Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

THIS SILLY OLD MAN

I suppose I have become that weird silly old man, or perhaps the village idiot. I went to Bellevue State Park early this morning. Nothing silly or weird about that,  I have gone for such walks for years. Now a-days I shuffle along with the help of a stick, all raggedy-looking most of the time. This morning it was raining is all that maybe makes it silly. The Old Man and his Stick strolling through a cold and steady drizzle. It was a miserable morning I must admit.

With the rain we had in the night I knew it was useless to go up around the meadows. They have been a mess as it were, trails covered with mud. I had hoped the colder weather might dry things up a bit, solidify the dirt as it were. This seemed to be the case the other day when I walked up the wagon trail along the first meadow. The sludge had begun to grow harder. My feet weren't sinking in, although once up on the meadow path itself a mud pit waited, which I barely got through without a disastrous fall into the weeds bordering it.  I like to get back along the last meadow where the deer generally hang out, but that path was still to yucky for me and I went down to the paved path to make my return back to the parking lot. I looked up though at the second mead and there were some deer upon the hill in the high weeds. One was a beautiful well-racked buck.

But there would be no deer this morning in this rain and chill. Even the horse corrals were deserted, except for one. There was a single horse, in a green blanket, huddled against the outer fence. At first I though it was tethered there, but what I took as a hitch was simply a diagonal crossbar on the fence. The horse was just standing there, a lone figure in the morning rain. Well, not entirely alone. I placed down and there was a gray fox standing staring the horse's way.

The fox sensed me, turned and looked at me for a moment. We peered at each other, then the fox run beneath the corral fence in with the lone horse. These two stood together getting wet, as I became more concerned with the horse. Why was it the only horse in all the corrals? Had it done something wrong deserving punishment? Had it simply been overlooked. It was such a dreary, miserable morning. I had to know, so I turned around and humbled my way back to the stables.

When I got back I saw a woman cross the back paddock and enter a door in the rear.  I followed her path and went thought that door. It led into a kind of hallway and to my right was a door. It looked like an office behind the door, so I pushed down the latch and opened it a crack. No one was in there. I called "hello" a couple time and from a door to the office rear bounded a large, barking black dog, who felt I shouldn't be there.

Around a corner, from upon a shelf, peeked a black and white cat. I wonder if it was Hemingway.
Several years prior, when I could walk rapidly like a normal person I walked through the park and was greeted a couple times by this cat. It was a stray, but very friendly and it followed me and rubbed against my legs. Back then I couldn't things lie. I had inquired about the cat and it ended up being adopted by the Park Supervisor and she named it Hemingway. Perhaps like my cat Kerouac it had six toes on its paws. Anyway, I wondered if this staring feline could be Hemingway. Do you recognize me? Tell this dog I'm friendly.

At this point a young woman came through that other door. She put the dog back there so he would stop barking.  I explained about the horse, saying I was just curious why it was along out there in the rain. There was no accusation in my tone or demeanor.

"He lives outside," she said. There's a shed back there and there is another horse."

"Oh, is there a shed?  I didn't see the other horse."

We walked outside together and I could see the shed to the back of that corral. The horse still stood where it had been. I did not see the fox anymore.

"Thank you," I said. "I just wondered. I just get concerned with the animals." It isn't just animals, of course, I question anything which seems unusual, a lifelong habit, I fear. Better to speak up and be thought a silly old man or a fool than ignore everything and maybe not be a help where help is needed.

As I departed the stables to continue my soggy walk, I saw the second horse come out of the shed and go over aside that first one. They were ready for Christmas. The original horse wore a green horse blanket; this one wore a red one. On a day like this morning we could use a little Christmas. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

BEFORE THERE WAS ME THERE WERE FAMILIES -- WILSONS

 WILSONS
Wilson is another name of great popularity. Apparently, this maternal side of my mother’s family was from Scotland, although I am not totally certain of the fact. My first cousin, Horace Dunlap Wilson, did a historic manuscript of the family, but it ended with a William Wilson, born in 1795 in Delaware. He was married to a woman named Susan. This Wilson died in about 1865. But you can see with so many William Wilsons about I have not been able to verify who came earlier.

The surname Wilson apparently came from Vikings who settled in Scotland during the Middle Ages. My DNA does contain Scandinavia traces.

What is absolutely certain is that my great great grandfather, William Frederick Wilson I,  married Esther Helen Bicking;

although, not so certain is the date of the wedding. Esther Bicking's family immigrated from Winterburg, Westphalia, Germany sometime in the mid-1700s. Her father, Frederick, managed one of the several paper mills started by the family in and around Milltown, Pennsylvania, which later became known as Downingtown. The family continued in the paper business through several generations not ending until the retirement of Frank Park Bicking in 1992. Frank was the great-grandson of S. Austin Bicking, who sold his share in the Dorlan’s Mill to open the first paper mill in Downingtown in 1880. (On the right is Ronald Tipton standing by the ruins of the Dorlan’s Mill in 2004, my photo.)


