O Cannelburg, O Cannelburg, How Lovely are Thy Jails

I have a friend who is very Irish.  She’s got the white skin, the red hair, grandparents named Patrick and Bridget…everything.  But there are a few branches on her mother’s side that are German…very German.  These include generations of people ALL named Emil.  I can imagine family gatherings with that family was a lot like my Brown side.  We have like 800 Johns.  My dad is a John, but when we’re at a family gathering in Ohio, his name is Tom.  It was easier that way than having all 800 Johns turn around when someone calls for you.  Anyway…I imagine that’s how it was in her very German family with Emils.  They were probably nicknamed Heinrich, Klaus, and Lou… or something.

Anyway, when she was in town visiting last year we started working on her family tree.  We worked for hours, well into the night.  We worked until all her makeup had washed off from tears of laughter.  What we discovered was that my friend Amy had VERY deep roots in Southern Indiana in the Catholic German community.  One town that stood out to us was Cannelburg, mostly because we had never heard of it before and it was just so obscure.  We decided then and there that we WOULD go to Cannelburg.  That is what we did last week.  We went to Cannelburg and discovered some great places down in Southern Indiana.

I geeked out the nights before our departure and made a Google map of our trip.  Of course I forgot to send it to myself before we left and I had to wing it.  It worked out.

Stop 1:  Bloomington, IN – Farm

Farm is actually a restaurant.  Not a farm.  They specialize in locally grown and organic foods.  They are well known for their breakfasts, and for good reason….jeezy creezy it was good.  I could have survived on the biscuits alone, but I ate way more than that.  Amy and I went to Indiana University Bloomington, so it’s a nice time when we can revisit Kirkwood and reminisce.  I’m glad Farm wasn’t around when I was in school.  I would have been even broker.

Stop 2:  Scotland, Indiana

Scotland was not the goal.  In fact, neither of us had ever heard of Scotland, Indiana.  As we drove down the road towards Daviess County Amy saw a small blue sign that just said, “Historic Site”.  She made it very apparent that she thought we should go back and see what the site was, and we did.  We drove up a massive long hill and came upon the town.  We saw what I believe was the “historic site” immediately on our left.  This used to be a hotel, and as I drove around the back to turn around there were two remaining outhouses.  Fabulous.

I felt a little bit like we were the only people in the whole town, except I also felt like we were being watched the whole time…very Children of the Corn.  A very manicured grey poodle ran manically across the street a lot.  Like frantic street-crossing.  Back and forth.  Amy was solicited in the street by a black cat while she tried to take the following pictures.  She hates cats.  It amused me.

Scotland, Indiana.  National Register of Historic Places

This is Scotland. The Scotland Hotel is the blue building on the left. This is now a residence, but there is a marker in front of the home declaring its place in the National Historic Register.

Stop signs, Scotland, Indiana.

Scotland really wants you to stop here. One stop sign is just not enough. Also they want you to know that they are an OFFICIAL community. They have a sign that says so. It doesn't matter that this is a sign from when Robert Orr was governor of the state (1981-1989).

General Store in Scotland, Indiana.  Osh Kosh B'Gosh advertisement.

A fun little general store we saw as we drove around town. This place was vacant except for the many motorcycles inside.

We were running low on gas, and I was afraid a Scotland native was going to grow weary of our picture-taking, so we left.

Stop 3:  Some Big Lake or something, Daviess Co. or possible Martin Co., Indiana

So we stopped and got gas.  I was pumping and Amy ran in to get something to drink.  I’m not sure where my mind was, but it certainly wasn’t on the task at hand.  When I finished pumping I pulled up to the gas station and waited for Amy.  When she came out she looked a little frazzled.  She told me about the conversation of the locals that were in the gas station and the fact that every one of them was smoking in the store.  She got out as soon as she could and just hopped in the car.  Neither of us were paying attention like we should.  I pulled out of the gas station and headed towards Loogootee, what was to be our next stop.  About a half hour later I heard Amy say, “Oh Erie!  We have to stop!” She explained that our gas flap was open.  So I pulled into a parking lot about 1 minute later.  It was a parking lot for a lake-side restaurant.  As I was opening the door to get out Amy said, “I think there’s supposed to be some big lake around here or something.”  I looked up.  Ummm….We were completely surrounded by a lake.  We were literally on a large peninsula.  And I just looked at her and looked at the lake.  Really? So that was hilarious, and then I got out and realized that not only was the gas flap open, I didn’t even put the cap on!  WHAT?!  All of our brain power had obviously been sucked away by Scotland’s charms.

