12/26/13

A Numbering of Days

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57 years and 18 days.
Such was the summation of Fayette’s life when he died on May 31, 1898. Shortly after his death, an impressive and heartfelt tribute was printed in the local newspaper, the “Earlville Leader.” Fayette had lived a full life.

If I were to describe the Fayette I have come to know through my many years of research and discovery, the adjectives that best express my present perception of the man would be:
patriot, entrepreneur, charismatic, courageous, fun-loving, adventurous, opportunist, clever, hard-working, humble, helpful, kind, humorous and loving.

I can easily produce documentation from either a letter or another historical source which will support each of the characteristics I have listed above.

Recent research has caused me to analyze the family hierarchy post Civil War years with a bit more scrutiny. Sarah’s mother lived with the family on their farm in Illinois for a time and was a “Freethinker.” Sarah had “A Freethinker” inscribed on the memorial stone for her mother which stands in the Paine family plot at Precinct Cemetery. Sarah, herself, had leanings toward the movement and in her later years nearly willed her entire estate to support the Liberal University in Silverton, Oregon.

I have no doubt that Fayette was well-acquainted with the philosophical perspective of the Freethinkers — Sarah has proven to be a rather strong and influential woman. Fayette’s great grandfather was the respected Reverend William Paine of the Freewill Baptist Church. Included in Fayette’s military documents was a form wherein Fayette described his Religious Affiliation as Freewill Baptist. He mentioned his attendance at “meetings,” aka church services, in a few of his letters. I would describe Fayette then as a believer and follower of Christ.

His obituary stipulates that at the time of his death, Fayette was not affiliated with any Religious institution. Had there been a shift in Fayette’s spiritual journey? I would like to believe Fayette chose not to abandon his Christian beliefs for his wife’s and mother-in-law’s more-intellectual pursuit of truth.

Fayette was the glue that held his little family together, and I have a lot more to say about that at a later time. He was a peacemaker, and I would presume he was at times the voice of reason.

Pension records describe in detail Fayette’s death. The Civil War hero died a slow and painful death from a complication that could have been easily remedied with surgery, especially in the day and age we presently live. Sarah described his demeanor at the time as not so favorable — he was a grouch. Quite understandable … I’d be grouchy too if I were the recipient of what now would be considered barbaric in terms of medical treatment.

Why have I chosen the subject of Fayette’s death as my topic of discussion and reflection on this twenty-sixth day of December in 2013?

Today, I am 57 years and 18 days. It’s very sobering when you stop to take an accounting of your life. And as much as I was reluctant to compare my thus-far legacy to that of Fayette’s, I am glad I did.

I may not have been a soldier with a remarkable military career, but my son served honorably in the Marine Corps. And my son-in-law presently serves as a respected combat medic in the Army. I was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years and modeled patriotism as best I could. I am also a Patriot.

I am adventurous and, at times, hard-working. I can be helpful and kind. I try to be humble, and on occasion I’ve been known to be quite clever. I need to be better at loving, unconditionally. I think we all could benefit from a little improvement when it comes to loving one-another.

I am not descended from a well-known, respected “man of the cloth,” but my family spoke openly of a Heavenly Father who loves me and desires a relationship with me — the very same message Fayette likely heard from his own grandparents.

Fayette died before Lura May married, before the birth of her two daughters. He never experienced the joy to be had when one holds, for the first time, their new grand-baby in their arms. I have, and I am grateful for the gift of time, of days, and possibly years-to-come. I yearn to build a relationship with that little person. It truly is one of the richest opportunities we can embrace.

Our days are indeed numbered. We arrive and depart at appointed times. What happens between those events, to a certain degree, is what we make of it. At 57 years and 18 days, I am much more mindful of that.

11/4/13

Homage to Homemade

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When I married my husband thirty-three years ago, I received a beautiful rolling pin made from maple wood as a wedding gift. It was fashioned well with an integral mechanical system of ball bearings that facilitated the rolling of dough with ease. My mother taught me how to care for that essential kitchen tool and I am pleased to report that it looks and functions as well as it did the day I received it many years ago.

I have just returned from a visit with my daughter and son-in-law who live in the Pacific Northwest. It was more of a “working” visitation as there were a few home improvement issues requiring attention that I knew I could address. I arrived with my cut-off saw, air compressor and nail guns – yes, I am quite the handy-woman! Two storage tubs were filled with pry bars, spackle, putty knives, painting supplies and a bounty of microfiber towels.

