphtheria, is the a thick gray substance called a pseudomembrane that forms over nasal tissues, tonsils, larynx, and/or pharynx. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.

Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.

Finally, below, I have included a table many more terms that genealogists and family historians may come across in their research of family members lives.

Obsolete Medical Terms and Definitions

TERM:

DEFINITION:

AGUE

Used to describe recurring fever and chills of malaria; can mean any fever with chills

BILIOUSNESS

Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease

CHLOROSIS

Iron deficiency anemia

CHOLERA INFANTUM

Summer diarrhea of infants usually the first summer after weaning from breastfeeding

CORRUPTION

Infection

CORYZA

A cold

COSTIVENESS

Constipation

CRAMP COLIC

Appendicitis

CREEPING PARALYSIS

Tabes dorsalis (syphilis)

DENTITION

Infantile convulsions; febrile seizures; infected dental caries (cavities); mercury poisoning from teething powders

DEBILITY

“Failure to thrive” in infancy or old age or loss of appetite and weight from undiagnosed T.B. or cancer.

DROPSY

Edema (swelling), sometimes caused by kidney or heart disease.

DYSPEPSIA

Acid indigestion

ECLAMPSIA

Convulsions of any cause; later applied more specific

EXTRAVASATED BLOOD

Rupture of blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS

Epilepsy

FLUS OF HUMOUR

Circulation

FRENCH POX

Venereal disease

GALLOPING CONSUMPTION

Rapidly progressing tuberculosis

GREEN SICKNESS

Anemia

HEMORRHAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Ruptured aneurysm or swollen lymph nodes or superficial cancer with ulceration and bleeding; swollen lymph nodes from chronic infection, such as T. B., brucella, anthracis, staphylococcus, etc.

HIP GOUT

Osteomyelitis

JAIL FEVER

Typhus

KING’S EVIL

Scrofula (T.B. of lymph glands, especially of neck)

LUES VENERA

Venereal disease

LUMBAGO

Back pain

LUNG FEVER

Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS

Tuberculosis

MALIGNANT FEVER

Fever with hemolysis; malaria with hemorrhagic skin rash; meningococcal infection; putrid malignant fever; typhoid.

MANIA

Insanity

MARASMUS & DROPSY OF THE BRAIN

Hydrocephalus and wasting of the body

MILK LEG

Thrombosis in femoral vein, often after childbirth; death from pulmonary embolism or pelvic infection (usual cause for milk leg)

MORTIFICATION

Gangrene usually of the leg; trauma; infection; diabetes; aneurysm of aorta

NOSTALGIA

Homesickness

A PERIPNEUMONIA

Pneumonia plus pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura usually with fever, painful & difficult respiration, cough and fluid into the pleural cavity)

PUTRID FEVER

Diphtheria

PUTRID SORE THROAT

Gangrenous pharyngitis; tonsillitis with peritonsillar or retropharyngeal abscess.

QUINSY

Tonsillitis

REMITTING FEVER

Malaria

ROSE COLD

Hay fever incorrectly thought to be caused by rose pollen.

SANGUINEOUS CRUST

Scab

SCREWS

Rheumatism

SCROFULA

See KING’S EVIL

SHIP’S FEVER

Typhus

SOFTENING OF THE BRAIN

Dementia (Syphilitic or nonsyphilitic); cerebral hemorrhage; stroke

STOMACH TROUBLE

Complication of gastric ulcer perforation plus pancreatitis, hemorrhage, cancer.

STRANGERY

Rupture

SUMMER COMPLAINT

Diarrhea and vomiting; gastroenteritis

THROAT DISTEMPER

Tonsillitis; diphtheria

VENESECTION

Bleeding

 

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Nurse!


Yes, a nurse is what I said I wanted to be for many of my developmental years. In third grade, I checked out a lot of biographical books from my school library.  Two of them were on the lives of Clara Barton (the pioneer nurse who also founded the American Red Cross), (1821-1912) and Florence Nightingale, (a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing, (1820-1910).