Daviess County and Martin County Indiana

So here I am, in front of the MASSIVE lake Amy just kind of missed, putting on the bright yellow gas cap we both missed.

Stop 4:  Loogootee, Indiana

We learned that a number of Amy’s ancestors were buried in St. John’s cemetery in Loogootee.  They were also baptized and married in its church.  The cemetery was a small and peaceful place FULL of surnames we recognized in her tree (Norris, Arvin, McAtee, etc.).

Catholic cemetery, Martin County, Indiana

St. John's Cemetery in Loogootee, Indiana on a cloudy day.

We found good old Hillary, one of her great great great grandfathers (who we often refer to as Hilaire, because of what seems to be a Hilaire-ious census error).  We both felt close to Hillary (who’s name is misspelled on his headstone – what?!).  So we both had our pics taken with him, in his final resting place.

Hillery McAtee, Martin County, St. John's Cemetery

Amy, showing love to the McAtee ancestry. "What up, g-pa?!"

The church, located about a mile from the cemetery, was “whimsical” as Amy said.  Hand-painted angels adorned the walls.  Pink was the color palette of choice.

St. John's Catholic Church in Martin County, Indiana, Loogootee.

St. John's Catholic Church in Loogootee. You could use this church as the template for an 8 year old girl's bedroom concept. Very pink.

It was just sitting there! I kind of wanted to take one. Like they were preparing to sell them at the next bake-sale.

Confessional sign

How awesome is this sign that was built in over the confessional booths? What is with that fabulous font?! I kind of loved it.

We couldn’t spend too much time in Loogootee so after the church we drove through kind of quickly to get to our next stop.

Stop 5: Washington, Indiana.  Daviess County.

I recently read a book that I randomly came upon in a Half-Priced Books.  It was called Indiana Gothic, by Pope Brock and was amazing!  It was written in a style that reminded me of In Cold Blood, in the sense that it was a true story written like a novel.  This Mr. Brock wrote the story of some of his own ancestors that lived in Daviess County around the turn of the century, and later.  He had some DRAMA up in his family.  His family never talked about but it was saved in the history of public record and newspapers.  Almost all of the story took place in Daviess County, specifically Washington, Indiana.  So it was kind of fun for me to visit this place.  We drove around downtown looking for the library, and finally found it.  We headed inside to the Genealogy section and had all of 15 minutes to do a little searching.  In that VERY short time we found a ton of stuff.  We realized that one day of research in that little room would fill in some gaps.  Maybe on her next trip to Indiana.

When the library closed we drove around town for a few minutes.  I gave Amy the task of map-reader since I was driving.  I quickly learned that Amy doesn’t like to read maps.  She may have liked to read maps before she moved to New Orleans, but now life must be lived, and maps are a hindrance.  Or maybe she never liked to read maps.  So I showed her how to use the maps app on my iPhone and she just continued to stare out the windows with iPhone in hand.  This is how the conversations would go:

Me:  So where next?

Amy: What?

Me:  Where to?  Do I need to turn here?  Check the map.

Amy:  Oh, Ummm… (turning phone, looking confused, looking out the window again)  Where are we?

Me:  Amy!  You’re supposed to be the map reader.

Amy:  Stop yelling at me!  You’re making me work too fast!

