The first evening I was in on the coast this week, the survey crew had the privilege of meeting Jamie Roscoe’s dad Jim. During the course of our visit, he shared many wonderful stories about his family and the history of the Mattole.
During our conversation he mentioned that a descendant of A.A. Hadley, one of the area’s first pioneers lived right over there, pointing at a distant ridge, and agreed to try to arrange for me to meet him. I drove home yesterday thinking excitedly about the visit.
Sadly, I open the paper today and see a picture of Leland Hadley in the obituaries. He apparently passed away on Aug. 13, at the age of 91, and Mr. Roscoe just hadn’t yet heard the news. Another connection to our past is gone.
A lot of my mental energy has been directed on trying to articulate the value of history, especially this early history with so many sad events. Hadley’s death prompts me to come a little closer with the question and the value of family history.
My grandmother stayed unhappily married for many years and I often wondered why. As I was growing up my mother discouraged me from asking questions, so I didn’t know much other than my grandmother had grown up in an orphanage.
Later, when I started doing genealogy research, I did ask questions. I discovered that my grandmother’s mother had been married at least five times (in the 1920s and 1930s) and would leave my grandmother and her brother with neighbors or commit them to the Denver orphanage whenever she met a new man. I have a letter from one social worker describing how my nine year old grandmother showed up at an old neighbor’s apartment because the people that were suppose to care for her kicked her out and she was looking for a place to stay.
My grandmother knew nothing about an intact family, ever, and as an adult, was determined not to follow her mother’s footsteps. Her history colored her decisions about her marriage, my mother’s childhood in an … interesting household, and I likely experienced effects of this history and pass them on.
History is only the experience of our elders… manifested in their decisions and behavior, which in turn affect ours…
This is so darn hard to articulate!
Ok, simple words. Talk to your elders, get their stories. They are important in so many ways I don’t know how to describe but will continue to try. I will say that a year ago for Christmas, my grandmother gave me a bound book designed to document family genealogy. Even she, with all the painful memories of her past, recognized the value in recording our history. I hope the Hadley family was able to capture their history before the loss of such an elder.