Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Lessons Learned from our Mayflower Ancestors

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove.

Dear Clan,
In earlier posts we discussed our 10th Great Grandfather (my generation) Francis Cooke and his son, our Great Uncle John through Great Grandma Vesta's line (Grandma Mattson's Mother). Both were passengers on the Mayflower! Yes, we are the proud descents of one of the 102 passengers of that famous ship. We come from good, down to Earth Pilgrim stock don't we? I'm hoping you appreciate your Pilgrim roots through these many discoveries of our early American ancestors.

I'd like to share an edited talk about our family's Mayflower ancestors given by Dr. Stephen Charles Ainley, President of Union College. It is a talk urging us to adopt the Pilgrim's Principles. It is long but well worth the read to truly appreciate our Great Grandfather Francis and Great Uncle John.



Francis Cooke / Hester Mahieu Mayflower (10th Great Grandparents)
Mary Cooke
Elizabeth Thompson
Ebenezer Swift
Ebenezer Swift Jr.
Juda Swift
Phinas Swift
Almira Swift
Isabel Deanora Helgerson McCrilles
Vesta Althea Dennis
Violet and her Brother Walter
Luella, Linda, John and Marvin Mattson

One cannot help but be astonished and amazed by the account of the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620. One-hundred-two people ultimately made the 65-day voyage across the Atlantic. One-hundred-two people, intent on establishing a new life in a new world, squeezed themselves into what was called the “tween deck.” Philbrick describes the tween deck as a crawlspace located between the upper deck and the hold of the ship. He goes on to describe the space as “dank and airless” and estimates it to have been less than five feet high and about 75 feet long. Claustrophobic space, to be sure, and made worse by the leaking salt water that steadily fell on their heads throughout the voyage. Due to delays resulting from the lengthy search for an appropriate vessel, repairs that needed to be made before leaving, and disagreements with sponsors, the voyage of the Mayflower took place far later in the year than planned. This resulted in a much longer and rougher crossing. From the moment the Mayflower left the shores of England, many passengers experienced seasickness – undoubtedly making the already uncomfortable space nearly insufferable. The travelers to the New World were frequently ridiculed by the crew of the Mayflower. And, long before their journey was completed, they were chilled to the bone and reached the bottom of their water casks, leaving them to drink the “slimy” remains. Indeed, the passengers of the Mayflower began to display the unsettling signs of scurvy. The Mayflower encountered steady headwinds and westerly gales. One such gale was so severe that the crew had to furl the sails and basically surrender the ship to the elements. In mid-ocean, the ship encountered such rough water that a structural timber cracked, nearly forcing them to abandon their journey.
The wild seas, the illness, the ridicule the passengers endured must have been compounded by uncertainty about what was ahead of them. Other than Jamestown, every other attempt to settle on the North American continent had failed. And, the Jamestown experience – well known to the sick, hungry, and cold passengers on the ‘tween deck of the Mayflower – was hardly encouraging. After all, during the first year of the Jamestown settlement, 70 of the 108 settlers had died. They couldn’t have found much hope or consolation in that example. All this led the Mayflower’s Captain, Christopher Jones, to deviate from the original plan to drop his passengers near the mouth of the Hudson River, on shores near today’s New York City. He instead made for the nearer coastline of Cape Cod. One can imagine the relief that those on the Mayflower felt when they neared land. Their first morning off the coast of the North American continent revealed a beautiful day, brilliant autumn colors, and a clear blue sky. They must have been profoundly thankful and, as William Bradford who chronicled the trip said, more than a little joyful. But the Mayflower captain found little time to celebrate, and his priority was clear: to get the passengers to their destination and ashore as quickly as possible. So they sailed south toward the mouth of the Hudson. Initially, things went very well. They were on an easy “reach” — sailor’s language for a gentle and steady wind coming over the side of the ship — and the passengers were crowded on the now sun-filled upper deck of the Mayflower, taking in views of the new world. However, as they moved beyond the “elbow” of Cape Cod, near today’s Chatham, Massachusetts, they encountered a new set of challenges. Sailing amidst roaring breakers, the water depth dropped dramatically as did the wind, leaving the Mayflower vulnerable to the shoals of what is known as Pollock Rip. The Boston Cruising Guide still warns today’s sailors that the Rip can “generate conditions that range from merely disorienting to completely treacherous,” and Philbrick reports that half of all the ships that wrecked along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States are believed to have gone down in this same area. Just when it seemed that the Mayflower might share a similar fate, the wind shifted, coming from the South, and it strengthened. The decision was made to turn the ship north and let the wind drive them to the coast of New England where they ultimately established the settlement in Plymouth. The rest, as they say, is history. Now what lessons does this 17th century saga hold for us in these early days of the 21st century? While I recognize that the passengers on the Mayflower were hardly models of perfection, and I know that their descendents did things that were downright shameful, I believe that they continue to offer us important lessons on living. Theirs is certainly a story of human courage. Years after the ordeal of crossing the Atlantic, William Bradford observed, “all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties and must be overcome with answerable courages.” For Bradford and the other passengers on the Mayflower, they knew that there would be risk in the crossing and in the establishment of a settlement. They all knew – just as those who set off for destinations like Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago, or Canterbury knew – that the pilgrim path was marked with discouragements and danger. Indeed, John Ure, in his book Pilgrimages, notes that for a pilgrim to leave home was to enter a world full of hidden dangers, some real, like robbers and wolves, and some imagined, like demons and dragons. The passengers on the Mayflower understood this and faced it with courage. “They knew,” wrote Bradford, that “they were pilgrims.” The Pilgrim story is not only a story of courage; it is a story of perseverance. As rough as the voyage of the Mayflower was, it is even more amazing when you consider that it came after two false starts. The initial plan had called for two companion ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell, to cross the Atlantic together. The Speedwell, however, had been rigged for the voyage with extra large masts, which resulted in leaks in the hull that debilitated the vessel. Twice the Mayflower and the Speedwell had set out together only to return to port. On the first occasion, they left Southampton and got as far as the Isle of Wright before having to return to port in Dartmouth. On the second occasion, they got 200 miles west of the southwestern-most tip of England, at Land’s End, before having to return to port in Plymouth, England. It was after that second failed attempt to cross with the Speedwell that the decision was made to load all the passengers on the Mayflower and cross the Atlantic in a single vessel. The Pilgrim story is also a story of discernment. Discernment is, in part, a matter of making decisions. But in the Christian tradition, it also carries the quality of determining God’s will in one’s life. When the Pilgrims decided to press on after two failed starts in overcrowded conditions, knowing full well that it meant that they would encounter more turbulent seas, they did so through a process of discernment. When they decided to wait out the gales in the Atlantic, it was through a process of discernment. And, when they decided to discontinue their voyage south in the face of shifting winds and the treacherous waters of Pollock Rip, they did so through a process of discernment. The Pilgrims discerned, in other words, when to push ahead when common sense said to turn back, when to furl the sails and wait, and when to change directions, letting the wind push them along to their ultimate destination.
The lesson of the Pilgrim journey is that life often demands courage, perseverance, and discernment. The lesson we can all find in the Pilgrim experience is that those challenges – the “headwinds” and “shoals” of life – should be confronted with courage, perseverance, and discernment. The Pilgrim experience also gives us clues about the sources of these qualities. Their courage, their willingness to persevere, and their ability to discern stemmed from deeply held convictions, enduring bonds to one another, and an abiding belief in God’s active presence in their lives. I urge you to never lose your deeply held convictions, to find fellow travelers who you can trust and who will affirm you, and to constantly nourish your faith in God. Do not fear or flee from the challenges ahead of you. The world needs you. Have courage! Persevere! Discern what is right and good! To me, this is what it means to have a “Pilgrim’s mind.” Godspeed fellow pilgrims!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Our 14th Great Grandparents, The Tudors and the Isle of Mann

