"I will not have a single person slighted or left away"

"This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you."

Friends of mine, friends of this blog, now it can be told: I am one quarter Swedish. I will pause for you to regain your composure after this revelation.

If you know me personally, you know that my highbrow film director of choice is Peter Greenaway, not Ingmar Bergman; my classical musical tastes running to Purcell or Gilbert & Sullivan, rather than... whoever the Swedish composers are. Even with the Muppets, I always preferred Sam the Eagle to the Swedish Chef. I have just never really cared about Sweden. I don't even like Swedish fish.

More Robert Bork than "Bork bork bork!"

My other half, at least, has an interest in some things Swedish, if you count ABBA, and Ikea's meatballs. Can we assume this swedophile tendency accounts for at least 25% of his affection for me?

If you know me through this blog alone, you will know that the ancestry I have written about is primarily British (either English or Scotch-Irish), with occasional forays into France and Denmark, but never Sweden. Until now.

This Scandinavian heritage comes to me by way of my paternal grandmother, Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002); she is unique among my grandparents as she was the only first-generation American, born of immigrants. She loved all things Swedish, at least, and contributed elements of my costume, seen below, in a school pageant from second grade. (We sang a medley of "it's a small world" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.") Inexplicably, I am holding a Danish flag, although I notice one of the girls in the front one does have a Swedish flag... lilla slyna.


"A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America."
Harper Elementary School, Fountain Valley California.

Anyway. Grandma Hazel's parents were Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria "Marie" Svärd ( Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914). Although both were born in southwest Sweden in the Västra Götaland area, they emigrated to America in 1888 and 1892, respectively. Erick, the oldest of nine children, came alone (his four youngest siblings following some years later); Marie seems to have arrived with or shortly after her only sister, Ida Carolina Svärd (29 Apr 1872 - 4 Nov 1952).

At any rate, by 1900, they were both living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Erick was working as a railroad foreman, while Marie was a waitress in her sister's cafe; perhaps that is where they met? They married on 17 January 1903, in Minneapolis.


Wedding Portrait.

The Erickson's first child, William Arvid Erickson (21 Jun 1905 - 18 Apr 1954), was born in 1905 in Hibbing Minnesota (where just a few years later the Greyhound Bus company would be founded), followed in 1910 by my grandmother. Interestingly, Hibbing is also the home town of Bob Dylan, who in nearly every way imaginable is the exact opposite of my grandmother Hazel, who, despite many nice attributes, was famously uptight and perpetually fussy, which seems to neatly put to rest the idea that environment has much to do with personality, but I digress....

The Ericksons remained in St Louis county, now home also to Erick's youngest three brothers, who worked the mines in the Iron Range. Then in 1914, Marie died, age thirty-nine, leaving her husband alone with two young children.

Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis Minnesota.
Photo courtesy of Reed and Mary Lou Erickson

Erick, William, and Hazel returned to Minneapolis, where Erick continued working as a railroad foreman. Sometime after 1920, my grandmother went to live with her aunt and uncle, Ida Carolina (Svärd) and Gustaf Ferdinand Erickson (5 Jun 1865 - 24 Jun 1943, and no apparent relation to her father), and their three children. My grandmother's cousin Grace B Erickson (22 Aug 1898 - 12 Apr 1993) was like an older sister to Hazel, and they remained close until her death.

From left: Hazel Lucille Erickson, Erick Albert Erickson,
 Grace B Erickson, Ida Carolina Svärd. Probably the late 'teens.

By 1930, my grandmother was living with the other Ericksons in Minneapolis, but neither her father nor brother William are to be found, at least on the 1930 U S Federal Census. It all balances out, however, as Erick, Marie and William appear twice on the 1910 Census, unless there happen to be two families with the same names, birth dates and locations, and father's occupation; both families living in St Louis County. Of course, with so many Swedish Ericksons in Minnesota at the time, anything's possible....

Erick Albert Erickson continued to work on the railroad for a few more years, finally retiring and living with his son William until his death in 1948. My grandmother met my grandfather, married, and had three boys.... But that story is for another time.


Left: my grandparents, Hazel Lucille Erickson and Leroy "Roy" Stanley Burnett.
At her feet is her cousin Russell Fillmore Erickson (11 Jun 1910- 3 Sep 1988).
Right: Hams indeed! Grandpa Roy, cousin Russell, and Grandma's brother William Arvid Erickson.

As I said, I've not had much interest in Sweden, and by extension that part of my family tree. Growing up, on summer vacations or other trips, my paternal grandparents, she prissy and humorless, he stern and humorless, were not much fun. So dour, so Swedish (at least in her case; he was a dour Yankee).

Seeing the photos above, however, I wish I had known them better.

1  Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948), son of Erik Andersson (24 Oct 1830 -1917) and Anna Charlotte Clauson (5 Oct 1841 -1920), married Johanna Maria "Marie" Svärd (5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), daughter of Johannes Svärd (3 Jun 1837 - 27 Oct 1917) and Katarina Larsdotter (8 Jun 1830 - 30 Jan 1896), on 17 Jan 1903, in Minneapolis Minnesota.

2  Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002) married Leroy Stanley "Roy" Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980), son of Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) and Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 21 June 1933.

3  [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (5 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), in Long Beach, California, on 4 March 1961.

4  Your humble blogger.

"There was never any more inception than there is now"

I love autumn, in part because of all the leaves changing colors in the trees.


I have always had an affinity for trees, if not quite at the Joyce Kilmer level. (And I cannot tell you how glad I am that I checked the precise definition of "arborphilia" before using it in conjunction with myself....) Once, when much younger, I cried when one of our trees was cut down.

Recently, one of the large trees in front of our home had to be removed (it was, in fact, nearly dead). Although I didn't cry, it did sadden me somewhat. Part of what I love about our village is that it is surrounded by woods, and that there are so many magnificent old trees in our neighborhood. The village is going to replace the tree (we have been a "Tree City" for many years running), but of course, that will mean some mere sapling.


Autumn, of course, does lead one to think about the "autumn of one's life" and all that implies as well. Regrettably, I may not live to see that sapling become a mature tree. And the same way that some trees reach the end of their natural life, the same is true for family trees. My family tree, in toto, is specific to only my sister and myself; neither of us have children. Certainly, cousins share one side or other, but the unique tree that is mine will not go any further than this generation.

Which leads me to consider family tree charts, and the mixed metaphors therein. The most common pedigree charts show someone as the trunk of the tree, with their parents and grandparents as limbs. More correctly though, it you are the trunk, shouldn't your forebears be the roots, a term we commonly use? And then your own children could be the limbs, putting yourself at the middle of the tree, rather like an hourglass chart. Not as picturesque, but more accurate.

Anyway, apparently I am a stump. A stump by choice, but a stump nonetheless. Which makes for a slight melancholy when I stop to think that my genealogy research--although a delightful pastime for me--will ultimately not be of much interest to anyone. (We will forgo any contemplation as to who--if anyone--it interests right now....)

Looking at the larger picture, what will be--if not my legacy, whatever that is-- the fate of the things I leave behind? Where will they go? Where will they end up? Thinking about people about whom I have posted here before, I cannot help but wonder: what became of Thomas Lombard's books or Adaline Ketchum's sewing machine? Frank Bursley Taylor and his wife Minnetta Amelia Ketchum lived long, prosperous lives but had no children; do any of their belongings still exist, and if so, where?

Which, in a more than usually roundabout way, leads me to this post's subject, a maternal great-grandfather, Clarence Edgar Brown.


Caption by his son, Dana Earl Brown.

Clarence was born 1 Dec 1878 in Missouri, the sixth of eleven children, the third (and last) son. After living briefly in Colorado, where his father, Silas W Brown (abt 1835 - 20 Nov 1883) attempted prospecting (!), the family returned to the Kansas City area.

By 1903 Clarence found his way to Minnesota, where, at age twenty-four, he married Cora Mabel Kinman. Their first son, Rex Hugh Brown, was born in Minneapolis 1 Jun 1905 but lived less than a year. (Both of my maternal grandparents lost a brother; I have sometimes wondered what they might have thought about this coincidence.) Shortly thereafter, the Browns moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where two other sons followed, Dana Earl Brown (my grandfather) in 1910, and Ray Edgar Brown in 1914.

As an adult, in true Brown fashion, Clarence possessed some inexplicable wanderlust, moving every few years and changing careers nearly as often. He worked variously as an insurance collector (and later, manager); salesman for retail giant Butler Brothers in Minnesota; and as an "advertising man" for a printing company.

