I was searching for quite another item (the travel journal to Kansas) when I came across this photograph. I had previously scanned it, so I knew it existed. I had correctly recorded the names and dates in the file information. But when I turned over the physical photo, I knew I had my blog posts for these two prompts.
That’s me, at 2 months old. The youngest.
And, holding me is my Great-grandma Gard. The oldest.
The occasion is her 90th birthday.
Apparently, there was quite the shindig!
That’s me, held by my mother. Gramdma Gard is almost hidden in between my two sisters.
Eva M. Kesterson Gard was born on Septmeber 30, 1869, in Sugargrove, Tippecanoe Co., Indiana. She was the first child of Geroge Sylvester Kesterson and Susan Norwood. (No one seems to know what the M. stands for, by the way!)
In 1870, Eva, her sister Olive, and their parents were living in Jackson Township, Tippecanoe, IN.
In 1880, the family were in Randolph Township, Tippecanoe Co. Her parents now had three living children, Eva, Olive (1869-1963), and Clint (1873-1956). Their little son James had died in 1873, a few months after his first birthday. Youngest sibling Bert would come along soon (1881-1959).
August 3, 1887, Eva, 18, married Willis David Gard, 32, in Neosho Co., Kansas.
June 2, 1888, Eva had her first child, Lex Bion Gard, while living in Switzerland County, Indiana. This little boy’s name has always puzzled me; there’s no one else I’ve found in our family tree with a name anywhere close to Lex Bion. I’d love to know more about that.
Little Lex passed away August 13, 1890, when he was two years, two months, and 11 days old.
My grandmother, Vida Bula, Eva’s second child, was born in 1896. Between the death of Lex, who was buried in Thayer, Kansas, and the birth of Vida, the Gard family had moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles, California.
In 1902, my great aunt Dola Zella was born.
Willis passed away on September 4, 1926. After that, Eva lived with her daughter, my Aunt Dola, and her husband, Uncle Frank, for the rest of her life.
She passed away December 22, 1964, at age 95, when I was six years old. She had remained the oldest, but I had long lost my place as the youngest, being displaced by a younger brother and a niece.
I remember her as always looking the same, with her hair in a bun and wearing a dress with old fashioned shoes and stockings.
She remains warm, lovely, and kind in my memories.
Our family isn’t known for being colorful. We’re a pretty mundane, middle-of-the-road, don’t-make-a-scene kind of people. “Muted” would be a more accurate description.
Occasionally though, we have our moments, within reason, of course. And, I’d like to illustrate what that looks like in my family. I know; I know… I have taken great liberties with the term “colorful”, but it’s my blog and this was fun. So, here we go!
Homer is/was my first cousin twice removed; he was the first cousin to my Nanna, Vida Wells. I think anyone who was riding a motorcycle in 1918 can be categorized as colorful. “Cool” even…
I have a whole collection of photographs from the South Pacific during WWII. The thing is, I have absolutely no idea who took them. I’ve asked my Uncle George, who was in the Navy during the war, and he says they aren’t his. They are more than a bit culturally insensitive, in addition to being rather colorful. This is one of the tamer ones.
The photo above is my Aunt Betsy, my dad’s sister. She passed away a few years ago at the age of 99. She was a seamstress for NBC back in the days of live television. She worked with big name stars and designers, including Irene Dunne and Bob Mackie. She was ALWAYS put together and quite respectable, wearing immaculate clothes of her own design and making, with her hair professionally styled, her nails perfectly manicured, and her tiny size 3 feet in heels. Even her slippers and house shoes had heels. When I came across these photos, I was a little taken aback, as this younger Besty is certainly much more colorful and risque than her older self.
Dad! Put some clothes on! This photo was taken in Hawaii, while he was stationed there in the Army in WWII. Again, very culturally inappropriate, but certainly colorful.
This photo makes me think of gangster movies, but these were the good guys. Apparently, Nampie worked as a guard at a power plant for a time.
On the left in the photo above are Nanna and Nampie Wells; the little girl in the middle is my mom. Nampie was certainly being a goof-ball on the beach here!
