Jun 142021
 

Flag Day 2021 — Strange times we’re in: cicadas eating plants, dogs eating cicadas, humans stepping on cicada carcasses, the world seemingly falling apart, the pandemic over or not?  What does one little book matter in the middle of all this?  It matters a great deal.

History is important.  It’s how we learn when we bother to pay attention. Unfortunately, history isn’t in fashion now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I fear that generations of students do not hear about the bondage of Africans in slavery to whites, the Great Depression, the Trail of Tears, the anguish of the Civil War.  Lack of context of our past breeds deniers.

Hear me out: nothing I’ve written is as important as “Centennial Farm Family,” my new book that launches two weeks from today. Why?  Because it records a time long gone, a time many of us shared, and a time from which we can learn.

When my maternal grandmother passed, she left me boxes of information—land deeds from the 19th century, pictures, items, history books, and letters. “Centennial Farm Family” took me 29 months as I looked for more information and validated what I already had.

I found some ugly truths about my family.  My ancestors Henry and Philip Long, owned slaves in Virginia.  I felt sick when I found out, but the story needed to be told. Henry’s son Lewis left Virginia for the free state of Ohio.  How I wish I knew if he was opposed to slavery or just experienced wanderlust.  My family also benefited from the inexpensive, rich land that the federal government usurped from the native Americans.

This is not “Gone with the Wind,” I don’t gloss over the terrible things that happened in the family. The first chapter alone will shock the reader with a mysterious poisoning that has never been solved. A family member died after Vicksburg in the Civil War and was buried 300 miles away from home.   His death changed the course of ownership of the family farm, benefiting me.  I hope you are inspired to tell your own stories to your children or even preserve them somehow.

Read “Centennial Farm Family.” On June 28, it will be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.  Please write a two-to-three sentence blurb of what you learned, what you liked, and what struck a nerve with you on Amazon or Goodreads.  Indie books fight for recognition, and I need your help.  I’ve been blessed already with several editorial reviews from writers and historians.  But I need your words.  If you’ve been an advanced reader, go to Goodreads or Amazon and placing your short review.  Yes, I’m talking to you. It would mean the world to me, and it would encourage others to read the story.

Don’t get me wrong.  This has never been a money-making adventure.  I am donating many books to historical societies, museums, high schools and universities, and libraries in the coverage age.  I am not as concerned about covering my costs as I am about getting the book into the hands of those who will share their own history.  (As you may know, I’m an eccentric billionaire living on an island in the South Seas.)

In summary:

  1. Ask your local library to buy the book or purchase it yourself.
  2. Please read it.
  3. Write honestly about what your thought and post on Amazon or Goodreads.

(Paperbacks are now available on Amazon, hardcovers in pre-order in/at Barnes and Noble or Amazon, e-book coming June 28. The book is in the Ingram catalog and can be purchased there by any bookstore or library.)

Yes, I’m a brazen hussy, but you are already over it and recovering from dealing with my obnoxious self-promotion.

 

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May 022021
 

Courtesy South Whitley Community Public Library

As a child, I spent much time with my maternal grandmother, LeNore Hoard Enz. One of her main interests was family history. “Grammy” kept pictures, documents, and objects from her pioneer past. She recorded interviews with pioneer farmers for the local library,  using something new called a cassette tape recorder. Several of the interviews have been transcribed, and one I was able to use for my current project.

Our hometown library was — and is — a treasure trove. When I was a child, the building’s basement held the greatest gems in giant black books. Within their pages were bound copies of the local weekly newspaper, going back decades. My visits came after the town built the new library in my early teen years.  My grandmother had filled me with curiosity about my past, which has led to my own interest in family history.

I remember quite specifically looking for and finding an article about the death of my great-aunt Sarah Mae Hoard, who was my grandmother’s older sister.  Sarah Mae was known as “Mae.”  Mae was killed in a car accident when my grandmother was 14.  Mae had

Mae Hoard, age 14.

been my grandmother’s favorite sister.  Her oldest sister, Zoe, and my grandmother, LeNore, clashed as children and for the rest of their lives.  Great-Aunt Mae died 35 years before I was born, but she was very much alive to me through my grandmother’s stories.

I’ve written a new book that tells her story along with tales of our mutual ancestors.  The book Centennial Farm Family–Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1937 will be available at the end of June.  I long finished the story of Mae with multiple obituaries from newspapers around the area.  A couple of weeks ago, I remembered that as a child I had found Mae’s obituary in my hometown newspaper.  The library which housed the giant black books is 300 miles away.  The black books are long gone, replaced with microfilm.  Could a librarian find that same article I read as a curious adolescent?  Giving Taira Simmons at the library the date and names, she found the citation within a day.  She even sent the newspaper’s masthead from that week which shows the top of Mae’s story at flush left, “Mae Hoard Victim of Auto Wreck.” (The staff at the South Whitley Community Public Library has been extremely helpful to me in my research over the years.)

