Blair Family Fiction

In the span of a heartbeat…

Dear Rosa,

How close I came to never being born, how stunning that in the span of a heartbeat, one life ended and sent another onto a different journey.

Genealogy can be very dry, very boring stuff. I’ve watched my children’s eyes glass over when I make a new discovery. It’s only when I put that discovery in perspective that they understand.

This is important, what I’m doing. It means something, if only to me.

So, in typical Sue-fashion, I’ll share that little discovery in the form of a story.

A preface; I’m sorry for the sadness, and I don’t mean to be morose, truly, it’s just so damned rotten that this had to happen…

********************

Henry Lucius Ferry rubbed his face, trying to restore calm when all he really wanted to do was scream. To say it’d been a long, dreadful three days would be such an understatement as to cause a man to lose control. And control was all he had left.

Calamity had struck his new family. He watched his wife of one year, a lovely woman of but twenty-six, Blanche Adams struggle through every breath. He listened to each one and prayed it would be followed by another. Come morning of the third day, Henry sensed a shift in her spirit and had sent for the doctor once again.

Damn it, isn’t one death enough? He thought and stifled that scream. Lawrence, his child, had died in his arms. The infant would never grow up, never know his father or mother, never know how much he was loved. And Blanche, his Blanche, now lay struggling from exhaustion. The birth, it seemed, would cost another…

Henry turned at the sound of the door opening, grateful to see it was the doctor, hopeful the man would find a way to restore his wife, or at least bring comfort as she died.

This was Henry’s time of trial and one so many others had faced. So why did he feel so numb? And how would he carry on, alone, with promises unkept and memories not created?

She left him then, he sensed it. Heard that last breath and knew another would not follow.  Perhaps losing Lawrence had been too large a shock.

Henry looked at his wife’s face, suddenly peaceful and sent a prayer windward:

May you hold our son,

know love and joy instead of this brutal heartache;

May the two of you suffer no more.

***************************

Here are just the facts as I learned only today:

Henry Lucius Ferry married Blanche D. Adams on June 1, 1909

Lawrence Ferry was born on December 14, 1910 and died December 14, 1910

Blanche Adams died on December 17, 1910 due to “exhaustion from prolonged labor”

After Blanche died, Henry married Mary Julia Blair, my grandmother and they bore eight children. One of them, the youngest, was my father, Henry Ferry.

Rosa

Elizabeth Blair, my great-great grandmother…

Dear Rosa,

I’ve learned quite a few things this past week. All good. Some startling, most just down right amazing. My heartfelt thanks goes out to Lou, my 3rd cousin re-discovered, a man as generous with his time as his knowledge of French Canadian genealogy.

So, here I am, sitting and typing and trying to process all this new information about you, Rosa, and your wonderful, hard-working emigrant family. I’ve months of stories in the making, some already beginning to percolate. For now though, I thought I’d just share a little about your mum.

Elizabeth Blair Drinkwine. My great-great grandmother.

ElisabethBlairDrinkwine-photo1

It all started with her. She was the one that stumped me, mystified and eluded. I couldn’t find her, no matter how I searched.

Until this fall, when I finally found her death certificate and realized, she’d been there all along. That her father was Newell’s, that his parents were Louis and Mary Blair.

Just a few facts for you now – I don’t wish to overwhelm or bore. Just a few simple numbers that reflect a woman’s life a hundred and fifty years ago.

Ready?

Elizabeth Blair was born in Lacolle, Canada in 1849.

By 1860, she was living in Jericho, Vermont with the Borrowdales as a domestic servant.

She was just 11 years old.

There are laws against this now.

By 1865, Elizabeth is married to a man more than thirty years her senior. John Boivan, a widower, has already sired 11 children. She becomes mother to them, most are her age, some might be even older.

There are laws against this now, too.

By the time John dies of old age, Elizabeth has had 9 children with him. All told, the man has 20 children.

This isn’t a picture of John. None exist that I know of. No, this is Peter Drinkwine. John’s brother? One of his sons? That I don’t know yet either.

I have to hope she found some happiness with this man. God knows she deserved it.

So, there it is and I am tired, but satisfied. You know, like a sleepy cat, resting up? The journey, you see, is only just beginning…

Enos Blair short stores

a mysterious conundrum…

Dear Rosa,

What a twisted journey your family took from Canada. Every time I root around, I uncover another layer and another mystery.

Enos Louis Blair. Was he the same man who appears later as simply Louis? or Lewis?

He was married to Adaline Bordeau. Is she the same person as Mary A. Bordo?

Names, it seem, were not as written in concrete as they are today, probably because so many people can read and write and your generation could not. You  had to rely on the bored, overworked, underpaid person who sat behind the desk taking the census.

Thus,  “E.S. Blair” could very well be Enos Blair.

So, here’s the mystery. I found a “Lewis Blair” born about the right time, emigrating from St. John (Canada) to Cambridge, Ma in 1848. Nothing weird about that, except all his children were born in Canada from 1849 on.

Huh?

Did he go back? And why travel from St. John when he could’ve walked across the border?

