Rosa · Uncategorized

I found you, my Rosa…

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My Dearest Rosa,

Well, it was a sweet search and one that culminated in a wonderful moment for Sue.

I knew where you were buried, in a little cemetery in Duxbury, Vermont, right alongside your husband, Henry and son, Freddie. It took a while to find you and it was such a charm when I did.

You were there, beneath a shady lilac tree, you and Henry and I was so moved.

My Rosa. My great-grandmother.

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And the little white marker besides yours and Henry’s? It’s your son, Freddie’s. You can’t read his name anymore. 100 years have stolen it away. But, if you look close, you can just make out, “Age 4 years.” Freddie didn’t live long enough, did he?

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And see, Rosa- I thought you might like to know I’ve found you’re mom, Elizabeth. She rests close to me, in Burlington.  Your sister, Hattie,  is there, too.

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I found a measure of peace, knowing you were so well cared for. And the lilac tree- I know where it came from- your daughter, my grammy, must’ve planted it.

She had a matching tree in her yard.

It’s  still there you know, grammy’s lilac tree. Just like yours, it continues to thrive and bring a reminder of the changing of the seasons, the passing of time, and the memory of those who’ve come before us.

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Rosa

Meet the Blaines, I mean the Blairs, I mean the Blains…

Dear Rosa,

What a twisting, roller coaster of a ride this genealogy process can be. First, you were Blaine, then Blair, and now back to Blain. Never Scottish, but French! And when we go a bit further back, your family was Hablan. Wa-what???!!

So, I thought it might be kinda cool for you to see a few of the official Canadian records, starting with Newell Blair, my great-grandfather. Here he is, as listed on his baptismal certificate in Canada:

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Ah, Newell you are Noel!

And remember the mighty Louis Blair, aka, Enos Louis Blair? Allow you to introduce my Civil War hero and Newell’s father and mother:

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Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler is this next one. Here are his parents. Remember Enos Blair, born 1794 in Canada? No? That’s okay. He’s the one that stumped me from the beginning and now I know why. Check out the name and sound it out (the “g” is silent in French). Ignace Blain… hear it? Ignace – Enos? Yippee!!

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I mean, how very interesting (this is me clearing my throat) and look, there are his parents, Jacques and Pauline.

And so you see, in a perfect world, I would be showing you proof positive that my Blairs originally came from Scotland. Alas, they were never Blair, but Blain and Frenchmen all. I suppose really should learn how to read and write French.

Now just where did I put that blasted dictionary?

(I really have to give a shout out and heartfelt thank you to Lou – my third cousin and partner in all this mayhem. Rosa would be so touched to learn that a descendant of her sister, Sophia, is such a nice man!)

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…

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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.

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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.

Mary · Rosa

Mary’s time of grief…

Dear Rosa,

I hoped this day would come. That I would know where you and Henry rested, where I could go and pay my respects, maybe introduce myself and let you know that you are remembered. I found you yesterday, buried in a little cemetery in Duxbury, Vermont.

There’s only one left who actually met you. My dad, your grandson, Henry. He was just a kid when you died, but he still remembers his Grammy Blaine. And so, I’ll paint a picture of that day and let the words flow…

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October 16, 1944

It would be Mary’s time of grief, of letting go and so Henry would see to the burial. Rosa, his wife of over fifty years, had finally lost to the silent disease that had racked her body, left her bed-ridden and in pain.

He opened his arms and Mary crawled inside. So tiny, just as his Rosa, he thought and felt her trying to hold back her sorrow so she could continue on with the day ahead. She had five sons still fighting in the Great War. All would need her care and comfort when they returned home.  She would have to be strong for them.

“Where?” She sniffed into his sleeve.

“She’ll rest with Freddie.”

It was Rosa’s final request and one Henry agreed to without hesitation. A mother should be with her child and so he’d purchased a plot in the little cemetery where they’d buried their son, Freddie, over thirty years ago.

“I’ll be there one day, too, Mary,” he pulled back to search her face. “You’ll see to that?”

She nodded.  “As you should, Papa.”

“I’m sorry that she won’t be here with you, in Northfield.”

“She needs to be with Freddie. He shouldn’t be alone.”

Mary wiped her eyes and pulled away. He knew the day she faced, the grief she’d have to hide in order to cook and prepare for family that continued to arrive with the word of Rosa’s death. The Boivans, the Blains, there were too many to count and more would only come throughout the week to pay their final respects.

And the daughter-in-laws, the ones with babies – her grandbabies- they would need her strength to get through the calamity of war. They would need to see her face death with compassion and grace.

There’s just too much weight for those tiny shoulders…

Henry watched Mary leave the room and fought back a flood of grief. Not yet, not till this is over and I can be alone. This pain was for him and no one else to see. Soon, he knew, and not too far in the future, he would take his place beside his wife and son and they would be a family once again.

In death, he could give little Freddie what he could not do in life: he could give him forever.

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Henry and Rosa Blaine are buried in a tiny cemetery next to their beloved child, Freddie Blaine.

Rosa

A sister for Rosa…

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Dear Rosa,

Well, what an incredible weekend this was. I attended a workshop on tracing French Canadian genealogy, hoping to learn more about the Blairs and where they came from in Canada.   After the workshop, I was approached by a man who was fairly bursting with excitement.

“Did you say John Drinkwine and Elizabeth Blair?” he asked me.

“Sure, those were my great-great-grandparents.  Rosa Drinkwine Blair was their daughter. She was my great-grandmother.”

Oh boy, did he smile.

“Those are my great-great grandparents, too! They had another daughter, Sophia Drinkwine.”

“I’ve seen that name. Rosa had a sister named Sophia.”

