A photocopy of my family ca. 1885.
My dad, like many others in the 1970s, was inspired by Alex Haley's Roots and he began tracing our genealogy. He hunted through cemeteries and archives, collecting all kinds of treasures. Among them was a tin photo of our family from the 19th century. My dad had guessed the photo was taken in 1885 because the little girl, Margaret [sitting on her mother's lap], who was born July 8, 1883 appears to be about 2 years old. I.J. [standing behind his mother to the left] is my grandfather's father. It's amazing to peer into the face of a stranger and see yourself.
I remember my father telling me that when he was a young boy, he met most of the children in this photo, but is was his great uncle Charlie [sitting between his parents behind the two children in front] who had impressed him most. He recalled Charlie being a large man with big forearms and biceps from a lifetime of cutting wood. What made this so extraordinary to my dad was that Charlie was born without the use of his legs (someone had written the now non-PC word "cripple" on the photo).
In his research, Dad came across military discharge papers of the family’s patriarch, Alfred [sitting on the right], that show he served in the American Civil War and was wounded at Antietam. The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862 near Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek as part of the Maryland Campaign. It was the first major battle in the Civil War to take place on Northern soil and came to be remembered as the bloodiest single-day battle in American history with almost 23,000 casualties. My great-great grandfather was one of fortunate soldiers to survive with, according to the records, a shot to the thigh.
A tale about Alfred's father, John, has been passed down the generations. The story goes that late one night, John was returning from a neighbor's house with an armful of venison when he suddenly encountered several wolves. Knowing that he couldn't outrun the pack, John jumped up on a stump and dispensed with the meat and then quickly left the wolves to enjoy their dinner. A small, insignificant story perhaps but it’s a piece of family history I don't want to be forgotten. And as I click on the publish button, these memories are now a part of the digital age.