Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Family's History of the United States

I had a fun idea the other day. If my research is right, I could write a fairly curious history of the US based on various ancestors of mine. For various reasons, I wanted to start with what I see as chapter 7, "The Revivalin' Twenties." I thought I might post some on Saturdays and maybe eventually self-publish it as "A Family's History of the United States."
[As a post-note, I have clarified a number of issues in subsequent posts. Some of the information here has been refined or corrected, as the clip from the Camden Record below shows in relation to my grandparents' wedding]
The Revivalin' Twenties
When the year 1920 came along, all of my ancestors had lived in Indiana for a while. Many of them probably had less a sense of their ancestry than I now have. As we've seen, in 1910 I had a great grandfather farming just north of Frankfort (Samuel Schenck). There was a great-grandfather running some kind of a grocery store in Sullivan, Indiana (Oscar Rich). Another was a Dunker working as a carpenter in Camden (Amsey Miller).

None of my parents were yet born in 1920, but they were almost twinkles in my grandparents' eyes. My grandfather, Dorsey Schenck seems to have been sowing his wild oats that year. I can't remember where I heard that he had headed west sneaking onto trains to California. Was it his sister Lula? It seems a little far fetched and I don't trust the memory of the young Kenny who thinks he heard it.

I do know this. The 21 year old Dorsey was not living at home in 1920 when the census taker came knocking at his father's farm just north of Frankfort. He would apparently run off with my grandmother Esther that summer, no doubt much to the consternation of her Dunker father. She would have just turned 18 at the first of the year. She would not end up wearing the bonnet.

Camden Record
They were married September 11 of that year in Camden. I presume it was at the Dunker church there, the one where I attended the funeral of my great uncle Calvin. Perhaps my aunt or uncle knows. If so, I can imagine that it was a matter of some discussion. Should Esther be married to this man outside the Dunker community in a Dunker church?

I presume that Dorsey was more or less a nominal Methodist at that time, the Dutch Reformed background of his ancestors long forgotten on the frontier. They were far from grace at that time, he might have later said. Neither of them would later believe they had been "saved" up to that point.

That all changed at a tent revival in Delphi, Indiana the next year. My grandmother wrote in the family Bible that they were saved in May of 1921. Then "sanctified" in August. To be sanctified in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, which they immediately joined that May, meant to have your sinful nature eradicated, your "bent to sinning."

I don't know, but I can imagine that Esther's conscience had been tender that first year of marriage. Perhaps someone in my family knows the story. Were they both interested in going to the meeting, or did she urge him to go? What is clear is that he would get a call to ministry within two years. In 1923 he received his local license to preach...

Dorsey and Esther, perhaps in front of his Indy grocery store in the 40s or 50s

1 comment:

Ken Schenck said...

Some additional and corrective information from family members:

1. The story about hopping freight trains out West was true but probably earlier than 1920, maybe even when he was in his teens. Uncle Gene said he stayed in flop houses. Jim thought he might have returned to Indiana because the US had joined the war (WW1).

2. They were perhaps married in a preacher's home. Esther was perhaps a friend of one of Dorsey's sisters.

3. Dorsey was working at a light plant, maybe on Michigantown Road in Frankfort. Someone from the plant invited him to go to the revival at an International Holiness Church in Delphi. The sisters Dunkelberger were preaching. It was packed so D and E sat on the front row. One said to the other that they were going forward and they both went forward together.

4. Esther remarked that they wouldn't have lasted if they hadn't got saved. He had promised her he would stop smoking but she saw smoke coming out of the outhouse.

5. Sanctified at Frankfort camp under the preaching of C. W. Ruth.