A Gold Star Mother’s Letter: “I am not converted to wars”

A Gold Star Mother’s Letter: “I am not converted to wars”

Lehi Larson Smith1, son of Emma Larson and Jesse N. Smith, died in the Argonne Forest in France on October 28, 1918, while fighting as a soldier in World War I. His mother Emma later said that she knew she had lost her son from the moment it happened, and that there was no surprise when the official word came.

 

While transcribing a letter Emma wrote to her granddaughter Dorothy 23 years later, I received additional insight into Emma’s feelings about losing a son to war. Written in 1941, against the backdrop of an escalating war in Europe and North Africa, the letter reveals the loss Emma still felt about her son Lehi, and her admission that her desire to protect her family was greater than any loyalty she felt toward her country.

…our children are our most precious jewels, the more we have the richer we are. I am not willing to raise boys for cannon fodder. I have furnished one but not any more. I am not looking for war in this country should it come to us I have grand children but am not willing for any of them to go. I may not be very loyal to my country. I am not converted to wars.

While we may have the names and dates that history provides, nothing compares to one’s own words to reveal what we cannot ascertain by mere historical facts. These small insights give me greater understanding of Emma, who is my 2nd great grandmother. History must not be names and dates alone, but must be enhanced with the truths and stories that only these sources can give.

Here is a full transcription of the letter. Original spelling intact. Punctuation added for clarity. 2

Mesa Arizona
Feb 26 1941

Dearest Dorothy,

How much I have appreciated the Christmas card and the  photos of the three lovely children. I hop you will pardon my for neglecting to write to you and thank you for remembering me. I have felt like I wasn’t worth remembering. Your mother sent me one of your letters you had writen to her in Heber. It was very interesting to me you seem to be a very busy woman. I think you must have a wonderful good man to help. You couldn’t do so many things and care for your little flock too. Cleona is like you & good helper in the Joseph City ward. But our children are our most precious jewels, the more we have the richer we are. I am not willing to raise boys for cannon fodder I have furnished one but not any more. I am not looking for war in this country. Should it come to us I have grand children but am not willing for any of them to go. I may not be very loyal to my country. I am not converted to wars. Hitler may think he is an angel, I think headquarters is in Germany for the devil.

I can’t help but that Ellsworth could get a school down here in Arizona they pay more here and then I could see more of you. I thot this winter in Price I wouldn’t be here very long myself I cannot brag much myself yet but I am gaining any some I am not loafing quite as much as I did. Your mother done a good part by me in Snowflake which I have appreciated very much. We have been rained on so much down here that it is getting tiresome today it is trying to quit I hope it will, the citris show is on this week they are having a great time some of the men is growing beards they all expect the prize. If I was to be judge not any of them would get it that I have seen the fruit is nice and cheap too. I would like to send you a sackfull but they may hold it up on the line.

We have all kinds of flowers here so it isn’t very cold. I have geraniums blooming all winter growing outdoors on the north side of the house. I hope you young folks can keep well when you are well you can work. I would love to run in and see you all.

I have felt so proud over the way you made the letters on the envelope. I put it where it could be seen & callers pick it up & ask who done that. My granddaughter. And too I could show the great grands.

Love to all
Grandmother Smith

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Rear: Lorana, Lehi, Caroline, George. Seated: Don, Emma, Hyrum. Front: Myrtle, Aikens

  1. While serving a Mormon mission in the Northwester States, Lehi received a call from Montana Draft Board to serve in World War I as a soldier in the United States Army. Before departing for his military duties he asked Drucilla McKay, a young lady acquaintance in the mission field, to marry him. She accepted and the pair were married in the Salt Lake Temple on March 20, 1918. They had only a few days to share their marital bliss before he reported to Camp Funston for military training. Lehi Smith was soon shipped overseas where he served with the 89th Division for several months in the St. Mihiel Campaign. On Oct. 28, 1918 he suffered a direct hit from an artillery shell. He was not yet 28 years of age when he was killed in the Argonne Forest in France.
    From “Life Sketch” written by Lehi T. Smith, a nephew to Lehi Larson Smith. Material obtained from sketches by Hyrum Smith, Lorana Smith Broadbent, and Seraphine Smith Frost in The Kinsman, Vol. XVIII No.2, March 1964.
  2. Letter from the Dorothy Smith Clark Archive.

Banana Bread: A Recipe for Healing

Banana Bread: A Recipe for Healing

I can’t throw away old bananas. Sometimes I’ll toss them, unpeeled, in my freezer. But throwing away old bananas is like stomping on this little voice inside of me saying, “someone needs banana bread”. So today, despite a number of pressing tasks, I start pulling stuff out of the pantry to make banana bread.

