Ann Denman had married Dr. William Tell Parker who was from the southwestern part of Ohio, and gone there to live.  When he left for the gold mines of California she was left living with some of his relatives in New Richmond on the Ohio River about 20 miles above Cincinnati.  When Laura took the trip from her home in northeastern Ohio in 1850 or ‘51, it was a hazardous 300 miles by train from Sandusky to Cincinnati.  At age 20, Laura had never yet traveled so far or by train but the family was sure she would do just fine so her preparations were made.  As she wrote: “…in three weeks I was ready to start out into the world with my belongings, which consisted of two trucks, one handbox, one umbrella, one hand sachel, besides some smaller items.”

Her brother William drove her in a wagon the 25 miles from home to Sandusky City which was the nearest place to get a train.  When they got there they discovered that the train to Cincinnati wouldn’t leave until 6 PM, so William put Laura in the care of the hotel-keeper, asking him to make sure she got on the train.  Laura was left on her own to begin this great trip.  She was, however, approached by an old lady who asked where she was going and found her a nice young couple also going to Cincinnati to travel with.  The railroad that Laura traveled on was probably the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad.

Laura described the trip, which took overnight, in this way:  “The car, tho not as luxurious as the present day Pullman [she was writing in 1919], was provided with seats having iron head rests of the shape of a half circle within which you were supposed to rest your weary head while in the embrace of Morpheus.  This arrangement not being conducive to sleep, my fellow travelers and myself engaged in conversation and in the course of the night, which was a long one, we made the discovery that the gentleman had been raised in the same neighborhood in Ohio as myself until a boy of fourteen years when my father had bought his father’s farm and the Tucker family moved to Indiana and we had lost all trace of them.”

“This little episode helped to while away the weary hours of the night and at daybreak we arrived at the great city whose smoke laden air was almost stifling to one who had always been accustomed to breathing the pure fresh a2551141204_87afec08b8_oir of the country.  I was met at the depot by a brother of my sister’s husband who escorted me to a hotel and arranged for my stay until the riverboat for New Richmond should start up the river.  This was a new experience for me, –riding by steamboat on the Ohio River,—and one I greatly enjoyed.  Never shall I forget the fine scenery along its banks as there came into view the vine-clad hills laden with the great clusters of the purple fruit.  The waving grain and field of clover all spoke of the richness of the alluvial soil.”  This was in the fall of the year and I suspect that the purple fruit she sawview of Augusta was wild grapes, maybe riverbank grape.

Laura was met in New Richmond by a another young man who had been sent from the house where her sister was staying, to take her there.  Ann Denman Parker was staying at the home of the Donaldson family, while her husband was absent in California, presumably because Mrs. Donaldson was her sister-in-law.  The Donaldson house was described by Laura this way:  “..English mansion located far up on the hill overlooking the Ohio River, which at times was dotted with boats plying up and down on its placid waters.  The proprietor of this mansion had built in English style, –four square in its outer dimensions, partitioned into four large rooms with a spacious hall running the entire length of the building, while a wide staircase led to the upper rooms, one of which my sister occupied and where much of my time was spent the next four months in caring for her and her young son.”

Dr. Parker, husband of Laura’s sister Ann, was anxious to hear from his family often.  Ann was not strong enough to write, so it fell to Laura’s lot to carry on the correspondence.  I can picture her sitting at a small desk in her sister’s room, or maybe by the bed with a lapdesk, writing for her sister.  Perhaps Ann dictated and perhaps she only told Laura what she wanted to say and left it to the writer to put into words.  One specific that Laura described was the discussion that her sister and she (and likely the rest of the Donaldson family) had about the name to be given to the young son just born.  The final decision was to name him Frederic Donaldson Parker.  When Laura wrote to Dr. Parker that his son was named Frederic D. Parker he assumed it was for Frederic Douglass, “the great colored orator of the day”.  Laura doesn’t tell how she responded to this, but moved on to telling about the excitement over slavery running high in those days.

