I know it is a little early, but in the month of April I will be interviewing family members to compile stories of my late grandmother and posting them here.
My paternal grandmother, Mary Magdalene Gilliam, was the gem of the family. Every family event revolved around her. I grew up states away from my extended family, but holidays often found us back in the same house surrounded by an ever growing crowd of loved ones. Her passing a couple of years ago was difficult for many.
I recently took a trip with my two kids back home to visit this part of my family and for some personal healing. One of my aunts has spent a good amount of time on tracking our genealogy. She had a picture and a story about an ancestor from around the mid to late 1800s. We compared his photo to my daughter and could see a great resemblance even generations down the line. It was incredible. When I returned home, I wondered if anyone had ever written stories about my grandmother, and if not, someone should or else she will be lost to our future generations forever.
This journey is a tracing of not only my grandmother’s roots, but also a journey to discover the woman that was revered by her children and adored by her grandchildren. Her great-grandchildren and great-greats continue to be born. It is my hope these stories will make it from the mouths of those that knew and loved her, to the hearts of the generations to come.
So far the earliest story I have been able to dig up was more about my Great-Grandmother, Regina Philomena Werner (Schmidt). This story was told by my grandmother to her daughter, Jacqueline, who shared it with me for the purpose of this documentation.
Grandma never really spanked. But if you got in trouble she would sit you down and lecture you for so long, you’d wish she’d have spanked you just to be done with it.
When Mary was four or five years old, she wanted to help on the farm like her older siblings. They all had responsibilities to help the family make their livelihood and she wanted to be big and help, too. So Grandma told Mary, “There’s a storm coming. Go out and collect all the baby chicks and shut them in the coop before the storm hits.”
Little Mary, bless her heart, could not tell the difference between baby chicks and baby ducks. So to air on the side of caution, she collected all the baby chicks and all the baby ducks and stuffed them all inside of the coop. When she was done, she came back and announced her success and pride at completing the task.
It wasn’t until the next day that Grandma discovered Mary’s mistake. You see, the baby ducks were much larger than the baby chicks and those ducks crushed many of the little chicks.
Grandma sat Mary down in the kitchen on a wooden stool for hours, lecturing her on the difference between chickens and ducks and the importance of the chickens to the farm and their way of life. Chickens needed to grow, so their eggs could be gathered and they could be eaten. If all the chicks died, there would be no chickens to sell or eggs to eat. Poor little Mary learned a hard lesson that stuck with her for nearly seven decades.
This is by far the cutest story I have ever heard. This would have been around the time World War II had begun but before America had joined the war. The great depression and the dust bowl of the Midwest were slowing being resolved. I can just imagine Little Mary Warner with her brown curls chasing after baby chicks and baby ducks, with arms full of feathery fluffs cheeping and quacking maybe even unaware of the fragility of her family’s farm or the harshness of the times. I wish I could have asked her everything about this time. I am sure she would tell me that though they did without, they did what they had to do and just kept on.
The imaged used was found on Google Maps and can be retrieved HERE. It is an image of Claflin, Ks which I believe was where my grandmother was born.