So, we finally got moving to our next stop after some wandering…

Stop 6: Black Oak

Really not much going on here.  Like…for real.  Nothing.  We did come upon a LOT of Mennonites in this area.  I’m pretty sure the majority of people that lived here are German Dutch or Mennonite or Amish.  Most homes had a carriage.  We did come upon a very strange place here called the Candy Haus.  We thought, “Yay!  A small local family owned shop!  Let’s stop!”  So we followed the signs and came upon a house with a sign inviting us in.  What I saw was very strange.  There was a strange booth in front of the house with the same vinyl siding as the house, with a man talking on a phone.  A woman dressed in a long dress and head covering was walking out towards the booth to go talk to the man.  Amy kept asking me to stop and I had to repeatedly say, “Amy!  They’re in a phone booth!  In their front yard!  I am not stopping!”  I think after the 3rd or 4th time I explained it to her she also decided that stopping would be weird…you know, while they were in the phone booth.

We drove on.

Stop 7: Cannelburg.  Finally.

This location was our main goal.  Many of Amy’s family members lived in farmland immediately surrounding Cannelburg (also sometimes spelled Cannellburg).  Cannelburg was very similar to Black Oak, but actually still had the post office that Black Oak has since lost.  The post office and meat processing center seems to be the center of this bustling town (even though it’s not nearly big enough to be a town).  As we were driving around town, I saw a street we hadn’t driven down yet (keep in mind we drove through the rest of the streets in like 10 minutes, including Amy’s stops to take photos).  We turned down the road and what I saw was amazing.  A shed, made of wood with some weird metal covering, with a sign proclaiming it as the “town” jail.

Cannelburg jail, Daviess County, Indiana

If you cannot read the sign in this picture, it reads Cannelburg Jailhouse, Est. 1890.

At first we thought Cannelburgians were just Hilaire-ious.  But then we started discussing whether this actually could have been a jailhouse for the town.  We decided that it totally was, and knowing Amy’s love for bourbon, her family members were probably there from time to time.

That was it.  That was Cannelburg.  At first it was sort of a letdown, but the “jailhouse” made this stop totally worth it.

We wanted to get to French Lick so we started out of town and started the scenic drive.

Stop 8: Shoals, Indiana

Shoals, Indiana is one of the prettiest little areas I have seen in Southern Indiana.  I have been through a lot of our state and had never been to Shoals.  I might be back.

Overlook in Shoals Indiana

They had an amazing little overlook along the route to French Lick so we had to stop and take pictures.

Stop 9: French Lick, Indiana

We both love French Lick and West Baden, Indiana.  If you live in Indiana or Kentucky and have never been here, please go.  You will be shocked and amazed by the two gorgeous hotels located here. Not only are the hotels gorgeous, but the renovation of the hotels and creation of the casino in town has lead to a movement of economic revitalization in the community.  The downtown has way more going on, and it’s so cute.

French Lick church

Please visit French Lick and West Baden. This is part of the adorable downtown, settled in what is known as Springs Valley.

On the drive to French Lick I had a small meltdown.  I get carsick now.  This is something that’s gotten progressively worse since I’ve gotten older.  It’s usually fine as long as I’m driving.  The roads from Cannelburg to French Lick were SOOOO windy though.  I don’t think it helped that I was very hungry.  When we found a place to eat in French Lick I was truly thinking to myself, “I can’t get back in that car tonight.  We are going to have to stay here.  Or Amy will have to drive back and Andrew will have to pick me up tomorrow.  I cannot get back in that car.”  I didn’t say these things out loud cause I was REALLY hoping it would pass.  It did.  We got a mediocre dinner downtown and headed over to the West Baden Hotel, the more impressive of the two hotels.  We stopped at the precious little ice cream shop and I got some Rocky Road, which brought be completely back to life.  We sat in the massive atrium, ate, people watched, and just relaxed.

Stop 10: Home

We rocked out to Elvis Presley.  Isn’t Suspicious Minds a fabulous song?

We got home.

Arni’s Couldn’t Solve This Mystery

I just started a new job.  While I am excited to have a regularly paying gig, it really does cut into my exciting new life of genealogy-traveling.  What DOES excite me, is that I have a teacher’s schedule and I have a decent amount of time off which allows me to get around.

