Solomon Parsons

The research has been difficult this trip. I think I’ve read all the surviving records and found all the marked graves of my ancestors in Ohio and Indiana. One of the few new finds from this trip is the newspaper clipping from the Muncie Daily Herald of 29 April 1890 about the death of my great great great great grandfather Solomon Parsons.

An Aged Madison County Farmer Meets Instant Death

20170717_101601The early train on the C. W. & M. which arrives at Anderson at 9 o’clock ran down an aged farmer by the name of Solomon Parson, a half mile north of Summitville, Monday morning. The accident was witnessed by no one except a small boy who gave the alarm. The engineer says he did not see the man and expressed much surprise when told that his engine had struck and killed a man. When the neighbors gathered at the scene of the accident they found Parsons’ body lying by the side of the track badly mangled. Life was extinct. The deceased was 83 years of age.

I visited the site of the accident, as best I could tell, and wandered through the nearest cemetery but there was no stone for Grandpa Parsons. There were plenty of stones which had been worn clear and lots of plain grass so he may have been laid to rest there. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

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Pierce Davis

Is this the final resting place of Pierce Davis?

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Two of my great great great grandparents are Pierce Davis and Mahala Cook Davis. According to their death records they were buried in Matthews Cemetery. I have wandered around that cemetery before and couldn’t find them but today, which coincidentally is less than a month from the 100th anniversary of Pierce’s death, I was able to have a look at the cemetery records.

I arrived around lunchtime and while the cemetery office was closed it offered a phone number to call. I left a message in hopes someone would check voicemail soon and started wandering around. Matthews Cemetery is still accepting denizens. Near the road were some 21st century headstones, so crisply carved and with designs that would have been impossible a hundred years ago. I noticed one grave which had solar-powered spots to light the stone overnight!

Fortunately for me, Greg from the cemetery had just finished lunch at his day job and had a chance to stop by and let me into the office. He showed me their records, an efficient database of index cards in an old library cabinet. I knew there were several Davis burials so we went through them all. One section of six plots was purchased by a Clyde Davis and one of the interments looked like it was for a “Piercy” next to a plot for “Mrs. Davis”. Clyde was the name of one of Pierce and Mahala’s grandsons but the other Davises buried didn’t look familiar.

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Not the stone of Pierce and Mahala  Davis.

Greg took me out to the spot and there was not a stone for either of those graves. Did his grandson Clyde handle the final arrangements for 92 year old Pierce and decided not to get a stone until after Grandma Mahala died? If so, why no stone when she died two years later? This is why I love genealogy, every answer spawns at least two more questions.

Thank you for all your help, Greg!

 

 

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Schuyler Colfax

20170716_121238Since I was sort of in the area and the libraries were closed on Sunday I drove up to South Bend to visit the grave of U.S. Vice President Schuyler Colfax who served under Ulysses Grant.

It’s been a while since I last added to my dead president and vice president collection and with Colfax, I have 30 of the 41 dead vice presidents alongside the 34 of 38 dead presidents.

City Cemetery is a lovely old cemetery just west of the center of South Bend. Colfax’s grave is right at the entrance from Colfax Street, of course, but as I drove in, I was focused on finding a shady spot to park the car and thus missed it. That lack of attention made for a more pleasant visit since it was a beautiful summer afternoon for a walk among the tombstones.

 

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I also found the graves of President William McKinley’s grandparents, who died on the same day, 20 August 1847, which was also their wedding anniversary, according to notes on a cemetery map posted outside the office.

I suppose once I finish my collection, I could start visiting the ancestral graves of the presidents so my affection for wandering through cemeteries doesn’t seem so odd.

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Barker Reunion and James Dean

20150717_121834The Barker side of my family gather in odd numbered years. According to my records, and I keep very good records, my grandparents, Ray Barker and Ruth Lloyd Barker, have 47 descendants so far. Of the 47, 43 are still alive and 30 attended the 2017 reunion.

As part of the festivities we visited Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana, where Ray & Ruth are buried. We also admired a beautiful new stone erected by my cousins for their parents and I led a successful search for five other graves spanning three generations of more distant ancestors.

Park Cemetery is also the final resting place of the actor James Dean who died tragically young in 1955 at the age of 24. One of my uncles was friends with Dean when they were teenagers and Dean was living with his Quaker aunt and uncle on their farm just outside town. I’d always wondered if we were related to James Dean and I finally found the connection. James Dean is my sixth cousin twice removed.

That’s not entirely true. Dean was living with his uncle Marcus Winslow and aunt Ortense Dean Winslow so the relation is through marriage, not blood but since they were surrogate parents during his formative years, I’ll still claim him.

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My cousins and I

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Pickled

pickles-1512330-640x960We’re in quite a pickle,
here in the good ole U. S. of A.

Our body politic,
once a fresh firm cucumber,
has been swimming
in the green vinegar
of unlimited bribery
until well past sour.
We’re dissolving
in this marinade
of corporate money.
Rotten to our seeds.

Can a vegetable be unpickled?
We won’t know until we drain
the brine.

