I haven’t been blogging every day so far, but will keep up better now. The first part of the trip has involved some long driving days to get across some of the vast stretches in the middle and north of our country. We are now done with with far north and heading into the central states. More places and activities planned with less distance between.
Since my last blog we have visited 5 national parks, Voyageurs (those who voyaged across the north country by land and water to carry on the trade between people throughout the northern part of our country and Canada), Grand Portage (also related to trade, this was the path between the cargo carriers on the Great Lakes and the inland water ways in Canada), Apostle Islands (a beautiful set of islands in Lake Superior), Isle Royale (an uniquie island preserve dedicated to preservation and to providing a place for what they call silent sports like biking, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking), and Keneewaw (dedicated to the history of copper mining in the Keneewaw Pennisula in the upper part of Michigan – the U.P.) Lots of amazing views, history, nature, things to think about. That’s 7 parks so far.
For the numbers: We saw 2 more state license plates, Iowa and Missouri. Also saw a “US Government” plate which does not designate any particular state. That is 39 jurisdictions so fare. For our trip we on on day 16, passed the 3500 mile mark today, and are gettingg 49.6 mpg with the Prius. So far we have been in 9 different states. We have seen many beautiful bodies of water from the Mississippi to Lake Superior, to Lake Winnebago and many more but have not really been counting.
Today we drove through some areas of Wisconsin where our ancestors lived in the 1800’s. We visited 3 cemeteries and found grave stones for 4 of my ancestors and 2 of Peg’s. My 3rd great grandfather, Stephan Goeser, was part of 60 families that moved from the Rhineland in Germany to Johnsburg, Wisconsin in 1845. He was the first person buried in the cemetery for John the Baptist Church, before the original church building was even completed. One of his sons, Joseph Goeser, my 2nd great grandfather moved from Johnsburg to Westphalia, Iowa in the 1870’s and 3 more generations of my family were born and raised there. Another of Stephan’s sons, Chrisant, after traveling from Germany to Wisconsin, made an even longer journey. In 1849 Chris heard about the finding of gold in California. He and another brother decided to try their luck. To get from Wisconsin to California in 1850 they traveled east on the Great Lakes, then took and ocean vessel around the cape of South America and up to California. The unconfirmed family story is that he returned with a stash of gold which he divided among his children. Three of his daughters had become nuns and taken a vow of poverty, so their share was given to their order, and may have been used to create a vessel for use at Mass. The convent they belonged to was the order of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose convent we visitited yesterday in La Crosse.
We have a good friend there, sister JK, who we met years ago when teaching in a small school in Iowa. In talking with her, she told us she had checked with their archivist and the story about the gold could not be confirmed, though it was possible. On further conversation, we discovered that the convent where our friend first connected with the Franciscan Sisters was in Carroll, Iowa. This is the same convent where Peg’s grandmother had briefly studied to become a nun, and was on staff as a nurse in 1920. Another sister in the Franciscan order, sister FF, was a professor who taught several classes in Seattle which Peg took when studing for her Masters of Divinity. Yet, another sister in the order, sister JB, who we had also met when teaching years ago, is now working in Iowa in the same area where my mother was born and raised. Sister JB is originally from that area, Panama, Iowa. She is also a distant cousin of mine. Further, when my grandmother worked as a midwife around Panama in the decades prior to the 40’s, sister JB was one of hundreds of babies whom my grandmother helped deliver. Of course she wasn’t a sister at that time. Recently sister JB took a group of local women on a immersion experience to Cental America where she had worked when she was young. One of the women who went along was a cousin of mine is married to a descendant of the Stephan Goeser who’s grave we saw today.
As you can tell, I just love learning about family history and especially about the amazing interconnections we all have. In the philosphy tapes we are listening to while traveling, a question was raised regarding who we are as humans. The question is about Nature vs Nurture. Which do you think controls who you are today?
I believe it is some of each. Finding out about family history helps me understand both. Our parents and ancestors, through their DNA give us what amounts to our core nature in the form of our physical characteristics and some of our abilities. However, in raising us they also are a major part of the nuturing that helps form who we are until we become mature enough to take responsibility for ourselves.
Anyway, enough for today. Tomorrow, is an exciting day as I get to meet a niece and nephew and several grand nieces and nephews for the first time.