Our 14th Great Grandfather, Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, Lord of the Isle of Mann

From the
Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
I'm up to my neck with this, that and the other this summer, which is why you'll find my postings in the history blog slightly sporadic. This is the summer camp season and we have space campers coming and going all week long at the Space Education Center. There's money to be made in summer camps and this is the time we take in the biggest part of our yearly budget.

So, with the unnecessary apology delivered we plunge forward with more on our family's history.
Tonight in our digital family reunion we learn a bit about our 14th Great Grandparents, Thomas Stanley and Anne Hastings.

Let's start with Great Grandmother Anne. Did you know she was the youngest of Queen Catherine of Aragon's Ladies in Waiting? Think of that, our Great Grandmother waiting on Henry VIII's first wife morning, noon and night. With her through her trials and tribulations as Henry VIII took her through the divorce that created the Church of England. Imagine what she saw and heard during those times.

Henry VIII's First Wife, Catherine of Aragon

I enjoy history and to think we had ancestors right in the thick of one of history's turning points is amazing.
Anne Hastings was the daughter of Edward, 2nd baron Hastings (November 25, 1466-November 8, 1506) and Mary Hungerford (c.1468-July 10, 1533). Anne was married to John Radcliffe, Lord Fitzwalter (1442-1496) as a child. In 1507, she married Thomas Stanley, 2nd earl of Derby (1485-May 23, 1521) and was the mother of Edward, 3rd earl (May 10,1508-October 24,1572), John, Anne, Margaret (d. January 1534), Henry (d. June 29, 1528), James, George, Thomas (c.1515-1538), and Jane.
Our 14 Great Grandfather,Thomas Stanley was the 2nd Earl of Derby (1477 – 23 May 1521). He was also was an English peer. Thomas succeeded his grandfather in the earldom and barony of Stanley in 1504, and in 1514, he also inherited the baronies of Strange and Mohun from his mother. He married Anne Hastings—daughter of Edward Hastings, 2nd Baron Hastings—in about 1507. Thomas died in May 1521 and was succeeded in his titles by his son Edward. His line of the Stanley family failed on the death of James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby in 1736, when the earldom passed on to a descendant of his younger brother, Sir James Stanley, who founded the branch of the family known as the "Stanleys of Bickerstaffe."

The Isle of Mann, population 80,000. Capital City - Douglas

Thomas Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby, was also Lord of the Isle of Mann, which sits between Ireland and England. He did not take the style 'King' as had his predecessors. He and his successors were generally known instead as 'Lord of Mann'.
In 1765 the title was revested in the Crown of the United Kingdom, thus today the title 'Lord of Mann' is used by Queen Elizabeth II.

The United Kingdom is responsible for the island's defence and ultimately for good governance, and for representing the island in international forums, while the island's own parliament and government have competence over all domestic matters.