These are my two oldest siblings, Robert and Jeanne, dressed up for Halloween. I sure wish this photo was in color!
This picture is famous in my family. Mom looks so happy and carefree in her bright, colorful yellow swim suit. My dad would often refer to this photo, accompanied by a sly wink and a satisfied grin…
Out on the farm on the desert, there wasn’t much for color, unless you were partial to beige, tan, and brown, with the occasional dusty sage thrown in for good measure. Which is why I really like this photo of our colorful rooster, Sir.
Despite being in a desert, we did have a great supply of underground water, which made our garden rather productive. This was a bumper crop year for colorful squash and pumpkins.
My parents were visiting my brother and his family and our Aunt Mabel and Uncle Paul in Montana when my brother snapped this great photo of our parents. I love the color of the sky against the colors of the Ferris wheel.
My mom knew how to make the desert bloom…
And, lastly, I have no idea who this lively lady is, but I would love to be her friend. Doesn’t she just look like she’d bring color to a room, a conversation, or a friendship? I suspect she is a shirt-tail cousin from Kansas, based on the group of photos this one was in. Regardless, I like her. She’s fun.
I am not very musical. Despite piano and flute lessons and trying to teach myself guitar when I was younger, I remain hopelessly, decidedly un-musical. Which in retrospect, I find a little puzzling. Both sides of my family were rather musical.
My Nanna Wells and her sister, my Aunt Dola, were both music teachers in the Los Angeles public school system. Aunt Dola had a grand piano in her home, always covered by a piano shawl. I inherited music books and an upright piano from Nanna, both of which remain largely unused. Strangely enough, I don’t ever remember hearing either one of them play…
Dad played a variety of musical instruments in high school (tuba and trombone, perhaps others) and served two enlistments in the Army, playing in the band both times.
I grew up in a house where music was heard nearly every evening. We regularly watched The Lawrence Welk Show. My dad had a love for The Boston Pops Orchestra and had quite a collection of LPs. He would put on a record or two, recline in his chair, close his eyes, and escape.
I remember him saying to me, “Babe, close your eyes, and you can see them dancing.” And, I did, and I still do from time to time.
In 1935, my intrepid, independent, ahead-of-her-time Nanna Wells got in her car with her mother (my Great-grandma Gard) and her daughter (my mother) and drove the three of them halfway across the United States and back.
According to my mom, Nanna bought the car when my grandfather was out of town with his car. I guess she wanted the independence and had places to go and people to see. Nanna was a school teacher and, consequently, had her own steady source of income. My Nampie always worked odd jobs or for himself, from chauffeur to auto mechanic and finally ended up as a watch and jewelry repairman with his own shop.
So, at a time when not many Americans had either a driver license or a car, Nanna had both. And, quite a bit of moxie, apparently.
Nanna had bought the car, a Dodge, as Mom remembers, about 1929. Her only driving lesson was about 10 minutes at the dealer’s the day she brought it home. Nanna told Mom that she didn’t even have to take a test before California granted her a license.
I know the story because a while back Mom gave me a handwritten travel journal of the trip, written by my Great-grandma Gard. I’ve transcribed it here, only edited a bit for length and clarity.
The three of them began their journey in June 1935, when Grandma Gard (Eva) was 64, Nanna Wells (Vida) was 39, and my mom (Bula) was 14.
The story begins:
June 22, 1935
Left Vida’s at 4 o’clock. Had supper at Maurice’s. Stayed at Barstow from 11:30 to 3 Sunday morning. Ate breakfast at Ludlow. Lunched at Needles Cabin and Campground on west edge of town. 11:15 to Oatman. Car runs hot and made many stops.
Hot; head wind. Stayed at Kingman and had a good cabin. Ate lunch at Seligman. Rode 19 miles upgrade with Vida’s striped bag on the running board. Discovered by the oil station attendant out the 19 miles from Ashfork.
Grand Canyon in the afternoon. Stayed at Williams overnight. West End Auto Court… Car too stiff to travel fast.