I had used other obituaries for the book, but it was still thrilling to see that the same story I read at 13 was still available fifty years later.  (Yes, I know, I should get out more.)  Seriously, anyone who researches family history will understand my happiness in seeing this article again. And this is why I devote my time to family history — fifty years from now; I hope someone will run across this column or my Ancestry page or my books and find them useful in their own search.

One cannot easily pass a passion along to another person. It is, however, my hope that readers will find something in my writing that encourages them to search out their own past.  A caveat, however. One can find surprises and shocks; I found several stories I would have rather not known.  I did not shy away because the truth makes up the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle that is my grandmother’s family.

Each person’s life affects another, as the angel Clarence Oddbody tells, “It’s a Wonderful Life” hero George Bailey.  Looking at the overall picture of my grandmother’s family, I cannot help but wonder how things would have been different had the 1922 accident never happened. “What if” is never a productive game. But I can’t help but wonder, having heard about the aftermath of Mae’s death.  Would the two remaining sisters have reconciled? What would have happened to their parent’s farm? Would Mae have married a local boy who wanted to farm the farm? Would that have stopped my grandparents from moving back to Indiana from their cushy life in Springfield, Illinois?  My grandparents and their daughters moved from a plush city home to a farmhouse with no electricity 23 miles from a city.

Like others in my book, Mae’s life and death affected many people. What happened to the farm ownership with each passing generation changed with unexpected deaths like Mae’s. Ultimately, the farm stayed in the family for 173 years, receiving the Indiana Historical Association award for a century of continuous ownership.  Writing the book took me on a journey of discovery without a clear map, heading off in directions that surprised me, shocked me, and sometimes delighted me.

I hope you will start your story today.  Your descendants are counting on you.

Coming June 28, 2021


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Apr 192021
 

The stories of my ancestors from my maternal grandmother piqued my interest. When she died in 1994, I became the keeper of the flame.

Family members gave me materials, adding to my collection my grandmother (Grammy) had given me. The family stories are compelling and have been waiting for me to propel them into the world.  Many of my lines have dead ends; the Long line had too much information.

I couldn’t wrap my arms around the project. I couldn’t find a way to make sense of it. I had too much information and not enough connection.  My grandmother, born in 1908, had access to most of the family documents and information through her DAR membership. But in the quarter-of-a-century since her death, the Internet has made family research easier. The Internet also offers many options and ways to connect with others who share interests or common ancestors.

Researching on the Internet is more my style than joining the DAR.  I’m still not over the whole Marian Anderson thing from 1939.  Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt, for stepping up and arranging for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Long lineage, my grandmother’s mother’s family, offered the most information. I can go back to Hanns Lung, born in 1520 in Baden-Baden, Germany.  Hanns Lung is my 10th great-grandfather, and every single relative through the generations was a farmer until my generation. There are craftsmen, millers, coopers, blacksmiths, cabinet makers, and yes, farmers on my paternal grandfather’s side and my father’s parents’ lineage.

The Long family believed in tilling the soil and encouraged their children to do the same.  The land seems the natural connection around which to shape a narrative. My book traces the story of four generations from 1837-1937.  Reuben and Elizabeth Long, Washington and Jane Long, Henry Kellis Hoard and Anna Long Hoard, and Carl August Enz and LeNore Hoard Enz farmed the same farm these four generations.

I wanted to know why.  Why did my ancestors love the land so much?  I found out why, but I also discovered a treasure trove of stories that I had never heard before.  You know the kind I’m speaking of–the kind that is “never to be discussed again.”

I found untimely deaths, suicide, diseases,  isolation, despair,  bigotry, hatred, unfathomable loss,  destructive weather events, and addiction. I learned that the farm hung on by a  thread several times.  I learned that a relative of mine was killed in the Civil War, and I had never even heard his name.  I learned that my great-grandmother Anna suffered more losses than anyone should in any lifetime.  And she managed to survive, despite the early death of her mother, accidental loss of a brother, loss of a daughter, and an early and horrific accidental death of her husband.

I also found beauty, joy, happiness, contentment, jubilation, creativity, community, and faith. As you will learn when you read “Centennial Farm Family: Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1037,” The Long family was guided by their love and protection of the land.

Until my book is published this summer, I’ll be sharing little tidbits here on my Raven Lunatic blog. At left is one of my favorite pictures from the farm.  I can’t use all of them, and frankly, I’m not sure who this is.  It’s not my great-grandfather, but it might be his brother-in-law Calvin or the hired man.  I suspect it was taken before the turn of the 20th century.  I love the picture because the naive observer sees in this old picture what I saw as a child, a gravel lane leading to the woods in the northwest corner of the picture, a magical place with wildflowers and walnut trees.  In theory, it was full of mushrooms in April and May, but I could never see them.  My mother, as a child, loved going mushroom hunting with her father and was, apparently, a good little mushroom hunter.  (For non-Hoosiers, this is an Indiana thing.  We like to find a fungus among us in the woods, flour it, and then fry it in fat.  Well, some of us do.  I never could hunt them or acquired the taste.  Which is fine because relatives who love them are only too happy to take your share.)

 

@centennialfarmfamily

 

COMING JUNE 28, 2021

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