The week before I started this new job I wanted one last short little jaunt somewhere.  I decided to head to Crawfordsville, Indiana to see if I could find some answers on a Riley Bastion.  As many of these previous posts are, this one is about Andrew’s family.  Unfortunately most of the traveling for my family would be much farther.  Maybe this summer…

Riley Bastion is Andrew’s Great great grandfather.  His name was the first mystery.  I have seen a William Riley Bastion and a Riley Bastion in Crawfordsville.  This has to be the same person, right?  We can only assume.  The name is unique enough, and in such a small town during the same time period…we have to assume or we will go insane.  He is related like this:  Andrew Nelson>Kevin Nelson (father)>Paul Nelson (grandfather)> Annetta Bastion (great grandmother)> Riley (the mystery) Bastion

What made Riley such a mystery was that he died very young, leaving his poor wife Fannie a widow with three kids in her mid 20s.  Riley was just over 30.  I wanted to try and figure out what happened, where he was buried, and who his parents were.  I came home with some answers, but more questions.

I drove to Crawfordsville, a little town that is home to Wabash College.  I find that little college towns are kind of the best.  They have that small town charm but have a few really tasty places to eat.  I sought out the food before I headed to the library.  I almost drove off the road when I turned a corner and saw a sign for Arni’s!  YES!  ARNI’S!

Arni's gleaming sign in the afternoon light.

When I was growing up there was an Arni’s very near my house.  My sister, Kristen, worked there for years.  There were bikes all over the walls.  Celebrity cardboard cut-outs filled the foyer and bar.  The place was a heaven of tacky.  I loved it.  I still love it in my memories.  That Arni’s is now gone and they have moved even farther north and made it “nice”.  They have also changed the menu a bit which upsets me even more.  I went to this Arni’s once and that was the last time.  It was too depressing and nice.  This Arni’s looked just dingy enough for me to enjoy.  I walked in.  While there were no bikes or tacky decor, it was only counter service, the place was small and laid out weird, and it smelled like Arni’s.  Perfect.  I had a luscious hot ham and cheese and made my way over to the library, which was right next door.

I am one of those people who feels weird talking to people I don’t know.  When I actually do it, it’s not painful, but I just have to work up courage first.  Here are some things I hate:  calling to make reservations over the phone, asking for directions, getting my haircut because of the requirement for small-talk, and asking librarians for help when I’m not really sure what I’m looking for.  I am sure that librarians LOVE the challenge.  I would!  But not everyone is like me.  This makes me feel awkward and guilty simultaneously.

So I went to the family research section, which was fairly large.  I LITERALLY looked at every single book on the shelf and leafed through many more of them trying to find some information.  The only thing I could find about this Riley character was his death date, which I already knew.  So after about 2 hours of just browsing and hoping I went to talk to the librarian.  Why didn’t I do this in the first place?!  Within two minutes she used the death date to pull up a file on the computer which had a copy of his death certificate.  This included how he died (unreadable), how long he’d been sick, what his parents names were, and where he died.

Poor Riley had been sick for 2 years before he finally died.  His parents were listed as Phoebe and Anthony Bastion.  He died in Crawfordsville, which I had already suspected, but there was still no word on where he was buried.

I was so excited to get this information that I immediately went home to enter it into my computer to see what I could find in addition based on my new info.  And what I found was so frustrating.  Anthony and Phoebe may NOT have been his biological parents.  They may have adopted him and changed his name somewhere around his tenth birthday.  He may have been named William Riley Wheeler prior to that, but I can’t be sure.

This guy is going to require more than one trip to Crawfordsville.  At least I know there is an Arni’s there to keep me happy and full before I start a long day of mystery-solving.

The Eels accompanied me to Rushville

This has been a rough week.  I have been sick.  I actually did start to get better, and then went ahead and got sick again a few days later.  During one of my healthier days this week I decided to take a little trip to Rush County to see if I could find some of Andrew’s family who are buried there.  I also thought I might spend some time at the library there.

I got in the car and started going through a book of CDs that Andrew found in the basement.  I don’t know how long they had been down there, but I was so excited to come across one of my favorite Eels CDs, Shootenanny!!  GREAT Album.  It was Saturday morning, which made the song (Saturday Morning) that much more enjoyable for me.

