Stories from the Muddy

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Dark and Stormy Night

By Naomi Lewis

              I spent two weeks in the wild Mazury Lakes district of northern Poland before I realized I was a city girl.  I couldn’t take one more day of country living in a foreign country.  Monika, my long-time friend, had a beautiful country estate. Everything was comfortable.  I think I was just too far from the airport.  I began to feel stranded at the end of the rainbow. 

Warsaw apartment at Latchorzew
            Monika was gracious enough to let me spend several days in her Warsaw condo while her family enjoyed the rest of their country vacation.  So I was alone one night when a storm of Biblical proportions ripped through Warsaw.  Curtains were suddenly sucked out of rooms to wave at the sky.  Open doors and windows banged until I thought they would be ripped off their hinges.
               The staircase to Monika’s room in the loft on the second floor didn’t have a banister and the wooden stairs were steep.  I had never ventured there with my questionable knees, but with her windows slamming above me, I swallowed hard and climbed hands and feet together.  The climb wasn’t as bad as I reckoned the descent would be.  I came down on my behind.

               The lightning was a fireworks display, lasting hours.  Thunder I didn't mind, but lightning was too much like the judgment of God to be comfortable.  Once I had secured the doors and windows all over the apartment, I looked out to see what was happening in the neighborhood.  The rain was a torrent, reminding me of the endless waters plunging over the cliffs at Niagara Falls, obscuring the houses across the street, only yards away.  I hid from the lightning in an alcove in front of the bathroom where there were no windows.  The apartment was full of sky lights, I prayed would hold.

               In such a conflagration, I thought it would be a miracle if the lights stayed on.  Five minutes later, the power went off.  Not only did the lights go out, but the water system failed.  Faucets only gurgled.  Toilets wouldn’t flush.  I couldn’t wash my hands.  Fortunately, growing up in the desert, I was accustomed to carrying drinking water everywhere I went, more than I needed, much to the amusement of my Polish friends, who mocked me, with “This isn’t the desert.  This isn’t Las Vegas.”  I was trained to be prepared and I was.  I was glad.  I had plenty of drinking water, the necessities bread, soup, cookies and I could cook on the gas stove.

               However, without power, I didn’t have the internet or television to inform me how large an area was affected by the storm.  I wondered if such a storm would create a local emergency.  Was the whole country inundated?  With my imagination spiraling, I wondered if it were a pan-European event.  The storm was so severe I began to believe it was the beginning of an apocalypse and I was a long way from home.  I switched on my transistor radio.  I thought it a good sign that several stations were on the air, presumably playing their usual fare, though I couldn't understand the Polish commentary.

               When the lightning came more sporadically, I ventured out of my retreat in the alcove to look out the windows again.  By then I could see the houses across the street and the woods beyond.  The neighborhood seemed calm.  I saw a lone candle flickering in the window of a house a couple doors down.  I took some comfort in the fact that my house wasn’t the only one out of power.  Being a professional communicator all my working life, I found it frustrating not having information at my fingertips.  I felt the agony of not being able to communicate in the local language or understand the communications that were available.

               As the hours wore on, neighbors ventured out, several with boats on top of their cars.  That made me wonder.  It was the weekend, but did they know something I didn’t?  I didn’t know.  I took some comfort I was in an upstairs apartment in case a dam broke or something else equally devastating.

               With the power out, I thought the phones were dead and didn’t even try to use them.  So when a phone rang, it was a jolt.  As it turned out one of the phones was not electric, and Monika was able to get through.  They had been swimming at the lake and hadn't seen the news, so she couldn't tell me what was happening either, but told me where the candles and matches were.  I had my little flashlight I carried everywhere, so I was okay, and I had extra batteries, but a little general light was comforting.

Across the street after the storm
                When it was time for sleep, I just made myself go to bed.  The lights came back on at 7:30 the next morning after being off fourteen hours.  As it turned out, that storm was not a big event by Polish standards, but it could have been.  I'm a great believer in being prepared for contingencies and if I hadn’t been, that difficult night, I would have been further traumatized.  I thought about how fragile our lives are and how much we depend on the grid.  If the storm had created a crisis, sanitation would have quickly become a problem, electric trains couldn't run, eventually buses would stop when they couldn't pump gas, planes wouldn't fly, and on and on, everything was affected by a lack of electricity.

                The sun came up as big as you please as if nothing had happened, but plenty had gone on in my mind that dark and stormy night.  

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Meining/Preikschat and the Lithuanian Connection

By Naomi Lewis

Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis
Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis always thought her father Otto Meining's family came from Germany.  In the 1970's while I was researching different family lines in Salt Lake City, I told an aid at the Family History Center what my great aunt Emma told me, that her folks, John Meining and Emma Snyder, spoke Litosh.  The woman said if they spoke Litoish, they were from Lithuania.  There was a great deal of confusion in my mind about Germany, Prussia, and Lithuania.  The area has a very complex history.

