Journey through family history

Photo of the Clymer homestead

Photo of the Clymer homestead

Watercolor of Clymer house by Jo Myers-Walker

Watercolor of Clymer house, with returning siblings

Recently I took a trip to Indiana where all of us cousins had decided to bury our parents together. We’d been planning this for over a year and had a lovely service (in the church we had attended with our grandparents), told stories celebrating the lives of our loved ones, then went out to where our ancestors (Brethren and Mennonites) had established a burial ground.

To support upkeep around the gravesite, I painted the Clymer homestead — my parents’ house — working from an old photo, adding us four siblings coming home. I made prints of the original, each person purchased a copy and we put the money into a memorial fund.

Borden home with welcoming beagles

Borden home, with part of the five-beagle welcoming committee

I’ve been reading Driving the Body Back by Mary Swander while taking my own journey through family history. I’ve been learning about how our ancestors came over, and how they arrived in that area in Indiana. Some came up the Eel River on a raft, and some walked from Ohio with wagons. They settled in underground earth shelters until they could build homes. We cousins went together to visit sites, and found items at the Historical Society in Peru, IN that our relatives had made. I think this type of trip could be a great retreat for families! I plan to make a coloring book of some of the homesteads and ancestors for my grandchildren, like a treasure hunt of the past.

We found the original Borden home, built in the 1800s, where my grandparents and uncle lived (all since passed away). They got it from the Sears catalog, and the Sears company sent two on the train by mistake! (I don’t know what happened to the other house.) They used stones from clearing the fields on the outside of the house, which you can see on the porch in this photo. The new family living there let us take pictures and come in and see the beautiful woodwork.

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