Today I learned how to add a google map to my wordpress hosted blog, quite a simple accomplishment, actually. The big secret is to access google maps in the classic mode. Open http://www.maps.google.com, and your page automatically loads the New Google Maps. In the lower right hand corner you will find a tool bar. Click on the question mark on the left, and you will have options to take a tour, send feedback, ask questions, or return to the classic mode. That action returns you to the “old” map, and once you have zoomed into your desired location, look to the upper left. Do you see the get directions block? Look to the right and click on the link symbol. Here is secret #2. You must copy the HTML code, not the short code. Return to your wordpress blog and paste the code into your post. Check out the results with a preview!! Finish up your writing, save, and publish!!
May Laura Stevenson lay under covers, listening to eight siblings rustle from bed’s warmth into cold, thick wool layers. Procrastinating would not reduce her chores or delay the walk to school, so up she sat, throwing off her blankets, reaching for her clothes. In quick fluid movements May covered her shivering little body, and joined the familiar morning jostle. Ice had to be broken from animals’ water troughs; pigs had to be slopped, and chickens fed. Stalls needed to be mucked out, and cows milked. Breakfast had to be fixed, the table set.
May’s early life was spent on Gabler’s Knob, a farm that looked out over the bustling river town of Greensboro, on the Monongahela River in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Born in 1874, May was the seventh of nine children born to Ellis and Mary Jones Stevenson.
After a hearty breakfast the school-age Stevensons set off down the hill, past Dr. G. F. Birch’s orchard, and turned left onto the main road of the Old Glass Works*. As William, Presley, Permelia, and May walked up the village street, they were joined by young Kramers, McCoys, Mercers, Blacks, and Gablers. The wind coming off the river hurled the winter damp through their coats, and the would-be scholars hurried past Mr. Neil’s ferry, round the corner, and into the school house. All together they learned to read, to write, to do their figures. At day’s end, the group trudged on home, the Stevensons to return to more chores before settling down for the dinner and a good night’s sleep.
On Sunday, the family traveled into town, to attend services at Greensboro Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Clear and Second streets. The sanctuary was just a block down from the Star Pottery and Tile Works, owned by Frank Hamilton and John Jones, Mary Stevenson’s cousin. After church service, May and her family walked three blocks south on Front Street, to eat Sunday dinner with the Jones’. Uncle David and Aunt Cill ran Greensboro House, a family business handed down from father, John Jones, and the home to the Jones family since the late 1840s. Her double first cousins, Anna and Fannie, would regale May with stories about the latest hotel guests, and the difficulties steamboats had when the river ice grew thick. The girls imagined a day in spring when they would saunter down County Street to the quay, and board the Packet Dean Adams, traveling all the way to Pittsburgh, just to shop for a dress. Laughter and dreams and family.
That is what I imagine for May, my great-grandmother, as I walk down May’s street in my mind. [click on the maps below for enlarged viewing]
“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland
My Sayles ancestors did not leave a trace of their personal maps; only clues left in letter heads or the handwriting of a census enumerator reveal the location of family at a given point in time. It is left to my imagination to draw smiles, hear wails, to listen for laughter or argument. I found this map of Wallum Pond, Rhode Island while searching for brain-twizzling information on the King family. * The book chronicled the history of a 20th century sanatorium and included the early landowners of the area. Identified in the map’s key was the location of the James King farm, at points 16 and 17, at the southern tip of Wallum Pond.
I can read all sorts of information from these squiggles – the lay of the land influenced the establishment of waterways, transportation networks, farms, mills, communities. My imagination has to supply the “at the top of this hill James and Rhobe discussed what road to take west,” or “here is where Sarah cried after learning that her parents were moving to Pennsylvania.” This map marks the spot where James King learned to farm from his father, James, during the late 1790s. It marks the spot where James and Rhobe reared a family and raised their stock, drained the bog and grew their corn, and where they packed their belongings and loaded up the youngest members of their brood as they headed out to the wilderness of Tioga County, Pennsylvania in 1822.
I have to supply the imagination that weaves the tapestry of their life.
*Ira Sayles is my great-great-grandfather on my father’s side, and the impetus to my participation in the Family History Writing Challenge, February 2013. His father, Christopher Sayles, was the son of Burrillville, Rhode Island residents, Christopher and Martha Brown Sayles; Ira’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of James and Merrobe Howland King of Wallum Pond, Rhode Island.
One of the all-time best inventions of the human mind, in my humble opinion, is the map. Whether ink to paper or pixels to screen, maps represent reality as seen from the cartographer’s point of view. Beyond the accurate recording of topography and societal infrastructure, map makers convey all sorts of information, depending on who has paid their salary! Display all the gas wells in Allegany County! List all the businesses of the Whitesville! Differentiate between a dirt road, a tiny local road and the main state road.
One of my favorite sites lets me explore the world according to my ancestors. Historic Map Works lets you browse United States, World or Antiquarian maps by searching with a Keyword, Family Name or Address. I wanted to know what a map could tell me about my ancestors, Ira and Serena Sayles, in the 1860s when I know they lived in three separate towns in south central New York.
Using the keywords ALLEGANY COUNTY NEW YORK my query returned a treasure: The Atlas of Allegany County, published by D. G. Beers and Company in 1869. Each page of the atlas has been digitised, and can be opened for expanded viewing.
This page of Alfred Center shows my great-great-grandmother’s home, The Gothic. According to records this house was sold and the proceeds used to purchase a farm in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, shortly after the publication of this atlas.
Interestingly, I also found Serena Sayle’s name on a property in the township of Independence and her husband’s name, Ira, on a property in Rushford, where he was the principal of Rushford Academy.
With a subscription to Historic Map Works I can download and print these maps out, further exploring Ira and Serena’s world; who did they live next to, what stores might they have shopped in, how far did they travel in going about their daily lives? All these details, from a map.
Amateur geologist Sayles begins his note by referencing an 1858 map of Pennsylvania, a product of geological surveys conducted between 1836-1857, and printed under the superintendence of Henry D. Rogers, Pennsylvania’s first State Geologist. The map can be accessed at the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.
As I studied this map – thoughts racing and crashing into one another – I discovered traces of the Minors and the Sayles, the Delehantys and the Corrigans. All of these pieces of my past had been influenced by the topography and the geology of the Keystone State, with its deposits of Devonian coal and oil.
With a jolt, I recognized the patterns so carefully displayed; the first Pennsylvania Geological Survey resembles a DCNR map published almost 150 years later!
So, it turns out that the Devonian sandstones Ira Sayles described in 1864 actually cap the black, organic-rich Marcellus Shale now at the center of my state’s natural gas fracking debate. The scavenger hunt for ancestor stories has led me, once again, full circle to my own story.
*The first American oil boom began with the drilling of Edwin Drake’s well in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859.