Otto Albert Meining Betty Louise's Father

            Aunt Emma Gates, Otto's sister, and the wife of Grandma Gentry's brother, Herschel, gave me the address of her cousin Gertrude Abrat, in Dayton, Ohio, who was in possession of the family Bible.  I wrote her a letter to learn what I could about that part of the family.

Emma Snyder Meining

            In 1976, I was in Columbus, Ohio, staying with my friends Rosa and Larry Stolz, waiting for my second album, "Seagulls and Sunflowers," to be pressed in Cincinnati. One fine day, Rosa and I drove to Dayton to visit Gertude Abrat.  Gertrude was the daughter of Anna Preischat and Christ Abrat.  Gertrude and her sister took us to lunch and we visited.  From Gertrude, I learned a little bit about the Meining's and first heard about the Preikschat family.  I found out my mother's great grandfather, John Preikschat, was born in Smalininkai, Lithuania.  Now the Litosh, Litoish, East Prussia, Lithuania story was coming together.  John Meining's wife was Emma Snyder Meining.
John Meining

            In about 1870, while John Preikschat was in Kaiser Wilhelm's Navy and on his ship, the SMS Weissenburg, a Brandenburg class battleship, Emma delivered their first son and named him John Meining, keeping her maiden name as his surname.  John and Emma's later children, Albert, Bertha, Anna, and Maria were surnamed Preikschat.  I found pictures of the Brandenburg on the internet.  In the summer of 2006 while at the family history center in Salt Lake City, I found John and Emma's marriage certificate, John Preikschat and family immigration papers, and John Meining's naturalization papers

John Preikschat on the SMS Weissenburg
            According to information given to me by Gertrude Abrat, John Preikschat died in a Russian prison camp in 1916.  I wish I knew these details.  Did they immigrate to America, then John and Anna and one son, Albert, go back to the homeland?  There is a story here because Anna Meining Preikschat died in Germany in 1935.

            John Meining immigrated to Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio at the turn of the century.  I don't know if he met Emma in Europe, or after he arrived in America, but they were here by 1904.  Otto Albert, my mother's father, was born March 4, 1904, in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio.  His siblings were Frank Gustav, Emma Bertha, our Aunt Emma, Herman August, Ida Mary, John William, and Paul.  I found several census records of this family.

John Preikschat
             While I was in Europe in 2006, I was determined to visit the village where this family originated and find something out about them.  Visiting my friend, Monika in Poland, I discovered my young friend, Jacek, Monika's brother, had supervised several construction projects in Lithuania, knew his way around, and was willing to take me.  The seven hour drive included some of the worst roads through Poland one can imagine.  Roads are better after crossing the border into Lithuania, but by the time we drove into Smalininkai, the jostling ride had done its worst on my neck and I was feeling quite ill.  The village probably hasn't changed much since my family left there more than a 100 years ago.  It was a beautiful land of green fields and trees lining both sides of the road, but there wasn't much to recommend the town.  It felt bleak to me.

Road into Smalininkai, Lithuania
           With spritzing rain all day, there wasn't anyone around.  The library was closed, and our prospects of finding out anything in this small village looked impossible.  But as is proven over and over again, nothing is impossible to the Lord.

            We drove through town one more time.  Two men who hadn't been there before, were now on the sidewalk. We stopped the car and I asked through the window if there was anyone in town who spoke English.  As one of the men leaned toward me, I smelled alcohol on his breath.  I made a snap judgment for which I hope the Lord will forgive me, that this was a lost cause, and how stupid could I be to come clear to Lithuania to find traces of a family that hadn't lived there for over 100 years.  I just wanted to go home.  As I sat there paralyzed, Jacek, who was such a blessing to me, got out of the car.  I wanted to say, "Let's just go.  Forget it, I want to get out of here," instead, I wrote two family names on a piece of paper.  "Meining, Preikschat," I said.

            The man's eyes lit up.  Nodding, he said the name, Preikschat.  To my surprise this wobbly man disappeared and reappeared moments later with a woman in tow.  I asked her if she spoke English, she told me no, but she spoke German and I understood enough German to communicate. I understood there was still a Preikschat in the village.  Our new friends piled into the back seat of the car and led us to a house. 

Old Preikschat home
            It was one of the old family houses and the woman explained to me that they built a new house and after several tries, we found it.  I was so exhausted and ill, my heart wasn't in knocking on a strangers door, but the locals did that for me and explained to the older woman who answered who we were.

            To my surprise, she indicated for us to enter her home.  I didn't want to.  It was so hard for me to walk down that dark hallway and track mud into her house.

