Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small gave us a new 52 Ancestors challenge for 2015. Each week, we have a different theme about which to write. It’s quite the challenge, but I love meeting it and reading how everyone interprets each week. Week four is “closest to your birthday.”
Discovering an ancestor who has a birthday close to mine usually causes me to think a bit more about how life would have been for that person. I’m not really sure why, but it becomes easier to place myself in his or her shoes.
My dad’s grandfather, Charley Jones, shares my birthday.
Charles Edgar Jones was born on October 15, 1885 to William and Mary Jane Jones. He was born and raised in Benton, Kentucky. When he was 22, he enlisted in the army and made his way to Fort Meade in Sturgis, South Dakota. There, he met 19 year old Marion Veronica (Verna) Essler … and married her on February 12, 1910.
I always thought this a bit of a chance encounter … fate? Verna was in Surgis with her mother and stepfather, Isabelle and Walter Seaver, and other siblings for less than 10 years. They arrived sometime prior to 1910, but were back in their home of Minnesota by 1920. On the 1910 census, Seaver is listed as a farmer, but was renting his home. They lived on Junction Ave, house number 350, which was on the north edge of town, then. I’m still trying to piece together why the family relocated. Whatever the reason, I’m glad they did!
I’ve always had a strange fascination with Charley. He was gone before my dad was born, but Daddy had many stories about Charley that my Grandma Moore and great-grandma (Verna) had shared.
In hindsight, a lot of those stories were really just tall tales! It’s been interesting to research Charley only to find that many of the family stories are little more than fairy tales. My great grandma could certainly spin them! Regardless, I grew up hearing about Charley’s adventures with the Rough Riders (tall tale), and escapades in law enforcement during a time when the mob was rampant where I live (not tall tale).
Charley was the romantic who introduced me to black hills gold (my great grandma’s wedding ring). He was the soldier who made me learn about the Rough Riders and, later, the Philippine-American War. He was the man who trekked to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and left me a souvenir … and an addiction to the fair’s history. He was also the man with steel-blue eyes in a portrait that hung outside my bedroom door … and scared the crap out of me! Those eyes followed me everywhere!
Now, I stand in the hallway at my mom’s house and stare into them, all the while wondering what his life was really like. If eyes are windows to a person’s soul, Charley’s steely stare gives a glimpse into the soul of a man whose journey led him on many adventures and a chance encounter with a young woman in Sturgis, Sorth Dakota. That chance encounter led to four children … and ultimately to my dad and me.