Monday, July 28, 2014

Speaking of which: Ada's words about Cecelia Andersen

"Speaking of which" is something we sometimes say when we weren't exactly, which is the way I use it here (and, incidentally, the way my 3-year-old uses it to amuse grandparents and anyone who will listen to him). I found in my Grandma (Ada) Stricklan's compilation of writing an essay where she talks about the same Cecelia I spoke of in the Hakan Andersen pioneer post. She spelled the name "Cecilia" instead of "Cecelia," which actually seems more natural to me, but the official records aren't in accord on the point of spelling, so I don't know which way is correct. Does anyone care? It probably doesn't matter.
Ada, in what is labeled as 1957, but I feel like it must be later than that. What do you think?

Before we get there, though, it just struck me that what I was reading was an Idaho Writer's League assignment in 1975. Who knew there was such a thing as an Idaho Writer's League, Arco Chapter? I had read Grandma's writing before, but didn't realize she was part of a League of extraordinary writers. It is funny and strange what people do, don't you think, to write what they think needs to be written?

But anyway, back to speaking of which, in an essay about grandmothers, my grandmother wrote about Cecilia:

There was once a girl named Cecilia. She lived in Sweden. When she heard the Gospel she knew it was true. After awhile she came to America. She wanted to live with the Saints. Her father told her, "If they do not kidnap you or murder you, you can write and tell us and we will all come."*  Cecilia walked to Salt Lake City Valley from St. Louis. Along the way she was weary and hungry. She met and married a good man. She had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She loved her family. She said, "I would like my children to remember their heritage and the hard-ships that their ancestors wen through to get to this country and become established...and remember the reason that brought them here in the first place, to remember these things and to be better men and women for it."

*I wonder if Cecelia's father had read the Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet, which portrays the Mormons as kidnapping, murdering types. Though I guess that's not possible, since it wasn't published until 1887, which was long after Cecelia came. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

O Pioneer: Shurtliff and Atkinson

As I mentioned, compiled a list of "my" "ancestral" "pioneers." But, well, I couldn't find all of them in my actual family tree. I'm working on that, but I did find that a certain Luman Shurtliff (on my mom's maternal side) crossed the plains with his family, including a son named Noah Luman Surtliff (who is next in the line to me) in 1851 with the Easton Kelsey Company. One lead to follow!


Make that two leads: Noah L Shurtliff, who I mentioned above, is my great-grandma Epperson's grandpa, and her other grandpa named William Atkinson* also crossed the plains with the Mormon pioneers. In fact, he led his own company in 1853, the William Atkinson Company. Good one, Will! Along the way, according to his memory, he met lots of friendly Indians and buffalo, or at least the Indians were friendly.

He also "traveled with the mail" from Salt Lake to San Bernadino and back in 1856 with the John McDonald Company. Just him and three buddies, hanging out with the mail? Probably not but I don't know the details. I, of all people, could understand this, considering how much I love mail, but I think there must be more to the story than that. He is also listed as traveling with two other wagon companies, and also the Rescue Companies who were sent to bring in the Martin and Willie Handcart companies in the fall of 1856, as well as two wagon companies at the same time. It isn't clear which company he was sent to help, but the story of the stranded companies breaks my heart every time I hear or think of it.

I'm so glad to know about Mr. Atkinson. My kids are for sure going to hear about this one.

*Also, just to make more connections, this William Atkinson had a son, Thomas, who married into my path to the Mayflower ancestors of Elizabeth Tilley and John Howland. His wife's name was Ruth Simmons. Ruth's mom was a Chipman, which is the line that connects to the common ancestor Nate and I have (Amos Chipman).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

O Pioneer: Hakan Andersen

Next on the "easy" pioneer list is Hakan Andersen. Of course, as with Nancy Naomi, it was really a couple whose story I knew, but in this one he is the main character for some reason, just as NN was the main character in her story. I'm not sure why this is, but nevertheless it's how I think of them.

The bad news here is also my motivation to learn more about family history: I thought I knew the story but now I'm not so sure. The Hakan Andersen Book would set me straight, but it resides at my parents' house (so mom, you may have to set me straight). Here's what I think happened.

