Sunday, November 29, 2015

Low Man on the Totem Pole

Before I begin my "serious" posting, I wanted to share some not-so-serious thoughts.  Over the last seventeen months, we have read thousands of names.  The majority are very common: William, Jane, Mary, John, Richard.  But we have found some beautiful and unusual names also.  We were surprised at how many times the name Cynthia was used 150 years ago.  To add a little humor to our work, we sometimes have fun with names.  For example, we saw the name of Visa.  It's a beautiful name.  What if she married Mr. Card?  Another example, Mr. Bopp was a local merchant in Terre Haute.  Perhaps he would name his daughter Beatrice, or Bea for short. Another surprisingly common name was Cinderella, maybe a version of Cynthia.  Would she have enough love to marry Mr. Ball or Mr. Prince?  This has been a fun exercise to help break up the tedious work.

Celebrating when we finished capturing Box 300

And now on to more substantial thoughts.  "Totem poles serve as important illustrations of family lineage and the cultural heritage of native peoples... [and] symbolize characters and events of a myth or relate the experiences of known ancestors or living people."  (Wikipedia) One of the tallest totem poles is over 173 feet high.  The largest has been measured over 6 feet in diameter.  I am fascinated by totem poles.  They could possibly have a place in family history research.

The entrance to the Vigo County Historical Museum

The vertical order of images on a pole is thought to be significant.  If an image or depiction is on the bottom, or "low man on the totem pole," it gives the impression that the higher figures were more important or prestigious.  The higher, the better, I guess.  But on the other hand, some of the totems are arranged in reverse hierarchy with the most important representations on the bottom.  As in art, an eye level view focuses on what or who is most significant.

Resting place of Chauncey Rose.

In past blogs we have introduced you to some very prominent men in the early history of Vigo County: Levi Warren, Josephus Collett, and Chauncey Rose.  In some views, their stories would be carved on the top of the totem pole.  While their contributions are interesting and noteworthy, there are hundreds of ordinary people on the lower tier of the pole who deserve honor and remembrance.

About a month ago we captured a two sided document that tugged at our heart.  It was a request to the Circuit Court from parents for reimbursement of living expenses for their young adopted daughter.   Here's what the application states:

Sir: We respectfully ask you to make us an allowance for the support and maintenance of your said Ward.  She is now past 6 years old.  Her mother who was a young girl, came to Terre Haute and the child was born here and the mother died within 24 hours after the birth of the child.  Mrs. Donaway saw the mother just before the birth and the mother made her promise to take the child and care for it if she died, and she agreed to do so.  The mother was never conscious after the birth and Mrs. Donaway took the child home and took care of it as her own.  It was a beautiful girl baby.  When about 3 years of age we applied to the Circuit Court and had the child duly adopted and have ever since loved it and cared of it as a favorite daughter, having no other children...  Benjamin Donaway and Lottie J Donaway.

We are grateful for temples that bring families together.

Our purpose as FamilySearch missionaries is to get these kind of documents into the hands of a great grandson or niece to do additional research.  Who was the young mother, perhaps only 14 or 15 years old herself?  Why did she come to Terre Haute?  What was her name?  Who was the father?  Where was she buried? This young mother deserves to be remembered.  Benjamin and Lottie have a story to tell as well.  They all need a place on the totem pole.  

If I could carve my ancestry back several generations on a totem pole, what would I say about my legacy? 

Sarah Ann Andrews Arave

Sarah Ann Andrews Arave was born in 1869.  In her personal history, people recall her "enchanting singing voice...she was called upon to sing at nearly every dance.  She knew many songs and enjoyed singing, whether it was a tune at Muncy's or a lullaby to one of her children."

Elva Aroline Arave Bennett

My grandmother, Elva Aroline Arave Bennett was born in 1901.  I remember sitting by her in church most Sundays and wanting to sing alto harmony like her.  Some of my best memories are accompanying her and my grandfather as they sang duets together.

Zelma May Bennett Singleton

My mother, Zelma May Bennett Singleton was born in 1922.  It was on her insistence that each of her daughters learn to play the piano.  I can still hear her voice as she would sing "Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey" while toting a baby on her knee.

My totem pole.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has said: "In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man's skin, -- seven or eight ancestors at least, and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is."

What's carved on your totem pole?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Indiana Sunsets

The sunsets have been beautiful these last few weeks.  Time of year?  Typical of Indiana?  Or could it be that I'm taking more time to notice?

