So I missed three weeks, and am writing for a fourth.
Our most prosperous ancestor to date would be found on the Aleck side of our family. The Alecks, Gages, and DeJeans did well in the face of adversity. They didn’t become any Rockefeller’s, wouldn’t that be nice? But they became affluential in their communities through business successes and active interest in their communities.
The one who stands out most in my thoughts is Xaver Aleck. But we all know his story through Aunt Eileen’s book The Smart Aleck. He came to the U.S. with little money and a lot of ambition. He worked several jobs from tailoring to cook while working his way west. He built crude huts, a log home, and then a fine two-story frame home. His hard work earned him the ability to purchase land and begin to build up a good farm, accumulating 720 acres by the late 19th century. He retired in comfort and provided a good start for his children. He had lived the American dream of his day.
Our family has been fortunate, near as I can tell, in that disaster doesn’t seem to strike us. Grandpa Kenny missed Pearl Harbor when his ship, U.S.S. Colorado, was sent to Puget Sound for major retrofitting in October, where she remained until the following March.
Sumner Gage’s New Hampshire home was partially destroyed by fire, but I know very little about the details as the only evidence of this disaster was a small entry in the newspaper. Despite this event, the family prevailed, moving to Illinois several years later to be near family, appearing none the worse for wear.
Stephen DeJean’s origins remain a mystery, of sorts, to me. His parents survived the French Revolution by immigrating to New York, only to be deceived by the ship’s captain along the way, and then attempting to join the doomed Castorland venture. They probably faced the most adversity through these three disasters, one after another. And yet, they prospered. They found security through the Holland Land Patent, where Stephen built up a farm there for several years before moving onward to Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, Stephen’s offspring helped to shape towns and communities while building up their own farming and milling enterprises. Disaster didn’t slow them down.
Eleanore Cobe probably faced the biggest disaster due to her age. She was orphaned by the age of 10. While she had aunts and uncles living nearby, she chose to exercise independence and seek a career that would afford her opportunities for self-reliance.
I like to think that we have somehow inherited their fortitude as we all have pulled through many hard times and prevailed. And with each success, we make ourselves stronger for the next challenge.
Eleanor Cobe wins my vote for Strong Woman. What a remarkable lady she was. When she was a little girl, she had told her father that she wanted to be a school teacher, and she kept that goal after the loss of her parents. Just a few years after her father’s death, she convinced her Aunt to let her return to town so she could continue to go to school.
Despite the loss of her parents at such a young age, she showed remarkable resilience and drive. She didn’t become a teacher, though. Instead, she met dashing young Kenneth and married him. She raised three wonderful children and lived to meet and play with her great-grandchildren.
We’ll have to circle around back to Grandpa Kenny for luck. Imagine if he had been assigned to any of the other eight battleships present that day at Pearl Harbor. I guess that makes me (and my cousins) the lucky ones. Had he been on any ship other than the Colorado, he may have been one of the unfortunate sailors who perished. And then we wouldn’t be here. If he had survived, he may have become a different man. I think Grandpa Kenny did have demons after the war, what war veteran doesn’t? I’m just happy that he didn’t have the memories of Pearl Harbor to add to them.