Grandma didn’t record many details for Monday, June 24, except to say that it was warm with a breezy headwind.
Saw Painted Desert. Breakfast at Winslow…Stayed all night at Albuquerque Open Air Hotel Cabins.
Cooler and tail wind. Had a splendid cabin. Left Albuquerque at 5 AM. Saw hundreds of sheep grazing. Had to stop to let them cross the highway to go to water hole. Ate waffles at Santa Rosa. Ate lunch on the west side of New Mexico-Texas border in the auto…Thousands of acres of wheat that had to be plowed under on account of dust storms and drought. Thousands of acres of ground had been plowed and some planted to corn. Fine dirt roads. Stayed at McLean, Oklahoma overnight at Real Texan’s Auto Court. Cabin was $1.25. Cheapest yet as other were all $1.50 per night. Warm…had a good day to travel.
Landed at Nellie’s (Great-grandma’s niece, her brother’s daughter, Oklahoma City) at noon with all hands on deck to meet us but Ira and Charles who came in later. Had lunch and visited, done some washing, prepared picnic lunch, and went to the dam to eat, then back home. Sightseeing in the town. George and Junior went to sleep with heads on Bula’s shoulders. Leland, me, and Bobby slept, too.
Went to Mary Edmiston’s to lunch after shopping and had an enjoyable afternoon. Went to a park concert after evening dinner, then to see the speedboat come in. Saw amusement park, public market, and home late evening at 12:30.
Left Nellie’s for Cherryvale about 7 o’clock. Bought some eats. Vida got lost, so saw some oil fields, Ragtown… before getting on the the right street to leave Oklahoma City. Ate lunch in the car along the highway. Took a detour to avoid stalling as four other cars did, and we got by safe and sound. This after leaving Chandler. They had had heavy rain the night before and (we) run into showers for an hour or so.
Arrived at Ma’s 15 minutes of four and found her alone and looking real bad. Started to make calls and got to Hellen’s where Clint found us.
In 1935, Great-great-grandma Sarah Kendall Kesterson, Eva’s mother, would have been just short of her 87th birthday. Clint was Eva’s brother; Helen a niece, her sister’s daughter.
At this point in their journey, Eva, Vida, and Bula had traveled approximately 1,500 miles, from Los Angeles to Cherryvale, Kansas, mostly along the iconic Route 66.
June 30, Sunday
Spent the day with Hellen… Hellen’s kiddies have measles. Vida broke the Bendix spring on the auto, so left it at garage for repairs and cleaning. 90 degrees in Cherryvale. Hot.
Eva, her mother Sarah, and other family members spent the day visiting friends and family. You can read about a Bendix spring here. Apparently, the spring design required a bit of a “clash” to get a car started, so it could happen to anyone, Nanna!
Vida and I went up town and saw Ed Eagles and Johnnie Joseph–67 on the 11th of April. Olive came to Ma’s expecting chicken dinner, but found hamburger. After lunch, Ma, Olive, Vida, Bula, and I went to the cemetery to visit Pa’s and other relative’s graves… Mrs. Strickler came to call on us at Ma’s when we were ready to go to the cemetery. Brother Bert came down from Kansas City in the evening. 92 degrees in Cherryvale today. Hotter.
Washed some, shampooed my hair, mopped the kitchen, dressed hair, helped pick beans, etc. Ma, Bert, Vida, Bula, and I went to Parsons… Saw Anna Kendall Carson, husband and children. They have a nice undertaking business… Otha came back to Ma’s so as to walk home with Vida, as she left her auto to have the battery charged. 94 degrees in Cherryvale. Getting hotter.
July 3, Wednesday
Ma, Vida, Bula, and I went to Thayer… to the cemetery… found Lex’s gravestone in bad condition. Paid $1.50 to… the caretaker to put it in good condition again. Walked over much of the cemetery and found most of my acquaintances’ names on gravestones… Back uptown to city clerk’s office to see about having correct address of ours on book regarding cemetery lot. Half of the town deserted. Sure dead. Went by old home farm on the way to Cherryvale, but not much to see but meadow and scrub or jack oak. Good graded road there now. Begun to pack after we had supplies. 95 degrees in Cherryvale. worse.
