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14 Jun
2016

In Honor of My Father

Henry Clay Scott

Henry Clay Scott, 2 years old

I share these memories of my father, Henry Clay Scott, who died almost 50 years ago.  I am also very aware of him and his life since I am writing a novel inspired by the lives of his parents and their children, “Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness.”

A white-out blizzard roared on the prairie plunging the temperature to below zero.  Clay, as he was called, put the last piece of wood in the wood burning stove.  Although he was a young boy, he saw himself as “the man of the house”.  He prepared to bundle up to go to the barn to look for some other fuel to burn.

His mother, crippled from rheumatoid arthritis stopped him.  “I can’t let you go out in this storm.  With the white-out, you could get disoriented, lose your way and freeze to death.   Let’s wait and see if it lets up.”.

But the blizzard didn’t let up and the white-out thickened.  The temperature in their small two-room house dropped without any heat.  The outside temperature plummeted to an estimated thirty below zero and the wind howled and blustered through the cracks.  My father, his sister and mother were bundled in several layers of clothes and wrapped in blankets but it was not enough.

My grandmother came to a difficult decision.  She believed it was the only choice she had to save them all from freezing to death.  They burned her books to stay warm.  This must have been a painful decision for a woman who was a school teacher and highly valued education.

This is just one of the stories I heard about the sacrifice, deprivation and poverty that shadowed my father in his childhood.  Clay was the fourth son of Ellen and Harvey Depew (HD) Scott, born in 1907 in Dewey County, Oklahoma.  H.D. was thirty years older than Ellen and died in 1911 leaving her with five children including an infant girl born just months before.

Before his father died, Clay had rheumatic fever.  He had barely survived and was so weak he couldn’t stand or walk.  His older brothers doted on him and carried him everywhere.  Their fondness for my father was evident to me when I was growing up even though I knew nothing about this childhood experience.

The older brothers left home early to work and begin their own families.  My father and his younger sister worked too, scrimped and saved, and ultimately managed to get college educations.  My grandmother had given to my father her love of learning and belief in the value of education.  I knew when I was as young as four years old, that I too would go to college one day.  A nickel from my fifteen cent allowance was required to go into my college fund.

Henry Clay Scott

Henry Clay Scott, as a young man

My father was a terrific role model always reading and learning.  He saved articles for me to read, taught me the Latin names of plants when I was five and always answered my questions with another question or “What do you think?” He believed in respecting and accepting all people.  He taught me, “You don’t have to like what someone does, but you must respect who they are as a human being.”

Clay was frugal but not stingy.  He and my mother taught me to appreciate and be grateful for my life and to give back as generously as I could.  The poverty and sacrifice of his early life influenced his actions throughout his life.  He didn’t like waste.  He was sure to get the last drop, eat the last crust of bread or chew every shred of chicken off the bones.  He was friendly and humble with a delightful sense of humor.  He was very handsome with black wavy hair.  When he was courting my blond, blue-eyed mother, her friends called him the “dark prince.”

After I graduated from high school, he suffered from heart disease.  He sold his business and went back to school to get a Master’s degree to teach.  He died in 1967 at the young age of sixty. He was teaching college students to appreciate the amazing wonders of the natural world just as he did for me as a little girl.

His love and guidance will always be with me.  And, I miss him.   Happy Father’s Day!

What are your memories of your father? 

 

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My Grandfather, a Cowboy?

Harvey D Scott photoMy paternal grandfather was an absent figure when I was growing up.  He wasn’t just absent; he didn’t exist.  My father didn’t know anything about him; my grandmother just dismissed any questions by changing the subject.  So, I assumed he didn’t exist.

During a trip to Washington DC, I visited the National Archives and uncovered the family secret that had humiliated my grandmother and been hidden from the rest of our family. I have written in previous blogs about the resulting genealogical journey to document H. D. Scott’s life. Unable to find all the details of the story, especially what happened to him between the time he abandoned his first family and married my grandmother, I decided to fictionalize the story.

