Four Decades and Counting

This story is about time.
In 1973, my dad’s mom, Martha(McKnight) Jameson died after 92 years of living. She was a quiet woman from upstate New York, short of stature, really, a plain woman of her times, who raised eight kids, all of whom but one lived to adulthood. Thankfully, when she left Athol, Massachusetts to come to Hartford, Connecticut to be with her husband, Arthur, she brought with her her family photos along with the eight kids, one dog, and household furniture. The McKnight family was left behind and she entered a new world, a city that teamed with life so different than the farm-country life she had shared for much of her child and early adult life.
I didn’t know her well. As a rug rat I was having far too much fun with my cousins to be concerned about a gray-haired lady who sat in a chair watching us day in and day out smiling and nodding her head. When, eventually, I became aware of her we talked, what about, I don’t recall, now, but she always had time for me. Later on I didn’t have time for her as I went directly into adolescence and that crazy period called puberty.
Then, she died.
In 1974, one year after I was discharge from the Navy, I went to visit my uncle who supported his mother from 1942 on and asked the questions that flooded my mind then. He took me up to the attic and there in great condition was my grandmother’s Hope chest. Inside, was her wedding dress, other paraphernalia, a box of photos and an old Bible that dated to 1861. I immediately picked up the Bible and turned to the center where I discovered six or seven Jameson names I’d never heard before. Curiosity sparked, the genealogy bug bit me and before I could stop it, I was led onto a road that really caught my interest and I vowed to learn something about my ancestors.
Forty-two years have come and gone, but not without discovering the rich history that peopled my family. As I have become older and believe it or not, wiser, I have really thought long and hard about my extended history and the realization of having come full circle in life. God has bless me in all my undertakings and on a road that has led me to comprehending the full measure of that journey. My grandmother loved me as my own mother as I will with my own grandchildren with a fourth on the way.  Despite the pressures and stresses, the obstacles and emotions, the baggage we pick up and the failures we endure and no matter how heavy the cross I will always have hope and happiness exactly the same as the generations that came before me.
Autumn has picked up with its breezy winds and increasingly colder temperatures here in New England. The trees are beautiful with their colorful harvest, even as the leaves are picking up speed in its drop to the bare earth. As I enter my own Autumn, not of discontent, but fully knowing and aware of what lays ahead of me I will pass on what I’ve learned.
My grandmother was a wonderful human being with full knowledge of what occurred and what transpired. She brought up seven of those eight kids knowing full well what it was doing to her and why. She smiled and changed with the seasons and endured bravely often without merit and credit, being acknowledged finally from the mouth of a grandchild who knew her but briefly and yet now with so much more understanding.
(C) Copyright 2016, TJP. Authored Oct. 24, 2016.

2 thoughts on “Four Decades and Counting”

  1. Thanks for sharing the nice story about your grandmother. My own grandmother gave us a Family History Book after my father’s early death. Her grandmother was also a family historian, so it’s been in my blood for some time.

    Cheers, Bruce King

    On Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 2:37 PM, The Jameson Perspective wrote:

    > jamesonone posted: “This story is about time. In 1973, my dad’s mom, > Martha(McKnight) Jameson died after 92 years of living. She was a quiet > woman from upstate New York, short of stature, really, a plain woman of her > times, who raised eight kids, all of whom but one lived t” >

  2. Scott, I really enjoyed your blog about your grandma and the precious find of her hope chest! How wonderful for you all that this was something that was saved.

