A few days ago I mentioned being contacted by my cousin, Bob, who loves to research the family tree. Since then I have been enjoying the fruits of his labor. His research has been quite extensive - far beyond what I ever found, and even more than my youngest daughter's findings.
I asked him if he knew much about our Aunt Frances. I had always wished I had known her, or at least knew more about her. My mother's stories were not too detailed, and I have since learned were not even too accurate. She may just not have known very much about it, or perhaps she was too strongly influenced by the fact that my father's family never approved of her and we had little contact with them after the divorce. As a small child, I would have had no way to tell if this might be the case, so I grew up thinking rather unkind thoughts about most of them. I am now trying to readjust my thinking.
I was right about one thing. Frances was quite a lady! She wrote many letters to the family - most it would seem to my Uncle John, Bob's father, and apparently he did not throw away his correspondence.. Bob has published many of these letters, and they tell an exciting story.
In July of 1917, Frances wrote a seven page letter to the family, telling of her trip to Alaska as a nurse, and what she found there when she joined the group from the Episcopal Church, attempting to establish the first hospital in the Yukon. In this, and succeeding letters, she details some harrowing adventures of camping, hunting, dog sled trips, storms, and traveling down a rushing river full of huge ice floes. While there she met and married a fellow medical worker, an Inuit. A year later they started a trip back to the States ("the outside" as she called it) with the intention of him enlisting in the military and her the Red Cross in World War I. The steamer they were on was caught in a horrific storm, and was lost, with all aboard.
That, of course, is a very brief summary of her story. I could not begin to do it justice here. Both Aunt Frances and Uncle Walter were amazing people. I wish all the more that I had known them. I am so grateful to Bob for giving me this opportunity to know a little more.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
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That is an amazing story, Bobbie! Your aunt was a remarkable woman. And a real trail blazer as women in Alaska were not very common back then. How sad that she and her new husband were lost at sea. . .
I love the photos, too. One of my favorite areas of interest is vintage photography. There is something about old photos that stirs the curiosity. You can't help but wonder what these folks were like and what their lives were like. . .
Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing.
How fun and interesting to learn so much about your family. Your Aunt certainly had an exciting life for a woman of that period! Sad it ended when she was still so young.
Have a great week, Bobbie!
What an amazing woman. She sounds like somebody you could write a book about. Her legacy is something you can pass down to succeeding generations.
How wonderful to find someone like your aunt. Indeed she was unusual for her time. I've tried to work on my family tree but since both sides were Jewish there's no way to find any records of them in Europe.
What a special lady!
I was hoping that she would have survived..To have survived all her time in Alaska and then to be lost at sea..how sad....Michelle
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