I have lived in Wyoming since I was three years old, and so sometimes it’s easy for me to forget some of the places that have great historical value, but they are not as well known as some of the other places, like Yellowstone National Park. Register Cliff is one such landmark that I don’t often think about, although I have been there, and it really is a cool place.
Register Cliff is a sandstone cliff, that is located on the Oregon Trail. The cliff is a soft, chalky, limestone wall rising more than 100 feet above the North Platte River. When my sisters and I were kids, our parents would take us on trips, and point out every (and I mean every) Oregon Trail marker that we passed. In Wyoming, that is a lot of markers. As the emigrants made their way on the Oregon Trail, searching for a better life in the west, they came upon this cliff and chiseled the names of their families on the soft stones of the cliff. It was one of the key checkpoint landmarks for parties heading west along the Platte River valley west of Fort John, Wyoming which allowed travelers to verify they were on the correct path up to South Pass and not moving into impassable mountain terrains. Geographically, it is on the eastern ascent of the Continental divide leading upward out of the great plains in the eastern part of Wyoming.
As more and more people “registered” on the cliff, word started to get around about this notable historic landmark. People quickly began to see the value of the cliff. Besides knowing that they were going the right direction, the emigrants realized that they were a part of history. Their names would forever be carved in the stone of the cliff, stating that they were among the brave people who moved to the west to settle the land.
The practice soon became the custom of the day, and the other northern Emigrant Trails that split off farther west such as the California Trail and Mormon Trail began to follow the custom too, inscribing their names on its rocks during the western migrations of the 19th century. It is estimated that 500,000 emigrants used these trails from 1843–1869. Unfortunately, up to one-tenth of the emigrants died along the way, usually due to disease and other hazards. Nevertheless, those who made it this far were forever known to those who stop by. Register Cliff is the easternmost of the three prominent emigrant “recording areas” located within Wyoming. The other two are Independence Rock and Names Hill. The site was where emigrants camped on their first night west of Fort Laramie. The property was donated by Henry Frederick to the state of Wyoming, to be preserved. Register Cliff was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
The Spencer ancestry is riddled with names that have been passed down from generation to generation. So much so, in fact, that it can get confusing when researching one’s ancestry. Common names are William, Robert, Thomas, John, Allen, and Christopher. My dad’s family was no different than any other of the Spencer families. The boys in the family were William, named after his grandfather, William, who had a great grandfather named William, and many more I’m sure. My dad was Allen, who was named after his dad Allen, who was named after his grandfather Allen. And many of the children also used those same names, so there were cousins named William and Allen too. Most of the time it only created problems with the ancestry, mail, school things, and such, but when a man named Ethan Allen Spencer (relation, I’m sure, but just how I don’t know) decided that he needed a little bit of excitement in his life, he decided to go from a law-abiding farm family background to becoming a bank and train robber. Ethan Allen “Al” Spencer was born the day after Christmas in 1887 near Lenepah in Nowata County. He came from a law-abiding farm family. He married and soon was the father of a baby girl. So, why would he abandon all that to become a criminal.
“Al” Spencer became a criminal as the era of horseback riding was coming to an end, and modern motorized criminals were just getting started. That fact, made Spencer an almost forgotten outlaw. Spencer began his career in crime by getting caught stealing cattle in his early 30s. Then in 1919, he and two men burglarized a clothing store in Neodesha, Kansas. Detectives recovered most of the stolen property and arrested Spencer in La Junta, Colorado. The Kansas court convicted and sentenced him to five years in prison. Then the Oklahoma authorities gained custody of Spencer so they could try him on charges of cattle theft. Spencer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three to 10 years in the Oklahoma penitentiary at McAlester. He began serving his sentence in March 1920. If you ask me, he should have stuck to farming, because he wasn’t very good at crime. Spencer became friends with another convict named Henry Wells and learned a great deal about crime…becoming better, I suppose…at least as long has Wells was with him. In the 1920s, it was not unusual for Oklahoma governors to grant convicts a leave of absence from prison…even some convicted of major crimes. Spencer was given leave on July 26, 1921, to attend to “some family business” supposedly. He returned to McAlester a month later and became a trustee and was trained to be an electrician. Early in 1922, he was assigned to do electrical work outside the prison in someone’s home. He completed the work, but then he packed up his tools and didn’t return to the prison.