    You and I have a lot of parallels in our family stories. As I read yours I thought of my paternal grandma, we called her Granny, not sure who gave her that moniker but likely my oldest cousins. I am the youngest grandchild, born some 40 years after the first grandchild, so they were calling her Granny long before I was ever thought of. My granny was a small woman of Scots-Irish-English-German heritage. She was born on May 15, 1893 in Kansas City, KS as her family made their way from Lincoln County, Missouri to Oklahoma to participate in the last Oklahoma Land Rush. My great grandfather Daniel Cluny had brought his wife and 4 children, well now 5 since Becky was born on the way, on this great adventure. He had always longed to own a piece of land belonging only to him. He thought this was his big chance. While Sarah and the children stayed over the border in Kansas at the starting line, he made his way to what he thought would be a perfect piece of land to raise his family and live out their days. He camped under his wagon that night, but was pulled roughly out from under and confronted by 5 claim jumpers that threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave now. Daniel, being the hot-headed, Scots-Irishman he was, was about to give it go with these fellas. Then he thought of Sarah back at the starting line with 5 little children and common sense sunk in that if he died, she’d be left here with nothing. Regretfully, he made his way back to his family. They found some land to rent near what became Tonkawa, Kay County, Oklahoma. They lived in a dugout that had a porch on the front of it, but bare dirt floors inside and shared it oftentimes with snakes and other critters. I can only imagine how much my Great Grandma Cluny must’ve hated this. While there she experienced the death of another child, little Katie, who was only 7 years old and died of diphtheria. She knew the grief and agony of losing a child, having lost two babies while still living in Missouri. To their joy they gave birth to another child, my Granny’s brother Emery in 1896 while in OK. Nancy, Molly, Lennie, Becky and now Emery rounded out the family. Daniel was out working fields all day long, which left Sarah alone to defend the little home and her children. They were visited often by the local Indian chief and his band. The children all had black hair and blue eyes, but Uncle Lennie’s eyes were piercing icy blue and the chief took a shine to him. He would come and tell grandma that he would take him and adopt him as his own son, and that he would get his own land for being the son of the chief. This scared grandma have to death with the thought that one day the man might just take him by force. She insisted they return to MO, so they wrote back home. Her brother in law, Levi McClellan, was a banker and well off, and he loaned them the money to come home. A job was arranged for Daniel to rent a farm from Old Man Sitton. My Granny Becky was 4 years old when they left there. She told stories about how they would ride their wagon into Blackwell to get shoes in the Fall, but most of the year they would go barefoot. That they would see Indians with bare chests and just blankets wrapped around their shoulders, standing in town near the stores. She also told of the little graveyard in town where Little Katie was buried. Sarah did not want to leave her there in the cold ground. She wanted her to come home to MO with them. She lamented about how she could possibly leave her daughter behind. Granny was only 4 years old, and she remembered there were Indian’s buried there too, and that as she walked along she saw a little necklace hanging on a marker, and that she reached out and took it. She was so ashamed later that she had done it, and wondered if she would be cursed for it.

