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Historical Novels -Bobi Andrews

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PILGER, NEBRASKA, Small Town, Big Memories

The town of Pilger, a small village near Humbug Creek, in
Stanton County was largely destroyed on the afternoon of
June 16, 2014.  However, the memories of Pilger and of my family
roots can never be destroyed by a tornado.  Growing up in
Nebraska, tornados were a rather common threat, but often
limited to small, open farm areas.  But wind storms came each
summer. As a child, I remember the heaviness of a searing,
hot afternoon, the dead ominous silence while leadened storm
clouds formed and turned black,and the hurried escape to the
outside cave before the circling wind tore down trees in our
cottonwood grove.  On one occasion in the late 1940's, the
neighboring town of Winside was hit especially hard and I
remember seeing bathtubs in the field and stalks of corn penetrating
clear through telephone poles. 

Pilger is special to me.  It is where my grandfather and
great grandfather are buried. It is where on Decoration Day
(yes, that's what we used to call Memorial Day), my extended
family drove from Wayne and gathered in the Pilger
Cemetery placing on their graves large red peonies and multicolored
bearded irises, which we worried would bloom in time
for the occasion.  While older folks placed their memorials
and remembered, my cousins and I roamed the graveyard,
tangling sky-blue buffalo beans into long strings of necklaces. 

My great grandfather, Cephas Ellis, farmed near Humbug
Creek, but loved best fishing in the Missouri River.  It was
here, he, a converted Quaker, carried on his own lay ministry
and earned the affectionate title, Father  Ellis.  It was here
Gr Grandma baked those so-good cookies and believed that
God intervened and saved her husband from a broken ice floe
in the Missouri River when bringing their son's family from Iowa
to Nebraska during an especially frigid January.

Grandpa Charlie Ellis owned a livery barn, a gathering place
for boasting,  carrying on local gossip, and hearing the latest
news.  Now, you have to understand, Charlie (I was old enough
to remember him) was a special Charlie--a bronco rider, and
teller of great stories when the Indians inhabited the great prairies. 
He wouldn't have been Grandpa if he didn't fish at Two-Bit
lake and crank home-made ice cream.  He made for my sister and
me a special fishing pole from a broomstick, eye screws,
and an old reel to use during our annual fishing trips to
Park Rapids and Bemidji Minnesota lakes.  There was something
special about this fishing pole--it attracted bullheads better than
my brother's store-bought pole. Grandpa with loving patience
and with copper twisted above his forearm to take  the pain from
rheumatism, cared for my grandmother through years of debilitating
illness.  He was a man of good humor and extraordinary kindness.

Over the years, there have been many coincidences where I have
been reminded of my Nebraska roots.  In the 1960's my husband
and I moved cross country to Delaware.  As it turned out, our new
next door neighbors were from Stanton, Nebraska. Although I'd found
extensive Quaker records of Ellis's, during my early genealogy research
I was at a brick wall needing to discover the identity of my great
grandfather.  My brother returning home to Broken Bow happened to
stop by the Pilger cemetery where he found Cephas Ellis RIP waiting
to be discovered.   

My brother, celebrating his 84th birthday this year, has lived most of
his adult life in Broken Bow. My  Nebraska nieces and nephews frequent
Facebook and generously share their families and activities. The Pilger
Centennial Book published in 1987 has been a genealogist's dream.
The church organist in Sugar Land Methodist is from the same area in
Nebraska. And wherever Nebraskans congregate, the by-gone feats
of Saint Tom Osborn and the return of good fortune for the Big Red
Nebraska football team is to be forever hoped for.

My thoughts, prayers, and best wishes for the victims of the Pilger tornado
are in my heart.  God Bless!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


A number of individuals finding on Amazon my historical novel,  Dear
Mama, Love Sarah, tell me of their new-found awareness of the
profound effect the Revolutionary War had on families, such as the
family of Reuben Simpson.  The focus of the story is Sarah Sherrill
who found herself in the untenable position of her Sherrill family
entrenched and staunch Patriots and her husband, Reuben Simpson,
a loyal Tory. The story culminates when Reuben leads a regiment of
Loyalists against the Patriots in the Battle of Ramsour's Mill.
Disowned by her father, her children lose all contact with their
grandmother, and Sarah, sadly loses her  mother with whom she
enjoyed a very close relationship.  It is an emotional and heart-felt
story of tragedy, danger, retaliation, and renewal.

In writing historical fiction, I recant historical events and
circumstances of remarkable people, not necessarily aiming to
mirror any particular happening in today's world. 
However, with Dear Mama, Love Sarah, I have become
acutely aware that the story is not just recollecting and interpreting
history, but understanding that families are being divided by war
and politics every day, and have been since before and after
the Revolutionary War.  Of course, the Civil War was rife with
stories of brother shooting brother, with its accompanying hatred
reaching down challenging reconciliation to each succeeding
generation including our own.

Today, families in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq --numerous African
countries -- are forced to fight or flee their countries leaving members
of their families split in both distance and  philosophy and facing
constant danger.  As parents become elderly, adult children often try
to keep in touch and provide the necessary support for their safety and
well-being.  We may find this difficult even if the separating 
distance is but a few miles.  What if you were here in America
and your parents were across the world in one of the war torn areas.
If parents, how would you keep your family together and raise your
children in a refugee camp?  How would you handle the anger and
disillusionment of kin who chose to support the "other side" of a
controversy?  Would you, like Sarah, dream at night that your kin
was shooting the members of your family in the heat of battle? 
What if  this conflict was under one roof splitting your family
and years went by with no resolution?

When family separation hits home, it is shattering.  I have a writer
friend who has faced the Syrian crises with her parents and other
close family members.  In Syria, her kin experienced their homes
destroyed, children separated and sent out of  the country to
safety, and elderly parents displaced and forced to move a
number of times--daily conflicts even to the point of losing a
parent to illness without being with them in their final hours.
Loss of family is not just a word, it is a monumental tragedy!

The one unifying belief among diversified cultures is the reverence
and  importance of family ties.  We do not get here by ourselves nor
do we live  in isolation of others.  Sarah with her letters kept hope
alive that she and her children would again be in the company
of her Mama.     

A pause . . . a prayer . . . a gesture of understanding.
Peace comes within the hearts of each individual.  Families of
the past and families of the present deserve no less.