Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Way Back Machine


The time: Somewhere around 1915
The place: Palmyra, Tennessee

This is one of the prodigal photographs that I feared was forever lost in a landfill. Thankfully it found it's way back into my hands. I cannot imagine how sad I would be if that had been it's fate.

In the center is my aunt Pearl and the elderly people are her grandparents. Pearl was the eldest daughter of my grandfather and his first wife, Lena V. Boone. At that time men often married several times as wives were lost to illness and in childbirth. Pearl, two sisters and a brother were grown adults when my grandfather re-married a younger woman who also died shortly after giving birth to my mother.

It's easy to see how difficult their lives were and my best guess is that the grandparents are not as old as they look by today's standards. My grandfather was born in 1895, so perhaps they were born shortly after the Civil War. My mother was adopted by one of her older, half-sisters and it was this woman who I remember as my "grandmother". She was really my aunt! She told the story of how, once a year, her sisters Pearl and Edie and brother Tom would ride to town in a horse drawn wagon. In this day and age it's only a 35 minute drive from their old homestead. They would watch shooting stars from the porch of their home which had no electricity or running water. She was always amazed to have watched a man walk on the moon.

If you read anything about the personal histories of those who settled our country you are struck by the fact of how many children died in childhood. Our own family cemetery has many sad markers that speak to this fact.


Sadder still is that all the older timers are gone, the great storytellers including my Uncle Tom and Uncle Murdoch. Born..... died.


Heidi said...

I LOVE the posts about your family Sue - have you ever walked through a cemetary and just looked at all those who came before you?

Lynn said...

Oh, I dearly love old pictures and the stories with them. I enjoyed reading about your picture. I have quite a few old pictures, but long for more.

I know there are more pictures out there, that I've never seen, that would take my breath away! If only all distant cousins could come together and share the pictures of those long-lost special generations.


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Not gone as long as you tell their stories and pass them on to a new generation who will...we all hope.

Just love this regular feature of your blog. You write so beautifully of this family of yours.

I received a three-month subscription to for Christmas. I can just imagine what's going to become of blogging when I get involved with that.

Doreen said...

Thank you for sharing this story with all of us. History has always been a favorite subject of mine...I just find it so very interesting. It's great that you know this family history and are able to share it.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Yes, the old storytellers are gone, and then there were also the ones that had a head full of stories but chose never to share them. THOSE are the family stories I wish I knew.

The Blue Ridge Gal

Laura said...

This is a great post. I used to be completely addicted to genealogy and trying to trace my ancestors. I have tons of photographs of relatives whose names I'll never know because when I should have been asking my grandparents and great-grandmother about their families, I was too busy watching tv or playing with my cousins to care about who and where I came from.

Britt-Arnhild said...

We are lucky to have so many of the stories of people who walked before us. Let's do our best to keep them alive.

FarmHouse Style said...

I always enjoy your Way Back Machine posts. Thanks for giving us little glimpses into an era that is long gone but not forgotten.

I love that the elderly lady standing beside your Aunt Pearl is holding a bamboo pole. I have a large stand of bamboo and I use it for all sorts of things....


Jenni said...

It seems that not *all* the good storytellers are gone. I love your old photos and stories that go with them.

Poor grandma in that photo! Life certainly was much harder then. Have you ever seen Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper? The grandma in this photo reminds me of Sgt. York's sweet, enduring mama.

American in Norway said...

I think it is awesome that you have all of these old photo's & you know the story behind them... even cooler, that you are making a record of it on the internet!

Happy 2009!

Patricia said...

How true and sad.....I know exactly what you mean. I just lost both of my parents 4 months apart - my mom in June 08 and my dad in Nov 08. Of course all granparents are long gone - I feel like it's the end of an era - so many stories, etc. that we will just never know. Why didn't I ask more questions and show more interest when they were here with us ?

Martha said...

I have been reading and enjoying your posts for sometime. Imagine my surprise when I see the precious family heirloom picture and notice the place: Palmyra, Tennessee. I live just a few minutes from this tiny town and know some of its people. Small world, isn't it?
I love to search for my ancestors but work and other obligations keep me from doing as much as I would like. Hopefully, retirement in a few years will allow me the time.

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous family keepsake. I love reading about days gone by and boy, they sure had a tough time of it.
I live in Australia, but there are similar stories of tough times and loss of young lives.
Thnaks so much for sharing..i really enjoy your blog.
luv Ann.xx

arlene said...

I am so glad you found your photo. These glimpses into our past are very precious. Hubby and I are so blessed. None of our siblings cared to take the old photos, so we have them all..his side and mine. I would dearly love to meet some of my ancestors and get to know them. The photos are so intriguing.

Love the look on your aunt Pearl's face; looking into a future that she thinks will be happy. Hope it was.

Paula Bauer said...

what a thoughtful post. It is doubly sad when the oral historians of the family are gone before anyone has preserved their stories.

My sister spent many, many hours in 2004 scanning old photos into her computer and recording my dad's recollections of people in the photos, old stories the photos called to mind...loads of family history.

Unfortunately, someone broke into her home that December and stole the laptop along with 4 other computers. While she struggled with feeling violated by the intrusion and theft, the loss of the months of work recording Dad's oral history and stories was the most grievous. We were never able to duplicate it as Dad's health deteriorated rapidly and he was gone by April 2004.

Just encouraging everyone who has elderly relatives to take some type of audio recorder with you on visits and capture the stories while you can.

Paula Bauer said...

Duh....she worked on it throughout 2003, theft was Dec. 2003, Dad died 2004. My dates didn't seem quite right as I typed it, but I hit the button before the light dawned.

Chalk it up to a frosty brain. :)

willzmom said...

Love the photo and thought it was interesting that it said "Palmyra, Tennessee"-not very far from where I live. I'm glad this photo wasn't lost forever!

Karen said...

Wonderful post !!!

Robin said...

Great post. Anything to do with ancestors is very interesting to me. I think you are lucky to have such an awesome picture.