Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eliza's Quilt

My own odyssey into family history and genealogy began when, as a small child, I first heard my mother speak of her grandmother - Eliza Judd. The very sound of her name filled me with wondrous images of a pioneer ancestor, strong and soft, hearty and gentle. These early images have been born out in all the research I have found on her. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I was always eager to eavesdrop when my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were gathered, hoping to catch a tidbit of the story of Eliza.

Three women: my grandmother Alice Bridgeman Dowling, my great-aunt Catherine Bridgeman Keife, and my beloved mother Eileen Dowling Foote were most precious to me in keeping my hopes up. Each had known Eliza and each gave to me not only of their memories but also a personal heirloom which had once belonged to Eliza. From my grandmother I received Eliza Judd's Bible which contains recordings of marriages, births and deaths written in her own hand; a truly priceless and cherished gift. From my great-aunt I was given the wonderful and compelling book, "Philip Judd and his Descendants", which I later gave to her daughter and is now enriching her family.

And from my mother I was given the truly magnificent gift of a hand pieced quilt top made by Eliza in her golden years. This gift has kept them all close to me in a most personal way.

The quilt itself was not completed before Eliza's death, she had managed only to piece together the top – no batting, and no backing. By the time it became mine a few small areas of fabric had literally fallen apart and much of the stitching was disintegrating. When one receives a quilt made by an ancestor one is charged with the responsibility of preserving and maintaining this uniquely female art form. An antique quilt represents so many areas of a woman's life. The quilt of Eliza Judd is composed of nearly fifty different fabrics, and it takes only a short time to realize that these small pieces of material each hold a story of their own. Ginghams and calicoes, broadcloth, sturdy cottons and, joyfully, tiny squares of fine linen which were, perhaps, once a part of her very best Sunday blouse. Stripes and polka dots, florals and geometrics, checks and paisleys. Shades and hues of reds, and browns, blues, and grays, and even a faded floral chintz.

Careful restoration has been required. Working from the back where I could envision the delicate hand which produced the tiny stitches, I have allowed myself to fantasize as to the origins of the various fabrics. Was that brown and tan check from a work shirt worn by my great-grandfather, and did the blue, checked gingham once form an apron donned daily in her kitchen? This plain gray cotton, given life in her imaginative pairing with a bright red calico, was it a portion of a boys everyday school pants? Were the now faded roses on chintz once flowing curtains or slipcovers to adorn her parlor? And this tiny, delicate pink and white linen, can I dream that it was a perky little dress worn by a scrubbed and shining daughter, or a granddaughter, maybe even my mother!

These are the thoughts which filled the hours as I carefully and respectfully stitched away at the underside, the true heart of this lovely quilt. Each small section was in need of new seams. I have left Eliza's own stitches, far more delicate than mine, in place, and have tried to stitch carefully along side of them. The intent was not to in any way destroy her seams, rather to preserve and reinforce them. I have used a cotton wrapped, polyester thread with the hope that it will add a longer life span. Sadly, two sections contained fabric which was beyond saving. These I was forced to repair with new material, replacing only those pieces which were completely lost to time. I used a red and white polka-dot, piecing it in to conform to her original design. And it is that same red and white polka-dot which I chose for the backing of this quilt. For this is not a quilt of the "fancy" variety. Nowhere in its design is it suggested that this quilt was intended for more than a functional covering, one which would add warmth and color to an ordinary bed. There is no balancing of the fabrics and colors to form an overall large scale motif, instead each square represents its own lively selection of random fabrics. Only in the individual squares is there correspondence of colors and only through the collectiveness of the squares does a conformity of pattern exist. From this very unusual method emerges a visual landscape of immense variety fashioned into a square and triangle geometric whole.

No rush has guided me. I have spent years at the frame, sometimes setting it aside for months on end, and then returning to it when time and mood were needing the calm and soothing rhythm of needle and thread. During the times when I have set it aside I have kept it, no matter its unfinished state, in a place of prominence in my living room. And as the years have passed it has never failed to be the focal point, for me, of warmth and coziness in an ever changing home - with children being born, and more children being fostered and adopted, growing to young adulthood, and off on their own, all the while careful in their normal boisterous play never to spill, topple, or tear the treasured quilt. Life has changed in uncountable ways, there have been apartments and homes, sparse and opulent. But the quilt has blended with whatever surroundings, as appropriate alongside a Duncan Pfyfe table covered with lace and crystal as a little Windsor rocker with a silly but loved pillow shaped like a chicken.