    The family rode the train back to Missouri. The first time Granny had ever seen one, and she was fascinated with how during the day time the seats were up, but at night they would fold flat so you could sleep on them. We have a photo of the family taken in 1893, and another taken in about 1902. Daniel and Sarah look like they have aged 30 years in just that short span of 8 or 9 years. They had 2 more children in 1898 and 1901. Life was hard. When Daniel died in 1905 after a wagon accident, Grandma Cluny had had a premonition of his death. She tried to wait up for him to come home, but fell asleep when she dreamed about his death and that she woke and went to the window to see the lanterns swaying in the night as they came toward her home to tell her of his death. When she woke, this is exactly what she saw as she went to the window. They brought his lifeless body in and put him on the table. Granny was only 11 years old at the time. The oldest two girls, Nannie and Molly were married now. Daniel had just spent the day moving them to St. Charles, and was on his way back at night when a hard snow set in, he hunkered down in the back of the wagon and let the horse make its way home. Rufus had sore feet though and the hard-packed road did not feel as good as the soft snow on the side of the road and just as they made it to the bridge, the horse being over too far, the wagon flipped over the edge and landed onto of Daniel, crushing his chest. She still had Lennie, Becky, Emery, Florence and Bev at home to take care of. Molly had married John Jameson, a neighbor. Five years later, Becky married John’s brother, Ira Jamerson. Uncle John kept the Jameson spelling, while the rest of the siblings went by Jamerson. In reality, they all used both spellings for years in records. But up their in Lincoln County, the locals pronounced it “Jimmerson”, no matter the spelling. Before 1925, John and Molly had moved to the big city, St. Louis. He was working for the street cars as a brakeman when one day a passenger robbed another passenger of her father’s payroll money for his store. The man shot the girl, took the money and made his way down the aisle. Just as Uncle John turned to see the commotion, the man stuck the gun to his ribs and fired a shot. The car was stopped at the corner, the man ran away and Uncle John stumbled from the car and died. The family was devestated. Poor Aunt Molly. They had one daughter that was married, but she was left home with 6 more to care for (this included 1 year old twin girls). Aunt Molly turned her house into a boarding house to make a little extra money. They all worked at Brown Shoe Company, or one of the garment factories nearby. My Grandpa Ira would come to St. Louis and work during the week, staying with Aunt Molly, and would come home on the weekends to Lincoln County. Eventually in 1929, he and Becky brought their brood of children to St. Louis to live permanently. They lived in a little part of north St. Louis called Kerry Patch. It was really a melting pot of all different cultures there at that time. When my Granny came to the big city, my Grandpa laughed so hard because the first night there she tried to blow out the lightbulb and couldn’t figure out why the light wouldn’t go out. Truly a country girl. He and Granny had 6 children. But little Iris died of pneumonia/whooping cough in 1914. By 1932, Granny was pregnant with child 7, but fate had other plans. My Grandpa had suffered with rheumatic fever as a baby, and as a consequence always had a weak heart, and was sickly until the age of 15 when he finally filled out. But by his 30s was already beginning to wear out. He was very sick in 1932 and contracted meningitis and died. He knew he was dying though and said, “Becky, what is to become of you?” He was only 47 years old at the time of his death on September 17, 1932, and Granny lost her baby shortly after. The little family stayed in St. Louis, and Granny went to work for Brown Shoe Company where practically the whole family worked, Aunt Molly, and all of Aunt Molly’s kids, my Grandpa had worked there for years, and now Granny and her older kids too. Not long after social security was begun and Granny thought that Franklin D. Roosevelt was a God send. I asked her once who her favorite president was. I should’ve known. She lived in St. Louis even as I was a child, but eventually she moved with my Aunt Marjie to Poplar Bluff, MO where my Aunt Genevieve and her husband Earl had moved to. But anytime we would visit with Gran, she would say to my dad, “You know Jack, it wasn’t until FDR started Social Security, that I could get a check every month.” She would go on to tell us how much she got per month (not much at all), and she would always try to get out of my dad how much he got a month. Ha! Dad would just smile and change the subject. Each year on Granny’s birthday we would give her cards with money since she loved it so much. As she stuffed the birthday card into the duster she was wearing, she would say, “Well you know, I might not be hear next year.” But she always was. Rebecca May (Cluny) Jamerson died on 4 March 1996, and was almost 103 years old. She remarked one time to me, that my Grandpa used to always make fun of how old Miranda Snead lived to be, one of their old school teachers. She said, I wonder what he’d think about me living this long!

    I spent so many times sitting at her knee, listening to family stories, wishing I could go back in time for just a day and meet some of the characters she told me about. Our family was very superstitious and those ghost stories and such were always a fun treat as well. Once a year we would go to the little Highland Prairie Cemetery up in Ethlyn, Lincoln County, Missouri and decorate the graves for Decoration Day. We would all meet up there with Granny, the aunts and my uncle, and I loved walking through the cemetery and hearing Granny tell her stories as she walked along….”Right there, that’s Old Ben Snead. You know your Grandpa and his brothers Green and John, and their father “Dock” (Willis) played the fiddles at the dance. Your grandpa would even stand between the two front rooms and “call” the dances. Well, Old Ben Snead one time, stood up, clapped his hands against his sides and said, ‘I can whip any man here’, and boy that started it!” Oh how I miss Granny and her stories, and all of my Aunts and Uncles and my dad. Some of the most joyous times of my life were just sitting back and absorbing all of the stories they told. I try to carry that tradition on. We still go to the cemetery each year, and as my daughters grew up, I told them of all the stories. And now that I have two grandsons, I’m beginning to pass the stories on to them as well. I’m proud to say that I have a heritage to pass down to my loved ones.

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