Yet, throughout my youth, my parents stressed the importance of marrying and raising a family–“that’s what women are meant to do,” they said.   I’m not sure how so many parents of our baby boomer generation got caught up in such nonsense, especially since these parents were the same people who had to adapt traditional male and female roles during the Great Depression and World War II.  Or, perhaps, it was because they had so many struggles during these times that they couldn’t see the opportunities and possibilities.

Throughout history, women who were given opportunities, or made a personal commitment to advance their education shined and usually excelled at leading fully successful professional and happy family lives.  Let’s just say if I had it to do over again, I, too, would have chosen college and a career in medicine.  That’s not to say that I would have foregone marriage and children.  The world now allows us to be known for more than one fragment of our lives.  And, if the truth be told, I probably worked just as hard or harder to gain a professional status and raise a family, too, than if I first went to college and then took on family life.  Thank you to all those women who came before me to give me today’s choices.  And cheers, here, for just one them:

Susan Dimock ImageSusan Dimock (1847-1875) is a 19th Century achiever who on August 20, 1872, became the resident physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. Susan’s family came over on the Mayflower with the infamous Massachusetts’ Fuller’s and Lathrop’s and she is my cousin through these families intermarriages.  Her parents were Henry Dimock (a newspaper journalist) and Mary Malvina Owens of Washington, NC.

Susan Dimock Newspaper Article

Letter, 1868

From Susan Dimock to her mother soon after arriving in Zürich to attend medical school:

 

October 18, 1868

 

Sunday finds me safely through with last week’s Herculean labors. You know I had a hundred formalities to go through with, and with no German to speak of. Looking back upon it, I do not see how I managed it; however it is all plain sailing now, and I have nothing to do except listen to lectures, study hard, and learn German, etc. Oh, it is so nice to get here, at a word, what I have been begging for in Boston for three years. I have every medical advantage that I can desire. I told the professor of anatomy, for instance, that I wanted a great deal of dissecting; and he immediately bowed, and said so kindly, “You shall have it; I only desire you shall tell me what you prefer.” And so it is with everything. . . in every respect I have equal advantages with the young men; and then I find also the warmth and protection and feeling of interest which a young man finds in a university.

 

From Memoir of Susan Dimock, resident physician of the New England Hospital for Women and Children. (n.p., 1875.)

 

A Physician with a Mission

It was July 1872,  when Dr. Dimock returned from medical school in Europe.  She attended there because Europe was less hostile to women becoming doctors. She remained three years at the New England Hospital.  There, she handled day-to-day patient management and care while also performing surgeries.   But her best contribution in the field of medicine was to start a program  to improve patient care through improved training of their nurse caregivers. As student nurses, they worked in the wards and attended medical lectures and studied anatomy.  In between her studies and teachings Susan liked to travel.  Unfortunately, she died at age 28 on board the steamship “Schiller” that struck the Scilly Rocks in fog and sunk near the coast of Cornwall, England.

Dr. Dimock is buried in Boston’s Forest Hills Cemetery, along with a couple of her colleagues:

Pioneering activists and professionals in medicine, women’s healthcare and women’s professional education, including Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, surgeon Susan Dimock, and America’s first trained nurse, Linda Richards.

In 1996, the marble marker at her Boston grave was replaced with a more durable granite duplicate, and the original moved to her home town of Washington, NC, where it was erected as a cenotaph.

The following is an excerpt from MassMoments.org “This Day In History,” for August 20, 2016:

Well into the nineteenth century, nursing was considered undesirable and menial work, suitable only for women whose circumstances left them no better options for supporting themselves. It took Florence Nightingale many years to convince her family to allow her to study nursing. She trained in Germany before returning to London to take up her profession. Britain’s involvement in the Crimean War (1854-1856) gave her the chance to demonstrate the benefits of having nurses in military hospitals, but first she had to overcome doctors’ opposition to the presence of women in the wards. Once she did, she quickly earned the respect and gratitude of the soldiers and in time their families. After the war, contributions from a grateful public enabled Nightingale to start the first nurses training school at a London hospital.