Got our things together as best we could ’till time to put them in the auto. Started out to say goodbye to John and Mattie, Hellen… Claude. Went to Olive’s to tell her goodbye–old ice berg. Had lunch at Ma’s, then left for Madison at 2:35, Ma and Bert sitting on the the front porch seat. Arrived at brother Clint’s at Madison at 5:40. Found Lily and Hazel watching for us in their front yard. Had dinner there, then went into town to the baseball game… After the ball game, we went to Opal’s (Clint and Lily’s daughter) and sat in the front yard while the children had their fireworks. Afterwards, went to Clint’s for the night. Madison is a pretty town of 2500 inhabitants. Surrounded by fertile farms. Well improved. Best corn, wheat, oats, and alfalfa we saw anywhere. Oil fields a few miles out employing many men of the town… hot all day… 90 degrees at Clint’s in the house at 9 o;clock that night.
Vida and Hazel tool all soiled clothes to Opal’s to do in the machine… In the afternoon, Clint laid off from work so he and I went out for a ride to see the sights and surrounding country. Bula so miserable from change of water, food, climate, and heat that she was in bed all day… Bula and Hazel slept at Amelia’s as neither felt good, and a bed was better than the floor to sleep on. Another hot day.
Clint got up very early and went to a farm for chickens to try to fry for a picnic lunch at Emporia. Twenty miles. Flies nearly drove us crazy in the the park beside the heat, so we went into town….but no cooler there…
July 7, Sunday
Got up early and left Clint’s for Kansas city at 7 o’clock. Nice scenery, but it was getting hotter all the way. Was 108 at 8 o’clock at Gardner… Ice cold milk was so refreshing. Got to Kansas City about 12:30 and found Bert on Hollywood Hotel bench waiting for us. He had us rooms next to his, so we freshened up and went to the Forum Cafeteria for lunch. Air cooled and a welcome relief from the heat. Done the town… the zoo and other things of interest. A thunder shower came up but not much relief. My head go big and my knees weak from the heat. In K.C. proper, they had had a hard shower. Went to our room and rested a while. At 6 in the evening the thermometer ran up to 101. At 1, it had been 91. Terrible heat and stuffy and everybody wilted. Bert went and got ice cream and donuts for our eats… After that we went to Kersey Coates Bluff and looked over the International Bridge between Kansas and Missouri…and the airport, watched the planes come and go.
Up at 5 o’clock; got Bert up and all went to breakfast across the street to a lunch counter. Left for Atchison about 7 o’clock. Stopped on the way at Leavenworth, Kansas for a drink. Passed the penitentiary where Al Capone had been. Could have gone through the institution had we known in time. Passed through some good looking farm districts and nice places. Arrived at Atchison about 9:45. Went to Homer Pratt’s (Eva’s nephew, her sister Olive’s son) home first to find Homer’s garage as Vida wanted him to grease the auto and look it over…(We went) out to the park and the sights from the hills, then rode through much of the town. Went past St. Benedicts College and Monastery, where 300 monks work and live. They have a nunnery holding 400 women. They have a school and all nice buildings with beautiful grounds and trees… Atchison has several gristmills and a foundry, besides being the railroad center… many hundreds of men are employed there. One man died of heat while he was rushed from river work to the hospital in town… Homer brought Vida’s car. We went to Nora’s for evening dinner… So very hot we sat outside most of the evening and fill the yard… 21 of us… Left there at 10:30 and went to North Topeka and got a very good cabin. Two dollars for the night.
At this point, the ladies began their journey home, but by a different route than their outgoing drive.
Slept late and would have been later but for the people east of us letting children fight and yell, and the baby cried most of the night and all morning! Ate at lunch counter nearby where the proprietress cut her hand on the electric fan set to keep us cool. Left about 9:30. Very hot and scenery on the decline. Ate lunch in Manhattan park and fought flies. A lovely looking town… getting hotter all the time and saw much of the burned up wheat belt. Stayed at Ellis Kansas at Camp Seclusion. Quiet, clean two rooms, two double beds and all slept well. Cabin $1.00. 106 degrees at Ellis.
