My father’s mother’s grandmother was Mary Katherine Bryant. She was born September 12, 1869 in Washington County, Kentucky, the fifth of twelve children. She married Ulysses Grant Bryant, February 15, 1885, in Washington County. They subsequently moved to Piqua, Ohio in Miami County, where I was eventually born four generations later.
Mary Katherine’s granddaughter, my great aunt Agnes Wirrig, said her grandmother was illiterate, and that she used a lot of country terms and “Kentucky twang.” Aunt Agnes said, “I’d go to the house and she’d say things that I didn’t understand at all. If she’d want me to get out of the way, she’d say, ‘Tik ere’ (for ‘take care,’ or ‘get out of the way’).” Agnes also said that her grandmother had an old-fashioned way of doing things, and she was a hard worker, but she never seemed to be an overburdened person.
Mary Katherine took her great-grandson, my father, fishing one time. He remembers that they didn’t catch anything, but someone there gave them three large carp. He said that she cleaned them and evidently cooked them, although I think as an adult he didn’t consider carp particularly appetizing. He was about 10 years old at the time. Mary Katherine Martin outlived her husband. She lost the property their home was on after he died because, although I don’t completely understand it, according to my great-uncle Ben they were on old-age pension. She spent her last years going from one of her children’s homes to the next to stay for a while until she died at the age of 78.
The story of needlework in my family, from my father’s side, undoubtedly goes back well beyond the days of Mary Katherine Martin Bryant, but she is the oldest link that I have specific information on through the memories of my father who was about 14 years old when she died, and my great aunt and uncles. She certainly must have taught her daughters how to sew.
I have never seen anything that she might have made.
When I was in college the second time, this time earning an English degree, I took a concentration of Women’s Studies classes. This is the first in a multi-part series from a project I wrote while taking a Women’s Studies/English class called “Reading between the stitches.” You can find other series I’ve written, or am writing, about on my “Series” tab above.
THE STITCHES WE LEAVE BEHIND
By Christine Grote – February 20, 2006
I have humble roots. Many of my ancestors were farmers, with a few craftsmen and women thrown in. Although a few of my ancestors came to this country in the mid-1800s with the great German migration, many of them had been in this country since pioneering days. Much of the needlework the women in my family did reflects a simple, utilitarian purpose, typical of the pioneering mindset, as opposed to elaborate and fancy quilts and needlework.
From a genealogical perspective, women in families are difficult to trace, but logic tells us that if there was a male ancestor here in this country, he had a female mate, although she may be unknown to me. When I think about my women ancestors, I realize I may never know much about them, but I may have a connection to them even so.
I know how to do many kinds of needlework. I sew, embroider, knit, and crochet. Without exception, I learned these crafts from a female member of my family. My mother taught me most, but my grandmother on my father’s side of the family taught me a few things as well. Reason stands to offer that the women who taught me were likely taught by their mothers and/or grandmothers. This passing down of a talent or craft probably occurred from early times. My needlework abilities have come to me through a curious, unidentifiable, circuitous path through the women in my family for generations. It is my connection to them.
Cory Lemmon wasn’t entirely named after his father, Cory Oscar Lemmon.
“When they had me,” Cory said, “well, the old man said he wanted me to be named after him. My mother said, ‘I’ll never do it.’
“He said, ‘I want him to be named after me,’ and he just really bellered on and she said, ‘All right. But the name’s Cory Lemmon and nothin’ else.’
“He said, ‘Well, how ’bout the middle name?’
“‘No middle name. Cory Lemmon and nothin’ else.'”
“He drank and ran around with other women,” Cory said. Other people thought he was the “best guy that ever lived, but he’d go out and get drunk and his mind would just go. I can remember another thing when I was real small. Dad came home one night, drunk, and had a buggy whip, that would sting and cut. He was gonna whip us all. My brother Freeman was big enough; he run up and grabbed him and took it away from him, and run. He knew the old man couldn’t catch him.”
