My life began in Superior, Wisconsin. Superior is a small town located at the tip of Lake Superior, which is the largest of the Great Lakes. I have always felt close ties to Superior and to Wisconsin, in general, because while I have not lived there since I was three years old, it was the place of my birth, and the place where my Uncle Bill Spencer and his family lived for many years, as well as many of my great grandparents’ family.
In the early years of the area, the Native American Indian Tribes called it home. The first Europeans to live there were the British and French, and the American settlers who lived in Wisconsin when it was a territory. One tribe, the Meskwaki Indians were particularly hostile toward the French, but many of the Indians got along well with the pioneers. The Great Lakes area increased dramatically after the decline of the British influence following the War of 1812. This was a land with a mix of pioneers and Indians. Of course, like most areas, the Indians were eventually placed on reservations.
Like every state in the United States, Wisconsin started as a US Territory, and when there were enough people to make statehood a necessity, each one became a state. Wisconsin initially became a terriroty on this day, April 20, 1836. Initially, it included all of the present-day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and part of the Dakotas east of the Missouri River. Much of that territory was part of the Northwest Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1783. The portion which is now the Dakotas was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase. Eventually, the states would separate their areas, leaving Wisconsin with the area it now occupies.
My people would arrive in the area much later, but many of them would stay in the area of Wisconsin and Minnesota for generations, and even to this day. For me, there will always be a place in my heart for Wisconsin, especially Superior, and the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior. It is a beautiful area that my family has called home for generations, and I will always love it.
My Aunt Laura was born 10 years before the rest of her siblings, and so was an only child for those 10 years. I have often wondered about the historical changes that took place during those 10 years. She was born just a 4 months after the RMS Titanic sunk, and the world was still reeling from the devastating loss of life, and trying to figure out how to make sure such a tragedy never happened again. Travel by ship has changed immensely since that time, and a lot by 1922, when my Uncle Bill was born. No, that doesn’t mean that there are no ship wrecks, and that lives lost at sea have been reduced to zero, but the people on ships have a better chance of surviving, simply because the radios are never turned off. They are manned 24 hours a day, so that emergency calls can go out and be received. Had that been the case in 1912, the 1,502 lives lost might have been saved. No one was killed in the initial collision. A radio call could have changed everything, but the nearest ship…the SS Californian never heard the distress call, because the radio had been turned off for the night. The inadequate number of lifeboats on the RMS Titanic would have been enough to ferry all the passengers to safety, had the SS Californian heard the call. That loss changed much about ocean travel, and those changes took place during those 10 years when my Aunt Laura was an only child, and her younger siblings would not know a time without those safety regulations in place…not that they would affect them any.
In early 1912, just months before my Aunt Laura turned 2, New Mexico became the 47th state, on January 6, 1912, and Arizona became the 48th state, on February 14, 1912. Our nation would continue to have only 48 states until 1959, when on January 3rd, Alaska, and on August 21, Hawaii joined the Union. Aunt Laura probably didn’t remember a time when there were only 46 states, much like I, at 2 and then 3, don’t remember having only 48 states, but nevertheless, history tells us that we lived in a time when that was so. Aunt Laura’s siblings, like my own little sisters, except Caryl who lived when there were only 49 states for a few months, since she was 4 months old when Alaska became a state, lived in a time when there were more states than when their older siblings were born.
Just one week before my Aunt Laura’s 4th birthday, the United States would be drawn into World War I. The beginning of the war was probably something that didn’t make much difference to her, but by it’s official end, on November 11, 1918, she was old enough to know what it was all about, and may have even known someone who lost a loved one in the fighting. World War I was just another piece of history by the time my aunt’s younger siblings were born, and I’m sure hearing about it through the years had little effect on them, unlike their older sister. World War II would be a very different matter for the younger siblings, as they would all be involved in that war in one way or another.
There were many things that my Aunt Laura experienced, that her younger siblings did not. Much of it was without her having any real knowledge of it, but looking back, she would always know it was so. Just like I find it very odd to know that during my lifetime, ships have sunk, wars have been fought, and states have been added to make us the 50 United States that we know today, I’m sure she sometimes marveled at the difference ten years can make.