 

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Rhythm of Race

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Photo by JM Olivieri

Saturday afternoon three of my fellow Living Poets and I wrote poems on demand at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Rhythm of Race event. We only worked for a little over an hour but earned $41 for the museum by writing to the following prompts offered by our customers:

  • aloha
  • biotechnology
  • broken
  • butterfly
  • chaplain
  • complexity & sin
  • compromise
  • emerald
  • faith
  • fluorescent
  • happiness
  • hope
  • Michael Jackson
  • octopus
  • oyster
  • patience
  • paws
  • perseverance
  • plant
  • poetry
  • precious
  • science
  • second anniversary
  • soul
  • swizzle stick
  • siblings
  • Themyscira
  • vindicated
  • wonder
  • you

My favorite was writing “Science” and while I don’t remember it all, I closed with the lines “Science is the art of learning. Science reveals the poetry of life.”

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Edgar Allan Poe

 

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Note, I did not lay the roses pictured above. They were there when I arrived.

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered weak and weary…

I have paid my respects at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe and while I would have preferred to visit at midnight after a long night drinking wine, it would not be possible. They lock the gate to the grounds at dusk.

I have been to Baltimore many times before but always on the way to somewhere else so this was my first chance to visit his grave. Rather than drive downtown, I took the light rail from my hotel out near the airport and was delighted with the service. There was an Orioles baseball match that evening so the train was full of orange clad fans but I took comfort in knowing that most, if not all of them, would recognize the name of this poet who died over 150 years ago. I doubt they’d know the name of many other poets, if any.

I arrived just as the sun was setting behind the buildings near the Westminster Burying Grounds. His grave is right at the entrance, at the corner of Fayette and Greene. The monument is not from the time of his death in 1849 but was laid about 25 years later and he was moved to this more prominent spot from a plot around back.

Of course, his original resting place was more to my liking being further away from the 21st century traffic and under some trees with white drooping blossoms, now spent and falling like snow. I asked the uniformed gentleman who asked me to leave because he was locking up but he didn’t know the species.

I had some dinner and a glass of wine a few blocks away and worked on revising a troublesome poem that I want to include in my chapbook. By the time to train delivered me back, twilight had deepened and the trees were darker than the sky, making for an appropriately ominous walk back through the shadows to my hotel.

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Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

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Month End Report

20170427_192524The goal of National Poetry Month is survival and after participating in three poetry workshops, reading at two events, attending another reading, writing poetry on demand, writing while kayaking on the Haw River, writing while taking the Poet’s Walk and hosting one open mic at a wine shop, my lovely audience pictured above, I can claim not just survival but a modicum of success. I produced 20 poems over the 30 days, my favorite appearing below. It will almost certainly appear in my upcoming chapbook, Milkshakes and Chilidogs and other food poems. Now I just have to put the poetic pieces together.


West End Wine Bar of Durham

The sweet melody
of the grape dances
with my tongue
as the aged Merlot
spins down my throat
leaving a bassline
humming with dryness.

Some wines are simple,
a solo acoustic guitar,
others a string quartet.
Serve me a symphony
of purple in a glass.
I want vintage Mozart.
I want Beethoven plucked,
fermented and poured.

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A cardinal, an owl and a raven walk into a bar…

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Photo from the Poet’s Walk page at the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust website.

This morning some of my fellow Living Poets and I visited Ayr Mount in Hillsborough and followed the appropriately named Poet’s Walk. Amongst the trees along the Eno River, I was thinking about today’s prompt but was also considering something left unwritten from the Science Cafe Thursday night. I guess today was my own little March for Science. Happy Earth Day!

For today’s prompt, write a fable poem. A fable is a story that conveys a moral, usually told with animal characters.


A cardinal, an owl and a raven walk into a bar.

Cardinal puffed out his chest, most impressive, and said to Owl, “Our magisteria do not overlap. I rule the light, you the dark. I explain what you cannot: the before the beginnings and after the endings of life and the universe.”

Owl, timid and nerdy, replied, “I agree. Though my universe began billions of years before God’s work week and has continued two thousand years since the apocalypse of Jesus’ generation.”

Cardinal shrieked, “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist!”

Owl shrugged, “Who says I don’t need to? As Occam’s Razor slices away the unnecessary, your god is banished to slighter and slighter gaps.”

Raven sat quietly, sipping his wine, scribbling in his book, watching Owl grow in stature as Cardinal shrank away.

 

 

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Science Cafe: Critical Thinking

20170420_200227Tonight was the Science Cafe on Critical Thinking. It’s always a fun challenge to write a poem in “real time” and my fellow Living Poets, Tara Lynne Groth, Angie Kirby and Anna Weaver were well up for the task while I stole lines from a 80’s comedian.

Since I had to write something based on the presentation anyway, I thought I’d also incorporate the daily prompt which, fortunately, was fairly generic.

For today’s prompt, write a task poem. The task can be some glorious duty, or it can be a seemingly small and insignificant job. Or the poem can take someone to task. It’s your task to figure it out and write it.

A Brain’s Task

Our brains weren’t designed.
Their sole task is to make little brains
and scientists don’t get the girls
in short skirts
and wide hips.

We see faces in the clouds,
patterns that aren’t even there
but better see a predator in the grass
that isn’t there than die
from a false negative.

As Emo Phillips once said, the human
brain is the most remarkable organ

but think about what’s telling you that.

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