Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Icons’

+++++++++++++++++

Slovakian Resurrection Icon circa 1640

Slovakian Resurrection Icon circa 1640

It’s Easter Sunday.

The day of the Resurrection.

I’ve said it before here, I am not a religious person. I wasn’t raised with religion and much of my knowledge of it as a kid came from a local church lady, Nellie Beidelman, who used to come to our little elementary school on a regular basis. We would assemble in the cafe-a-gym-a-torium (a space that served all three functions) to hear her tell Bible stories with the aid of a felt board with beautifully painted cut-out figures.

I know it’s not something that could ever take place today in a public school. But she was a very warm, gentle person and a fine storyteller without being preachy. I always found the stories interesting as they introduced me to the classic tales of the Old and New Testament and still vividly remember her telling of the Resurrection. It didn’t make me feel any more inclined toward religion but at least I knew the stories and the lessons that they contained.

I just never had that certainty of belief. I admired it in others and sometimes wished I had it, wondering why I didn’t. But that same certainty made me uneasy. What would someone do in the name of their belief, that thing that seemed so certain to them and so distant to me? The news is filled with horrors perpetrated by those with this certainty firmly in place, whether it’s ISIS inspired suicide bombers or radical Fundamentalists killing physicians who have performed abortions.

And reading history doesn’t make this uneasiness with certainty go away. How many of millions have perished at the hands of those who were certain in their beliefs, however misguided and wrong they may seem to us now? Even in doing my genealogy I have come across so many atrocities done by my ancestors in the name of their beliefs that it makes me question the decision to look into the past at all.

That being said, I still sometimes envy those with that certainty and the comfort they seem to find in it. My own beliefs, as they are, are always subject to questioning, always filled tinged with a bit of uncertainty. But they still offer a degree of comfort. Sometimes stopping as I walk and feeling the sun on my skin and gazing into the blue of the sky fills me with a feeling that seems transcendentally reverent in that moment. The outer world fades for a brief second and I seem connected with something greater than this time and place.

That moment is my certainty, that thing on to which I hold as proof of something greater. And that moment once in a great while is all I ask of it.

So, with or without that certainty, whether you observe Easter or any other religion’s activity today, I wish you a great day. But stop once in a while and just feel the sun on your skin and notice the color of the blue in the sky. For this week’s music, here’s a great cover of a Bob Dylan song, Times Have Changed, from the great soul singer Bettye Lavette, who recently did an album of her interpretations of Dylan songs. This song won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2001 for it’s use in the movie Wonder Boys.

Enjoy Bettye’s take on it and have a great day.

 

Read Full Post »

GC Myers- Icon- Tacy CooperThe more I read about this ancestor,the latest entry in my Icon series,  the more interesting I find her.  Her maiden name was Tacy Cooper and she is my 10th great-grandmother, born around 1609 in England.  Little is known of her parentage or when exactly  she came to America but she is known to have lived in Dorchester, near Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1630’s.

At the time, the Colony was strictly ruled by the Congregational Church and its precepts.  Very puritanical, of course.  Many of the settlers who were coming into the colony sought more religious freedom than was being offered and under the influence of Roger Williams, set out  in 1634 to leave the Colony and establish a new community outside its boundaries.  They sent out a party of scouts who chose a site on the Connecticut River below present day Hartford.  Soon after, a group of about 100 people set out by foot for this location.  Among them was Tacy Cooper and her future husband, Samuel Hubbard.  They met during this journey and Samuel later wrote that Tacy was the lone bright spot in the whole undertaking.

Although the heavy goods for the community had been shipped by boats from Boston up the river, it was a harsh trek.  Many of their provisions had also been shipped and their trip was ill-timed.  By the time of their arrival, a bitter winter had set in on them and the boats had not arrived nor would they arrive in the future. Without those provisions,  a number of this group died that winter and those who remained survived on acorns, malt and grain that had brought along as seed for future crops.  To make things worse, the Pequot Indians were attacking as they tried to stem the spread of the settlers into their territory.

