Inheriting a Family Legacy

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.

I return to the church in Cornwall my grandfather built and meet some new relatives

 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?

About P. C. Zick

I write. It's as simple and as complicated as that. Storytelling creates our cultural legacy.
This entry was posted in Ramblings of a Writer and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Inheriting a Family Legacy

  1. M E McMahon says:

    What a treasure to have that journal! My father was a wannabe writer..I am the first to pursue it seriously! Wish my relatives had left journals!

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      It is truly a blessing to have what I have, but even at that I wish I had more. What about my great grandfathers life after the war? And what about my grandparents on my father’s side? They died when I was a toddler, and I know very little about their lives. Anyone who could tell me is already passed. I’m very glad you’re pursuing your writing. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. No writers, but I do wish I had paid more attention to all my mother’s stories.

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  3. What an amazing gift he left. To be able to read his journal, not to mention, put it into an e-format is a very special thing.

    No writers in my family. I am indeed, the oddball!

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  4. Jen Sako says:

    I always wanted to write. No one ever encouraged me and I never felt that I had anything special down. I recently confessed this to my mother. She told me that she felt the same way. She wrote a book of poetry when she was in high school and then…THREW IT AWAY. I’m now working on my second story. I’m 42!

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Jen, So happy to hear you’re working on your stories. What a shame your mother threw away her book of poetry. Maybe she’ll start writing again with you as her inspiration.

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  5. Staci Troilo says:

    Looks like your apple didn’t fall far from the family tree, Pat. Fascinating stories. Maybe some of these tales will make it into your next work, in one way or another. And kudos to your great-nephew!

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      I did use an excerpt of the Cornwall grandfather in Trails in the Sand, but I didn’t use the real story behind his escape to the United States. That’s for another book at another time.

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