One evening toward the end of my visit, my daughter assisted me with the making and baking of my long-time friend’s family recipe for doughnuts. The dough was very soft and it was evident that a generously floured surface would be required to prevent the sticky mass from adhering to the cutting board. I gently patted the dough with floured hands into a disk, sprinkling a tad more flour on top as I prepared to roll the dough to the appropriate thickness with the rolling pin I had bought for my daughter nearly four years ago – a gift in honor of her marriage.

For whatever reason, be it sentimental or practical, it was important to me at the time of purchase that my daughter had a quality-made rolling pin, one made of maple wood like the one I have used for years. When I opened the cupboard door to retrieve the wooden implement, I was struck by yet another “Fayette Paine” moment.

VIC FIRTH MFG. INC.
How do those words speak to you?
Big business enterprise? Corporate manufacturer?

I was struck with the image of a wood-framed house that was at one time the family home of Josiah and Lovina Paine and their six children – Fayette being their third-born son. The home stands yet today on property presently owned by Maine Woods Concepts/Fletcher’s Mill in New Vineyard, Maine.

This past August, my father and I sat at a table in the office of Doug Fletcher, company president and owner of the mill. We talked about the company’s recent acquisition of Vic Firth Manufacturing’s gourmet line – salt and pepper mills, muddlers, and of course rolling pins fashioned from maple wood. I suspect it won’t be long before the Fletchers’ embossed logo version will be available at my local Williams-Sonoma store.

Fayette was himself no stranger to the family kitchen. In later correspondence written after the Civil War, Sarah had returned to Maine for a long visit one winter. Perhaps Fayette was taught by his father and mother the most basic of skills for self sufficiency? No doubt his service in the military contributed to his ability to get things done. In his letter to Sarah on November 22, 1869, Fayette wrote:

“I have been picking corn all day. The first that I have picked since you left. I churned yesterday … got the cream a little warm … I drained off the buttermilk put in some cold water put it out in the shanty and it was all right in a little while. I baked some biscuits for dinner; and made a pudding for supper and had some pudding and milk. I shall have to bake some more bread tomorrow night.”

I’ve been inspired by my Civil War friend. Time to dust off the rolling pin – I just might be making some homemade biscuits for dinner tonight.

09/11/13

Something Good, and Kind, and Fun

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My recent travels have led to the Pacific Northwest for a visit with my daughter and son-in-law. Our first grandchild is on his way with an estimated time of arrival being early December. This little guy will have his fair share of travels too as he will be born into a military family. A move is already proposed to the east coast shortly after his birth.

Last evening was the season finale for “Who Do You Think You Are?” on the Learning Channel. I will watch it once I return to my home state. It really is a wonderful representation of genealogy at its best. The family ancestry of a well-known celebrity is researched and as that individual is presented with historical documentation, the delight in discovery is evident. A connection has been established between those living in the present with their ancestors from the past. Family ties take on a broader dimension. It is heartwarming to witness the revelation and the more often than not emotional response.

I was rather touched by Christina Applegate’s story; I could relate to the relationship she presently enjoys with her father. Not every family ancestral story has a happy outcome. Christina’s “Ah ha” moment, however, was near perfection. She found the good and encouraged her father with that. I won’t spoil it for you; hopefully you can find a link on TLC’s website to watch her story.

The episode that featured Cindy Crawford’s ancestral search will likewise be a favorite for reasons of a more personal nature. At one point in her televised search, Cindy traveled to the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. I have been there twice when I attended Parts 1 & 2 of the Society’s “Writing and Publishing Seminar.”

I sat at the very same table, in the very same magnificent room as Ms. Crawford. My conversation at the time was with Penny Stratton, publishing director for the Society. I was seeking direction for my “Fayette Paine” writing project (which, I must confess, had evolved into a multi-faceted conglomeration of history, Paine family genealogy and personal memoir). Penny’s sound advice has guided my writing efforts – “The Search for Fayette” has transformed into a personal memoir.

