Sunday, December 11, 2016

Excavating A Family Heirloom On A Kansas Farmstead

Marilyn Jeanette Lumpkins
Eighty years ago this week, the Plainville Times published a birth announcement in its society pages:

"Mr. and Mrs. Marion Lumpkins are the proud parents of a baby girl born Saturday morning. They have named her Marilyn Jeanette."

In a March 2014 interview, my grandmother Marilyn said, "My parents gave me the name, I think, because daddy's named Marion: M.A.R.I.O.N and because ... in the town of Plainville when I was born there was a little girl that delivered newspapers and her name was Marilyn."

She was born on the Dorrie Smith place - the colloquial name the family used to refer to their rented farmhouse just outside Plainville. My grandmother added, "I was born December 12, 1936 in Rooks County, Kansas. Plainville was the mailing address. It was ten miles northwest of Plainville."

The property belonged to a woman named Dora E. Smith. Grandma remembered that, "The house and the farm buildings including the barn were yellow. We only used one bedroom because winters were cold and you had to get near where the heat was - just one central location, of course, and it was coal or wood fired."

Stove top burner cover from Dorrie Smith Place
In the late 1990s, I drove with my grandmother to the site of the Dorrie Smith place. The home and barn were no longer standing - torn down and carted to the landfill many years before. I walked around the property with wheat and prairie grass growing up over remnants of the foundations.

While glancing at the ground, my eyes landed on something man made. I bent down, brushed away the soil and lifted out a round rusting metal object.

I had no idea what it was. I showed it to my grandmother and she immediately identified it as a stove top burner cover. She believed it belonged to the original home.

It was fantastic discovering and holding a piece of family history! Excavated from the land of my grandmother's birth under her gaze. I photographed it for posterity's sake and left it as a memorial marker at the site of the homestead.

As I commemorate this week what would have been my grandmother's 80th birthday, I count myself fortunate to have recorded her memories and walked the original property of her birth.

If you have this type of opportunity, take it. Life is short. Opportunities are limited. Your family history is at stake.

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