Creating Sam

I have created the fictional character, Sam, in my story based on two clues about H.D.’s life between 1878 and 1891.  He “worked cattle” with an “outfit from Dodge City, Kansas”.  Sam escapes the Texas Rangers by becoming a cowboy and joining a cattle drive going north to Dodge City.   The years 1878-1879 are the peak of the cattle drives in the midst of the cowboy era.

Developing Sam’s character in some ways was easier because I had no preconception of my grandfather.  I knew he was thirty years older than my grandmother, but I didn’t find out if he was tough, distant and cold or warm, affectionate and funny. But, as a child, I knew my grandmother. What man would she have married?  I wrestled with the contradictions of my image of the man she would marry and the facts I had uncovered. My image of a man who abandoned his pregnant wife and five children didn’t seem like the kind of person she would choose to marry.

Cowboys

Given the era, the location and the clues, I had uncovered, I began to explore and learn about cowboys as a possible Cowboy Silhouettemodel for my grandfather. Today, we identify the cowboy with the West and the time of the cattle drives. However, history tells us that men worked cattle in Massachusetts, Florida, Alabama, Georgia.  But it was the men, one-fourth of whom were black, driving the longhorn cattle from Texas north, who became the folklore heroes we think of as cowboys. They spent long dusty days driving thousands of cattle across empty plains for hundred’s of miles. It was a dangerous life. They faced animals who were easily startled into a stampede, drought, lightning and thunderstorms, rattlesnakes, Indians, and outlaws. They ate grub from the cook wagon, slept on the ground and lived a lonely, spare existence.

Cowboys as folk heroes can be handsome, mysterious, courageous and charismatic. In fact, we have hundreds of stories in novels, movies, radio, and television that have charmed and fascinated us.  Consider Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger or Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon among many other cowboy personalities. The lore and lure of the Western way of life draw many “dudes” today to wear Western wear, reserve weeks at guest ranches in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana and attend rodeo’s, and Wild West shows displaying the skill and fearlessness of the cowboy.

As a person who I grew up in Montana with a family who live today’s Western way of life in Wyoming and Colorado, it was easy for me to imagine my character, Sam as a cowboy…Handsome, charming, independent, mysterious and attractive to my grandmother.

I have been engaged and challenged as I created Sam’s character. I am excited to be nearing the end with the hope of publishing the story this year.

Do you have cowboy heroes or favorite books or programs? What is your image of a cowboy?

Does Western lore bore you or lure you?

 

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22 Mar
2016

Finding Family Secrets

March 12 was Genealogy Day begun by Christ Church in Ireland in Ireland in 2013.  In celebration of the day, I offer a brief story of the sources I used in my own roots journey.  Not all genealogy sources are on-line.  Going on location, seeing actual gravesites and including others in your search such as museum and library staff or members of historical societies, can also lead to special assistance, new leads and the encouragement from those who love history and genealogy.  I hope that this story might inspire you to begin a search or look at alternative sources to help you put the pieces of your family puzzle together. 

Finding Family - 2

In the early years of my adult life balancing my roles as mother, spouse and professional, I didn’t have time to think about my ancestors or my family heritage.  I was too busy coping with carpool, making dinner or meeting the demands of my boss.  However, as I attended family gatherings and funerals when my parents or their siblings died, I began to hear interesting family myths and stories that intrigued me.   Others around me began pursuing their own family roots.  One of my aunts encouraged me to find information about her father, my grandfather, Harvey Depew Scott.  And my genealogical journey began.

Finding Family - 3It began at the National Archives in Washington, DC where I found thick files of correspondence, government forms and personal letters about my grandfather.  The National Archives is a treasure trove of fascinating information about veterans who have served in our armed forces as well as immigrants who arrived at the US borders from countries around the world seeking a better life. It is an excellent place to begin your own genealogy search.   I knew the surprising fact that my grandfather fought in the Civil War and my aunt had given me the data about his enlistment in the Union Army under a different name, John Howard Scott.  This enabled me to request the files and to be able to read through each valuable piece of information.