The interaction I had that morning with Penny led to an unimaginable opportunity to work with Lynn Betlock, editor of the NEHGS’s American Ancestor’s Magazine. I was asked to write an article which would share the story of our Fayette journey in 3000 words. Which was later cut to 2000. Talk about synopsis! The task was challenging and was definitely a great learning experience. Lynn has the patience of a Saint.

The finished article was published in the Summer edition of American Ancestors which, by the way, was the first issue printed in full color. The timing for that opportunity could not have been better; color was the best format to showcase the beautiful envelope that once held Fayette’s first letter to Sarah.

About a year after my mom died, I began to research my own family ancestry. I obtained the contact information for one of my mother’s older cousins who still lived in Iowa. It was difficult conversing about my mom with a distant relative I had never met; the stirring of memories made me quite emotional.

I learned from that cousin that my great grandparents were good people. She told of their kind nature and how much fun she had when she spent time with them. It was my own “Who Do You Think You Are?” ancestral encounter.

One day there may be a great grandchild in my family tree. How will I be remembered by future generations? Will my children and grandchildren speak as kindly of me as that distant cousin did of my great grandparents? That is a very sobering consideration.

And so I will continue with my writing project, a memoir, with the hope of leaving behind something good, and kind, and fun for the generations of my family tree yet to come.

All photographs and blog entry copy copyright 2013 Linda S. Sanders

09/1/13

The Circumvention of Murphy’s Law

History House

Lori Emily

Twice, the opportunity presented itself during our second official day of discovery in the field. “What opportunity?” you might ask. Well, the very real possibility that something “bad” was going to happen to my father. Cue the screeching voices of my older siblings.

Our morning began at the Skowhegan History House. The restored home houses an impressive collection of artifacts relevant to the town’s early history and prominent citizens. The museum has an impressive assemblage of resources for research in addition to well-preserved historical items on display.

We arrived promptly at 10:30 am to find Ruth waiting for my father and me inside the air-cooled historical dwelling. My relationship with Ruth has blossomed into one of fun and engaging interactions on subject matter that has transcended beyond our early historical and genealogical conversations. I am thankful to call her friend.

Nearing the end of our History House tour, we were invited to climb the stairs to explore the upper floor. Potential for Disaster #1 for Dad. The dimensional construction of stair steps in present-day family dwellings differs greatly from those of homes built a hundred-and-fifty plus years ago. The height of each step from earlier times is greater than its depth. One must step up higher and rest their foot on what I would describe as a tiny ledge. Maybe our ancestors had smaller feet? That might explain a few things.

Going up those stairs seemed plausible. Coming down, on the other hand, was gonna be tricky. Balance, distribution of weight, gravity. Murphy’s Law. It made sense that I should descend first; if my dad did stumble, I was more than willing to take one for the team. Dad, nonetheless, led the way. He’s still quite the trooper and addressed the particulars of the stairway like a champ.

We had crossed the river from Skowhegan and found ourselves immersed in Paine and Hilton territory. A well-deserved lunch of a rather tasty lobster roll was enjoyed by us both at Amy Lynn’s Fast Food, a popular dining spot set beside the banks of the Kennebec River in Anson. Fayette’s and Sarah’s ancestors settled in homestead lots north and to the northwest from where we sat.

Our big ticket agenda item for the day was a meeting that afternoon with Emily at the Stewart Public Library in North Anson. The time had arrived at last for Sarah Hilton Paine’s personal collection of Carte de Visites to rejoin the ranks of other early Embden and North Anson family historical items presently housed in the holdings of the North Anson Historical Society. Donating those photo cards was the right thing to do.

A trek through the woods with one of Fayette’s distant Paine cousins to the ancestral burial grounds for the Gray and Paine families was the much anticipated, outdoor experience and Potential for Disaster #2 (Murphy’s Law) that awaited dad and me. Cousin Laurie was in her element as she scouted the dense terrain for a route we all could follow. She knew the land of her ancestors well.

Emily had joined our ranks for that final Somerset County adventure. Through the years, she has transcribed the inscriptions from grave stones found in many of the accessible cemeteries in the towns of Embden and North Anson for MOCA (Maine Old Cemetery Association).

We had saved the best for last. My dad and I had already stopped at three cemeteries (Moore, Sunset, and Cragin) before we arrived at the Library that afternoon. With each deliberate step, every calculated move, dad arrived no worse than when we first set out, eager to explore that hallowed ground. He was not about to let an overgrown trail riddled with stones and fallen debris stand in the way of that ancestral Paine family encounter.

