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.”


  1. Amber, I just saw your blog listed at GeneaBloggers. When I read your description, "my interest beginning when my age was still written with a single digit," I knew I had to come see your blog! Even though I'm not researching your lines or your same geographic areas, I can totally relate to your experience! I think I was born wanting to know my family history!

    Welcome to GeneaBloggers. I'm looking forward to reading more here.

  2. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist: