Uncovering A Historical Treasure

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My cousin is coming down my way to collect some of the family heirlooms. There are marriage certificates, genealogy files and a large box of  letters that are over 100 years old that were sent to my Great grandmother. Apparently she was a “pack rat” or was just extremely sentimental for there are letters from relatives, friends, the Civil War, World War 1, and everything in-between. Tales of the mundane, trips cross country on steam trains, fighting in France and the truly bizarre.

I have been working at cataloging these letters for the past two years but had put them aside for a bit. But because my cousin is coming, I have to get them done in three days. So yesterday, I was scanning and putting up these letters on Ancestry.com when I ran across one dated May 1906. It was from one of my Great grandmother’s best friends who had moved across the country in 1898 to the state of California. In it she describes the HUGE 1906 California Earthquake in which much of San Francisco burned to the ground. She was living about 100 miles away but describes how awful the quake felt as the ground shook.

“Well we are alive and well which is something to be thankful for after such a calamity. The earthquake was severe here and there was much damage in Salinas-but old San Francisco…well it truly makes my heart ache.”

Cora goes on to describe trying to contact her daughters who were living in San Francisco at the time.

“The telephone and telegraph were all down…so there was no way to hear from the girls or get to them. On Saturday at about four we got a letter from them mailed at Stockton. They left the city on Thursday morning-went to Oakland. They were burned out. Lost everything. They only had what they had on their backs when the quake hit.They are thankful to get out alive.”

I love that my great grandmother found such great joy and comfort in the letters she wrote and received. I am also thankful that she saved them for future generations. Due to her example she inspired me to give each of my grandchildren their own letter box. I write them about twice a month telling of family activities, talking about the news and letting them know what I value. All those emails…they will be lost… but the letters I write will always be available to them. I hope they treasure them as much as I enjoy writing them and it is my wish that the “packrat gene” of their Great-great-great Grandmother is lurking somewhere within them!

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Great-Grandma’s Door

When B’s grandmother died 10 years ago we went into the barn where we discovered a beautiful old wooden screen door. It used to belong on the farmhouse of B’s great grandmother who had died well into her 90’s. We picked up that old door and took it with us and it has accompanied us move after move where it has always been taken out to the shed.

Now I am not one of those artsy-fartsy kind of gals. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. (Well, actually I NEVER chew gum because it is one thing that is completely non-biodegradable) So most things around my house are usually made by someone else, usually in a far off land by a person who probably works for slave wages. Yes, I feel guilty. So to absolve me from some of it; I decided to create something and that is where the door came into play.

Several years ago our dog decided that the we didn’t need a gate between the house and side yard so he destroyed it in about 2.2 seconds. Today, I created a new gate out of great-grandma’s door.  I think she would be pleased.

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On a totally different topic, today I took a picture of our cabin off of Google Earth. It is not a great picture but is shows the old cooks cabin up front and a little bit of our two story addition. The fire is edging closer everyday but there has been enough time that the firefighters have been able to create many bulldozer paths in an effort to stop the blaze should it get closer than the 3 miles away that it is.

Sadly, in this morning’s fire report I noticed that six cabins were lost nearby. I grieve for those folks.

Our Cabin from Google Earth

Yesterday, in a last ditch effort,  I decided to call the sheriffs office. I knew that the road up to the cabin had been closed but I wondered if residents were allowed up. While I would be disappointed to lose the cabin, its the things that reside within it are much more important to me. There is a huge old tool box that I use as a coffee table. My great great grandfather brought it with him on the ship from Germany in 1854. There is the drop-leaf dining table on which my 80 yo father had his tonsils removed by the doctor who made house calls. There is the bookcase that B made in high school and the old chest that was in his grandmother’s attic.  And there is the old wooden ironing board that I use as a long table below the window that looks out onto the cedar trees. Those are the things that are meaningful to me. They are family things that are precious and are irreplaceable…like family itself.

And so I will keep my fingers crossed for the cabin, for family treasures, and for the firefighters who are battling tough conditions, unbearable heat and exhaustion. For in the end, a cabin is just a building, but to the families of these 1,000 firefighters who are  trying to save these mountains and villages, they are waiting for something far more important. They are waiting to know that their loved ones are finally headed home safe and sound once more and that is what is truly important.