Sometimes I fancy myself a baker, and over the years I’ve experimented with many recipes. Too eager to cast off my mother’s recipe as dated or simplistic, I’ve tried banana breads with made with butter, sour cream, nuts, or spices, but they have all fallen short. Perhaps it isn’t just the recipe, but what banana bread has come to represent.

I don’t know when my mom started taking banana bread to people. We accepted that banana bread was made in quadruple batches. She would sour some milk in quart bottles, grease and flour what seemed like all the loaf pans we owned, and stir up the creamy batter in a big yellow bowl. I loved to sneak a taste of that tangy and sweet batter. I remember seeing the foil-wrapped loaves lined up like little train cars along the countertop.

Then she’d drive around the neighborhood, without celebration, and place these loaves in peoples hands. Over the years, my mom had built a reputation. Neighbors brought bags of mottled bananas to encourage her generosity. Whom she chose to receive was a mystery, at least to us. But my mom has a gift for knowing when people need bread. My mother knows if I cried three days ago by looking at my face today. She shows a keen sensitivity to others, paired with a disregard for her own self. My mother, even on her most difficult days, took banana bread. Answering the quizzical looks, my mother just said, “I just thought I’d bring you some bread.”

Of all the cakes I could perfect, of all the pies I could master, of all cookies I could dream up, the highest honor I could achieve would be to perfect the baking—and spirit— of my mother’s banana bread. So thanks to her for teaching me that someone, somewhere, needs some banana bread. Someone needs to heft the warm loaf, lay it on their countertop, peel back the creased foil wrapping and plunge their knife into the moist, warm bread and eat half the loaf, still standing. Someone, somewhere needs this bread: soft and sweet, with a nice dark edge, unadorned, unpretentious, perfect—just like my mother.

BANANA BREAD
Dorothy Chamberlain

½ c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 ½ ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1 c. sour milk (the milk w/lemon juice or vinegar variety)
2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
1 t. baking soda

Cream shortening and sugar. Mix in egg. Stir in mashed bananas. Stir in sour milk and dry ingredients. Pour into greased and floured pans. Bake at 350 for one hour. If bread seems to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil.

Chasing Butterflies: When Clues Lead to Stories

Chasing Butterflies: When Clues Lead to Stories

In my grandmother Dorothy Smith’s  collection of photos there is a picture of her standing alone, posing on a hill with a snowy mountain in the background.

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When I first saw this photo, I turned it over to see if any information was written on the back. I was lucky to find a description in my grandmother’s own handwriting.

University Hill Provo
April 1933
I was going to catch a butterfly but it flew away and left me.
Springville Art Exhibit

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I was so pleased she had written the date, place, and occasion of this photo. But who took it, and why was she there? I knew she kept a diary from that time, and because it is transcribed, I was able to search for those dates and words. Here’s what I found from the day the photo was taken:

Sunday April 23, 1933

Went by Orem Electric to annual Springville Art Exhibit with T.S. Knaphus, sculptor. Spent 3 hours in Provo, sight-seeing on our way back to S.L.C. Took kodak snaps on B.Y.U. campus.

This was a very interesting day for me and rather an outstanding one I suppose, inasmuch as I was so kindly favored and well treated by one so prominent in his sphere.

En route he gave me valuable instructions and criticisms on art. Urges strongly that I begin to busy myself with “oils” and harness the talent he believes lies dormant. (I hope to do this soon, as I have been so inspired today)

Left Knaphus at 8 P.M. to finish the day with Ellsworth. Youth does have its preferences.

What started as a photo and ended with a diary search reveals a snapshot of Dorothy’s life from the early 1930’s, where Mormon sculptor and artistic mentor Torleif Knaphus and husband-to-be Ellsworth Clark contended for Dorothy’s affections. It was a very pivotal time in Dorothy’s life as she was mentored by influential artists and courted by multiple suitors. To connect an image with a specific page from her diary in history adds rich context to his photo and lends a greater understanding to who our grandmother was.

Sometimes searching for stories in our family records is like chasing butterflies: we never know where the path will lead us, and catching them is elusive. With Kindex, our goal is to make that path easier through the ability to search and share family records. Had I been required to manually page through these diaries (shown below) to find that story, it would have been far more difficult and time-consuming. So here’s to catching butterflies—and finding stories!

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A Sample of Dorothy Clark’s Diary Collection

General Laborer

General Laborer

I have looked at enough census records to know that the center column—the occupation—is where much of the lives of my ancestors are revealed. While many researchers take pride in a discovery of distinction—a gentleman perhaps, or a minister, doctor, or politician—I have yet to strike gold in a vein of worldly merit. Rather, as I have turned back to my fathers  and mothers, I have found them laboring in the trades of the lower class as fisherman, farm laborers, gardeners, maids, and most frequently, general laborers. It is this last title of general laborer that has caused me to reflect on the merits given to the poor, unskilled, and weary. I picture the enumerator, peering up from his broad census sheet, quill poised. Occupation? Laborer.

laborerWhat more do we know of some of our laborers? My fifth great grandfather, a farm laborer in Essex, died of “sloughing of the foot”, leaving behind ten children. My husband’s family worked in the damp fields of Northern England. Such laborers did not receive payment for their work until after their term of hire was completed. Poor and hungry, they ate raw turnips in the fields to stave their hunger.