The Lord's Palette of Color taken last week from our back door.

I am feeling a little nostalgic, and the sunsets have taken on a larger, symbolic meaning for me.  This will be my last blog post from Indiana.  Now, don't think I'm getting "trunky" or anything.  I'm committed to working hard right through Dec. 18th, our official release date.  You'll still get a post from Ann in 3 weeks, and I'll close off this chapter of our lives with a final post from Utah on Dec. 20th.  But we are starting to notice a few "this is the last time we'll . . ." events.

Our first visit to an Indiana franchise--a good casual dinning experience

Working with probate records all day, we are very aware of another kind of sunset.  We preserve documents that deal with death--illness, accidents, old age, war, even some murders.  Not many had wills or planned ahead.  The sad ones left children as orphans or widows with less than $500 in the estate (not requiring a probate hearing).  I'm realizing I'm in those "twilight years" as I start to notice a few more aches, pains, and memory slips.  How prepared am I for my sunset?  One thing I am very sure of--there is a literal resurrection for all of us.  That final sunset will be immediately followed by an eternal Day.  My faith in that has been strengthened by our missionary service, feeling God's hand in our efforts to build his Kingdom.

The Collett monument at Highland Lawn Cemetery

This week we imaged a huge packet of documents for Josephus Collett.  Born in 1832, his sunset came in 1893, a sunset of vibrant and diverse hues.  Although he never married, he left quite a legacy.  We saw documents dealing with property and business dealings all over the country (even mining and railroad holdings in Utah).

A sunny afternoon at the park on our way home from church

I was impressed, though, that the bulk of his estate went to major endowments to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he served as the second president, and to the establishment of an orphanage on the Collett family farm.  In 1883 he gave 21 shaded acres to Terre Haute to establish Collett Park.  The LDS chapel is just two blocks south of this beautiful park.

I played in a band concert in Collett Park last month.

Being in the "sunset" of our mission here in Indiana I have reflected on what impact our time here might have made.  Crunching the numbers is enlightening:

  • We've captured over 875,000 images--that's a lot of camera-clicking!  Those that we did during our first 7 months in Montgomery County are already online at FamilySearch, and the Vigo County images will soon follow.
  • Those are documents for over 9,500 separate individuals.  Think of the many descendants of those early Hoosiers who can get better acquainted with their ancestors now--not only their vital statistics, but day-to-day details of what they owned, and with whom they did business.
  • Since February, when we started here in Terre Haute we have been supported by 74 volunteers, some of them coming faithfully every week.  That has totaled nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer time by community folks from the local genealogy society and by members of the two local wards of The LDS Church.

Br. John Lunceford--our most faithful volunteer

Numbers are also an indication of the impact Indiana has had on us:
  • We have worked in 2 different counties, feeling supported and appreciated by the county employees and officials.  
  • We have attended 3 different wards, getting to know and love so many faithful Saints.  They've taught us the gospel, shared in our mission, fed us, and allowed us to serve them.
  • We've lived in 3 different neighborhoods, growing attached to streets, surroundings, stores, and good neighbors.  Indiana is a beautiful state, full of kind, religious people.
  • We've worshiped in 4 different temples--north to Chicago, west to St. Louis, south to Louisville, and now just an hour east to Indianapolis.  In each temple we've felt the sacredness of the House of the Lord, and have grown to love the officiators, many of them remembering us from one month to the next.  
  • Our 2 "additional" callings, leading the Addiction Recovery Program and providing services at the federal penitentiary, have given us the rare opportunity to feel love for all of God's children, the deep love that comes from Christ himself through us to those we serve.

The new Indianapolis Temple at sunset

We're planning a little "thank you" gift to Indiana, a gift of music.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Ann and I will be presenting an evening of music, Saturday, Nov. 28, at "sunset" (7:00 pm) here in Terre Haute at the LDS chapel, 1845 North 6th 1/2 Street.  It will be a family-friendly program of horn and piano music--a little classical (not too heavy), some religious songs, and ending with some Christmas music to start the holiday season.  In true Hoosier style, we'll have a "pitch-in" (potluck to us Utahns) of refreshments afterward.

Silver and gold have we none; but such as we have give we thee

Indiana Sunsets--no matter how you look at them, literally or symbolically, they are colorful, unique, aesthetically rewarding, and spiritually uplifting.  Thank you, Indiana.

Looking forward to enjoying a few more Indiana sunsets,
this one was at Fowler Park just 10 minutes south of us.