The generous lady
              As the little man was leaving, he asked me in German if I spoke English better than German.  When I told him, yes, I was American, he stumbled out of the house.  I don't believe he had ever met an American before, nor could he figure out what I was doing there.

The Generous lady invited us to sit at a table and I quickly learned that she didn't speak English, either, so we communicated with my very rusty German. I said a silent prayer, "I don't know what to do.  How can I explain what I need to her?  Help me."  Jacek, who hadn't said a word before, began to speak to her in Polish.  She visibly came alive.  She had lived in Poland for five years and spoke fluent Polish.

            Jacek was able to tell her we wanted to find a genealogist and were interested in the family history.  She was a widow and told us her husband's uncle had gone to America. I believe that is my family line.  She went to the cupboard and came back with an envelope with an address for the office of vital records in Vilnius.  We thanked her and got up to leave.  When we arrived at the door, she called us back and went to the phone.

            She made a call to the priest who had several parishes in the area under his jurisdiction .  She coincidently worked in his office.  The priest, Father Mindaugas, spoke English and German and I was able to tell him why I was there.  He sadly explained that the Smalininkai parish records had been destroyed.  It was hard to hear after coming so far, but was information I needed to know.  Where the Lord closes a door, he opens a window.  Father Mindaugas suggested to me that some of the family records could also be in Taurage, which was under his jurisdiction.  Now I had a contact for researching the Lithuanian side of my family.  I went back to Poland believing what had happened in Lithuania was a miracle.

            In Kaunas, I rented two rooms for $36.  They were plain, but sufficient for the night.  I had probably 
Hotel room in Kaunus, Lithuania
the worst night of my whole European adventure in Kaunas.  I couldn't find a comfortable position for my neck, worse for the wear of the road and the stress of trying to communicate. 
            I felt very far from home that night.  I was very far from home.  As far as I ever hope to be.  Taking a shower was a challenge in a tub with a hand-held rubber hose.  What fun washing my hair with one hand.

            All the young people in Lithuania spoke English, unlike Poland.  Jacek took me to a restaurant where we had a traditional soup made of cabbage and caraway seeds.  It was delicious and scalding hot.  The bread roof over the bowl was delicious as well.  We both drank bottled water.  The whole meal cost three litu's, about $4.  Things were very inexpensive in Lithuania.

Pedestrian mall in Kaunus, Lithuania
             The next morning at Kaunas, I walked out into a huge outdoor pedestrian mall.  Two rows of trees were lined up down the middle with stores on both sides of the mall as far as I could see. I thought it must be safe to venture out with a Nivea poster shining down on me and Matthew McConaughey bigger than life smiling down from a poster for his new film, Sahara.

Mall in Vilnius, Lithuania
             We were in Vilnius by lunch time and Jacek knew a great place to eat.  The mall could have been Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas, modern and beautiful.  We ate at a buffet where we paid for each item separately.  I couldn't get enough of bigos - (I'm not sure about the spelling) well -cooked sauerkraut with tiny pieces of sausage - a consistently delicious dish wherever I ate it.

            I fell in love with Vilnius. When all the restorations are complete, I believe the city will rival Gdansk on the Baltic coast of Poland.  I wish I could have spent more time in Vilnius.  I would rather have been there for the night than at Kaunas.

Church in Vilnius

Boats at Trakai, Lithuania
            We drove to Trakai late in the day and enjoyed the beautiful castle and lake.  The boats looked ancient and very unique, like something I would imagine sailing the Nile. 
Trakai, Lithuania

Mustard colored house


            Lithuanians are fond of mustard colored houses.  I wonder if it goes back to a time when the people worshiped the sun.

            I saw many of the Soviet farm complexes are now in ruin.  When Lithuania won its independence, the giant Soviet farms were split into family farms, but I didn't see any fences anywhere in my travels.  Farmers don't take their cows to a barn to milk them, they bring their stools and buckets to the field where their animals are tied to a stake.  When the grass is eaten  off around the stake, they move the stake.

Beauty outside Vilnius
             As we traveled in Lithuania, I realized why we're commanded to meet together often.  One lamp can light a room, but many lamps light a house, a city, a country, a world. 

           The fields were so artful and beautiful.  Golden grain was planted on all the hills and the low areas were left bright green.  It was stunning. 

            It was time to head back to Warsaw.  As we stopped for construction, I took a sunset photo of Lithuania.  I missed so many great

photos in Poland and Lithuania because there wasn't room to stop.

            Before I left the country, I saw a man raking his hay with a horse in the traditional way.

            Jacek was a trooper.  He drove us clear home to Wasrsaw as I dozed.  We arrived back at Monika's at .

            I was a little worse for wear when I returned from Lithuania.  The miles had done their worst on my neck.  I wondered how I was going to endure to the end of my journey with six weeks still ahead.  I had a fervent desire to finish what I set out to do and to go home on the date I had planned.