Isle of Mann's Coat of Arms

The island's parliament is Tynwald, which dates from at least AD 979 and is the oldest continuously existing ruling body in the world.[28] Tynwald is a bicameral legislature, comprising the House of Keys (directly elected by universal suffrage) and the Legislative Council (consisting of indirectly elected and ex-officio members). These two bodies meet together in joint session as Tynwald.

Isle of Mann's Flag

The executive branch of government is the Council of Ministers, which is composed of members of Tynwald. It is headed by the Chief Minister, currently Tony Brown MHK. The Council of Ministers comprises the greater part of the House of Keys.
Vice-regal functions of the Head of State are performed by a Lieutenant Governor.

Relationship Chart

Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby and Lord of Mann (1477 - 1521) married Anne Hastings (1485-1550)

Dorothy Howard married Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby

Jane Stanley married Edward Sutton, Baron of Dudley
Edward Sutton married Elizabeth Tomlinson
Ann Sutton married John Bagley
Edward Bagley married Ann Gregorie
Ann Bagley married William Brinton
John Willis married Ester Brinton
Henry Willis married Mary Rachel Underwood
John Willis - Phebe Bennett
Bennett Willis - Katherine Nosseman
Jonathan Willis - Anabella Phlegar
Margaret Ann Willis - George Matthew Williamson
William J. Williamson - Effie Helen Victor
Vennie, Ima Della, Inez, Lillie Ethel, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles, Maurice.
Charles and Luella (my parents)

The Anthem of the Isle of Mann

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Memories from Jefferson Elementary School, Rapid City, South Dakota. 1965.

Victor, just before starting 2nd grade at Jefferson Elementary.
It a pre Penny smile you see.

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
Thank you to everyone for the many kind birthday greetings sent to brighten my day. Well, if the next 52 years goes by as quickly as the first, I'll be an afterthought faster than the time it will take for the rest of that thick forest of hair I once had to fall out!

One of my objectives for this blog is to record our family's history. That history includes the time we spent growing up in Rapid City, South Dakota.

I loved Rapid City. I love Rapid City. I enjoyed all three of the neighborhoods we lived in. I enjoyed my many years in the city's public schools - except second grade. Second grade taught me one important life lesson - not everyone has your back.

I spent second grade at Jefferson Elementary School in Rapid City, located at the bottom of Signal Heights, the hill our modest duplex sat atop. Second grade was challenging for three reasons:
  • My teacher Miss May. Young, inexperienced, and a true suffragette.
  • Penny - the girl all second grade boys hated the most.
  • Mr. Arnold - the Principal and secret National Socialist.
Our classroom was located across the hall and down one room from Mr. Arnold's office. Our principal, Mr. Arnold, believed in strict discipline. If you broke the rules you paid the ultimate price - a trip to his office where the paddle awaited. Yes it was a simpler time in the early 1960's. Children didn't run wild through the school's like they do now. In those days the adults that were in charge. Today, it's the kids. We've gotten to the point where adults are terrified of even looking at a child wrong. What a miserable state of affairs we've created.

From my desk in the second grade I could see out the door into the hallway leading to the school's office. I witnessed the face of many a wayward student walking that long dreadful corridor. Their steps were slow as they passed our room. Occasionally the soon to be paddled child would glance into our classroom as he passed. I remember their faces and expressions. I remember their eyes dark and hanging with desperation and despair.

If my teacher, Miss May, caught us looking into the hall she would snap her fingers to draw us back to our coloring. Then I would wait. It never took long before the paddling commenced.

"I won't do it again! I won't! Whack, Whack, Whack, Whack!" The sound of the board against the child's backside resonated through the hallway followed by the crying and yes, sometimes screaming. At which point Miss May would get up from her desk and walk slowly toward the classroom's door looking at each of us along the way. She always wore a slight smile on occasions like this.

"You see children," she would say putting her hands together as if in prayer, "If you misbehave you'll visit Mr. Arnold. Listen, do you hear that boy crying? Which of you will be next?"
At that point in her speech she would stop and survey the room. You felt her mind probing yours. She was searching for anything that would deliver you to her. Any lie, any cheating, any tripping or spitting - any misbehavior would doom you to her first and then Mr. Arnold. I really believed she had the power to look into my soul so I did my best to think about something else instead of my multiple transgressions. Her probing eyes instinctively paused on mine. She knew I had the black heart of a mischievous second grader disguised by a sweet smile and round pleasant eyes. She knew one day I'd break and confess all.

Miss May always stopped just before closing the classroom door to take one last glance around the room to reinforce her joy at the thought of feeding one of us to the lions. That's when she'd reveal with her eyes the boy most in danger. It was always the poor wretched child last looked at as the door closed.

The girls in my second grade class loved Miss May. She never looked at them; she never scolded them. The girls enjoyed the loathing she demonstrated for boys. They enjoyed the terror her looks and pauses inflicted on us. As a youngster I imagined she was a master of disguise. On the outside she had the appearance of a young school mistress without guile. On the inside my mind saw something else; the most horrible thing a second grader in 1965 could think of - the green wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz. I'd look at her fingernails for traces of green whenever I had occasion to visit her desk. A trip I, and every other boy, avoided with the same trepidation as a trip to the school nurse for your shots.