Within a month, Spencer had hooked up with Silas Meigs, who had escaped in a similar fashion from the prison. The pair robbed the American National Bank at Pawhuska, making a “major” haul of $147. Soon the two men robbed a bank at Broken Bow, and this one netted a little more profit. They escaped with between $7,000 and $8,500. They forced a motorist to take them three miles north of town where they had left two horses. The robbers rode away. A few days later Meigs was killed in a gun battle with lawmen northwest of Bartlesville, where he had gone to visit his brother. Spencer remained hidden in the Osage Hills, a vast stretch of country with timber, rocky canyons and thickets of almost impenetrable scrub oak. Friends and relatives brought him food. Spencer later joined up with Henry Wells and two other criminals and robbed a bank at Pineville in southwest Missouri. Spencer soon hopped a freight train bound for Oklahoma. Spencer found three other men to help him burglarize a store in Ochelata south of Bartlesville. They were surprised by the town’s night marshal who was shot and killed before the outlaws fled in a car. On June 16, Spencer and another man robbed the Elgin State Bank in Chautauqua County, Kansas. They fled with about $2,000 in cash and $20,000 in bonds.
Exactly how many banks were robbed by Ethan Allen “Al” Spencer during the eighteen months following his escape is not known. Evidence suggests he probably robbed at least 20 banks in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. The end of his crime spree came on a Saturday evening, September 15, 1923, when he was shot and killed. There is, however, debate on just how he was killed. U.S. Marshal Alva McDonald, a veteran lawman and personal friend of Teddy Roosevelt, claimed he and other lawmen shot Spencer just south of Caney, Kansas. Another account reported that Spencer was killed about five miles north of Coffeyville, Kansas. The third account came from outlaw Henry Wells’ autobiography. Wells claims that Stanley Snyder, a friend of Spencer’s, killed the outlaw with a shotgun while Spencer was eating supper. Some friend he must have been, but then I guess there is no honor among thieves. Al Spencer’s outlaw days were over, nevertheless, and a new breed of bad men soon took his place using only automobiles. Spencer was the last major Oklahoma outlaw to use horses in his crimes.
My second cousin, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa are two amazing people. Over the years of their marriage, they have been blessed with a beautiful group of children…but not in exactly the way you might expect. Brian’s first marriage, when he was 19 years old, gave him his first child…a daughter named Angie Marie was born January 8th, 1976, but that marriage ended in divorce. Brian married Lisa Basley on August 4, 1979. Their marriage was first blessed with a son, Brian Leslie born on February 8, 1980. Then, on May 20th, 1981 Lisa gave birth to another son, Nicholas Lee, and on June 29th, 1982, a daughter, Elizabeth Ann. Hemorrhaging during baby Elizabeth’s delivery brought with it the need for a hysterectomy for Lisa at age 29. She and Brian thought their days of having babies were over. They were quite sad about that because they had wanted more children, but God had a different plan for them.
Brian got saved in 1981, while working as a track layer on the railroad. A friend started telling him about Jesus and Brian became a “Jesus Freak” according to Lisa. At first Lisa was pretty uncomfortable with all that. She told him that if he didn’t stop telling everyone about Jesus, she was going to leave him. Once again, God had a different plan. One night in their bedroom Lisa awoke to a “bright light and a voice that sounded like Niagara Falls.” Jesus appeared to her and she kept saying take me with you. She knew that she wanted this Jesus in her life. Brian slept through the entire event, but Lisa was changed forever. She was no longer nervous about Brian talking to people about Jesus. She knew it was their calling. Still, in the back of their minds, the desire for more children continued to grow, and they would find out that God had a different plan for them again.
