After I wrote about my ancestor, Platt Spencer, who developed Spencerian Script, which was used in the United States until 1925, when the Palmer Method took over as the main penmanship, I became interested in learning how to write the Spencerian Script. As I was looking for practice sheets online, I stumbled upon another family ancestor, Enoch Noyes, who also developed a penmanship style that was used in the United States prior to the Spencerian Script. An Analytical Guide to the Art of Penmanship by Enoch Noyes, was published in 1839, and while I can’t find evidence of this style being widely used in schools, I can understand why it wouldn’t have been. Enoch Noyes focused on the elegant and ornate style of writing. He believed that penmanship really could be art. I would expect that the wealthier people might have used his style of penmanship as a way of emphasizing their stature.
The different penmanship styles of the past remind me of the vast array of font styles that are available on the computers now. The biggest difference between the two ways of writing, are that with penmanship, students are often taught one style. Each student can elaborate on the style to make it their own, and most people have done that at one point or another. With the computer fonts, it’s easy to change your font style at will, then back again. That allows the imagination to run wild to create a personalized look, and there is no need to learn how to write out the font.
As I was researching the different penmanship styles, and there are more than just the ones I have mentioned here, I was a bit surprised that there seemed to be a battle, of sorts, to have each persons own style be the accepted style of penmanship in the schools…much like trying to pick a font out of the hundreds of styles available. It made me think of a battle, or duel to be the accepted font. I suppose that sounds like a silly idea, but I can envision that very thing…complete with elegant script styles, with hands, legs, and eyes, walking the paces before turning and aiming their guns…like dueling fonts.
Every year or so, my dad’s 1st cousin once removed, Arlouine (Bunny) Probasco and her husband, Marvin come to Casper for a visit as they travel from their home in Buhl, Idaho back to visit family in the Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota areas. It is always a pleasant visit, giving us a chance to talk about the family history and, in general, what is going on in each other’s lives. Arlouine is the granddaughter of my dad’s Aunt Etha Pearl Spencer Fellon Hedstrom. Etha’s first marriage to Arloine’s grandfather did not work out so well, but through that marriage came Arlouine’s mother…also named Arlouine and her Uncle Harold. I found this picture of Arlouine’s grandmother, her mother, her uncle, and I hope it is something she does not have, because it will be great to give her something she has never seen before. I also found several others I think she might like.
Arlouine is a crafty person, and she makes butterfly fridge magnets and towels to hang on the stove that are very pretty. Every time she comes she brings us something, which is so sweet of her. She is also interested in the family history, so that gives us a lot to talk about. Here again, it took me a little while to place her accurately in the family history, so for a time, I just didn’t realize what a treasure her knowledge would be. This year, unfortunately, I missed her visit, because Bob and I were out of town. That frustrates me a little, because I wanted to see her reaction to the pictures and talk to her about any stories her mother and grandmother might have told her about.
Arlouine is an unusual name, and I have often wondered where it came from. I know her name was passed to her from her mother, but where did Great Aunt Etha get that name. It was not passed down from her Spencer side that I am aware of, so I have to assume it was from the Fellon side. Names that are passed down from generation to generation are really a cool thing, even if the name is something unusual or old fashioned. It is just the fact that you were named after a beloved ancestor that makes it cool. I’m sure that for Arlouine it is that fact that the name was her mother’s, even if she uses a nickname, that makes it special…at least it would to me.
My Uncle Bill has been a self proclaimed “gun nut” for years. He collected them, sold them, traded them, and went to gun shows for many years to deal his guns. He knows more about guns than most people know about themselves. I don’t remember a time that he didn’t deal guns. He knew about guns of all kinds, and could talk to you for hours about any gun you wanted to discuss, but by far his favorite, was the Spencer Rifle. He was always into the family history, and the inventor of the Spencer Rifle was an ancestor of ours, so that held particular interest for my Uncle Bill. What has always alluded my uncle, however, was exactly how we are related to Christopher Miner Spencer. Knowing how long and hard he has searched for that relationship, and that dementia has now stopped that search for him, made me sad. I decided to expand my own records in search of the elusive relationship…doing so for me, but more importantly for my Uncle Bill. I only wish he would be able to remember it once we tell it to him. As I searched, first backward from Christopher to someone I recognized, and then forward in my own tree to Christopher, my thoughts centered on my uncle and how excited he would be. I intend to write him a letter and include my story, and I only wish I could be there to see his face light up. My search finally paid off, and I know that Christopher Miner Spencer is my 5th cousin 5 times removed. I believe that would make him my uncle’s 5th cousin 4 times removed. Now that I have the relationship straight, I feel like I can proceed with the story about this amazing man.
Christopher Spencer was trained as a machinist beginning at the tender age of 14 years, while working as an apprentice in a silk manufacturing company and then went to work at the Samuel Colt factory in Hartford, Connecticut, where he learned arms making. The colt factory made pistols and other side arms, but Christopher was convinced that he could design a breech-loaded repeating rifle that would be easily and rapidly reloaded. Once he had his rifle…the Spencer rifle finished, it was put through rigorous testing, including burying it in the sand and immersing it in salt water overnight. The rifle fired successfully over 250 times, with only one misfire. The gun was shown to army and navy commanders, including General Ulysses S Grant, who called it “the best breech loading arms available”. The next step was to take it to the White House.
On August 17, 1863, Christopher Spencer arrived at the White House with the rifle in hand. Imagine that happening today…you couldn’t do it. Abraham Lincoln, welcomed Christopher into the White House, and after a brief introduction, the two men went over the rifle top to bottom and inside out. The President then invited Christopher back to the White House for a demonstration to take place on The Mall…another amazing thought in this day and age. The demonstration took place the next day, and the rifle headed to the Civil War. In fact, the rifle was to the Civil War what the Atomic Bomb was to World War II. Uncle Bill was always proud that a Spencer ancestor had made such a remarkable and valuable contribution to the victory in the Civil War.
This picture of my cousin Shirley, was taken in the 70’s. The focus isn’t great, but you can easily see how pretty Shirley is. This picture has stayed in my memory files for many years. It was taken at my parents’ house in about 1979 or so. I’m not sure why this picture has stayed in my memory, but a few months ago, I saw a picture that had been in a album of my dad’s, and this picture immediately came to mind. I was amazed at how much Shirley looked like this ancestor…whoever she was. I do know that she is from my dad’s side of the family, so she is related to Shirley, as well as my sisters and me. That would explain the similarity between the two faces.
I was, nevertheless quite surprised at the similarity between these two relatives. I guess we usually are when someone looks so much like someone else, and that someone could be 100 years older or more. It’s like time doesn’t mean anything, and relative closeness doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about DNA and bloodlines. That’s what makes us the people we are…or at least, the people we look like. To me, that is so amazing. How could things like DNA, which is too small to even be seen, affect the people we will become, in such a big way? Even though Scientists now know about DNA, they still don’t know exactly how it works, because there are lots of relatives in our family, and yet, not all the people in our family look alike.
I guess that is something we will never fully understand in this lifetime, but we do know that DNA can be used to trace our ancestors…with complete accuracy. That is something we can’t do perfectly…even with the wide range of resources we have these days…at least not without the help of DNA. Nevertheless, we have pictures, and memories, and records that have been kept…and with those we can go quite a long way toward knowing about our ancestors. The rest will have to wait.
Today is Shirley’s birthday. I am glad that the Internet and Facebook, two other resources we have now, have reconnected our lives. You are so important us. We were out of touch for too long. DNA and bloodlines have made us family…who we are has made us friends. Happy birthday Shirley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!