Miss May's favorite student was my nemesis. Her name was Penny. Her face was splatter with brown freckles and the top of her head ablaze with red hair. Penny, the name to this day makes me shudder. To the unknowing classroom visitor, Penny looked like a little angel, but I knew better. I knew her by her other name - Despair. I never knew her last name. Perhaps she didn't have one. Nero didn't have a last name. Claudius didn't either. What about Jezebel?

Beside being an honor student, Penny's other vocation was my tormentor. For her it wasn't a job but a calling from the almighty. It was His way of punishing me for failing to wash behind my ears or tossing the vomitous green peas into the trash mother would heap on my plate at suppertime. God knew my sole was in jeopardy and sent Penny to stomp me into humble submission.

At recess Penny watched me like a hawk. It was her `Make Victor's life intolerable' time. Any girl that liked me would be was hunted down on the playground and pulled into Penny's group of cackling hens. After a few minutes the girl would emerge looking at me like I was a bloated dead cow oozing with pus.

I hated Penny - or as close to hate as a second grader can come. I would have sold my soul to the devil just to see Penny marched off to Mr. Arnold's office. Those few minutes of her on the receiving end of a good paddling would make eternity's flames worth it. Her cries, paired with Miss May's look of horror, would be candy to my eyes and ears. The first whack would bring every boy in the second grade to his feet cheering.

The uncontrolled enthusiasm caused by Penny's paddling would transform from cheering into rioting - starting with the the breaking of crayons and the toppling of desks. Teachers would surrender their classrooms under the barrage of globs of finger paint. Anarchy would reign in the second grade at Jefferson Elementary School, Rapid City South Dakota -

until Mr. Arnold opened the door.

To Be Continued.............


Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Family Tale of Simpler Times. Our Life in a Western Town.

The Williamson Home 1960 - 1988

From the Fortress of Solitude,
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
I had many things to fear during my childhood on the hills and prairies of western South Dakota. Just off the top of my head I can list rattle snakes with four inch fangs capable of lashing out at least twelve feet. A young'un like me also had to be watchful of crows the size of eagles with appetites for human eyeballs. One had to be on the look out for Buffalo stampedes, or marauding Indians looking for another pale face to scalp in revenge for breaking the treaty and taking the Black Hills away from them in the 1870's. Your age didn't matter, as long as you could read and write (making you an accomplice in the crime).

A Woodcarving taken from The Rapid City Journal of the Cottonwood Lane Ambush, September 13, 1966.
I nearly lost my scalp while walking home from Canyon Lake Elementary School. We all lived to tell the tale. It was a Narrow Escape.

Another thing I feared was getting caught in a sudden blizzard and freezing to death on the open plains while trudging through waist deep snow on my way to our one room school house heated by a single coal stove. There is also the dangers of dusty roads. Several times I was nearly run over by the daily stagecoach arriving from Deadwood. Oh, and prairie dentistry - the most feared thing of all. Best to just die of an infected tooth then let one of those barbers and part time dentists have at your mouth.


Getting beat up by my older (and meaner) sister Kim was a more domestic fear. She was one heavy drinkin, tobacco chewing, card playing, sharp shooten sixth grader picking on her younger and meeker brother. She was vicious but could be counted on to keep meat on the table. If it wasn't a deer picked off with her Winchester at 100 yards it could be the neighbor's dog. We didn't ask questions, just kept several bottles of ketchup on hand.


Having to deal with my younger brother Kevin's violent temper was another. I could push him only so far before he snapped. And when you heard that POP, followed by a wild look in his eyes, the only safe and logical thing to do was to run for dear life because he wouldn't stop pursuing you until you were bloody and unconscious. I could protect myself by wrestling him down to the floor and hold him there, but that plan had its flaws. At some point you’d have to let him go, and when you did, you’d better be quick. You needed to get into the bathroom and lock the door before a flying knife or Tonka Truck struck you in the back of the head. He had a good arm and could nail a squirrel at 50 paces.

Rapid City was a town of 40,000 unique individuals. The grassy prairie stretched out from Rapid City like an endless ocean to the east and the majestic Ponderosa Pine covered Black Hills rose upwards from the city to the west. My home town was the bright spot of civilization for half the state. We had a hospital. We had three movie theaters (each with one screen). We had a Red Owl, Piggly Wiggly and Safeway grocery stores. We had the Chuck Wagon Restaurant with its famous Friday Night Fish Fry.

We thought we’d hit the big league when Kmart opened a store in the early 1970's at the Northgate Shopping Center. Imagine Rapid City with its very own Kmart! Now we could buy things at a discount. I loved the Kmart. The Blue Light Specials fascinated me. They just never had a special in the toy department. It was always linen or house wares of ladies underwear of something silly.

I was asked once if we feared an Indian uprising. After all, during my high school years the Indians became militant and took over the courthouse at Hill City, a little mining town thirty minutes or so outside of Rapid City. They eventually burned the courthouse down, broke a few windows, and made a real nuisance of themselves. For the most part, most Dakota Sioux lived on their reservations. The ones in town kept to themselves.

We were raised Mormon, my parents having been baptized early in their marriage. I learned what being a minority meant in a town with a Lutheran church on every corner. There were occasions when the Pentecostals would come after us and warn us hell was just one heart beat away, but for the most part we could handle ourselves in any religious debate. I liked my Lutheran friends. They just couldn't be bothered looking for the differences between me and Them. They were saved by grace and felt sorry for me, with my list of do's and don'ts Mormons must life by.