“Saturday morning
And this ain’t the place for me
I’m giving you warning baby
We got a whole big fat world to see”

Just as a side note.  Only the Eels could make a song as creepy as Restraining Order Blues sound so pretty.  If you haven’t heard the album, I’d highly recommend it.

My first stop would be McCarter Cemetery.  This cemetery is literally in the middle of nowhere.  I spent about 20-30 minutes there and didn’t see a car the entire time.  I did, however, see an Amish horse and buggy.

The only traffic I saw at McCarter Cemetery

The closest town is Milroy.  Not much going on there, either.  But honestly, this was a beautiful cemetery.  It was so quiet with a beautiful view of barely-rolling hills, with little one lane roads cutting through the land.  I could have sat here all day.

View from McCarter Cemetery

Luckily, this was a really small cemetery and I found Andrew’s family pretty quick.  His Corey family is buried here, along with some of his Boring family.  In fact, his gggg grandmother lived to be at least 100 years old.  The gravestone said 1776-1886 100 years.  So someone was bad at math, but he’s got some healthy genes either way.  Supposedly this Corey family is of relation to Giles Corey/Cory.  He is the man who was pressed to death by heavy stones during the Salem witch trials.  I have yet to get that far back in the history, but if I have to make a trip out to Salem, so be it.  I LOVE Salem.

I found a nice little spot under a tree where I could sit for a bit and relax.  I just sat and listened to the wind blow through the dying corn plants behind me.  It hasn’t rained here in about 3 weeks, working on 4.  Everything is brown.

I believe that the tree I found was also the spot for some sneaky corn-stealing squirrels to munch down on their stolen goods.

Discarded corn cobs. Those crazy squirrels!

I left my peaceful little world of McCarter Cemetery and headed for the big city, Rushville, Indiana!  Andrew also had family buried here.  His grandmother’s maiden name is Boyce, which I have since learned was Boys about 2 generations before her.  I knew that this Boys family was buried in East Hill Cemetery in Section 3, thanks to findagrave.com.  However, this was a MASSIVE cemetery.  I drove in and was like, “whaaa?”  I found section 3 fairly easily, but even this section alone was massive!  Miraculously, I managed to find the Boys family in less than 3 minutes!  They were right by the road.  I got out to take a picture.

Grave of William Boys and Helen Boring - ggg grandparents of Andrew

Now, sometimes I have an occasion where I think to myself, “If someone was paying attention to what I’m doing right now they would think I was insane.”  I mean this about life in general, not necessarily grave hunting.  There have just been these moments in my life that are like that.  Sometimes when I see someone who I think is acting very strange, I just have to remind myself that I have also had these moments, and there’s probably a very logical explanation.  While I was hunting for the grave I noticed a man and woman in the same section.  The woman seemed normal, but the man seemed frantic.  They had a glass that they kept filling in some water pump and taking it back and forth to a headstone, from what I could tell.  He was dressed nicely, as if he had just left church (It was Saturday) and his lady friend was in like a black cocktail dress.  When I finally got close enough to hear what they were saying.  The man was raving about how great the stone was.  And how when he died he was very interested in this certain type of stone.  He was wild-eyed.  He moved at twice the pace of the woman he was with could move. I didn’t make eye contact.  I was kind of scared of him.  But maybe I was just hungry.

I was getting hungry to the point of light-headedness and decided I should find somewhere to eat.  This is one of my favorite things to do on these little excursions.  I love finding new small-town eateries.  So I pulled out the trusty iphone and searched for restaurants in the area.  I could only find four.  One was Hardee’s.  I don’t think so.  One was Mexican.  Not in the mood.  One was Pizza King.  I can’t eat a whole pizza alone.  And the other was a little Corner Cafe.  That sounded perfect.  I parked, and walked to the door.  CLOSED?!  What?  It was barely after 2!  I thought I would drive around and see if I could find something that might have not shown up on my phone.  I passed the library and thought I would check the hours.  I was pretty sure they were open till 5.  I popped by the sign and, what?!  They closed at 3!  Rushville, you’re killin’ me!  This is the part where I gave up.  I decided to hop on SR 52 and head back to Indy.  There would be a restaurant somewhere along the way.

