Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Ghosts In Me

I was corresponding with a friend the other day about some ranch land near Elko, Nevada, that one wing of my family managed in the early to mid-1900s.  He knew of the area and told me that he always thought I "had a little hillbilly" in me.  My response to him was that I have the ghosts of many things stirring in me--even Republicans.  His response: "They all watch over you and make sure you don't turn into the dreaded yuppie."

Which got me thinkin' about those ghosts...
  • Great grandfather:  chief engineer on a Great Lakes freighter
  • Another great grandfather: physician (who delivered me in 1965)
  • Great grandmother:  suicidal
  • Another great grandmother:  a woman of the kitchen--I have her cookbooks, which are wilting away but filled with old clippings, notes, and shared recipes
  • A great x4 grandfather: War of 1812 hero*
  • Grandmother and grandfather:  Apple orchard owners and city superintendent
  • A great x3 grandfather: U.S. district attorney for the State of Delaware
  • A very distant aunt: owner of oriental rug factories in China
  • Great x2 grandfather, aunt, and uncle:  cattle ranchers near Elko, Nevada
  • Great x 2 grandfather: attorney and member of Nevada State Legislature
  • Great x4 grandfather: Maryland physician; owner of many slaves

 *As the story is told, this Captain John Adams Webster once came across a wrecked Japanese ship and rescued the sole survivor, a man named Hecko.  Hecko could not return to Japan because the Japanese beheaded men who had contact with other civilizations (true?).  So Captain Webster took Hecko home to Maryland and educated him.  Hecko became the Captain's secretary.  

In the War of 1812, Captain Webster, at Fort Babcock, awakened and heard the sound of boat oars in the water--an advancing British fleet.  He aroused his crew, which began firing on the fleet, forcing them to retreat.  Family lore claims that it was from this incident that Francis Scott Key wrote the "Star Spangled Banner."  Also true?  I can't be sure, but it's a good story to tell.

Back to those ghosts...

The list above includes just 1/4 of my family--kin from just my maternal grandfather's family, the Pattersons and Dorseys of English, Irish, and Scottish origins, who lived primarily on the Eastern seaboard, Nevada, and into California.  My maternal grandmother's family, the Muhlitners and Satlers, came from Germany and settled directly in St. Clair, Michigan, in the 1850s.  This is where I was born. I have long records of this family hierarchy, but I know nothing about them as people.  I also know nothing about my paternal family.

Which means there is another 3/4 of my heritage stirring in me, and I have no idea who or what they were.  If the list above is any indication of variety, just think of the possibilities...

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