I was among kindred souls. We were drawn to the tributes etched upon the faces of those family memorials, each one of us snapping pictures with the cameras we had brought. In the stillness, beneath the canopy of trees that grew around the stone wall’s perimeter, we made a near-perfect memory together.

Early evening found dad and me back among our llama friends at Maple Hill Farm Inn. I quietly opened the door to my father’s room, just a bit – he was sleeping peacefully in a winged-back chair.

Pleasant dreams, dad. It’s been a long and memorable adventure.

 

All photographs and blog entry copy copyright Linda S. Sanders 2013

08/28/13

Brownie Whoopie Pies and a Ukulele Serenade

Douins sign

Paine House

Douin’s Family Market in New Sharon, Maine, home of the “Original Brownie Whoppie Pie” and the best Chicken Salad Sandwich you will ever have the pleasure to eat, was our home base of operation for our Franklin County adventures. Located at the convergence of highways 2 and 27 with the 134, business appears to be good for the hard-working, gracious, patriotic family.

With our hydration needs addressed, we set out to explore the New Sharon Village Cemetery where Fayette’s brother Simeon and his wife Carrie, along with three of their children were buried. What impressed me most were the inscriptions we observed on several grave stones, each one testified of Regimental service in the Civil War. Here we found soldiers whose military service was esteemed not only by their loved-ones but also the community in which they resided.

Our next brief stop was at Week’s Mills Cemetery, a bit more off the beaten path, tucked beside a country road beyond the pavement’s end. We quickly found the graves of Fayette’s sister Augusta Paine Smith, along with Isaac, her husband, and one for a young daughter. I tend to get a bit nervous these days whenever I venture out and about into remote, unfamiliar grave yard territory. You never know who or what might be watching you! I’ve been watching too many crime dramas lately – maybe it’s time to check out the Hallmark channel?

Farmington is home to the University of Maine at Farmington, and also to the Franklin County Registry of Deeds. Past visits have been rather productive with the discovery of several recorded Paine family transactions. My favorite recorded deed is one wherein Josiah Paine Jr. purchased from the millwright Ira Vaughn a parcel of land beside the mill in New Vineyard. That little Paine house built beside the mill stands yet today.

We had a wonderful visit with Elaine, a delightful soul from neighboring Fairbanks and a member of the New Vineyard Historical Society. She and her husband Albert once owned and operated Jack’s Trading Post. Today her youngest son carries on the family business adventure originally established by Elaine’s father and mother. She told several engaging stories and shared many old family photographs. Why she even strummed a few chords to a favorite song on her ukulele for us. Thank you Elaine for the lovely serenade.

As we ventured northward on Highway 27 towards the Village of New Vineyard, I succumbed to the beckoning call of yet one more cemetery. My weakness, I must confess. We stopped for a short while at Notch Cemetery, the final resting place for Fayette’s father and mother, Josiah and Lovina Paine. The grave markers for a younger brother and sister were there as well – William Paine and Marcia Paine Smith.

Our final encounter for the day had been arranged several weeks before. We had a 4 pm appointment with Doug of Fletcher’s Mill, present-day owner of mill operations and the parcel of land which includes the Paine family home. Doug and I had met once before when I had stopped to take a picture of the little Paine house with Elaine last October. I shared then of our search for Fayette and the story behind our journey.

Since that visit, Doug has emailed a sampling of photographs of the mill, the blacksmith shop and the Paine family home. The photo descriptions and the insights he shared spoke of his own dear family’s journey. How grateful I am for the privilege to share a portion of that story with my own telling of Fayette’s. What a lovely addition it will be to the memoir I am writing.

 

All photographs and blog entry copy copyright 2013 Linda S. Sanders

08/27/13

I’d Like to Buy a Vowel Please

Fhouse

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We interrupt this adventure for an important discovery!

Thank the Lord for the wonders, that is, the good aspects of technology. To understand better the magnitude of what I am about to share, may I suggest the reading first of my blog entry entitled: “When Someone Says Yes”? This recent revelation pertains directly to that encounter.

Ready. Set. Go!

My dad and I were “over the moon” with the discovery of Fayette’s letter at the Archives – truly a remarkable beginning to what may well be our last Fayette Paine road trip together. Seriously, from my perspective, it really couldn’t get any better. Or … could … it???