Luella Mae

The one real thing the eight of us commonly feared was a lose tooth. You never wanted my mother to see you working on a lose baby tooth because if you did, the most unimaginable torture awaited. My mother was raised on a Montana ranch. She was the daughter of proud Swedes and stubborn English/Scots. She laughed at pain, especially having delivered 8 children. Her motto was, "Whatever was good enough for me is good enough for you!". If her loose teeth were pulled by a string and a few good yanks - then so should ours.

My mother specialized in capturing us unexpectedly. It was usually just as you left the bathroom. She'd catch hold of you, pin you to the ground, lasso your lose tooth with a bit of yarn or sting and then start the agonizing one, two or three mighty yanks required to capture that baby tooth. My teeth surrendered easily, flying out of my mouth on the first or second pull. Some of my siblings weren't as lucky. Many lost a section of jawbone when mother was forced into a fourth pull. To this day I still remember the screaming. Of course in those days, the days of the Wild West, children were the property of their parents. Our law was busy enough capturing bank robbers and cattle rustlers, there wasn't enough time in the day to check up on a young boy who's attitude was readjusted by his father's boot up his backside on aisle 6 at the Kmart.

My memory also recalls another clever use of string and door knobs in the removal of loose teeth. Luella Mae would tie a string around your lose tooth and attache the other end to a door knob. You sat in a chair near the door. She’d stand by the open door and count down to zero. At zero she'd slam the door. The motivated tooth flew across the room, just barely ahead of the blood curdling screams following.

Yes my friends, let this picture reminder you of what our lives were like in the pre electronic days. We celebrate all who survived the tooth on the string application of mom’s love. We grew up tougher for it.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Charles and Luella Celebrate their 54th Wedding Anniversary

Luella and Charles. 1956 and 2010
After 54 Years, They're Still Talking to Each Other!
Click to Enlarge

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Fifty four years ago Charles Williamson married Luella Mattson in Spearfish, South Dakota at the Methodist Church.

They celebrated the event by having a quiet night at home. Luella sat in their living room with her television on in the background to keep her company in between phone calls.

Charles sat in his "study" watching his television. Their opposite taste in television keeps them apart most evenings. Charles is a news, history and documentary fan. Mother watches "Dancing with the Stars...." . Need I say more.

I decided to take a few pictures to help them celebrate the occasion. Mother quickly ended an overlong long phone call, happy I was willing to document the event.
"Get your father. He's in his room," she ordered.
I walked down the hallway and told Charles his presence was required for photographs. I knew his next question would be a request for the reason.
"For your anniversary," I said to answer his question before it was asked. Charles and Luella met each other in the hallway.
"Let's go out to the gazebo," Luella suggested.
"Should we go out the door?" Charles asked. He seemed confused. Their front door was further away than the sliding patio door.
"Well, we could go out the sliding door," Luella said.
"Why should we go out the patio door?" Charles questioned.
"I guess we can go out any door we'd like," Luella said. I stood in the hallway beside them amazed they were having a conversation at all about which door to use to go out to the gazebo.

Luella took the lead and led Charles out through the sliding glass patio door. Charles was still in his WalMart clothes. His name tag proudly introduced him to Walmart's customers as "Charlie".

Ma and Pa Williamson on the Homestead in Pleasant Grove

Luella Insisted, They Puckered Up and Went for it.
Easy, Considering Neither of them had their teeth in.

Disturbing - yet Romantic, in an Antiques Roadshow Way

I took several pictures of the loving couple in the gazebo. Luella suggested I take a few more on their deck.

"The Donner Party is on TV," Charles protested. A special on the Donner party is like watching a special on the Titanic. We all know what happened. The ship sank and the Donners ate each other. Time to get over it and move on.

Ma and Pa Williamson on the Patio in their Wicker Chairs.
I'm tempted to sell the chairs. They're never used because of the lack
of an accessible

It was their anniversary and Charles humored his wife of 54 years by giving her a few more pictures sitting in their wicker chairs.

And that was that. I got my pictures and walked back to the school to get them posted. I'm in the thick of another Summer Space Camp. I left Charles and Luella in their separate rooms. Luella was dialing another number on her cell phone and Charles was safely tucked away in his room engrossed in a winter storm a long time ago.

Luella said they would be driving to Wendover tomorrow for a couple hours to celebrate.

Happy Anniversary Charles and Luella. May your steps never falter. May your teeth never slip. May you remember to turn off the stove so you don't burn down the house!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our 9th Great Grandfather, Hans Landis. A Mennonite Martyr

An Early Mennonite Preacher and his Wife

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Tonight we hold our virtual reunion inside the Fortress. We've got a powerful northwesterly wind blowing outside. There is no rain, just wind - and plenty of it.

Tonight we celebrate the sacrifice made by our 9th Great Grandfather, Hans Landis and introduce you to our ancestors from Switzerland. I'm please to find Swiss blood in my veins. I love Switzerland and wished my travels through Europe would have permitted more time spent in the beautiful Alps.

Hans Landis was a Swiss Brethren, an Anabaptists (Mennonites). He was beheaded for his religious convictions in Switzerland.

Mennonites Today

Let's begin with the Relationship Chart:

9th Great Grandparents.