Now I am middle aged and have entered a new phase in my life. I am alone with yet two more children to raise. Gone are the big houses and the comings and goings of so many people, adult and child. I have settled into a small little farm house, just myself, my girls, the dog and the cat. There is still much unpacking to be done, places to designate for the collections of nearly half a century. But the quilt is in the living room. It was among the first of the possessions to be unpacked and quickly situated in a place of honor, near to my favorite "settin" spot and handy for when I want to stitch. It is nearly completed. Perhaps another month of now and then nights before the television. The girls sense an excitement, at last it will be done. They cannot know that I am already feeling a loss. What will replace the comfort is has given me in joyful days, and sad and wretched nights? Shall I begin a new one, of my own design? Shall I return to the embroidery I loved so as a girl? Should I learn how to crochet, as my grandmother once did? And what will I do with the oh so special quilt I have shared in making with Eliza Judd? Where will I put it? On my bed? What if something were spilled or the cat decided to nap there fresh from a morning in the fields chasing after mice and birds and covered in newly tilled soil! Perhaps I could hang it on the wall as is the fashion nowadays. But what would Eliza think of that? Just an old quilt, not fancy, never heard of hanging one on the parlor wall. Still I must have it near me, so I believe I shall keep it folded and laid casually on my little love-seat, ready to curl up in while I enjoy a good book and a cup of tea. And they will be near also, these women who gave me life, my mother, my grandmother, my great-aunt, and my great-grandmother, Eliza Judd - always enveloping me with their love, sustaining my life through the folds of an old quilt.


“Eliza's Quilt” was actually written in 1992, nearly 20 years ago. I had just gone through an extremely difficult divorce and had moved into a small “Tenants House” on a farm in south central Wisconsin. It was remote, it was peaceful, it was surrounded by fields, forests, and wildlife. I was there to lick my wounds. This is a true story, written before the age of blogs or self-publishing. I saved it, and am now (with some slight amount of editing), finally, able to share it with kindred souls.

Kate Foote

Eliza Judd's Quilt

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Let's Play “Follow Along...”

Elon Phay was my 4th great grandfather. He married Loraine Rowley. Loraine Rowley was my 2nd Great Grandmother. It was the third marriage for him, and the second marriage for her. They had no issue together.

Stay with me...

If you spend several decades with these folks, as I have, it's quite simple to understand. Elon Phay was first married to a woman named “Lydia.” Her maiden name has not been discovered yet – I have a 'theory' (loosely based) that her maiden name was 'Rowley', and that she was a sister of Loraine Rowley (her successor), but that is not proven. Lydia Phay had seven or eight children with Elon Phay, their third child, a daughter born in Ohio about1820, was Laura Rebecca Phay.

Lydia Phay died about 1845, and in 1846 Elon Phay married Flavia (or Flavilla) Dell. I would say very little is known about her, but I have no idea how little, or how much, is known about her – because I haven't researched her. So far, she plays only a passing, short term roll in my “Back Story.” (I call all the trials, trails, and tid-bits of my ancestral tales a “Back Story”, 'cause they're stories that go way back. Cute?

Oh, well... about Elon Phay.

I don't know what happened to Flavia, but by 1852 she's out of the picture and Elon marries Lorain (Rowley) Foote. He was about 17 years older than she was, and remember, if I'm correct, his first wife and the mother of his children, Lydia, could possibly have been Loraine’s sister. Loraine may not have found this to be a very unusual situation, or she may have thought it to be deja vu, because her first husband, Charles Foote, was also married to a woman thought to be a Rowley, another sister of Loraine’s, possibly Lucinda (Elihu and Chole Rowley gave all their girls names starting with “L.”) When Charles Foote's first wife died, following the birth of their fourth child, he quickly married Lorain Rowley – if Charles' first wife was Loraine’s sister those four children, and later Elon's seven or eight (11-12 total), were her nieces and nephews/step-children. And with Elon Phay she would have been on her second “Sister Hand-Me-Down!”