            I awakened that night so distressed with my neck, I thought, if we tortured our children, the way we are tortured, it would be called abuse.  It was Sunday morning, and at the Warsaw first ward we sang, "How Firm A Foundation," and I felt one of the Lord's tender mercies to me. "I am thy God and will still give thee aid, I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."

           The Sunday School lesson came from Doctrine and Covenants Section 98:  "He giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good."  Could I have received a message any clearer or more personal after my thoughts in the night?  I believe God is aware of us as individuals in our individual needs and challenges.  

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The Hendersons of Tennessee and North Carolina

            Naomi Dove Henderson's sister, Sivilla Henderson Jones, wrote a sketch of the lives of her parents, James Wesley Henderson and Annie Caroline Smith Henderson.

            A few years before the beginning of the Civil War, my father, James Wesley Henderson was born, August 4, 1848, near Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee.  He was the youngest of the three children of Hugh Carnes Henderson and his second wife Lucretia L. Taylor Henderson.  He had several half brothers and sisters by his father's first and third marriages.

James Wesley Henderson

            James's mother died when he was two years old.  His half sister, Caroline, Tiny, as the family called her, because of her diminutive stature, cared for him until their father married Mary Maddox, April 28, 1852.

            Jimmy, as he was called, was not yet four years old when his new mother came into the home.  Aunt Tiny, whose married name was Hannah Caroline Hieks, told us later that Jimmy was so little and cute and pretty, she almost wished he would never grow up.  She told us she almost got her wish, for he was a small man, only five foot five inches tall, and weighed 125 pounds in young manhood, and only 115 in old age.  He was a handsome man with brownish green eyes and black wavy hair.
            Jimmy was always proud of his ancestry, the coveted "Old Virginia stock."  He was Scots-Irish and his father came from North Carolina and pioneered in western Tennessee.

            Jimmy's father, Hugh Carnes Henderson, reared a large family by his three wives: Elizabeth, Lucretia Taylor, and Mary Maddox.

            Public schools were very poor in the south after the war.  Hugh was determined to provide his children with facilities for schooling, so he hired the best teacher he could find to give his children private lessons at home.  Jimmy was a good penman and when he grew up, he gave lessons in penmanship.  He was a religious, prayerful person, a member of the Methodist Church.

            Jimmy spent his young manhood working on his father's plantation while his older brothers were away in the Army.  His father, Hugh, was shot by Yankee soldiers while standing at his own front door.  Jimmy was so sad and depressed, he immediately volunteered for Army service and urged the draft board to let him go.  He was anxious to avenge the death of his father.  He was only sixteen years old and too small, so he was rejected.

            After the war was over, and his brothers came home, his step-mother divided the property, giving each child his share to get started in life.  The slaves did not want to leave after they were given their freedom, so they stayed on the plantation and did the work until the boys were old enough to care for the farm.
            Jimmy said he had trouble getting along with his step-mother and it seemed natural, because his older sister had humored and spoiled him.  He said his father, Hugh Carnes Henderson, was the kindest man he ever knew.

            Hugh was a very successful man--a farmer and builder.  He helped build the country roads, levees, and bridges, and the first railroad across the State of Tennessee to the Mississippi River.

            Jimmy was too young to receive his inheritance.  He did not know how to manage it.  He spent it having a good time.  He dressed well and mingled in high society.  He often remarked that he danced with the Governor's daughter—a rare privilege for one out of her circle.  He was charitable and too generous with his money.  He had but little to start making a home when he decided to marry and settle down.
            Jimmy and Annie Caroline Smith, were married by Reverend Taylor, of the Baptist Church, May 24, 1885, at Jackson, Madison, Tennessee.  They had a quiet wedding at high noon in her grandmother's home, with a reception in the afternoon.
Annie Caroline Smith

            Jimmy bought thirty acres of land near Jackson and his mother's brother, a wealthy man, Uncle Wyatt Taylor, gave him fifty acres adjacent.  This made a good-sized farm where they reared their family until the older children were ready for high school and they moved us into Jackson.  Father was not able to manage the farm alone.  Although he only received a little from the farm, he did not sell it until they moved to Utah in 1911.
            In 2001, I made a trip to Nashville, Tennessee to visit Joan Walker, one of my songwriting co-writers.  I made a side-trip to Jackson where I met my only surviving cousin, Claudia Henderson Riding and her family.  They showed me the area of the Henderson farm, and we visited the Taylor cemetery where many of the family are interred.  I didn't know anything about southern hospitality until that visit.  It was a complete delight.

