great grandfather

My great grandfather, Cornelius Byer was a kind and a fair man. He was generous and honest. It was these qualities that earned him the respect of the Indian tribes in the Gordon, Nebraska area. Great Grandpa passed away on October 23, 1930, but the celebration of life, really began before the day of the funeral, and even before he passed away. Over the years of his life, my great grandfather became a great friend of the Indians. He was invited to their pow wows, he was asked his opinions on things…and they listened when he spoke. He was helpful to the Indian tribes, and they, in turn treated him with great respect.

The Indians would often show up at his home…something that would most likely panic most people. Most often the women and children would stay outside, while the men went in to visit with Great Grandpa. It was another show of respect. The Indians often camped near the house when the men were visiting. I’m sure it was a very interesting lifestyle for my grandmother.

While all that was interesting, probably the most interesting thing happened as Great Grandpa was dying and after his passing. When he lay dying, the Indians came…long lines of them. Each one, including the women and children, passed by his bed. They spoke words of respect and admiration. I’m sure it took hours, but none were turned away. Great Grandma knew how much they loved him, and how much they needed to say goodbye. I would love to have had the chance to see that scene. These were two groups of people who normally didn’t get along, and yet they showed so much love and respect for one another. There was no warring with, no stealing from, no depriving of one another. There was simply love and respect. I’m sure it made my Great Grandmother Edna (Fishburn) Byer and their children feel very safe over the years.

My grandfather, George Byer arrived at the homestead on October 20, 1930. My grandmother, Hattie Byer stayed home with their newborn daughter, Virginia, who was just 4 months old at the time. Grandpa brought almost 2 year old Evelyn with him. His letter at the time said that all the children were there, or soon would be. Three days later, Great Grandpa Cornelius Byer passed away. I’m so glad my grandpa got to see his dad before he passed. When it was time to have the funeral, they would have to travel into Gordon, Nebraska. We would never think of transporting our own loved one to the funeral, but those were different times. Nevertheless, the Indians would not leave their dear friend to go alone. With the casket in a wagon, and his son driving, Great Grandpa went to his funeral. Little Evelyn sat in the back of the wagon, wide-eyed in wonder as a long line of Indians followed the procession to the cemetery. In death, as in life, their respect for this man, who was my great grandfather, was on display. I can’t think of a greater honor than this. Cornelius Byer was truly loved and respected by all who knew him.

Pow Wow 2For most of his life in the United States, my great grandfather, Cornelius Byer, was friends with the Indians. He and my grandfather, George Byer were invited to Pow Wows with the Indians, and many of them came to their home bearing gifts and just to visit. That wasn’t the normal course of events in those days, however. For many of the people that the Indians dubbed, The White Man, crossing paths with the Indians meant death. Many of the Indians were considered criminals. They were locked away in prison or, if they were lucky, the reservations. The reservations weren’t great, but they were better than prisons…I suppose.

Crazy Horse has a serious score to settle with The White Man. The government wasn’t suppose to let the settlers into the Dakotas. Then explorers went in anyway, and found gold. Of course, the government reneged on the deal, and The White Man came flooding into the Dakotas. In reality, it was going to be inevitable. A some point, the United States and her people were going to grow to a place whereby they would need more room. Eventually someone was bound to find the Dakotas, and especially one of my favorite places, The Black Hills. This was the area of the United States where the Lakota Sioux and Crazy Horse lived.

The breaking of the treaty to keep the Dakota Territory in the hands of the Lakota Sioux brought the government into a war with the Lakota Sioux and with Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse would lead the Lakota Sioux to victory in The Battle of the Little Big Horn. After that battle, Crazy Horse was a wanted man, and the cavalry would stop at nothing to find him. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn, on June 25, 1876, it was inevitable that Crazy Horse would one day have to surrender. That day came on May 6, 1877, when Crazy Horse, He Dog, Little Big Man, Iron Crow, and several others surrendered themselves to First Lieutenant William P Clark. For the next four months Crazy Horse resided in his village near the Red Cloud Agency, but Red Cloud and Spotted Chief-Crazy-HorseTail became jealous of the attention the Army gave to Crazy Horse. They had adopted many of the White Man’s ways, and when they heard a rumor that Crazy Horse was planning to slip away, and go back to their old ways. Crazy Horse had actually agreed to fight on the side of the White Man, but his words were misinterpreted, and on the morning of September 4, 1877, just four months after his surrender, the Army attacked Crazy Horse’s village. Crazy Horse agreed to accompany Lieutenant Jesse Lee back to Fort Robinson, there Lieutenant Lee was told to turn him over to the Officer of the Day. He didn’t want to, but he did. As he was taken into custody, Crazy Horse struggles and was stabbed with a bayonet by one of the members of the guard. He died later that night. It was a sad case of misunderstanding, and it cost him his life.