Ready to travel at 5:25. Traveled many miles through level land and the loveliest sights on the trip. Many deserted farms, no livestock or crops on account of the heat and dust storms killing the wheat. Some farmers had put in corn, but too late for more than fodder or silage. Later, saw large herds of cattle and grazing land. Had hot wind all through this section, and Vida’s arm was par-boiled. Ate lunch in the auto under little cottonwoods in the rear yard of an oil station. A youngster about 16 or 17 attendant and thoughtful. Gave us a gift of ice water from his home. Crossed Colorado-Kansas line at 1:05. Eastern Colorado like Western Kansas, with vast wheat fields burned up. Getting into higher elevation, we found more green vegetation. When we got in sight of the Rockies, it began to rain so we put the luggage inside the car about 20 minutes before we got to Denver. Kept sprinkling, but no hard rain. Stopped at Aurora, a suburb of Denver at All States Auto Court; a very nice place, shady graveled walks and drives, flowers. Each cabin (27 in all) named for different states. ours was Georgia. Single cabin, two beds, gas and water $1.50. All slept well.
Left camp early and drove through Denver… saw East High School, park with statuary, picnic grounds, zoo, large lake… then through the residential district, ’round the capital building, mint, municipal buildings, library, courthouse, etc. Denver has lovely shrubbery, but shy on flowers. Denver elevation 5280 and flat as a pancake. All buildings of brick, even the residences. Called at the farmers’ market and bought lettuce, two heads 5 cents, cucumbers for 10 cents, carrots and beets, two for 5 cents. Ate breakfast a Longmont and saw thousands of acres in young cherry orchards and hundreds of acres of turnips for market or kraut. Mmany pretty, prosperous looking places as turned the curves on winding roads. Quite a climb to Laramie, Wyoming. Run into rain again, so bought oilcloths in Laramie to cover luggage with so we didn’t have to take it inside the car again. (Mom remembers being quite squished in the back seat!) Got some trinkets there; ate our lunch in the auto in the city park as they have no picnic tables. Large cottonwood trees and cotton flying everywhere. After leaving Laramie, we passed through the most barren country yet. Lots of coal in this part of the state. Stopped at Como Bluff, as wide place in the road miles from anything else, to visit a museum of historic animal bones from in the vicinity. Owner claimed no other collection like it east of San Francisco. Dinosaur joints of vertebrae, leg, and neck. heads of deer, antelope, buffalo skulls and antlers. an interesting collection of fossils, rocks, Indian jewelry, postcards, pictures made of bird feathers… had refreshments and was busy…
Leaving there, we saw Wyoming plains with miles and miles of greasewood, but fine highway and not as hot. Made better time, as it was not upgrade so much. Stopped at an oil station for water and refreshments at Valley, a desolate place with a woman attendant with a husky revolver on her hip, alone with her three children and aged mother. many railroad siding along the way for the loading of cattle and coal. Saw hundreds of cars of coal ready to move, as well as trains of it… No houses in sight for many, many miles… Stopped at Table Rock for evening bite, but a crumby looking place, so we rode on to Rock Springs. Found a good auto court by the railroad. Single cabin with bed, cot, cold water, and toilet $1.75. The proprietor was adding four more cabins to his 28, and all were filled and many turned away… didn’t sleep much, made 360 miles this day.
July 12, Rock Springs, Wyoming
Got up early for an early start and found the first flat tire. Had to wait for the shops to open at 8. Tire repaired, ready to start, and found the same tire going down and had another trip to the shop. Had waffles for breakfast and left at 9:30. Town of Green River was a very pretty place, and on the west side of town, a very pretty spot with green grass and trees on one side of the highway and the other a very high, sheer bluff that looked almost man-made instead of nature. A real oasis in the desert as we ran into many miles of barren country again. Then I had a wonderful view of snow-covered Rockies for some distance, then back to the hills, rocks, and plains. Some cattle and grazing land for a change. Stopped at Fort Bridger Museum and many relics of pioneer days and of the people who lived there when it was an Indian trading post and Pony Express (station).
