Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good Things

I got home from Mimi's last night around 1 a.m. It was so nice to be home and be able to fall into my own bed next to my snoring husband. :) What a sad but interesting trip that was. While cleaning out Mimi's closet we found some really cool stuff. We found a little green metal tackle box full of old letters and official documents. There was one letter dated 1906 from Big Horn County, Wyoming, from Sheriff JJ Fenton. In that classic calligraphic scrawling it detailed how my great great uncle was murdered in "a cold blooded affair" by one John "Shorty" Wheelwright, a man who was closely associated with Butch Cassidy. Another letter in the same handwriting postmarked a few months later followed and said, "This letter serves to inform you that the man who murdered your son has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary." There were also newspaper clippings and letters about one of my other great great male relatives who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Apparently I come from a long line of males in the military and public service.

Probably the most interesting thing to me that we found was Poppa's original birth certificate. Poppa was adopted as an infant in 1932 and for much of his life didn't know anything about his birth parents. A year or two before his death he started exploring and was able to obtain his original birth certificate from Fort Smith, Arkansas. His mother's name was Pansy, and his father's name was Henry. And it surprised me, I guess because I never thought about the possibility, but Poppa's name at birth was Henry L. White-- not William Allen Crum as I've known him my whole life. So that was interesting. What was even more interesting is the way the counties worded the birth certificates back then. In the race box, there was a little handwritten "w", for white. Of course there was a section for the information of both the mother and the father. Poppa's mom's address was written in and then there was a box for "Occupation". On the mom's side, it added these suggestion for filling in your occupation: "For example, homemaker, typist, nurse, etc." Instinctually I looked over at the dad's side for suggestions of proper occupations and it listed "mill worker, bookkeeper, lawyer, etc." My, they certainly clearly defined the roles didn't they? And then the zinger, the tiny little box that read, "Legitimate?" Poppa's parents were legally married so they were able to put a YES in that box. I looked at mom and said, "Thank goodness, because can you imagine going through your entire life not being a legitimate person??!" From just reading the birth certificate, it looks as though Poppa's dad split town some time prior to his birth as his whereabouts were unknown. And Pansy listed her total number of children at the time of Poppa's birth as 2. So he had a sibling out there somewhere. But he never found him or her.

So those were just a few of the interesting things I'd never heard about my family and my grandparents. We also found some great photo albums packed with pictures of unfamiliar people dressed in prairie clothes who have probably been dead nearly a hundred years now. It was really cool to see. I made sure mom was taking those photo albums home. I said, "We don't know them, but they're our people!"

It was a very, very exhausting and draining 3 days but I wouldn't trade them for anything. I'm glad Mimi's not in any pain anymore. And I'm glad I know a little bit more about where I come from now. Good stuff!