Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Family Histories by Karla Stover
I belong to the D.A.R. on both sides of my family and love family histories. Of course, mine is special. 😊 On my dad's side, one of the great grandfathers harbored Jessie James and not long after, moved to southeast Oregon. The family homesteaded Warner Valley, owned all the water rights, and spent 20 years and all their money in court fighting off owners of the MC Cattle Ranch who wanted to take over the valley. My maternal great grandmother arrived from Cornwall on the 4th of July, heard the fireworks, and thought the Indians were attacking. Whenever her daughters came to Puget Sound to visit their sister, my grandmother who had relocated, they wrote first asking if the Indians were still peaceful. Anyway, the great grandparents settled in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and had quite a few children, mostly girls. Both sides of the family survived the 1889 Johnstown flood and my grandparents talked about it often. Maternal great grandmother led her children out an attic window and rode out the flood on the roof of the house. They were lucky in that a big barn floating by got lodged somehow so the house was saved. After the flood, paternal great-grandfather was walking by the river looking for survivors when he found a little girl named Bessie Sypes. He took her back to her father who had been telling folks, "we were all saved except little Bessie." Bessie never spoke again. Lucky me, my parents wrote all the family histories down.
Now, all this is by way of a conundrum I have. I live about five miles from a lake and a little community, both called Spanaway. And living on the lake is a 90-year-old woman who has been there all her life and wants someone to write her history. I could go over with a tape recorder, listen to what she has to say, and then type it up. But I don't want to and I feel guilty. It's such a shame that parents don't take the time to do this or that their children aren't interested until it's too late. If nothing else, talking to family has told me which funky genes (heart and low iron on Dad's side and lung and Alzheimer on Mom's side) came from whom. Unless they were the result of spontaneous mutations, like Queen Victoria's hemophilia.