Soon after this, Laura’s mother sent word that she wanted them all to come home if Ann was able to travel, and “she would take her to Cleveland to a doctor who she thot could cure her.  Arrangements were hastily made and we set out on our journey.”  The kindness of the conductor and some men traveling in the car helped improvise a bed of sorts for Ann.  The men spread their overcoats on a seat to cushion it for her.  They were met at New London by their “mother and brother Charles who went on to Cleveland with Sister Parker while I took little Fred and went to my Father’s the with sister who had come for us.”  The treatment by the Cleveland doctor was very successful and by the end of 6 weeks Ann was able to return to her parents’ home and take up the care of her little son.  Laura was free to look for other employment.

As Laura described herself: “At home it was my one delight to get hold of a book or paper, both of which were limited in our family library.  … A bachelor uncle lived in our family and took great interest in the education of the children and he had noticed my eagerness for books and said to my father one day ‘John, you ought to get some books for Laura to read.  Don’t you see how she likes to read?’ [And her father replied] ‘Why, Thomas, there is “The Book of Martyrs” and “Josephus”.  She has never read them.  If she likes to read there is plenty of good reading in the Bible.’  The books at home slowly grew little by little and added fuel to Laura’s desire for learning.

Then, a new college was located a few miles distant from the Denman place and the “financial agents invaded the neighborhood in quest of signers for scholarships” which John Denman was persuaded to do.  This was the Oberlin Collegiate Institute which actually opened in late 1833, with 29 men and 15 women beginning classes.  These early students were expected to help build the institution with their own labor.  Despite this, the Institute was in financial straits and fund-raising went on as Laura described.

The scholarship arrangement meant that John Denman could send his older children for further education.  In 1907 Oberlin College made a concerted effort to locate all alumni so that accurate and compete inforDenman, Laura - Oberlin listingmation about them could be published in the about-to-be issued General Catalogue and Alumni Registry of Oberlin College 1833-1908.  In that publication there were 23 Denmans listed; 11 of them were John and Marinda Denman’s children (all but the two oldest sons, Edward and William, and son Charles who had died at age ten).

As Laura wrote: “My eldest sister was the first to receive the benefit of this arrangement and after spending one year there she gave place to the next sister who, after spending one year in the college, decided to go another year.  Then she with myself entered the college the next year.”  Laura’s ambitions were being gratified.  Laura and her sister “entered upon this year of study with great zest hoping to be able to complete the course and fit ourselves for the work of teaching school, which in those days, aside from housework, was the only occupation open to women.  But, alas! after five months of study we were both stricken down with typhoid fever and sent home to be cared for by our family.”  “This new school was of necessity very primitive in all its appointments.  The buildings were of the cheapest material, the furnishings limited to the merest necessities and the board supplied nutrition, tho severely plain in all its details…”

In those early days of the college, the vacations were the three winter months, as Laura explained: “This was planned in the interest of the students who spent their vacations in teaching in neighborhoods of the surrounding country.  Many young men who thus spent their vacations returned in the spring to resume their studies full of enthusiasm and well supplied with incidents of their experiences in their various locations.”  The students also brought back amusing stories from their boarding around with the various families of the pupils they taught.  Laura herself wrote of the differing treatment she got in boarding around, from bad and minimal food to “hospitality itself, nothing was too good and no effort too great that would add to the comfort and happiness to the weary one returning from the arduous duties of the schoolroom.”

Her older “sister having decided to enter the school of matrimony” Laura completed another year but then decided to leave school for a year or two and spend the time teaching.   “Teachers, be it known, were not as numerous in those days as at the present writing and yet the salaries of teachers were not commensurate with the demands, six dollars a month being considered the limit, and even then, such unheard of extravagance being admissible only upon the recommendation of one of the school board”.  Laura ended up taking a school for the winter that had been engaged for another who had become so discouraged that she gave it up after a few weeks.  Although with misgivings, Laura took the school on and soon found the source of the trouble.