The only Starbucks I have found any where near Augusta is in the Target Store near Highway 95 at Crossing Way. After a quick fix of an Orange Valencia Refresher, I checked my email account via Smart phone.

I was perplexed by one entry. The sender was an unfamiliar contact. The subject matter, however, was quite familiar indeed: “Paine.”

My mind raced with a myriad of scenarios. “Who was this? And why were they sending an email to me … with an attachment?” That very last particular triggered an immediate response that opened the mysterious message.

The email had been sent by the present-day owner of the home near Earlville, Illinois that once was home for Fayette, Sarah and Lura May. After my visit to the house with the sender’s mother this past July, I shared a brief summation of Fayette’s story before I left.

Funny how things play out. It appears an Illinois mystery has been solved.

Stacy and her husband have lived in the home since 1987 – renters at first, owners in 2004. For years they wondered what was inscribed in the concrete near the edge of their walkway. Close inspection of the markings produced the following result: _MPAIN_

That historical “Wheel-of-Fortune” puzzle nearly knocked my socks off. No doubt about it … “Vana, I’d like an F and an E.” Puzzle solved. Too bad there wasn’t a cash prize.

I had walked across Fayette’s handiwork none the wiser. Actually, I had dashed across the concrete walk; it was raining the day I visited the former house of Paine.

Stacy sent the above photo of the walkway, the deciphered lettering identified with the aid of chalk. Beautiful. Magical. Fun.

The journey is alive with discoveries still. What might tomorrow’s adventure bring?

 

All photographs and blog entry copy copyright 2013 Linda S. Sanders

08/26/13

Folder #18

F Letter

Prior to our Southern California departure, I had prepared an itinerary with the intent to maximize our time and experiences in Maine. Not knowing how well “Travel Day” would play out, I purposely restricted our first actual day of adventure for research at the Maine State Library and Archives in Augusta.

Previous visits to those repositories have unearthed a few treasures. Last summer I nearly fainted when a research assistant at the Archives presented to me two photocopied Carte de Visites bearing Fayette’s image. Would the odds be favorable that another such discovery lay hidden among the preserved bits and pieces of history housed at the Archives? I wouldn’t bet Fayette’s homestead farm on that one just yet.

Once we arrived at the Archives, we first scanned a few reels of microfilm – the early vital records for New Sharon, Maine. Fayette’s younger sisters had married Smith Brothers. My dad found one succinct entry documenting Isaac and Augusta Paine Smith, along with their three young children. I then made copies of the Civil War enlistment cards for Fayette, his two brothers, Obed and Simeon, and one for Isaac Smith, husband of Augusta.

The team of three who lend their expertise to the daily operations of the Archives and the facilitation of research for folks such as myself are wonderful. It may be safe to say the employees at the Maine State Archives are quite familiar with our quest as my travels have led me through the threshold of their domain quite frequently it seems these last few years.

With each visit I have made, their efforts to assist our enlightenment have never failed. That afternoon, a rolling cart stacked with boxes emerged for our perusal and consideration. There were ledgers, files filled with documents and correspondence, official and unofficial, for the 17th Maine Volunteer Regiment. That assemblage of historical offerings were likely the last remnants of archived material relevant to our search for answers.

And so the hunt progressed. Box by box, folder by folder, page by page, until we happened upon the contents of Folder #18 of the 17th Maine’s Regimental Correspondence with the Adjutant General during the course of the war.

As I visually scanned each scripted page, the penmanship of one letter caught me by surprise. The distinct particulars of each stroke, the crafting of each alphabetical element was undeniably the stylized penmanship I knew so well. Why, bless my soul … I had found a letter written by “our” Fayette M. Paine, that one having been written to his good friend Orrin. Looks like the odds were favorable after all.

Fayette was recovering at the U.S. General Hospital in Maryland from gunshot wounds he received at the battle of Gettysburg. He had written his friend, and former employer (a rather influential man it seems), who knew the Governor of Maine quite well. Without a recommendation from the Governor of his home state, Fayette would not be granted a much desired furlough.