            Again in 2004, I drove through Jackson for a short visit and picture-taking.  What a beautiful country.  It must have been hard for the family to leave, though the desert has its own beauty.
            Annie Caroline Smith was born November 21, 1861, in Chunchula, a suburb of Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama.  Annie Caroline was the only girl.  Her two brothers died in childhood.  She had much to do in the home and garden to help her grandmother and invalid mother.  During the Civil War, they only had a meager living.  Her father, William Henry Smith, born January 7, 1839, was in the Army, and when fighting ceased, he did not return when the other soldiers came wearily walking home.

            It was rumored that he died of small pox, which was prevalent in the prison where he was last known to be kept.  No one remembers where he was born or where he died.  That's so sad to me.  We are traditionally informed that he fought in the "Battle of Atlanta," which is described in "Gone with the Wind."

            Annie's mother, Civilla Ann Magee Smith, born January 7, 1839 in Chunchula, Mobile County, Alabama, was an invalid because lightning struck a tree near the porch where she was standing.  She died about forty years of age, leaving her daughter in the care of her mother, Mary Lyle Miller Magee, born August 3, 1804.  Her Grandfather was John Magee born about 1800 in Mobile, Alabama.

            Carrie, as Annie Caroline was called, was a steady, patient person, kind, slow to anger, but firm.  She was a very pretty girl with black hair and blue eyes.  Our father told us he loved to take our mother to fashionable places to watch people admire her.

            Mother, like our father, was very religious, a studious Bible reader, a member of the Baptist Church.  After they were married, father joined the Baptist Church, because he said he thought it was better for the children if both father and mother belonged to the same church.  He loved the spirit of the home to be congenial and happy and he tried to prevent arguments and contention among us.  Jimmy did not like the name Carrie, so he called his wife Callie—the name by which she was ever afterwards known.

            There were only a few public schools after the destruction of war was fought on our soil.  Mother had very little chance to go to school, but she must have made the best use of the time she spent studying.  She was a good reader and speller.  We asked her how she learned to speak English so well, and how she acquired a fine vocabulary.  She said by listening carefully to educated people.

            Father and mother were both anxious for us to obtain sufficient schooling to mix in society.  They were devoted parents—truthful and honest and always set good examples for us children.

            When mother requested we do something for her or father, we knew we had to do it.  She would not give up until the task was complete.  She seldom punished us, but would do so firmly if necessary, for she was a good disciplinarian.  Father was quick to anger and quick to forgive and very kind to all, especially us children.

            He would say, "Callie, I can't punish that child."  So Callie, being the disciplinarian, would have to talk us into obeying father.  Her English blood urged her to believe that children must obey to the letter, while father, being a Scot, was more lenient.

            In the Spring of 1898, LDS missionaries, William Karren and Charles McNeil, both of Logan, Utah, visited our home.  Daddy was working in the garden near our house when the Elders approached.  They explained who they were and my father said, "I believe you are Mormons, followers of Brigham Young, aren't you."  They answered, "Yes."  He said he was not interested because he could not take care of one wife as well as he should.

            They left three tracts and said they would be back in a week or two to see what Father thought of them.  This was the beginning of the conversion of the James Wesley Henderson family to Mormonism.

            Father brought the pamphlets in the house and jokingly said, "Let's begin studying Mormon doctrine."  That evening while we children were doing our lessons, our parents read the pamphlets.

            I shall never forget the expression on mother's face after she finished reading the booklets.

            She said, "I have been looking for this doctrine all my life.  I thought the Baptist Church was nearest like the church Christ established, but it is not founded on Prophets and Apostles."
Mother, Annie Caroline Smith,Callie, was the first to accept the gospel, but was not baptized for three years after she was converted.  Mother waited for father to accept.  He urged her to be baptized, for he could not be satisfied with all the ideas the Elders taught, like work for the dead, pre-mortal life, and marriage for eternity.  We all eventually came to an understanding one or two at a time.

            Our home in Jackson was always open to the LDS missionaries.  For a long period of time, Father kept a record of the elders who had stayed in our home.  The number exceeded two hundred who had received meals, laundry done, and been nursed when they were sick, even to staying up all night during their illnesses.  He grew tired of keeping the list, so we have never known an accurate number our parents cared for from 1898 until 1913 when Father and Mother left Jackson to establish their home in Salt Lake City, Utah.

            James and Callie were faithful Latter-Day-Saints as long as they lived.  They returned to Jackson in March 1917 to gather some genealogical records.  Father went along to town the 12th of April, 1917.  He had a stroke and fell to the ground.  He was pronounced dead a few minutes later.  His funeral was conducted by the missionaries of the district and was well attended by friends and relatives.

            Mother was very happy to see so many who had been very bitter and abusive when they accepted Mormonism, come to her and show tenderness and compassion.  Burial was in the family cemetery.  Only my brother, Woodard was able to attend the funeral.  Mother returned to Salt Lake City and lived with Woodard for a time.  She then lived with my brother Walter until her death of influenza and pneumonia, January 29, 1919.  She's buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery.

