Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mothers on Parade

Mothers' Day is coming, and in its honor TOF will present a parade of Mothers. We will start with

1. The Incomparable Marge, who is the mother of the TOFsprings, shown here in their cute-and-innocent versions:
Sara, a/k/a Dear in the Headlights
 




Dennis: Wait, What's Going On Here...







 However, the I/M is herself the daughter of a mother, and while we have no digitized picture of the two in Madonna-and-child pose, we do have them individualized, as it were:
Elsie Vera Hammontree, mother of the I/M




The Marge, imitating a bean bag















2. Elsie Vera Hammontree (1924-1951) of Oklahoma died when the Marge was very young but she is remembered for humming Strauss waltzes while she did her ironing in the kitchen. Margie was her only child, and her dad never remarried. The Hammontrees had settled in colonial Virginia, fought in the Revolution (two were at Valley Forge, and one died there), went over-the-mountain into East Tennessee, fought with Andy Jackson at Horseshoe Bend in the War of 1812; fought in the Army of the Cumberland under Schofield in the Civil War (wounded at Resaca) and headed west to Oklahoma by way of Arkansas. She married Claude Lee White, whose mother was a Choctaw with the splendid name of Maggie Jam and who raised her two sons alone in Ft. Towson, Choctaw Nation (later part of Oklahoma). For her part, Elsie was the daughter of....

3. Ora Vanora Harris (1901-1967) of whom TOF has no digitized photograph. The Marge was largely mothered by this grandmother (and by multiple aunts) after Elsie died. Ora was a Holy Roller and spoke in tongues, a religious exercise which scared the bejabbers out of little Margie. But when Margie entered the Church, Ora came with her. The Harrises had once lived in Hardin Co., KY, neighbors to Thomas and Abraham Lincoln, and moved with the Lincolns to Spencer Co. IN. (One bore the delightful name of Greenberry Harris.) But when the Lincolns moved again to Illinois, where Honest Abe grew to become famous, the Harrises pushed on to Cold Springs, MO and thence to Indian Territory, where Ora married John Hammontree and bore three daughters and two sons in the bustling metropolis of Quinton, OK.  Ora's mother was...

4. Sadie Frances Holland (1884-1918), who had been born in Louisiana and moved with her parents to Chickasaw Nation in 1898, where she married Charles Harding Harris and had five sons and three daughters. She died young of bronchial pneumonia aggravated by measles after a 13 day illness. The Hollands seem to have moved through the Lower South, perhaps starting from Mississippi. Sadie was the daughter of...

5. Annie Eliza Helms (1861-1939), who had been born in Lee Co., Georgia of North Carolinian parents, was married in Claibourne, LA, to Henry Thomas Holland, with whom she had five children: two boys, two girls, and one unknown who died in infancy. They moved to Chickasaw Nation, where they farmed next plot to Charlie Harris, who married their daughter. She died in her late 70s of a brain hemorrhage brought on by hypertension. She was the daughter of...

6. Gatsey [Helms] (c. 1826 - after 1880), maiden name not yet determined, was born somewhere in North Carolina. About 1844, she married Henry Helms, of a prominent North Carolinian family [cf. Jesse Helms], bearing seven children, of whom Anne Eliza was the youngest. Between 1847-48 they moved to Georgia; in 1850 were in Chambers Co. Alabama; and by 1860 in Lee Co. Georgia, where Anne was born. She lived through the Civil War and (to go by her residence) Sherman's March to the Sea. She was widowed sometime between 1860 and 1880, when she was living in Claiborne LA, where her daughter married Henry Holland. Not known when or where she died, or where the somewhat odd name of Gatsey (or Gatsy) comes from.

n. Mitochondrial Eve. Okay, so she's everyone's eventual mother.....

TOF, meanwhile, is also the son of a mother; to wit:

1. Rita Marie Singley (1924-1993) a/k/a "The Mut"
Mut, displaying her bona fides as a mother
TOF is descended from a long line of German mothers. This is an especially daunting thing, for there is nothing more immovable than one. When the pastor at the church hesitated to baptize TOF on the grounds that the parish was German and the name was Flynn -- "Take him to St. Bernard's. That's where the Irish go." -- the Mut said that she would take me home and baptize me herself under the kitchen sink. She would have done it, too. The pastor caved. Some of her favorite expressions were handed down from Germany. When we asked her where a favorite toy or article of clothing was, she would respond: "Where is last winter's snow?" or "Do I wear it/play with it?" Complaints were met with a cheery, "Dry up and blow away." There were no snowflakes in our house, unable to deal with disappointments. Yet, neither was there more love and care.

