I was admiring a friend's redecorated office recently. As I scanned the wall, looking at framed photos and artwork, she pointed out a large cross stitch. The timeworn fabric contained the names and birth dates of a very large family, with the heading "Parents and Children." The parents were stitched in at the top, followed by twelve children, all with the same surname as my friend's husband. Separated at the end were the death dates of two of the children (one less than a year old), as well as the date the mother finished her needlework, approximately five years prior to her death, which was also recorded in the same style.
I was thinking about how fortunate her husband's family was to have kept such a treasure in their family, when my friend told me the story of how it came into their possession. It turned out that her college roommate's mother had found it at a second-hand store in Kansas. She purchased it and kept it hanging on a wall in their home. Eventually, when she was downsizing, she thought of my friend, who was getting married to a man who shared the same surname as this family. She offered it to them, and they gladly accepted it. So, in fact, the family hanging on their wall was not at all related to my friend's family, that she knew of.
I realize that there are many early-American families whose vital information was recorded by needlepoint in this fashion, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries, so this may not be the most "unusual source." (In fact, needlework has been used to support pension claims!) That said, how many of these works of love have been destroyed by time, or handed down to second-hand stores, rather than to grateful relatives? No one in my family has inherited something like this, that I know of - what about you, dear Reader? Could an unrelated someone be lovingly displaying the genealogical evidence you have been seeking on their wall right now?
My friend treasures this handwork, and happily agreed when I offered to help her learn more about this family. Using the dates sewn into this fabric, I was easily able to find a Find A Grave entry in Kansas for the mother of this family, which is where we found a beautiful tribute from her obituary. We'll do a little more digging... wouldn't it be amazing if it turned out that her husband actually WAS related??
As far as I know, the only direct ancestor of mine who comes close to sharing my birthday is Sabra Almeda Lake Dixon, my great-great-great grandmother. She was born 17 July 1824, one day away, and nearly 150 years before, my birthday. You might remember Sabra from my post about her mother and half-sister for Week 22: So Far Away, or from the post about her husband, William Wilkinson Dixon for Week 4: Invite to Dinner.
I was happy to find this lovely tribute to her. It is amazing that she outlived her husband and eleven of her fifteen children! I'm proud to have her as my almost-birthday-buddy.
1. "Sabra Dixon Called After Long Illness," Deseret News (Utah), Saturday, 18 July 1908, page 24; Utah Digital Newspapers (www.newspapers.lib.utah.edu : accessed 14 Sept 2018).
My great-great-great-grandfather, Edwin Stratford, is an excellent candidate for this week's post. He worked diligently in several fields (including some actual fields) - I am always inspired by his accomplishments when I read about his life.
According to information recorded in newsprint and biographies by his relatives (found on FamilySearch), Edwin spent his early years working as a gardener on an estate in Maldon, Essex, England. The son of a cabinet maker, Edwin was the eldest of ten children. For a short time prior to his work as a gardener, he sold newspapers in London, while the family briefly lived there. At the age of 19, he also labored as a missionary for his church, and, after marrying in 1855, he and his wife, Marianna Crabb Stratford, emigrated to the United States. During their six-year-journey West, he performed farm labor, and earned money chopping wood. He also acted in church leadership roles and supported his growing family.
Once they arrived in Utah, in the Fall of 1861, he built a house in Farmington, for which he bartered labor for goods and materials. By 1864, he had moved his family to Cache Valley, Utah, where he built another house, and started a farm. In this community he built "canals and canyon roads." He also commenced work as a school teacher in Millville, two miles away. During this period he served as the county assessor and collector. He remained in Cache Valley until 1872.
As you can see in the above (and following) clippings from his obituary in the Ogden Daily Standard, Edwin was able to transfer his skills toward many different enterprises. But he was still just getting started!
As a gardener myself, this next paragraph warms my heart. Knowing that he carried his passion for flowers all the way from his teen years in England, to the untamed desert environs of Utah - literally making the desert bloom - brings me so much joy and connection to this man. I also love the description of his strong character at the end.