But they persevered  and in 1636, Tacy and Samuel were married.  However, the religious freedom they sought did not come to bear in this new community.  Samuel spoke up in protest to the role of the Church Elders in the local government and was driven from the community along with several other families who were in agreement with him.  They fled south, settling in the area now known as Springfield, Massachusetts.  They thought they were outside  the boundaries of the Massachusetts Colony but in subsequent years,  the provisions of the settlement of the Pequot Wars brought that location back into its realm.  In protest, Samuel and Tacy became Baptists.

In the following years, Baptists were banished from the Colony and, after many threats, they fled once more, this time to Rhode Island where they were reunited with Roger Williams.  They lived peacefully there for many years as members of the Baptist Church but it didn’t end there.

In the mid 1600’s, a movement had began in England– the  Seventh Day Baptists.  While they were almost exactly the same in their beliefs as traditonal Baptists, they observed their sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday.  In 1665, Stephen Mumford moved from England to Rhode Island, bringing this new sect with him.  He spoke of this beliefs to Tacy and Samuel  and a few other members of the First Baptist Church of Newport.

It was Tacy alone who first chose to join with Mumford in observing a seventh day sabbath.  Soon after Samuel and four other joined them and they formed the first Seventh Day Baptist church in America.  Tacy is considered the first American founder of the church.  The Seventh Day Baptists exist to this day and were a big part of my mother’s line for almost two hundred years and six generation, although I am pretty sure she would have not been aware of this fact.

While I am not a religious person in any organized sense of the word, I still find it fascinating in the way religion has shaped much of my( and just about everybody else’s) past.  I am pleased that Tacy was such a strong woman.  She was the one who stood and answered the Church Elders when she and the others were made to account for their desire to break from the Baptist Church.  She went before the congregation and  with “great clearness and force” outlined their reasons for departing.  I can’t help but think that this must have been a rare moment in early America– a woman speaking to power.

This may not be the best painting of the Icons but it moves me in the same way.  I always hope to find something in these stories that I can take for my own life and I can only hope to one day have Tacy’s strength and conviction.

 

Read Full Post »

GC Myers- Icon: Joe H.Here’s my latest entry into the Icon series, a 12″ by 12″ canvas piece that is titled Icon: Joe H.  He is my 3rd great-grandfather and his name was Joseph Harris and he was born in the Lindley (the town named after our common ancestor, Eleazer Lindsley,who was among the first Icons) area south of Corning in 1833.

He led a fairly typical life for the time and place, serving in the Civil War and raising a family.  He worked primarily as a blacksmith and a sawyer ( I have a lot of lumbermen in my family– maybe that’s where my affinity for trees comes from) in his early years, working for a number of years in the then booming timber business that was taking place in northern Pennsylvania and western NY.   It was there that his wife, Emeline Whitney, died just a year or so after the end of the Civil War.  Later in his life, he returned to the area of his birth, settling in as a farmer  just over the border in Pennsylvania where he died in 1922.

That was about the extent of his life for me, at least what I could find of it in records.  I did discover that he married his step-sister, Jennie, who was twenty years younger, as his second wife.  But it was my research into local newspapers that gave me a better sense of him.

Looking at records gave no indication of anything but the basics but in his 1922 death notice printed in the Wellsboro Agitator ( I love the name of that paper!) the headline lists him as a “Skilled and Noted Musician.”  It goes on to say that he had been the one-time Banjo Champion of the United States.  He very well may have picked up the banjo from his Civil War experience as it’s popularity in the time after the war is often attributed to many people being exposed to it for the first time during their service.  I could never find anything to document a championship which was no big surprise as it most likely occurred somewhere in the 1870’s or 1880’s and whatever group sanctioned the competition is more than likely no longer in existence.

But I was pleased to know that music played a big part in his life and I later found an item that confirmed this.  It stated that his son, William Harris, was working as a musician in one of the  oilfield boom towns in northern PA in the 1890’s when he tragically took his own life by shooting himself at the hotel where he was living.  As is often the case, you find a lot of tragedy when you look backwards so it’s some consolation to know that there was a bit of music and joy mixed in there somewhere.