Meanwhile, in Washington, North Carolina, a young Susan Dimock was borrowing anatomy books from the family doctor and accompanying him on his calls. The Civil War disrupted her education — the local academy she was attending closed — and her family life. Her father died, and most of the family property was lost. In 1864 17-year-old Susan and her widowed mother joined relatives in Sterling, Massachusetts. A year later, Susan took a job teaching school in Hopkinton. She spent her evenings poring over medical books recommended by Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, the founder and head physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

Zakrewska had helped to establish the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first institution in the world devoted to the care of women and children. Female doctors and surgeons directed the hospital and tended all the patients. In 1862 “Dr. Zak,” as she was known, moved to Boston and founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

In 1865 Susan Dimock finally persuaded her mother to allow her to study medicine. In January of 1866, a few months shy of her 19th birthday, she arrived at the New England Hospital as a medical student. Although Harvard, like almost every other American medical school, refused to admit women, it did allow women “under certain restrictions” to follow doctors on their rounds. This increased Susan Dimock’s determination to obtain a medical degree. She decided to go to Europe, where medical schools were more welcoming of women students than those in the U.S. In 1868,with help from her mother, Dr. Zak, and several Boston philanthropists, she began studying medicine at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

In between her studies, she traveled. She visited Florence Nightingale in London and observed her nursing education program. She spent time at Kaiserswerth, Germany, where Nightingale had been trained. She returned to Boston in the summer of 1872 eager to put her knowledge and newly acquired medical degree to use.

She accepted a three-year appointment at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, where she set out to reorganize the training program for nurses. Hospitals traditionally viewed student nurses as a source of cheap labor. They took no classes but learned on the job, by following instructions they received on the ward. After the Civil War, doctors began exercising more oversight of nurses’ training. All but a handful of American doctors were men, and they had no expectation (or wish) that nurses would make independent judgments or carry out tasks on their own.

Thanks to Florence Nightingale, however, Susan Dimock saw things differently. “No man, not even a doctor,” Nightingale once observed, “ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this – devoted and obedient. This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It will not do for a nurse.” Nightingale believed that the nurse had a special role as a health care provider and hospital administrator, and that her education should prepare her for that role. Dimock agreed with Nightingale — up to a point. She understood and was eager to lower the obstacles nurses faced to gaining knowledge, credentials, and respect; but as a doctor herself, she also understood the value of the nurse’s traditional role. Florence Nightingale saw nurses in training as students, not workers; Susan Dimock believed they could be both.

She started a one-year training program for student nurses at the New England Hospital and soon added a second year. Students began their day before sunrise and finished at 9 pm. Dimock and other women doctors lectured on a variety of topics, including nutrition, bandaging, inflammation, and surgery. A number of the graduates of the program were instrumental in helping nursing become a respectable profession, one that a middle-class woman could pursue without seeming “unwomanly.”

After Susan Dimock’s sudden death at sea in 1875, friends and admirers endowed a “free bed” for indigent patients in her name at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. Today the hospital is home to the Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury, MA.

 

The Vanishing Chesapeake Bay Islands


As a native Marylander who lives near Solomon’s Island along the Chesapeake Bay, I always have appreciated the beautiful scenery along its shorelines. It was in the 1600’s when colonists settled along it and began to record in county land records the names of hundreds of islands, some of which they would farm and call home. There was Turtle Egg Island, and Sharps Island, and Parker’s Island.

“But today, more than 400 of those islands in Maryland and Virginia cannot be found on modern navigational maps of the Bay,” wrote William Cronin in his 2005 book, Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake Bay.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Holland Island, located about a dozen miles northwest of Crisfield on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, was home to more than 360 residents and about 70 homes and stores.  It was one of over 400 Chesapeake Bay islands that now have sunk beneath the waves over the last three centuries.  These islands vanished because of rising sea levels, erosion and the natural sinking of land around the Chesapeake region.  If you are familiar with Smith and Tangier Islands (about 10 miles north of Holland Island), you may know that they are still above water, but are sinking, too. For those who deny climate change, just talk to any Smith or Tangier Islander and they will tell you how life is changing on a sinking island.

A 12-year-old, 8th grader, Grayson Middleton, for the Annual National History Day Competition in 2011, created the following impressive video documentary.  His video won $150 dollars, was publicly recognized for excellence in historic preservation, and his efforts won over my heart.  Hope you enjoy:

A Gentleman’s Calling Card – 19th Century Token of Everyday Life


A Form of Business Card

With the printing press invention of the early 1800’s, 19th century gentlemen used a form of business card to formally introduce themselves to others in a dignified style. According to The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, the acquaintance card was, “A novelty variant of the American calling card of the 1870s and 1880s,

Emily Post?

Just A Short Chat!


A Chat Over Pizza

Yesterday, my octogenarian parents and I were chatting about days past as we were sharing pizza for lunch at their kitchen table.  I began the conversation because on my drive to their house it occurred to me that we have always talked about their lives from the point that they met each other–ages 14 and 15.

Now, we have to remember that both my parents were born only a year or two before the Great Depression (1929 to 1939). Many people became homeless because they lost their jobs and couldn’t pay their rent.  I remember the stories of multiple generations of my mom’s family moving in together to avoid homelessness and to share what little they had.

Pearl Harbor PosterMy parents were 11 and 12 at the start of World War II (1939). Japan’s December 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, nullified my dad’s 13th birthday–can you imagine?  This is when the U.S. officially entered the war in the Pacific and in Europe. In fact, it was America’s war effort that jump-started its industry again and effectively ended the Great Depression. The six-year war (1939-1945), on top of the Great Depression, says to me that in the forefront of my parents memories were just hard times, hunger, and all around struggles and sacrifices.

 

 

War Rationing InstructionsI only had heard briefly about the government’s rationing program.  So I took time to look it up and discovered it was another social aspect that took over their freedoms of choice.  There was “Red Stamp” rationing that covered all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and cheese. Each person was allowed a certain amount of points weekly with expiration dates to consider. “Blue Stamp” rationing covered canned, bottled, frozen fruits and vegetables, juices and dry beans, and such processed foods as soups, baby food, and even ketchup. Ration stamps became a kind of currency and each family had its “War Ration Book.” Each stamp authorized a purchase of rationed goods in the quantity and time designated, and the book guaranteed each family its fair share of scarce goods–all,  thanks to the war.

Use It Up - Wear It OutIn addition to food rationing, there was rationing on clothing, shoes, coffee, gasoline, tires, and fuel oil. If you were fortunate enough to own a car, rationing of gas and tires depended on the distance to your job (if you fortunate enough to have a job), which meant there probably weren’t too many visits to relatives who lived elsewhere.  So, after these many years I’m starting to get the big picture, the backdrop for my parent’s lives, and have a new-found insight into how and why they lived their lives and raised us the way they did.  For example, my dad, until recently, didn’t know how to display his love.  I recognized early on, that when he bought me a gift, it was always “top of the line.”  He never refused “overtime” work, which often was feast or famine in the printing industry. We were the first family to buy a TV, and the first family to get a color TV in our neighborhood.  All of these seemingly materialistic things were everyday items in which my parents and their families could not indulge.  They never had basic security of a home to call their own, both parents together, and even more importantly, at least one of them working full time.  Neither of them graduated high school.  Both of them had to get jobs in their early teens to help themselves and their families survive.  And the families considered themselves fortunate if they owned even a radio.

So, when I asked dad yesterday, what did he do for fun as a kid, his answer shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, and it made me sad.  He said, “I don’t remember having fun as a kid.”  So I asked him what his earliest memory was, he responded; “The day my mom left us–I was five.”