Hakan (or Hogan) (or Haakan) (or about ten variations) crossed the plains as a young-but-not-that-young convert to the Church. When he arrived in Salt Lake, as a strong healthy man, he was asked to go back and help others across the plains. There he met a girl and fell in love with her...however, she was sick or something and died. I think. But the good news is that this girl had a friend! And she was Cecelia. And Hakan and Cecelia got married and had a family and moved to Idaho.

This is the lineage: Hakan and Cecelia had a daughter named Hannah, whose son Hakan Ostlin went by Ostlin and was my paternal grandma Ada's father. So in reverse, Me/Dave/Ada/Ostlin/Hannah/Hakan & Cecelia.

Hakan & Cecelia's family

Hannah Andersen, presumably before she married John Alfred Hanson
But listen here, I am not the only one who thought I would celebrate Pioneer Day by exploring my pioneer ancestors. itself sort of stole my thunder by sending me a list of all of the pioneer ancestors I had, complete with company and any information they have on the person.  Holy smokes, that makes my aspiration to find out who my Pioneer ancestors are about 97% more likely to happen. Thanks, Familysearch. I don't know how I would have found out on my own; I really have a lot (or everything) to learn about family history.

So here is what taught me. Hakan crossed in 1859 with the George Rowley Company. Cecelia Swenson crossed in 1863 with an Unknown Company. They were both from Sweden (but I already knew that one).

You can find your own Pioneer Ancestors on too, I think. Do it! It's cool.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

O Pioneer: Nancy Naomi

In honor of Pioneer Day, I have been thinking about my Mormon Pioneer ancestors. I have several; a few that I know of off the top of my head and a few that I don't know anything about. If I write about the ones I'm familiar with this year, it will give me something to write about next year, and a whole year to learn about the ones I don't know.

First and easiest of all is one who isn't my ancestor, but Nate's. Nancy Naomi Alexander Tracy wrote an autobiography (here), which is kept with the LDS records, and so bits of her story are often told on church documents as an example of an early convert and pioneer. There was an article about her in the Ensign in 2012 (here).
Her life is exactly what you think of when you try to imagine a pioneer woman. Early hardship in life taught her what to expect, and how to deal with, future troubles. Her dad died young and she was sent to live with her grandparents. They were good to her and she got some education, and learned how to work hard. She married her husband Moses really young, had ten kids, and named them long scriptural names like Lachoneus Moroni and Moses Mosiah.  She and Moses were present at the Kirtland temple dedication, went to Far West, Missouri, fought the militia there, and were then forced to leave Missouri by the infamous Extermination Order and went to Nauvoo, Illinois. She was present when the Relief Society was formed in 1842 and got her endowment in the Nauvoo temple. At least three of her children died before reaching adulthood. She and her family crossed the plains with a wagon train and settled near Ogden, Utah. Pretty comprehensive pioneer stuff.

Her son Helon Henry had a son named Helon Henry, and he had a daughter named Myrtle. Myrtle married Carl Clark, and their son Ralph Clark is "Gramspie" to us. Nate and I have some tablecloths that belonged to Myrtle and Carl--one with Carl's name written on a corner in permanent marker. We also have some myrtle growing next to our porch which we got from Nate's mom, who got it originally from Myrtle's house.
Myrtle and Ralph Clark, 1926
Nate has known about his Pioneer heritage all his life, thanks to the ties to Nancy Naomi Alexander Tracy. Every Memorial Day, rain or shine, the Clarks make their pilgrimage to the Ogden cemetery to visit the family gravesites, not least of which are the Pioneer Tracys. Every year, they collect pinecones (I'll write about pinecones another time) on the graves, say a prayer, and take photos. The photos have looked basically the same for the last 50 years, but that's not going to stop us from taking them every year!

The Ralph and Marilyn Clark family plus Carl, 1970-something

The Ralph and Marilyn Clark family, 2011

Melissa and Nate, 2011 with Nancy Naomi and Moses Tracy's headstones in Ogden

Thursday, July 10, 2014

thanks grandpa, for writing all that code or whatever

Jack Gale Webb, Jr. was a big ol' funny, friendly, smart, happy guy. That is no secret. It's also no secret that he loved baseball and vintage cars. Like, really loved them. Everyone knows that! But he had one big mystery: What did he do?

