Union and Confederate soldiers, abolitionists and slaveholders: They are all found in the branches of our families’ trees.
As a child, I would sit at the knee of my Great-Uncle Roy, listening to stories about Taylor-Thomas kin who fought in the War Between the States. I heard tales of how families were torn apart because of differing ideologies and how my own family experienced this strife when two brothers chose different sides. Although both men survived the war, the battle continued for decades, and supposedly neither spoke to the other again.
As an adult, I have discovered similar stories in other branches. In the Watts-Stark line, Stark and Bailey ancestors defied their South Carolinian and Virginian parents, embraced abolition, manumitted or emancipated their own slaves, and moved away from these slave states to the border states of Missouri and Kentucky. Other family members in both my maternal and paternal lines were active abolitionists. Several were Quakers, whose faith condemn slavery as both ethically and religiously wrong, while others, both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line, did their part to help slaves on their flights to freedom, providing food, shelter, and safe passage through their property. Because of these family members, I knew that not all white Southerners supported slavery.
On this day, 5 December 1876, James Christian Ardinger, my 3rd great-grandfather, passed away.
Born on 16 November 1839, in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland, James Christian Ardinger was the son of Charles Godfrey Ardinger and Jane Shook. He joined older brother, John William Ardinger, who was born two years earlier on 13 December 1837.
On this day, 22 November 1896, Rumsey Shuler Watts died. He was my 4th great-grandfather.
Rumsey Shuler Watts was born on 15 December 1810, in Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky to parents Charles Watts and Rebecca Boone. He joined older brothers Jesse Boggess Watts, born 6 February 1807, and John Boone Watts, born 15 November 1808. Brother Vincent Watts was born and died four years prior in 1806.
On 11 June 1805, a great fire swept through Detroit, Michigan, burning the city to the ground. After the fire, a local priest, Father Gabriel Richard, penned: “Speramus meliora; resurgent cineribus,” which translates to “We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes.” This saying became Detroit’s motto.
I believe that it is this motto that inspired the title of Erin Bartel‘s debut novel, We Hope for Better Things.