Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day for 300 years

Happy Birthday to my mother today!
I've always considered myself to have been incredibly fortunate to be born with such a wonderful mother. I can't remember a single time she ever yelled at me. Ever patient. Ready with good advice, like, "You don't have to say everything you know." Always confident that God will work things out.

A pastor's kid, a professor's kid, a child of the Great Depression. Grew up at Frankfort Bible College, where she graduated as Valedictorian in 1947, only to get married later that summer to a recently returned veteran of World War II, my Dad.

My mother is a reader, ever curious, always ready for an interesting side trip (much to my father's "delight"). Always ready for a good discussion of just about anything, but especially theology and politics. Able to play just about anything on the piano by ear, hearing the melody and adding the chords.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!
I was thinking today that the mothers tend to be left out of the family trees, so I thought I would give a tribute to the mothers of my family tree:

Verna (Vernilla) Rich
My mother's mother was born in 1894 in Sullivan, Indiana. She was the oldest child and was expected to help her mother take care of her numerous siblings (I count at least 8). Her father actually forbade her from going to holiness meetings (to the Holiness Christian Church) because he wanted her to help with the chores at home and gave her a whipping when she snuck away to them.

She married my grandfather at the ripe age of 29. She was his second wife as his first wife had died. My grandfather, Harry Shepherd, and his first wife were Quaker ministers. But after his first wife died, he ended up joining the church that my grandmother was part of, the Holiness Christian Church, which would join the Pilgrim Holiness Church, which would merge into The Wesleyan Church.

My grandfather was a professor and a thinker, but not so much a doer. Some of the time he taught for Frankfort Pilgrim College, he didn't get paid or didn't get much pay. My grandmother inevitably ended up trying to make ends meat by washing other people's clothes and doing other odd jobs for others to get them by. My mother remembers days at Frankfort College when they had little more than watered down soup and were paid in cafeteria food.

She was a hard worker, someone who never had an easy life, faithful, someone who took the hand that was dealt her and did what needed to be done, grateful for what she had.

Rena Wall
My grandmother's mother was born in 1873 in Sullivan as well. She died the year after I was born. I obviously don't have any memories of her, but I guess she belonged to the Christian Church. One of my grandmother's younger sisters was reportedly worried about her coming to live with my grandmother for her last days and told her, "Remember, Mom, that you belong to the Christian Church."

Let's just say my grandmother's family didn't exactly look up to her holiness ways. My sense is that they looked down on her for being poor and for belonging to an unsophisticated religious group. The censuses mess up her name repeatedly in her early years. In 1880 she's listed as Kena. She's called Bina in 1910.

Mellisa Shelburn
Mellisa was born in Kentucky in 1836 but died in Sullivan, Indiana, where her father moved the family. The spelling suggests her parents might not have been masters of literature. It's fun to watch the census takers mess her name up from year to year. In 1870, they spell it the way they probably should have spelled it, Melissa. In 1850 it's spelled Malissey.
Mothers of the Distant Past
  • Cassandra Bennett - Mellisa's mother, born August 28, 1810 in Kentucky. She married Mellisa's father Champion during the time he lived in Kentucky. He had been born in Virginia in 1800, and they would both die in Indiana.
  • Ruth McGrew - Cassandra's mother, born in 1787 in Kentucky and died in 1816 there too. Interesting that she was born in Bourbon County, where the Cane Ridge revivals that started the Christian Church was.
  • Rebecca Davis - Ruth's mother, born about 1750, second wife to Joseph McGrew, whose father had emigrated from northern Ireland in the 1730s. Ruth was their first child, born in their first year of marriage.
And you'll be glad to know that's as far as I can go back... :-)

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