Hans Landis b. 1578. d. September 29, 1614 married Elizabeth Erzinger b. 1582 in Zurich Switzerland. d. October 16, 1593. Zurich.
Jacob Landis married Barbara Buehler
Johannes Landis married Margaretha Nassen
Elizabeth Landis married Heinrich Henry Mohler
Salome Mohler married Martin Keller
Susanna Keller married Abraham Fiddler
Henry Fiddler married Frances George
Eldora Elizabeth Fiddler married Edwin Sherman Pierce
Walter Edwin Pierce married Vesta Althea Dennis
Violet Mae Pierce married Walter Albert Mattson
Luella Mae Mattson married Charles Williamson

And now, the life of this true Christian Martyr.


Hans Landis, our 9th Great Grandfather was a Swiss Brethren martyr, a preacher from Wadenswil in the canton of Zürich, Switzerland, was imprisoned in the Wellenberg in 1608. After a few months his fellow prisoners managed to release him from the chains, and all escaped. The others were soon captured, but Hans reached his native village. The Swiss government made another attempt to indoctrinate the Anabaptists (Mennonites) to win them to the state church. On 21 January 1613 the first meeting of the government with them took place at Wadenswil. It was fruitless, as was also the second one, held on 23 February. Thereupon Hans Landis was arrested and put in prison with five other Brethren. In early August negotiations were begun. Landis remained "stiff-necked." He refused to emigrate, saying that the earth was the Lord's; no one had authority to send them away out of the country; they were going to stay in Switzerland.

On 25 August 1613 all six Brethren were condemned to galley service and were to be delivered to the French minister at Solothurn on the next day. Once more they were given permission to emigrate, with a week's time to decide. Three wavered and consented; the others encouraged Landis to be faithful. These three (Hans Landis, Galli Fuchs, and Stephan Zehender) were taken to Solothurn and lodged in prison to await transport. In three days they escaped.

In December 1613 Hans Landis, having returned to minister to his flock, was again seized. In prison he wrote to his church and his friends. He asked his wife for the Doms-büchli (the Confessio of the martyr Thomas von Imbroich). He was questioned on the rack. On 29 September 1614 he was sentenced to death and was beheaded the next day. This was the last Anabaptist execution in Zürich.

Hans Landis had a stately figure, "a long black beard mixed with gray and a manly voice." The executioner asked his pardon for what he was about to do; Landis replied that "he had already forgiven him; may God also forgive him; he knew very well that he must carry out the government's orders." When his wife and children came to the place of execution with "sorrowful crying and mourning, to bid him at the end an eternal good night," he asked that they leave him, so that "his good resolution and his good courage for the death facing him might not be moved or hindered." In the Ausbund, No. 132, is a song of 46 stanzas commemorating his death. It begins "Ich hab ein schön neu Lied gemacht."

A letter written by a preacher of Zurich, dated July 19-29, 1659, describes the person and character of Hans Landis and the manner of his execution.
"Havavier Salr, was present at the decapitation of Hans Landis, which circumstance is still fresh in my memory, having witnessed it at the Wolfs-statt, and the whole transaction seems as vivid to me now as though it had transpired but a few weeks ago." In the sequel he describes his person and the manner of his death as follows: "Hans Landis was tall of stature, had a long black beard, a little gray, and a masculine voice. Being led out cheerfully with a rope, to Wolfs-statt the place of decollation, the executioner, Mr. Paul Volmar, let the rope fall, raised both hands to heaven, and said: O! God of mercy, to thee be it complained, that you, Hans have fallen into my hands: for God's sake forgive me for what I must do to you. Hans consoled the executioner, saying: I have already forgiven you, may God forgive you also: I am well aware that you must execute the sentence of the magistracy, be undismayed and see that nothing hinders you in this matter. Whereupon he was beheaded. The people were of the opinion that when the executioner let the rope go he wanted to give Hans an opportunity to escape; and moreover , it was a common saying that if he had run off no one would have pursued him."
The following, from credible witnesses may be added, namely;
that when the oft-mentioned Hans Landis was awaiting his doom at the place of execution, his wife and child came to him with tears and lamentation, to bid him a last farewell. But when he saw them he entreated them to depart, so that his resolution to meet his impending fate might not be shaken, and his tranquiltiy of mind disturbed by tears and sorrowing. This done, and having commended his soul to God, a stroke of the sword put a speedy termination to his life."
Although Hans Landis was the last person in that vicinity to be beheaded for religious convictions, persecutions did not cease with his death.

The Anabaptists were followers of Menno Simon and are commonly called Mennonites. Their tenets include the eschewing of infant baptism, refusal to take oaths, bear arms, or to fill civil offices, and the practice of humility. This constituted a challenge to the thinking of church-dominated governments and naturally called for suppression, in the exercise of which thousands lost their lives and liberty.

The farmers on the isolated hillsides along the western shore of Lake Zurich, including our Landis ancestors, were long a thorn in the side of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. They resisted the Reformed Church, the state Church of Switzerland. Finally when the residents refused to honor a property tax increase to pay for strengthening military forces in the canton, a massive military sweep was conducted in the mid 1640s. Residents were fined and imprisoned. The state also confiscated many of the farms. The revenue from these farms was held in trust to pay costs of imprisonment. Any residue was to be given back to heirs if they agreed to join the state church.