I did visit Joe’s gravesite a while back.  It is a bare-boned and flat plot of land that sits next to a harsh little trailer park visible from the new interstate.  Standing at his grave you looked into the backyard of several trailers, the kind of yards scattered with kids toys, spare tires and oil drums.

It made me a little sad but then, I guess a guy who lived through the Civil War, endured the death of his first wife and several of his children before him and lived to see the first World War, this wasn’t all that bad.

Read Full Post »

GC Myers-  Icon: FrancoisMy current Icon series has been a real pleasure for myself in that it’s refreshing to work on pieces that I realize are only for myself, not worrying if they strike a chord with anyone else.  For me, it’s fulfilling to flesh out some of my ancestors and their stories, to give them an image that I an hold on to.  As I’ve said these are meant as symbols– I’m not trying to recreate their actual appearance.  In most cases, there is nothing to work with, nothing that would give me a clue as to how they might really look.  So, this is how I see them in my mind.

The painting at the top is a 12″ by 12″ canvas that is titled Icon: François.  He is my 9th gr-grandfather, born in 1640 in the area around Boulogne, France.  It is on the English Channel not to far from Calais.  He was a soldier in the Grandfontaine Company of the Carignan Regiment,  which was sent in 1665 to Quebec in what was then called New France.  The troops came in several ships, François arriving in August aboard the ship L’Aigle d’Or— the Golden Eagle.

These 1200 troops were sent to protect the new settlements  that France had established and to aide in fort construction along the Richelieu River.  They were also sent in order to help populate New France.  Some were offered money or land to stay in the new country and build a life there.  François, I believe, fell into that category as he showed up soon after in census listings as a master woodworker living in Quebec.  While I am not positive that he received any

incentives to stay in New France, such is not the case with his wife and my 9th gr-grandmother, Marguerite Paquet,  She was one of the Filles du Roi, or the King’s Daughters.  Between 1663 and 1673, King Louis XIV sponsored this program which offered young French women, all single and many orphaned,  free transportation and settlement to New France along with a dowry of money or land in the new land if they agreed to marry one of the men living there.  You see, the first settlers were overwhelmingly male.  I have at least two or three Filles du Roi in my line as do most French Canadians.

François died as relatively young man in 1675 but not before he and Marguerite had three children which set off a long line that runs through Canadian history to today, spawning hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of decendents.

I see François is this painting as an Adam-like character, naked and in a new world that he will help populate,  The brushstrokes radiating from the halo represent the generations that descend from the choice he and his wife made to seek a new life in the new world.  It’s a simple painting and a relatively simple story– at least as simple as you can make one’s entire life into a short tale.

Read Full Post »

GC Myers- Icon- Peter the ScoundrelThis painting, a new 24″ by 20″ canvas, is titled Icon: Peter the Scoundrel.  This may not be my favorite painting from the Icon series that I’ve been working on as of late but this has been by far the hardest piece for me to complete.  It just kept going and going and I completely repainted the head and face at least six different times.  Each face never felt right and I could not get a handle on how I wanted to portray the person behind this painting.

Actually, I could never get a handle on this person, period.

His name was Peter Bundy, my 3rd great grandfather and he is buried in an old cemetery in Caton, just outside of Corning.  It’s a cemetery that I knew well from my childhood, having spent a lot of time with my favorite cousin in Caton.  In fact, my cousin worked in the cemetery as a teen, digging graves by hand.  I never knew at the time how many ancestors of mine were buried right there but doing research on my family lines I found that there were dozens and dozens of relatives there including  this Peter Bundy.

His grave stone says that he was born in Scotland in 1823 and served in the Civil War with the Ohio 75th Regiment.  Doing a bit of research I found a veteran’s pension record from the 1890’s that stated he had been captured and held at the infamous Andersonville Prison Camp.  That same record listed him as having an aliasCharles McKinney.  My mind began to imagine that perhaps he was a Union spy.

If only it could have been that simple.

