Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Henry and Molly's "Exciting" Life

My grandmother Mary Ellen (Molly) Hayman was said to have been beautiful, but she was a very strict mother because she was always guilty about the "shame" of being a divorced woman. Her first husband disappeared on a cattle drive leaving her at 17 having already borne four children, with no way to support them. Since the court wouldn't declare him dead for seven years she was advised to divorce him for desertion, which she did. Granddad was her second husband.

Including those four (none of whom survived to adulthood) Molly had *17* children in all, FOUR sets of twins! My Granddad Henry Calvin Clark was her husband. Granddad's parents (Levin Larkin Clark and Martha Jeanette Kast) didn't want Henry to marry Molly, and when Henry married her his father never spoke to him again. So Granddad Clark apparently set a lot of stock in his Indian relatives at Anadarko.

Henry Clark had Indian blood on both sides. Though I have never been able to find out her name, Henry's first wife was apparently Lenape (Delaware) from the reservation near Anadarko. They had three children, twin girls and a boy. When Henry's first wife died her parents took the kids. When he married Molly they wouldn't let him have the children back, which is perfectly consistent with matriarchal cultures. The children always belong to their mother's family, never to their father's.

I don't have a clue who this Native man is, but he looks very much like my Grandad. I suspect from the visible breastplate he is from a Plains Nation, I'll need to do some reasearch, but I wanted to add it to show how easily an "Indian" became "European". In Henry Clark's case it was explained by saying his mother was French and that the language they spoke when together was French.

Molly was terrified of Granddad's relatives, who would ride up the road into the farmyard ki-yi-ying wearing their feather war bonnets, all painted up, and with their horses painted. Molly wouldn't let them come in the house, so they'd camp in the yard, visit and smoke the pipe together.

I have heard this "visiting" story about my grandparents Henry Calvin Clark and Mary Ellen (Molly) Hayman Clark many times, not only from my mother but from a cousin's elderly uncle (Ed Clark Lane) whose mother was Henry's sister Sarah. Sarah Clark Lane and her husband lived just down the road from Henry and Molly, and the Indian relatives called on all of them.

I'm not sure when the visits started but by 1910 or so, when they'd been forced to move several times after the visiting Indian relatives scared the neighbours half to death (many Indians were still on the warpath) Molly said, "Instead of them coming to see us, we'll go see them." The following incident took place when my mother was nine years old, and was burned into her memory. She told it again and again as I grew up.

Granddad would pile Molly and the kids into a covered wagon and drive several days to visit his kinfolks at the reservation at Anadarko, but in 1913 there was a localized Creek Indian uprising. The Creek were murdering white settlers in an effort to regain control of their lands. On the way Granddad and Molly met a war party on the road. Granddad saw the war party far ahead, and knew they would all be killed if they saw Molly and the children. He told Molly and the kids lie flat in the wagon bed, and he threw quilts and burlap sacks over them. He told them not to move or make a sound no matter what, or how long it took.

As the war party approached he stopped the mules, got down and walked to meet the men in the war party, addressing them in their own language. He spoke several different Indian languages, and luckily Musgokee Creek was one of them. He asked their business and said they must be hungry and asked if he could cook them a meal and offer them tobacco. This sounded good to them. They built a fire and he hauled out coffee and cornmeal, beans and bacon and made a meal while they smoked and talked in the shade of nearby trees.

After three or four hours they took their leave and let Granddad go on his way without searching the wagon. By then Molly and the kids were drenched with sweat from lying under the quilts, their muscles were screaming from holding still, all the younger ones had wet themselves and worse. And there was no food left for the rest of the journey, nor any money to buy more.

It is probably no surprise that after that trip Molly wouldn't go and wouldn't let Grandad take the kids. After that he had to go visit the Indian kinfolks alone.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charlie's Fight to Save His Sons

Eighty-three years ago today my tiny mother gave birth to twin sons. It was not an easy birth. It was cold for June. There had been a wild series of storms. The bridge spanning the nearby river had been washed away, and the other road was impassable to anything other than a horse. There was no easy way, in the back of a horse-drawn wagon, to get a labouring woman to the hospital through pouring rain and wild wind.

For 36 long hours she laboured without result. She was only seven months pregnant, so the baby was not yet at term, and prospects were grim. While my Dad's brother Arthur rode a horse the long way round to town to fetch the doctor Dad and Mom's sister Fannie did what little they could do to ease the contractions which threatened to tear her apart.

Finally the doctor arrived and after an exam said the baby was transverse, and had to be turned. A horrific process even in a modern hospital he warned Dad to prepare for the worst. But the little one was turned, and shortly after was born breech. A tiny boy, barely the length of my father's hand.

"There's another one!" Mother gasped, "There's still another!"

"No, it's just the placenta," he assured her, in time to see another little head emerge.

Identical twin sons, tiny little things, but active and squalling.

"Might as well just wrap them up and leave them be," the doctor said, "easier not to fight. They'll be dead before nightfall."

Dad drew himself up to his full 6' 2" height and said, "Not my sons, not while I have breath in my body and can fight for them."

Within minutes he and Aunt Fanny had assembled a bed made of a wooden apple box. They laid a double layer of ironed muslin over a layer of cotton quilt batting. By manipulating the layers of cotton the wet/soiled batting beneath could be changed without handling or disturbing the babies, who were laid naked inside. The sides were lined with damp towels, and draped over the top, in an unending succession day and night, hot steaming towels were laid to warm the interior of the box. As one towel cooled it was replaced with another.

The towels were immersed in a pot of boiling water, then pulled out and wrung as dry as possible, before being unrolled and laid over the impromptu incubator. A thermometer borrowed from a neighbour let them monitor the temperature and keep it at a constant 98.6 F.

Mother expressed milk into a sterile teaspoon and on the second day the twins began receiving two drops of milk every half hour fed to them with a sterilized eyedropper. As they figured out how to swallow this amount was increased until they were strong enough at two weeks to be swaddled and brought out to nurse.

By the time the weather warmed enough to no longer need the incubator Dad and the neighbour who had been helping him had burned all the skin off their hands and arms to their elbows wringing the boiling water from those towels.

Both those boys, my older brothers, went on to live long and productive lives, and bring up families of their own. They had a rough start, but they came from strong and stubborn stock.

I miss them today, I miss them all.