By mid-century most of the resources of the Anabaptists had been seized. Their leaders were either dead or imprisoned and emigration seemed the only recourse. It soon began on a massive scale and it is estimated that nearly 1700 Anabaptists fled Zurich after 1649.

Most of the descendants of Hans Landis, the martyr, died in prison or from harrassment by the authorities. Several of his grandchildren managed to immigrate from Switzerland and went to Alsace, paralleling the Rhine River, and at that time a part of Germany. Today Alsace is a part of France and that is why you sometimes see their heritage given erroneously as French.

This is a Anabaptist, Mennonite Hymn honoring our Great Grandfather and other martyrs.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Patriarchs and Matriarchs of our Extended Williamson Family.

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons Everywhere!
You'll recognize this photograph from our family reunion a few years ago. The people you see are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of our extended Williamson family. At that time, they were the only surviving grandchildren of William Jonathon and Effie Helen, our common Grandparents. They are first cousins to each other and represent living bridges to the family's past.
Sadly, Woody Williamson (pictured top row far right), son of Walt and Frances Williamson, past away earlier this year. Also recently lost, Shirley Williamson Hunt, daughter of Emmett Williamson.

There are now ten.

What amazed me at our last family reunion was my lack of knowledge concerning my Williamson cousins. I hardly knew anyone, as I'm sure was your experience if you attended.
I've tried to change that. This blog is the result. I'm hoping it has helped you understand our family's American Experience and given you a sense of pride in what we've accomplished over the many generations.

Tonight, I'd like to reintroduce you to the Wise Ones of our family. I've grouped them in a convenient way to help you understand how they are related to each other and to you (refer to the Relationship Charts).

I want to thank Pat and Corlis for their invaluable help in getting this post prepared. I hope I got it right. If not, I'm counting on you to let me know.





Mary Ann and Carol


Patricia and Gail


Charles, Kristine, William


Corlis and Paula

Monday, June 14, 2010

Please Watch and Remember. Embrace Life

Its not time to write about you in the past tense.
Embrace Life.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Williamson Mystery Event??? What and When Required

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons,
OK, we have a mystery that needs resolving. I found this series of pictures taken by one of my brothers and sisters (I can tell because of the poor, grainy shots) at a family event held in the late 1970's at the Catholic Church in Deadwood, South Dakota. I know my Williamson Aunts, Uncles and Cousins must have the answers so I'm relying on your memory to fill in the event and the names of the people in the photos. The pictures are numbered for reference. Oh, and if you have photos of this same event would you send them to me so I can post them to this post?

All help is appreciated.


Update. Pat and Corlis responded. The mystery event is identified as Walt and Frances' 50th wedding anniversary held in 1979 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Deadwood. Walt and Frances were married on July 20, 1929.

Photo 1. Great Aunt Frances in the Center

Photo 2. Great Uncle Walt standing next to the piano.

Photo 3. Great Aunt Josie walking in the background. Annette showing off her dress

Photo 4 - Frances is visiting with Marian Thompson and ? from Sundance, WY. Old friends from childhood.

Photo 5. Luella, Annette, Janice and Jilane sitting on the wall outside Deadwood's Courthouse.

Photo 6. Great Uncle Walt on the right

Photo 7. Great Aunt Frances Standing

Photo 8. Mother, Great Aunt Ethel

Photo 9. Annette, Luella and Janice

Photo 11. Annette
Photo 12 - Aunt Laura (Emmett's wife, sister-in-law to Frances Williamson) and Woody Williamson.

Photo 13. Janice

Photo 14. Luella (cut off), Jon and Lisa

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Charles Williamson Turned 74 Today. Born June 11, 1936 at 7:30 P.M.

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

It was a Happy Birthday Celebration at the Fortress tonight for one of Pleasant Grove's most distinguished citizens. Charles Williamson, a transplant from South Dakota, turned 74 today. He was born on June 11, 1936 at 7:30 P.M. at St. Joseph's Hospital in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Let's Start with a Happy Birthday Video to Grandpa Charlie on behalf of all of his grand and great grand children.

Now wasn't that sweet, and disturbing, at the same time.......?

Moving on...

To celebrate the event I decided to post a series of pictures of Dad's early childhood. Dad got home from work around 7:30 P.M. I waited with pictures and computer in hand. I asked him if he remembered anything about that day.
"1936 had the hottest summer on record," he said as he stood in the kitchen in his red bath robe. He'd just returned from a full day spent suffering '"fools and their offspring" at our local WalMart where he works in the Garden Center. He was preparing his first course of the evening, consisting of an assortment of lunch meat, and to wash it down, a half gallon of green tea. Luella sat in her easy chair restating the questions I was directing toward Dad thinking Dad wasn't understanding them.

"Are you going to sit down so Victor can ask you about these pictures?" she asked for the fourth time.
"I won't if you ask that question one more time," he said to his wife of over fifty years. I sat on the green leather sofa near the picture window and waited. I had two things to accomplish and it was getting late (which is after 9:00 P.M. for me). First, get dad to talk about his birthday and secondly, have a nice helping of strawberry short cake (a favorite of dad's - just for his birthday. Mom spared no expense).