Now Loraine was no stranger to adversity. Her divorce pleadings from Charles Foote read like a bad, trashy novel. She left that marriage with about $500 and custody of their son, Martin Van Buren Foote, both dearly fought for, and still not enough in my book! Speaking of which, I could write a book about Lorain (Rowley, Foote, Phay, Kelly,) Brooks – and I just might, but it's more likely that I'll blog about her in more depth - later.

So, now, 1852, Loraine is married to Elon. Most of the kids are grown and on their own, her Martin V. Foote is 12 years old and, best of all, Elon is pretty, darn well-off! He had pioneered farming in Ohio as early as 1820. He had bought and sold land, he had lived well and prospered! Now he was slowing down, selling off bits and pieces of land, or giving some to his children. And then Elon and Lorain Phay move to Porter County, Indiana – and about March, 1861, in that place, Elon Phay died.

I spent a delightful day in the courthouse in Valparaiso, Indiana several years ago and the division of Elon's estate was an exercise in pure 'how to keep your sanity' and “...but I thought that son was dead, can he still inherit?” Fortunately, I was accompanied on that trip by my uncle (my mentor, and the greatest genealogist I have ever known!) who just happened to be an expert in land and plat research – enough that he taught advanced real estate law, as a guest lecturer, across the country. So I ended the day with a good understanding of what Lorain inherited, and what the various children and grandchildren inherited. The most amazing thing about that day was that my uncle and I were tunnel visioned on Loraine (Rowley, Foote) Phay – she was his great grandmother, and my gg- grandmother, all we wanted to know about Elon Phay revolved around his marriage to Loraine. At that point in our research we had not discovered that Elon Phay was also our ancestor!! As a result I learned a new lesson – but I didn't learn it for a few years after the trip – take notes, get copies, record sources on everything and everyone in your ancestors immediate 'circle'. It could be invaluable information in the future.

End of story? Not quite...

Remember Elon and Lydia's third child, Laura Rebecca Phay? Well, back in Ohio, in 1836, when she was 16 years old, she married Allen Freeman McKenzie. By January, 1849, Laura and Allen McKenzie (and many of Laura's siblings) were settled in Porter County, Indiana. So, here was the probable reason for Elon and Loraine Phay choosing to retire there.

The odd thing (to me) was that there they all were, they had all inherited some land and money, the area was lush and productive – and yet, by the mid 1860's nearly all of them, and a fairly large contingent of neighbors/in-laws, picked up and moved west to central Minnesota. They went to an area that was rugged and vicious – populated with very upset Native Indians, and 2-3 days journey to anything resembling the comforts of civilization they had known in Indiana. Why? Free land possibly, because of the 1862 Homestead Act, and 'War Weariness' for many who had either fought in the Civil War, or were simply tired of the country moving too fast for them in the post-was era. Everyone has a theory. Sadly for me, my ancestors did not leave written accounts that I have as yet located – if they exist.

Now, Laura (Phay) and Allen McKenzie were among those who held back for a bit, but in 1869 they also headed to the northern prairie, with their children, one a babe in arms, and their grandchildren. One of their married children, was their daughter Mariah. She had been born way back in Ohio, in 1839. She had married Alexander T. Newman while living in Porter County, Indiana in 1855. They had nine children.

Martin V. Foote had a wife and four daughters when he took his family to the new Minnesota settlement in 1869. They were farming next door (not exactly an accurate term) to the Newmans, and a stones throw from the McKinzies according to the 1875 Minnesota Territorial Census. It seems like Loraine (Rowley, Foote) Phay was about the only one who stayed on in Indiana (where she married twice more!)

Is everyone still following along? Questions?

That summer of 1875, when the Territorial Census was taken was not among the best they had known. It rained far more than normal and crops suffered. By fall the fields were water logged, the mud so deep that even the crops that had not drowned out or rotted were nearly impossible to harvest. Everyone had to be praying for a mild winter.