And, when I asked mom about her earliest memory (and today she suffers from Alzheimer’s and has very little memory from moment to moment), she said it was the day her parents asked her and her two years’ older brother, John, to choose which parent they wanted to live with.  When they both answered, “Mom,” the couple didn’t split and worked things out.

I am so very glad that I took time out from cleaning their house and doing daily chores to spend meaningful time with them.  Mom turns 89 next week and dad will be 88 in four months.  I feel blessed!

Memories are Stitched with Love


A Different Look At Our Everyday Lives

Over the past five years and about 300 posts, Our Unbounded Heritage blog has focused on families and their histories–the people, places; the notables, historic events, and everyday moments that somehow changed our lives–and these moments in time can be said to be our memories stitched together–most often through love for one another, kinship, and other’s kindred spirits to help preserve our history.

Yet, seldom have my posts prodded and explored beneath the surfaces of our everyday lives and inventions to look back at some everyday tools and accessories that revolutionized the ways in which we are able to live our lives today.

For example, let’s just look at the clothing we wear today.  Easy as 1, 2, 3, we order online or visit a local store and choose from huge collections of items within a matter of minutes and come away with just the right outfit for just the right occasion.  Yet, scientists tell us that for thousands of years, such as, women sewed only by hand.  We don’t need to go back too many generations in our own families, to know this to be true.  In fact, scientists date the start of sewing back about 4,000 years to the beginning of the Iron Age (1200-1000BC). They also have dated needles made from animal bones back about 2,000 years.  And, it was these needles that helped early humans stitch together animal skins to protect them from the cold during the Ice Age. Again, these same scientists told us that the Ice Ages began 2.4 million years ago and lasted until 11,500 years ago.  In fact, they also dated the first thimbles back to China and the Han dynasty (206BC – 220AD). Let me just say that not being a science buff, myself, I had to take time to look up these ancient periods in history. And, as a creationist, I struggle with all the concepts within evolutionist theories.  However, that’s a post for another time–or maybe never.

The Invention of the Sewing Machine

eliashoweandhismachineBut, let’s just take the invention of the sewing machine to continue with our example of simple innovations which greatly changed the quality, quantity, and availability of our everyday clothing.  FACT:  The sewing machine is less than 200 years old!  It was Connecticut native Elias Howe who is credited with inventing the first sewing machine in 1846, followed shortly afterwards by Isaac Singer (as in the ever-famous Singer Sewing Machines).  This was only two years after Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph from Washington, DC to Baltimore, MD. And, the first sewing machine came out the same year as the Mexican-American War. Imagine–the elaborate clothing that spanned history’s periods and lifestyles and the amount of time and effort it must have taken to make fabric, thread, and patterns, and then add the time to sew such garments.

Interestingly enough, Elias Howe, also received a patent in 1851 for an ‘Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure,’–this would be today’s “zipper.” But, it was 1895 when Whitcomb Judson marketed a “clasp locker” and became known as the ‘Father of the Zip.’

100 Years of Fashion

I remain absolutely intrigued by the volumes and kinds of textiles used in women’s clothing and have never more appreciated the intricacies of the details and stitching that must have gone into making just a single outfit.  The following video looks at the various fashions (Gals vs. Guys) over the past hundred years.  It was produced by Mode.com on December 29, 2015.  The guy is a hunk, but that mustard-colored outfit has to go!

Mary Custis Lee Challenges Streetcar Segregation


Mary Custis Lee, eldest daughter of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Custis, born in Alexandria, Virginia (1835-1918), was my  2nd cousin’s [six generations removed], (Mary Tabb Bolling Lee) sister-in-law.  She never married and spent most of her life traveling the world. Mary was recorded as being the most aloof and outspoken of the Lee children and regarded as “stern” and “bossy.” It is also said that Mary enjoyed politics and often discussed them with her father, General Lee.  Mary, too, loved to travel.  So much so, that in her later years she roamed the globe almost continuously, collecting visiting cards from nobility and, in fact, was overseas when WWI began.