I was right.  I found a Dairy Queen type place where I could get some chicken fingers and ice cream.

I hopped back in my car and headed home along 52 which is a lovely drive.  A country road interrupted by cute little towns every few minutes.

The Eels accompanied me to Rush County and Coldplay brought me home.  It was a lovely drive on a lovely day.

Recent Americans

I have been helping the aunt of a friend of mine sort out her genealogy material.  It has been interesting to talk with her (and my friend) about their family because their relations came over to America much more recently than my own.  They are some serious Irish.  Like…REALLY Irish.  Like most of them are named Patrick, Bridget, Mary, or Joseph Irish.

While I was at her home on Friday her new son-in-law was hanging out.  He is the son of Basque Cuban refugees.  He knew exactly how his family got from the Basque region to Cuba, and then from Cuba to America.  He didn’t understand how we had to do so much research to figure out how we ended up in this crazy place called America.  “My mom got here on Eastern airlines.”

There is only one branch of my family that came to America after 1830 or so.  That is a branch on my maternal Grandmother’s side.  They’re Welsh and they unfortunately have the most boring and average names you could find.  There is a Jones branch and a Smith branch.  Very helpful.  Thank you.

While we were in New York recently we were lucky enough to be at Ellis Island the day that they were naturalizing new citizens.  I have to say it was kind of moving.  I’m interested to know if two generations down the line the children of these new Americans will know where they came from.

Front entrance to Ellis Island (Museum).

New Americans on Ellis Island

Cole Porter's Cousin in Peru

I was stuck.  A man sat across from me.  I didn’t know how name.  I wasn’t sure how he was related.  But I believe I was listening to his entire family history (which was long…considering he was in his mid-80s).  When we got to the story about how he saw Cole Porter once because his cousin lived across the street from his apartment in Peru I began to wonder, “How did I get sucked into this?”

Andrew’s Reed family was having a reunion up in good ol’ Bremen, Indiana.  No one knows where Bremen is, so when I attempted to describe it’s location, I said, “Plymouth, Indiana is the nearest bustling metropolis”.  It’s in northern Indiana, not quite “the region” but pretty close.  Much of the Reed family has hailed from this area, in or around Marshall County, for generations.  Marshall County is where Andrew’s mom grew up.  So I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet some of the older people in the family who I haven’t met and who might have some info for me that I could add to the tree.  I had no idea what was in store for me there.

It started out with the usual Reed atmosphere.  Lots of nice people and good food (mostly carb-based).  I usually leave an event in northern Indiana feeling very bad about myself and what I had consumed.  I like to pretend that the drive back to Indy actually burns calories.

Soon after the eating Andrew’s mom comes up to me and tells me she was talking to a man about the family’s history and he said that so and so was a colonel in the American Revolution.  Well….I needed to talk to this man.  Take me to him!  She took me to a very nice man.  I showed him the very vague print out I brought with me and merely asked him to look it over to tell me if there were any glaring issues.  He seemed very excited about my tree and said there were names on there he hadn’t really seen yet.  Then he asked if I wouldn’t mind talking to his dad.

I should have known better when it took about 3 minutes to break into the conversation that he was already having.  His son said, “Hey.  Dad!” about twelve times before he decided to acknowledge his presence.  He said, “This girl here is working on the family tree and wanted to know if you could see if what she has so far is right.”

He did!  He checked out the tree.  It looks like I’m on the right track.  That took like 5 minutes.  I talked to him for another 55.  No no….that is wrong.  He talked to me for another 55 minutes.  At least.  I’m not sure what he was talking about for most of it but here is some of what I learned about: the entire history of the state of West Virginia, Cole Porter’s headstone in Peru, Indiana, how many branches of the name Smith are really out there (countless), bodies of water in northern Indiana, and various “scandals” within his family.