They didn't get one. They got a fiercely cold, bitter winter, with heavy snow and winds. And then the sicknesses started. By the Spring of 1876 every single family had lost at least one member. Martin Foote's wife, Abigail died on February 6th – just one month after they had buried their 14 year old daughter, Rosetta, who had died on New Years Day, 1876

Three year old Forrester Newman had died the day before, on December 31, 1875. Four year old Owen McKenzie died on January 19th , and two cousins left the Phay family: little six monyh old Ora Ellen Phay died on April 3rd, and Charles Phay, nine months old, died on April 5th. There were more, of course, striking nearly every home and farm on the prairie. The “causes” of death (most of which weren't recorded until months later) covered most of the “known” illnesses of the time: consumption, diphtheria, pneumonia, an unusual number of cases of “Inflammation of the bowel.” I doubt that many of them had been attended by a physician. In fact, I'm not sure if there even was a physician living or practicing within 20 or 30 miles. And in that country, at that time of year, 20 miles might as well have been 200 miles!

When summer finally came they went about the business of starting their lives over, or carrying on. For Martin V. Foote life had grown especially difficult; he had three surviving children and no wife. His farm had produced near to nothing the previous year and he lacked money for a new crop. He took a job as a hunter for the railroad, providing fresh game to the crews that were constantly moving north and west laying the tracks and bringing more people. But that kept him away, often for 2 to 3 weeks. So along with taking the new job, he took a new wife – Fanny Newman, great-granddaughter of Elon Phay, who had been his mother's second husband!

Fanny Newman gave Martin V. Foote three sons. Their youngest son was Lewis L. Foote, and he had three sons, the oldest being Lynol L. Foote. And Lynol Foote had four daughters, the youngest being Catherine Foote.

Catherine Foote told her older sisters one day, that they had a great-great-grandmother who was married to their great-great-great-great grandfather and the the two of them had no children together. Her sisters looked at each other with that, “..there she goes again!” look, and said, “We are here to have dinner and a movie; we are not going to talk about the Second World War, the Civil War – or Dead People!!

They wouldn't let me tell them the story – they didn't have the patience to “Follow Along”. So I told the story to you. Did 'ya get all that?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting to know me...

My name is Catherine L. Foote. I have been called Cathy, Katie, Cathy Lou, Cat, Kate, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Wife, Mother, Grandma! But you can call me Kate. 

I am legally a Senior Citizen - which doesn't hold much glamor, but would occasionally get me a 10% discount on meals, though I rarely eat out. I have all the attributes of a Senior Citizen: gray hair, arthritis, forgetfulness, a big lap and a big bosom to cuddle grandchildren. My body is totally aware that we have attained a  venerable old age, but my mind is in constant rebellion! The body wins as far as what I can physically do - but the mind is way ahead with the possibilities of what I can think, and say, and write.

So I write...

I write about all kinds of things, but my favorites are family - from ancestors to descendants (read grandchildren.) So  it follows that I have a passion for Genealogy! Additionally I write about 'current events'. So, I have a passion for politics. After that I write about all kinds of topics - it's my computer and I'll write anything that I want to! If your going to read my blog you'll have to be prepared to encounter subjects from A to Z - oh, and before I forget, you should know that I don't write like a machine, everyday at the same time. I am a writer, not a newspaper.

I think that's about enough for you to know about me here. If I'm good at writing a blog, and you're good about reading it, you'll surely end up knowing far more about me than you ever wanted! 

Because I have a passion for Genealogy, and because I am a Senior Citizen I have one or two (or more) objectives for this blog - the main one being writing about my own family history, in the hopes that one or more members of my very large family (realizing that senior citizens don't have a very good shelf life) will get bitten by the bug and be prepared to pick up for me one day. I have a few candidates in mind - they don't know who they are - but I haven't seen the light that points me to the "chosen one." If you are a genealogist you know exactly what that means. And you know that the choice is not mine, and it is not the privilege of any of my descendants ~ it is only the Ancestors who make the decision, who pick "The Chosen One."