They checked into the possibility of adopting a baby in the 1990s, when their three children were under 10, and Angie was a teenager, but that was not God’s plan either, so they waited. Then, in God’s perfect timing, they got a call. It was 1992, and a friend said that she knew a girl that was pregnant and wanted to know if they were interested in adopting the baby. Brian and Lisa prayed about it and felt like God was telling them to do it. Their daughter, Grace Beverly was born August 11, 1993. Then, two years later, they got a call, saying that the same girl was pregnant again. She offered Brian and Lisa that baby too. Their daughter, Angel Danell was born June 12, 1995. God’s plans never have mistakes in them. He wanted these two girls to have each other…and a great family. In 1996, God changed their lives again when their children’s cousin became pregnant, and couldn’t keep the baby at the time, and since she was enrolled in the tribe, family had the option to adopt first because the Native Americans prefer to keep a child close, but God made a way for Brian and Lisa, and their son Noah Richard was born August 4, 1997. At this point, Brian and Lisa thought their family was probably complete, but as they were learning, God had a different plan. A woman they met at their church had just come back from working in an orphanage in China. While there, she fell in love with a little girl called Precious. Brian and Lisa quickly fell in love too, and they felt that God was calling them to adopt Precious. Again, they would learn that God’s plans are sometimes different than ours. The adoption of Precious did not work out, but there was another child…a baby girl who needed a family. Brian and Lisa raised the $30,000 plus dollars to go to China and pick up that 6 month old baby. Their daughter Hope Elizabeth was born on September 23rd, 2001.
It was at this point that Brian and Lisa knew that their family was complete…at least until the grandchildren began to arrive. They marveled at the blessings God had given them. Their story doesn’t end here though. There were reasons that each of these precious adopted daughters were given their names. Grace received her name because they felt like, in a time just after Lisa’s dad’s passing God gave them Grace. Angel was just so sweet, they all kept calling her a little angel, and the name just stuck. Hope arrived at a time when Lisa felt like she had none and God gave her Hope to fill them all with Joy. As I was visiting with Brian and Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, in preparation for this story, she summed her parents up like this, “Pretty amazing…when I look back at what sacrifices that were made and the money, time, and love they have given all of us…well, God has been faithful to our family. If it weren’t for the color of our skin or eyes no one would know that were weren’t blood relatives. It’s like the adoption creed says that my parents have in their house ‘Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow from my heart, but in it.’ I like to brag on my parents because you won’t find a couple that has struggled more, had so many sleepless nights with their children trying to find their own and loving unconditionally and always keeping Jesus in the center.” That is such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful couple, from a loving daughter.
When we think of Blended Families, we think of two people who have both been divorced, who have children, that marry each other, and become a blended family. That is one type of blended family for sure, just like the old movie, “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” But in reality, every family is a blended family. I suppose people, who have never been divorced, would argue that point with me, but it is true nevertheless. If you think about it there is no other way to have families, except blending.
In my family, starting with my four sisters and me, we all started out as Spencer girls, but we did not carry that name into adulthood. We now have the names Masterson, Schulenberg, Reed, Stevens, and Hadlock. We also have Beach, Harman, Balcerzak, Davidson, Cossabone, Chase, Renville, Reynolds, Thompson, Spethman, Petersen, Royce, Spicer, Franco-Arizola, Smiley, Sawdon, Carroll, and Moore, and that is just on my side of my family, and just so far. On Bob’s side, the Schulenberg kids have added, Cook, Spencer, Parmely, Franklin, Petersen, Royce, Moore, Griffith, Wages, Eighmy, Birky, and Iverson. If that isn’t family blending…well, I don’t know what is. I just don’t think that type of blending is what people had in mind when they talk about blended families, but this type of family blending takes place far more often that the other type. It happens with every marriage.
Bob and I have laughed about the fact that after years of being married, we now find out that we are distant cousins, but when you think about it, with all of the blending going on in this world, what is the likelihood that we would never marry a distant cousin. Pretty slim I’d say. In fact, I think that if I looked back in the ancestry of any random couple, I would find a cousinship somewhere back there. Of course, I wouldn’t even have to look very far, because the whole thing started with Adam and Eve, so since we are all related back there, is just stands to reason that the connections on the way back to Adam and Eve would also have connections. So, the next time you think about a blended family, you might think of your own family blending.