Cornelius George ByerMy great grandfather, Cornelius Byer was a friend of the Indians at a time in history, when that was rather uncommon. During his lifetime, the White Man was well known for backing out on treaties as the need or desire for more land warranted, resulting in the pushing back of the Indians further and further off of the land they had been promised. This of course eventually resulted in the placement of the Indians onto reservations, many of which still exist to this day. It also cause much contention between the Indians and the White Man, and of course, the Indian Wars. At that time and even beyond, many Indians did not trust the White Man, even after peace came about, however my great grandfather was a man they not only trusted, but indeed, loved and respected. Over the years, the family would see many times when the Indians would show up at the house, with their whole families in tow. The women and children always waited outside while the men went in to visit with Grandpa about whatever it was they had come for. For the children, I suppose all this seemed normal, but when we look at it in light of history, it seems strange to think of the Indians having such trust and respect for any White Man, and therefore strange to think that they came to the house, and that they were welcomed into it. Nevertheless, this is what happened, and Great Grandpa Byer went to their villages as well.Pow Wow 2

On one such visit to the Indian village of Chief Red Cloud, my grandfather, George Byer was allowed to go along. He recalled that when they entered the tent, Chief Red Cloud was sitting by a fire wrapped in his robe or blanket. Apparently it was customary in this case for him to have little or nothing on underneath that, so I almost have to wonder if it was a sweat lodge or something. Either way, that is what my grandfather recalled as a young boy of about ten years. His dad had gone to visit Red Cloud about something, and in during the visit, the peace pipe was passed around. When it was handed to my grandfather, he was allowed to take it and that resulted in his smoking the peace pipe for the first time as a very young boy, who was apparently considered man enough to do so by the Indians. I doubt if many of us can say, in this day and age, that they know someone who smoked a peace pipe before, but that is the truth.
Grandma and Grandpa Byer
My great grandpa was so greatly respected that not only was he asked to smoke the peace pipe with them, but when he was dying, a rather amazing thing happened. Because he had been their friend, the Indians came to pay their respects. As they had before, they brought their families, but this time the families did not stay outside. The braves came in to shake Great Grandpa’s hand, as did their wives, and their children. Every single one of them shook his hand…from the oldest to the youngest. It was such a moving show of respect for him, and one that was almost never afforded to a White Man. But then, Great Grandpa Cornelius Byer was their friend, and that made him more than just any other White Man. He was like a brother to them.

Portrait of Angeloah ShawFor some time now, my Shaw family line has been stalled at Angeloah, who is my 3rd great grandfather. I have always known that he was my grandfather, and that he was a religious man, but other than that, he has remained a mystery to me. Most of the time when a side of my family history stalls, I just move to another branch, because at that point I need a break from the frustration of a fruitless search. That is what I had done on that branch, until I was contacted by a man who was researching a Shaw branch of his family. So far, I have not found a connection between his family and mine. But in my search, I found a story from a history document about Catarogus, Allegany County, New York. In that document, it said that Angeloah’s father was Joseph Shaw. That was what I had originally thought to be correct, but then during my search, I saw where his father had been listed as Nathaniel and also as John. For a time I wasn’t sure what to believe, but this document made it very clear, and it was the first one that did. What it didn’t make clear was who Angeloah’s mother was. I find that so odd…and frustrating!!

From his childhood until about 1860, Angeloah lived in Lyndon, New York, where he met and married his wife, Mary Delilah Sapney. They moved to Derinda, Illinois before 1860, as they were counted in the census taken in 1860. Then in 1864, they moved to Tremplealeau County Wisconsin, and is shown to have owned land by 1869. The land totaled 160 acres, and Angeloah took up farming. his son, my 2nd great grandfather, John Brad Shaw, helped out on the farm until he was 24 years old, before moving to Nebraska. Angeloah and the rest of the family would stay on in Wisconsin for a number of years before following John in 1874 to Nebraska where Angeloah lived out the remainder of his life.

