Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ancestors To The Right Of Me & Ancestors To The Left

When I was planning my trip to Kentucky I almost let MapQuest and my GPS device decide my route. But I looked at the Atlas and decided I wanted to take a less hectic and quieter route. Highway 36 has long been one of my favorite highways. U.S. Highway 36, which dates back to 1926, with its eastern terminus in Ohio, originally ran out to Denver. It is of an age similar to that of U.S. Highway 66, with its more exciting termini of Chicago and Los Angeles. Like "the 66", it was a long, two-lane blacktop running from the Midwest to the West.

Ironically, 36 has largely survived, while 66 has not, because it was a somewhat less important route, and thus did not need to be supplanted by Interstates on its old roadbed. When the Interstates were pushed west, I-80 was run across southern Nebraska, and I-70 across central Kansas, and old Hwy. 36, lying more or less midway between them, was saved by virtue of its irrelevance.

I decided on this route for simplicity's sake but I was soon to realize it was for another reason that was, at first, unknown to me. I thoroughly enjoyed my solitary drive in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. Then, as I was driving about 1/4 of the way across Kansas, a highway sign said "Haddam 3 miles" and pointed north. It dawned on me that this is where my great great grandmother, Sarah Johnson Van Buskirk is buried. I didn't stop and go to Haddam, but I thought, "If I come back this way I will stop and visit her grave site." Her son was George Van Buskirk and his daughter was my grandmother, Goldie Van Buskirk. Sarah had moved to Kansas from Appanoose County Iowa when her only daughter, also named Sarah, moved there with her husband, John Q Else. She lived the remainder of her life in Haddam, Washington County Kansas and is buried in the Cemetery there, with her daughter next to her. She lies many hundreds of miles from where her husband, William Van Buskirk, is buried in Appanoose County Iowa.

Soon I was approaching Seneca, Nemaha County Kansas. This is where my great grandmother Olive May Sanford was born in 1873. Her parents, Charles Baker Sanford and Emma Jane Thompson were married in Seneca in 1872. I next reached the eastern border of Kansas and crossed the Missouri River into St Joseph, Buchanan County Missouri. Here is where John's ancestors lived before they migrated to Montana in the early 1900's. We have spent many hours in St Joseph tracking down these folks' lives, and where the older generation, Jesse and Mary Colyer are buried.

Highway 36 is all 4 lane across Missouri and a beautiful route to travel. I still hadn't come to the conclusion that this route was especially personal to me. Not until I entered Adair County Missouri and saw the sign that pointed to "Kirksville". This is the place my parent's ran off to, in 1934, and got married secretly. Every area has a place that makes it easy for teenagers to get married -- and Kirksville was that place for northeastern Missouri and southern Iowa. I could imagine a 17 and a 19 year old thinking they were grown up enough to take this sort of serious step. Not that they had much choice, but I am grateful they did it. My Aunt Claudine (Dad's sister) and the minister's wife were the witnesses. Suddenly I realized I was on a very special route that touches on many of my ancestor's lives. Yes, Pike County Missouri was just north of Highway 36 and that is where my Thomas Forrest first went from New York before he eventually bought land in Illinois. That is where his son, William, met Catherine McGlauglin and married in Scott County Illinois.

At Hannibal, Missouri I crossed the most beautiful river of all -- the Mississippi. I have crossed this river so many times in my life it is impossible to count them. My parents crossed this river hundreds of times with me and David in tow, in the back seat. I never tire of it and I take a deep breath every time I cross it as I have a special feeling for it. My William O Sanford lived just north of Hannibal on the Illinois side of the river in Hamilton, Hancock County. Another ancestor that crossed my mind this day.

I was on I-72 after I entered Illinois. It's still Hwy 36 as well, but the Interstate overides it in importance. My plan was to take this to the southern outskirts of Springfield, then turn south on I-55 to a turnoff onto Illinois State Highway 16 and eventually Illinois State Highway 127. This was exactly the route I followed, but before getting to Springfield, I passed through Scott County and Morgan County. Its beautiful farm country and I could imagine the Forrest and McGlaughlin families farming in this area before they migrated to Wapello County Iowa. It was a special feeling to actually be in the same area as some of my ancestors. But of course, that is what this trip was all about, but I didn't expect to experience it until I reached Kentucky.

I was relieved to get off of I-55 and onto a quieter highway that meanders south and east toward I-64 which would be my route into Kentucky. The little towns were a delight and I found one called Greenville that I thought was especially pretty.

But imagine my surprise when I came upon a little town called Carlyle, Illinois. It is in Clinton County and I was stumped for a minute as to why that sounded familiar, then I remembered --- this is the town where my great great grandfather, Eugene Casey, enlisted in the Civil War in April 1864. He was two weeks shy of age 18! This was near the end of the War and Abraham Lincoln had ordered Illinois to provide thousands more men even though the State leaders protested. They say this was one of the few times Lincoln lost his temper and he gave them a real vigorous talking to. He said someting like, "Four years ago you encouraged me to start this War and by God you will not bail out on me now -- get me those men". Of course, I am taking literary license with the conversation, but it was along these lines. By then the State didn't care if the men were of age 18 or not, they just wanted to fill the quota. Thus Eugene Casey became a very young Union soldier. He served under "Uncle Billy" better known as, William Tecumseh Sherman, and marched with him across the South and broke the back of the Confederacy. He, like so many others, adored "Uncle Billy" and named one of his sons Sherman.

Carlyle is now a small farming community of 3500 and looks perfectly normal. But I imagine the hustle and bustle of 1864 and I can see a young teenager wandering the streets among many hundreds of other young men, waiting to get signed up for war. Yes, when I think of the risks some of my ancestors took I marvel that I am here at all.

I finally reached I-64 and turned east toward Indiana and Kentucky. My route so far had been an unexpected adventure. I felt like it cut across the years and centuries like a hot knife through butter. My ancestry had been on either side of the road for several hundred miles and it definitely made the trip fun. Nothing bad could have happened to me -- why? Because I had ancestors to the right of me and ancestors to the left of me all the way. And Kentucky was yet to come! patj

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