About a year ago, my cousin, Angie Schumacher Barden contacted me about a historic house that had been built by one Albert Schumacher and his family back in 1888, after they had moved from Henderson, Minnesota to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Angie wondered if these people might have been related to us. I told her that it would not surprise me, since Albert and Henrietta, who is his wife, are names that are in our family too. I expect that somewhere along the way, we will find that they are an aunt and uncle of some sort. I wish I could say that with this writing, I had found the connection, but I cannot say that yet. I have no doubt that in the near future I will find the connection, if it exists, but I have sometimes had to wait a long time, so you never know. Recently, Angie sent me pictures of the information she found at a museum, and I must say that I find it very interesting. The pictures tell not only that the Schumacher family built the house , but much of their family history, and it is from that information that my story will begin.
Albert and his wife, Henrietta arrived in Henderson, Minnesota in 1864. Their homeland was Germany. Now to my family, I’m sure you are beginning to see some similarities already. Albert had been trained as a confectioner in Germany, making him a really sweet guy in every sense of the word. When he arrived in Henderson, he saw he opportunity to to use those skills, so he opened up a sweet shop. He later worked for several years in the store of a merchant named Henry Poehler. He became the proprietor of the Sibley County Saloon in 1878, when Lorenz Oberst agreed to sell it to him. In 1888, decided to move his family to Saint Paul, Minnesota, where they opened up Schumacher’s Pharmacy. He had wanted to move for some time, and finally found a buyer for the saloon in one, Charles Pruetz.
Albert and Henrietta, and the two of them had welcomed six children into the world. Joyous events to be sure, but into each life some rain must fall, and they were no exception. Of their six children, only Gustav, Albert, Margaret, and Hedwig survived. Arthur died at nine months and Camilla died after only ten days. Those were hard times for the family, but they had to go on for the other children.
Once they moved to Saint Paul, Albert and his sons built the house at 472 Hopkins Street. The family lived there from 1888 to 1906. On July 15, 1894 the family would again experience loss, when Albert’s beloved wife, Henrietta passed away. While Albert stayed in the house for six more years, I doubt if those last years were at all as happy as the first years had been. I’m sure that if those walls could talk, they would have many stories to tell about the years the family spent there. I look forward to learning more about this amazing family, and to find out for sure, if they are related to us.
It’s strange that you can look at pictures of people in your family’s history, and somewhere in the back of your mind, you know the names connect, but somehow you don’t connect the people to their parents. While looking through some of the old family pictures from my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg’s family, I found pictures of her as a little girl, with two other children, a boy and a girl, who I found out were Richard and Mary Ann Batey. The Batey kids were my mother-in-law’s cousins, and I knew that, but somehow I didn’t connect them with their mother, Bernice Noyes Batey, who I met as an older woman. Then again, I have never met the Batey siblings at all, so maybe that is why they didn’t really connect in my mind. Bernice Batey was my mother-in-law’s mother, Nettie Noyes Knox’s sister, and I did meet her a couple of times. She was a very nice lady, and very sweet, but when you don’t meet the kids at the same time, it can be hard to make the connection. Somehow, the kids end up slipping into that obscure area of almost unknown relatives…until you think about those relationships for a few minutes.
That is exactly what happened with my mother-in-law’s cousins. For a time, I didn’t know those kids were even related at all, until my sisters-in-law told me they were. Then, I just didn’t connect their last name to anyone in particular. Finally, I was looking at a picture of Bob’s grandma, Nettie Knox, with her sister, Bernice Noyes Beaty…who I had always known as Bernice Beaty, it connected. Wow!! These kids were Berniece’s kids. Ok, sometimes I can be a little slow to connect these relationships, but now it became clear just exactly where they fit in.
Family connections are complicated, and even the best genealogy expert could have problems making the connections. Although, maybe if you weren’t involved as a family member, you would be able to see the relationships clearly. Maybe, you wouldn’t have any pre-conceived idea of where people fit into a family line, if you weren’t somehow emotionally involved with the family.
I definitely feel a little bit closer to the Noyes side of the family now that I have figured out the connections. I remember meeting Bernice, and thinking that she was such a sweet lady, but then she was Bob’s grandmother’s sister, so being sweet would be right in line with the way the whole family was. I do wish I had known the kids who were such good friends, as well as cousins of my mother-in-law. I’m sure I would have liked them very much too.
A young friend of mine recently had a new baby, and I was reminded if the age old tradition of the shower. Women through the years have helped brides-to-be and soon to be moms prepare for the upcoming event for some time now. The bridal shower got it’s start in 1890, and is mostly a tradition held in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The baby shower was one that transitioned from the purification rituals that used to occur back when women had to remain in seclusion for 14 days after giving birth, to the naming and baptismal ceremonies, and finally to what they are today, which is more of a way to welcome the new baby with gifts that are necessary for caring for the child. Personally, I like them more for what they are today, as I’m sure most people would agree. These days, the showers just as often include the husband-to-be or the new daddy, in what used to be a pretty much exclusively female party.
One tradition, when it comes to showers, that people either like a lot, or completely dislike is the traditional shower games. We have all been to showers where you tried to name the new baby, diaper a balloon, remember the kitchen utensils on a tray, or give marriage advise to the young couple. Not everyone likes to play these things, and having been to showers of both types, I really have to say that I like both. I think it is simply a matter of taste…and maybe of well thought out games. In the years that I have been attending showers, I have played just about every possible game, and I must say that there have been a few that were great. I personally liked the diapering the balloon, the name game, and the balloon under the shirt game. That one was actually played for the first time…by me anyway, at my niece, Ashley Parmely’s baby shower, and it was hilarious. Of course, as the mother-to-be, Ashley won. The point was to see who could have the biggest belly. Technically, Ashley had a distinct advantage over the rest of us…she had the balloon belly, and the Reagan belly. The rest of us didn’t stand a chance, but it was fun to try to get a belly that was bigger than hers.
Some of the funniest shower games are those played with a blindfold on…like the one above, in which my sister-in-law Jennifer Parmely was trying to scoop all the cotton balls into a bowl, without being able to see them. They are so light that you really don’t know if you have anything on there or not, and since you can’t use your other hand to assist in the process, you find yourself being less than successful. And since it seems that there are always a few little ones in the group, the laughter can get going pretty easily. My brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg found his sister’s attempts quite hilarious indeed. It’s all intended to break the ice among friends of the honoree, who may not know each other, as well as adding a little bit of laughter and fun to the whole occasion. So the next time you go to a shower, and find that games will be played, try taking a lighter view of it. You might find yourself having a great time, even if you don’t usually like to play those silly shower games.
You don’t grow up in central Wyoming without making at least one and more likely several trips to Independence Rock. It is a favorite for school field trips, and family outings as well…or at least it was when I was growing up. My family has climbed all over that rock looking at the names of the immigrants who passed by their on their way west. They would carve their name in the rock, as a way of saying, “I was here, in this place, on this date in history.” They had no way of knowing if anyone would ever see their name or care to wonder about who they were, but they wanted to mark their presence in time anyway. Lots of people have done that over the years, although these days people often use spray paint on the rocks or walls of a place, or even a sharp object on the stalls of a bathroom, which I have never been able to figure out. I mean, who cares about that. It’s just weird. Of course the difference is that the people who do that now are looked on with disdain, for defacing public property, but the immigrants heading to the old west were viewed as pioneers making their mark in history. I have to agree with that analogy, because graffiti is not like a historical record carved into a rock after all.
Independence Rock is located in southwestern Natrona County along Highway 220, a little over 55 miles from Casper, which is why many Casperites have been there so many times. It is a huge granite rock approximately 130 feet high, 1,900 feet long and 850 feet wide. It basically sticks up in the middle of an otherwise quite flat area on the prairie, with the mountains in the distance. I suppose that was why the pioneers decided to carve their names there. After a long day of travel, it was a good place to camp, with one side well protected and a great place to keep a watchful eye out for Indians or outlaws. The children could play on the rock, and that would put them out of their mothers’ hair while dinner was prepared. Some people say that it looks like a huge whale in the middle of the prairie, and I can say I must agree. Because of all the names carved in the rock, it was dubbed “Register of the Desert” by Peter DeSmet in 1840.
