I have Pioneer Stock in my veins

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.
-Bernard Williams

AdelineTextures by Nancy Claeys, Mushroom 100% soft light
Kim Klassen, Be Still 80% Multiply

She was born in a time that was anything but easy. Ancestral records have her birth date between 1844 and 1847. She’s my great-great grandmother Adeline, and she was no stranger to hard times in pre and post Civil War eras.

Born in Tennessee, she emigrated with her family to Missouri as a young girl and was married November 4, 1866. Her husband, Lafayette (“Fate” for short) served in the Civil War in the 16th Missouri Cavalry, Company C as a scout, patrolling routes across the Ozark foothills.

I know very little actual history about my great-great-grandparents. They lived in and around the areas of Ozark and Nixa. In the 1800s, this area would have been a rough and rural place, filled with “hill people.” Not sure if Adeline and Fate were “hill people,” but this setting looks pretty darn rural to me. So we’re going with that theory. She doesn’t appear to be much of an urban fashionista.

Modern conveniences were not known to her during this time. Out of butter? While this is a minor inconvenience for us, “out of butter” meant something completely different to her, and involved a lot more work that running to the local grocery store. Are you sick? Forget about affordable health care insurance programs. Most people here relied on “Mountain Medicine” of herbs and other home remedies to cure ailments. Mortality rates were pretty high and only the strongest survived.

Adeline (Lettie for short) obviously didn’t have many luxuries. She probably had to make just about everything her family needed for clothing and food. Most homes during this era had spinning wheels, quilting racks and canning supplies. But when your water is drawn from a deep well and you spend much of your day in back-breaking work in sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold, luxuries were probably limited to a good crop harvest and a bolt of fabric to make a new dress. Mother is the necessity of invention was probably her mantra.

In the 1800s, the Ozark area was a region of beautiful foothills and pristine creeks and lakes. Wildlife such as deer, wild turkey, and other small game was abundant for food. It’s also an area well-known for red clay dirt. And depending on where one lived, it may have been almost impossible to get a good crop of anything to grow. I don’t know if Lettie and Fate resorted to making moonshine to supplement their income, but I wouldn’t be surprised! Many “hill people” did just that. She also may have had a crop of tobacco tucked away somewhere based on that pipe she’s sporting in this photo.

According to genealogy records I’ve found, GGG’ma Lettie had four children; quite a small family for this time in history. Most women had children every two years or so, beginning from the time they married until well into their 40s…resulting on average of eight to ten per family to help run the farms.

Independent and self-sufficient probably accurately describes my great-great grandparents. Their life was impossibly hard by our cushy standards, and success or failure lied firmly in their own hands. Survivor also describe them as GGG’ma Lettie ended up living to the accomplished, ripe old age of 89. GGG’pa Fate only survived three years without her.

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20 thoughts on “I have Pioneer Stock in my veins

  1. Oh, can I tell you how much I enjoyed reading this! My daughter and I have been doing some really intense genealogy research and just yesterday she found a book that was printed about my 5th or 6th grandfather removed and his 14 children! I can’t wait to get it!!


  2. Lisa, fabulous, fabulous, fabulous post, my friend! I had a HUGE smile on my face while about your GGG’ma!

    ” I don’t know if Lettie and Fate resorted to making moon­shine to sup­ple­ment their income, but I wouldn’t be sur­prised! Many “hill people” did just that. She also may have had a crop of tobacco tucked away some­where based on that pipe she’s sporting in this photo.”

    HA! That photo is flawless because it speaks volumes of her strength and tenacity. I so admire people back then because they were survivors. They did whatever they had to do to survive.

    And I can’t believe the great shape that photo of her is in. No tears or creases. So many of the vintage family photos I have are in such sad shape.

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing this post. Very interesting and VERY inspiring.

    “GGG’ma Lettie ended up living to the accom­plished, ripe old age of 89.”




  3. Wow what a wonderful and interesting post about your GGG – The photo is amazing and your edit is just perfect. Life certainly was different then. I make several trips a day sometimes to the grocery store. It would be really difficult for me to not be able to do that on a moments notice. Thanks for sharing her story.


  4. We can appreciate and understand so much about ourselves when we have a feel for who came before us – coursing in our blood and whispering in vapors at times. I love this photo and enjoyed reading about Lettie, your ancestor. If she lived to 89 under those conditions – you must have about 120 years in your blood.

    I have to forward this to a friend who loves genealogy – she’ll enjoy the heck out of it.


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