Pioneer Memories – Family History

Cottages. Jones Island. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Cottages. Jones Island. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mydans, Carl, photographer. Cottages. Jones Island. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Apr. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>

Here we are with yet another letter written in 1943 by one of my distant cousins, Mary Lee Parker, to her cousin Hazel Bolton whom is also a distant cousin of mine. In this letter, Mary Lee gives a general breakdown of some of the pioneers in her family and their experiences. She also retells the funny story about dish rag stew that we read about in one of her other letters. It must have been told a million times over the years. The loose grammar and spelling mistakes are preserved to help convey the full flavor of the letter.

Wichita, KS
April 30, 1943
Dear Hazel
Goodmorning Hazel, Margaret and Richard for I’m writing the three of you at once. hazel, meet Margaret and Richard; and Margaret, meet Hazel (she is your mother’s cousin Jessi’s daughter) and Richard, Meet both.
I also introduce to you all, this morning Deacon Thomas Parker who is our earliest American Parker ancester. He came to America in 1635 and settled at Reading Mass, twelve miles from Boston. There were thirtyfive of his decendants in The Revolutionary War; twenty seven of them were in the Colonial Wars and at least twenty eight fought at Lexington and Concord; and one was at Bunker Hill.

Beginning with Deacon Thomas Parker and tracing down to us we have Deacon Thomas, Sergt. John, John, John, Lieut.Jonas, Aaron, Aaron, Henry Francis, Father of Aaron Holmes. Aaron Holmes was Grandfather to Margaret and Richard and Great Uncle to Hazel. (Uncle by marriage to your Mother.)
My father, Aaron Holmes, was born in Reading, Mass. in 1844. His Mother was Luthera Emerson. (Margaret that is where your mother’s middle name comes from.) She was the daughter of David Emerson who was the third cousin of the author, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have a copy of David Emerson’s will which I will gladly show each of you if I have an opportunity. It is a very quaint document.
My father Aaron Holmes was a soldier in the Civil War as was also two of his brothers. Will write of that later.
I suspect Hazel may remember her Great grandmother Smith, but doubt Margaret and Richard will. Her name was Richardson before she married. her father was born in Vermont. His father was a Revolutionary War Soldier. Now I believe it was his Grandfather. But I think it was his uncle who was a boy of ten when the father came home on furlough. There were Tories in the neighborhood. The soldier heard that they (the tories) were going to capture him so he found a hiding place. The Tories ((must have been related to the Germans or Japs)) caught  the small boy and tried to make him tell where his father was hiding. They even hung him up by his thumbs. But the small boy bravely kept his secrete(sp) in spite of the torment. I see that I did not make it quite plain that this boy was Grandmother Smith’s Great Uncle. And Margaret and Richard Grandmother Smith was your Great Grandmother. Hope I have made it plain. Am tired today.
Your Great Grandmother Smith had an Aunt Sarahette Adams who was a relative of the John and John Quincey Adams, Presidents. Grandmother Smith pioneered in four states. her father sold out in New York state and took his family by boat through the Great Lakes to Wisconsin where he homesteaded. “Homesteading” means to settle on new land that is absolutely free or for which the Government is paid a small amount. Grandmother was about twelve when they went to Wisconsin.
A few years after that she met and married Grandfather Levi M. Smith. When they were courting and he was taking supper with them one day they had a stew for supper that Grandmother had made. it seems that their cellar stairs made a turn and at the turn was a good sized landing, at one side of which were shelves and hooks for pots and pans. On this day Grandmother stood on this landing and prepared the stew for cooking.
She had a deep iron kettle into which she cut and sliced in repeated alternate layers, cold cooked meat, cold cooked potatoes partly dry bread. Taking it to the kitchen she added hot water. The stew cooked slowly until the flavors blended nicely and it had browned enough to make it tasty.
On the occasion all greatly enjoyed the supper until they took up the last dish full of the stew to satisfy the demand for more. But horror of horrors! Grandmothers dishcloth was in the bottom of the kettle! That is it was horrible to Grandmother but some one said that since it was Grandmother’s dishcloth it was all right because she always had it so clean.
Cousin Mamie

I hope you all enjoyed reading Mary Lee’s letter and learning a bit about her ancestry and what her families experienced were as they pioneered their way west. Feel free leave a comment and let me know what you think.


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