The article that follows by Ariel Veroske, of WETA’s local history blog, “Boundary Stones,” begs the question:  “Was Mary Custis Lee making a political statement in opposition to segregation?”

Let me also put into historical perspective that for just under 100 years, (1862 – 1962), streetcars in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, transported people across the city and region.


Mary Custis Lee in 1914, taken 12 years after her arrest. It appears she chose to travel by motor car this time. (Photo source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Mary Custis Lee in 1914, taken 12 years after her arrest. It appears she chose to travel by motor car this time. (Photo source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress) On the evening of June 13, 1902, Mary Custis Lee was arrested on an Alexandria streetcar for sitting in the section reserved for black patrons. As the daughter of Robert E. Lee, the General of the Confederate Army, the incident caused quite a stir within the community.

On her way to visit a friend, and being burdened with many large bags, Miss Lee chose to sit near the rear of the car in order to easily exit upon arriving at her destination. Shortly after she sat down the conductor Thomas Chauncey “explained the Virginia law on the subject, but being ignorant of the existence of the law herself, and also being loth [sic] to move her baggage, she protested.” At that time, Chauncey let her stay seated.[1]

At the next stop, a black man boarded the car. The conductor stated that Miss Lee “was occupying a seat to which he was entitled under the law” and asked her once again to move to the front section, which was reserved for whites. But, even after being threatened with arrest, Miss Lee refused to give up her seat.[2]

Upon exiting the streetcar a few stops later, she was met by two police officers who informed her she was under arrest. Officers Bettis and Sherwood escorted Miss Lee to the station. “In front of the police station, Miss Lee appeared calm, but was evidently concealing her embarrassment with great effort.” As other streetcar passengers and onlookers realized who she was, crowds began to form.[3]

Several “gray-haired men, many of whom had doubtless served under her father” protested against Miss Lee’s holding.[4] Confronted with the dilemma of arresting a woman of Miss Lee’s status, she was released under the condition that she appears for a court hearing the next day.

To The Evening Star, Miss Lee claimed “she knew nothing about the law requiring the separation of white and colored passengers”[5] While it sounds like a classic excuse, this is at least somewhat plausible. The local government had only recently adopted streetcar segregation laws and it is likely that many were still adjusting to the new regulations, which were not common at the time. In fact, as of 1902, Alexandria and Fairfax were the only localities within Virginia which mandated that blacks and whites sit in separate areas of streetcars. Statewide segregation on rail lines wouldn’t happen until 1906.[6]

But, is it possible that Mary Custis Lee’s actions were driven by more than just ignorance of the law? Might she have been making a political statement in opposition to segregation?

Perhaps but that might be giving her too much credit. It seems that personal convenience may have been the bigger motivation for her actions. Mary Coulling’s biography The Lee Girls, hinted that Lee was argumentative with the conductor because the segregation law disrupted her usual travel routine with her black maid.[7]

In any case, the word of Miss Lee’s arrest spread quickly and some latched onto the idea that she was taking a stand for racial integration. As one man from Alberta, Canada wrote to her, “Please accept my thanks for your human action in breaking the color line.”[8]

Others, particularly in the North, used the incident to take aim at the growing Jim Crow culture taking root in the southern states. As the Cleveland Gazette commented, Miss Lee’s arrest was “another fool exhibition of the assinine [sic] prejudice of ‘chivalrous’ southerners.”[9]

 


[1] “Sat in Negroes’ Seat: Daughter of Robert E. Lee Arrested on Electric Car.” The Washington Post, pg. 2, June 14, 1902.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Alexandria Affairs, Miss Lee’s Misunderstanding of State Law, Her Arrest Follows.” The Evening Star, June 14, 1902.

[6] “Sequel to an Episode: Soldiers of South Want Jim Crow Measure Repealed.” The Washington Post, pg. 4, June 16, 1902.