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I do so love mysteries. And I’m digging for answers, really I am, but I keep coming up empty-handed. And so, as I often do, I’ll use my imagination to fill in some of the details…

**********************

Louis stood on the deck no longer feeling every swell from the ship. With more than a week of rough travel behind him, he looked out at the hunk of land and forgot the discomfort. It was, he supposed, a small price to pay for the opportunities that awaited.

He removed his cap and ran a filthy hand through unkept, disheveled hair. He’d need to find lodging in this bustling city and work, then he could worry about such niceties as a warm bath and clean clothes.  The deck hands relayed orders to the men who’d climbed the rigging. All that sail needed to come down and soon. The Boston harbor was crowded with ships entering and leaving and they could no longer afford speed.

“Step away, lad, it’s time to clear the decks for a bit.”

The man motioned for Louis to join the others below in the hold.

“It is not good there, you understand?” He plugged his nose to indicate the putrid smell.

“It’s an order I follow, from the commander, and besides,” he added and clapped a huge hand on Louis’ shoulder, “your problems are only beginning.”

His wicked grin said it all.

Louis stole one more look at the crowded port city and imagined the troubles, the hardships and pain he faced. He blew out a breath. And the danger, he’d never let down his guard in a place such as this.

“Did you not understand?” The man, no longer patient, gave him a gruff shove then nearly sent him tumbling down the ladder. “I said away with you and now.”

Louis bit back the curse and turned away. A lifetime his family, the Blairs, had spent in exile. Without Scotland, they had nowhere to call home, even Canada afforded only temporary sanctuary. But he was here, by damn it, amidst all the dreamers and seekers and those that hungered for more. Enos Louis Blair had finally arrived in a place that with time, he hoped to call home.

short stories

A brutal surprise…

civilwarmon.

 

Louis Blain tossed a rug over his horse. The mare had done enough and the sweaty animal needed a break. He leaned against its side, just for a moment and soaked up some of its heat. It’d been another long, grueling day of training, both for her as a new mount, and for him, as a newly enlisted Private of the Union Army. At least the recruiter had promised to pay him well should he complete his tour.

He closed his eyes and sent his prayers windward for the safety and health of his lovely wife, Mary, the safety of his two strapping boys–Alexander and Noel, and his three lovely daughters. He held each face, so precious, in his memory and close to his heart. They were why he was here–the money would give them a future free of the grinding poverty that haunted their every decision.

A snap from nearby interrupted his reverie. The words that came next sent shivers of alarm down his spine.

“Hello, Papa.”

Louis raised his head and stared at his eldest son, standing but two feet away and wearing the Union Jack. Louis A. Blair, Jr.–Alexander–and didn’t he have a cocky grin?

“You did not expect to see me?” Alexander said.

His words stirred Louis to action. “I did not expect to see a soldier’s uniform.” He adjusted the rug on the horse as if the movement would bring distraction from this sudden rush of dread. What a brutal surprise…

“I’m twenty-nine. You signed up, would it not make sense for me to do the same?”

Louis cursed silently and patted the rump of the grazing horse. He paused a moment, lost in the heaviness of worry and fear. Then he closed the gap to his son. They didn’t hug, neither were overly affectionate men, it was just so damn startling, seeing his child, this grown man, dressed for war. “When did you enlist?”

“But a few days ago.”

Louis shook his head, still too stunned for words. At 49, he’d signed up as an old man. His life, as such, was nearly over. But his son, this glorious dark-haired young man- his life was only just beginning. Louis had a new bride, a sweet woman, who would take care of her throughout the years of pain and sorrow that were to come?

“Noel enlisted yesterday,” Alexander whispered as if knowing the words would cut.

“Bloody hell.” Louis struggled through a jolt of alarm.  “Your mother, she must be devastated.”

“I won’t lie to you, Papa, won’t say that she didn’t beg for us to stay. But the call has gone out and we must obey, just as you have.”

Louis didn’t answer, he didn’t need to. They weren’t citizens, but they understood the destruction facing their temporary home. They simply could not return to Canada, to a failing farm, knowing they may never be able to return to New England should the war end badly for the north.

Alexander searched the darkening sky. “I leave soon – my company’s mustering in Rochester. I have a few day’s travel ahead.”

“That’s a fine thing.” Louis met his son’s gaze. “But you must know before you leave, that I love you. I’m very proud.”

“And you are very angry.”

He spoke truthfully. Bitterness and regret mixed with dread and twisted Louis’s gut. If only he’d been able to provide better for his family, his sons wouldn’t be risking their lives.  Louis straightened. “You must come back alive and unharmed, understand? I will not bury one of my sons.”

Louis straightened. “You must come back alive and unharmed, understand? I will not bury one of my sons.”

They hugged then, a brief, heartfelt embrace. Both understood this might be the last time should one of them fall to a Confederate bullet. Alexander stepped back, gave a smart salute and ambled off into the dusk.

And Louis watched his son disappear into the gloom, swallowing the horrid taste of fear.

***********

Louis A. Blair served in the heavy artillery unit of the 146th Division, Company F. He was declared missing in action and assumed dead. He left a wife and no children.