Cory’s mother, Mary Etta Conner, met Cory Oscar somewhere in Ohio near Perrysville, north of Columbus and just a little east of Mansfield. When she was young, Mary Etta’s family lived in a one-room log cabin. There was a ladder to a loft upstairs and that’s where she slept. It was cold up there and sometimes she’d wake in the morning and there would be snow on her bed that had drifted in through the cracks as she slept.
Mary Etta only went to school until the third grade. Times were hard and I suspect she was needed at home. She met and married Cory Oscar Lemmon in 1896 when she was 16 years old. He was 28. “In those days, it wasn’t too much to get married early like that because they didn’t have nothin’ to look forward to,” Cory’s wife, Anna Adams Lemmon, later said. “And if they got married, the parents didn’t have to worry about ’em.”
Cory was the youngest of the eight children that Cory Oscar and Mary Etta had. Cory was just a young boy when Cory Oscar ran off and started another family with another woman. So Cory pretty much grew up in a single-parent home, but his mother was a strong, capable, and determined woman.
“I went to school through the eighth grade,” Cory said, “and then I had to quit and get a job and help Mom. I only made $3.00 a week during the Depression. The worst part about it was, my mother and I had to live and pay rent all winter on that $3.00. She worked at the mill, but she didn’t make any more than enough to get us some beans and gravy.”
Despite the poor example set by his father, Cory grew up to be a responsible family man and father. He worked as a milkman and then as a used-car salesman.
My mother was his oldest daughter of three children. My father was in the army and stationed overseas when my mother was due to deliver my oldest sister. When the time came to go to the hospital, my grandfather took her, and then sent a telegram to my father in Germany.
He and my grandmother held a Christmas party every year for their three children, grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren. During these events, my grandfather wandered around the room snapping photographs with his latest toy, a Polaroid camera. He loved auctions and had a garage full of trinkets and boxes of stuff he had bought. Neighbors used to come to him if they needed a cork, or some little random thing. He gave me a brass floor lamp one time after I was rattling around in the garage with him. In later years, when he played checkers with my little boys, he refused to just let them win. He said when they won, they would know they deserved to win.
In 1992 we celebrated Thanksgiving at the home of one of my cousins in Piqua, Ohio. I had all four of our children by then. Our youngest was one year old. So I might have been distracted and my memories aren’t very clear. I remember only a few things from that Thanksgiving. I remember sitting on a sofa in a small, dim room, so characteristic of many of the homes in that small town. I remember somebody brought oyster dressing for the meal, because I’d never had it before. And I remember as we were leaving, watching my grandfather, wearing his overcoat and dress hat with my grandmother holding on to his arm, shuffling slowly down the steps, and across the sidewalk to his car.
I never saw him again.
Today I am thankful for all the men and women who came before me, who sometimes persevered in less than the best of circumstances, and who had perhaps a large, or even only a small part in making me who I am.
I am thankful for all the men and women who will come after me, and in whom some small part of me may live on.
I know I’ve complained about modern technology a bit, but I love what I can do with a computer, a scanner, photographs and Adobe Photoshop. All I need is a photograph. It can be old and discolored, or spotted, even torn. If I have enough skill (which I’m not saying I do), I can transform even a small photograph into a beautiful image and make copies for friends and relatives. Amazing.
When I took a class in Digital Photography from the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio several years ago, we did a collage project. One of my interests, or hobbies is genealogy (even thought I haven’t blogged much about it as of yet). So I did a genealogy collage of my Mom’s ancestors.
I’m not a talented artist by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but I had fun doing this. I put the photos of my mom’s parents and siblings in the bottom right corner. The large notebook paper behind these photos is a page from The Life of Anna Adams Lemmon — as I Remember It. This is a short autobiography that my grandmother wrote in the 1990s. I’ve shared an excerpt in an earlier tribute post I did for Grandma. My mom is the oldest child in the family group shots.