[7] Coulling, Mary P. The Lee Girls. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair Publishers, 1987.

[8] Carlson, Peter. “A Portrait in Letters.” The Washington Post,  sec. Arts & Living, July 12, 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/11/AR200707…(accessed June 13, 2013).

[9] “Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Daughter Arrested.” Cleveland Gazette, Vol. 19, Issue 46, June 21, 1902.

The Killing Spree . . . Our Ancestral Legacy


Attributing our traits to our ancestors

Some days when I look at myself in the mirror, I can see glimpses of my ancestors. My once beautifully brilliant blue eyes; I remember seeing these same eyes in my maternal grandfather, Roy (a Ford from Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina).  Unfortunately, I also get my thick midriff from either or both–my maternal grandmother, Loretta, (a Lathrop from Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania), or my paternal grandfather, Jesse (a Boling from Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania County, Virginia).  Of course, it is a natural human instinct to attribute our traits to relatives we have known or through our family’s stories about them.  But, other similarities or differences don’t flow so naturally or with ease.  When we reflect back we tend to most often focus on the ‘good times,’ the ‘good traits,’ or happen upon a history that we’d as soon forget, or,  for fear that it might repeat itself.

Let’s look back about 150 years or so to April 9, 1865 in Appomattox, Virginia:    

After four years of conflict, General Robert E. Lee (commander of the Army of Northern Virginia), surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces in Appomattox, Virginia, to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army, ending the Civil War.  (Grant in four short years would become our 18th President.)  The war bankrupted the South, left its roads, farms, and factories in ruins, and all but wiped out an entire generation of men. And this answers my family’s question about our ancient aristocratic Bolling family who had emigrated to Virginia from England, which was; “What happened to our family’s nobility–their societal standings, their wealth, and their great estates?”

As you can see from the map below, the Confederacy included 11 southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  The North (called the Union) consisted of the remaining 25 states which were located in the north.

So . . .  This means that my ancestors were on opposite sides of the American Civil War.  I had direct relatives primarily in Pennsylvania (the Chamber’s, Lathrop’s, and Westler’s) and in Virginia and North Carolina (the Boling’s, Carpenter’s, Ford’s Morris’s, and Taylors).  Within each of these union and confederates states lived both my maternal and paternal relatives–truly brothers, uncles, cousins, and even in-laws. And, ninety percent of those men volunteered to fight for what they believed or to protect their families and livelihoods from “their enemies”.

One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania regiment at Falmouth, Va., April 24, 1863, nearly annihilated at battle of Chancellorsville, created by Andrew J. Russell, Library of Congress.

One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania regiment at Falmouth, Va., April 24, 1863, nearly annihilated at the battle of Chancellorsville, created by Andrew J. Russell, Library of Congress.

1“. . .The 141st Pennsylvania Regiment was known as the Bradford Regiment.  Most of these volunteer recruits came from Bradford County, Pennsylvania and  joined the Union Army in the summer of 1862.  Company A came from Wyalusing.  It had one of the most distinguished combat records in the Army of the Potomac, serving from the battle of Fredericksburg to the surrender at Appomattox.  In just two battles alone, from May 3 to July 2 at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, the regiment shrank due to combat casualties from 419 men and officers to 58 (56 percent casualties at Chancellorsville, and 73 percent at the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg. . . .”

I found my maternal great-great grandfather, Searle P. Lathrop, of Bradford County, at age 43, on the U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations List of 1864-1865.  His brother, Edward Lathrop, died as a member of the Union’s Company E, 171st Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteer Regiment, in New Bern, North Carolina, at the age of 38, on May 30, 1863, only two months prior to his 39th birthday.

My paternal great-great-grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling served from 1861-1865 in the Confederate 30th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  They organized in Fredericksburg, Virginia, June, 1861. Men of this unit came from Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Stafford, and King George–all counties where my Boling family lived.