Oh yeah, it’s a small damned world. But wait, it gets cooler…

The one story I know about Rosa was she was tiny and smoked 9″ white owl cigars. The one story this man knew about Sophia, his great grandmother, was she worked in a cigar factory.

Yup, now we were both grinning.

He sent me this picture of Sophia (seated) surrounded by her children. It was taken just a few years after my picture of Rosa. See the similarities?

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photo credit: Joel Wheeler

And now onto the really, really small world-part. He was saying how he was related to the Drinkwines that lived in Northfield (my hometown) and through them to some gentleman by the name of Ferry. Henry Ferry.

“That’s my dad,” I answered and just how in hell did I find my voice?

Seems as though this man and I are distant cousins. Think of it – seated in a small workshop, just minding our own business and if I hadn’t queried about the Blair’s and Boivin’s we never would’ve met. And now he’s told me he has a picture of Elizabeth Blair – our great-great-great grandmother?

Someone tie me down, I’m about to float away.

Blair Family Fiction

Henry and Rosa…

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Dear Rosa,

You were a summer bride and just nineteen years old. I can only imagine how taken Henry was with your beauty. And those eyes, those stunning clear blue eyes…

I’d like to picture that day as a happy one, albeit quiet and informal. Please allow me to indulge, as no photos exist of this simple affair…

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He didn’t have much to give her. Henry looked down at the calloused hands of a laborer and shook his head. Not much at all, yet this beautiful, petite woman was willing to call him husband. Rosa entered the chapel, wearing a simple dress she’d sewn in a mad-rush with her sister’s help and God didn’t she look incredible.

How, he thought and not for the first time, did I get so damned lucky?

She smiled at him from across the room and the world spun in a crazy swirl of light.

It just really was impossible that this day had come to the likes of Henry Blair. His happiness faded just a bit when he thought of the future that awaited her. The back-breaking work, the sorrow and pain of life on the edge. Still, she understood. Her parents had made a go of it – left Canada in search of the great dream. They’d made it, so would Henry and Rosa, as long as they stuck together.

He straightened as she walked down the aisle with her arm looped through his brother, Newell’s. Did he have to be so tall? So infernal handsome? Henry took after his father: short, wiry and tough. He supposed that was a good thing, as Rosa was a delicate as a summer flower…

The thought drifted away when she reached his side. He saw merriment in those wicked blue eyes and mirth.  And damned if it wasn’t his job to keep that spark alive through all the trials they faced. Rosa Drinkwine would know she was loved every day that the good Lord gave them to share.

She deserved nothing less.

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Enos Blair short stores

Enos Louis Blair, citizen of the United States of America…

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Dear Rosa,

So this is where it officially began for your grandfather, Enos Blair. Here is where he became a citizen. But the story stretches much further back. Back to when he emigrated to the US in 1848 (please see the previous post) .  I wonder how many fought in the Civil War who weren’t even citizens?

I wrote a post a while back about his son, Newell, becoming naturalized in Bolton, Vermont (see “Newell Blair”). Somehow, I imagine that he was just following the example set by his father. So, as I am so prone to do, please allow me to fill in the details that simply don’t exist…

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Enos waited in line, hat in hand, and weary to the bone. It was time, he supposed, to officially become a citizen of the US.  He grimaced with each step, mindful of the injury and how it refused to heal.

The Civil War was anything but “civil” he reflected. Too many lost their lives in a brutal, bloody and senseless conflict brought on by two opposing set of beliefs.

He cursed softly.

Brother against brother and him losing one of his own sons gave him a different insight to a war that should never have been. The country was nearly shredded in half, families were left with widows and the men who survived were left crippled, some physically and all mentally.

“Excuse me,” a man said from just behind, “your injury, you served?”

“I served.” Enos wiped the sweat from his brow. Early September sun in Vermont could bring such heat, but it was nothing to the humid, tepid air in Virginia. It was no wonder so many of the wounded had lost limbs to infection.

“You were one of the lucky, then?”

Enos turned to face the stranger. A lad. A bloody damn teenager, curious about the war. Nosing about someone else’s business.

“I lost my older brother and my father,” he said with a shrug.

That stopped Enos cold. “I’m sorry for that, son.”

Then he noticed the lines of grief that hardened a youth way before his time, the sharp look of pain and loss far too fresh, though it’d been years since the war had come to a close. He shared that grief, that loss and anger, but he was an old man. This one, he had an entire life ahead of him.

“You are young, in time you will heal.”

“I will never forget.”

Enos nodded. A good thing that. “We should never forget those we’ve lost.”

“Next,” the man at the table said and motioned for Enos.

He turned once more to the youth. “Where are you from?”

“Ireland,” he answered simply.

“Step up or move on.” The  registrar had lost his patience.

Enos offered his hand to the young man. “You are here now, and maybe you can make a difference, no?”

“Maybe.”

Enos turned away. The process was simple really, state his name, when he was born and where. The registrar dipped his quill in the pot of ink and made a note in the large ledger.

“Raise your right hand,” he instructed, his voice bored and expressionless. “Do you swear loyalty unto the United States of America?”

Enos felt like grabbing the man by his collar and giving him a punch. Swear loyalty? He’d buried a son in Virginia. He’d nearly lost a leg. He had left a wife and young children alone to fend for themselves for two long years.

“I do.”

“That’s all.” He waved Enos away. “You can pick up a copy of the certificate at the town office. ”

That slip of paper represented so much to Enos and to the others who stood waiting patiently in line. With it, they could find work, better housing, claim pensions from the war. He glanced at the youth one last time, then Enos Louis Blair, now a US citizen, put on his cap and limped away.