Friday, October 16, 2015

It's at my feet. Right here at my feet.

It's weird, but in a way, "Discovering the world at my feet" is metaphorically rather fitting for genealogy. All this stuff has been here a long time: censuses, newspaper articles, obituaries from 1899, 1917, 1956, etc. It's all been here, waiting for me to wake up and pay attention.

A book I am reading has been published before I was born. So what was *I* waiting for, huh?

So 1899.  This is the year my great-grandfather, Dave Davis died. He's the earliest Davis I currently know anything about:

He and his wife, Elizabeth Thomas married in '54 I think. In the 1850 and 1860s, he had worked the coal fields in South Wales, and god knows what happened to his lungs there. They saved enough and borrowed enough to purchase a butcher shop. His wife baked bread to sell there; his daughter clerked there. Eight or nine other children went to school and raised each other.

Bear with me while I recount this from memory, which is full of errors. There was an agent who worked with the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska. UP owned most of the land around every rail line, because the government let them and because there was big money in it. BIG money. One way or another, this agent was able to secure land just for Welsh settlers, of which Dave was one. When they decided to leave, one of Dave's friends said "Davey, don't go, there's nothing but the dregs of hell an the rakings of Newgate (criminals) there!" Dave and his wife, Elizabeth, and nine children, came to the US via rail, steamship and more rail ... and probably wagon the last twenty miles. That was September 1873. They left two deceased children behind in Wales.

So Dave, Elizabeth and the family were all pioneers in the Welsh settlement of Postville, Nebraska.

Dave plowed for months to ready the soil for a crop, and wrote back to Wales in June of 1874, telling folks of how good his family had it, about the fabulous soil, about the church already established, about how he didn't contend in the fields with stone and trees, like the folks did back in Wales, and where they paid *rent* rather than owning. He said he couldn't imagine why they wouldn't come to what he considered Canaan (the Biblical promised land) to farm, and where land could be had "so cheaply."

They attended Baptist church; the Welsh are known to be religious and political. Dave was articulate, as well. From their life stories, it becomes obvious his children were well-read and articulate, as well.

Well, that part came on down the line, eh?