William and Esther begat six children and here lines began to entangle. Their third child was a daughter named Emma Bicking Wilson. In 1866 Emma married Benjamin Franklin Meredith I. Benjamin and Emma are my Great, Great Grandparents on my father’s side.  


William and Esther’s fourth child, Emma’s brother William II, married Anna Margaret Dunlap on March 25, 1879. Anna was the third child of James Evans Dunlap and Rachel Supplee Boyer (James is pictured on the left; Rachel is pictured on right). William and Anna are my Great Grandparents on my mother’s side. 

This means William II is also my Great Uncle and Emma is my Great Aunt. My mother and father are Second Cousins.6

 William Frederick Wilson II went by the name Fred (He is the middle rider in the photo.). He was a busy fellow. He owned a  great deal of land in Uwchlan Township, which he called Marchwood, where he farmed and raised dairy cattle. He sold the milk in Philadelphia where he gained a reputation for honesty. He also was an auctioneer and the proprietor of the Brandywine Hotel that existed once above Coatesville.  

William II, as did his father, had six children, the three eldest boys and the three youngest girls. William Frederick Wilson III, known as Billy, and Samuel Heber (who went by Heber) were long time farmers in Chester County. The middle of the three sons was
James Evans (who went by Evans, pictured on left). He was also a farmer, but died in 1931 bringing hay to the barn. He slipped off the wagon and its wheels ran over his head. James left behind two young children, Mildred and Robert (Bob). 


Robert was to later own a number of local
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hotels, including  The Eagle Tavern (left) in Eagle and The Swan Hotel  (right) in Downingtown.

The oldest of the three daughters also died young. Her name was Helen (pictured on right) and she taught school. Her sister, Clara   (pictured left) and she married two brothers, Joel Ellsworth Downing and Herford Evans Downing, direct descendants of Thomas Downing, who founded Downingtown. Clara had seven children with Ellsworth. However, Helen died from complications in the birth of her second child, Emily Margaret. Helen was 29 years old
.
The family was to experience a schism some years later from this sad death. As is often the case it was a trifling matter. When Helen died, her oldest brother Billy and his wife Lizzie adopted Emily Margaret Downing. Herford kept his son; Herford Jr.  Herford Sr. remarried a year after Helen’s demise.

In my youth I attended the annual Wilson Family reunions. I always enjoyed being with my Cousin Audrey June White. She attended with her mother, Beulah Downing White and grandmother Sadie Guest, who was a sweet elderly lady. I was to learn through my research that  Audrey was not my cousin. Sadie Guest was the second wife of Herford Downing Sr. after Helen’s death. Beulah had then been Sadie’s child by Herford and thus not blood kin. 8

For whatever reason, the wife of Herford Jr. resented Sadie
Guest being invited to the reunions and made a “them or us” proclamation. The family elected to continue inviting Sadie, Beulah and Aubrey and so Ruth and her family boycotted the reunions for a number of years.  (Pictured on right are the combatants, Sadie Guest Downing and Ruth Downing.) 

William and Anna’s sixth child was Esther, born in 1899 (pictured left at age 12). She is my Grandmother. You may notice that my Grandmother Esther and my Aunt Helen were named in honor of their grandmother, Esther Helen Bicking.

(The picture captioned Our Family is from left to right standing: Heber, Clara, Evans, Billy and Helen; seated is William Frederick [Fred] Wilson II and Anna Margaret Dunlap Wilson holding baby Esther, 1899) 

My Great Grandmother Anna Wilson was a Dunlap (shown on right in 1890). She died in 1934, 7 years before I was born, so I really never met the Dunlaps, save one. They lived in Honeybrook, Pennsylvania.

Anna had siblings, a brother and
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three sisters.The  brother, I believe his name was James, same as his father, went west to man his fortune and then went down to South America and disappeared. No one ever heard from him again. The oldest of the sisters was the only one to marry, she is the one in the center sitting on the rock. On the left was Belle, who I know very little about. Both she and the oldest girl died in 1940. Perched up on the right, holding a dog is Harriett, better known as Hattie for the elaborate hats she would often wear.  

As I said, only the oldest daughter ever married. Her name was
Mary Elizabeth Lily Dunlap (she went by Lilly). She married Elias David Dague and they had three children to help run their farm.  Pictured left to right are Jonathan Graham, Mary Jane, Aunt Lily and Uncle Elias. 

The “1 missing” in the photo was the oldest son, Oscar David Elias Dague (pictured on left here). The photos of the Dagues were taken in 1902. 

The Dunlap I knew was Harriett, Aunt Hattie.  I was always a
little afraid of her. You must remember she was 71 when I was born and I was only 11 or 12 when she died. We sometimes visited her and at that time she lived in an apartment in West Philadelphia along Baltimore Avenue, about a block away from where I would live in the 1960s.  I remember her place as being small and dark with a musty smell.

Aunt Hattie was a fiercely independent woman, who seemed to know a number of smart and influential people. She may have frightened me as a boy, but I see a lot of her nature and strength in my middle daughter Noelle, whom the younger Harriett (left) bore a physical resemblance.




 Footnotes:

6. Wilson Family History
by Horace Wilson (pictured right)
1990


7. Chester and Delaware County Families
Volume 2
Chester County Historical Society Library


8. Thomas Downing (pictured right)
Email Concerning Downing family
August 6, 1999










Tuesday, August 28, 2018

BEFORE THERE WAS ME THERE WERE FAMILIES: PART II -- BROWNS

Brown is one of those-surnames seemingly everywhere, too common and too generic to make climbing the branches of the right family tree easy. I do not know where the root may have sprung up or when any seeds spread across the pond to America. My best guess is my line of Browns is Irish, but they may have been those British in my DNA.


The photo on the left is of Millard Charlton Brown, Sr., holding his son, my grandfather, Francis Fizz down II. It was taken in 1900, the year my grandfather was born.


I don't think my grandfather changed much in looks over his life. The photo on the right was taken only three years before his death. He is seated next to my grandmother and holding a source of his early demise.

Certainly the Browns were long-time residents of Chester County, Pennsylvania and Quaker at one time, so perhaps they  were Welsh also, who drifted off to the Methodists at some point of history. There is a link to former President Richard M. Nixon, whether that is something I should say or keep to myself is the question. Nixon may fall into the category of skeletons in the closet. Should anyone admit to a man who’ll do a “yee-haw” on a tractor with a cowboy hat while dressed in suit and tie or take a stroll down the beach wearing Wingtips, for that matter?

Quakers Families who dwelled in Chester County from the 1700s are all pretty much related now, as I am one way or the other related to Darlingtons, Brintons, Downings, Dunlaps, Thomases and of course the Milhouses.

Case in point: Joshua Baldwin was a son of John Baldwin, an immigrant from  Oxfordshire, England to Aston, Pennsylvania prior to 1689.  Joshua was born at West Chester in 1721 and in 1747 at a Quaker Meetinghouse (pictured right) in Goshen married Miss Mercy Brown. Mercy was my 5-Great Grand Aunt, sister of my 5-Great Grandfather George H. Brown. Joshua and Mercy had among their seven children a girl named Hannah. Hannah Baldwin married William Milhous in 1767 and you might say some history was in the making. William Milhous was Richard Nixon’s Great-Great Grandfather and like it or nor this made me a fourth cousin to the disgraced President.3

Joshua Baldwin stands proof of the intertwining of we Chester County families. He had three wives, Mercy being number two after his first wife, Sarah Downing died. After Mercy’s passing he took a third spouse, Ann Meredith. Brown, Downing and Meredith are all family antecedents of yours truly.

George H. Brown was the Grandfather of Francis Fizz Brown (1855-1911). By this time the family were members in good
standing at the Grove Methodist Episcopal Church. The contractors Morgan Ruth and Richard Templeton Meredith constructed the present church building in 1888-89 at a cost of $7,000 (yes,  $7,000, no missing zeros). It is a small world this Chester County for Richard Templeton Meredith is my Second Cousin.4

Francis Fizz Brown was a builder of barns. He took a fatal fall off a slippery barn roof in Phoenixville and died after some hours of suffering. He was 56 years old.5 Forty-six years later his Grandson and namesake, my maternal Grandfather, was to die at 57 years of age.

 My Great Grandfather Millard Charlton Brown also was a builder, taking the business a step further and constructing many of the homes that dotted his corner of Chester County, especially along Boot Road in West Whiteland Township. Millard died in one of the houses he built, broken-hearted after the death of his wife, Sara Anne Smiley.

Millard and Sara had four boys and a girl. Millard trained the boys in aspects of the building trade, Millard Jr. (known as Bus) was an electrician, Ralph did plumbing and Paul kept books. My Grandfather, Francis (known as Brownie) was a carpenter. (Pictured on right are Millard Charlton Brown Sr. & Sara Anne Smiley.)
On the left is the home where Millard died on December 2, 1950. It is one of the houses he built. His wife died on July 24 of the same year. She was 71 and he was 73. My grandfather and I discovered his body as we stopped by his  home for a pre-Christmas visit. I was 9 years old.
Oddly enough my paternal grandparents died in 1950 as well, on May 14 and June 4. They were both in their 80s. I did not know
my paternal grandparents well, but I did my  maternal grandparents, having visited them often as a child. I always pictured them as this very elderly couple who reminded me of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” couple. Pictured right the year they died, both several years younger than I am now. 

Footnotes:
3. Records of Goshen Meetinghouse
Ray Downing
The Downing Family
1999 

4. Martha Leigh Wolf and Diane Sekura Snyder
A History Of West Whiteland
West Whiteland Historical Commission
Exton, Pa.
1982

5. Daily Local News
West Chester, Pa.
November 2, 1911
Stored in the Chester County Historical Society Library