Monday, September 24, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 2: Meeting, Marriage, Migration

Another Monday, and it is time for the second installment of the transcription of Elsie Crocker’s manuscript. For an explanation of this project and to read the beginning of the manuscript, see last Monday’s entry.

This week Elsie tells us about her parents’ (Walter Underwood and Flora Amos) courtship, marriage, and their journey to the United States.

Being a “bobbie” my dad paroled the streets of London Sometimes he escorted the English royalty to special events.

They carried a “billy club” instead of a gun. Hit with one of these you would know it. The club swang from his wrist with a cord and held with his hand, always handy.

As a young lady, Mother and her sister Minnie would go shopping in London. Dad saw her and started asking about her, where she lived and who was she? He kept this up until he found out where she lived. He finally got up courage to make a call on her family. Mom and her family liked him right away. Mom told me her two younger sisters fell in love with him right away. They would sit by the window for hours waiting for him.

He didn’t waste much time in courting Mother. He started persuading her to marry him.

One night he came courting and his face and hands were black as soot. Looking very much like a blackman. He was riding a bicyle to Mothers house, which close to the water, where the fog was the thickest. It was what they called black fog. This fog was not uncommon in England. The fog was heavy and low, mixed with the black smoke and residue from the factories this is why it stuck to you. Riding a bicycle didn’t help matters any either.

After cleaning him up they had a great laugh. Mom said her sisters had a lot of fun kidding her about her blackman.

After a short romance, Dad encouraged her to marry. They were married, when Mom was 20 yrs. old and Dad was 27 yrs. old. They we married November 7th. Two days before her birthday which was November 9th. Dads was the 22nd of November.

They had a normal married life, until letters began coming from his second cousin, Walter Hawks, who was living in beautiful America and loving it. The letters were urging them to come to this land of plenty and make your stake, according to his cousin. America the land of plenty. Spacious skies, large green fields, many flowers and bountiful crops. Dad always had a dream of owing some land of his own. Growing things. Besides his cousin had promised him a sack of tobacco. Not that used much but anyone that had a sack of tobacco to give away must be rich. In England a sack was 100 lbs. Thats a lot of tobacco.

Dad was getting more anxious to go and see for himself this land of plenty, the promised land. Dad was still young and ambitious. He wasn’t getting any younger. He felt they should make a change now or never. Dad was now 28 years old, in those days, twenty-eight was getting old to start make something of yourself.

He alwys promised Mom they would return to dear old England and their families.

Letters still came full of adventure and fortune. Dad just couldn’t stand it any longer, they just had to go. Finally Mother gave into him, she knew if she didn’t he would never be happy again.

Oh, how she hated to leave her wonderful family behind. She loved her whole family They had been so good to her. She also loved her husband and small son. Walter was just six months old. She knew it was going to be a long hard trip with a small baby.

Dad was still promising her they would be back, as soon as he had made it good.

Boy Walter was six months old, they packed up all their wordly goods, ready to start their long journey to the land of plenty. Mother always called my brother Walter “Boy Walter” as Dads name was Walter.

They said their tearful goodbyes, full of love and excitement, they started not knowing it was the journey of no return.

They were on the ship for two weeks, in a small ship, rough seas, high winds. They had never witnessed anything like it before. On top of everything Mom was really sea sick. They couldn’t beleive her being so sick after she was raised near water all her life. She could rowe a boat as well as the next one. Dad conceded she could rowe better than he.

Mother has told us she was in a flood twice in her life. Living near the river they were washed doun stream. They woke up water all around them. She said it was awful. They lost just about everything.

This trip was so different, water as far as the eye could see. Unable to kee anything doun and bouncing from one side to the other. She had sea legs and could hardly stand up, let alone walk.

She tried to get to Boy Walter, somehow she made it. She said God was there to help her. She went to their berth, Oh, Boy Walter, Oh, where could he be? She was hysterical, she hunted everywhere. After a while she found him, in very goo care. The stewardess had him safe and sound. The stewardess were entertaining him, very seldom they had such a small baby on board. They told Mom not to worry they would be glad to help her out. Mother and Dad were both happy over that.

Those days men never knew much about the care of little ones. The men made the money and the mothers took care of the home and children.

