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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Luella's Great Memorial Day Potato Salad. A Simple Story

Luella Adding the Secret Ingredient - 
A Grandmother's Love

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

The Queen Mother was up before the Sun contemplating her contribution to the Williamson Memorial Day Gathering at my sister's home in Highland this afternoon.  She mentally nodded her way through every step in the creation of her culinary masterpiece, the one dish we all line up for at all important family gatherings. At the "Amen's" sound, elbows start flying and 'not very nice' words are spoken as we all jostle, push and shove our way to the front of the line just to get a few precious spoonfuls of the one and only food the Greek Gods have added to their Olympian menu in the last 3000 years.
Yes, I'm talking about Luella's "Une grande salade de pommes de terre, le cornichon et oignon, assaisonné d'un amour de la mère".

My important contribution to this endeavor started at 7:00 A.M.  I drove to Timp Cave in American Fork Canyon and hiked up the mountain to the cave opening just so I could be mentally and physically prepared for the official 'tasting' which I knew I would be called upon to do later in the day.  After hiking the cave trail, I drove to WalMart to purchase a few other things for the picnic.  I knew Luella would be too focused on the cooking to remember that each family had to bring their own meat for barbecuing.  I wanted to spare her from the tasks any simpleton could do.  My help with the simple tasks would free her to focus all her physical and mental energies on the skilled cookmanship necessary to create a salad so tasty and pure, word has it that it has been added to the short list of recipes scheduled to be included in the National Register of Historic Dishes.

On the way home my cell phone rang.  
"Victor, where are you?" she questioned.  In her voice I could hear sweat dripping down her wrinkled face and pooling into the seasoned potatoes below.  
"On my way home," I replied.
"What do you need?"
"Oh, I forgot to get a graduation card for Abrea."

I wanted to say "tough luck, I'm not going back," but my conscious got the best of me.  I remembered that my job for the day was to do the simple tasks.  Allowing her to get distracted, even for the slightest of moments, could cause a disaster of nuclear proportions in the mixing and blending of ingredients.

"Don't you worry and hang up right now. I'm all over this!" I said in my teacher's voice.  I closed my flip phone, put on the Battlestar's emergency flashers, sounded my horn and executed a perfect U turn on State Street.  It was a sight to behold.  

Abrea's card was purchased.  All was well.  

The Salad being transferred to a smaller bowl.  Later to be picked up by a Wells Fargo Armored Van and Taken to the Family Gathering

The Grand Lady Herself at the Completion of her Day's Work

Early this afternoon my home phone rang.  Luella was well into the fourth hour of cooking.  I knew I was about to be called upon to perform my one duty - the official tasting of eternal bliss.  I stood up to take the call.  
"Yes," my voice carried the importance of my mission.
"Its ready," she said in a voice as serious as a heart attack.  
"I'm coming."  

I put the phone down, walked into the kitchen, drank a glass of water to clean my palate, walked around the pool table to get my heart rate up and made the trek to Her Majesty's apartment.  She was waiting as I entered.  She held in her hand a crystal bowl etched with roses.  The potato salad glowed yellow and white against the glass.  I looked longingly at the chunks of potato swimming in a sea of mayonnaise, dill, pickle and a variety of onion.  The smell startled my nose, nearly forcing a sneeze.  I took the bowl by both hands, bowed once, took the spoon and partook of something so delightful, there are no words found to describe the taste.  Not even the great Stratford Bard himself could describe the miracle that is Luella's Potato Salad. 

"Be honest, what do I need to add?" she asked.  I thought for a moment while I savored every morsel still left between my teeth and under my tongue.  
"Yes," her eyes widen with anticipation.
"Perhaps a bit more pickle juice."  
"Yes, just what I was thinking."  She took a jar from the counter and bathed the top of the salad with just enough juice to cause it to slightly gurgle.  
"Its ready," she whispered.
"Yes, its ready."  I agreed.
She blew out the candles, put away the crucifix and opened the curtains.  She lifted the bowl of salad high over her head and announce her accomplishment. 
"Today we mortals eat like Gods.  Prepare Ye Williamsons for an infusion of light and joy."  She put the bowl back down on the kitchen table and held out her hand.  She was weak and in need of rest.  I helped her to her recliner and fetched a large glass of ice cold water to soothe her parched throat.

It is nearly 3:00 P.M.  It is time for the gathering.  
There is sorrow in our hearts for our family members not with us today.    


P.S.  One reason why I never watch her make the salad.  Things tend to get messy.



