Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Small connections, family history.

The “family trunk” sits in our upstairs hallway.

From Johan Michael Schoenberger to, eventually, me.

It’s packed with old photos, school records, birth and death certificates, newspapers, land deeds, keys, coins, pocket knives, class rings, pins and other bits and pieces of lives come and gone and ongoing.

Sometimes I think about what was in it when it reached the United States in 1838; what my 22-year-old great-great-great-great grandfather Johan Michael Schoenberger might have packed in here for the trip he made from Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then, in 1847, to the northwest corner of this state that was just 44 years old itself. (I should note that the assertion that this trunk came over from Germany is pretty much unsubstantiated, and for all I know, every Schoenberger branch – and there are many – has a trunk about which they believe the same thing.)

I’ve written about some of the stuff in there before: The newspapers announcing the 1969 moon landing, for instance; the jacket I had when my Dad was in Korea; the note I just mentioned the other day.

Some of these things kind of tell their own stories, while others – until I do a little brain-picking of people like my mom and grandma – remain just, you know, “stuff.”

It’s pretty overwhelming to imagine working my way through the whole trunk, but much easier to just start with little pieces and write what I can.

Click for a bigger version.

For instance, there are these nested dolls from Japan, which were in a box of things mom recently gave me to put in the trunk. The outermost ones are about 2.5 inches tall.

Now, I can actually remember these from when I was really little – picking them up and taking them apart for the first time in decades, I was kind of surprised at how clumsy I felt, and then I realized the last time I had done this, my fingers were a lot smaller – and I had always assumed my Dad brought them back from his time overseas in the Air Force.

The thing is, though, mom included a note with them that said, “from my Aunt Mary Jane while in Japan in WW II.”

Okay, then, time to ask mom a little more.

Mary Jane was a sister of my mom’s mom, Donna Ruth (of the aforementioned “square meeting” note). And while I suppose it’s possible I met her sometime during my life, I don’t remember it. Mom was also able to tell me her Aunt Mary Jane was a nurse in the Navy, and that her married last name was Davis.

Mary Jane (Beidelscheis) Davis

My great aunt Mary Jane, former Navy Nurse.

I found her obituary – and this picture – archived online at South Coast Today:

FAIRHAVEN — Mary Jane (Beidelschies) Davis, 87, of Fairhaven, formerly of Dartmouth, died Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005, at Alden Court Nursing and Rehabilitation Center after a brief illness. She was the widow of Clifford Sumner Davis Jr.

Born and raised in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, the daughter of the late Harry and Ethel Hope (Justus) Beidelschies, she lived in Swansea before moving to Dartmouth in 1962.

She was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairhaven.

Mrs. Davis was a registered nurse in the Navy Nurses Corps; she served aboard hospital ships during the Korean War until she retired as a lieutenant commander.

She was a member of the Retired Navy Nurses Association. She graduated from Grant Hospital School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio.

Survivors include a daughter, Susan E. Oliveira of New Bedford; a son, Paul C. Davis of Hollis, N.H.; a brother; Allen Beidelschies of Ohio; a sister, Ann Binau of Ohio; two grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; and several nieces and nephews.

She was the sister of the late John Beidelschies, Paul Beidelschies, Robert Beidelschies, Russell Beidelschies, Donna Ruth Schoenberger and Leah Comstock.

It’s funny, seeing some of those names in a four-year-old obituary from a newspaper a few hundred miles distant, and associating a them with memories of houses and visits and family reunions.

The only connection I can make with my great-aunt Mary Jane, though, is these tiny wooden toys whose origin I only learned within the past few days.

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January 17, 2010 - Posted by | Family history, Ohio, photos | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] There’s no information at all on this photo from our family trunk, but it’s one of my favorites in there: Click to see a larger […]

    Pingback by Friends, family « Cornfield Meet | May 2, 2010 | Reply


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