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Gone But Not Forgotten

In this section of our website we present some interesting stories about ancestors. All of us have ancestors whose stories are interesting, compelling, poignant, or downright fascinating. We hope to present some of them here.

We have begun with two stories written by our webmaster. One of them, Saints and Strangers, is about his ancestors John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, two of the Mayflower passengers who were part of the founding of Plymouth Colony in 1620. The other, The Eleven Year Old Union Soldier, is about John Lincoln Clem (1851-1937) who in 1861, yet 9 years old,  ran away from home to enlist in the 3rd Ohio Infantry which rejected him because of age and stature. Undaunted, he tried the 22d Michigan which finally allowed him at age 11 officially to enlist. He fought in six major battles of the Civil War, was captured and exchanged, was wounded twice and medaled by Salmon P. Chase then Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  In 1915, at age 64, John retired from military service as a brigadier general, the only surviving Civil War veteran then in active service.

We like these stories by our webmaster. We hope he will write a few more. We also hope that you will send us stories about some of your ancestors. We solicit from you true stories similar to the ones presented here about interesting ancestors of yours, well known or unknown, sad or amusing, or indicative of an era gone by.

For example, this is Mary Elizabeth Thompson (1855-1924), the webmaster's maternal grandfather's mother, perhaps age 40-45 ca. 1895-1900, in front of her married home at Erina Nebraska. When she was a young girl her father Ludwig Keister was thrown from a wagon, cracked his head on the ice, and died. Her mother Catherine was left bereft, with a passel of young children to feed. Catherine had no husband, but she had Ludwig's farm with which to support herself and her children. She never remarried.

Mary Elizabeth was married in 1877, age 22, to George David Thompson. This is their home ca. 1895-1900. It doesn't look like much. It looks lonely, bleak and uninviting in windswept Nebraska. But it was theirs and they were proud of it.

This is James Arthur Alexander (1913-1981), the webmaster's father. He is caught here, age 9 in northeastern Texas, 1922, in an uncommon happy moment in an otherwise difficult, harsh childhood. That year he was taken out of the third grade and put to work in his father's livery stable because help was needed and they couldn't afford to hire a hand. At 13 he, along with his older brother, was told that he had to leave home because the family could no longer afford to feed him. Between then and World War II he was, among other things, a cowboy on Texas cattle drives, a North Dakota railroad man, a dealer in Reno, and a California forestry ranger.

In San Francisco at age 29 in 1942, just a month after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His fellow marines, all 18 and 19, called him Pops. He saw combat on every beach in every single major battle of the Pacific war. Amazingly, though his companions fell by the dozens around him, he was never wounded. His only scar from the War was on his right thigh from where a fellow soldier accidentally spilled hot coffee on him. He did not get a Purple Heart. The only remark he ever made about the War was that he hated the Japanese "for making me kill all of them."

In 1945 he left the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant and married Rozetta Thompson. He tried his hand at construction in western Kansas but could not get along with his sister-in-law's father who was embezzling from the company. He tried his hand at farming, putting to the plow a thousand acres of virgin soil in eastern Colorado, land that theretofore had been trodden by none but buffalo, cattle and antelope. It took him a year to bring the soil to heal and another year to plant and raise a wheat crop. He was sore distressed when, a few days before harvest, a cruel and egregious hail storm came through and flattened every spear of wheat on that thousand acres.

He took himself to a Maryland suburb of Washington DC where his older brother and older sister were then living. He became a brick mason and gave driving lessons in the winter when he couldn't lay brick, except when bedridden by depression. He and Rozetta, who went to work, provided for 18 years for a family of five, raising three children to adulthood. He was divorced and returned to his childhood town, Paris, Lamar Co., northeast Texas, where he died in 1981, aged 68, of cirrhosis of the liver.

You too have ancestors with stories. We ask you to write one and send it to us. If you do send us one be certain to include many illustrative photographs -- photographs of the ancestors themselves, of their tombstones, of their Revolutionary War or Civil War pension application, of letters home to their grandmother, of their Nebraska homestead covered in ten feet of snow, of the old General Store where they bought necessities, or of the wagon train they rode west in. The Web is an image driven visual medium. The more images you send the more we will have from which to choose, the more inviting will your story be and the more widely read.

 Please, make all submissions by email with photographs as attachments. The attachments must be in either JPG or PNG format. We may have to edit your submission for length, clarity, phraseology, or logical flow but we will remain true to your intent and to the essence of your ancestor's story. If you want us to copyright your submission please say so and we will do it. 

© 2015 Steve Alexander