The Many Moves of the William Jonathan Williamson Family

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons,
The story of the Williamson family begins in England.  Our first Williamson ancestors crossed the Atlantic in the 1600's and settled just outside Jamestown.  From there, our Williamsons moved to the Lynchburg region of central Virginia.  There our GG Grandfather George Matthew Williamson was born.  He married Margaret Ann Willis and moved the family to Payson Illinois (1860 census).  From there the family moved to Salt River, Missouri (1870 census).  The family moved once again, settling in Nodaway, Iowa (1880 census).  Sometime between 1880 and 1890 the Williamson family moved to South Dakota.  The 1890 census could have given us a better understanding of when and where, but the census was destroyed in a fire.

The 1900 census has our GG Grandparents George and Margaret living in Pennington County, South Dakota. The 1900 census also shows our 41 year old Great Grandfather William Jonathan and our Great Grandmother Effie Helen living on the Williamson Homestead in Pennington County, South Dakota.  William and Effie's firstborn, our Great Aunt Vennie, was born on the Williamson farm in South Dakota in 1888.  It was Dakota Territory at the time.  South Dakota wasn't made a state until 1889.

Our cousin Evelyn Skelton (Eppie) sent me two drawings of the old Williamson farm done by our Great Aunt Lillie Ethel.  Eppie is the Grandaughter of Great Aunt Josie.

 This was how the William Jonathan Williamson Homestead as it looked in 1902

The William Jonathan Williamson Homestead as it looked in 1910
Notice the house was enlarge for the growing Williamson family.
I wonder if the small house to the left of the main house may have been the home of
William Jonathan's parents, George and Margaret Williamson

William Jonathan Williamson and Effie Helen Victor had 9 children:  Vennie,  Ima Della, Inez, Lillie Ethel, Josie Elvery, Emmett, Walter, Charles and Morris.  All were born in South Dakota except for Morris. Some were born on the Williamson Homestead.  At least one, my Grandfather Charles, was born in Rapid City.

The Williamson Homestead was located on Townships 1-2N. Ranges 7-9E., Pennington, South Dakota.  The homestead sat between Exit 55 and Exit 59 on Interstate 90, just outside of Rapid City, South Dakota.  Today Rapid Chevrolet  and the Windmill Truck stop sit where the homestead once was.

The marker shows the where the Williamson Homestead was located right along 
Interstate 90.

This marker shows the current location of Rapid Chevrolet, built on the old Williamson
Homestead.  You see I90 to the north

The Williamson homestead was approx 160 acres, according to my father (Charlie Williamson) .  The land was free to homesteaders if you farmed it for five years.

Dad tells a story about the Williamson Homestead.  In 1959 Dad was a young surveyor for the South Dakota Highway Department.  He was surveying I90 just outside of Rapid City.
"I remember one day there was a man who stopped the survey and ran us off his land.  He told us he wasn't about to let the highway go through.  Said it would cut his ranch in two making it impossible for his cattle to get from one side to the other.  The Sheriff had to come out and calm him down.
The man asked me my name.  
"You're a Williamson!" He exclaimed. "My grandfather bought your grandfather's homestead!"

He told me his name was Ray Lang.  He said that the Langs and Williamsons were neighbors. The Langs bought the Williamson ranch when the Williamson gave up farming and moved to Rapid City.
The man told me that one day when he was three years old he was playing and fell into a water cistern.   "Your Great Aunt saved my life," the man said.  "I was drowning and your Aunt Della jumped in and pulled me out.  You can come onto my land anytime and go ahead and put your highway through."
Great Aunt Della's act of heroism made it possible to build Interstate 90 through that section of South Dakota without a lawsuit.

The Williamson abandoned the homestead sometime around 1909.  The red dirt was useless for farming.  They moved to 5th Street, Rapid City where my grandfather Charles was born.  They lived near the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral.  They once again tried their hand at farming.  Rapid City's Arrowhead Country Club sits today on the Williamson's second South Dakota farm.

Sometime before 1914 the William Jonathan Williamson family left Rapid City and bought a 600 acre farm in Sundance, Wyoming.  The farm was called Sugarloaf, named after the Sugarloaf Mountain with sits to the west of Sundance.  Eventually the Williamson farm was given to Inez and her husband Alfred Mauch.  William Jonathan gave up farming and opened the West Side Grocery Store and Filling Station in Sundance, Wyoming.

Error in this photograph above.  Left to Right, Great Grandfather William Jonathan Williamson, Leroy Lull and my Grandfather, Charles Williamson - not Gerald Blakeman.  Yep that's Grandpa Charlie furtherst to the right.

William Jonathan died in Sundance, Wyoming on December 14, 1934.  He was 76 years old.  Effie Helen died on April 9, 1944 in Spearfish, South Dakota.  She was 77 years old.