Our laborers were not always virtuous. My third great aunt Ellen Chamberlain was brought to trial for stealing two loaves of bread. Trial notes reveal when confronted, “she then took the loaf from under her shawl and said “This is the loaf—pray, sir, forgive me.”  For this she was given two months hard labor, a sentence of apparent leniency. My fifth great grandfather Ben Chamberlain was relieved from his apprenticeship in 1785 due to “disorderly behaviour and frequent absences”. Rumors abounded of drinking and ill tempers, an apparent occupational hazard of our ship laborers.

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Then there were the deaths, inexplicable and beyond comprehension. My sixth great uncle was a farm laborer and father of eleven children; all of his children died in childhood save two. When my third great aunt was pregnant with their first child, her husband Edward Austin worked as a laborer in a neighboring town. While he was digging a ditch when a man nearby leaned his rifle against a tree. The rifle fell and fired accidentally, mortally wounding the young father-to-be. Most of our fathers were taken young. Looking back six generations down to my grandfather, all passed in their 30’s or 40’s with the exception of two.

And the women? What is not written can only be imagined. They suffered ill-timed relationships and abandonment, and worked as maids, nurses, and farm laborers at tender ages. Many did not rest in their old age, working as cleaning women or doing laundry.

When our Chamberlain family reached New York City in 1888, there could not have been a more obscure family with more dubious health and almost no wealth. When they arrived in Salt Lake City a few weeks later, they were taken to the Tithing Yard for needed food and supplies. It was there on a bale of hay that their infant son Robert died, a pained and mournful offering in the midst of others sacrifice. A few months later, his mother Ellen Gardner Chamberlain died from tuberculosis.

aac_1943Their grandson—my grandfather—was also laborer. His forearms—as wide as melons and too large for sleeves—have found a place in me. He taught his son—my father—how to build, paint, and care for a home and yard. Once my mother famously waited for my dad for a date while he finished the lawn: mow twice, once in each direction, then rake and bag the grass.

My own body and soul bears the traces of the laborer. My legs, large and strong as rocks, have carried my children up mountains and pushed me down miles of roads. I have strong hands arms like my fathers before me, that can open jars and till gardens. I have inherited a willingness to work—to jump, climb, shovel and lift.  While my stomach has never soured from raw turnips, or my coat hidden bread, my blood carries the virtues and flaws of the laborer. My face reveals the crease of worry, my clothes show stains of earthly chores, my skin maps the scars of adventure and my soul the ache of every weakness.

lac_c1944webWhen I die, don’t list my jobs; just write General Laborer under my name—this title I tenderly share with those laborers who have gone before me. To achieve such a distinction as this would be to have prepared myself in all things, to have worn out my body and mind completely, to have worked as they worked, so as to meet them on level ground.

