Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What is Behind the Dates?

There is a human element to genealogy research that sometimes we forget as we input data into our genealogy programs.  Sometimes it is important to stop and look at the dates and think about the human impact of them.  Even though they occurred outside most of our collective memory – there are some things that make one stop and think. 

My great-grandfather (Ora Silas Gage) grew up in Esperance, NY in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  There were a number of tragedies in his parents’ lives that bears closer examination.  Orlando Gage – Ora’s father, married as a young man to Charity Hotaling on 12 Jan 1875 – she was 19 and he was 25.  They had three sons and then a daughter when Charity died about a month later of quick consumption.  Orlando was left a widower at 35 years old and four children, including a baby daughter.  I believe that Orlando’s mother, Phebe Allen Gage took care of the baby and the boys were boarded with Orlando’s sisters so Orlando could continue to work.  Orlando married 28 year old Edith Gallup on 5 May 1886.  Edith had been a schoolteacher and taught at the Quaker Street Academy.  Her family had left in the 1880’s for Nebraska and Edith refused to go because she was frightened of Indians – so she stayed back in NY while her parents and siblings left.  As a teacher, she boarded with different families of the students that she taught, changing locations every few weeks.   It must have been quite lonely for her and by the standards of the time; she was probably considered an “old maid schoolteacher.”

After Edith and Orlando married, they had their first child in 1888, a son they named Allen.  Allen  died at almost 2 years old in a tragic accident.  He was in a walker and went under the kitchen table and stood up under the table and pierced his skull with a nail sticking through the table.  Granddad Gage remembered that story and cautioned all of his family to never let a baby walk under a table due to the tragic results from his own brother.  Granddad Gage was born two years later in 1892, his siblings Pete & Phebe followed two years later.  They were afraid that Pete wouldn’t survive.  He was an exceptionally tiny baby - I’ve heard about 4 pounds.  They kept him a dresser drawer surrounded by clothes and near a stove to keep him as warm as possible.  He survived and did well for himself – but Pete was always a rather small man probably due to his rocky start in life. The last child, Alice, was born in 1896.  By this time Orlando was 46 years old and Edith was 36 years old – they ended up buying the farm that Edith’s parents had rented and must have been a happy family.  They worked hard at their farm and Orlando continued to work for the Pullman Car Company as a carpenter.  (Pullman Car made railroad cars)  Tragedy then struck once more – sometime in late 1907.  I’ve never heard the entire story – but apparently Edith had a very bad fall and was pretty severely injured.  She was unable to walk much and certainly couldn’t do the hard work of a farm wife.  She wrote this letter to her mother, Phebe Montanye Gallup on Oct 23, 1907.

Dear Mother:
My twins are 13 years old today and a great deal of help to me. Monday night after school the girls washed a large washing besides getting supper. (I don't pretend to do anything only what I can do sitting down.) Tuesday morning they rinsed and starch the clothes done, did the morning work even to making beds and mopping and got things ready for dinner. They backed (2 apple pies) and got to school in time they were up at half past four. Orlando killed 5 pigs yesterday, 4 for market. They only dressed 102 lbs. a price. We kept one, sold them at Esperance and got 9 cents a lbs. They were late pigs, the last of April and only skim milk, so it was not so bad. He thrashed in the afternoon, earning $5 and moved his machine today. He is digging potatoes for us. He won't have any nuts to send to send you as the squirrels and friends of ours are taking them when the children are gone. Orlando is away thrashing and I can't stop them. I can only teeter backward and forward when I try to walk so I don't try much any more, the sides, back, and belly burns like fire when I try although the flesh feels ice cold, Orlando says, when you touch it. I do not feel heat nor cold just comfortable when I lay still that is something to be thankful and I do not worry. It will be and is all for the best.
I hope you are better. Here is a slip of a pretty red geranium. It is near time for the mail so I must quit with love to all.

By late 1907 or early 1908, Edith was very sick with pneumonia and died on 8 Jan 1908.  Orlando took care of her best as he could and when she died he took care of the burial arrangements and then went home and fell sick himself.  He was so sick that he wasn’t able to go to her funeral and died himself on 16 Jan 1908.  All of Granddad Gage’s older siblings were married and had homes of their own and Orlando Gage’s mother was too elderly to care for the children, so Granddad, Pete & Phebe, and Alice traveled across country to Nebraska to live with their Grandmother Gallup (Phebe Montanye Gallup) Granddad was 15, the twins were 13 and Alice was 12 and in the space of 8 days they had been orphaned. 
Orlando Gage Family - Abt 1896.  Edith is holding Pete & Phebe and Alice.  Ora is standing between is parents, Orlando on the far right.  I think this was actually two photos and were possibly stitched together at some point.

I think often of the sad journey that my great grandfather must have faced – traveling by railroad across the country to their grandmother.  Granddad Gage and his siblings lost their parents and their home.  They probably knew that there were many family members such as their grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that they would never see again.  They were facing a completely foreign place in Nebraska and were to be living with a grandmother and other family members that they probably didn’t know very well.    Every one of the significant dates in our lives has a ripple effect.  Whether they are births, deaths, marriages or divorces – the human impact of these events needs to be considered.

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