Independence Rock was a favorite place to go rock hunting as far as my Grandpa George Byer was concerned, and the family went there quite a bit. It wasn’t a historical site then. Now, it is illegal to take rocks from that area, of course Grandpa would have never taken anything that had a name carved in it anyway. I’m sure that many of his kids have passed that tradition on to their kids, although, I don’t think many of the grandchildren take their kids there much anymore. It’s not that we wouldn’t think Independence Rock is interesting, because I think many of us would, except that for a time you weren’t allowed to climb the rock to see the names recorded there. It was a little glitch in people’s thinking I think, and it made Independence Rock a lot less interesting to this generation. The time when climbing on the rock was prohibited came about because they didn’t want footsteps to kill the lichen, but I think they have changed that now, because the lichen was obscuring the names, and defacing the rock in it’s own way. I don’t go there much these days, but it will always hold a place in my memory files, because of all the fun we had there when Dad would take us to learn about history.
Bob and I went out to the nursing home to visit his mother on Saturday, and very uncharacteristic of her, since she got Alzheimer’s Disease anyway, she was very talkative. She was telling us about her day…at least as she remembered it. Her story moved from one scenario to another, making little sense, unless you knew some of the characters, and the places she was talking about. The other problem with her story was that it spanned at least 6 decades, and they were all intermingled. Probably the most disconcerting part of the story, however, was the fact that she was talking about Bob and me, almost like we weren’t there, and yet at other moments, she talked to us, knowing who we were. It was very strange to feel the need to speak of myself, as someone else, so it didn’t confuse her. It was also strange to shift gears, when she asked me what I was making everyone for the dinner she had decided I was cooking.
I’m sure a lot of people would have been a little bit freaked out by this strange visit, but with Alzheimer’s Disease, that is somewhat normal. The main reason it isn’t very normal, is that many Alzheimer’s patients, including my mother-in-law, don’t usually talk so much. It was quite an interesting conversation, really. She mentioned several family members, including Bob and me, our daughters, Corrie and Amy, and two of my grandsons, Chris and Josh. She also mentioned my brother-in-law, Ron, and my nephew, Barry as well as my sister-in-law, Jennifer. Then she mentioned the names Adolph, Brady, and Cody…names that made no sense to me, and two of which will most likely always be a mystery. Adolph and his wife Loretta, apparently were good friends of my in-laws, a long time ago.
It was very strange to know that she knew who we were, and yet also had a picture in her memory of what we looked like 30 years ago. The two pictures seemed like two different people in her mind, so it made perfect sense that she would be talking to us and about us at the same time. I suppose many people would find that sad, and think of Alzheimer’s disease as a horrible thief, and to a degree, they would be right, but so much of this disease…if looked at with the right mindset…can be found humorous. Yes, she makes up her stories, but they are about things in her past. Yes, she doesn’t always know us. But there is a lot to be learned there too. I never knew about their friends, Adolph and Loretta, but maybe someday she will tell me a little bit more about them…perhaps, in another story session.
I was looking through some of my mom’s old grade school pictures, and the names on the back. I find myself amazed at the number of names that are familiar to me for one reason or another. I have lived most of my life right here in Casper, having moved here when I was 3. My mom has also lived here most of her life, with the exception of the first 6 years of her marriage, so I guess it stands to reason that there might be a name or two from her classmates that might have stayed on in Casper.
It was just somewhat unexpected I guess, although I don’t know why. Some names, of course, were common enough so that I wasn’t absolutely sure, but many were names I had heard…from my friends. One is the mother of a girl who was my best friend in junior high. Another was the mother of someone who was a client of mine a few years ago. Another was the same last name as a mortal enemy, later turned friend from junior high. And there was one who was related to someone I bowled with.
A name that really amazed me, although it probably shouldn’t have is most likely the daughter of a man who developed part of this town, because there is a street named after her, and again the name is not a common name and the street carries both her first and last name, so what are the odds that she isn’t the same girl? Pretty slim I’d say.
As I looked at the faces…kind of searching for a face that looked like one I use to know…it occurred to me that I was really looking at something very special. I was looking at the past, and the past had met my past, and who knows, maybe that past might just meet the future, because who knows how many of the children of those kids have stayed on here in Casper. It is totally possible that while the names might change due to marriage, many of the families remain the same, and my children’s children might go to school with the great grandchildren of classmates of my mom’s…as the past meets the future.