Dad finally sat down and began working on the lunch meat. Mother got up to prepare his second course. Something you don't see too often. You see, Mother doesn't cook anymore. I think she stopped when the microwave oven was invented. For birthdays she'll make exceptions. For tonight's birthday dinner she prepared Dad's favorite, a microwaved meat loaf and mashed potatoes TV dinner served with a spoon.
"How am I suppose to eat this with a spoon?" he questioned.
"The meat loaf was a bit runny," she replied. Her response seemed logical yet gross at the same time.
"You're suppose to eat meat with a fork," dad reminded her of another basic fact of life she'd obviously forgotten. Again, I sat on the sofa waiting for his recollections and my helping of shortcake.
"Are you ready to answer his questions?" she shot back.
"Not if you ask me that one more time," he responded. I sighed.

To ease dad into a conversation I thought of saying something about Walmart. He loves to talk about Walmart. It is his one true weakness.
"I stopped at the new WinCo in Orem to check out their grocery prices," I said. The room grew quiet.
"Cheap?" mother asked.
"Cheaper than WalMart," I replied. Mother seemed fascinated. I could tell WinCo would become another one of her daily stops in her attempt to fill her days with mini field trips. Mother has a routine she sticks to religiously. Its up, complete a word puzzle or two, watch CPAN (God only knows why) and then its off to WalMart for a stroll and some shopping for the evening's microwaved delights. Winco would be added as another stop on her grand tour of the shops in her never ending quest for a penny off here and a nickel off there.

"Where is it?" she asked. I explained. She got confused. Dad explained, which made the confusion worse. I jumped in and gave her its exact position in relation to the two Walmarts and the one Target we have nearby, thus creating a triangle - necessary for geographical locations.
"Are you only going to shop there from now on?" she asked after getting its location firmly planted in her memory.
"Walmart does price matching so if I can get Walmart to price match then maybe not. Winco's one drawback is they won't take credit cards."

From that point the discussion turned to the stupidity of WalMart for not asking for proof of competitor's pricing at the check out when seeking a price match.
"All you have to do is tell the cashier that the item in your cart sells for this price at another store. You don't have to prove anything! Yesterday one woman got $300 worth of groceries for $80 bucks!" Dad stated while folding another slice of lunch meat. "Today a woman told me she could buy our $200 swing set for $39 dollars elsewhere. I told her bologna and wouldn't match the price," he said shaking his head at how ridiculous it had become.

Mom saw me yawning. "Talk to him about those pictures. He needs to get to bed."

At that point, our discussion about the pictures began.

"So, what do we say about your birthday?" I asked again.

"Let's just say he was born," mother answered for him. "They went on a lot of picnics," mom remembered. Once again, something very random, but I'm used to that.

Dad was raised near his Williamson and Vercellino relatives. They had spontaneous picnics in the afternoons when the men would come home from work. Dad's dad and his brothers would come home from work and announce it was a picnic day and everyone was to bring whatever was quick and available to eat. These afternoon picnics consisted of Walt and Francis, Morris and Josie, Charlie and Elda and their children.

I typed as I enjoyed my anxiously awaited strawberry shortcake. We finally got to the photographs. Here they are so enjoy and please appreciated the time and effort it took to get them captioned...... :)


Grandpa Charles holding Charles. The picture was taken in their front yard.

Charles is 22 months old in this picture. That wasn't their car in the background. They didn't own a car until dad was six years old. The car belonged to Uncle Ed (Elda's brother). It was his Model A.

Charles is 20 months in this picture. The Texaco Station in the background. The steps in the background lead up to a house. Everyone walked in those days, not many had cars. It was the Great Depression. In those days Highway 85 (the road in front of Dad's house) was the longest highway in the United States. It stretched from Canada to Mexico.

Charles is 18 months old in this picture. He remembers his dad got mad at Grandma for sticking her hand out to keep him from falling. What a memory!

Grandpa Charles holding his first born son, Charles is 24 months old. Grandpa Charles was 30 years old when the picture was taken. He was on his way to work. In those days everyone went home for lunch. All stores closed at noon for lunch. The Homestake Mine blew the whistle and the mine stopped for lunch. Another whistle blew at 3:30 P.M. to call the end of the first shift. If two whistles blew there was a baseball game. If the whistle blew any other time there was an accident.

Charles is standing at a pump. It was the water pump the Pascoe's got their water from before they had plumbing in Lead. Charles is 16 months old.

Charles again at 16 months old.

Charles is 16 months old in this picture. The Texaco Gas Station and Lead Auto Body is behind him. The owners of the station lived behind the station. Dad lived next to the station. Dad is wearing a painter's cap from the Hearst Mercantile, it was the first WalMart, so to speak. It sold just about everything - a general Dept. Store. Grandpa Charles was a sales clerk for the Mercantile.

Charles is 15 months old in this picture sitting on his front porch.

Charles is 15 months old in this picture.

Charles standing in his Grandmother Marie Vercellino's front yard (Elda's mother). Dad is 16 months old. Great Grandmother Marie died of stroke three weeks after this picture was taken while sweeping her front porch.

Charles is sitting on Jessie lap. Jessie was a friend of Elda's. They lived in Hot Springs and came visiting from time to time. They owned the Coast to Coast Hardware Store.

Charles standing in the Pascoe's front yard (didn't have much of a yard). The Round House is the large brick building in the background. It is a nice restaurant in Lead today. There is a Arco Grocery Store today where Charles is standing.

Charles at 1 years old standing outside his home in Lead.

In this picture Charles is standing with his mother Elda and Uncle Ed. Uncle Ed didn't visit that often.