            They were the parents of six children—Sivilla H. Jones, Tisha Lucretia, who died in infancy, James Woodard, Walter Sidney, Naomi Dove Lewis, and Margaret Fisher.

James Henderson family
            Father had two full brothers, William Taylor Henderson, and Mark Carnes Henderson, and eight half brothers and sisters.  Mother had two brothers who died in childhood.

            My parents remained true to the gospel until the end of their lives.  They were full tithe payers and observers of the word of wisdom.  They were especially active in gathering genealogy.  It was true, the hearts of the children had been turned to their fathers.

            I am Sivilla Anne, born August 25, 1886, in Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee, the oldest daughter and child.  I have written a small part of the lives of my parents.

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Arthur Lewis and Rosalie Neilsen

This is the story that has come down to me.  Again, I don’t know who recorded Arthur’s memories.

Arthur Lewis

Arthur Lewis was born July 13, 1866 and grew up on Henrietta Street in Bloomsbury, London.  When Arthur was a boy, he was one of 5,000 school children chosen by Queen Victoria to sing at a certain celebration.  His mother, Caroline Matthews died when he was very young and he didn’t remember her, but remembered playing on London Bridge and on the Thames River all the time.  He was evidently left alone a lot after his mother died.  He once fell in and was rescued by a passerby.  When Arthur was in school, he was given books for scholarship and brought two of them with him to America.  When the family was quarantined with diphtheria, the health authorities burned every book in the house and they were lost.

Arthur knew little of his family.  When I was in Salt Lake City the summer of 2006, I found his parents’ marriage record at the Family History Center.  Henry Lewis and Caroline Mathews were married, October 12, 1856 in the parish of Saint Andrews, Holborn, London, England.  Both resided on Grays Inn Lane at the time of the marriage and both their fathers signed for them.  Thomas Lewis was a jeweler or a cabinet maker for jewelry.  James Matthews was a boot maker.

Henry’s parents were Thomas Lewis and Sarah Thackery.  Her family was not members of the LDS church.   Sarah was a widow when she joined the church in the early days of the missionaries in London and was a member of the branch in Pentinville.  Arthur didn’t know his grandparents and didn’t know he had two sisters who died in infancy before Arthur was born.  He was very fond of his older brother, John, and his younger brother James.  James was about ten years old when Arthur left for America.

John Married Sarah Collins at the time the Lewis family joined the church.  Arthur left England because the Latter Day Saints were gathering in Salt Lake City.  His family was poor, but thought they should send someone.  Arthur left London without money.  The sailors noticed he wasn’t eating.  In those days, the sailors had ship’s biscuits in their store of food.  Arthur had a carpet bag, from which he took his worldly possessions and filled it with the hard baked biscuits.  He stated that, “I kept more than myself alive on them.  There were a lot of fellows who were hungry.”

Arthur’s beautiful Welsh singing voice earned him friends wherever he went, including the sailors on his ship and that is why they gave him food.  Even after a three-week crossing, Arthur had some biscuits left when he arrived in America.  When Arthur Lewis arrived in Salt Lake City in 1882, the Tabernacle organ had been installed for fifteen years in the Tabernacle on temple square, but the temple was still under construction.  John Taylor, the same who was present when Joseph Smith was martyred, was prophet, seer and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Arthur was only sixteen as he walked down the street in Salt Lake singing an old song he had learned in England, “This Ellen Riley they speak of so highly, how do you do, Ellen Riley, you’re looking quite well,” When the lady in front of him turned around and said, “That’s my name.”  He became acquainted with her and found that she was the wife of the Bishop of the sixth ward.  They were in the trucking business when they took him in and gave him a job driving their big wagons.  That’s what he did when Rosalie first met him and until he got into the greenhouse business.

Rosalie Neilsen

Rosalie Neilsen was born August 14, 1866 in Merlose, Holbaek, Denmark.  One night when Rosalie was five, she was locked in the church yard.  Her older sister, Elise and her mother, Christina, looked for her all night.  The next morning when the gates opened, she thought she would be welcomed with open arms, instead she was spanked and told she was a naughty girl.  She was the youngest of five children and her mother loved her very much.  Rosalie started school in Copenhagen in 1872 at the age of six, and graduated in 1879. 

           In 1880, Rosalie left Copenhagen with her mother and siblings, Carl, Charles, Elise and Niels, for Liverpool where they caught a boat for New York.   They caught a train from Albany to Salt Lake City.  The fare was $35.00.