Enos Blair short stores

a fidgety beast…

Dear Rosa,

I’ll pick up where I left off last…

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Enos leaned against the stall door and did what he did best. He waited and watched the fidgety beast with the foul temperament pace the small enclosure. The animal snorted as if to warn him to back away.

He would of course, do nothing of the sort.

“Come now, am I that frightening? Look,” he murmured, “how big you are and so grand.” He kept talking as he slipped the bolt free. “You are powerful, yes? And I am nothing to you.”

The horse whinnied and so Enos stopped. “This small space, it’s not to your liking?” He took a smooth step closer. “You are, perhaps, more accustomed to open fields and your family?” As was he and damned if he didn’t miss his wife and his children.

He held out his hand and waited. The horse would either take the invitation or pin its ears. Either way, he’d have more information. Did the animal come from a place of fear or aggression?

He had his answer when the creature backed away.

“Non, this is no good. You are afraid! D’accord, I will have courage for the both of us. Come,” he lowered his voice, “we will go outside and away from these fearful place.”

Enos snapped the lead rope onto the halter and led the skittish beast outside. It seemed gain confidence as he put the noisy, bustling barn behind them. He kept walking, leading the horse as if it were the most natural thing in the world and for Enos this was; he’d been handling farm creatures his entire life.

“We go,” he said and clicked when the horse balked at a crude tent erected near the stables. This horse needs to learn everything and in only a few weeks! Mon dieu…

“You are young, but smart,” he assured the creature and smiled when he felt it begin to lower its head. “Each day will bring adventure, sometimes too much. Still we must face those times together, oui?” He started off again and felt every jolt that ran through the horse with each stimulation it faced.  Still, Enos knew the animal needed to learn to use its mind, not its instincts if they were to survive the war.

“Ho,” he stopped the horse at a small coral. Here, they’d do the hard work. Here they’d learn to trust. And maybe, if Enos was lucky, he wouldn’t get hurt…

He stepped inside and unclipped the lead rope. The horse gave a buck and began running around the pen. That was fine, just fine.  An observer may have thought the man in the center of the ring was out of his mind – how could he look so comfortable, so casual even, while this mad horse bucked and heaved and frothed as it ran around and around?

Enos knew what he was doing. Only when he saw the horse drop its head – a signal that it was relaxing, did he turn his back to the creature.

The response was instant. He smiled when the horse nudged him from behind. His smile widened when he began walking, oh so casually and the horse followed, though he’d not attached the lead robe.

Bien,” he said and gave the horses’ neck a rub. “You need a name,” he glanced down and broke into a full on laugh. “Ah, my friend in the stables was wrong. You are not a ‘he’ at all. D’accord, I shall call you Lizette.”

As Enos continued to rub the animal’s neck, he thought of all the work still to do. Lizette would need to learn trust to get them through the battles they faced. Sadness and fear flooded his mind and worry for his wife and children. Just how in hell would they survive if he were to die in this war?

“You will see us through, comprende? You must, Lizette,” he whispered and an unimaginable ache filled his soul.

Mary

Mary, the romantic…

Dear Rosa,

There are few things you wouldn’t have known about your daughter, Mary. So little that would’ve surprised you. For me, though, she was a complete mystery.

How do you combine such disparate traits in one human being? Mary was fiercely loyal to her children and ambivalent to her grandkids. She was a practical woman with a house full of nick knacks, bric-a-brac and clutter. She loved having her “babies” visit and would silently sit on her stool and observe their conversations.

I was young, perhaps 10 or so, when I discovered that Mary was a romantic.

The gold-framed picture was placed on top of a tall hutch and buried behind mounds of photos and figurines. I caught a hint of red and moved closer to better see. Only a scarf and a bit of a profile peeked out from the clutter, but it was enough to spur my curiosity.

Gram, Gram, I said and pulled her from the dishes. Who is she?

Gram strained her neck to see. Who?

There, I pointed to the painting and asked again. Who is she?

Her response took my breath away.

Without words, she dragged a chair over and began moving her beloved chotchkies away. To the side went the Hummels and small silver framed photos. I let her work in silence, not daring to interrupt. Imagine my surprise when she lifted the picture and handed it down to me.

Up close, the woman was so haunting and surreal. To a ten-year old girl, she was the most wonderful thing you could imagine.

She wiped a bit of dust from the glass as I held her treasure.

She was a looker, Gram whispered. Said to be the most beautiful woman of her time…

I could see she loved this picture.

What happened to her?

A shrug and she continued. Was said the painter asked her to sit for him, begged until she finally did. She died shortly after.

Stunned now, I couldn’t look away. Yes, I could see that – I could see the melancholy, the drama, the mystery surrounding this woman draped in red.

Gram took the painting from me then and carefully put it back in its place. Many, many days, I’d spend in one of her rockers just staring and imagining, creating stories about this magical woman. Stories with villans and warriors and she, saved by a man with long black hair…

When my gram died over 30 years ago, when Mary took her enigmatic charm away, she left me with this one gift.

She gave me her picture.

Many years ago I had the glass replaced and searched the image for the artist’s name. It seemed to be a print, although very old, with no signature. If anyone recognizes this image or knows the artist that created, please, please let me know.