Cousins can be a wonderful source of comfort and family information. Want to know about the well-kept secret of Uncle John? The one spoken of only in whispers and with a raised eyebrow at family gatherings? Or get help recalling who the family of great-aunt Bertha’s husband was? Sometimes, with me, it’s even as simple as asking which of the kids was it that saddled up and tried to ride granddad’s prize calf.
I, fortunately, have a slew of cousins. Close cousins, distant cousins (this applies to both generational and distance), some in-between cousins and even several ‘shirt-tail’ cousins. The latter are those become a part of your family through the spouse of an aunt or uncle. Sometimes it is difficult to remember which is which.
Nearly 20 years ago, I started organizing a reunion for cousins from the paternal side of my family. I called it “The Cousin Connection.” We would gather at one or another more-or-less centrally located home for a day of getting reacquainted, sharing family stories, pictures and an excellent potluck meal with the main dish supplied by the host. One thing you could always count on, was that someone would bring up a story that had become a part of the family lore.
One of my favorites was the often told story about the huge tornado that hit Annapolis, Missouri back in 1925. It was a record-setting twister that did extreme damage and destruction as it traveled through three states. Following is an account that I included in a small family-history book of genealogy, stories of fact and often told tales. The one about the tornado is under the ‘fact’ portion. It includes recounting of the event from a few of the original family members. Following is an excerpt from a newspaper story and my dad’s recollection of the event.
On March 18, 1925, a single twister (tornado) ran a course of 200 miles through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, killing 700 people. Southeast Missouri from Annapolis south was hit hard by the storm, leaving few buildings remaining.
The Chilton farm home, while heavily damaged, was one of them. My dad’s memories follow:
“I was the oldest son of the eleven children of Ernest and Lillie Chilton. At that time we were living on a small farm near Annapolis, Missouri. I had just had my 18th birthday in late February and was home that day, along with my mother and the two youngest kids. Dad had gone out to the field.
“I looked out the door just in time to see this immense roiling storm moving in over one of the hills. It was so large, black, and thick it simply seemed to blot out everything—and it was heading for the field where dad was working. My dad must have seen it about the same time, and started running hard for the house. He had made it to the fence closest to the house when the full force of the twister hit. He dropped to the ground, grabbed a sturdy fence post and hung on for dear life. When Mom saw him there, she ran to the doorway and began yelling, “Ernest...you come inside this minute!”
Many times when the brothers and sisters were gathered they would talk about that twister and always laughed when dad retold the story of their mother yelling for their dad to come in when it was all he could do to hang on and keep from being blown away. We, the later generations, also like to retell the story, contributing the parts as told by our own parent.
We continued the cousin connection gatherings for several years, until we, the first generation of cousins, started getting older and our own families larger and more scattered. I hated to see them end, as they gave such a feeling family continuity as we shared stories and were asked questions from the second and third generations.
I am always pleased to see other families that also have these family get-togethers, and continue to weave the colorful, binding family ribbon into the future. I used the following quote to end our own family story, with the notation that is was probably not from an ancestor of our family
“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time. It illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.” Marcus Tuillus Cicero, 106-43 B.C. I. Roman Statesman, Orator & Philosopher
To put it another way: “No matter how far out your branch of the family tree may hang, traces of the original tap root are still part of your DNA. It is good to know your roots.” - Janet Douglas
Gather the clan….The six Overall sisters made their annual “Sisters Trip” recently, by making short excursions around the local Missouri area. The six would then have dinner each day at the home of one of the four local siblings with the final meal being held at the home of Elma and Sonny Jennings. Nieces, nephew, other family members and friends also joined them. The sisters are probably setting some kind of record for family longevity, as the youngest is now in her early 80s, and they are all still active and happily involved with life. Two sisters from out of the area are: Norma Jacob of Marion, Ohio, and Doris Hopkins-Griffith of Columbia, Missouri, Lorene Kollmeyer and Maxine Bequette-Cole, Margaret Norton and Elma Jennings all of Farmington. Sandy Overall Kelley and Gail Overall Agers, the twin daughters of the late Stanley Overall, were also there as was Norma’s son Dean Jacob.
Remarkable ‘Grim Critters’…. Alice Louis Johnson, who is an avid walker and seems to stumble upon all sorts of interesting discoveries, reported a while ago that she had come across two very atypical yard statues on Aldergate Street. Alice hunted down the owner. Kendall Hart, of these unusual ornaments and found his company Grimstone Studios had designed and created them as part of a mythical creature collection he had been commissioned to do for a park near Kansas City, Missouri. Last week she and friends, Jennifer Postma-Mock, Linda Ray and Judy Whitener made a visit to Powell Gardens in Kingville, Missouri where the imaginative statuary is now on display in the ‘Garden of Myth.’ It makes a marvelous destination trip to visit the ‘Land of Never-Was.’
Church Ladies enjoy counterpoint play….The members of the Daughters of Ruth of the Farmington Christian Disciples of Christ Church, recently attended a performance of “The Church Basement Ladies” at the Westport Playhouse. Delores Plummer, one of the members, said the group thoroughly enjoyed the comedy and that they all agreed it was much like watching themselves!
One more time…..The fabulous Blue Ribbon Days Percherons were named the Reserve Champions for the North American six-horse hitch Classic Series in the finals at a national competition last week. Congratulations to owners Albert and Karen Cleve of Farmington.
A sad notice….For all the many friends and family of John (Jack) Cozean, his daughter Mary Cozean sent word that he had passed away earlier this week. Jack and Mary had just enjoyed a visit to Farmington seeing his sister, Caroline Detring, her son, David Detring, nephews and nieces Jon Cozean and Nancy Cozean Jacob and Charles and Carol Cozean who spent the day here from Cape Girardeau. Our sincere sympathy to all of the Cozean family.
Sept. 29…The Farmington High School Homecoming Parade at 1:30 p.m. and the football game at 7 p.m.
Sept. 30…The Downtown Fall Festival with scarecrows on display, food, store sales, booths, and entertainment.
Oct. 5….Newcomers Club meets at the Presbyterian Church, on West Columbia and Cayce Streets at 9 a.m. The October meeting will be “Hobby Day” and lots of hobbies will be demonstrated by members.
Enjoy the coming weekend that is crammed full of activities…along with cooler weather.