He was a very religious man, and some of the pictures we do have of him showed him reverently holding his Angeloah ShawBible. I’m sure that in the early years he was a preacher of sorts…at least in his family. That reminds me a lot of my dad, in that he was the patriarch of our family. We always looked to him to have the answers and to show us the right way to go in all things. I doubt if any of us would have been who we are today, had it not been for that leading. I can’t say for sure if Angeloah was the same kind of father to his children. Those were very different times, and parenting was different too, so I can’t say what his parenting style was like or what part his faith played in his parenting style.

Basically, that is all I know of my 3rd great grandfather. That makes me sad in many ways. It seems like some families didn’t keep records that were up to date as much as other families. I had hoped that with the abundance of pictures out there, I would be able to find much more documentation on him and his life, as well as his parents. Instead, I am left with nothing but the continuing mystery of Angeloah Shaw.

William Spencer shortly before his deathMy great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer I, was a hard working man, who had a lot of stress in his life. It is my understanding that he was a stern man, which was probably common for the times, but my guess is that he was a Type A personality. These days, we know that high stress and a Type A personality are sure fire ways to an early grave. I can’t say that my great grandfather died what would be considered an early death in 1922, but these days, it certainly would be considered young. He was 64 years old, when he dropped dead of a heart attack right after hauling a bunch of logs up to a fence so they could be used for repairs around the farm.

On first glance at the picture of him with his cows, I saw a strong man taking care of his animals. But this picture was taken just a short time before Great Grandpa’s death. How could a man look so strong one day, William Malrose Spencer Iand be dead of a heart attack just a short time later. Upon closer examination, I noticed that he was smoking a pipe. I suppose that his smoking could have contributed to a heart attack…especially when added to his Type A personality and high stress lifestyle. So many things that can contribute to an early death, were virtually unknown to people just a few years ago.

These days, while we don’t always pay attention to the experts on health issues, we are told what things can be detrimental to our health. Quite possibly, if my great grandfather had known what things he was doing that were likely to lead to a heart attack, he would have lived his life a little differently. These days too, we know about things like CPR, aspirin, blood thinners, and heart medications. Any one of those things could have prolonged his life…even after the heart attack. Unfortunately, none of these things was available…or at least not in the current forms that we have these days. So when the heart attack happened, Great Grandpa was simply gone in the blink of an eye. It is entirely possible that when the attack happened, he was alone, and that nothing could have been done when he was discovered, but just as many people in those days have had their heart stop and no one knew what to do, so they died even though there were people with them. While mouth to mouth resuscitation was first introduced in 1740 to save a drowning victim, CPR was not developed Right in this Spotuntil 1960. Before that, if there was no heartbeat, it was all over.

It seems so sad to me that people back then died when there was often a simple way to resuscitate them and save their life. People simply didn’t know it. Those techniques had not come about yet. I’m sure that when people learned of those things later, they felt a twinge of sadness over the loss of a loved one who might have been saved has they lived in a different day and age. I know that as new technology comes about now, I feel sad for those who could have been helped by it, but there is nothing that can be done now. It was how things were in that time.

I'm so blessedAs each generation in a family looks at the addition of a new generation, I have to wonder what is going through their minds, and if it’s the same as mine…amazement at where the family is now. I remember seeing my daughters and my grandchildren for the first time, and I know that I was thinking just how amazing it was that they were here, and they were mine. You have a tendency to marvel at how beautiful they are and that they descended from you. Every grandparent is excited about those little grandbabies, but you don’t always get a picture of the exact look that expressed just how blessed a grandparent is feeling.

Nevertheless, that rare shot was what we accidently got, when my husband, Bob’s great grandfather first met his great great granddaughters, Corrie and Amy. The loving look on his face as he held Amy simply said it all. He was feeling so blessed to be able to see this next generation of his lineage. Many people never see their great great grandchildren…they don’t always live long enough, so he was very blessed. He was blessed in his life…living to be 93 years old. It was only a couple of months later that a fall would break his hip and the shock would end his life. That made his chance to meet his great great granddaughters that much more special, whether he knew it or not at the time.

I think every grandparent feels that deep sense of great blessing when they see those babies for the first time, but so often it doesn’t show in a picture of such a loving look. This picture has become very precious to me for that very reason. I only had the opportunity to meet Bob’s great grandfather the one time, before his passing. We had planned a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit with them again, in September of that year, but he passed away in August. We made the trip to see Bob’s great grandmother, but I always felt sad that his great grandfather was not there for the visit. Mostly, I was sorry that he was gone so soon after meeting him. The picture of him was one of the few I have now. Having met him, I can say that he was a gentle hearted man who loved his family. I really think that he felt such a deep sense of accomplishment that his family had grown so much, and that he got to see it before he left this world. I was glad that we were able to give him his great great GG Gpa, Amy, GG Gma Corriegranddaughters before he passed away. I think it meant so much to him.