The Singleys had come from Gemeinde Oberhausen (Upper Houses) in the Grand Principality of Baden around 1854, in the aftermath of the famine, turmoil and oppression following the failed Republican revolution of 1848. They had lived there or in the neighboring community of Niederhausen (Lower Houses) since the close of the Thirty Years War in the mid-1600s. The name had been originally spelled Zängle, which seems to mean "Little Brick." In Nockamixon Twp, Bucks Co, PA, the name became Zingley, later Singley. Her mother was...

2. Helen Myrtle Schwar (1896-1952) a/k/a "Big Mom"
Big Mom, with her smaller brood: Mut in arms, twins Ralph and Paul below
Big Mom is the literal translation of Grossmutter, the German word for grandmother. We lived in her house two doors up the street for five years. Technically, by modern standards, we were homeless while my father jumped through bureaucratic hoops to get the GI Bill money to build our house. Among my fond memories at life up the street, is Big Mom's theory that the cure to all illnesses was an enema. It was there that TOF suffered the chicken pox and several other now-moribund diseases. Come Christmas, she dressed up as Santa and brought gifts. She had married Harry Singley, a veteran of the Great War, and a bricklayer. There is a story about him and bricklaying which must await another day. They had three children: a set of identical twins and the Mut. Her three children eventually moved into houses that were only a couple doors away. Each received a tree, in the traditional German fashion of celebrating special occasions with a tree, sister sycamores, and though two of them have since gone to that Great Woodpile in the Sky, their offspring litter the south side to this day.
TOF (r) and his Milchgeschwester (c)
Milk-siblings were those who suckled at
the same breasts.

The Schwar family (the name rhymes with "swear" but lost its umlaut long ago) came from Niederhausen and see the brief recap of the Singleys, above. The name means "heavy," and in the records of Oberhausen/Niederhausen (now called Rheinhausen) the Schwährs were stone masons back to the late 1600s. The stone work on TOF's home was laid by Mut's uncle Leo Schwar. There is a story about Pere assisting him, which will await some other day.

The whole area on that part of South Side was once known as Schwartown for the obvious reasons, not least of which are the stone houses; and the plethora of interrelated families from Oberhausen/Niederhausen contributed to the firm conviction of TOF and his Milchgeschwester that every person we were introduced to was related to us in some fashion. Schwar, Singley, Metzger, Deck, Keck, Breiner, Raisner, Albus, und so weiter all went back to those same two villages on the Rhine at the edge of the Black Forest. Near Eifelheim, if you read famous SF novels....

3. Frances Hungrege (1870-1926)
Frances: I'll see your five and raise you ten
Big Mom on far right
Mut's grandmother, third from left in the back row, lived in the big stone house on the next corner. She married Francis Joseph Schwar, a stone mason, in 1894. The Hungreges, mirabile dictu did not come from Baden, let alone Oberhausen/Niederhausen, but rather from Westpfalz, which was then ruled by Prussia. Given that she died only a few years after Mut was born, not much else is known about her. She was the daughter of....

4. Magdalena Rieß (1836-1901)

Magdalena Riess,
No family shots
Magdalena emigrated from (you guessed it) Niederhausen in 1854 "to visit friends" and never went back. We have her passport from the Grandherzogthum Baden which, in the absence of passport photography, tries to describe her in that infinitesimal German style. So we know she was 5 Schuh and 1 Zoll tall [about 5'1"], slender figure, long face, healthy complexion, black/brown hair, low forehead, and so on. She married Conrad Hungrege, formerly a steamboat captain on the Rhine, in Haycock Run, Bucks Co, PA, and had eight children, six of them boys. She died only a few years after Big Mom was born, so not much is known of her. She was the daughter of....

