A few weeks ago, I wrote about my hometown, St. Joseph, Mo., and asked you to tell me what your special hometowns were and why. Several of you responded with tales of towns in your family histories.
Thanks to Shannon Cooper who wrote about her favorite hometowns: “I really have three favorite hometowns. The first and foremost isn’t a town but an area, called home by many of my mother’s kin, just south of Diggins, Mo., at the south end of NN hwy, not too far west of Seymour. The view from the end of the road is awe-inspiring: a sweeping grassy valley with trees surrounding it. Finley creek is hidden within those trees. There is a newer brick home sitting very near the spot where my great-great-grandma’s (Salinda America Hill Wright’s) homestead was. Alone, she farmed and raised five children in that little cabin. The Cardwells (my grandpa’s kin) were her neighbors and lived and worked along the creek.
“Thomas P. Cardwell (my third-great-grandpa) owned two gristmills, one on Big Finley creek and one on little Finley Creek. One mill was used for flour and meal, the other for feed. He also raised and processed cane (sorghum). Tom donated the land for the Cardwell Chapel Cemetery, where many Cardwells are buried, with only chimney or sand rocks to mark their graves. The funeral of Zachariah T. Cardwell (son of Thomas P.) and his wife Amelia was the last (one died in the evening, the other the next morning, in 1937) held in the old church building, both were buried in the same grave in Cardwell Cemetery, no marker. In 1984, Grandma (Gertie Selinda Wright Cardwell) was instrumental in the building of the present Cardwell Chapel. It was at the old building that my grandpa climbed up on a woodpile to look in the window and saw her sitting there with her golden curls and said that he was going to marry her someday. In 1927, he did.
“Grandma tells me that when the first of the Cardwell family came to that land (1835) that there were not many trees, but tall grass prairie that was ‘knee-high to a man on a horse.’ As I stop my car at the end of NN and look to the east, time seems to halt for a few moments, and I can see the tall grass sway in the hot summer breeze, and hear the sounds of the distant mill, the horses working and children playing. I can smell the scent of the cane, the grass and the cool water from the creek. Then I look over toward the old homestead and hear the scream of the panther on the roof of Selinda’s home that cold winter night, as it smelled dinner cooking, and can feel the shivers that must have run over my family. I can see the rebel soldier when he ran his horse into their house, scattering feathers from the bed all about, and can feel her anger as he pitched her infant son (my great-grandpa John) on the floor. And the relief that things weren’t worse, as those soldiers raided her farm. I can even feel the vibration of their horses’ hooves. I know the helplessness she must have felt as her cabin burned to the ground, and the surety that God has everything under control. I can feel the love she had for her familyenough so to take an extra bit of time to tell them stories, that they in turn eventually passed to me, though born 47 years after her death.
“It ‘feels’ like home every time I stop at that remote intersection and overlook that valley. I can see the memories of my ancestors, and feel their blood run through my veins.”
Connie Mitchell Braun wrote, “Thanks for sharing the St. Joe memories. I grew up in Independence, Mo., and although we have lived in Columbus, Ohio, for more than 16 years, Independence and Missouri are still ‘home.’ I even send my genealogy quarterlies and other genealogy materials I order and have finished to the genealogy library in Independence. It’s the best! I always plan a day there when I go home for a visit.
Debra Hoelscher said, “Although it is not my hometown, I have one that is special to me and my heart. Maysville, Mo. It is my grandmother’s hometown, and I have the fondest memories of going there over the years of my childhood to see her there. I felt very close to her, and we corresponded a lot with each other as I grew up. My grandmother was born there, and after living as an adult in New Mexico, she returned there after my grandfather died.
“I still have some of her letters from over the years—the ones that have withstood all my moving across country as often as my mom took me. I have been rereading them recently, and she even mentions a few of the people in the town that she associated with. Not many are mentioned by name unfortunately, but I still have vague memories of the town, the places she lived there, and some of the people I was introduced to.
“One Fourth of July weekend, my dad drove me from Illinois to Maysville to see her, and we went to St. Joseph to see the carnival and fireworks there. I have some fond memories of teasing Grandma about St. Joseph being the nearest big town to her. When we would drive to see her, one of our traditions was for Dad to speed up and down the rolling farmland hills, trying to make us get butterflies in our stomachs. It worked for me! I remember how pretty all that farmland was, even in Maysville. I marveled at how little the town itself was, yet so spread out, quiet and surrounded by farms everywhere.
“I only have bits and pieces of memories from several of the trips, but together, they weave a fond picture of that town, and my connection to it through my Grandma. I wish I had some pictures from those trips. My grandmother was my biggest influence; she encouraged all my writing and educational goals from afar. She herself was a writer, and I envied her that.”
Mary Kay Baldwin wrote, “My hometown is Galesburg, Ill. It is a big train center and has two depots, which is unusual for a town of about 35,000 people. While working on my family tree, I learned that my paternal great-grandfather was an engineer with the Chicago, Burlington, Quincy railroad for 37 years. My paternal grandfather was a fireman (the person who shovels the coal) for a steam engine when he was a young man. My maternal grandfather was a machinist on the CB&Q for more than 30 years. He was so strong that he could lift a railroad wheel by himself. I was born in Galesburg, as were both my parents and my maternal grandmother. I graduated from both high school and college there. Now I no longer live there, but it has a special place in my heart.”
Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of two astronomy books. Her Web site is at www.ancestornews.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org