Tuesday, June 28, 2011

James Peter McPherson's Diary. 2011 June 28: A Chimney Sort of Question

I often engage in rather obsessive-compulsive behavior when I am on the research trail.  To me it seems rather normal.  So I have been squeezing in lines of the diary when ever I can.  I usuallys say to Self, "Self, you will only finish 1 week of entries."  And Self laughs uproariously --- "O yeah, just one week."  But sometimes, I find an oddity that I have to stop and ponder upon.  Now is one of those times:

James Peter McPherson and family arrived in Madison, Wisconsin in mid-May 1850.  The family was comprised of J.P, his wife Mary, three sons (William, Jabez, & James who was my great-grandfather) and baby daughter Ann.   I read with interest how he worked at cutting logs for his house in Springdale; fussed that the cold weather was coming on and he was just getting the thatch on the roof; felt like a housewarming when they moved in on December 2nd of 1850; and shivered in cold anguish when the thatch blew off in a biting, cold Wisconsin wind storm.  Neighbors pitched in, roof fixed, and I dinna think much about it.

Spring planting, turned into summer work and fall harvest --- and I just kept on transcribing in a voyeur-sort of way.  Then in late October of 1851, old J.P. writes about putting up his chimney!  Putting up his chimney?? What in the world was he using all the previous winter.  Then the true reality of life in 1850 in rural Wisconsin, where you built your home with logs and a thatched roof,  finally sunk in.  They had no chimney, any more than the sod houses on the prairie had no chimney.  A firepit for warmth and cooking and the smoke drifted out through the thatch.

At that moment, I realized that I have been watching the lives of pioneers unfold before my eyes -- but now, I had to put myself in that time and place, with no assumptions of what life was like for my great-great grandparents in that time and place.

I am so looking forward to all of the new wonderment to unfold, for the living history of this diary to tell me about the roots from which I come.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday Synopsis on a Monday. 2011 June 27

Has been awhile and I have been missing this old stomping ground of mine.  A quick catch up --- for me, but y'all as well, if you are interested.  The Reunion came and went, leaving me with a bunch of stuff to do, undone, and stashed away -- but I will get to it some future day.

The Uncle Ralph Letters recap:  Checked the blurb slurp against my original Word documents.  I really wished that Blurb would have worked for me, but the vision in my head was so much different than what I could put out in Blurb.  Therefore I had to scrap that plan.  I have about a week's worth of edits before I can download my documents into Scribus.  Then probably a week or more of adding pictures, and revising.  Tis going slower than I had hoped --- and my friend of friends who was my artistic soulmate was killed in a car crash.  Took the wind out of my sails for awhile.  Now, I have to just imagine her wise advise.  Nonetheless, Uncle Ralph's Letters are indeed taking shape and my autumn publish date should hold.

I have been told by many good and true friends that perhaps I would do well by just sticking with one project, and not be so scattered here and fro.  But that is now how I work.  I poke along --- and then all of a sudden I dive headlong into a project until it's finish.  Done it time and again, so I know how it feels.  Like the eggs a hatching, but not before their time.

That said, I am writing short historical pieces (well, sometimes a tad embellished, but I try to remain true to the core) about my father and my McPherson aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  When I started gathering the bits and pieces into files for each, I was surprised at how much I had actually written.  This next weekend, I am taking a folder down to my 91 year old auntie in Redding.  I plan to sit beside her on her deck --- just the two of us -- and read to her.  I hope this will be a a gift to her, and also, that if I am not true to her heart that she will set me straight.  So looking forward to this weekend.

The other venture that I embarked upon is transcribing James Peter McPherson;s diary.  I didn't mean to even start reading my great-great grandfather's diary--- but one night I just took a peek.  OMG, I can't stop!!!  I sneak in a page here, a half-page there, and glory in that right and true history unfolding before my eyes. In the future,  I will be sharing with y'all the bits of James Peter McPherson's years in Springdale, Wisconsin. 

Over the past several years, I have read books and articles about the early days in Springdale, so I at least had a working knowledge of some of the names and localities.  Now, it seems that I am on first name basis, not only with grandpa JP, but John Beat, John Stewart, A. LaMont,  G. Davidson, Mr. Paton, Mr. Anderson, John and James McDonald,  Mr. Baird, Mr. Childs, Mrs. Thomson,  and every once in awhile, old JP even mentions his wife Mary.  My sister always teases me that my friends quite often have been dead for two hundred years or more.  I am beginning to think she might be right, as I anxiously open another page of the diary to greet new friends and old.