Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strutting, Sorting, and Sisterhood

So, there has been a lapse. Not a lapse in desire, but certainly a lapse in time, in motivation, in words. A lapse here at my poor neglected blog. Now, I am not going to make any grand promises about getting back to the entry-a-week pace I had going when I first began this humble outpost last year, but I do have quite the backlog of things that I have been involved in/thinking about, and so I think it's time to give them a due and catch up on a few projects.
First off, I participated in an event called Versus a few weeks ago. This was a project lovingly produced by The Heroes, a local arts collective in Seattle who have put on an array of cross-genre productions (plays, readings, etc.) in the past year or so. Versus was an interdisciplinary fashion show with the theme of "conflict resolution." To that end, each designer worked within a theme of resolving opposites (carrier pigeon vs. text messaging, paper vs. plastic, etc.). I was lucky enough to strut the runway for two designers: Angel Gehm (Joan Jett vs. Jellyfish) and Paige Sandilands (Dreams vs. Reality). Anyway, it was a pleasure to be part of this hub of artistic excitement and endeavour for the day. I got my hair teased out to ridiculous proportions by a genius stylist, enjoyed my leonine eye makeup, and had a ball socializing with all of my supportive friends who came out to support the show. For those intrigued, here are some photos of the event. Props to The Heroes and the way they've brought the artistic community together in their events thus far.
As for sorting, I've begun a new series of short pieces inspired by the idea of objects, especially objects belonging to strangers or people who have passed away. I'm really happy with them so far. On that note, I've found out more family history facts for those interested (on my mom's side of the family). I tracked a family of Talleys (spelled as Tally) in the 1840 and 1850 census rolls in Pontotoc, Mississippi (a place name so rich in alliteration, it's nigh-Faulknerian). A "Guilford Tally" is listed as the head of the household in both census entries, with a young son named "Major G." The idea of a young boy named "Major" delights me to no end. He seems to me like some sort of young Twain protagonist -- getting into scrapes and outsmarting the adults of the town. The members of the household are listed as being born in South Carolina or Georgia, so I think they might represent the first generation of Tallys in the town. My supposition is that young Major G. could be the father of my great-grandfather, D.G. (Demus Gordon), who was born in 1889, although admittedly, that would make young Major pretty old at the time of his birth, especially for that time period. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to access later censuses online to verify this (although a "D.G. Talley" of Pontotoc, MS is listed as buying a hog in 1906 -- certainly my relative. The internet never ceases to amaze). I could be wrong on all of this, but nevertheless, I'm having a grand old time being a sleuth on this trail of of yellowed papers.
On the other side of the family (Underwoods), I did a little searching about my great-great-grandfather, W.H. Underwood. From some of the correspondence and photos I now have in my possession, I know that he was a Methodist preacher, and that he and his wife worked as the heads of a Methodist home for the elderly in Beatrice, Nebraska. These are their photos (last seen gracing my grandaddy's mantle in Dayton, Ohio.
I had a hunch that information on this preacher might be more possible to dig up online than information on the Talleys, who were farmers. Bingo! I discovered the following fairly quickly:

William H. Underwood was born in Hamilton, Illinois, June 30, 1860, and is a son of Rev. William and Eliza (Hewitt) Underwood, who were well known early settlers of Illinois. He received his early education in the public schools of Illinois, and in 1877 and 1878 attended the Wesleyan University at Bloomington, Illinois, for two years. During 1879 and 1880 he taught school in his native state, and then started railroading following the work for about one year. He returned to school at Bloomington and after at year spent in study began teaching and continued about two years.
He then took up three hundred acres of land in South Dakota and farmed there for three years, at the same time substituting for various pastors, and organized and helped to build up Sunday schools in that locality. In 1887 he took his first appointment at Castalia, South Dakota, having charge over eight preaching places in the county, and remained one year, then was transferred to Alpena, South Dakota.
Underwood was married at Edgerton, South Dakota, on January 15, 1888, to Hannah Marie Johnson, of Yankton, South Dakota, and after two years spent in that vicinity, the young couple located in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Mr. Underwood entered the service of the H. and M. railway company and followed that work for two years. In the fall of 1891 he took up his ministerial duties at Springfield, Nebraska, making that his home for five years, then was transferred to Papillion, Nebraska, remaining one year, then located at Arlington and filled the pulpit there for one year.
In May, 1898, at the begining of the Spanish-American war, he was the prime mover in organizing Company E, of the Third Nebraska Volunteer Regiment of Infantry, and was commissioned first lieutenant, later being made chaplain of the regiment, and went to Cuba with the company. He was mustered out of service in May, 1899. The third Nebraska, which was commanded by William Jennings Bryan, was first encamped at Panama Park, Florida, from which place it was sent to Savannah, Georgia, and then put aboard the transport Michigan, December 31, 1898, and sent to Havana, Cuba, where they remained three and one half months, then returned to Savannah, afterwards being sent to Augusta, Georgia, and there mustered out May 11, 1899.
Since 1898, Mr.
Underwood has devoted his entire attention to his pastoral duties, having various Nebraska charges. In 1905 he was appointed pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal church in St. Paul, Nebraska, and has greatly increased the membership during that time. He is a man of wide acquaintance, and is loved and looked up to by all.
Underwood's father was a pioneer in the ministry, and he, also has two brothers in the service, all being men of superior mental attainments, broad-minded and charitable, and all have done the utmost in their different localities to better existing conditions and aid their fellowmen.
Five children have been born to Mr. and Mrs.
Underwood, namely: Clinton B., who was a teacher in the St. Paul schools, and is now in the junior year at the Nebraska State University; Frances, who attended college at Wesleyan University, and is now a teacher in the Central City schools; Henrietta, Lawrence and Thelma, the three latter at home.
I know from the handwritten family tree I have tracing the Underwood line that W.H.'s wife, Hannah Marie Johnson, was an emigrant of Norway. A quick Google map search located the tiny hamlet of Yankton, South Dakota to a mere two hours' drive from Lakefield, Minnesota, and the home of that other family of Norwegians from which I take my heritage -- my Dad's family, the Rues. I love the idea of all of these Norwegian relatives on two sides of the family, living close by on the open prairies and farmland of the 19th century Midwest. I guess it also reveals to me how in the end, everything reconnects: genes by way of Ohio, Mississippi, Houston, Nebraska, and South Dakota. That's my latest installment (for now) on my ongoing family digging. I'd like to do more, but life and decision-making have been keeping me pretty busy of late. Nevertheless, I'm really excited by what this project has helped me to discover, evoke, and write, so new installments will definitely be forthcoming.
My last note regards the frenzy stirred up a couple of months ago by a debate regarding the acclaim levied on male vs. female writers, cleverly dubbed Franzenfreude by the Twittersphere as the debate began with the rapturous reception of Freedom, Jonathan Franzen's latest hefty book to hit the shelves. A cure for Franzenfreude? Allow me to suggest this book. You're welcome.
(photo: mysterious portraits from my Grandaddy's house, so far unidentified (at least, my mom doesn't know). Who are they?!)

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