I glanced around every so often for help.  I was trying not to be rude but he was talking to me with CONSTANT eye contact.  I could have been handcuffed to the picnic table and my level of “trapped” would have been exactly the same.   Finally Andrew’s mom caught my crazed and anxious glances.  She ran over.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t a run, but she got to my side very quickly (she is truly a gem) and attempted to break into the conversation.  It took almost another 10 minutes for her to help me get out and away from that table.  When I asked for his email address we got a long story about how his email address came to be.  ::sigh::

We finally exchanged names after speaking for over an HOUR and were on our separate ways.

I finally left the table and immediately reprimanded Andrew (probably unfairly).  “Didn’t you see me over there?!?  I kept looking over here! Thank god your mother saved me!” He responded, “I thought you were just learning lots!”  Or something along those lines.  He really was a very nice man.  I shouldn’t have been so peeved, but I had truly become claustrophobic in a open-sided park shelter.  I didn’t even know that was possible.

As Andrew was packing up drinks into the car his new iPhone fell out of his front pocket and sort of broke, a lot.  Ugh.  He had it much worse than I did.

Overall the reunion was great.  I wish I hadn’t been sucked in for so long because I wasn’t able to talk to the rest of the fam that we don’t see very often, but the food was good.  I felt like after that conversation I deserved all those chocolate peanut butter crispie treats.  I earned it.

Sad about genes

Genealogy makes you start to think more about genes…obviously.  When you see old pictures of family members you start thinking things like, “Wow!  That looks just like my brother!”or “Now I know where Bobby gets his red hair!”

There are some pictures of my mother when she was younger that look just like me.  It’s a little creepy actually.  My sisters used to tease me and say things like, “Wow, Erin!  What was it like in the 1950s?”  There is a picture of my grandmother from the 1940s in her town newspaper posing with some people from her class.  It’s almost as if my little sister had been transported in time and was sent to sleep with curlers in her hair.  SUPER creepy.

So every time I go out into the sun I curse my genes.  You see…I am white.  I am very white.  If I’m not wearing sunscreen I will burn in less than 15 minutes.  Even if I am wearing sunscreen…strong sunscreen….I will still burn.  It will take longer, but it will happen.  After researching my family tree it is upsetting that I had this good chance to get nice dark skin from my dad’s side but ended up with the white pasty skin from my mother’s side (a group of people who came almost primarily from the British Isles).

I have known for just over a year that my dad’s side is filled with many dark-skinned people.  The Goings family that orginated in Angola (as far as I know so far).  The Hill family, not descended from the Goings, is the same.  Henry Levi Dorton, a ggggg grandfather was sold into indentured servitude until his 31st birthday and was luckily released early after some untimely deaths of his “owners”.  Much of the census records of my family members of this branch into the early 1900s consider them “mulatto”.

Then there is my brach of Choctaw Indian, also on my dad’s side. Hannah Findley, another great grandmother of mine, had to go to court to prove that she was Choctaw to get her freedom from slavery.

My little sister, Amy, has great skin.  She tans in the summer.  She isn’t afraid of the sun.  She’s probably burned a couple times, but she has good coloring.  And then there’s me.  I get tan in one place on my body, my left arm (the driving arm).  It’s a slow building tan, but by the end of the summer it’s something to be proud of.  But then, of course, I’m convinced I am going to get melanoma.  I scrutinize the shape and color of every mole or freckle.

So how did Amy end up with this great color and then there’s me…the whitest white girl? This is why I am sad about genes.

The Children of the Corn

I stood there, in front of the car, bleeding (but beginning to scab already) and covered in rash. Andrew looked at me and said, “Well, you got your adventure.”  I couldn’t tell if he was pissed or if he just mocking me because he thought it was actually funny.  He was wearing shorts and got it even worse than I did (I wore jeans).  Poor Andrew.

