Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where's My Kilt?

From the family tree:

In 1798 a boy was born in Scotland who was named James R. Johnson. Nothing is known of his parents, but the story has been handed down from generation to generation that when in his early teens, he arrived in this country accompanied by his brothers. They settled in the state of Maryland.

The story goes that when James was approximately 19 years old, he along with some other boys near his age decided to get in a neighboring watermelon patch. For some reason unknown, he was caught along with another boy who was much larger. Officials put them in a stone block jail to await the penalty that would be given them. During the night James and his friend succeeded in removing a small stone from the wall just large enough for James to squeeze through. The story goes that the friend could not make it.

Having found his freedom and being ashamed to face anyone he knew, he started west and did not stop until he reached Ohio. He never went back to Maryland and never got in touch with anyone there. He passed away on November 26, 1877, in Pleasant Hill. He was a blacksmith and farmer farming 80 acres. He was a Quaker. He is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery. His marker is weather-beaten, worn and at the southwest corner of the cemetery. He died at age 79.

This story was handed down from my great aunt Mollie Ullrey who told the story to my Uncle Bob. James R. Johnson was my great great grandfather.

Keepers of family stories. Darn it, I wish I’d listened more as a child. So many things I wish I had asked my parents, aunts and uncles. Who were the story keepers? I have piles of old post cards and some old letter that have been passed on. Many families pitch those precious papers thinking no one would be interested. Well, take it from a descendent who does care, those papers are worth preserving.

I haven’t logged the information on those old cards, but it is something I need to do. You won’t find my family in a history book. You won’t find old diaries revealing all. But I do have bits and pieces of personalities and events that took place long before I took root. Perhaps our lineage is buried among notes scribbled on calendars, newspaper articles (which more times than not were cut off below the posting date) and in the memories of our siblings. Maybe as I dig into my history, I will find yours, too.

I wonder if I can play bagpipes?

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