As my life moves forward into the next phases, I am beginning to look forward to the day when I will have great grandchildren too. It could be down the road a ways, but with two grandchildren out of high school now, it could be right around the corner. I don’t mean to say that I am pushing the grandkids, but I look forward to that special day whenever it happens to arrive. Babies and grandbabies are a great blessing, and I know that whenever my great grandchildren start arriving, I will feel just like Bob’s great grandfather did, so amazed at where the family is now.

Young Carl SchumacherOn this, the 130th anniversary of the arrival of my great grandfather, Carl Ludwig Theodor Schumacher in the United States, I have been thinking about how it must have felt for him. He had made the most difficult decision to leave his homeland at the very young age of 25, and board the SS Gellert, leaving from Hamburg, Germany on April 6, 1884 to start a new life, far away from his parents and family in the United States of America. He had been reading letters from his uncle and cousins about how wonderful America was, and in particular, how wonderful Minnesota was, since he was 18, and he had made up his mind to go. He would work seven long years taking care of the horses of a wealthy landowner to earn the $50.00 needed to pay his fare. He knew that travel by ship across the Atlantic could be dangerous, and he might be very homesick for his family, but he was determined to go. He knew, also that it would take years of hard work to build the American Dream that he had in mind for his life. My great grandfather would be successful in building his American Dream, but today my thoughts go not to thinking of his dreams, but rather to how he must have felt as he made such a life change.

A young man of 25 years is really not so grown up that a move half a world away doesn’t feel scary. That kind of a move would be a daunting experience for anyone, no matter how SS Gellertold they are. And then to arrive at a place like Ellis Island, or in my grandfather’s case, Castle Garden, since the Ellis Island facility wasn’t built until 1892…not really knowing what you would be put through before you would be allowed to enter the United States. Many people were required to Americanize their names, so it would be easier for them to fit in…forever altering their identity. That was the case for my great grandfather, when his name was changed from Schuhmacher to Schumacher. Still, the immigrants felt like this was a small sacrifice to make for the gain of the American Dream, and in fact, many immigrants felt like that name change was like a rite of passage into this great country.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that my grandfather must have felt some level of sadness at the change of his name, even though he would use it again when he was married. Still, the census records, and other records show it as Schumacher, thus muddying the waters when it comes to genealogy records. I don’t suppose that was the Castle Gardenthing my great grandfather was thinking about as he waited for his turn at Castle Garden on April 21, 1884, but as my mind looks back in time to that day that would end up being so very important to my life, it is something that definitely occurs to me. My great grandfather had been through so much to come to this new land filled with opportunity, and I’m quite certain that the overwhelming changes must have made him quite weary, but as he arrived in Minnesota and began the work of building that dream, I suppose that all of the uncertainty of the journey to get where he was, became simply a distant memory. He was home…the home of his dreams.

Bertha & Elsa School DaysDuring the twenty six long years when my great grandmother, Henriette Albertine Hensel Schumacher was confined to a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis, her husband, my great grandfather took care of her with the help of his children…especially my great aunts, Bertha and Elsa who gave up the hope of marriage and a family in their young years, for the love of their parents and with and understanding of their need. Because my great grandmother was only fifty years old when she was struck with this disease, her youngest daughters, Bertha and Elsa were only 11 and 8 years old. Those girls would barely remember a time when they were not caregivers for their mother, and later for their father too. The time went by so quickly, and suddenly they looked back and the time for having a family was long past for them.

I don’t think that most people, or at least most of those who have never been a caregiver, have any idea what a monumental job it is to care for someone. It takes a willingness to give up your own desires, hobbies, activities…basically your life, to help someone else who is not in a position to help themselves. And, it isn’t always the person who needs the care that is the most helped, but rather their spouse, who has been trying to handle it themselves, and trying to figure out what has happened to their strength, their ability to handle everything in their Spencer Schumacher Family cover photo2life, and how they could have come to a place where their only hope lies in the strength of their children, who still have the advantage of youth’s strength and energy. This was the place my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher found himself in, as the years passed and he came to the understanding that he would have to lean heavily on his two youngest daughters to keep things going.

