By Patricia Zick @PCZick
In the past few weeks, I’ve immersed myself in the writings of my great grandfather. The man, Harmon Camburn, died fifty-two years before my birth. I know he was the father of my paternal grandfather. That’s about the whole of it, except for the journal he wrote for his children chronicling his years as a Union soldier in the Civil War. He joined Michigan’s 2nd Regiment in 1861 in the early days of the war.
I’m putting the journal in electronic form so others can read about his experiences as a soldier and as a prisoner of war with the Confederates in the last year of the war. Besides that, it’s simply an interesting read. My great grandfather was a storyteller. Here’s a particularly descriptive passage:
June 7, 1863 – As the train sped southward, the descending sun gleamed across the broad expanse of gently undulating prairies, clothed in the fresh verdure of early June, tingeing the tops of the hedgerows with gold and glancing its beams from the farmhouse windows in spikes of flame. The breath of early summer was in the air and the corn was limitless. From close at hand, away to where the earth and sky meet, houses, hamlets, and villages could be seen with their orchards and cattle, lending an added charm of domestic life to the natural beauty of the scene. Before darkness shut out the view, a town was passed that was located on a gentle rise in the otherwise level prairies. The name, Richview, aptly describes the scene as we sped past, going we knew not whither.
On my maternal side, my grandfather wrote a brief autobiography in poetic form. He died a decade before my birth. My grandfather, Edwin Stephens, left school in fourth grade. He then began working in the clay mines in Cornwall, England. In 1900, at the age of twenty-one, he sailed by himself to the United States. He worked in the copper mines of Michigan’s upper peninsula before bringing his strong faith to the ministry. He became a Methodist circuit minister, and with my grandmother, raised ten children. My mother was born in the fifth spot. His last position was in the small Michigan town where I was born and raised. As a child, I remember older folks telling me what a way with words Rev. Stephens had. I wish I could have heard him preach from the pulpit in the same church where I was baptized and confirmed.
Home and Boyhood
By Edwin Stephens
Rude peasant home, such was the humble place
That welcomed him the second child and boy,
But what of that? ‘Twas full of charm to him,
Though built of native clay and thatched with straw.
There on the Cornish hills for years it stood
Battered by raging storms, or wrapt in mists
That held their clammy mantle close for days
And hid the landscape from the roving eye.
Among the recollections of my early years
Are cherished scenes, still fresh in memory.
And glad experiences in boyhood’s days
When life was in its springtime: I can see –
The hawthorne hedges in their creamy white
Surrounding meadows carpeted with green,
And sheep and cattle grazing in the midst
And daisies shyly peeping thru the grass
Afraid of being crushed by heedless feet.
On yonder hilltops, ‘neath the summer sky
The furze and heather grew in rivalry
Each bidding for attention from the bees,
That with its golden blooms, this wiht its pink.
I hear the hum of honeybees and drones –
Some pollen laden, some on nectar bent
And some with sacks all filled and homeward bound
Where empty cells await the precious load.
Sometimes I feel like an oddity in my family. Choosing a writing career is viewed by non writers as a little odd. Reading words of men whose genes I carry inspires me to continue my journey in telling stories. Perhaps what I have written will leave another legacy one hundred years from now.
A few weeks ago, I learned my great nephew – the son of my youngest niece – is writing a fantasy/science fiction novel. He starts college this month, and already he’s started a book. I say hip-hip hooray. Maybe I’m not so odd after all.
What about your family legacy? Any writers in the fold?