What I learned from those files, confirmed the whispered family secrets about John Howard Scott who changed his name to Harvey Depew Scott.  I learned where and when he was born, lived and died.  I now had enough information to search for more information about him and his ancestry.    Over the next several years, I traveled to many states in search of answers to my questions about his family of origin.  In Indiana where he was born, I visited the county courthouse and the local public library.  I learned about his father’s death when he was four and that his mother died in a poor house.  I found remote rural cemeteries where his uncle was buried; in the library, I discovered his uncle was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi River.  But I found nothing about how or when John Howard’s parents came to Indiana, nor could I find any information about his grandparents.

Now I was hooked.  Doing the research in family history is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  As I found one piece of data, it would suggest other connections and often raise more questions.  I was on the search to find more pieces toFinding Family - 4 fit into the puzzle.  I combed through the US Census Data, traveled to other states where John Howard and later Harvey Depew lived.  I visited historical museums and requested help from local historical societies.  I even made copies of the whole file at the National Archives so I could review every detail.

I joined Ancestry.com to see if anyone else might be researching the same family, hoping to find new information.  There were some other potential connections to John Howard Scott’s family but without documentation.  I have learned to beware of the validity of postings of family relationships based on family stories but without documentation.  So alas, I was not able to find documentation, confirmation or information to answer my questions.

My genealogical journey has been fascinating.  I wrote a detailed series of blogs about what I found called “Journey to Fiction”.  As that title suggests, I decided that I could best write the story as fiction, with the opportunity to be creative with the missing information.  I hope to publish the book, “Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness: A Family Story” later this year. Have you searched for family history in your family?  What have you found?  What has been your experience doing genealogy?

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Who Are Your Family Role Models and Inspiration?

In recognition of International Women’s Day, I honor my grandmothers and my aunts who have inspired me  and served as significant role models.

Who Are Your Family Role Models - 1

Years ago, one of my favorite aunts came for a visit when I was in my mid-thirties experiencing a low point in my life.  She gave a life-long gift by reminding me of the role models I had in the strong women in my family.  It was from them, I could always find inspiration and direction.

Both of my grandmothers had been school teachers.  My paternal grandmother, Ellen, also became a school superintendent.  Ellen was a great cheerleader and encouraged me to succeed in school, get good grades and go to college.  My maternal grandmother, Grace, was disappointed that she had to give up teaching school to become a farmer’s wife.  But she continued to read the Atlantic Monthly and other books and periodicals.  She wrote letters about what she read and shared her opinions about the news and politics in letters to her daughters.

My aunt pointed out that both Ellen and Grace had significant challenges in their lives: Grace, reluctantly left school teaching which she loved to manage her husband’s family farm which she resented.  She worked hard to survive the depression and the dust bowl.  Ellen was left a widow when her youngest of five children was a few months old.

Grandma ScottEllen, in particular has been an inspiration to me.  I am currently writing a fictionalized story of her life.  As a widow without a means of support, Ellen applied for widows benefits.  The Government Agent who came in April of 1912 to interview her in person, filed a sensitive descriptive report, (which I recovered from the National Archives).  She was living in a tent south of Thedford, Nebraska where she had filed a land claim.  He reports that

“she hopes to establish a home for herself and children; but it looks like a most hazardous undertaking as she is practically an invalid because of rheumatism (sic), and her children are undersized puny looking little fellows, and they are more than a mile from the nearest water….In their present desolate surroundings their condition is pitiable in the extreme.”

This was the occasion when she learned that her husband had a former wife and family.  The agent describes,

“until I informed her of the fact, claimant declares she had no knowledge of the existence of a former wife.  Her grief and tears where convincing of the truth.  She begged me not to tell anyone in her home neighborhood.”

