Monday, July 13, 2009

Summertime in good ol' South Dakota

This post is for the 76th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: The Good Old Summertime.

My mother's family has strong ties to South Dakota. My mother was born in Watertown, Codington Co. My grandparents were born in Clark and Codington counties. Three of my four great-grandparents were born in South Dakota. In fact, most of their parents (my great, great-grandparents) came to Dakota Territory in the 1880s from places such as Rice Co., Minnesota, Dane Co., Wisconsin, Whiteside Co., Illinois and Houston Co., Minnesota.

My family took very few vacations when I was a child. I guess you could say we did a lot of "staycations" long before that even became a word. Who knew we were trend setters? However, there is one vacation I distinctly remember from the summer of 1981 when my mom, sister, and I joined my grandparents to drive for two (very long) days across two (very long) states to get to eastern South Dakota to visit our extended family. Bear in mind, I was six years old and we probably hadn't been on the road 50 miles before the infamous "Are we there yet?" began.

Since I was only six there are a few things I vaguely remember and others I don't recall at all. When I asked my mom last week for photos from that trip seeing them triggered some memories and brought up some wonderful stories. I remember seeing the old drilling rigs slowly pumping from the interstate in Wyoming. I remember my grandparents pointing out the antelope, which I thought for sure they called "cantaloupe". I was very confused about what the orangy colored fruit was doing in the middle of nowhere and what the big deal was about the "deer" out there. I vaguely remember stopping in the heat for a photo op at Independence Rock in Wyoming. Notice my protective arm around my younger sister.

Our first major stop was in the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore. My grandpa Fred had a brother, Harry, and nephew and their families living in nearby Rapid City. Since we lived a couple of states apart and they didn't see each other often, I'm sure there was a visit though I don't recall it. I do however recall the pictures we took at Mount Rushmore. I also recall that my grandpa lost his lens cap to his camera over the edge at the viewing area. It also seems like we stayed in a campground in the Black Hills that had an evening program that was Native American dancing. It was quite impressive to see the feathered costumes, headdresses and fast moving feet of the performers.

Here I am in all my ruffled glory with my little sister and the four Presidents. I was 6 and she was about 3 1/2.

So our final destination was Clark County, South Dakota, specifically in the tiny town of Naples at my great-grandparents house. My grandma's parents, Helmer and Bernice (Hanson) Hiby, were in their mid-80s and late 70s, respectively, at this time. I had only had occasion to see them a couple of times and was really too young to remember any of them. I remember they had a beautiful old farmhouse with a big lawn and barn behind. There was a big enclosed porch on the front of the house at the front door that held lots of wonderful treasures, but everyone came in through the back door right into the kitchen. My great-grandma Bernice liked to sew and quilt. She had made a beautiful green quilt top that my mom loved and took notice of a few years prior to this trip. Mom asked if she could have it to quilt and she had it done by the time we took this vacation. We took several photos of the quilt hanging on the clothesline out behind the house. Here is one of me with my great-grandma Bernice and the beautiful quilt that holds a special place in our family.

My grandpa Fred's parents, Edward and Kate (Arthur) Harmon, had both passed on in 1960 and 1974, respectively. Their three sons, Ken, Harry of Rapid City, and my grandpa Fred, all lived elsewhere by this time and there wasn't really any family left living there. However, Edward and Kate's house in Henry, Codington Co., South Dakota was still there (and is still today) right on a corner of the little town. Here my sister and I are standing on the west side of the house. The upstairs window is a bedroom and the downstairs I believe is the living room. An enclosed porch with a door facing north can be seen on the left side of the photo. My mom recalls visiting this house as a child and staying in a makeshift bed on the upstairs landing. There my great-grandma Kate had a beautiful square (now antique) table with glass ball feet that was covered with books. My mom now has that beautiful table in her living room. Not only was my great-grandma a lover of books like me, but she was the family historian before there truly was such a thing in our family. Her handwritten notes gave me a start on our Harmon, Arthur, Struble and Myers lines.

In the yard of the Harmon house in Henry stands a wonderful tree with this interesting split trunk. Mom also captured us in front of the tree. Next door to the old house was a playground with an old metal slide and a wonderful merry-go-round that were reminiscent of the ones on my own school playground. After we took photos of the house, I remember playing on the merry-go-round and my grandpa Fred helping make it go faster.