Remembering Cody Black

Remembering Cody Black

May is Foster Care Month, so we’d like to honor Dorothy and Ellsworth Clark, foster parents to Cody Black (1947-2010). Dorothy and Ellsworth not only taught and nurtured Cody in his teenage years, but went to great lengths to learn about and love the Navajo culture and people. They visited Cody’s home in Arizona several times, gave of their time and resources to the Navajo Nation, and welcomed many of Cody’s family into their home. While many foster parents and children did not share such positive experiences, Dorothy and Ellsworth’s example stands out as an example of inclusion and sensitivity.
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    An excerpt from the pages of Dorothy Clark’s life history:
The seventeen-year-old Navajo youth you came into our home as a foster brother was for some time the object of our natural curiosity and concern. He spoke only when spoken to and released information in carefully-guarded phrases. We had previously prepared ourselves in learning regarding his native culture and tried in everything to make him feel at ease with us.
I finally succeeded as an elder sister in gaining his complete confidence. He would come to my bedroom, sniffing perfumes, then sit down and discuss with me the gamut of teenage problems and uncertainties. But we weren’t prepared for the final proof that we had been accepted. Rushing in from school one day, this youth released—without warning—a long, uninhibited yell as he trotted off to the new-found security of his foster home. 1
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Vaida Black, wife of the late Cody Black, shared the following memories of Cody’s experiences living with the Clark’s:
I know she had him take guitar lessons where he learned his notes. After, he’d just pick it out. Cody was great with music. She helped him to improve his talent. She had him start painting and making signs for different stores in the area. Once he was a husband and a father he used his drawing in so many ways. When his children ran for a school office they always asked dad to help make posters. That was his specialty. He loved it and so did the kids.
She had done some of his genealogy for him that I have been looking for. I just smiled and told myself, she was so good to him. She had written down when he received his priesthood, that I had been searching for. I was just amazed, especially knowing how busy she was. She still had Cody on her list. I myself was always thought she loved Cody just like her own son. She did so much for him. I think she spoiled him, that he wasn’t used to.
She helped him find a job with a cabinet company. All of these talents he learned shows in our home. We have furniture, shelves and cabinets. Pop taught him how to garden. It was because of him we were the only ones on our block to have grass. Of course, eventually, they did all get their grass on, but I knew Cody had done ours because he was taught to always work. He did that for sure. He did the brick work and the fence. He kept saying, I’ve never done this before, i know it’s because of Sis. Clark, he wasn’t afraid to try and do it.
She helped Cody sign up for architect school in California. He graduated from there. I was impressed he got his degree. After 10 years, we decided to have a house made and we got the floor plan. I had told Cody, “I wish the rooms were different and like this. I don’t like how small this family room is and I don’t want a formal dining room. I want us to be together”. It was hard to know and frustrating. What can we do to make those changes. Then Cody said, I can change it? I couldn’t believe it. I said you can? When we went back to the house builder, He said, it easier to erase it than to build it an then re-do it. Once I found out, I started to tell Cody, “This is how I want it and like this and this room larger.” We took back our new plan to the contract company and he said, since you don’t have a license, you need to fine one and have him sign for approval. Cody found one of his co-workers and our house was started. They were amazed at the floor plan. The walls are the same, no one else has our floor plan. I thought, I’ve seen a likeness after we did that.
Cody called Sis. Clark “mom”. I know she loved him so much. He really learned so much from his new family. He honored his priesthood because of how he was taught at home. He learned to love his family and how important it is to provide for them. All of that was his mom and dad Clark. They played a big part in his life. Thanks to them, he did honor his priesthood and loved his family greatly. Thank you for asking me to do this. I wish he could of done it himself. 2
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1. Clark, Dorothy Smith. Dorothy Smith Clark Archive.Life History Notes. 26 October 1971.   Privately held by Cathy Gilmore. Salt Lake City, UT.
2. Black, Vaida. Interview. 22 July 2014.
3. Photos are cropped images from the Dorothy Smith Clark Book of Remembrance. Dorothy Smith Clark Archive. Privately held by David S. Clark. Sandy, UT.

RootsTech Innovator Showdown: A Silver Lining

We are in the thick of RootsTech and are frankly amazed at the encouraging support we have received from family historians here who are excited about our indexing product. Although we learned we will not be moving forward to the finals, we are amazed at the progress we’ve made in just four months! Let’s recap:

October, 2015

  • Kimball Clark and Cathy Gilmore decide to form Kindex LLC and begin to sell the software and hosting to family organizations

November 2015

  • Kindex uses bootstrap funds to begin software development
  • We meet with FamilySearch for the first time to discuss the FamilySearch API. We are encouraged to enter the RootsTech Innovator Showdown
  • Using props, clothing, furniture, and voice work from our own family members, we write a script and submit a video

December 2015

  • Software development begins in earnest, amidst continual and improving iterations.
  • Business models are explored and refined.
  • Business plan and proforma drafted.
  • Social media and content marketing begins.
  • Meet again with FamilySearch to discuss API

January 2016

  • We learn we are semifinalists in the Innovator Showdown.
  • Kimball and Cathy spin the plates of marketing literature, wireframing, front end html and CSS, back-end project managing, preparing two booths for RootsTech, preparing the Innovator Showdown presentation, indexing our use case, writing social media content, selling our product to raise funds, looking for investors and backers, refining business models and pricing, and meeting with FamilySearch during API development.

Wednesday, February 3rd.

  • The morning of the Innovator Showdown, Kindex becomes Family Search Certified
  • Kindex competes in the RootsTech Innovator Showdown
  • Kindex released Kindex Beta™, an MVP product with limited features

We are so thankful for the encouragement of our FamilySearch associates, especially Gordon Clarke, who enabled our certification. And, to the RootsTech Innovator Summit team who provide this great opportunity for startups like us. Without the ever-present deadline of February 3rd, 2016, we would not be where we are today.

To our supporters, Beta testers, and future users: thank you for catching our vision. Kindex Beta will introduce new features in the coming days and weeks, and we encourage your patience as we roll it out.

To the RootsTech Innovator Showdown team and GrowUtah: thank for providing us a springboard into something great.

And finally, a big thank you to our spouses and children, for their constant support and patience in our efforts to help other families find what is lost.

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(l-r) Vladimir Canro (one of developers), Colleen Fitzpatrick (consultant), Cathy Gilmore, Kimball Clark.