Christina Vallentin Neilsen

Rosalie hated the trip to Salt Lake.  She didn’t like the flat plains, but when they finally arrived at the mountains, she loved it.  Many times, she spoke of beautiful Copenhagen.  She felt badly about leaving friends and her father.  She was very seasick on the ocean.  The hard ship’s biscuits were not much help.  Rosalie was living with her sister, Elise in the sixth ward when she met Arthur Lewis at a dance and they fell in love.  When Rosalie married Arthur, July 13, 1887, she was going by the name Vallentin, even though she had been christened Neilsen.  Her parents, Christian Neilsen and Christina Vallentin were married in Denmark on February 14, 1853.  They separated when Rosalie was young and her father would not come to America with his family.  Christina Vallentin Neilsen chose to use her maiden name.  The four children used that name when they came to America, where it was changed to Fallentin.

Arthur Lewis was talented with making things grow.  He took charge of all the greenhouses in the western part of Salt Lake, which extended for three or four blocks.  When there was a funeral and flowers were sent for, he would make beautiful sprays and arrangements.  Arthur worked twelve hours a day at the greenhouse, then he came home, took a baby in his arms and sang to it while Rosalie fixed supper.  He couldn’t read music.  When they moved to Overton, he was asked to lead the ward choir. He said he could sing, but he didn’t know anything about music.

After Arthur brought his father to Salt Lake, they received a letter saying John was preparing to go to South Africa to fight in the Boer War.  The last letter from John, who was a policeman in London, said he was being trained to ride camels across the Sahara desert.  The family didn’t know if he had volunteered.  He had two little children at the time.  (See the post, John Lewis, Great Grandpa Arthur’s Brother for details about my research on this family). When he was never heard from again, the family assumed he had died in that war.  The letter also said James had left home and they didn’t know where he was.  His father was in Salt Lake.   The summer I was doing research at the Family History Center, I often visited Henry’s grave, set on a hill under a beautiful mature pine tree with an unobstructed view of the magnificent Wasatch Mountains.

By 1905,  there were eleven children all living in a three room house Arthur had built – Maybelle Rosalie, Elise Caroline, Ethel Margaret, Clarence Arthur, John Francis, Hazel Ruth, Ernest Theordore, Ralph Lionel, Grace Marguerite, June Bernice, and Roger Vallentine.  The Bishop heard that a co-op in Nevada called Catalappa, needed help growing cantaloupes.  Arthur’s family all boarded a train and moved to Nevada.  Mabel and Ethel sat down and bawled.  Ernest, who was nine, said, “Are we ever going back to the United States?”  The desert of Nevada after the greenery of the mountains must have looked like a wasteland to them.

The whole family lived in a big tent with a wooden floor.  They had brought their furniture.  After they went to church and became acquainted with people, they began to like it.  Arthur found out Nevada, farming and the hot weather were out of his line.  Even in his forties, he didn’t have the strength for it.  Clarence, who was fifteen, and John, thirteen, worked with him like men.  They worked for the land owners.  It was hard for them at first, but they finally bought ten acres of land where Emery Lewis lived later.

Rosalie had a miscarriage and a stroke when she was forty-three.  It was a sad thing for Arthur, but she had a sense of humor and made the best of it even though her tongue was paralyzed too.  She lived past eighty-four that way.  She could get down on her hands and knees and sweep the floor with a whisk broom and make a cake by holding a little saucepan between her knees.  In 1910, the couple’s twelfth child, Emery Leonard was born.

Arthur had an affliction that they didn’t know about back then.  All the acid was gone from his stomach.  He was so sick, he couldn’t sing anymore.  He got to the point where he couldn’t eat at all and died of starvation March 24, 1945.  After Arthur died, Rosalie went to live with her daughter, Grace, in Pioche, Nevada where she died December 4, 1950.

           While I was in Europe I decided to take a Welsh class.  Welsh is the language of our Lewis ancestors and I wanted to learn something of the language.

            I left home at  pulling my poor luggage once more over the uneven paving stones to the train station.  I caught the train from Strawberry Hill to Twickenham station where I waited for a train to Reading.

     When the train arrived, I couldn't board my luggage and purse and lunch at the same time, so I threw my purse and lunch onto the train and leaned down to pick up the luggage. As I did sos, the train doors closed. I was frantically pushing the open button from the outside and a couple on the inside was doing the same thing. We stared at each other as the train left the station with my purse and lunch on it.

            I always wore a money belt, so it wouldn't have been the end of the world, but I would have lost my camera and my passport. After this experience, I kept  my passport in my money belt.
            I prayed as I walked to the conductor's office that the Lord would help me retrieve my belongings. The porters quickly called the stations down the line. The purse and lunch were captured two stops away and they sent me on to retrieve them. They were very efficient and kind to help me. Yeah for the British Rail System.

