Memorial Day research happens year-roundWhether from Jamestown, Russia, Norway or Germany, there’s evidence in your family’s journey linking you to where you are today. It may take the form of photos, journals, artworks or simple gravestones, but it’s out there waiting to be discovered.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
Whether from Jamestown, Russia, Norway or Germany, there’s evidence in your family’s journey linking you to where you are today.
It may take the form of photos, journals, artworks or simple gravestones, but it’s out there waiting to be discovered.
Each generation’s past can produce an historic and functional work of art, or something as simple as a sample stitch linen hanging that we’d see on “Antiques Road-Show.”
Until photography made its debut in the United States in the 19th Century, few families had any idea what a grandparent looked like and fewer still had time or money to spend on something pretty that wasn’t first useful.
My own family trees were done by the time I was born, even though artifacts were missing. I suppose that’s why antique shops, auctions and small towns lure me as I seek connections. So accompanying a beloved friend to explore his childhood “history” is not out of character.
Earlier this spring, he and I drove to Lisbon so I could walk where he walked as a child: near the old elementary school, by the movie theater and past the opera house downtown. We ate in a repurposed hardware store that is now an antique-filled shell of its former self, replete with small tables set for a fine lunch menu. On the floor of the “Ho-Den-attes” I saw the ghost of a counter where my gentleman-friend, as a young boy, was sent by his grandfather to get fittings for a house renovation.
The spacious building smelled of wide oak planks and dark wood cabinets. The worn floor squeaked. Yellowed labels still filled the drawer-fronts: “hoses,” “rubber washers” and others too-faded to read were there. And shelves, fitted now with pretty things, rather than serviceable necessities, stepped the eye upward to a painted metal ceiling.
We drove past the beautiful North Dakota Veterans Hospital where a relative worked, and around the Sheyenne River dam, up to Oakwood Cemetery. We couldn’t locate the Colton and Anderson family graves, so we asked a man cutting grass. He pointed to the caretaker’s building.
There, we met a grown-up Eugene Foyt, who my friend’s dad Jim saved from drowning at the dam when he was 13, and the grateful man showed us where my companion’s earliest kin were buried.
A delicately carved marble stone marked a 1799 grave where his mother’s earliest known female relative’s body lay. She was the sister to one of the founders of the city, something we learned anew as a reporter from the Ransom County Gazette later told us.
Ransom County veterans from many wars are buried at Oakwood. There’s a grander version of the same layout at Andersonville Cemetery in Georgia. It was just as awe inspiring and understandably important for someone whose life is focused on the military history during the Indian and Civil wars.
My mouth hardly closed the whole day. This was his history, that opened up and revealed itself as stories of fact, told by people unknown to us, we just drove down and explored, and somehow the questions I never asked, were answered.
The drive to Lisbon was a destination and the drive there was as lovely as any scenic tour could be. It was a day trip and one of many more that I’ll disguise as auctions or shopping trips. But in reality they are mini-vacations that renew and invigorate as history unfolds and new towns become friends.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.