To sum it up, Edwin Stratford had the following jobs, many of them more than once:
Nice work, Grandfather Stratford.
1. "Gone to His Rest," Ogden Daily Standard (Utah), 9 October 1899, page 4; Utah Digital Newspapers (https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu : accessed 8 September 2018). All facts in this post reference information recorded in this obituary.
... and back to blogging! My kids started back to school this past week. Whew! I am already suffering from waking up earlier than usual. I have so much respect for teachers who wake up early every morning, often getting their own kids off to school, in order to be there for our children. I know that this is the case, because my mother was a teacher. Her mother was also a teacher. I volunteer at school often, because I know how much work teachers put in, and also how much support they need. I've been known to say, "You can always tell who the teachers' kids are, because they are usually the first to help out."
My maternal grandmother, Marjorie Skeen Russell, was fortunate to attend college at the University of Utah, where she received her degree in physical education. While she rarely had a classroom of her own, my grandma taught children in many capacities during her life. Among other endeavors, she was a substitute P.E. teacher, a driver's education instructor, taught Kindergarten at a private school, and was a docent for Utah's Hogle Zoo, bringing animals into classrooms.
She credited her passion for learning and discovery to her own experience as a young student at the William M. Stewart School. The school's new building was constructed on the University of Utah campus just a year before she started Kindergarten in 1919 (according to my best calculations). It acted as the Normal School or "lab" school for the College of Education, and many of the children who attended were children of professors or others associated with the University of Utah. The teaching philosophy was very hands-on and experiential. The teachers capitalized on the many connections with parents and associates by making the campus their classroom.
My grandma loved recounting her early school days. One of the memories she shared was of walking across 500 South (just South of the university) to Mt. Olivet Cemetery, where the class would observe and catch tadpoles. As older students, they raised chickens on the roof of the school, and sold the eggs. The children practiced their math skills by keeping track of egg sales. She related her pride at being selected to ring the school bell. The bonds the children formed lasted a lifetime. I have memories of my grandma still regularly meeting her "Kindergarten friends" for lunch when she was in her 80s.
While I was trying to learn more about the school, I found an article written in 1988 when a reunion for the school was being organized. It described the wonderful environment created for the students - you can read all about it here. It really sounded like a dream for the entire school community.
I can say, without a doubt, that my grandmother's experience at this school has rippled out far and wide for many years. My grandma used the hands-on model of the school while raising her own children, making sure they played with clay and got out to explore nature. My mother grew up to be a dedicated teacher, whose use of experiential learning earned her the 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Much like my grandma, while I have never had my own classroom, I spent my 20s and 30s in the field of outdoor education, sharing the wonders of our natural world and gardening with young children, including my own. So many lives have been influenced by the efforts of the Stewart School - I'm left feeling very grateful for it!
If you are interested in learning more about the William M. Stewart School, there are two collections of related materials available to the general public. I will definitely be taking a look the next time I am in Salt Lake City! Here is more information:
1. "Marjorie Skeen Russell, Obituary," Deseret News (Utah), 1 November 2001; Deseret News Archives (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/885020/Obituary-Marjorie-Skeen-Russell.html : accessed 2 September 2018); also telephone conversation with author's mother/daughter of Marjorie Skeen Russell, 1 September 2018.
2. "William Stewart Building (1920)," revised 12 March 1998, University of Utah Graduate School of Architecture; University of Utah Historic Buildings (http://students.arch.utah.edu/hba/htmlfiles/bldg006.html : accessed 3 September 2018).
3. "Thanksgiving Play Dinners Enjoyed by Tots, Stewart Pupils Prepare Tempting Menus," Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), 27 November 1919, page 22; Utah Digital Newspapers (https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=15066768 : accessed 3 September 2018).
4. "Stewart School Is Having a Reunion," Deseret News (Utah), 27 September 1988; Deseret News Archives (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/18645/STEWART-SCHOOL-IS-HAVING-A-REUNION.html : accessed 3 September 2018).