Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Memoir--Family Tree I

Family Trees--The Morgan/McCormack side

As a child I gave very little thought to ancestors. I suppose most don’t. We are much too concerned with where we are going, what we will become and the whole process of becoming a “grown up” to care much about our roots. For many, ancestry hardly emerges as a concern until middle age or even later. Possibly when the older members of the family began to die off, I suddenly got interested in and concerned about saving for posterity whatever information I could. I started to fall heir to family photographs, bits and pieces of genealogical research and then tried to dredge up old stories I had subconsciously recorded when I was young.

Now I find myself the unlikely matriarch of the clan, both of my cousins’ generation which included both family lines and even somewhat of my step children and grandchildren.  It is too late now for regrets that I did not ask more questions, get names written on the backs of old photographs and become more organized in my archival tasks. But here I am, and I’m the best there is in this particular situation—sad though that may be!

I really do not remember my paternal grandparents because they died when I was very small. I have some photos and family stories and maybe a very dim vignette or two that might be memory and might be just what I have been told or imagination.

My paternal grandfather was an only child although there had been a girl born either before or after him who was either stillborn or died very young. His mother had been a widow, Martha Jane Martin, with older children but she and his father only had him. I know his father’s name was John King Lawrence Morgan. The story was he was a riverboat captain on the Missouri, fell ill with something like typhoid and was nursed back to health by a widow who ran a boarding house and later they were married. He just appears as if born full grown! The pair was buried in Missouri, in a Pisgah Cemetery in Saline County. I do have a photo of the stone with dates.   Grandpa was born on June 4, 1978 in Elmwood, Missouri.

Grandma with me, spring '43


Grandma Morgan

Grandma came from an old Virginia family distant kin in one line to the Birds, Carters etc. Her family migrated to Missouri either before or after the Civil War. Her maternal grandparents were first cousins, offspring of two brothers named Haynie. Her father’s name was Daniel McCormack and he was born in Kentucky but came to Missouri.  Grandma, born Dec 28, 1879 was apparently the youngest of several children having one older sister and a least four or five brothers. My dad’s cousin, the son of Grandma’s sister, did a lot of genealogical research and compiled a book so that side of the family, if one trusts his research, is well documented back to the days of Charlemagne!.

At any rate, Charles Alva Morgan married Harriet Vernetta McCormack on April 3, 1905. They lived in Slater, Columbia and Kansas City, Missouri and produced five children, three girls and two boys. They were in order Grace Vernetta,  Ruth Alexandria, Charles McCormack, Roxie Lee and Daniel Lawrence. All but my dad, Charles, are buried in Missouri, in the same cemetery as their parents in Slater, the Slater City Cemetery. The two elder sisters had no children. Dad had three, Aunt Roxie had two sons and Uncle Dan had two girls and a boy plus four of his wife’s children that he adopted.

Sad to say I had little contact with those cousins while I was growing up and never did bond with them very much. Grandma had the huge obsession with family common among the Irish and her children were almost equally intense about it except for Dad. He always went his own way. Unfortunately, he usually only contacted his siblings when he wanted something and never lived close to them after he left home. I think the general consensus is that he was spoiled rotten and always willfully self-centered though very charming and charismatic when he chose to be The other four all stayed in proximity for most of their lives.

Grandma was never anything except a homemaker and I gather that was her choice and good fortune. She was a fine cook and an excellent seamstress and perhaps aided and abetted by her daughters, pushed to move up to larger and better homes and places where all her children could go to college.  I suppose she may have had a high school education. Grandpa did and a business college course as well.but all five of their kids got one or more degrees.  All three girls were teachers and Dad also taught a few years. Uncle became a surgeon. I’ve heard that Grandma was one to celebrate all the holidays with great gusto and try to make even ordinary days special and fun. As a child, I tended to idolize her memory and the many stories my dad told about her. I wanted nothing more than to be considered like her.

As a young woman, she had beautiful auburn hair and was quite pretty from one early photo I have. However, in later years she grew very heavy and I am sure that impacted her health. She was probably at least borderline diabetic and had heart and circulatory problems that caused her early death. She died on May 3, 1945 at the age of sixty five.  I would guess she was about 5’6” and I am sure weighed over two hundred pounds at her death.  

Grandpa was a large man, about 6’2” and he also became heavy. I found from an obituary that he served in the Spanish-American War though not as part of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. He had also gone out west as a youth perhaps with or to see a half brother or other relative on his mother’s side, where he worked awhile in Wyoming and then came back to Missouri to care for aged parents. There he met and fell in love with Grandma. She seems to have been the only woman for him and he was enamored by her vivacious nature, beauty and charm. 
Grandpa Morgan, Roxie, Dad, Grace, Ruth, Dan--
ready for their mother's funeral

His lifelong trade was railroading. I’m not sure where he started but he ended up a passenger conductor for the Chicago and Alton Railroad, a long-defunct Midwestern line. This meant he was gone a lot and it seems he gave his wife free rein and all the financial support her could, leaving the household and child-rearing in her hands almost completely. This was both good and bad! He was devastated when Grandma died and just existed for a few more years, moving to southern California to live with his youngest daughter for his final years. He died on November 1, 1947 at the age of sixty nine.

The five Morgan children died in the same order as their birth. All but Uncle Dan were diabetic the last years of their life and most had heart or arterial diseases that led to their deaths. Aunt Ruth also had cancer. She had a mastectomy in her early fifties and eventually got a brain tumor which was her immediate cause of death. Uncle Dan stayed leaner and more fit but finally got prostate cancer and declined rapidly in health after that. He was in his early 890s but the rest were in mid-seventies. Dad was just short of 77 at his death. Actually I suppose they all lived fairly normal or average life spans for their times. I just tend to contrast theirs to the long lives of my maternal grandparents. They seemed to come from some especially hardy and healthy Kentucky hill people and were survivors. 





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