A few days went by, the storm subsided Mom was feeling better. The sun was out, the ocean calm. The ship didn’t rock anymore.

This was a special day They ere getting close to the end of their ocean journey. Dad said it was one of the most beautiful days of his life. He could see the Statue of Liberty. The sun was shineing on it. She looked so beautiful. The entrance to the land of plenty. Everyone was excited “America here we come.”

They had reached land save and sound. It was good to stand on solid ground again. That night when they went to bed they could feel the motion of the ship, but it only lasted a couple of days.
The manifest of the Mayflower, the ship that the Underwood family took to America.
I am not certain how they arrived or what direct line they took to Idaho Falls, Idaho to where his second cousin lived.

Mother just told me some of the most important points. She never like to talk about it. When I asked her she would “Oh that’s behind us now, we’ve got a lot to be thankfulfor.”

I know they would take a train if there was one. But those days trains didn’t go everywhere. They made part of the trip by horses and wagon. When the bridges were washed out they would forge the rivers in the shallowest part. Mother told us some of the water would come up thru the floor of the wagon. She was scared the wagon would tip over. She also said that was the way the horses got their drink and cooled off.

The little towns were very crude and far apart. There was a lot of sagebrush as far as the eye could see. There wasn’t any trees, some willow once in a while. Ever once in the while there would be a few sunflowers.

The dusty roads were filled with chuck holes. Boulers and big rock on both sides of the road. She said once in while you could see where a snake had crawled across the road leaving their trail in the dust. Chicken hawks were very often seen flying over head. Watching for a special meal. Once a big hawk flew doun got a rabbit or a mouse in their huge claws, then flew away with their catch, probably to their nest and young ones. Hawks are a menace to the farmers, they kill their chickens.

Once in a while a coyote would run in front of them or a rabbit scurring away. It was hot and dry with a small baby and everything they owned in a wagon.

What courage, especially coming from their back grounds.
I always got a kick out of the story of how my great-grandfather came to America for a sack of tobacco. Later, in a period of time that Elsie does not cover in her manuscript, he moved his family to Oregon. I was always told that he chose Oregon “because blackberries grew on the side of the road.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker's Manuscript, Part 1: In England

You may have noticed that I don’t blog on a very regular basis. It has never been my goal to be a daily blogger; I would rather present any readers I may have with occasional well-researched articles than with daily notes. My blogs are sporadic, with perhaps two or three in consecutive weeks, and then perhaps one a month for several months. A quick glance at my archives will tell you that I am just now returning from a three-month absence.

Absence. As in vacation. I was not researching and writing during that time. I have nothing to offer from that period.

However, upon my return I discovered a wonderful resource for genealogical blogs, called Geneabloggers. This may be old news for some of you, but this week was the first time I ever stumbled across it. Along with links to a multitude of genealogy-related blogs, they also provide a list of daily blogging prompts. One that particularly caught my attention was Amanuensis Monday. This prompt is an encouragement to transcribe old family letters, documents, etc. Certainly I will never be a daily blogger, but for a while you will be able to count on me weekly.

You may have noticed that I have occasionally quoted a certain unpublished manuscript written by my grandmother’s sister, Elsie Crocker. She wrote it in the 1990s, but unfortunately none of us had the foresight to note the exact year. I have long intended to fully transcribe it, and now that I have the proper motivation I will do so.

Just a couple notes on how I will go about this project:
  • I intend to retain all of Elsie’s original spelling and punctuation except in the case when it is an obvious typographical error or when the meaning becomes unclear. Most of the manuscript was typed with the caps lock turned on, so the choices in capitalization are mine.
  • Elsie used few titles or divisions in her manuscript. All titles (i.e. title of the blog), except those included in the text, are my own. The divisions will be at my discretion and seldom original to the manuscript.
  • The original manuscript was just that: a manuscript. I hope to sometimes include relevant pictures (although that may be difficult, as my scanner just died). Any comment or caption to a picture is my own, and not original to the manuscript.
  • Once or twice there are stories or names that would not measure up to today’s “politically correct” standards. Remember, this was nearly a century ago, when people had different notions about what was and wasn’t acceptable. I do not believe in revising history to suit modern tastes. This does not imply approval of the old attitudes, but rather an idea that we cannot deny our past and must be able to face what we were in order to move forward.
Okay, you have waited long enough. Now for the feature presentation…

Elsie Crocker

My folks traveled to America from England (1903)

It’s the most important part of my life.