Jack worked "in computers" in LA his entire career. He graduated from Central State University in Oklahoma with a BS in Math and Physics, focusing on computers. Computers, folks, in 1958 were...slightly different than those we use today. I think.

Here he is with some components in 1962. Just kidding--that's not him (image from here). Below is a computer from 1967, which looks surprisingly a lot like an actual computer, considering that most computers during his early years were rather big, and not just big like "My old Macbook is so BIG compared to my new Macbook Air." One was the size of the basement of his office building. He once had to fix it on payday so the paychecks could be printed, according to a reliable source.
He was, I guess, a programmer, but what did that mean back then? Computer lingo wasn't very universally understood in those days, so he couldn't really explain to regular folk like us what he did, although now it's easy enough to comprehend what programmers do, like "Oh, I'm building a new website for a bank." Then we'd be like, ok, cool. It seems very vague and sort of magical in context of the 60s and 70s, though. I do know that my grandparents had home-use desktop computers beginning really early, which I know because we played Jeopardy and Concentration (the game show) games on big old floppy disks on a green-screen computer when we went to visit.

When he retired, I have the idea that it wasn't entirely voluntary, but that his "field" of "expertise" was somehow suddenly obsolete. Who knows, maybe it was game-show video game programming?

Monday, July 7, 2014

april showers bring mayflowers

Thirteen generations back, two of my ancestors were aboard the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. They didn't know each other at the time; Elizabeth Tilley was barely a teenager during the crossing, 13 years old and coming with her parents. John Howland was a servant to Governor John Carver, and was in his early twenties. They married four years later and now (400 years later) have millions of descendants, thanks to their own ten kids. Several US Presidents and the Prophet Joseph Smith came from the Howlands' line, and so did my husband Nate.
Image from
Elizabeth Tilley has been known to join his family for Clark Thanksgiving Day celebrations and tell the family the story of the Pilgrims' journey to Plymouth aboard the Mayflower. John Howland, who would be her husband, fell overboard on the journey during a storm, and Elizabeth Tilley would regale the family with the tale of frigid water, a man nearly lost at sea, and salvation by halyard. Either Grammy (Marilyn Clark) or Trudy would always happen to be absent during these visits, much to their dismay. As soon as Elizabeth Tilley would leave, Grammy would return from her Very Important Errand, having just missed the story, but in time to join the family in listing their blessings on the corn kernels left on their dinner plates.

The actual Pilgrims probably had little more than corn kernels to eat their first winter, and nearly half of them died before spring. Elizabeth and John were lucky, hardy and blessed. John signed the Mayflower Compact and the two of them raised their ten children to adulthood in their newfound homeland.

The Howlands' great-great grandson Amos Chipman is where my line and Nate's line converge. He and his wife Sarah had two sons, Barnabas and Ammi. (It appears that modern parents aren't the only ones to construct imaginative baby names, when you compare them to early New Englanders!) The family had moved to Connecticut by this time, and the two sons seem to have married sisters: Beulah Evarts and Sarah Evarts. Barnabas and Beulah ended up in New York, whereas Ammi and Sarah moved to Ontario, Canada. Both lines converted to the Mormon church two generations later and found their way to Utah. Nate's line is the Barnabas/Beulah line, and they settled in American Fork, Utah. Eventually Christa Mix Christensen was born there, and became the mother of Nate's grandma, Marilyn (the Elizabeth Tilley proxy). My line went to Rexburg, Idaho, then Ogden, where my maternal great-grandmother Irva Shurtleff Epperson was born. I know it's not really relevant, but I like that I have lived in both American Fork and Rexburg, too.
Irva Shurtleff Epperson and my grandmother, Patti
I haven't yet been to Plymouth, Massachusetts, however. I'd like to go see the monument there and get a feeling for the place those Pilgrims saw from the ship their first freezing, sickly, hard winter. I'd like to touch the water where the bow of the Mayflower hit ground. I am proud of them for creating a new life there in New England; really, just for living through it. When I think Mayflower Pilgrims, I think brave, strong, hardworking, steadfast, and other positive, sturdy adjectives. However, I know the Puritans could also use that diligence for stubborn narrow-mindedness. Many of my ideas of early New England life come from fiction, such as the extremely wonderful novel Witch of Blackbird Pond and the rather frightening play The CrucibleThe Crucible portrays bits of the Salem Witch Trials, which of course wasn't the brightest moment for the new Colonists--not to mention their treatment of Native Americans and their reputation of having no tolerance for fun or beauty or even anything moderately amusing. Since the Howlands and their children haven't specifically been mentioned in any of those events, however, I am free to give them the benefit of the doubt and focus on their legacy of ground-breaking hard work.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