5. Franziska Stefan (1799-1856)
Fishermen on the Rhine
who was born, wed, and died in Niederhausen. She married Johann Rieß, a fisherman on the Rhine and was mother to nine children, eight of them girls. Four of her children died in infancy or childhood, one indeed after four days. We are now in the days before antisepsis, when cutting edge medicine meant breeding superior leaches and measuring precisely the amount of blood let. Magdalena was the last of Franziska's children and lived to be 65 in America. Mater dolorosa, indeed. A fortunate thing she was not easily discouraged and did not succumb to grief.   She was the daughter of...

6. Maria Anna Pflüger (c.1772-1845)
who likewise was born, wed and died in Niederhausen. She was the third wife of Josef Stefan and had by him four children, two of whom died in infancy. Franziska was the second daughter of that name, her namesake having died  scant eight months earlier at just about a year's age. After Josef died, Maria Anna took a second husband, viz., Jakob Metzger. During her lifetime, Napoleon was running hither and yon across Europe, including across the Germanies. M. Anna's mother appears to have been

7. M. A. Schwörer (???-???)
who married Georg Pflüger, also a fisherman. But at this point, even German record-keeping falters and it may be that some records were lost during the Napoleonic wars. There is a gap in the microfilms. So far, TOF has not a clue about these more remote ancestors.

n. Mitochondrial Eve
Since she is everyone's maternal ancestor, this means the Marge and I are remote -- very remote -- cousins. But this is no surprise. Considering how many of TOF's ancestral mothers came from Oberhausen/Niederhausen, one is not astonished to learn that he is his own seventh cousin.



Other Mothers
We haven't even scratched the surface of those mothers to whom we must credit our mere corporal existence. This is only the pure maternal strain. There are also the mothers of fathers to be considered. Not only Sarah Jane Metzger from (where else) Niederhausen, but Pere's mother Blanche Jean Cantrel, whose ancestry wends its way back through the Pas de Calais, to the delightfully named Sinia Jane Chisenhall, who lurks on the Marge's ancestral tree, to Mary McGovern, of whom a photograph shows her playfully aiming a shotgun at the photographer. (The McGoverns came from the Glan in Co. Cavan, a then-remote and inaccessible valley where they made their own whiskey. She knew how to use that shotgun.) Then there was Nancy Holloway, who was a model for Mae Holloway (up to a point) in "Melodies of the Heart." But we have to draw the line somewhere or we will end up with every mother who has ever lived.

Though, on second thought, why not? Consider them, and yours, added as well.

9 comments:

  1. Well done, sir! Thanks for this fascinating write-up.

    This makes me think of something I've been confused about (I'm certain the confusion lies with me): It would seem that on a horizontal timeline, as one moves from left to right, one would see an expanding "V" as human population grows. On the other hand, picking out one individual in the present time, as one moves backward in time, there will also be an expanding "V" as the number of ancestors doubles each generation. What does it mean that it seems like at some time, the number of my ancestors would seem to be greater than the number of people alive on earth?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eventually, there is overlap and duplication. Some of A's ancestors will also be B's ancestors. Even in small, I have one set of great-great grandparents who were first cousins, which collapses the ancestral lattice by one layer.

      Delete
  2. "'Such filial devotion ... is touching in these degenerate times.'" ;)

    A lovely post!

    A cousin of mine has been doing some genealogical research (for the last couple of decades), and discovered that my grandmother's (his aunt's) several-times-great-grandmother is a niece of one Daniel Boone.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As per routine, I could not really resist:

    27 34 54+ 66 78 ancestry of I/M, median 54+

    56 56 57 65 69 c.73 ancestry of TOF, median between 57 and 65

    Seems Baden was somewhat healthier (but also less diversified in both directions) than US, 19th C.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I had no idea that Greenberry as a Christian name had real-life antecedents. I've reread Melodies of the Heart many times and never fail to choke a little.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greenberry Harris was in fact the father of Joel Harris.

      Delete
    2. As in "Joel Chandler Harris (December 9, 1848 – July 3, 1908)"?

      The world is small ...

      Delete
    3. No, just an ordinary garden variety Joel Harris, crossing Missouri in a covered wagon. Or whatever.

      Delete
    4. OK. Funny though, you look a bit like him.

      Delete

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