My mother was great for saving things. She had old quilt blocks from my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor and her two daughters stored in the attic since 1958. I got them in 1987. And did I use them! At first, I was so worried they would disintegrate in water, I could barely stand to wash them. It stood to reason, though, that they were dirty. They’d been made sometime in the 1930s and hadn’t been washed since then. I had to do it. I put them in water and then I cried. I’m glad I was home alone! I must have looked ridiculous, washing quilt blocks and sobbing. I was overcome with the connection to my family, to women I had not met since they all passed away before my birth, but yet family that I knew. Mom was also good at recounting her memories of her family.
I have a bone to pick with my grandparents. I was born dark-headed, dark-eyed and I tanned easily. Back in my day, kids were outside when the weather was nice. We couldn’t have stayed in the house if we’d wanted to.
What did my grandparents do? Grandpa Henry called me his Little Indian Princess. There was a story in our family that we had Native American ancestry on my Grandma Nannie’s side of the family. It was so specific, they figured that Grandma was 1/4 Native American which would make Mom 1/8 Native American. I didn’t think anything about it because Grandma was born and raised in West Virginia. Or West Virginnie, as she would say. It was Appalachia.
Wyethville was named after George Wyeth, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. It was a strategic location during the American Revolution and it was involved in many battles during the Civil War.
I have one of those families that were North and South. I found a few ancestors that fought in the Civil War. Some survived, some did not. Some deserted – which I cannot blame them for AT ALL. That was a brutal war fighting brother to brother and the injuries were horrendous.
I swallowed Grandma and Grandpa’s story about the Native American girl married to a man who didn’t want her to walk the Trail of Tears. Hook, line and sinker, I swallowed it.
I took a DNA test back in 2019. There is not one percent of Native American blood coursing through my veins! Now how do I explain my dark eyes and dark hair and my psychic ability? Well, I guess I am what the Scottish call “fey” and my second sight came from my Cunningham ancestors, not my Keller ancestors via an Indian Princess!
The main photo on this post is that of my paternal grandparents and my Dad’s two oldest brothers. They hailed from Harrison County, Indiana. They moved around a lot. Times weren’t great even before the depression hit. Grandpa did road construction, tennant farming, worked as a farm hand, did carpentry work, ran a saw mill and, when I knew him, he ran the local dump. How he ran the dump was hilarious. He brought home 90% of what people left there. I remember we had a lamb cake pan made out of some kind of aluminum that Grandpa Carey brought home. We could never get the pan to release the cake without a fight! But still, it was cute. He also brought home a cast iron cornbread pan that made cornbread ears of corn. It was beautiful and reminds me that tonight I will make cornbread to go with my kale potato soup!
Family. I love my family, the few I have left now and the ones that went before. I remember such good times with all four of my grandparents – although I will admit Grandpa Henry scared me to death when I was little. He was almost 6 foot tall and weighed 300 lbs if he weighed an ounce. Grandpa Carey was tall too and large, but he was a big old cursing bear! He was always laughing, where Grandpa Henry was more likely to be crying as not.
I have never had to look far to understand why I do what I do. I dye fabric, I sew, I knit, I spin, I sew all the time AND I garden. Grandma Hattie, the lovely, sad-looking woman hugging Uncle Arlon, was my inspiration. She had the most beautiful garden in the world. I know Grandpa Carey did a lot of the work on the vegetables, the corn, the beans, the pea, the carrots and tomatoes. Grandma had concord grapes and green grapes, a sour cherry tree, apple trees, and a flower garden. When I was staying there in the summers, she would always take me out to the front porch to clean beans or peas. If it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, she’d take me to the garden to show me the flowers that only bloomed at 4 o’clock every afternoon.
My quilting, my gardening, my sewing and my cooking came from her. I sat at the table, where she would have a new oil cloth and give me a cup of milky coffee. I watched her can everything from that garden. I remember she would make vegetable soup and can 30 or 40 quart jars. Her tomatoes would go up in the jars, along with green beans and peas and potatoes and anything else she had. The corn was scraped off the cob, cooked and canned. She made the most wonderful cherry pie after my Dad would get up on the ladder and pick her cherries. He would take the top crust off that pie and dump the sugar bowl on it. My Grandpa did the same thing! Grandma always gave them both a dirty look, but they ate that pie.
Times gone by. Happy times.