Monday, October 03, 2005


RE: Hearth & Home

From: Sharyn Hay
I am sorry to hear of your brother-in-law's passing but glad you have had the comfort of family. About "hearth and home" I would like to say this:

Yes, there were many lonely pioneers who didn't have close neighbors at first. But the rare visits of friends and neighbors were occasions for great celebration.

When they left family behind in the 'old country' or on another coast, they did so knowing that they would never see them again and might rarely hear news of them. So, they surrounded themselves with others who could take the place of family. The church, grange, sewing circle, barn raising, quilting bee, barn dance, country fair - all were used as reasons to get together and visit while also helping one another. They created a new 'hearth and home' right where they were and drew in others to be part of their 'family circle.' Family took on a much broader meaning for them then it does for most of us.

When men went off to war in the 1800s they did so knowing they might not return, just as they do today. There was no fixed 'term of service' as there is today. They might be gone a month, a year, or several years. Often they returned in time for the harvest and then went back. Yes, it is true that news was hard to get and the families waited long months for a letter or someone to return with news. But it is also true that they did not have to watch the evening TV news or read the daily newspaper and see reports of people being killed in a place where they knew their loved one was located. Not knowing where their father, son, or brother was also meant they didn't really know details about the danger he was in.

Death was a much more familiar and common part of life for them then it is for us today. Babies died at birth or in their first year. Children fell into the fire or the creek. Farm accidents and weather accidents claimed the lives of many. When there was a death, the whole community gathered around those remaining.

Men helped with the farm chores, women helped with the food preparation and child care. Those who grieved did not do so alone. Their choices for the future were hard, just as ours are today. Widows often had to leave the farm and move in with friends or move to town. Widowers had to send children away to live with families who could care for them. Many remarried as soon as possible in order to keep the family together and love was often something that grew after the fact.

In each generation there are new things that are hard and new things that are easier. The changes that take place over time are both good and bad. But, what never changes is the need for people around us to soften the harsh realities of life and give us hope for the future.

From: Anne Watkins
When you mentioned "letters home during the Civil War", it reminded me of a book I just read that any genealogist might like. It's called EVER TRUE: A UNION PRIVATE & HIS WIFE by Lisa Saunders. It is the Civil War letters of Private Charles McDowell, New York Ninth Heavy Artillery. Lisa blends the letters of a young couple with the historical background of the time, and even recipes for foods mentioned, so you have a very good idea of how the war was fought and of life on the home front. I obtained my copy from

You wrote: "Ol' Myrt here has been thinking about the miracle of technology and the speed of travel in this the 21st century, and how our ancestors traveling across the high seas or the western plains in the 1800s really had it rough."

I had the same thought last Thursday as I boarded an American Airlines plane bound for San Diego. We checked 2 suitcases and carried on two smaller cases with paraphernalia - books, snacks, cell phones, laptop, etc. As we quite literally whizzed across the sky at 35,000 feet, I marveled at what my great-great grandparents would have thought.

My grandfather's mother came from Missouri to Oklahoma with her sister, husband and young son in a covered wagon and I'm flying across the sky at an incredible rate of speed, going from Chicago's O'Hare airport to San Diego in just under 4 hours. Four hours. Can you imagine it!? Would they even believe it? r cell phones? Or computers? TV's? Light bulbs? I can barely believe it myself!!

I enjoyed and agree with the poem, "A Heap o'Livin'" and thank you for sharing it. My deepest sympathies to you and your family on the loss of your brother-in-law. My no-so-old cousin (early 70's) passed away from cancer early this week. My mother notified me by saying, "Perry is now walking on streets of gold." What a wonderful way to tell me he is no longer suffering. I know the loss is hard for his family but we aren't without hope! Blessings, Myrt.

Thank-you for your thoughts and prayers. No man is an island. When I first started writing this column back some ten, now nearly 11 years ago, the "powers that be" said they thought DearMYRTLE wrote her column in a "too familiar" way, not formal enough to be credible. I think that everything we experience in life affects our writing, our research abilities, etc. We must learn and grow together. None of us start out as professional genealogists, yet in a few short months we become "experts" on the family name, and over the years we come to know the places where our ancestors once lived. Isn't it a joy to do this family history stuff?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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