Thursday, December 21, 2017

Always an Educator

Photo from Melissa Murphy Oliver
She was a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and teacher. She was Sarah Ellen Steinly Murphy (1888-1968): the daughter of Lewis Steinly (1847-1923) and Susanna Housel (1860-1942), the sixth child of 14 children. She grew up in Greenville Township of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and in Allegany County, Maryland, near Cumberland.

Sarah, according to Phyllis Walker Pasterczyk, a granddaughter, attended Normal School in the community of Somerset, Pennsylvania (which is directly north of where Sarah lived).  A “normal school” was a school to train teachers. The length of the “normal school” curriculum was usually one to two years.

I have tried, without success, to find the Normal School in Somerset. I did find one for in Stoystown, Pennsylvania (in Quemahoning Township), but that probably would have been too far to travel. However, there was a Somerset Collegiate Institute in Somerset. I have not able to find out any information about this educational institution and its curriculum; but perhaps, this is where Sarah went for her training.

Townships in Somerset County
It is known Sarah taught for several years before she got married at the age of 19.  So, doing the math, she was quite young when she was a teacher. The 1940 U.S. Federal Census shows that she had an 8th grade education. Assuming she went to Normal School right after the 8th grade, she would have only been about 16 years old when she began her teaching career.

Sarah’s first teaching job was in a one-room schoolhouse in Pocahontas, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, followed by teaching positions at Miller School and Wetmiller School. All the schools were in Greenville Township. She taught all eight grades. As is usual with teachers at that time, she would have had to clean the school house, bring in wood for the pot belly stove, bring in water from the pump for drinking and hand washing.

Phyllis, relying on information from one of Sarah’s daughters – Regina Murphy Kirchner (1919-2017), reveals that Sarah had to walk to and from school each day. Most teachers at that time lived with a local family who lived near the school. It is not known if she did this or not. However, I suspect she might have as to walk to and from the school from her parents’ home might have been too much of a hike.

Typical Somerset County one-room school
Sarah lost her husband, James Bernard Murphy (1882-1927), and a son James Lewis Murphy (1910-1927) to a coal mine explosion in 1927 when she was only 38 years old.  Sarah was left with eight children to raise. One child, Eleanor Frances Murphy (1908-2003) had graduated from high school in 1926 and was married in 1928. So technically, there were only seven children to worry about. As coal miners did not have pension or death benefits, and Social Security did not exist, one can only imagine how Sarah managed to support her family: I am sure she had help from her family as there is no record or family recollection of Sarah continuing her teaching career after her marriage to James in 1907. But, she did not stop her interest in education.

After her children were grown and had children of their own, Sarah would visit the various families. Phyllis has a favorite memory of her grandmother, stating: “When I was in grade school and grandma would come stay with us, she’d sit down with me when I got home from school and help me with my homework. She made the homework much more interesting. Once homework was done and dinner was over, we’d play cards: 500, rummy, and other card games. She loved to play cards.”

It would seem that Sarah was always an educator, and that is a wonderful legacy for her family.

Photo provided by Phyllis Walker Pasterczyk
Great-grandmother of daughter-in-law
Melissa Murphy Oliver

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The First White Settlers in Tennessee

It is not often we have an ancestor who has been thoroughly and historically documented. I am fortunate to have 6th great-grandparents (and their immediate descendants) – William Bean (1721-1782) and Lydia Russell Bean (1726-1788) – whose frontier life in Tennessee has been thoroughly examined.

William and Lydia are known as the first permanent European-American settlers in what is today Tennessee.  William was of Scottish descent, and Lydia was of English descent. They were both born in Virginia, a crown colony, and married in 1741.

Daniel Boone was no stranger to the Bean Family, having hunted before with members of William Bean’s family. Both were frontiersmen and longhunters.

