Monday, December 21, 2015

Passing of a Generation

The last living grandchild of James and Harriet Pickering passed away this week. With her passing we have lost a connection to our past.

James and Harriet immigrated to Plum Creek, Nebraska in 1873 from Hartshorne, Derbyshire, England. James was a blacksmith and reputedly had a drinking problem. An uncle had come to America and he recruited James to follow. James sold all his belongings and left England with his wife and two sons under the age of 3. Twenty three days later they arrived in Plum Creek, Nebraska only to find out his uncle had left to return to England after the death of his teenage son.

James and Harriet had no money to return and Harriet vowed she would never step foot on a ship again so they homesteaded 8 miles northeast of Plum Creek, later renamed Lexington. James worked as a blacksmith in town for many years as well as doing some farming. The first summer, we have been told, the family stayed in a box car on a railroad siding until they had a house to live in. The first year he walked 8 miles to work and back as they had no money for a horse to ride.

The drinking problem followed James to America and contributed to his early death at 47. The farm however was growing. When he died he owned 720 acres of land. The family now realizes Harriet is probably who kept the farm going while James blacksmithed and drank.

The family also grew. After arriving in the United States three more children were born. The four sons and daughter all grew up playing and working on the farm. Sarah Ann Elizabeth was the first in the family to graduate from Lexington High School in 1898. The youngest son James followed in 1900.

The five children married and four of them settled and farmed within a mile of each other on or around the land of James. The oldest moved to South Dakota and farmed with his in-laws.

Thirty two grandchildren were born in the next generation, within a span of 25 years. If we remove the family in South Dakota there were 19 cousins living within a mile of each other with birthdays spanning 19 years. They all attended the same one-room country school just down the road.

As best as I can figure, one time there were 11 first cousins attending District 56 the same year. Oh, I forgot to mention that all of them knew sign language as Aunt Lulu and Uncle John were deaf. Oh, and they were all ornery. There are many stories of the cousins plotting what to do at recess during class time. Those poor young teachers.

The Pickering family has been having reunions at least every other year for decades. The last 15 years or so we have had the remaining cousins up front telling stories of their growing up as farm kids. They had no TV or other entertainment so they made their own fun. Hard to believe they all lived through some of their adventures. Barb wants to take some of their stories and convert them to children's books. Someday.

The Pickering clan is generally a long-lived line. Harriet lived to be 90. The five children lived from 79-95 years of age. The 28 grandchildren who lived past 12 have an average life of 84.5 years ranging up to 100.

With the passing of Eileen Batie Biehl, the cousins are all reunited in Heaven. My 94-year-old mother Leta is the only remaining spouse of those cousins. Now my generation is the senior generation of the Pickering Family. Scary thought. At least I am one of the youngest of that generation.