No Regimental evidence has been found to support whether Fayette’s request was granted or denied. However, after rereading several of Fayette’s letters written to Sarah, it is apparent that his stay in Section 2 of Hospital Ward 31 was a long one – nearly a year. A letter dated March 15, 1864 supports the presumption Fayette’s request was eventually granted.

We are off to a great start. How fortunate for me to have had my father by my side to share in our first official Fayette Quest 2013 discovery.

 

All photographs and blog copy copyright 2013 Linda S. Sanders

08/25/13

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Dad Air Force

The last time my father flew on an airplane was August of 2000 when we first began our travels together in search of Fayette. My dad is definitely no novice when it comes to flying the friendly skies. He served for five years in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Folded neatly in a large plastic storage container, tucked inside my hallway closet, are the two uniforms my father wore during his military service. The older of the two uniforms was worn for four years in the Army Air Corps, and the other was worn for his final year of service in the U.S. Air Force.

Not long ago, I asked my father to share with me the particulars of his job assignment in the military. My dad was a radar tech assigned to the crew of a B-25, then to the crew of a B-50 aircraft. He explained in depth the routine followed time and time again for simulated bombing exercises conducted as training missions for the crew. He mentioned something about the bombardiers barking out a directive to the pilots to set the PDI (Position Direction Indicator), and how after the task was performed the pilots responded back with their directive to proceed. Then there were details about a joystick device and cross-hairs on a radar screen, computer activation and the inevitable bombs away. At least that’s how I heard it.

I’ll be perfectly honest … I have been dreading Day #1 of Fayette Quest 2013, “Travel Day,” ever since I booked our flights many months ago. The logistics of changing planes from one concourse to another at Dulles International Airport in less than an hour with my 83-year-old father have made me a “Nervous Nelly.”

It takes time just to get off the plane, let alone the journey one must make from point A to point B. Escalators, moving walkways, more escalators, a train – my stress level had hit Defcon 1. How easy it would be for my father, or even myself, to mis-step just once and break a bone or dislocate a joint in the process. All the while, the voices of my older siblings screeched in my head, “You killed our father!” Would they ever forgive me?

We arrived at our gate with time to spare.

Oh me of little faith. When will I learn to let go and trust? This adventure was meant to be. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

All photographs and blog copy copyright 2013 Linda S. Sanders

08/16/13

Forty-Seven Carte de Visites

Obed W Paine

Alice Hilton 1

I have been busy lately prepping and organizing a collection of carte de visites. Each photo card has been scanned at 600 dpi, the images enhanced and saved in a folder on my laptop. Later today I will go to my father’s house where I will seek his assistance in the replication of the contents of that folder onto a series of CDs.

The vintage photographs from Sarah’s once personal album have been deposited, one-by-one, into assigned sleeves in a small album wherein a corresponding label of identification has been affixed to each appropriate page. If time permits, I plan to create a chart, complete with names and pictures, illustrating the relationships of husbands and wives, sons and daughters, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

In a matter of days, make that two, my father and I will be on our way back to Fayette’s old stompin’ grounds in the countryside of Maine. It has been thirteen years since our last visit together and I have many discoveries since then that I hope to share with my dad while we are there.

Cemeteries: Roadside, community, and family burial grounds deep in the woods. I’ve identified two more I hope to locate and explore.

Libraries: The Maine State Library and Archives, the Skowhegan Free Public Library, and the Stewart Public Library in North Anson, which houses the holdings of the Anson Historical Society.

Eateries: Amy Lynn’s Fast Food is a must. And I think we will sample the offerings at Douin’s Family Market in New Sharon, home of some fabulous whoopie pie confections as professed by the citizens of Maine.

Personalities: Dear souls who have been and continue to be partners in our search for Fayette. A retired school teacher, historian and genealogist. A librarian and go-to-person for all-things cemetery-wise in Anson. A keeper of history in New Vineyard, former trading post owner, and ukulele enthusiast. The owner of a mill. A distant Paine cousin. Who could want for more? I have been blessed with many friendships on this journey.

It is time for the 47 vintage carte de visites from Sarah’s personal collection to find their way back home. As we near our departure, however, my emotions are heightened. This is the beginning of the end.

Next week, the carte de visites will be tucked safely among the preserved collections of the Anson Historical Society. Next summer I envision the delivery of Fayette’s Grand Army of the Republic belt and buckle, and calling card, to the Earlville Historical Society and Museum – where they truly belong.

