Sunday, March 8, 2015

52 Ancestors #10: Last of the Covered Wagons -- Duck and Cover

Ancestor: Clarence Mern BEARD (1885-1960)

My AncestryDNA test results have led to many interesting discoveries but one of the earliest connections I figured out was with a fifth cousin once removed. Her tree included many wonderful old photographs of her mother's Beard family, the line we share, and stories they wrote. Perhaps, the most treasured outcome of this cousin connection was the gift of friendship. My "new" cousin has shared many things about her life, including a book her uncle, Clarence Mern Beard, wrote about his family's trip west in a covered wagon at the turn of the century. Railroads already linked east and west so the trip was unusual in that the family was still traveling by covered wagon in the late 1890s. She has graciously allowed me to share portions of the book on my blog.

A typical covered wagon used by many families during the great western
migration; photograph courtesy of The Historical Society of Dauphin County

This excerpt is about a storm that sprung up quickly on the vast grassy plains.

"But shortly afternoon, an innocent little day cloud appeared in the southwest and as we watched, it took on a sinister appearance.  We could see flashes of lightning bolts outward from its dark, mass, and as a towering thunderhead mushroomed upward, this cloud spread laterally with amazing rapidity.  It quickly blotted out the sun, and as it did so its color became an ugly dark green.  Tattered segments of cloud tumbled in a mighty rolling motion: while wisps of vapor, which had the appearance of smoke, rolled in an upward sweep across the face of the storm.  As this disturbance approached, a large flock of long-winged, pigeon-size birds wheeled and darted overhead in what appeared to be mad ecstasy or sheer panic, as they drove steadily before the oncoming storm.  These were the insect-feeding creatures of the whippoorwill family, which mother called night-hawks and father called bull-bats, but which the Indians named thunder-birds, because of their habit of acting as heralds of violent weather.

But we had little time to view this awe-inspiring spectacle, for everything had to be piled into the wagon and a tarpaulin stretched over the open front, to turn what was certain to be a driving rain.  Father quickly drove stakes into the ground by each wheel and anchored the spikes into the ground by each wheel and anchored the spikes to these because a heavy gust of wind might have upset the outfit.  The farmer came racing out and told us all to run for the shelter of the cellar, while he and father led the horses into the barn.  Mother hurried the children and Daisy carried Iona; and we all stumbled into the safety of an underground structure, which served as a cooler in the summer, and a frost-free storehouse in the winter, but in this case a cyclone cellar.

Tornado in Nebraska; photograph courtesy of the National Weather Service

By the time the men had joined us, a funnel-shaped tongue had dropped from the cloud; and as it touched the ground, dust and loose objects seemed to leap upward and disappear in the whirling mass.  It was perhaps a mile from our shelter but we could clearly see its rotating cone coming straight toward us.  There was scarcely a stir of air and an ominous silence oppressed us.  There was a crash of thunder and a few spatters of giant raindrops slapped the ground.   Father waited outside for a moment, watching the wild thing with evident fascination until, at the insistence of our host, he ducked into the shelter and slammed the door.  Then in a matter of seconds, this terror was upon us with the roar of a freight train.  We expected to hear the crash of falling buildings and braced ourselves for the blow.  There was a hissing, rending sound, which was smothered by a deluge of rain and hail and a pall of darkness fell over the whole scene.  We had put out the candles for fear they might start a fire, in case the house overhead should be wrecked."

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Stormy Weather.

Clarence Mern Beard was born on 7 November 1885 in Ansley, Nebraska, to William Adam and Emma Elizabeth (Elison) Beard. He was their second child and oldest son. He married Helen May Banker, the daughter of prominent Louisiana businessman, Francis Henry Banker, on 30 May 1912 in Calasieu Parish, Louisiana. The couple had two children. Clarence died on 29 August 1960 in Oakland, California.

AncestryDNA and Finding a New Cousin
The Great Cyclone of 1896
Biblical Plague or Locust Infestation?

1 comment:

  1. That was quite a description of the cyclone and how people at the time dealt with it! It also shows how useful DNA can be in finding family members who are willing to share information and enrich our family histories.