Fort Bridger was established in 1842. The old pony stable still standing with the exterior as when used for a school, but the interior was very modern-like and used as a home for the caretaker… He was a most interesting man and knew his subject well. Captain Bridger… is not buried on the grounds, but his daughter is… many large cottonwood tress on the place, chandeliers that hung in the Bridger home, photos of pioneers, Pony Express saddles, trappings, guns, Indian relics… Ate lunch in the auto by the roadside about two miles further on. Went to Salt Lake City, arriving about 4:45. Strolled through the Capital… Went next to the Mormon Temple… Got in on the tag end of a group of visitors touring the grounds with a very capable young woman guide who lectured and told many things of interest about the temple and oddities of their religion and beliefs…
Had a hard time finding a cafeteria, but at last located one in the Newhouse Hotel, which was fine in every detail.
Then started to find an auto court, and that was a job. One court had 125 cabins all full. Another 58, and so on down. Only two cabins left in the place, so took one at South Gate Tourist Auto Camp, and it was the nicest one en route. Good bed, cot, shower, toilet, and a kitchenette with range, and sink, and all clean, new, and not finished. Slept fine, and morning came too soon as it was real cool all night.
July 13, Saturday, Salt Lake City
Got up at 4:15 and had tea, packed, and left at 5:30 to the Great Salt Lake,a distance of 52 miles round trip. Found the lake drying up rapidly. Ate breakfast at Murry, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Stopped in Provo for a pint of oil for the auto… Bought some eats. Had lunch in the car under the shade of cottonwood trees in Scipio, Utah. The city park was outlined with cottonwoods, but poorly kept as it was filled with weeds. The drinking fountain was in order, and we got water there. Silver maple leaves turned up wrong side out, corn beetles rolled tight and stood upright, roosters crowed in the night, and everything indicated rain. After leaving Fillmore while in a canyon or pass, we had the pleasure of seeing a torrential rainstorm accompanied by wind and hail. Hail so heavy it drifted like snow along the roadsides… a real mountain storm that lasted while we rode about five miles. Had to drive slow as the storm was blinding. Cooled the air. No rain after leaving the canyon for some time. Then ran into straight rain that lasted while we drove 20 miles. Could see the rain in the mountains for miles, but no more for us. Got warmer and bright after leaving Mesquite, Nevada. Missed a real dust storm in Nevada after dark, so had the road to ourselves for miles as hundreds of motorists had to lay by during the dust storm. The sun was down, but air so hot it was like furnace blasts ’till we hit Las Vegas about 10:45. There the thermometer registered 97 degrees on the west front porch of Mrs. Fanatia’s… The hottest day to date in Las Vegas and everyone out on their porch trying to find a cool spot. Was 113 during the day… Drove 468 miles, and Vida was tired to say the least.
July 14, Sunday
A hot day after a hot night, and not much rest for anyone. About noon, Vida, Viola, Bula, and Wilma Mary went to see Hoover Dam… they returned about 7 o’clock and said it was like being in a furnace most of the time… I was not feeling equal to the trip, so Mrs. Fanatia and I remained at her house. I had to call Dr. Van Meter to relieve my trouble. (Mom said that she had developed a terrible heat rash. I am not surprised.) Got cooler in the evening. Left Las Vegas at midnight to avoid much of the desert heat and profited by so doing.
Soon after leaving Las Vegas, found it had rained and the air was so cool we all put sweaters on. The full moon made it a lovely night to ride, but the moon was so bright we had to put the sun visors down to protect our eyes. Stopped the usual number of times for gasoline and drinks. Had our car inspected at Yermo for forbidden fruits and plants.
Mom remembers that Great-grandma had spent some time while visiting family in Kansas to sew many, many secret little pockets into her petticoats. She filled those pockets with seeds to bring back to California, hidden from the agriculture inspectors at the border. ‘Cause who would suspect a little old grey-haired lady of breaking the law so flagrantly???