The bottom left corner contains the photographs of Grandma’s parents, Harrison Myron Adams and Katherine Roecker, and her siblings on the farm where she grew up. I had to edit or “fix” most of the older photos.
The small lined and dated papers are entries in Harrison’s journal where he kept track of his farm expenses and profits from the early to mid 1900s. These were a lot of fun to read through. I also included a scrap of paper that contained Harrison’s signature.
As you continue up the left side of the page you see photographs of Harrison and Katherine as they aged and with grandchildren (my mom and her sister) in the smaller photo and great-grandchildren (my two older sisters) with my mom and grandma in the four-generation photo at the top. My dad was always big on shooting four-generation photos.
On the upper right are photographs of my grandfather’s mother (Mary Etta Lemmon) and another four-generation photo with my sister, mom, grandfather and great-grandmother. All these people have fascinating stories, as I’m sure your ancestors do as well.
Underneath it all is a photo of one of a million doilies my grandmother crocheted.
Without my computer, scanner and Photoshop, I could have made a collage, but I would have either had to ruin single heirloom copies of photographs by cutting and pasting them, or had to get copies made at a photo store. Without Photoshop, the pictures, in some cases, would have been dark, scratched and torn. I would have been limited by the size of photographs I had to work with.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy hands-on cut and paste projects. Dad and I are currently (and quite slowly) working on a photo scrapbook. We’ve done pages of his parents and early childhood, the houses he lived in as a child, and his siblings. The next pages we will do will be about the time he spent in the army in Germany. I printed out copies of scanned photos to use. I read somewhere that this was a good project for someone with Alzheimers because you can use the book to help them remember if they start to forget. So far it seems like Dad remembers who we all are, and who the people in the photographs are. He’s not very good at hand-writing anymore, though. So that’s been something of a challenge.
I guess in some ways I follow in my dad’s footsteps. When my son, daughter-in-law and grandson came to visit in April, I made sure we got a four-generation photograph. Maybe it will show up in somebody’s digital (or even more high-tech) collage someday.
A top of the morning to you and a happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Here are three related Irish reflections—
At the harbor on the southern shore of Ireland in the town of Cobh (pronounce “cove”) stands the statue of Annie Moore, looking back to the land, with her two younger brothers Phillip and Anthony, one of whom is looking out to sea. Annie left Ireland on her fifteenth birthday, January 1, 1892, for America. She was the first immigrant to the United States to pass through the Ellis Island facility in New York. (From http://www.heritagetowns.com/cobhlarge2.shtml). When individuals left Ireland for America the friends and families left behind often held an all-night American wake, for they knew these people would never see Ireland again.
Theresa Farley’s parents, Nicholas Farley and Margeret Farrell were born in Ireland and came to the shore of America sometime in the 1850s, most likely. Whether they came alone, with their own families or together, I don’t know. They made their way by carriage or wagon, on foot or by boat, or some combination of these, to Cincinnati where their daughter Theresa was born in 1862.
Theresa met and married Jeremiah Coughlin whose parents were also from Ireland. Theresa and Jeremiah were both from a strict Irish Catholic heritage so when their daughter Margaret married William Smith, of strict German Catholic heritage, sparks flew. From these sparks were born Margaret and William’s oldest son, James Edward Smith who married Katherine Wirrig and whose oldest son, respectively, is Jerry A. Smith.
Theresa Coughlin lived out her days on Cottage Avenue in Piqua, Ohio with two of her unmarried children after her husband Jeremiah died at the age of 55 in 1913. Theresa died on March 28, 1945 at the age of 82. Other than the prejudice experienced from her German Catholic relations, I can’t say whether Theresa suffered much from the anti-Irish sentiment so prevalent in this country at that time.
And finally, we come to Arthur, my little Irish dog who is not smiling in this photo and who will be accompanying me today when I travel to Dayton to deliver homemade Brazenhead’s Shepherd’s Pie and Bread Pudding to Theresa Farley’s great-grandson, my father.