This helps explain why no one in the family knew about a prior family.  Ellen shared no information about him with her children.  Despite her crippling rheumatoid arthritis, she pulled herself together; returned to teaching school; became a school superintendent; and raised her family.  See my blog series, “A Journey to Fiction” on my genealogical journey to learn about my paternal grandparents.

Both Grace and Ellen were also models of strength, resilience and accomplishment for their daughters.  All five of my aunts completed college educations at a time when the lack of financial resources and societies’ cultural norms were major deterrents. Yet, they were persistent and resourceful.  They found work to pay their way.  Between the first wave of feminism and the second, during my young adulthood, all these women had successful careers and raised a family.  They worked hard and overcame many obstacles.  To me they were pillars of strength and fortitude.  They were role models of how meet challenges and find a satisfying life.

These seven women have been my inspiration and my role models.  I honor and pay tribute to them on International Women’s Day.

Who are the women role models in your family?  How have they influenced and inspired you?   Are there other strong women who have served as role models and inspired you?

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14 Aug
2015

Journey to Fiction – Part 7

This is the seventh and last in a serial documentation of the journey I have traveled from reading yellowed documents in the National Archives to launching a historical fiction novel based on the lives of my grandparents.
Please see the earlier blogs describing the journey to this point at bevscott.com/blog/.

New Mexico, Dugouts and the Decision to write a novel.

Dugout 2My grandfather, H.D. Scott died in Hanley, New Mexico January 27, 1911 at the age of 70 leaving my thirty-nine year old grandmother a widow with five children. Although I know that she eventually returned to Nebraska where her parents and several siblings lived, I am curious about her life in New Mexico especially since she was severely crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. I would like to find where my grandparents lived and my grandfather’s grave. I planned a trip to New Mexico.

First stop is the Tucumcari Historical Museum. I learned almost immediately that my grandparents probably lived in a dugout given the time they arrived, 1910.  As my research continued I learned that settlers at that time frequently arrived on the railroad with boxcars divided into one area for livestock and another for farm equipment and household belongings.  Some also had a raised platform on one end for the family to eat and sleep during their journey.  The Homestead Act had opened land to settlers for free as long as they lived on their land.  The initial dwellings were frequently dugouts because they were cheap to build and didn’t require lumber and other building materials.  Settlers were lured by the railroad who advertised the “choice farming” and clean air.  But nothing was said about the low rainfall and the difficulty of finding water.  Guessing that H. D. was attracted by the promises of a climate good for asthma and tuberculosis, I looked for land records of a homestead claim with no results.  Because H.D. died a little over a year after they arrived and Ellen left for Nebraska they did not fulfill the requirement to live on the land for five years.  I was out of luck in finding where they lived.

Grave marker

However, the museum staff helped me locate my grandfather’s grave which is now on private property.  It is a white marker provided by the Veterans Administration with his birth name of John Howard Scott.  Thirty years ago two of H.D.’s sons, my uncles, visiting his grave site discovered that the grave marker was broken and falling apart.  Their request for a new grave marker from the Veterans Administration began the family search to learn more about H.D.’s life which I later took over and have chronicled in this blog series.

Although I could not find much information about where H.D. and Ellen lived, I was still intrigued by how Ellen, severely crippled, managed to get her five children back to Nebraska.  Reviewing the National Archives documents, I found correspondence between the Pension Bureau and my grandmother.  She submitted an application for widow’s benefits almost immediately after H.D. died.  Then in the summer of 1911 she wrote that she would be going back to Nebraska and would send them her new address by September. One Government Agent’s report tells that they “drove all the way from New Mexico, where the soldier died, to her old home in Nebraska.”  From our perspective today, it sounds like they “drove” a car.  But I am sure they could not afford to have a car at that time so I assume they drove a horse and wagon which matches the family story that her older sons drove the wagon and she laid in the back as they made their way back to Nebraska.