Got into Barstow at 5 o’clock where Vida and Bula had breakfast. Saw 140 new cars being convoyed into California at the roadside for the drivers to sleep… two cars fastened together, a driver and assistant to every two cars, a marshal with star and gun and and guards… they had received auto plates in Nevada from California to avoid the tax. Getting warmer. Got into Maurice’s at 7:45 after trailing him home from the market. He and I ate tea and toast together… Was there about an hour, then started on the last leg of our journey and arrived at Vida’s at 10 o’clock and found it hot there, the first heat of the summer. Lawrence came in a few minutes after we did. Bula threw off her dress and shoes and went to her bed to rest as she was almost worn out, it being a hard trip of three weeks and two days of constant change of scenery, climate, and food and broken rest and too much excitement. Was almost 12 o’clock when I got home and found a hearty welcome.
In all, the three travelers covered over 4,000 miles. All in a car without air conditioning, through the heat of the American Southwest and Midwest. Without an accident. Only one flat tire. Only one repair (the Bendix spring). With a “woman driver.”
Great-grandma kept wonderful records of mileage, heat, and expenses, which I find to especially fun to read about. Here’s some examples:
Gasoline, 2 gallons .44
Oil, 6 quarts $1.75
Ice cream cones .15
I’m so proud to have come from such strong women; I hope to instill and inspire such self-confidence and self-reliance in my own daughter and granddaughters.
OK, so I’m just a month behind schedule… No big deal. I’m sure I’ll catch up.*
*(She says as she’s coughing up a lung, having caught some awful crud due to sleep deprivation, an enclosed metal tube with sub-par air circulation, and over-work.)
But, I digress!
“Independence” was the theme for the 4th of July week, and I think nothing is more fitting than writing about a Revolutionary War patriot ancestor.
I became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution about two years ago. I wrote about that journey in several posts back in 2015 and 2016. But, I have never written a concise account of my research, nor a biography of our Revolutionary War patriot.
My Nanna Wells, my mother’s mother, had told me often as a little girl that we were eligible for membership in the DAR through her Gard family line. In fact, she spoke of it so often that I was quite surprised to find that she wasn’t a member when I looked into it. And, then it became my quest to join in her honor.
I began by finding the Gard patriots on the DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS). The GRS is free to the public and quite easy to use. The men listed below are all the current Gard patriots on the data base:
It didn’t take long to conclude that Jeremiah Gard was our likely, but as yet unproven, family patriot. His name was in our handwritten family tree and his wife’s name, Experience, was distinct enough to eliminate the other Jeremiah (Sr.) as a possibility.
All of the men above (and one day I hope to find a woman to add to the list) were from the Morris County area of New Jersey. I have since found that they are all related, but the web of the Gard men has yet to be fully untangled.
(At first glance, one could decide that Jeremiah Sr. and Jeremiah were likely father and son. But, after years of plodding through files and records, comparing dates for births, marriages, and deaths, I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that the elder Jeremiah and the elder Daniel were brothers, and our Jeremiah was a son of the elder Daniel. Jeremiah Sr. would have then been an uncle to Jeremiah. The Sr. designation would, of course, mean that he had a Jeremiah, Jr., and therefor our Jeremiah had, at minimum, an uncle and cousin with the same name. And, he had a son that he also named Jeremiah. Arrrggg….)
I also believe that Jeremiah’s birthplace of Pennsylvania is incorrect in the GRS. Unfortunately, in the early years of the DAR, the proof standard for direct lineage could be rather lax, and mistakes could, and did, occur. Today, it is much more rigorous, and future applicants now need to meet much higher proof standards for many formerly “proven” patriots . Below, is an example from Jeremiah, Sr.’s record:
Looking at Jeremiah’s descendant list of DAR members in the GRS, there was only one son, Levi, and his wife, Sophia Barkdal, through whom all other members had descended. Meaning that I would have to prove descent through an as-yet unproven son, William Gard, opening up an entirely new descendant line for other applicants.
