Thursday, August 20, 2009

two of my great-grandparents

So much to do, so little time (okay, a cliche, but it's true. I thought that during my captive time with Echo during dialysis I could do lots of useful things, like getting back to genealogy. As it happens, that time flies by. But the other day I got to thinking about not having picture of my grandmother as a girl, and looking for names of likely relatives got me curious again. So let me introduce two relatives from a side of the family that no one that I knew was interested in: the Henry's.

This is John William Henry, not a prepossessing looking lad, I admit, on the day he was wedded to Caroline (Lena) Anderson, who was 19 years old and recently arrived from Sweden. As far as I can tell from the dates, at this time (May 20, 1886) my grandmother, Stella Mae, was already on the way. She was to be the oldest of eight, a situation she wouldn't have chosen. Please, Grandma, forgive me for telling this - in 2009 it's not a shocking thing to say.

John Henry apparently struggled to provide for his rapidly growing family; he was said to be a good woodworker, but apparently jobs like that weren't plentiful. He may have come to Illinois from Iowa to be a miner, but to my grandmother's everlasting shame, he eventually settled on bartending. At 48 he died of pneumonia, leaving Lena (and the older kids) with this unruly brood to raise.

At the time John Henry died, my grandmother had finished the required one year of teacher training at John Knox College and was the only teacher in a one-room school, dealing reluctantly with boys who were bigger than she was, tougher, and almost as old. She hated it.

No wonder that she was attracted to my grandfather, also an oldest child, who didn't get on with his father and was probably already making plans to move west. He was also tall and handsome and was known to run his horses fast. Perhaps she knew, perhaps she didn't, how much like her father my grandfather was going to be. I think that on both sides there was a long line of creative men who didn't have a way to fit into the culture they were living in, and that included both of them. My dad could have been one of them; it's been good fortune for us all that he was able to find and explore his gift for art.

By the way, for you who are Augerson-family-savvy - less than two months after John William Henry died, Elisabeth Roblee (Betty) was born. And life goes on.

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