Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Ancestral Home

The Platte River - just North of Louisville, NE
After waking up this morning I decided that I should go to the gym to workout.  I forgot however, that they don't open until 10am on Sunday's and it was only 8:30am.  I had an overwhelming feeling come over me that I needed to go to a very special place.  This place is special because the first ancestor to call this place home was my Great-great-great-grandfather - Adam Ingram.

Here is what I know about Adam Ingram: He was born in 1832 in Glasgow, Scotland.  He arrived in the U.S. on June 21, 1851.  He arrived in Cass County, Nebraska in 1856.  On May 10, 1864 he was given a land patent to a plot near Louisville, NE.  The grant was signed by Abraham Lincoln (see below).

 Louisville is a town of 1,100 people that sits on the banks of the Platte River - about 25 miles southwest of Omaha.  As you can see from the picture above, the only contribution to the skyline is the Ash Grove Cement plant.
Just outside of town is a cemetery that includes not only Adam Ingram, but also two other sets of great-great-great grandparents, two sets of great-great grandparents, my great-grandparents, and two of my grandfather's sisters - both of whom I knew and had a strong attachment to as a child.
Adam Ingram's grave.  He died in 1881.

James and Emma Robertson - also great-great-great-grandparents.  James was born in 1828 in New York.  Emma was born in 1836 in Beverly, Illinois.  They lived in Beverly, Illinois until very close to Emma's death when they moved to Nebraska.  They probably moved so that their daughter Mary (my great-great grandmother) could take care of them.

Oliver and Sarah Ward - the last of the great-great-great grandparents.  Oliver was born in 1825 in Lewiston, Indiana.  Sarah was born in 1828 in Putnam, Indiana.  The metal plaque by the grave is to honor Oliver's service during the Civil War.  He served during the war - but not against the south.  He fought in the Nebraska Cavalry against the Sioux tribe in the Dakota Territories for 14 months in 1862-63.

Edward J. and Hannah Ingram - my great-great-grandparents.  My grandfather Eugene has childhood memories of Edward and Hannah.  Edward was born in 1859 - probably at the family farm - which was located across the road (highway 66) from this cemetery.  I don't know much about Edward except that he lived in Louisville his entire life - as did his son Edward Jr. (my great-grandfather).  Hannah was born in 1860 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  Her father William was also in the Civil War.  He fought in a regiment that saw action at Fredericksburg - probably the worst defeat of the war for the north.  It was so bad that during Pickett's charge - at Gettysburg six months later - the northern soldiers yelled "Give them Fredericksburg!!" to each other as the 12,000 southern soldiers charged towards them.  At Fredericksburg - it was the north that charged and lost a lot of men.  Of course, at Gettysburg it was the south that lost - and that failed charge probably turned the tide of the war.  I don't know if my great-great-great grandfather was involved in the actual charge at Fredericksburg - but I know his regiment was there.

I'm guessing you're probably "graved out" by now.  Maybe it is a little morbid.  But, I like to think about my ancestors.  I like to think that every choice they made is somewhere inside of me.  What they decided to do for a living, where they decided to live, who they decided to love - it's all there somewhere coursing through my veins.  Their lives were so much harder than mine.  They had to fight so hard just to survive.  I would be foolish not to pay them the respect they deserve - and to thank them for living the way that they did - because if they had made other choices - I wouldn't be here to thank them.

The experience of walking among the graves of so many of my direct ancestors reminded me of a scene from Dead Poets Society.
Robin Williams' character has one of the boys read the poem "To the Virgins, to make much of time" by Robert Herrick - a 17th century English poet.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
old time is still a-flying
and this same flower that smiles today
tomorrow will be dying.
He then has the students gather in front of old photos of former students - and points out how similar they are to them.    "Same haircuts.  Full of hormones - just like you. Invincible - just like you feel.  The world is their oyster.  They believe they are destined for great things - just like many of you.  Their eyes are full of hope - just like you.  Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable?  Because you see gentlemen - these boys are now fertilizing daffodils.  If you listen real close you can hear them whisper their legacy to you.  Go on - lean in.  Listen.  Hear it?  (ghostly whisper) Carpe - Carpe Diem.  Seize the day, boys.  Make your lives extraordinary."
I plan on it.