I have always had an affinity for trees, if not quite at the Joyce Kilmer level. (And I cannot tell you how glad I am that I checked the precise definition of "arborphilia" before using it in conjunction with myself....) Once, when much younger, I cried when one of our trees was cut down.
Recently, one of the large trees in front of our home had to be removed (it was, in fact, nearly dead). Although I didn't cry, it did sadden me somewhat. Part of what I love about our village is that it is surrounded by woods, and that there are so many magnificent old trees in our neighborhood. The village is going to replace the tree (we have been a "Tree City" for many years running), but of course, that will mean some mere sapling.
Autumn, of course, does lead one to think about the "autumn of one's life" and all that implies as well. Regrettably, I may not live to see that sapling become a mature tree. And the same way that some trees reach the end of their natural life, the same is true for family trees. My family tree, in toto, is specific to only my sister and myself; neither of us have children. Certainly, cousins share one side or other, but the unique tree that is mine will not go any further than this generation.
Which leads me to consider family tree charts, and the mixed metaphors therein. The most common pedigree charts show someone as the trunk of the tree, with their parents and grandparents as limbs. More correctly though, it you are the trunk, shouldn't your forebears be the roots, a term we commonly use? And then your own children could be the limbs, putting yourself at the middle of the tree, rather like an hourglass chart. Not as picturesque, but more accurate.
Anyway, apparently I am a stump. A stump by choice, but a stump nonetheless. Which makes for a slight melancholy when I stop to think that my genealogy research--although a delightful pastime for me--will ultimately not be of much interest to anyone. (We will forgo any contemplation as to who--if anyone--it interests right now....)
Looking at the larger picture, what will be--if not my legacy, whatever that is-- the fate of the things I leave behind? Where will they go? Where will they end up? Thinking about people about whom I have posted here before, I cannot help but wonder: what became of Thomas Lombard's books or Adaline Ketchum's sewing machine? Frank Bursley Taylor and his wife Minnetta Amelia Ketchum lived long, prosperous lives but had no children; do any of their belongings still exist, and if so, where?
Which, in a more than usually roundabout way, leads me to this post's subject, a maternal great-grandfather, Clarence Edgar Brown.
|Caption by his son, Dana Earl Brown.|
Clarence was born 1 Dec 1878 in Missouri, the sixth of eleven children, the third (and last) son. After living briefly in Colorado, where his father, Silas W Brown (abt 1835 - 20 Nov 1883) attempted prospecting (!), the family returned to the Kansas City area.
By 1903 Clarence found his way to Minnesota, where, at age twenty-four, he married Cora Mabel Kinman. Their first son, Rex Hugh Brown, was born in Minneapolis 1 Jun 1905 but lived less than a year. (Both of my maternal grandparents lost a brother; I have sometimes wondered what they might have thought about this coincidence.) Shortly thereafter, the Browns moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where two other sons followed, Dana Earl Brown (my grandfather) in 1910, and Ray Edgar Brown in 1914.
As an adult, in true Brown fashion, Clarence possessed some inexplicable wanderlust, moving every few years and changing careers nearly as often. He worked variously as an insurance collector (and later, manager); salesman for retail giant Butler Brothers in Minnesota; and as an "advertising man" for a printing company.
|Butler Brothers, a few years before Clarence's employment in the 'teens.|
The building is still there, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
|From Pater, introducing his filium. About 1930.|
I know of at least seven addresses for the Browns from 1905 to 1935, almost all in the Minneapolis area, sometimes living with the Kinmans, Clarence's in-laws.
|In 1916, the Browns are living with in-laws, so we know where they are.|
But where is Clarence? The postmark reads Salem, but: Salem where?
(And I have to note: I love his handwriting.)
Most of the houses and apartments in which the Browns lived are still there, which speaks well to Minneapolis' preservation efforts. Here is another Kinman-Brown home, from about 1920 and today.
|Originally built in 1909, it is mostly unchanged.|
After about 1934, things get fuzzier. The last employment I am aware of for Clarence is the advertising job in 1930; the last address from 1934. It is also hard to get a grasp on his nature; in the few photographs I have, he is always looking rather stiff and stern, although there is a hint of smile, perhaps, in this formal portrait.
|Probably about 1930.|
When going through my mother's things after she died, I found all that remained of my grandparent's belongings. My family tends not to be nostalgic, or keep souvenirs; where I get that trait has yet to be determined.... There was very little from my grandfather's early years, and even less about his father: a few photographs in an album; the portrait, postcard, and business card shown above; and this satchel.
I am curious as to why it was kept, but oddly pleased to have it. There were also two letters from Clarence, one from 18 May, the other 30 June 1937, written to his wife, Cora. They were sent from Jonesboro, Louisiana. Here is the latter in its entirety:
Just read Ruth's letter [I am unsure who this is] as she states you are back from hospital, will write you at the home address. [Cora was recovering from an accident in which she broke her hip and wrist.] By the way, she addresses the letter to Clarence and they know me at the Post Office as C.E., so will be more sure of getting it if addressed "C.E.", as I think there is a nigger gets mail by the name of "Clarence."
Surely glad to hear that the bed sore has responded to treatment, but indeed sorry to hear that they had to do the setting of the wrist over again. However it is no doubt better to have it done right, as in the other way it may have been so it was crooked and also might have lamed you for life. I surely hope the hip is coming along all right and that you are getting along finally. Will certainly be fine when I can hear from you direct, as there is much more satisfaction that way. However, I appreciate the kindness of Ruth in writing and letting me know while you cannot write.
It has been quite hot here during the month and I imagine it will be hotter yet during July and August. Watermelon and canteloupes are now coming in down here. Have not had any yet, but hope to get a slice or two of watermelon soon. Can get a pretty good size one for 20¢. Hot weather has pretty well put business on the stand still around here, as they like to get in the shade. Have been doing a little from time to time, but have not been able to get two or three days work following one another. However, I managed to pinch off a little money for you and am sending same, enclosed $5.00 and hope you get the letter okay, without delay. Hope to be able to send more, soon. Well, there is no news, so will close, hoping that you are rapidly recovering and will be in fine shape soon.
As always, with much love, Clarence
P.S. Mail to this town, as usual and if I leave (which I will do soon) I will leave forward address.
Apart from making me wonder what Clarence's latest employment might have been, I could not imagine why this particular letter, admitting itself that there was no real news in it, had been kept. It was not until I learned that Clarence died just two months later, on 21 August 1937, that I realized: it must have been the last letter they ever received from him. He was fifty-eight.
Just two brief letters and a postcard, a satchel, and a few pictures. Dried leaves, once brightly colored, from a life.
|Clarence in Florida in 1926. Still dour and suited, but perched on a palm tree.|
Unlike the autumn foliage that began this post, palm trees--like memories-- are evergreen.
1. Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937), married Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958), daughter of William Edwin Kinman and Sarah Jane Conley, on 16 Sep 1903, in Morgan, Minnesota.
2. Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) married Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), daughter of John Jacob "Jack" Severin and Isabelle "Belle" Runser, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
3. Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, California.
4. Your humble blogger.