My mom and dad were both born and raised in England. I believe in Malden and Essex, County.

My dad had two sisters, both older than he. Mary was the oldest, she was married but no children. Sarah his second sister, had four children. To us she was known as Aunt Sadie. Thats what she wanted to be called. Dad had no brothers, he was the youngest.

My mother’s family was much larger, having seven children. There were five girls and two boys. Her sisters names were, (ranging in age) first Minie, Flora, (my mom) then Alice, Elsie, May who was the youngest.

My dad called my mother “Flo” for short, I guess, I like Flora best.

I was named after my mother’s two younger sisters, Elsie and May. I wished she had put the two named together as I have seen as (Elsymae).

Mother had two brothers, Arthur who was the oldest. Frank was the next oldest in their family, the girls came later.

A photograph of Elsie’s mom’s family back in England. Flora is second from the right in the back row. Elsie made a small error in claiming that the boys came first, then the girls. Arthur was, indeed, the oldest, but he was followed by Isabella, Flora, Minnie, Frank, Alice, Grace, May, and Elsie in that order.

Arthur was killed in the war, working on a loading dock. Frank was also killed while he was in the infantry, World War No I.

My mom’s dad’s name was George Amos. My brother was named after his Grandpa Amos. His name is William George Underwood.

My dad’s name was Walter Underwood I. My brother’s name is Walter Amos Underwood Jr. Walter named his son Walter Underwood III. Walter Underwood III and his wife Linda, has just celebrated the 25th. Aniversary.

Mother’s family was from what they called, in England, the middle upper class. These were people that could afford hired help, such as cooking, sewing, and cleaning and polishing their brass items.

Her father ran the ferry, and also ran a pub. The girls weren’t aloud to work in the pub. Not lady like.

They could help with the ferry. Mom told me they had a bell connect to each side of the river. The people would ring the bell that signaled for someone to fetch them from one side to the other side of the river.

The Creeksea Ferry. Presumably one of the ferrymen in this photo would have been George AMOS, but that has not been verified.

My dad was a policeman, which they called bobbies. He wore a uniform with a hat with a chin strap. The strap was placed under his chin to hold his hat on and in place. I have a picture of him with his hot off, it shows how the strap left a white mark on side of his face. Being outside all the time in the weather, the strap had protected his face under the strap. His number was 148 marker on the collar of his shirt.

This may or may not be a copy of the same photo that Elsie mentions. At any rate, it is a photograph of Walter UNDERWOOD in his bobby uniform.
The bobies had training just like the soldiers have in training. Dad always carried his shoulds straight. He was six feet, two inches tall. He wore a number twelve shoe. I think he was a handsome man.

He was always particular about his shoes, he kept them highly polished. He expected us to do the same. One day I missed the backs of my shoes, Dad said “You would make a good soldier.” I asked him why? He replied “Because a good soldier never looks back.”

Mom was small boned and five feet three inches tall always slim. Dad thought her very pretty. He told her he would like to keep her in a glass case. I bet when he first married her he was jealous of her. She had the bluest eyes, amost like violets. She was small featured. When she was young she had long wavy chestnut brown hair. She wore her hair up on top of her head with small curls across her forehead. She always beleived her hair changed color, since she came to America. She was a blonde when she was in England. I don’t think so as all of us were blonds when we were young. We all change to dark brown.

My parents have a better copy of this portrait of Flora AMOS, but it is two hours away at the moment, so this will have to do for now.
Mom never learned to sew or cook until she was married. She could knit, which she learned in school. She had a little apron she had to have at school, to keep her needles and knitting in.

Her dresses had a lot of lace and insertion. Also pleats and tucks. She wore them ankle length. A high neck with lace and a brooch at her throat. This brooch Dad had given her. She wore it a lot with her blouses. At the bottom of her dresses she had a deep ruffle. A far cry from what they wear now.

Elsie always pronounced the name “Amos” not with a lazy American schwa, but with a definite short “o” sound, and with approximately the same emphasis on both syllables, like “A-moss.”

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here.