Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sepia Saturday: A Clayton Family Portrait

The stern looking patriarch here is Daniel Curtis Clayton,
seated next to his wife Cyrene Moore Clayton.
They are my great-great-grandparents.
The young woman beside Daniel is his youngest daughter,
Sarah Emoline "Emmy" Clayton. She is one of my great-grandmothers.

Standing behind Sarah is her twin, Thomas Perry Clayton.
Her sister Rosalia Clayton, wife of Charles Augustus Ruark,
 is next to her mother.
William Curtis (Billy) Clayton, the eldest surviving son,
is standing behind Rosalia and Allen Sylvester Clayton
is standing in the center, hand on his father's shoulder.
Don't the boys have impressive moustaches?

I'd guess this portrait was taken in the 1890s,
since Emmy and her twin look like they're in their 20s
and they were born in 1869. Daniel died in 1902
so that sets an outer limit for the photograph.

Billy Clayton was just a newborn when his parents
hitched the team to a wagon and set off for the West.
Daniel and Cyrene were party of a wagon train
that included her parents and siblings.
 I've often wondered what longing
was strong enough to beckon them to leave
 their comfortable homes
in Iowa and travel in hostile country
 where "trouble with the Indians" and outbreaks of disease
 could end lives in the blink of an eye.

Some descendants say that William Moore, Cyrene's father,
was from a Quaker family and felt the winds of war blowing.
 William and Priscilla Ayers Moore
(she an Episcopalian whose family thought she'd married "down")
had sons who would have been of an age to be conscripted
into military service for the Union, so perhaps the move
was calculated to remove their sons from harm's way.
The most frequent motive for the arduous trip west, however,
was the promise of free land via the Homestead Act.

For whatever reasons
 William and Priscilla, Cyrene and Daniel,
and the rest of the family joined the westward movement.
But can you imagine
finally arriving at your destination
in the wild, wild West
in mid-September with winter just around the corner
and having to build a place to live?

But thanks to William and Priscilla Moore,
I can claim that I am a sixth-generation Washingtonian.

* * * * * 
For more Sepia Saturday fun,
click HERE


Bagman and Butler said...

Okay, your story is so good. And Sepia Saturday is getting into my veins. I may have to jump in soon. Yes, great mustaches!

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful story! I love the name Cyrene and I've always been in awe of those folks who set off to the west in wagon trains. (My family only got as far as Alabama and Georgia.)

Mel said...

Great story and photo. I love the family names, Rosalia and Cyrene and Emoline! I've often marvelled at the hardships my relatives endured, and think it's a wonder any of us are here! Great post.

Poetikat said...

It must have been some impetus to get the whole family together and head off in search of a new life amidst danger and uncertainty.
I'm envisioning "Far and Away" even though that was about the Irish immigrants.
I really love that family portrait, Meri. It is exceptional.


The Silver Fox said...

A lot of character comes through in that photo!

Betsy said...

Wow...what a great picture! Actually they all look stern, don't they? But that is so typical of the times and photographs. I can't imagine those families ...moving out west to unchartered territories...Indians... no where to really is amazing to hear their stories.

And yes...those mustaches! The beard is quite impressive, too! ha.

The Clever Pup said...

I think they all look a bit stern because they had to sit stock still for minutes on end to have they're pictures taken.

I love photos like this. A true Sepia.

Anonymous said...

'Tis a great photo and tale of the pioneering days. Hardy souls indeed :)

Heh, heh, word verify = "relate"

Jennifer said...

Hi Meri. How did you come to have these wonderful pictures of your ancestors and know their story?

willow said...

"Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey" is a fascinating compilation of letters and journals from those brave pioneer foremothers of ours. It's a great read.

I couldn't help but notice how huge Daniel's hands are!

willow said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, that book is by Lillian Schlissel, btw.

Stephanie said...

Six generations - now that's saying something. I live in an old pioneer community where some current residents are living on inherited large tracts of land received from the Homestead Act. Alas, my family was a bunch of drifters!

Anonymous said...

i love that you know so much of your family history. would love to find out more about my own.

Megan said...

Cyrene looks pretty stern, as well. :)

Very cool that you have this photo and all the names and details. Sixth generation is amazing. True pioneers!

Alan Burnett said...

I love it. As someone who knows American history mainly via films and TV programmes it is fascinating to discover that those epic tales are reflected in the history of families today. Great photo, great story

mouse (aka kimy) said...

amazing photo. most impressive moustaches indeed!

but what is more impressive is that you are a 6th generation washingtonian! I'm only a third generation american.

these sepia saturday stories and photos are so compelling.

I asked a while back if you have ever read annie dillard's book the living, but didn't come back for an answer - whoops. curious. when I read about your family I think of that book - as it focuses on settlers in washington, whatcom county specifically

Ranger Doris said...

Did you know there is a National Park site devoted to telling the story of the Homestead Act of 1862? To learn more about what may be the most influential piece of legislation this country has ever created go to or visit Homestead National Monument of America. Located in Nebraska, the Monument includes one of the first 160 acres homestead claims but tells the story of homesteading throughout the United States. Nearly 4 million claims in 30 states were made under the Homestead Act and 1.6 million or 40 percent were successful. The Homestead Act was not repealed until 1976 and extended in Alaska until 1986. Homesteads could be claimed by “head of households” that were citizens or eligible for citizenship. New immigrants, African-Americans, women who were single, widowed or divorced all took advantage of the Homestead Act. It is estimated that as many as 93 million Americans are descendents of these homesteaders today. This is a story as big, fascinating, conflicted and contradictory as the United States itself. Learn more!

Meri said...

Mark: Yes, play along! I'd like to know Bagman's lineage.

Vicki and Mel: One of the children who died in childhood was Priscilla. I've always loved that name (had a cat named Priscilla Mew-riel).

Kat: All the immigrant stories are fascinating to me.

Silver Fox, Betsy, and others who commented on stern looks and character (and the size of Daniel's hands): It was much easier to hold a scowl for the requisite exposure time than a smile, I'm sure. But I have no doubt that they were hard-working, God-fearing people.

Willow: great book suggestion.

Jennifer: I've done lots of research, but I've also had contact with distant family members older than I am who held stories that I was eager to hear. And some were kind enough to write things down for later generations. What a gift!

Kim - I haven't read Dillard's book. I'll have to look for it. My kids went to college in Whatcom County.

Ranger Doris- Great info. And Cyrene's parents were among those who proved up land, as did my Swedish great-grandmother after she was widowed and my Swedish great-grandfather. They both were granted citizenship as a precursor to perfecting their claim proof.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

my daughter emma went to WWU for 3 years, in that period we made quite a few trips up to whatcom county and fell in love with the terrain.

am sure you will find the living hard to put down....