Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ancestors Go West!

On the way back to Florida from all the family reunions, we stopped in Pella, Iowa, an American Dutch town, as you can see by the windmill and the American flag. We thought that since we already have blogs telling about our visits to our ancestral homes in Ireland, Scotland, England, the Netherlands, and Germany, we ought to look at how these family lines all ended up in the American West.

So in Kearney (pronounced Carney), Nebraska we found an old timer on the old Oregon and Mormon trails and the old Lincoln Highway and asked him to enlighten us.

He said that the early mountain men and explorers came by horseback and lived off the land.

But families such as ours who came later used other types of transportation. In the 1850's the Powells from England, the Olsons from Denmark and Sweden and the Andersons from Norway coming to the Salt Lake valley and the Wheelers, Wagners, and Spriggs coming from the southern and eastern USA and Germany to Denver first had to find a covered wagon...

add some oxen...

and make sure they knew where the barges were so they could ferry across the rivers.

However, the Bleaks coming from England and the Moffats from Scotland pushed and pulled handcarts across the plains--the Bleaks in the Martin handcart company that got stuck in the snows of Wyoming in 1856 and the Moffats in the Robinson company in 1860

The Bleaks settled in St. George, UT but Caroly's grandmother Artemesia Bleak lived for a time with Eliza R. Snow in Salt Lake and eventually met and married Edward Powell from Coalville. The Moffats settled in Meadowville, Utah (now a ghost town) near Aunt Gwen and Uncle Gene's Bear Lake cabin that we love to go to. They later moved to Salt Lake.

After 1869 everyone came by train. John McLean came from Scotland to help survey the first railroad to cross the USA and the branch lines throughout Utah. He met and married Janet Moffat and lived first in Meadowville before moving to Salt Lake.

The Lallatins came from Germany in the 1880's, traveled by train and settled first in Logan before ending in Soda Springs, Idaho, the home of the hourly geyser...

and the bubbly Hooper water that the pioneers on the Oregon Trail thought tasted like soda pop. There my grandfather Christopher Lallatin married Agnes McLean, who he met when she came from Salt Lake to help out a sister.

What did they eat on the way west? Other than the supplies they brought, they sometimes shot buffalo...

and ate it on the way.

How would mom look in this buffalo coat?

Even before the railroads came, there were places to stop for supplies. But you didn't want to be left behind when the wagon train left...

because if you were slow getting to your horse and someone else took it, you would have a mighty long way to walk!

Our Thompson line came to Massachusetts from Holland and England through three Mayflower families and has been in America since the 1620's. The Schnells came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the early 1700s. In the 1800's both families started west. The Thompsons came by train to Spokane, Washington from Minnesota in the 1880's. The Schnells came later when my grandfather Louis Thompson went back to study at the University of Wisconsin and met and married Lottie Schnell. The rest of her family followed the newlyweds to Spokane from Wisconsin in the early twentieth century. The Irish Buckleys also came by train from Iowa to the Spokane area in the early twentieth century.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog, the Thompsons played an important role in the early development of the Spokane valley.

Both the Thompsons and the Schnells are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Spokane.

Of course, you can't forget one more modern way that the ancestors moved around in the West. Whereas the Thompsons, Schnells, Lallatins, McLeans, Buckleys, Powells, and Bleaks tended to stay put for a generation or two when they got west, Caroly's grandparents Charles and Irene Wheeler kept moving from town to town and house to house--by automobile using Denver as a home base. I'm sure you remember the many automobile stories associated with grandma Wheeler, including her hitchhiking around the countryside with her children.

You better not forget the lighthouse on the Mississippi that the Wheelers sometimes tended in Hannibal, Missouri. That's where grandma Irene Wheeler met Mark Twain.

Thompsons Together--Coeur d'Alene ID Aug 2009

Here are the Thompson brothers and their wives sitting on their roots at Corbin Park on the Spokane river on the Idaho Washington border. (Spencer, Donna, Chris, Pamela, Roger, Caroly)

Little brother Tom Buckley couldn't make it so we had to get this picture of him at work in Pullman.

Here we are in our finest after church in Coeur d'Alene.

Of course we had our get together at our lake cabin near Bennett Bay on Coeur d'Alene Lake, where the first versions of our Florida Thompson Grandma Camp were held further up the hill at Aunt Lois's for all the Thompson cousins every summer in the 1950's. Whenever the Thompson boys get together we repeat many of the fun activities we had then...

such as swimming in the lake...

eating Paul Bunyon burgers and drinking huckleberry shakes...

and playing pinochle and other card games while we wait the hour and a half between eating and swimming.

Here we are down at the Spokane river not far from where Grandpa Thompson's apple orchard and farm was. The farm is gone so we can't play in the irrigation ditches and the river is too busy now for fishing and skinny dipping.

The old stone school that my dad went to and grandma Thompson taught at is now gone but the nearby stone church is still there. In my dad's time this was a "holy roller" church. The Thompsons went to another church in nearby Post Falls. According to Thompson folklore one Halloween as a teenage prank, my dad and his buddies locked a cow in the church. In those days, teenage boys were expected to do crazy pranks at Halloween. Come Sunday they say the church stunk pretty bad. They were never caught.

We went into Spokane to see the falls. Great Grandfather Dexter Thompson was one of the early bankers and real estate developers who planned the first dams, irrigation projects, apple orchards, and housing developments in Spokane in the 1880's when the city was just getting started. He was also a state legislator.

This is the congregational church he helped found and build in the 1890's. All of my dad Robert's sisters were married here.

We went huckleberry picking in the mountains near the cabin, but all we found were deer. They must have beat us to them.

We also made a trip up to Bayview on Pend Oreille Lake to see where we used to go with grandpa to his houseboat so we could cruise around, swim, and fish with his cabin cruiser, the Ranger.

On the way we think we spotted mounted on a rooftop at a junkyard the 1956 Dodge station wagon with pink trim that we had so many boyhood adventures in. It has to be our car--we'd be the only ones to have a station wagon with custom painted pink trim, mom's favorite color. Even our house was painted pink!! (Correction--"Canyon Mist") This is the car I learned to drive at age 14. It had push button automatic drive--mom was a pushover for the latest gadget. At that time, 14 was the driving age in Idaho not the age 16 of Washington so I could be a wild and crazy teenage driver only in the summers in Idaho. (I wasn't really that wild and crazy no matter what my younger brothers might say)

On the way back to Florida we went by Pullman to see how the house looks today. Notice a more masculine pale blue has replaced the pink. That was Spencer's doing after Mom died.

Palling around with Powells--Oxford ID Aug 2009

What do you do when the Powell siblings get together for a reunion? (Here from youngest to oldest are Kathy, Larry, Diana, Dondavid, and Caroly)

You sing songs ...

assemble things (it blew down later that night)...

eat lots of good food...

play games...

look beautiful...

have fun in the water...

and take nature hikes to look at the flowers.