Longhunter - Google image
William Bean was a known associate of Daniel Boone and a fellow longhunter. A longhunter was an 18th-century explorer and hunter who made expeditions into the American frontier wilderness for as much as six months at a time, collecting animal skins and drying meat to sell in the colonies. Most “long hunts” started near Chilhowie, Virginia (found in the southwest corner of the state). The hunters were, for the most part, land owners. They would be gone for as much as six months at a time, usually over winter. The information gathered by the longhunters were critical in the early settlement of Tennessee and Kentucky.  Many times, the long- hunters would be employed by land surveyors and to guide settlers into the new lands. [1]

Grainger County Tennessee Historic Society
The picture to the right shows two hunters standing together looking over a valley below Clinch Mountain. The men depicted are supposed to be William Bean and Daniel Boone. The hunters were looking for fresh water and a place to camp for the night. Both men liked the valley because of its wildlife, fertile soil, and tall timber. 

In 1769, William built a cabin close to the junction of Boone's Creek and the Watauga River, near what is today Johnson City, Tennessee. Bean had visited the site with Boone when they were exploring as agents for Richard Henderson, a land speculator who later played an important role in the early settlement of Tennessee. [2] Later that year, Russell Bean, the first child of permanent European-American settlers was born in Tennessee, was born there. [3] The location of the Bean cabin became important in the development of the area. Major roads (highways 25E and 11W) came through the location that became known as Bean Station.

Google image
William was considered one of the best gun makers of his time. His sons inherited his talent. Together they founded a dynasty of gunsmiths, horseshoes, wedding rings, well pumps, and many other items that were all done in the Bean’s blacksmith shop in Bean Station.

As we can imagine, frontier life was not easy – it was dangerous. One of William’s daughters, Judy Bean, was killed by Cherokee Indians; and his wife, Lydia, was captured by Indians. She was later released. However, those are stories for another time.
Today's view from the top of Clinch Mountain - Google Image

[The Bean family is my biological family.]

[1] - Hamilton, Emory L. Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia 5: The Long Hunters. Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, 1970.
[2] Grady, J.A. William Bean, Pioneer of Tennessee, and Hist Descendants. Grady, 1973. 
[3] William Bean's Cabin - 1A5 | Tennessee Historical sign. Retrieved 28 November 2017.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Share a Family Story at Thanksgiving

Google image

Thursday is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is, of course, a time where we take the time to express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving is the holiday where families gather to celebrate family. Thanksgiving is a time where family stories need to be told. 

Author and minister Todd Stocker says, “Stories give color to black and white information.” Another author, Studs Terkel, is quoted as saying, “Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.”   

My mother, Florence Swinburne Newhouse, used to tell us stories of her parents; of her father, Richard Swinburne,  learning to drive his first car; and of the family traveling the length of Minnesota in that car, only to get stuck in the mud toward the end of the trip. Everyone had to get out, except her father, to push the car out of the mud.

My father, Frank Newhouse, told stories of his professional ice-skating career and when he and his brother, Fred Newhouse, made root beer in the basement of their house – only to have it explode: His mother, Camilla Elizabeth Swarthout Newhouse, was not happy. 

My brother Douglas Newhouse was a wonderful letter writer; when he wrote a letter, it was like he was sitting in the same room with you.  My son Patrick Oliver is a wonderful story teller – he has made us laugh on more than one occasion about his exploits (which were not funny at the time).

There are times I wished I had recorded the story of a family member. I did not get this done with my grandparents or parents. However, as I became interested in genealogy, I did get stories about my dad’s family from his sister, Elizabeth Newhouse Harman, before she died. Her stories about people I never met made me wish I had started collecting stories sooner.

When I do genealogy, I uncover mostly facts, but it is always fun to come across a story. For example, I recently found, as part of a biographical account, a story of a relative who said he cured his sciatica by rubbing bear grease daily onto his groin area.

So, this Thanksgiving, share a family story with your children, your spouse, your relatives, your friends.  Family stories casually shared across the dinner table are those we remember in the years to come. They become our best memories of people we know and of people we have never met. We need to share family stories
Google image