the piano, part one: acquisition

"My father, Ostlin Hanson and sax," written on back by Ada

Dave and Evelyn at the piano, about 1960
Ada wanted a piano. She grew up with a father who played saxophone in the local band, she played the piano, and she wanted her daughters to play as well. She did hard work, lived a country life, and she wanted a little bit of refinement in music. Wives of sheep herders and ranchers don't get an income, however, and though I doubt Paul had any objection to owning a piano, he objected to buying one. Since Ada had no money to her name, it seemed that she was out of luck. As my dad said, "Of course Paul wouldn't give her the money for it," even with all the work she contributed to the running of their land.

The situation reminds me of a scene in a book where a woman with four children and a successful husband tries to get some money at the gas station in rural Louisiana in the 1950s. She fills up her gas tank for five dollars and asks the clerk to charge ten to their account and hand her the other five. Though he's clearly done it before, the clerk won't do it this time; he's been ordered to stop giving her cash. (Ordered by the Mister.) No matter the wiles she uses, he won't budge.

Myself being a housewife who earns absolutely no money but has nearly complete control over the household expenses, I can't understand the conventions that reigned fifty years ago. That's how they lived, however, and there was nothing that fictional wives or real wives like Ada could do about it.

So here stands the problem. A desire for a piano, no income to buy it. But of course, that's not quite true. Sheepherders with a business to run would occasionally find themselves with excess lambs: motherless from a dead ewe or too many for her to take care of. In those cases, the ranchers would often dispose of the lambs because they were simply too much work to nurse to adulthood and usefulness. If someone wanted to take the bum lambs, however, they could bottle feed and coddle them until they were big enough to sell, though they'd still be worth less than the regular sheep. It sounds like a lot of work for a minimal reward; however, when choices are limited, people get crafty. People like Ada, who could get these bum lambs to adulthood and save the pennies she earned for a basic piano from Chesbro Music in Idaho Falls. So that is what she did.

When she had saved the money for the piano, she picked the one she wanted from Chesbro, and they were to deliver it to the Darlington house. When the man from the music store arrived with the piano, it became evident that he had delivered the wrong instrument. Ada had already paid for it, but he had no intention of returning the 80 miles to Idaho Falls and bringing back the correct piano. He told her she could take it or leave it. After all of that work! I'm pretty sure I would have wanted to smack him up side the smug face, or at least give him a withering stare. I'm not sure if she did either of those things, but I do know she took the piano.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A baby boy

"1958 Dave and me" from back of photo
When my Grandma Stricklan was 42, she was hospitalized for an illness. She had some blood clots in her legs and was receiving treatment. Before she was released, she told her doctor, a longtime acquaintance, that she was pregnant as well. "Impossible," he said, and sent her home to finish her recovery. About nine months later, my dad was born. When my grandma saw that the baby was a boy, she asked my Grandpa Stricklan what he should be named. She had named the girls, and Paul would name the boy. Paul, at 48, was a terse old farmer and rancher with strong opinions. "Dave," he said. And that was that.

At the time, the Stricklan family lived in a place called Darlington, Idaho in Butte County. It is not a town or village, just a "populated place," officially. The house they lived in still stands, if only just barely. It looks much older than a house that could have been home to a family in the 1950s; you would maybe think pioneers. But no, just a hardy Idaho midcentury family, raising sheep and cattle working and living on a plot they half-owned.

Dave was the fourth baby born in the family, but the first boy and much later than anticipated.