Just finished reading a very funny book, Shaking the family Tree by Buzzy Jackson. Here is my favorite quote, about family history. "I love nerds. My definition of a nerd is someone who is extremely interested in.....something. Anything." I would add to that, that is why nerds are always so happy. My other favorite quote was actually from Daniel Webster, given at the bicentennial anniversary of the Mayflower, to the Pilgrim Society. This is what he said about genealogy. "It is a noble faculty of our nature which enables us to connect our thoughts, our sympathies, and our happiness with what is distant in place or time; and, looking before and after, to hold communion at once with our ancestors and our posterity....there is also a moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the heart."
I reached Aunt Bonnie today and the interview was just right. She seemed happy to elaborate on some of the ideas and questions I presented to her. I wish my phone recorded conversations.
To the question, how they got to Montana, she said probably by train. I asked why, she said that she knows they were influenced by Will's wife Rosie. They came first and Rosie wrote a letter saying that it was beautiful and that there were lots of Dutch people already in the neighborhood. Apparently that was a big plus, also they were probably looking for better and different farmland opportunities. She thought they farmed in Downs.
About Sarah's personality. She said yes she was tall. She was also straight Yankee, very stern and narrow minded. Very demanding. Staunch Republican. Bess was never very fond of her--they had to stay with her in her house in Helena one time for a few weeks (was Harry in the hospital?) it was LaVonne and Ray for sure, and
"If one touched the paper before she got to read it, oh, it was not allowed... not allowed!" And that the boys had a little fun with that.
Bonnie did not think Sarah had ever been a teacher because they would have heard about it since their other Grandpa, Warren, WAS a teacher, as was Bess. Bonnie didn't know how Sarah met with Herman and how they ended up so far away from Sarah's family.
I mentioned I noticed that Sarah's kids were married by Methodist Episcopalian ministers. Bonnie said yes, Sarah was methodist and Herman was Dutch Reform. She said Aunt Hazel used to tell stories about having to sit in the Dutch reform church in hot, muddy Kansas, all day long on Sunday in their hot Sunday clothes, and that the odor was horrible. As an adult, Harry never thought much of church--that you had to attend somewhere. (I wonder why?!) She said they probably didn't use the Dutch Reform in Montana because it wasn't quite established there yet, but it was later on.
Bonnie doesn't remember hearing any mention of Indians or anything like that from when they were in Kansas, but she did mention that I have surely heard the story of how LaVonne got her name. Uh, I always thought it was from her Grandma Lavina. Bonnie seemed to think I already knew the story, but basically I guess Harry and Bess were friends with a man named Jack Galbraith who married a converted Mormon Indian named LaVonne Hudson, and she was wonderful and the story is all written up in one of those Montana history books. It sounded like maybe they lived close to Canada? And that they kept coyotes and hounds in 1928. Huh. And she said Uncle Bailey was right close to the border and was a moonshiner/bootlegger because he could get it so easy out of Canada. And "Bet you didn't know that one!"
We talked about Mary Ann Poole's illiteracy and she was surprised, but said she thought Grandpa VanDeRiet only had about a 4th grade level education, although he was smart and worked as bookkeeper for a Ranch in Great Falls. (I see that this was the Stain Bros. Ranch, from her written history.)
I asked about their economic situation, because they seemed nicely dressed in their photos and I had noticed that Marie and Harry had been to college, etc. Where did they get the money for that? Bonnie said she wasn't sure where the money came from, they weren't poor, maybe from an inheritance or something, but her Dad had been fond of making this cryptic statement, "I could have gone to Yale", meaning, they could have sent him to Yale had he been so inclined. I'm also curious. Not typical for farmers--they probably weren't living in a dugout.
Grandma Sarah lived in Belgrade for a while with Grace and also had a home in Helena, but Bonnie was curious why she would have.
I asked about Herman's personality and Bonnie said as far as she knew (she never met either Sarah or Herman), he was kind of his own person. He was very handsome and always wore a mustache. Then she asked me if I had met her cousin Herman Van De Riet, who apparently looks just like Grandpa Herman. I haven't. I asked if Herman had a milder personality compared to Sarah, she said probably, and that Sarah had taken care of the household and was in charge of the girls. (so...Herman had the boys?) And that she didn't hesitate to spank the girls with the switch.
I asked about voting and the suffragists. She said that they would have been very interested in that in their household and that it made her (Bonnie) mad to think about all that could have been done if women had the vote sooner. She said Grandma voted Democrat and grandpa voted Independent although he was really Republican and had been raised Republican, but that they all voted for Roosevelt. I think when she said this part about Grandma being Democrat she was actually referring to her own parents, Bess and Harry. We kept tripping up on which generation we were talking about. She called LaVonne my mom a couple of times.
I asked if Sarah had been a member of any organizations that she knew of. She said she didn't know for sure but if she had to guess, probably the DAR. This is revealing because it shows she knew about her Revolutionary heritage and would have been proud to show it! And maybe she was a member. That means it would be easy for me to be! If I felt like paying dues.
She mentioned something about "Grandpa's brother" (not sure if she meant Harry's brother or Herman's brother) who went to Canada and got married on horseback, something about getting out of a mortgage or something money related, but he never came back. I didn't quite understand what was going on. Look into this. Anyway, "they never forgave him for that." From the write up it looks like Harry's brother John moved to Cranbrook, Alberta, maybe this is the one?
I asked if Harry had been institutionalized for his TB. Yes. Something General in San Francisco, (or near frisco, she kept saying a place name I didn't quite catch). It was a Veteran's hospital. He was there in the winter and they put him out in the sun. Harry Jr. also went to the same hospital years later, when he had it. So, Sheila might know the name of the hospital. She said the kids all got the TB test every year and none of them got it.
I feel like I have some good insights to Sarah's personality. I think we would have had some things in common, and I'm chalking the sternness/strictness up to her generation. Hey, she kept a scrapbook and would have liked to be in the DAR, I think she was probably a fellow nerd.