2It was assigned to General J.G. Walker’s and Corse’s Brigade, and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Fredericksburg. After serving with Longstreet at Suffolk, it was on detached duty in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the spring of 1864 the 30th returned to Virginia and saw action at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor. Later it endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River and ended the war at Appomattox.

The 30th Infantry regiment reported 1 killed and 4 wounded at Malvern Hill and 39 killed and 121 wounded in the Maryland Campaign. Many were lost at Five Forks and Sayler’s Creek, and on April 9, 1865, the 30th regiment surrendered with 8 officers and 82 men.

3Battle of Chancellorsville – May 1-4 1864

Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops fought Union Commander Joseph Hooker’s forces.  Together, they had 194,760 men engaged in this bloody battle (60,892 Confederate forces and 133,868 Union forces).

At its conclusion on May 6, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville became the bloodiest battle in American history. The 30,764 combined casualties eclipsed the losses suffered at well-known battles such as Shiloh (23,746), Second Manassas (22,180), Antietam (22,717), and Stones River (23,515).

By far the bloodiest day of the battle was its first (May 3, 1863), when Lee’s Confederates were forced to attack a larger, now-alerted Union foe, largely positioned in prepared defenses. The aggressive fighting at places like Salem Church produced more casualties than the entire Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run).

Chancellorsville’s title of bloodiest battle in American history would be short-lived, however. From Chancellorsville, Lee began his journey towards Gettysburg and the epic fighting to come on July 1-3, 1863. Yet, at the end of the American Civil War, Chancellorsville was still ranked as the fourth bloodiest battle of the Civil War, after Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Battle of The Wilderness –  May 5-7, 1864

My paternal great-great grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling (mentioned above), married Sarah Tapp, daughter of the now famous Catharine Dempsey “Widow Tapp,” (making Widow Tapp my 3rd great-grandmother).  Widow Tapp and her daughter Eliza “Phenie” Tapp had the misfortune of living on the land that became known as the “Wilderness Battlefield,” in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the Civil War.

There, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops went up against Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant’s troops.  Together, they had 171,920 troops (Confederate forces: 61,025  and 101,895 Union forces), in the fields of this wilderness farm.  And together, over a 3-day period they lost 25,416 men (17,666 Union and 7,750 Confederate).

Widow Tapp Farm-Phenie Tapp 1930s

Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War.  Hundreds of thousands died of disease.  Roughly 2% of our “American” population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty (more than any other war in American history).  Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million.

Civil War Resources GraphicThe official Reconstruction Era (where Union soldiers occupied the 11 southern states) covered a period of twelve years from 1865-1877. Southern states rebuilt and gradually were re-admitted to the United States (July 1866-March 1870). Virginia and Texas were the last two hold out states.  They rejoined the United States in 1870.

 

So, just how similar or different are our beliefs today based upon where we live in these United States?

Let’s take a look at today’s map below from electoral-vote.com.  Here, we’re looking at the status of electoral votes post 2016 presidential campaign conventions over these past two weeks.  Setting aside the presidential runners (which is another or several other posts that I won’t be writing), you can view our similarities or differences strictly at state levels based upon electoral votes.  When we compare my relatives who today live in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Virginia (13 electoral votes), Maryland (10 electoral votes), and North Carolina (15 electoral votes), (where my ancestors lived during the Civil War), we find that today’s generations are more alike than different and are “likely to strongly” democrat.

2016-07-31_electoral-vote

And, just how similar or different are democrats from republicans?

Comparison Chart:  Democratic vs. Republican Traits

Whether this information is comforting to all of us or not, based upon the example used, it would appear that our families have unified beliefs; that it is unlikely we would fight on opposite sides if, God forbid, the United States entered into another civil war.

However, it does seem, when compared to our ancestors of the Civil War era, that today’s generations who have more global and increased technological capabilities and therefore extended communications, may be just as uncivil to each other as those ancestors who chose to shoot at each other about 150 years ago.


1Wyalusing History Trail
2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30th_Virginia_Infantry
3Chancellorsville Civil War Stories