Family stories enhance ties to ancestors

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By Linda Hanabarger

In Panzi Blackwell’s recent Fayette Faces column "Meyers still holding hands after 70 years," we were allowed into the life of Elvis and Maxine Meyer of rural Vandalia.  
Having known Elvis and Maxine for years, it was very interesting to learn more about how they met and their life together.
Through the annual family reunions of the Meyer family, I came to know Elvis’s father, Clyde Meyer, as well as his brother, Claude, and sister, Fern Worker – all first cousins to grandma, Berniece Meyer Spires, of Bingham.
In 1992, with the help of Jeff Meyer of Bingham, I put together a family book on the Meyer family. While looking for stories for the book – to go along with the names and dates that generally make up most of a family genealogy – Elvis’ uncle, Claude Meyer, told me he had written down some of the events of his life and I was welcome to use what I thought would be interesting in the book.
Claude, Clyde and Fern were children of Marion Michael and Cora Conarrowe Meyer. In 1902, when Elvis’ father, Clyde, was 2 years old, their father decided to move to Claremore, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), where they remained about one year.
Claude wrote, “Dad had planted corn in low ground near the Verdigris River, but heavy rains came and caused the river to overflow the crop. My parents decided to return to Bingham. We were accompanied by dad’s cousin, Miles  Sears, and his wife, Ona. The return trip was made by covered wagon.    
“Dad and I contracted malaria fever.  Mother would put me on a pillow for comfort, and feared each day that they might have to bury me somewhere along the way. The year we returned was the same time as the St. Louis World’s Fair (1904).
“At the end of 1913, we had a sale and moved to Ainsworth, Neb. We attended school there until March, when we were able to move to the farm that dad had rented. This farm was about eight miles southeast of Ainsworth.
“The school we attended was about two miles from our house, over sand hills. It had just been completed, and started with an enrollment of 21 pupils – a good number,  considering the sparsely populated area.
“On a ranch south and adjoining the place where we lived, there was a sod house with thick outside walls built from prairie sod. The man that lived there was Mike Thrall. He was having his threshing done, and it was operated by horses moving in a circle to run the mechanism.
“Near this place, they were plowing virgin prairie sod, using, as I recall, a 10-inch furrow sod-turning plow with a long moldboard pulled by three horses. Our crop was a failure, compared with the production in Illinois.
“The corn grew to about the height of popcorn, and the ears were small and close to the ground. It was necessary to wear coated gloves to protect your hands from sand burrs. We lived there one year and then moved to Bingham, Ill.”
Elvis‘ father, Clyde, told that when his family was setting out to move to Oklahoma,  his grandfather, John Meyer, gave each of the children a silver dollar, and the two parents each a five-dollar gold piece. Clyde kept his silver dollar all his life, eventually having it made into a tie clip.
Family stories add an insight into lives of the people we know and have known. It is a gift to us when they share those stories  with us.