I have to wonder if great grandpa felt a lot of guilt over what his daughters gave up in life to help him. He was such a loving, caring person, who had always been able to take care of all the needs of his family, and he just could not do this alone. He simply had no choice but to rely on them for help. He was getting older, and he was getting tired. I’m sure Bertha and Elsa would have had it no other way. These were their parents, and they loved them. Still, they never forgot the day that their dad said, “What would I do without you girls?” I know from my own experiences as a caregiver, that while you don’t need to have the patient constantly saying “thank you”, there is something to be said for hearing that your hard work has positively effected their lives. They were both rewarded in later years with wonderful husbands, and even thought it was for a Bertha & Arthur Hallgren and Elsa & Frank Lawrenceshort time they were blessed in that way too in the end.

In my years as a caregiver, I have had the opportunity a number of times to hear or be told that without my help, they couldn’t have stayed in their homes this long, and it does make you feel good about your work. Nevertheless, like my great aunts, I know I would do the work whether the praise came or not, because it truly is about making their lives better, and not about the praise I received. It’s all about the love I have for those I care for. I’m very proud of my great aunts, that they did what they needed to do to help their parents, and someday, I’ll have the chance to tell them that myself.

William Malrose Spencer IMost of us don’t exactly think of the place our grandfather died as being anything that would stick in our minds, but in the case of my great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer, it would seem that it was something that the family thought of often. It wasn’t because he was murdered or anything like that either, which is something that might cause it to stick in your mind. He died a natural death, of a heart attack, after working to haul a bunch of poles up to a fence for repair and construction work he was going to do around the farm in Isabel, Missouri. The date was March 20, 1922, and my great grandfather was only 64 years old. That probably wasn’t considered young at that time, but it really is today. He had always been a hard working man, and probably didn’t take as good care of himself as he did for his family. There were seven children in the family.

By the time my great grandfather died, my grandfather was married and living in Wisconsin. He and 267my grandmother had two children, one, my Uncle Bill was only two months old at the time of his grandfather’s death. Uncle Bill had been his grandfather’s namesake…named William Malrose Spencer II. At some point, my grandfather made the trip back to Missouri to see his mother and find out what had happened. It was a sad trip…his first one home where his dad was not going to be there. I can only imagine how hard that trip was for him. His dad had always been a gentle man loved and respected by all his children. My grandfather, being the oldest and a son, had likely worked along side his dad on many of the projects he had, so I’m sure he felt like maybe if he had been there…to lighten the load or something…maybe his dad would still have been alive. It is something most children, who have lost a parent in such a fashion feel. In 265reality, there would have been nothing he could have done, but I doubt that knowing that would have helped his broken heart any.

As I look at this picture of my grandfather standing there with his mother, and the one with my Uncle Clifford with his mother, I can see by the way they were standing there that they felt such devastation. My heart breaks for both of them. Losing your dad is such a hard thing to go through, but not being there to say goodbye would be even worse. At that point, all you would have is a picture in your imagination, and someone to tell you, “It was right in that spot.”

There is something special about being born on your great grandfather’s birthday. It becomes a bond between the two of you…something you will always share. That is the bond that my niece Machelle shared with her great grandfather…my mother-in-law’s dad. I was a unique birthday type that would be the second of it’s kind in our family. This kind of birthday makes the people involved very close. For the grandparent, it is like a special birthday gift…one that can’t be bought with money…a miracle that just happened to arrive on your special day. Very cool!!

For the grandchild, it gives a sense of connection to someone in a very special and unique way. One that your friends don’t usually get to have. And since Machelle was the second grandchild in our family to manage to arrive on a great grandparent’s birthday, it placed a connection between her and her cousin, my daughter, Corrie, who had also been born on a great grandparent’s birthday, and in fact, the same set of great grandparents, only her great grandmother. Now I don’t know the statistics on just how rare that is, but I do know it is unusually common in our family, having occurred 3 times over the years…but that is another story.

Machelle and her great grandfather celebrated birthdays together, and shared a closeness that can only come from such a special bond. Unfortunately, those special birthday moments were only to last until Machelle was 9 years old, at which time her great grandpa passed away from cancer. Still, I’m quite certain the bond between them remains in her heart.

Those things…that sense of connection to your great grandfather in a very special way…never really pass away. They are with you on every birthday. You don’t celebrate your special day without taking a moment to reflect on your great grandfather, and what he meant to you. You celebrate the day for both of you, because it occurs to you that without him you would not exist, and also that you were a very special birthday gift to him. One he would always look at as being very cool!! His birthday present. And as for the rest of us…well, we think Machelle is a beautiful, wonderful woman, who is a blessing to know. Happy birthday Machelle!! We love you.

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