The Letters. Now that’s a tough one. I know in my heart where they need to go. And I suppose this upcoming adventure with my dad will confirm the inevitable. Nevertheless, I’m not quite ready to give them away … not just yet. It’s hard to let go of those tangible bits and pieces that remind me of my mom.

But one day I will. And I will be OK.

Letting go and moving on … one adventure at a time.

07/31/13

When Someone Says “Yes”

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My recent travels have led to Earlville, Illinois. It had been thirteen years since my last visit with my dad to where Fayette and Sarah established their family farm. I had four objectives: locate the original deeds for the succession of three properties Fayette once owned; inspect the holdings of the Earlville Historical Society and Museum; visit the graves of Fayette and Sarah in Precinct Cemetery; take a picture of the family farm just north of Earlville.

I am pleased to report the mission has been accomplished, and then some.

One valuable lesson I have learned in life is simply this: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, personal recommendations, and for the opportunity to make a memory. The response you receive may be “no,” but there’s also the chance it may be “yes.” And when those affirmatives happen, it’s magical.

I had but two days to gather intel in Illinois. Shortly after my arrival, I learned the Earlville Public Library, which houses the holdings of the Historical Society, was closed one of my two research days. I quickly called the Library and shared my plight and the story of Fayette and Sarah, and Lura May, the daughter who was born at a time when their beloved community thrived.

That phone call led to a series of encounters with long-time residents who garnered their efforts to facilitate my journey. The Earlville Museum was closed, but I was invited to a special meeting that had coincidentally been scheduled the next evening. And even though the museum’s exhibits were void of any Paine family contributions, a conversation was struck which produced a name and phone number that led to an encounter I will never forget.

Later that evening I telephoned Judy, and the next morning we met for coffee at the Sunshine Cafe. Her daughter and son-in-law owned twenty acres of what was once Fayette’s 240 acre homestead farm. Their present-day home was a modified and expanded version of the farm house where the Paine family lived as early as 1875.

A light rain fell as I drove down a gravel encrusted country road. Judy led the way up the drive to a two-storied home, the siding painted that familiar farm-house white. A large barn and outbuilding flanked the eastern perimeter of the mowed lawn. The rain intensified; the parched soil of the neighboring corn and soy bean fields welcomed the offering.

The basement was where my adventure began. I immediately exercised my Sherlock-esque skill of deductive reasoning. A slight change in elevation, exposed red brick … clues which identified a particular portion of that underground wonderland as likely being the basement of the original home. Once above ground and deep inside the home’s interior, I was drawn to the narrow stairway. The primitive railing may or may not have been original, but I was certain the configuration was.

The ceiling was lower on the upper floor with the exception of the present-day master bedroom. That room’s more recent construction was evident. I restricted my exploration to what I considered the upper living area, its proximity being directly above what I had deduced earlier as the confines of the original basement. As we opened each door and experienced the space within, I imagined Fayette and Sarah conversing softly in one room as Lura May slumbered peacefully in another.

I stood across from the one and only door in the house that had been fashioned from planks. The latch was a perfect example of functional hardware from an earlier time.

And then my moment arrived.

I asked permission to raise the blinds of the double-hung window at the top of the stairs. How many times had Fayette stood at that very same spot and surveyed the fruits of his labors out in his fields? The past and present converged at that window and it was then that I began to truly recognize the house that was once home to a Civil War Veteran, his wife and only child.

The house spoke to my heart. That simple room I had just imagined as a place of respite for husband and wife may very well have been the chamber where Fayette had laid for several days, dying, his attentive wife and grieving daughter nestled by his side. I contemplated that somber place where Fayette drew his last labored breath. His dearly departed soul was truly home at last at fifty-seven years and eighteen days.

I followed Judy back down the gravel encrusted country road across the railroad track to the highway. There we parted ways … she turned left and I turned right. I stopped briefly at Precinct Cemetery on my way out of town to bid farewell to Fayette and Sarah.

My adventures in Earlville had come to an end, but not a finality. I think there’s a small part of me that lingers still beside that double-hung window at the top of the stairs. I will not forget the kindness of strangers who make Earlville their home. Perhaps the search will lead me back one day. I hope that happens. Until then, it’s time to start planning my next adventure.

Photo and blog post copyright 2013 Linda S. Sanders