            On the Reading to Cardiff leg of my journey, I spoke with Wayne, a native Welsh actor going to Cardiff to audition for Hamlet in Welsh. He was very at ease and fun to talk to. I have been lucky on my trips to Wales to talk to people who set me at ease. I always seem to know unconsciously when I cross the border into Wales. I always feel so happy. When I leave, I cry.

            The train from Swansea to Carmarthen was not air conditioned and it was the hottest day of the year. 70 degrees is hot in Wales. Five women sat facing each other, hair blowing in the wind. There was a lot of camaraderie as we talked about genealogy, bird watching, Wales and travel. We were all tourists from America, England and Wales.

            I realized somewhere on this journey that I was a pioneer, making the reverse journey my ancestors traveled.

            The first thing one sees after leaving the train station at Carmarthen, is Merlin's castle ruins. I walked all over Carmarthen taking pictures and bought Becca a beautiful ring of small flowers made of tiny colored stones. I also bought a fan, hairdryer and travel iron with British outlet plugs. I don't care what European's say they think about America, when they find out you're from America, their eyes light up like you're talking about the promised land.  I took a shower to cool off and turned on my new fan. I was out for the night.

             Traveling on a curvy, narrow road with hedges on both sides, was like Mr. Toad's ride from Carmarthen to Lampeter, home of the University of Wales, College of St. David's, on a bus. I felt like I was in a wind tunnel or a time warp. We came around a high corner and the landscape opened up and God's masterpiece lay before me in its breathtaking radiance.

River through Lampeter, Wales
            I arrived at the college about and put up a picture of my family. It was down right chilly with the window open at . I could hear the sheep baaing on the hill behind the University. It was quite a cacophony  -  a very homey sound that comforted me in a strange place. I walked to town before class the next day to mail Becca's ring I bought in Carmarthen.  Somehow, she didn't receive it until I was home three months later.

Morina Lloyd
            Our Welsh course was taught by Morina Lloyd. What an inspiration to sit at her feet, so to speak, every day for two weeks and learn the language of my ancestors. Our course was 30 people from all over the world, split into four classes according to experience with the language. There were two of us from the U.S. Others came from Germany, Poland, Ireland, England, the Punjab of India, Australia, and Wales.
I heard that sometimes students come from Patagonia in South America. Many Welsh went there during a hard time in Wales, and they preserve the language with a passion.

           My memory was not what it used to be and I struggled to remember the words and patterns. I so wish I could have gone 25 years before when I was still sharp as a new penny.

The hills and sky of Lampeter, Wales
            I enjoyed a walk out of town. Not far from the city center are the most beautiful hills. It's a pastoral place of green and water and sheep and cattle. I feel so at home here. I didn't know I could be so moved by hills and sky.

         The sky is most often overcast. That's why it's so cool.  Amanda, a classmate from the west coast of Wales, asked me if I wanted to take a drive to the coast with her.  We left after class one evening and drove to Aberaeron, less than an hour away. She drove her new car for the first time with a passenger. She drove slowly and we were fine. She thought I was very brave.

Aberaeron, Wales
          We had a wonderful supper of fish and chips in this picturesque fishing village and took in the sights. The light was changing before we left and I caught an interesting picture from the shade, shooting into the light.

         What a great adventure today. Olwena and Claudia from Welsh class, and I went on an excursion about . We headed for Tregaron and walked around, but it was early and nothing was open. We went on to Aberystwyth, scouted out the beach and the town. I took them to Siop Y Pethe, which is an all Welsh shop I remembered from my last trip here. They loved it. We visited the museum and found neat posters with words in Welsh and English. We ate ice cream on the beach.

Dogs in Machynlleth
             We drove on to Machynlleth, where I saw some beautiful dogs waiting for their owners. Claudia bought her first Welsh book.
            At Corris, Claudia and I went into King Arthur's labyrinth. It's an old slate mine that's been flooded. A boat takes you past scenes from King Arthur's life.

Dolgellau, Wales with Cadir Idris in the background
            Dolgellau, is a beautiful stone-built-village at the foot of Cadir Idris, a Materhorn-like mountain. I have a special affinity for this town. On my last visit here in 2000, I saw a young man who looked just like Cousin Stevie Perkins. This time a bird left a little present on my shoulder. It is supposed to be good luck. I certainly would start looking for our ancestor, Thomas Lewis here. I would also look in Carmarthen where every other business is owned by a Lewis. The other half are Davies.

            I was the only one in our group who didn't make the rounds to the pubs at night. I was the only one whose life is consecrated to the Lord. One night when I was feeling very alone, I opened my scriptures as I did every night and read Deuteronomy 14:2 "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth."  I didn't feel alone any more.

            One day, one of our English classmates, Aled, drove Caroline and I, the two Americans to Mwnd on the west coast. What a truly picturesque setting and beautiful day to discover another corner of my beloved

The beach at Mwnd, Wales

Mwnd (pronounced Moont), Wales

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