Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Grandma's Fearful Sea of Fathomless Eternity

I've devoted a considerable amount of blog space to my 4th great-grandfather George Henry as I've sought to determine who his parents were and why his surname was changed from Jucket to Hawks.

Amanda Miller (Johnston) Hawks, his wife of nearly 60 years, was a colorful character in her own right. In fact, we may have a better sense of her personality thanks to several of her early 20th century letters to the editor of a small town Arkansas newspaper.

Readers of this blog may recall a Veterans Day post in 2014 that featured one of her letters lamenting the cruelties of World War I and "the sadness in those homes" where sons were separated from their families while fighting overseas.

Cousin Tex - my research partner on Grandpa George Hawks - recently shared with me another newspaper gem.

Amanda wrote a letter in February 1915 from her home in Nebraska that was published in the March 5, 1915 issue of the Journal-Advance, a paper serving Gentry, Benton County, Arkansas (where she had lived and still had family). In it, she recounts a recent injury she sustained and overviews her general health:
"Two weeks ago today I got a bad fall, and my left limb has been very painful ever since. I could not move it for a while. I had been so well all winter. I did not fall on the ice out doors, but in the house. I caught my foot in the carpet. I cannot hear anything that anyone is saying around me. When they talk to me they have to come very close to me and say their words very slow and distinct. Sometimes I don't understand them, and my answers are so different to what they say, we have to laugh."
Her sense of humor about her condition creates an image of a warm and self-effacing woman. But as quickly as she laughs at her maladies she turns philosophical about life and mortality.
"If I live 20 days longer I will be 86. How fast time flies. It bears us on from youth to age, then plunges in the fearful sea of Fathomless Eternity. How careful we should live before the world."
Her somber admonition was spoken like a true wife of a Presbyterian Minister (George did a bit of preaching in his day).

Amanda quickly changes the topic, writing about her wish to return to Arkansas to live out her final days, but acknowledges that circumstances will likely keep her in Nebraska. Her melancholy is palpable.

She then abruptly, without proper segue or transition, shares several tidbits about her family's military service.

These are spectacular genealogy clues. She casually slips in several astonishing facts and simply signs her letter. That's it. It's the modern day equivalent of a mic drop.

I don't currently know the identities of her paternal or maternal grandparents, but I do know that her father was Robert M. Johnston who, according to Amanda's family bible, was born October 27, 1788 in Kentucky and died March 2, 1844. Thanks to her letter, I now know he was a soldier in the War of 1812.

Was it Robert's father or Amanda's maternal grandfather who served in the Revolution on a ship captained by his father? I don't know yet, but that sounds like the makings for a lovely story to share with the Sons of the American Revolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment