Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fearless Females # 16 Lunch with Mary Burns McPherson

Thank you to Lisa at The Accidental Genealogist for the great Fearless Females prompts for the month of March. Prompt # 16: If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

Dreamworld is a wonderful place, between here and there.  A world where all things are possible .....

"Who's that a'bangin' on mi door?"

"T''is me, Grandma Mary," says I, as it is just too much to say Great-great-grandma Mary, even in a dream.  "Joannie, your Jim's great granddaughter."

"Come in, dearie, and sit a spell.  I was just getting ready to have a  bowl of soup." 

Oh, my, I dinna mean to impose ..."

"No trouble at all, there's always enough for one more at my table."

I enter through the rough hewn door of the log cabin.  (It must be around 1855 or so, certainly before the frame house was built in 1862.)  Grandma Mary, shoos 5-year old Annie, and  3-year old Lizzie  away from the table where they were practicing their letters, and deftly hooks wee  Mary Jane under her arm as she clears a place for her and me at the table.  The pot of soup is simmering over the fire in the huge rock fireplace.  I offer to hold little Mary Jane (it doesn't seem strange at all to be holding my great-great aunt).  Mary has placed heavy crockery bowls of steaming vegetable and beef soup (actually more of a stew than a soup) and a plate of her Scotch shortbread before us and tells Annie to go to the cold spring house for some nice cold milk.

"Dearie, now tell me why you have come all this way to see me and my wee ones?"

She is so direct.  No small talk, but then she has a lot to do, what with taking care of 6 children under 12 --- and it looks as though the seventh will soon be joining the brood -- and she sews and knits for extra money.  So as to not to take up her valuable time, I start right in.

"Grandma Mary,  I've puzzled for years about how your name your children."

"Shouldna be any puzzle about that.  Billy is named William Burns McPherson for his grandpa, my father William Gibson Burns.  Now Jabe is named Jabez Burns McPherson for .."

"Oh, I know that one, he is named for your brother,  Jabez Burns, who was named after his uncle, the famous Baptist minster."

"Ah, for a young one, you do know your history.  Now Jim, your great grandpa, carries the name James Burns McPherson.  His father is James.  Now do you know the of history  of that name, young lady?"

I was ready to show off. "Yes, indeed, I do.  Your husband James Peter was named James for his maternal uncle James Spink and his father Peter McPherson."   I was on a roll here.  Now to get down to the real questions.

"Grandma Mary, I understand about the naming of the boys, but what about the girls' names?"

"Well, my dear, what about them?"

"I know that you named this cute little Elizabeth after her grandmothers,  Elizabeth Spink McPherson and your mother Elizabeth Herrick Burns  --- and baby Mary Jane carries your name, but  what about Annie ---and ..."

I hesitate here.  Is it okay in a dream to tell my Great-great grandma about children she is yet to have?  Well, sure,  it's a dream, you know.

"Grandma Mary, I know that names are important to you.  So who is Annie, Ann Adamson McPherson, named for --- and the wee one who will  be soon born, she will be named Jessie Stewart McPherson,  and then there will be Emma Ellen, Harriet, and the last of your babes, Margaret --- who are they named for?

"I'm thinking that Jessie might be the name of your sister or a dear cousin, but Stewart and Adamson --- I don't know those names.

"Please, Grandma Mary, please tell who are these people of your past that are so important as to carry on their names with your children?"

"Now, now, don't get yourself in a fret.  Have a cup of coffee and I will tell youuuuuuu --- "

Drat, Colldubh, my black shepherd, thrusts his  cold nose into my ear and nudges me awake. Five o'clock and he wants out -- now.  Drat.


  1. what a great story! To be continued I hope?

  2. I loved this! I hope that in your dreams she whispers the answer to you. I have a couple of what seem to be surnames, used as middle names, that perplex me. I did track down one and it was the name of a business associate of his father! I'm hoping the others will lead me somewhere back further in time.

  3. Waaahh!!! Doggie!! You could have peed on the kitchen floor just this once!!

  4. Great story, what a wonderful, creative approach. You are an inspiration.