Friday, April 25, 2008

Anyone know a Gfeller?

I’ve been absorbed all week in a project that has become more interesting than I ever imagined.

My great great grandfather and grandmother came to America from Switzerland with eleven children in 1853. This was before Ellis Island. Steamer ships were just beginning to be used. Their crossing was on a packet ship called the Roger Stewart.

The Roger Stewart was built of oak and hackmatack or balsam poplar. Almost all the labor was by hand. The carpenters had but few tools besides the broad ax, saw, adz and pod auger. The ship smith, with the help of his strikers, worked his own iron. She measured 180 x 37 x 18 and could carry 425 passengers.

A packet ship carried packets of mail along with immigrants. There were a few first class cabins, but most immigrants were housed in the steerage, which was below the main deck. On good days, they opened the latches and had fair ventilation. If there was a storm, they closed the hatches and the poor people below were required to ride out the storm in the stale and most likely rancid conditions.

Food consisted of salt meat, herring, potatoes, rice, dried peas and bread. Passengers were required to bring their own food and cooking utensils.

Sea sickness was a constant battle. I found songs and poems written about it. In the whole, this ship was not too big and I am sure it rocked in the waves a great deal.

Between 1847 and 1853, fifty-nine packet ships were lost with all on board. And by the 1850s one of every six steerage passengers either died or became dangerously sick while at sea.

All thirteen of my forbears made it, including a six month baby. I am giving a power point presentation with emphasis on Anna Marie, the mother and wife, at the reunion a week from this Sunday. I am stressed about doing a good job. There will be many relatives there.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lucy remembered

The Wildlife and Parks burned their area around us tonight. They only burn once every three years so it was quite the blaze.

Tomorrow hawks will be looking for morsels. I am sure the coyotes are out as I write. All of this brings me to a mixture of sad and fond thoughts of our beloved beagle Lucy RIP.

We brought Lucy home from our daughter’s apartment at KSU. She definitely was not a town dog. It might have been the beagle in her or maybe just her personality. She followed her nose with no ear for anything else.

There were many summer evenings when we heard her chasing a rabbit down in the woods. Judging from the fact that the sound came from the same area, we wondered if it was just a game.

Lucy had absolutely no will power. She was pudgy but had surprisingly good stamina. The burns and resulting mice were a special time for her. The day after, she would be so full her tummy practically rubbed the ground. Then she would lie around for three or four days half sick.

Lucy died over two years ago but she is remembered fondly. Her best pal and competitor for affection, Skye the boxer, has no taste for the treats and leaves the selection to the coyotes and scavenger birds.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Peach Pie Anyone?

This tree is at least three years old. It appears we will have our first peach crop this year.

...with a little help from our friends.