“On entering the school room the first day, I was surrounded by an eager group of youngsters each anxious to inform me of the faults and failings of others, and all insisting it would be my imperative duty to whip Almeron McKinney, Miss Linton did, he wouldn’t mind her and she had to whip him.  And there, sitting quietly in his sear, this bad boy listened to the reports of his school mates, undoubtedly sizing up the new school teacher and deciding what course to pursue.”  Laura described that his boy was abused and neglected at home by a mother who idolized her daughter, and the last teacher “resorted to the rod to enforce her rules.”  She decided to try an entirely opposite course of action: to try to interest him in his studies, encouraging him to do his best.  “To the surprise of the whole school Almeron became  a faithful student and even surpassed some of the brighter ones in the final examinations.”  Laura’s conclusion to this story was that in future years she heard of this boy as having become an energetic and useful citizen in the town where he resided, and she from that time forward “always had a warm place in my heart for boys, and even boys whose early lives are so unpromising it seems useless to attempt the making of true men and desirable citizens of them.  The possibilities wrapped up in these youths are very great and only require right leading and right influences to cause them to develop into true genuine manhood.”

Laura was clearly very happy to head home to the farm at the end of that school year in the spring of 1850.  She described her pleasures in all the delights that awaited her: maple trees tapped for sugar making; early vegetables and flower beds being prepared; the orchard trees already budded and full of promise.  After spending a few months at home, Laura was the sister who was available to travel to southwestern Ohio where her sister Ann had a new son, was in ill-health, and her husband had gone to the gold mines of California.  It was during this time that Laura’s letter writing created a very favorable impression on the man she later married.  And that will introduce the next chapter of this memoir.

Research

My gorgeous magnolia and Cornell pink azalea

My gorgeous magnolia and Cornell pink azalea – Happy May!

* Figure out how to request information about possible records from St. Xavier in Cincinnati.
* Continue to work on updating the Denman database with information already collected and/or noted by cousin Claudia in her review. I already discovered a connection I hadn’t been aware of! A good example of fresh eyes being helpful.
* Start work on Boorman database I just started.

Organization
* The inboxes on my desktop are cleared! Three cheers!! Continuing the work listed above on the Denmans is also organizing files on my hard drive (and helping me establish a standard file naming process).
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found so far to automate this task don’t meet my needs However I just saw a review of another one, that looked worth investigating. There is always hope – in the meantime I must remember to do it by hand.

Education
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [Watched the Legacy Family Tree webinar by Judy G. Russell on “That First Trip to the Courthouse” which was very useful. Like many of us, I suspect, I feel tentative about researching in a Courthouse. I hope what Judy said will help me figure out what I might get from a Courthouse (and nowhere else) and then plan a trip.]

Judy and I continue on our holiday hiatus, but I decided to create and post my monthly to-do list anyway. I’m hoping it will help me get *something* done this month on my genealogy. Happy holidays to all!!

Research
* Write to Christ Church in Cincinnati to see if there are records there of Lucy and Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s marriage.
* Write to Ditchling church about possible archives and records for Denman family.
* Set up Salts database and add what I’m learning about the Tennessee Salts.

Organization
* Still trying to get that last inbox cleared – somehow there is always something more urgent (read: interesting) to do. Determined to do this over the holiday season. [I actually made a start the end of November and may have a brief post about this process at some point. I learned (finally put together) some things about how to do this process.]
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found to automate this task don’t meet my needs.

Education
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [I watched Mary Hill’s webinar on the Big 4 U.S. Record Sources which was very interesting. She did a case study to illustrate the uses of each kind of record and talked us through the analysis of the evidence.]
* Still looking for more sources of webinars – preferably free.

Research
* Write to Christ Church to see if there are records there of Lucy and Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s marriage.
* Write to Ditchling church about possible archives and records for Denman family.

Organization
* Still trying to get that last inbox cleared – somehow there is always something more urgent (read: interesting) to do. Determined to do this over the holiday season.
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found to automate this task don’t meet my needs.

Education
* Read book from the library about solving problems in family search.
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [I watched Marian Pierre-Louis’s webinar about intermediate solutions for brick walls. Excellent and I took away several suggestions along with the book noted above. I also watched the webinar at RootsMagic about creating a source for the 1940 census. Now I just need to do it.]
* Find a new webinar site that archives and/or puts up free webinars [No luck so far, but I haven’t really looked very hard.]

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