It all started when we drove out to Pittsboro, Indiana to see some friends’ new baby.  I hate driving to Pittsboro.  I just do.  There’s always road construction on the interstate and it’s just kind of far.  I have gotten very used to living downtown where nothing should take more than a 15 minute drive/bike/walk.  We stayed at our friends’ for about an hour, looked at the baby (cute and cuddly), held it some, ate pizza, and left.  I realized soon afterward that we were in Hendricks County (in a genealogist’s world, everything is measured by counties and townships).  Not only were we in Hendricks County, but we were in “middle of nowhere” Hendricks County.  I recalled that some of Andrew’s great grandparents, maybe six generations back, were pioneers of the area I would refer to as “Middle of Nowhere Hendricks County” and had a cemetery around here somewhere.  “Hey!  I’ve got an idea!  Let’s have an adventure!”  I described my idea to Andrew to hunt for this cemetery so I could get some pictures.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  We were both armed with iPhones – the cure-all.  Andrew didn’t hate the idea but he didn’t seem all that excited.  We decided to go for it.  He knew I was pumped.

We drove from our friends’ home (near the middle of nowhere) down a county road, turned onto another county road, and then another, and then another, until we were sufficiently truly in the middle of nowhere.  The directions provided to us on www.findagrave.com (yes, this is a real thing) told us to park off the road and walk along a fence to a patch of woods in the field.  What provided us the adventure was that, this was not a walkable field.  It was a field of corn.  This was Indiana.  This was late July.  It was 2 feet taller than me because it has been a really nice summer for crops.

We walked through a fence.  Check!  I saw some trees.  Check!  We walked through some corn and got to the trees.  Check!  It took about three minutes.  Easy!  When we got to the trees we saw the ACTUAL fence.  This was the ACTUAL fence we were supposed to cross.  So what was that first fence?  This new fence was a rusty barbed wire one.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d had a Tetanus shot, but I was trying really hard to recall as I looked at that fence.   I pulled myself up by a tree that I am sure now was dying.  If Andrew had not been pushing me from behind I can guarantee that limb would not have held and I would have cried all the way to the hospital.  We both got over.  We got out of that batch of woods to get our bearings.

Andrew pulled out the trusty iPhone and pulled up a Google Map of where we were.  And he said, “OH!  That’s the stand of trees over there!”  The stand of trees was on the other side of another cornfield.  For those who have not walked through a cornfield before, it hurts.  It looks like fun in the movies.  It’s not.  It hurts.  And if you’re hitting it hard enough, it even cuts.

We had gotten this far, we weren’t going to stop.  I wanted to see that cemetery!  And I was going to take pictures, darn it!  We pressed on.

This is when we started hearing the engines of what we agreed were 4-wheelers.  This was, of course, private property.  The house we parked at was the home of a lovely woman who said she didn’t really know where the cemetery was, but to go ahead and try to find it.  She, however, did not own the property.  I had already decided that if some man dressed in his cammies came at me with a gun and a lecture on trespassing I would just blame the lovely woman who owned the house where we parked.  Regardless, the 4-wheelers started to freak me out.

We FINALLY got to the stand of trees in the middle of the cornfield.  Once we got there we couldn’t get into it!  It was as if the plants had spent their entire existence learning new ways to defend themselves from huge predators.  Every plant had a sticker or a spike attached to it, even the trees!  There were pointy dangerous things EVERYWHERE.  We finally found what must have been the official entrance some time ago.  There was a very small piece of a wrought iron fence, being eaten by trees and plant-life of course.  We pushed in through that area and actually saw some flippin’ graves!

Unfortunately the person who owns the property has done nothing to keep up this cemetery, an amazing piece of Hendricks County history.  The Caywood family (some of Andrew’s great great great great grandparents) settled in that area in the 1840s.  There were some of those large casket-like above ground tombs that seem to have completely fallen over.  Trees grew into headstones.  There were really only 2 stones that still stood and were readable (with the amount of foliage that existed this time of year).  Pity.

We poked around for a bit, took a few pictures, and headed out back into the field.  During the walk back to the house I somehow decided that the noises I was hearing were no longer that of a 4-wheeler but of a wild and crazed bull, and it could smell us and our illegal trespassing.   I walked very very fast, and thought that I lost Andrew for a minute, but we got back to the place where the greenery was shorter than us again.  It was nice.  My skin stung.  Everything was red.

“Well, you got your adventure.”

I did.