Butler Brothers, a few years before Clarence's employment in the 'teens.
 The building is still there, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

From Pater, introducing his filium. About 1930.

I know of at least seven addresses for the Browns from 1905 to 1935, almost all in the Minneapolis area, sometimes living with the Kinmans, Clarence's in-laws.

In 1916, the Browns are living with in-laws, so we know where they are.
 But where is Clarence? The postmark reads Salem, but: Salem where?
(And I have to note: I love his handwriting.)

Most of the houses and apartments in which the Browns lived are still there, which speaks well to Minneapolis' preservation efforts. Here is another Kinman-Brown home, from about 1920 and today.


Originally built in 1909, it is mostly unchanged.

After about 1934, things get fuzzier. The last employment I am aware of for Clarence is the advertising job in 1930; the last address from 1934. It is also hard to get a grasp on his nature; in the few photographs I have, he is always looking rather stiff and stern, although there is a hint of smile, perhaps, in this formal portrait.


Probably about 1930.

When going through my mother's things after she died, I found all that remained of my grandparent's belongings. My family tends not to be nostalgic, or keep souvenirs; where I get that trait has yet to be determined.... There was very little from my grandfather's early years, and even less about his father: a few photographs in an album; the portrait, postcard, and business card shown above; and this satchel.


I am curious as to why it was kept, but oddly pleased to have it. There were also two letters from Clarence, one from 18 May, the other 30 June 1937, written to his wife, Cora. They were sent from Jonesboro, Louisiana. Here is the latter in its entirety:

Dear Cora,

Just read Ruth's letter [I am unsure who this is] as she states you are back from hospital, will write you at the home address. [Cora was recovering from an accident in which she broke her hip and wrist.] By the way, she addresses the letter to Clarence and they know me at the Post Office as C.E., so will be more sure of getting it if addressed "C.E.", as I think there is a nigger gets mail by the name of "Clarence."

Surely glad to hear that the bed sore has responded to treatment, but indeed sorry to hear that they had to do the setting of the wrist over again. However it is no doubt better to have it done right, as in the other way it may have been so it was crooked and also might have lamed you for life. I surely hope the hip is coming along all right and that you are getting along finally. Will certainly  be fine when I can hear from you direct, as there is much more satisfaction that way. However, I appreciate the kindness of Ruth in writing and letting me know while you cannot write.

It has been quite hot here  during the month and I imagine it will be hotter yet during July and August. Watermelon and canteloupes are now coming in down here. Have not had any yet, but hope to get a slice or two of watermelon soon. Can get a pretty good size one for 20¢. Hot weather has pretty well put business on the stand still around here, as they like to get in the shade. Have been doing a little from time to time, but have not been able to get two or three days work following one another. However, I managed to pinch off a little money for you and am sending same, enclosed $5.00 and hope you get the letter okay, without delay. Hope to be able to send more, soon. Well, there is no news, so will close, hoping that you are rapidly recovering and will be in fine shape soon.

As always, with much love, Clarence

P.S. Mail to this town, as usual and if I leave (which I will do soon) I will leave forward address.

Apart from making me wonder what Clarence's latest employment might have been, I could not imagine why this particular letter, admitting itself that there was no real news in it, had been kept. It was not until I learned that Clarence died just two months later, on 21 August 1937, that I realized: it must have been the last letter they ever received from him. He was fifty-eight.

Just two brief letters and a postcard, a satchel, and a few pictures. Dried leaves, once brightly colored, from a life.
 
Clarence in Florida in 1926. Still dour and suited, but perched on a palm tree.
Unlike the autumn foliage that began this post,  palm trees--like memories-- are evergreen.


1. Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937), married Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958), daughter of William Edwin Kinman and Sarah Jane Conley, on 16 Sep 1903, in Morgan, Minnesota.

2. Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) married Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), daughter of John Jacob "Jack" Severin and Isabelle "Belle" Runser, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

3. Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, California.

4. Your humble blogger.






"draped with black muslin"

Today being All Souls' Day, I can't help but think about the "departed," whether faithful or not, which led me to consider burials, graveyards, and such (perhaps as a macabre bit of lingering Hallowe'en celebration as well).
 