This trip we took holds more significance than just the simple memories of a six-year old. This would be the last time my mom, sister or I would see my great-grandparents. Bernice passed away the following March 1982 and Helmer in June 1982. The next time my mom, sister and I went back to visit was with my grandma in 1995. My grandpa Fred had passed away two years earlier. Much has changed since then, but fond memories of this trip and the sweet childhood pictures my mother took of us as such little girls will always be a special treasure.

Photos held privately by author. Please do not use without permission.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are you GenealogyWise?

If you haven't already heard of the newest social networking opportunity for genealogists, you are missing out. GenealogyWise is just getting started and has already grown to over 1000 members in just a couple of days. I think this site has fantastic potential to make connections with other similar-minded folks.

I have a Facebook account and I know other genealogists do much of their networking that way but that's hard for me as about 80% or more of my "friends" there could care less about my Harmon ancestor or my latest North Carolina research problem. I even signed up for Twitter trying to figure out what all the rage was, but can't get the hang of it. I am too wordy for 140 characters and I can't figure out all the hash tags and such.

Give GenealogyWise a try. I'll think you'll be pleased. Come find me there.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Reflections on Independence Day

So I'm a little late for Randy's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun on July 4th, but I thought I'd share a few things anyway.

I remember as a child the 4th of July was just another really hot summer day. The only perk was that my sister and I could stay up really late and watch our town's fireworks from the air conditioned living room. We lived a few miles out of town by road, but as the crow flies (or in our case the river meandered) we were probably a mile and a half to two miles from the town's rodeo/fairgrounds where the fireworks were shot off following a day of demolition derby action in the rodeo arena. I remember that if the (hot) air was blowing just right we could hear the loud crunches of the old beat up cars in the derby. Because my Grandpa Fred farmed and was up at dawn, he'd always go to bed early and us "girls" (i.e. my grandma, mom, sister and I) would stay up late for the fireworks.

When I was in junior high my grandparents had left that small southwest Idaho town for the cooler mountain town of McCall, Idaho. They have a fabulous fireworks display that is set off over Payette lake. It's truly a sight to behold. Because they were no longer visible from home, we convinced Grandpa to load up in the car and drive into town to watch the fireworks. We parked off on a side street and readied our chairs for the show to come. My Grandpa Fred was a real tease and always the first few "test" fireworks that were shot off always got big "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" from him. He loved to see our reaction and we always got some bemused looks from the surrounding families. I even remember one year watching everyone vacate the lakeside park when a streaker ran through the crowd. I guess that's one way to get a better seat for fireworks!

Now that I have children of my own, I remember the delight I felt as a child. This year, we spent our 4th at my mother's home for a BBQ and we walked two blocks over to get a prime seat for the town's parade. This is the second year we have done this and my older daughter LOVES it. The younger one is still a little overwhelmed by it all. They have a good old-fashioned parade with floats, old cars, horses, and the local firetrucks with the firemen spraying the crowd with the fire hose. My daughter's favorite part is the candy she collects during the parade. I assume we will be back next year with our camp chairs in the shade and my daughter's candy bag at the ready.

The one item that was of the genealogical variety on the 4th was when our conversation turned to my Grandpa Fred and how he always would go around teasing, "Gotta get ready for the 4th!" I guess this was something his mother, Kate (Arthur) Harmon, said quite a bit. For their 4th, there was the possibility that relatives from the nearby communities in Clark Co. or Codington Co. South Dakota would come to visit. And I guess the real perk of the day was the trip to town for the block of ice that would later become homemade ice cream. My grandpa Fred and his mother Kate had a terrible sweet tooth. Though he talked about cranking that handle on the ice cream churn, you can bet he was probably the first in line for a taste of the sweet treat.

My memories are always of a simple day spent with family. I am thankful for those forefathers who had the courage to make our independence a reality and for my own ancestors who participated. It is my mission, as a parent, to not only pass along a fun day of memories to my daughters, but to also teach them what makes this day important and how without the courage of those who came before us, July 4th would just be another hot summer day.