Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Bible of Catharine Nickeson

When I bought this Bible from an historical society years and years ago, I assumed it was probably not the Bible of my ancestor Catharine Nickeson Smith, but I thought I’d take a chance.  It was from 1860, about the right time frame, but sure enough, it wasn’t hers.  But there was something about it that immediately drew me to an obsession to know who this Catharine Nickeson was.
This book was not a display piece, or a table-top book.  The old, worn brown Bible had obviously seen a lot of use in the 150 years since Catharine obtained it.  While the spine was strong, the pages were delicate, and the handwriting faded.  A poem or verse of some sort was written in pencil, only partially readable, but in dark pen was written “Catharine Nickeson’s Book, April 14, 1860”. 

Thumbing through it, I discovered several pages with old, dried leaves between them, some very intricate and unusual looking, like no plant I had seen before, all nestled in their hiding places.  But there, on the unprinted pages between the Old Testament and the New Testament was, in many different pens, over many different years, names and dates, births and deaths of those whom Catharine had held dear.  Her children, their spouses, her grandchildren – all the events of their lives had taken on immortality between the pages of Catharine’s Book.  Seeing her handwriting, shakier as the years went on, I could almost feel the pain as she recorded the births, and then deaths, of several of her children, some young, some older.  It was as if all of the emotion at these events had been locked within the fragile pages of her dear book.
I set about the work of getting to know Catharine Nickeson.  As her Bible told me, she was born April 2, 1833, and her husband, Lambert, or “Lam” as she referred to him, was born November 20, 1821.  They lived in Washington county, Maryland, and in 1850, their household was as follows:
Lambert “Nichoson”, 26, laborer
    Catharine, 28
    Mary E., 7
    Margaret A., 5
    Susan H., 2
    James A., 6/12
    Nancy Daynatt, 18 (Catharine later named one of her daughters Nancy – is this perhaps her sister?)
In 1880, I found them again, in Clear Spring, of Washington county:
Lambert NICKERSON, 58, Farm Laborer
     Catharine, Wife, 58
     Nancy, Daughter, 21
     Mattie, Daughter,  12
And I found them again, for the final time, in 1900, also in Clear Spring:
Clear Spring, Washington, Maryland, Image 28/42
Nickison, Lambert, 78
     Catherine, wife, 78
Interestingly, this last census notes that neither Lambert nor Catherine can read or write.  Error?  Or is there more to the story?
The birth and death entries in the Bible are -
Isaih Denton Hull was born October 4, 1869 
George Lewis Hughs 1847 was born January the 7
Elizabeth Nickeson was born June 28, 1854
Nancy Nickeson June 11, 1858
Rebecca Nickeson born April 13, 1861
Infant daughter of Lam and Catherine Nickeson born May 4, 1865
Rebecca Mills departed this life February 24, 1876
Lizzie Kelley baby was born September the 25 1890
Catherine Nickeson born April 2, 1822
Lambert Nickeson born November 20, 1821
Roseanna Hughs was born January the 27 1851
Elizabeth Host departed this life April the 14 1847
Roseanna Hughs departed this life January 20 1873
Marget Annie Kelley departed this life September the 18 1892
William Kelley was born July 16 17 A.D. 1878
Annie Rebecca Kelley was born March 15th A.D. 1880
Annie Rebecca Kelley departed this life March 20th 1880
Effie Kelley was born September the 5 188(6?)
Bessie May Kelley was born October the 10 188(5?)
I’m still trying to sort everyone out, but what I’d like to know most is what happened to Lam and Catharine?  I have been trying to find obituaries for them, and hopefully will be able to learn more about them and their lives.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Strawberry Blanket

Sharing a Slice of Life
There are no finer memories than spending the night at Grandma’s house.  She had things we didn’t at home… like trundle beds!  And when she pulled out the bottom bed, she always pulled the Strawberry Blanket out of the back of the closet as well.
strawberry2 I loved that Strawberry Blanket for as long as I remember.  There was nothing particularly special about it, at that time, except that it had strawberries on it and I loved strawberries.  Now, of course, it also has all the memories associated with it, particularly being tucked in so warm and safe by the most wonderful Grandma that God ever created.

When my mom cleaned out Grandma and Grandpa’s house after their passing, she gifted me with the Strawberry Blanket – which by then had become the Strawberry Blankets.  For some unknown reason, Grandma had cut it into two, and whatever backing the blanket used to have was gone.  So I bought some fabric and put backs on each of them.  They spend most of their time in the back of MY closet now, but it’s surprising how comforting these blankets still are, like a hug from far, far away.  I think it’s time to move them to the front of the closet, and get them ready for the next generation of kids who need a warm, snuggly hug.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Adventures in Iowa

Finally, the long-awaited Road Trip.  Even though it was just a day trip, it felt so good to get out of town and go tromping through the cemeteries. 
The first stop was Spring Valley, in southern Minnesota, looking for a needle in a haystack, essentially.  We walked the entire cemetery looking for the resting place of one particular ancestor, which we did not find.  We’re back to Square One with him, but we did come upon this -

which was a tree trunk.  The top had the look of polished stone, but it wasn’t.  There appeared to be a very thick clear coating on the top of the trunk, with the lettering within the layers -
This unusual marker belonged to Cora N. May, 1870 – 1895, and was probably the neatest headstone I’ve ever seen.
We resumed the trip to Plainfield, Iowa, hot and tired, stomachs growling, ready for lunch.  We passed by numerous restaurants, even a Dairy Queen (oh my, did a Blizzard sound good then!), but we decided to eat at New Hampton, Iowa, instead.  While not a huge town, it seemed, on the map, big enough to have a restaurant or two.  After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at New Hampton, and started looking for the business district, and the restaurants.   We drove forever looking for some place to eat, and finally concluded that there were no restaurants in New Hampton.  We decided on a gas station/convenience store, just to hold off The Hungries until we could find a restaurant.  Halfway through the store, one of my well-worn black tennies fell apart – the sole just fell off, almost all the way, as I walked.  It would have been better, at least in the short-run, if it had just come off all the way, but no - I was forced to lift my foot high off the ground with each step, to keep from doing a face-plant, as I made my way toward the checkout, other patrons looking at me with a mixture of confusion and pity.  I paid for the pathetic piece of ham pizza, which had no doubt been under the heat lamp since the day before, and high-stepped out to the car.  I was never so glad to leave anyplace as I was then!
shoeWe got back on the road, and very shortly thereafter, passed another exit to New Hampton.  As I choked down the last bite of my Rubber Pizza, I looked at the assortment of eating establishments we were passing, and wondered if we should turn around and go back home…
Rather than high-step my way through the next cemetery, we found a convenience store along the way that carried heavy-duty tape, so I was able to put my shoe, and my dignity, back together.
I was glad we had not turned around and gone back home.  The cemetery at Plainfield, Iowa, was worth the trip.  I not only found the stones I was looking for, but a number of others that I did not know existed.  Once we got home, I went about the work of “connecting the dots” with all of the burials we’d found.  The Rotten Luck Fairy, who had plagued the first part of the trip, had one more surprise for me to end the day – the discovery that there was another whole branch of the family buried a less than 5 miles down the road from Plainfield!  Oh well… another trip…