I also learned from the Archives documents that the Government Agent who came in April of 1912 to interview my grandmother in person, filed a sensitive descriptive report of that meeting.  She was living in a tent south of Thedford, Nebraska where she had filed a land claim.  He reports that

“she hopes to establish a home for herself and children; but it looks like a most hazardous undertaking as she is practically an invalid because of rheumatism (sic), and her children are undersized puny looking little fellows, and they are more than a mile from the nearest water….In their present desolate surroundings their condition is pitiable in the extreme.”

Dismal River

Not only were Ellen’s circumstances dire and “pitiable in the extreme,” but they were a mile from the nearest water from a river aptly named, the Dismal River.  It also appears that this was the occasion when she learned about H.D.’s first wife.  The agent describes that

“until I informed her of the fact, claimant declares she had no knowledge of the existence of a former wife.  Her grief and tears where convincing of the truth.  She begged me not to tell anyone in her home neighborhood.”

The report, that she begs the Government Agent not to tell anyone, helps explain why no one in the family knew about H.D.’s first family, why my grandmother shared no information about him with her children and why she avoided answering any questions about him.  I had exhausted my sources about H.D. and Ellen Scott.

This journey of the genealogical research uncovered a fascinating story that deserved to be told.  But, there were several missing pieces.  Although I had much to learn about writing fiction, historical fiction, I decided to write this story using what I had learned as the foundation for the story and creatively filling in the missing pieces.

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17 Jun
2015

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18 Nov
2014

Journey to Fiction – Part 5

This is the fifth in a serial documentation of the journey I have traveled from reading yellowed documents in the National Archives to launching a historical fiction novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

Move to Oklahoma; Claiming Veterans Benefits

20141113_084938

My grandparents, H.D. and Ellen Scott were married in Thedford, Nebraska in 1892, purchased land from the Russell’s, Ellen’s family, and had three of their five children. I continued to review the documents I copied from the National Archives and discovered that H.D. filed for Veterans Benefits due to disability in 1897. According to the documents they moved to Dewey County, Oklahoma in 1898. Thomas County, Nebraska land records show they sold their Nebraska farm land back to the Russell’s in the same year. The family is listed in Oklahoma in the 1900 Federal Census.

By 1909, H.D. was living in a “canvas home (a tent with board siding) and ‘baching’” in Arizona, according to the documents filed by Pension Bureau Examiner. “He is evidently in very straightened circumstances…as a great sufferer from asthma.” He reportedly went to Arizona “two or three times to get relief from his affliction.” But, he left his wife and four children in Oklahoma.

Why Oklahoma? Was H.D.’s health already deteriorating in 1898? Alas there are no clues in the Archive documents.

Oklahoma was one of the last territories to be open for homesteading. Dewey County was Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian land. In 1892 it was opened for settlement. A search of homestead records however, does not show H.D. or Ellen filing a land claim in Dewey County between 1898 and 1910. During my road trip to Oklahoma, unfortunately, I did not get to the Dewey County Court House to review land records before they closed. But H.D. Scott and wife must have purchased land there, because later I discovered records in Thomas County, Nebraska that Ellen’s father and brother bought land in Dewey County, Oklahoma from Ellen and H.D. in 1901. Perhaps it is they who were investing in land in Oklahoma and H.D and Ellen purchased it and then resold it to them. I know from family lore that H.D. raised horses. Perhaps although his in-laws owned the land, H.D. raised his horses and settled his family there. Or more likely H.D. and Ellen needed the money.

Clay Scott - Oklahoma I

As I mentioned, the family is listed in Oklahoma in the 1900 Federal Census. My father was born in Oklahoma in 1907. Recording of births did not begin in Oklahoma until October of 1908. I have a notarized statement from the woman who attended my grandmother when my father was born documenting the date and location. I also have a picture of the house in which he was born taken many years later in the 1950’s. When I visited Dewey County in search of his birthplace recently, the small town they lived near, no longer exists.