A few years passed and one day I had a message about my family line on the Ancestry site.  It was from a family who had done research on their family line and had found that my gr-grandfather Peter Bundy was also their gr-grandfather.  Except that he had a different wife and a different name– Levi McProuty.  It turns out that my Peter Bundy held that name and married  under it in the years before the Civil War.   Living in western Steuben County, they had two children, a boy and two girls, before he ostensibly left in 1861 to serve in the Union army.  A year or so later, his wife was informed somehow that he had been killed in combat.

She and her children never saw him again.

It seems that in the year that he was gone, he had shed the name of Levi McProuty,  married my 3rd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Everetts, and had a child, my 2nd gr-grandmother.  While he may not have even served in the war as Levi McProuty, he did leave for service in the Civil War as Peter Bundy.  He returned to his second wife and child.

However, for the next twenty or so years, he didn’t show up in any public records.  But his wife and child did– his wife under the name of McKinney and his daughter under her married name.  He showed up in some veterans’ pension records  and the census before dying in 1901.  His wife died in 1915.  Both were listed under the Bundy name.

I don’t know if this is clearly written so that you can follow it– I know that it is so convoluted that I have trouble keeping it straight in my head.

So, was he really Peter Bundy or Levi McProuty?  Or Charles McKinney?  Or somebody completely different?  Was he even born in Scotland?  I find myself thinking that he may not have even served in the war, that he may have stolen the identities of other soldiers.  How he ended up serving in an Ohio regiment– Ohio being several hundred miles away– is another question that comes to mind.  Was his time at Andersonville just another lie? I don’t know if anything that is considered factual about this person is indeed real except for the fact that this person, my great-great-great grandfather, lived for a time and died in Caton–that’s on his gravestone.

And that he was a scoundrel.  That is not on his stone.

I think it’s this doubt that fed the troubles I had with this painting.  I could never see a face or a facial expression that suited this person because I never had an idea of his truth.  And just when I thought I would have a sense of him, there was always a new twist with which to contend.  When I had the different faces on this figure I felt a lot of discontent and anxiety, even waking up in my sleep thinking about it.

So yesterday morning, I came into the studio and decided to just simply put him in a mask.   A grinning, mocking mask that let’s me know that I don’t really know him and I doubt that I ever will.

 

 

Read Full Post »

GC Myers- Icon-EleazerWhen you delve back into your ancestry you often uncover surprises, some pleasantly exciting and some a bit disappointing.  In some cases, it’s a bit of both.  Such is the case of the person behind this latest painting from my current Icons series.  This piece is 24″ by 12″ on masonite and is titled Icon: Eleazer.

The person represented here is a fellow named Eleazer Lindsley.  He was born in Morristown, New Jersey in 1737, a member of the family that founded much of that area.  He did well in the years before the American Revolution, owning a grist mill and several other businesses.  He was a man of status that was increased with his participation in the war.  He served as a Colonel and acted as an aide-de-camp to both General George Washington and General Lafayette.  Both were guests in his home at various time and Lafayette personally gifted and placed a signet ring on Eleazer’s hand in appreciation. It was never to come off and was buried with him when he died in 1794.

After the war, for some reason Eleazer chose to leave the comforts of his home state and set out with his extended family to settle in the newly acquired frontier territory.  After the war, the government took much of the land in what is now central and western NY and divided it into parcels that were given to those who served in the war as a form of payment for their services rendered.  Under these Land Patents, a private might receive 200 acres, moving up through the ranks to a general who might receive 2000.   When Eleazer and his family arrived in this area they collectively held 6000 acres.

They settled just south of what is now Corning, NY, occupying a fertile river valley.  Today, much of the area probably still looks relatively unchanged from that time with most of the land still in fields and forests. This area is now the town of Lindley— they dropped the “s” from the name in the 1840’s for some reason.  Eleazer became the first state assemblyman from the area.  He was also active in a plan to secede from NY and from a new state consisting of the area that is now central and western NY.  When he died in 1794, this plan died as well, although it has periodically been thrown out there by upstaters over the years.

There’s a lot more to tell about Eleazer, much to be proud of,especially for someone like me who grew up near the area and never knew of my connection with the founders.  But there was also one dark fact that taints the whole story.