Clearly, I had my work cut out for me. With a lot of digging, and help from very generous DAR members, I was approved for membership in the DAR in June 2016, along with my mother and daughter.
This is my line from Jeremiah Gard to me:
Let’s begin at the beginning now, with the story of Jeremiah’s life.
In the early 1700s, Daniel Gard and his three brothers (Jeremiah, William, and Joseph), moved from Stonington, Connecticut, to the developing wilderness of New Jersey, becoming some of the first settlers of what would be Morris County.
Jeremiah was born in Morris County, New Jersey, on or about August 13, 1744. I’m not the only family researcher who believes that his father was Daniel, (1711-1777), rather than Jeremiah, Sr., but I don’t think any research is conclusive. His mother could have been Elizabeth Davis (?-1776), who was Daniel’s second wife. Daniel’s first wife remains unknown.
Jeremiah married Experience Brown about 1774, in Morristown. Unfortunately, not much is known about Experience’s family. She was born in 1755, also in Morristown.
In January, 1776, the Continental Congress called for second battalion of men from eastern New Jersey, and Jeremiah, age 27, joined the battalion of Captain Peter Dickerson.
This is the oath he likely took upon enlistment:
“I, Jeremiah Gard, have this day voluntarily enlisted myself as a soldier in the American Continental army for one year, unless sooner discharged, and do bind myself to conform in all instances to such rules and regulations as are or shall be established for the government of said army.”
According to records in the Pennsylvania archives, he also served in Pennsylvania in Captain Thomas Carr’s Militia Company during the war, but the year is uncertain, perhaps after 1778. What is certain is that sometime before 1782, he moved from New Jersey to the frontier of Pennsylvania.
He participated in the Sandusky Expedition, from 16 May to 16 July 1782, under the command of Colonel Crawford. He was paid 11 pounds for his service and supplies. (And, to any Native American readers, my heartfelt apologies.)
In Pennsylvania, Jeremiah settled in Westmoreland County, part of which later became Fayette County.
In 1791, Jeremiah built a mill on Redstone Creek, which became a popular stopping point on settlers’ way through Pennsylvania to Ohio. He also ran a carding machine and a fulling mill and manufactured linseed oil and grain scythes, for which the Gards were known back in New Jersey.
By 1793, Jeremiah owned a farm with approximately 250 acres in Fayette County, which he named Dremore, and an additional, smaller, plot of land.
In 1797, Jeremiah was sued in Fayette Co. by William Dehart for debt on a bond from 1775, when both men lived in New Jersey. The date of the bond was November 21, 1775, and the testimony of Dehart is that Jeremiah left immediately for Pennsylvania after the signing. (And, ah ha! We now know when Jeremiah moved to Pennsylvania.)
Jeremiah’s lawyer argued that the debt had been paid on the presumption of the time passed since the bond was due. Dehart’s lawyer argued that the intervening war and Jeremiah’s move presumed non-payment. Jeremiah lost.
Also in 1797, Jeremiah purchased for $25 lot #23 in Henry’s Addition, a new tract in Uniontown.
Below is a property tax valuation from the year 1798. Jeremiah is listed as the owner of 260 acres and 80 perches with a sawmill, a cabin, and an old log barn.
During the years in Pennsylvania, Jeremiah and Experience bought and sold several properties and were, from all appearances, a successful and prosperous team.
Experience passed away May 6, 1813, at age 58. Jeremiah passed later that same year, on October 28, 1813, aged 69 . Shortly before he died, on September 17, 1813, he sold his farm, Dremore, in parcels to five of his six sons, Daniel, Lot, Jeremiah, William, and Levi. The price to each was $1. (There might also be a deed to Simeon, but I haven’t yet found it.)
The deed granting William’s portion of Dremore was the proof I needed for the DAR to establish descent from Jeremiah through William. It was a happy day when I received those documents.
Since that time, through a cousin connection, I have learned of several more proven patriots through my Wells line, my mother’s father’s family. But, that will just have to wait.