During the time the family lived in Oklahoma, my grandfather was trying to obtain his Veterans Benefits. The documents in the National Archives include correspondence regarding his deteriorating health. In April,1909 as mentioned above, he was living in a tent in Scottsdale, Arizona, a community of sick people, and according to the Examiner, was “favorably known considering the short time he has been there” (since November, 1908). By this time, he had filed three claims for Veterans benefits. My grandmother wrote to the Examiner when she sent her only pictures of him, “I do hope he will get his pension before it is too late.”

The Pension Examiner wrote in April, 1909, “In view of his poverty and physical condition and the fact that he has a family of young children and that it is his desire to remove his family to some place in the Rocky Mountain region, a matter of large expense, I recommend that the claim be made special, especially since the examination may take considerable time. He is old and his condition is precarious.”

However, due to “discrepancies in the soldier’s statements,” the Pension Bureau ruled that more investigation was required. I wanted to know how they investigated the discrepancies and if my grandfather received his pension before he died in January, 1911.

Have you done any genealogical research? What is your experience?

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2 Oct
2014

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18 Aug
2014

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10 Jun
2014

Journey to Fiction – Part 2

This is the second in a serial documentation of the journey I have traveled from reading yellowed documents in the National Archives to launching a historical fiction novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

In my journey to uncover the family secrets about my grandfather, John Howard Scott, aka Harvey Depew Scott, I had discovered a trove of documents in the National Archives that confirmed the stories of another family. I had found information in Indiana searching in County records, libraries and cemeteries about John Howard’s parents, his birth, his Uncle Bill Swan and marriage to his first wife, Harriet. (see May 20 Blog) But, the National Archive documents indicated that the family had moved to Texas. In fact, a deposition from a Civil War soldier confirmed that his sister, Harriet, had married John Howard and that she lived at the time in Fort Worth, Texas. I wondered if I could find more information and learn when and why John and Harriet and their children moved to Texas. That led me on another leg of this journey.

Weatherford 3I began by exploring the census records. I discovered that in 1870 John and his family had moved to Illinois; but, in the 1880 census, John was not listed. Instead, Harriet is listed with six children living in Parker County, Texas. What happened to John and why was Harriet in Texas?

I turned back to the depositions. The government agents had tracked Harriet down in Fort Worth, thanks to her brother. In her deposition, she reported that the family moved to Weatherford, Texas, a small rural community in Parker County west of Fort Worth, but no hints as to why they moved to Texas. In November, 1879, John Howard had gone into town for a load of corn and never returned. Harriet said she was left destitute with five children and a sixth on the way. She looked for John tracking him to Fort Worth but ultimately lost the trail and assumed that he was dead. Five years later she had re-married and was running a boarding house in Fort Worth.Archives Document

Following the census records also revealed three more generations of John Scott’s in Fort Worth, Texas, but no John Howard Scott. I wanted to know what had happened to him when he left Weatherford in 1879. Since I had found interesting information in libraries and historical societies in my search in Indiana and Nebraska, I decided the next stop in my journey was a visit to Texas.

I had no better luck than Harriet. I could find no trace of John Howard in Weatherford or in Fort Worth. He got out of town and left no trace. I did find in the Scott family plot in the Fort Worth cemetery and two of the three generations of John Paul Scotts. In the library, I found the obituary for John Howard’s son, J.P. Scott Sr., a “Pioneer in Business” who died in 1959 at age 92. It is Interesting that the obituary reports he moved to Fort Worth from Weatherford after his father died. J.P. founded his company in 1892, just three years after his father left the family. Originally the company served as a wagon yard selling firewood and awnings and shoeing horses. When he retired in 1938, his sons took over the business which then consisted of the Scott Awning Company and the Scott Rug Cleaning Company.

Historical Fiction Page - Scott GravesiteWhere did John Howard go when he left Weatherford? When did he change his name to Harvey Depew Scott? What did he do between 1879 and 1892 when he married my grandmother? My journey and my search weren’t over yet. I still had many questions.

I would love to hear your stories researching your family.

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