You see, when Eleazer arrived in their new home their party consisted of about 40 members, most of them my ancestors.  But among the group were also seven slaves.  The family story, much of which is contained in family papers and documents held now at the University of  Michigan, claim that the slaves were treated as family members, one being called Uncle Pap, and that they were eventually emancipated in the very early 1800’s.  A story written in the late 1800’s says that many of the slaves settled and raised families in the area.

Now, part of me wants to believe that part of the story or to write it off as simply being an accepted thing at the time–after all, Washington, Jefferson and so many other Founding Fathers had slaves.  But the fact remains that Eleazer owned slaves and it bothers me that he somehow justified that in his mind, especially given that he so heartily participated in a war of independence.

When painting this piece, I found it hard to not make him a bit harsher in his gaze.  Though there is no evidence of mistreatment,  he holds a pair of shackles in his hands as a symbol of slavery.

When you do genealogy you often find yourself hoping for and attributing high ideals to your ancestors.  You want to see them in the very best light and tend to set aside negatives.  But as you dig more and more, you find that they are simply the same flawed humans that we encounter every day, possessing good and bad qualities. I often find myself wondering if I would personally like these ancestors.  But, like him or not, Eleazer is part of my family tree. But I do like this painting, if only for the narrative behind it.  I think the dichotomy of light and dark elements in the story are exactly what I hope for in this series.

Read Full Post »

GC Myers- Icon-William EnglandAs pointed out in recent posts, I’ve been working on a group of new work that I am calling Icons, images that put people that I have come to know through doing some genealogical work.  They are not intended to be accurate depictions of these ancestors.  In each case, I have just found something compelling that sticks with me.  Such is the case with the painting above, a 10″ by 20″ canvas that I call Icon: William England.

I grew up knowing almost nothing about my ancestry.  In fact, I thought that a generation or two back, somebody had inadvertently tipped over a big rock and we had spurted out before they could put the rock back in place.  Not a lot of esteem at that point.  So it was a thrill as each new layer of our family history was uncovered.  I was pleased to see how many ancestors served in all of the wars of our country going back hundreds of years.  Many had fought in the American Revolution.

It turns out, on both sides of the conflict.

I can’t remember the source but I read once that during the revolution the American public was divided pretty evenly into three parts: a third that desperately wanted our independence from Britain, a third that wanted to remain part of the British Empire and a third that really didn’t care either way so long as they could live their lives as they had up to that point.  The  first group, of course, were the Patriots that we have come to believe was everyone living in America at that point and the second were the Loyalists who identified themselves as British living in the America colony.

One of my ancestors was a man named William England who fell into the Loyalist group.  Born in Staffordshire, England, he came to America as a teen and settled in the Saratoga Springs area of New York after serving in the British 60th Regiment during the French and Indian War.  He purchased a farmstead in Kingsbury, NY and was settled in when the Revolution broke out.Faced with the choice of breaking from his homeland or remaining loyal, he chose to protect what he felt was his British homeland.

Serving as a Sargeant with McAlpin’s Rangers, he fought in a number of battles including Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga.  British troops and families were driven north into Canada, settling in the Three-Rivers area of Quebec.  It was there that he, along with many other Loyalists, settled and raised his family in the years after the war, most of his children integrating through marriage into the early families of French Canada.

Many worked their way back into America in the late 1800’s, including his grand-daughter Mary England who died in St. Regis Falls, NY in 1896.  She was my 3rd great grandmother who was married to Jean-Baptiste Therrien.  Many of their children’s names were anglicized from Therrien to Farmer when they moved into NY.  I came across a photo of her when she was quite old and you can see the hardness of rural Canadian life written in her face.

This painting shows the conflict ( or at least the conflict I perceive) that took place in William England when the war broke out.  He had to make a hard decision, one that cost him his farm and all of his possessions, in order to stay loyal to his homeland.  He had to break the bond ( shown here in the form of the broken tree limb) with the America that emerged and face a new life in a territory he did not know.

We all have interesting twists in our family trees, some that take us in directions we would never imagine.  While I am proud of my ancestors who fought for the American cause, I am equally pleased with the loyalty and devotion shown by William England.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: