Sunday, January 4, 2009

Weekend Report: Possible Cousins, Elizabeth, Sanoma Rd, Friends and Family

An antique tractor rests beside the road outside Elizabeth, WV.

Saturday was an interesting day. Last week I received an email from a blog reader who wondered if she might be related to my husband. Her mother was a Holstein from Boone County, so it was possible. Larry's people, we learned last year, lived in two counties in two different states and two different countries--and they never moved off the same land. How could this be possible?

The Holsteins came to what is now West Virginia in the mid-1700's, when this state was still part of Virginia, and still belonged to the British Empire. Stephen Holstein fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant along with Daniel Boone, according to some accounts. Kanawha County was formed from Greenbrier and Montgomery counties (in 1788), and later part of the county, along with pieces of Logan and Cabell counties, was used to form Boone County. So there you are: two countries, two states, and two counties, and the same piece of land.

I was so intrigued by the email and subsequent telephone conversation with Connie Gaston that I offered to meet her to discuss things further. She was happy to do so, so we arranged to meet in Elizabeth, Wirt County, which was not too far for either of us to travel (Connie is living in Ritchie County now).

We started the day with our usual Saturday breakfast meeting with friends at the Downtowner. What a good way to start a weekend! I'm afraid we sort of take over the restaurant but it's a small place. And great food. Then we meandered off to Elizabeth. We decided to take a back route through Windy Ridge, a happy choice because the day was beautiful and the views were stunning. We arrived early in Elizabeth, so naturally I scouted for a junk shop. And found a great one! We came away with a box of oddments including a metronome, Fire King dishes, a chafing dish, and a book or two among other things for a grand total of $4.75. What a deal.

We met with Connie and her cousin Debbie (also of Holstein lineage) at Mom's Place, a little homey restaurant in downtown Elizabeth. I knew Connie was a Holstein right away--the curly blond hair and blue eyes along with a certain jawline were clear evidence. My husband also saw some familiar traits in Debbie.

So, are they related to Larry? It's difficult to tell. Both were raised out-of-state and their family members spoke little about the past or ancestors. Connie had made a trip to West Virginia when she was very young and remembers little about it. They had a few photos of their family's homeplace and a few of family members. Some names seemed to be familiar to all three of them, but there is no way to be sure there is any common ancestor without doing some research.

One thing is certain--those families all lived within a small geographical area, and I know of no place on earth with more Holsteins except for Wisconsin (and those are four-footed). Obviously, there must have been common ancestors for all these people who bear the same surname, however differently they spell it (Holstein, Holstien, Holsten, Holstine, Holstin, Holston, Holestine, Holestin, just to list a few of the variants we found in our research).

I wrote down the names Debbie and Connie recalled, and when time allows I'll be looking to see if perchance we've found some distant cousins, courtesy of this blog.

We decided to take the long way home. There is much beautiful country in Wirt County, a very rural place with rugged ridges and wide river valleys. After checking the map, we headed out Rte 5 so we could stop at Burning Springs, the site of one of the longest producing oil wells in West Virginia. The small museum has a bounty of antique equipment and information. No attendant was on hand although the door was open, but with no light or heat we didn't stay long.

Sanoma Road was a lovely surprise. Ridge views, an old cemetery, river bottoms and well-kept farms lined the road. We ended up in Spencer and browsed two of our favorite places there, a consignment store and an antiques mall, before driving home on Rte 33.

Washtubs outside an abandoned house on Sanoma Road have served their purpose and rust quietly into the earth. I wonder who used them, and what for--laundry? bathtime? or maybe in the garden, or during butchering. The location of the house was at the top of the ridge, where two roads intersected. A great place, and it seems odd that the place was left to rot away.

As we were eating a simple supper of raw veggies, leftover ham and rolls, and potato salad, the telephone rang. Friends were having a bonfire--did we want to come over? I never miss a bonfire as anyone who's read this blog for a while knows. We decided to make a quick trip to granddaughter Jordan's to drop off her Christmas gifts on the way to the fire.

We had a nice visit--what did I give Jordan? A cookbook, of course! And an old-time pastry blender because you just can't make good biscuits without one. And for the baby expected in May, a book and CD of nursery rhymes.

We made it to the bonfire around 8:30, and it was a good end to a fine day. The fire was warm, the conversation laid back and relaxed. Our son Derek and his girls came too. We talked and laughed until nearly midnight, when the beginnings of a rain shower told us it was time to head home.

A long, interesting, and varied day, just the kind I like!


Vera said...

Sounds like you had a great Saturday. I love the picture of the old wash tubs.

Granny Sue said...

Hi Vera! I liked that picture too. They seemed to be telling a story all their own, didn't they?

Matthew Burns said...

Great post Susanna. Did I ever tell you that one of my hobbies (actually my favorite hobby) is genealogy? If I can help you in any way to solve this mystery, just let me know. Shirley has some Holsteins in her tree too, although not in her direct line. I have over 30,000 names in my genealogical research for her so that will pretty much tie everyone in southern WV to her in one way or the other. So, if you would like, email me a few names and I'd gladly do a little digging for you.

Loved the comment about the only place there are more Holsteins!!!

Hummm, the name variant makes me wonder about the Holston River Valley in VA, probably named after an ancestor of Larry's. Neat. Beautiful country there. Now, I can't stop singing that song, "Tears in the Holston River" for some reason. Oh God, now it has morphed into me singing "West to Caintuck"!! Arrrrrrghhhhhh!

Anyway, I'd be happy to dig for you if you'd like.


Granny Sue said...

according to my research, Matthew, the Holston River was named for Larry's family, some of whom settled there after emigrating from Sweden to Philadelphia, and then south. Some of his ancestors came from Giles and Botetourt counties in Virginia.

I will email you the names Connie and Debbie gave me when I get home. Thanks for any help you can offer!

Tipper said...

So very interesting to look into our past-and even more fun when you find a connection with someone.

Loved the picture of the old house and wash tubs.

solsticedreamer said...

i love the photo of the washtubs~my thoughts would be the same;who owned them and used them and where did they do?

oh and family tree's~i am obsessed with mine! not to find out if i have anyone famous! but to find where they lived their lives, what their jobs were.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for coming. The fire and company made for a wonderful end to a wonderful vacation.


Tiger Lady said...

I missed a bonfire.... that's okay, I think I'll be hiding for a while in my own embarrassment. *eyeroll*

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