Coming to America
The US is a nation of immigrants, and as such, many of us grew up with stories of how our ancestors came here. In what I hope can be a friendly, Friday-afternoon atmosphere, the purpose of this thread is to allow people to tell stories about how and when their ancestors came to the US.
I can trace back three stories, some sketchier than others:
My paternal grandmother’s family all Irish stock from County Cork, who’d left during the Great Famine in the 1840s and settled in Iowa. Several men out of the next generation served the Union in the Civil War, and two generations after that, twin brothers Clare and Clarence, both priests, served as chaplains for US soldiers in the Great War. One of their sisters served as a nurse in the war as well.
With the Great Depression, my grandmother’s family lost their farm (born in 1910, he was working age in the depression as well) and they drove out to Southern California where my great-grandfather was a door-to-door salesman for much of the Depression until he struck on insurance and opened the first State Farm office in San Diego.
My Scottish and English ancestors (from whom I get my last name) were a fairly disreputable lot, and thus hard to trace. There were in the US by the Civil War, when several fought for the South. By the 30s they’d made their way to Southern California. The best story I know is from the height of the Great Depression when my great-grandfather (“Pappy” Hodge) was riding home one day on horseback, when someone offered to buy his pants for a dollar. Always a man for quick bargain, Pappy sold them and rode home (another dozen miles) with a bare bottom — thus rendering himself unable to sit for a week.
My mother’s whole side of the family is of Mexican extraction, and so far as I know they all came into the US in the late 1800s. Both sides of the family lived in New Mexico near Silver City until the Depression.
The main story I know regards an ancestor who was an officer in the Mexican Army. I remember as a child being shown a treasured picture of him posing in an ornate uniform circa 1870 or so. However, he found himself on the wrong side of one of Mexico’s periods of political turmoil, and had to high tail it across the border into the US. There he found work with the rail road as a laborer. One day, he was assigned to substitute for the record keeper of his work gang, who was sick. He got a piece of paper, wrote out a list of all the men’s names, and started writing down start times. The supervisor was so impressed that he could write (the usual record keeper kept a complicated tally with a grid drawn in the dirt and little stones for each man’s hours) that he was given the job permanently.