It seems that many people have a fascination with cemeteries. Mine began indirectly, through a high school English teacher. Our mutual dislike of Dickens ("One damned thing after another" was her critique) encouraged her to suggest alternate reading material; she thought I might enjoy Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One. At the time, going off the curriculum was practically transgressive; the old dear merely wanted to foster my love of reading. One can only imagine what she would make of today's shenanigans between teachers and students, but I digress.... She was right about Waugh (thanks, Mrs. Pyle!), and he has since become one of my favorite authors. I thought The Loved One was wonderful (the movie version far less so, a twenty-five year old Paul Williams appearing as a child rocket scientist--literally--being but one example), and I was even more delighted when I discovered the novel was based on a real place, Forest Lawn, located not far from where I lived at the time. A pilgrimage ensued, of course, but not before I picked up a 1931 edition of ART GUIDE and Forest Lawn Interpretations, with introduction by Bruce Barton, A Guide Book and Encyclopedia, illustrated. Bruce Fairchild Barton (August 5, 1886 – July 5, 1967), coincidentally, is a distant cousin of mine through the Davenport line; he is probably best remembered today as the author of The Man Nobody Knows (1925), which, according to Wikipedia, "depicted Jesus Christ as a successful salesman, publicist and role model for the modern businessman," a sort of Saint Babbitt, apparently. Anyway.
 
From one of my photo albums (remember those?). I am perusing the ART GUIDE (etc...),
 no doubt reading about the beautiful statuary or memorial architecture. 
 
Another favorite author of mine, as followers of this blog will know, is Gertrude Stein. On vacation in Paris, visiting her haunts was an unquestionable part of the itinerary, including a stop at Père Lachaise Cemetery. It was extraordinary, and one of the highlights of the trip. Despite spending several hours there, I never did locate Gertrude's monument, nor that of Oscar Wilde, hélas.

From left: A beautiful day to go graving; a blondined me exploring; M. Barye reminded me of Disney's Haunted Mansion.
 
In marked contrast to the excesses of the French, many of my family, in recent generations, have been cremated, their ashes scattered at sea. They do not even have a marker or cenotaph, although my paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents do.

Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington.

Chapel of the Chimes, Hayward, California.

Of course, fashions in burial change like everything else, although certainly not as quickly. Going further back by a generation or two, I start to see tasteful, "generic" headstones, often with plaques inset nearby. Here are examples from my paternal 2x great-grandfather:


Hewitt Cemetery, Hewitt, Minnesota.
 
 
and maternal 2x great-grandmother.

Summit Cemetery, Foxboro, Wisconsin.

The 1800s seems to be the era of obelisks and similar monuments. Here are examples from third and fourth great-grandfathers (respectively) Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) and John Wallace Cherry (27 May 1788 - 10 Feb 1857).

Greenwood Union Cemetery, Le Center, Minnesota.
 
Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware, Ohio.

Reaching further back yet, we start getting the really fun ones. Although not on the baroque (a word I settled on after considering both "gaudy" and "camp") scale of Père Lachaise, they have a lovely and sometimes sinister (all those skulls!) New England charm. Here's a random sampling, not duplicating those I've posted elsewhere.


Ann ? (abt 1760 - 29 May 1826), first wife of Nathaniel Eaton (22 Jan 1722 - 22 Sep 1860); 5x gg.
Eaton Family Cemetery, Summerhill, New York.


Isaac Cornwell (30 Jun 1747 - 11 Sep 1812), 6x gg.
Old Westfield Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut.
 
Capt Simon Davis (19 Jan 1683 - 10 Apr 1755); 8xgg.
Ancient Cemetery, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.


Joseph Hamlin (20 Nov 1680 - 27 Aug 1766), 8x gg.
West Barnstable Cemetery, West Barnstable, Massachusetts.

Of course, this post is meant to be neither an authoritative nor general history of funerary practice (nor even an Art Guide...), but it did give me a chance to reminisce and look back at a few--if not All--of the Souls in my family tree.

Rebecca Robinson (8 May 1748 - 8 Oct 1807), 6x gg,  and others.
Westlawn Cemetery, Williamstown, Massachusetts.


Many thanks to the contributors at Find-A-Grave, who provided many of these pictures!