Before leaving O'Neill, we stopped off at the quilt store so I could drop off the family history of our parents’ family that I had written in 2006 for my dad’s 80th birthday. My cousin Julie wasn't there yet, so I left it with one of her employees and my wife bought a pattern for a patchwork quilt skirt for our granddaughter. Then it was on to Creighton, NE.
We were early in arriving in Creighton so we drove around a little (very little since it’s so small) and saw the Catholic church, which is a newer construction than the building where my grandparents were baptized and married and where their kids (except for my dad) were baptized.
We went to the café and Pat arrived with her 86-year-old aunt, Flora Jean, who was married to my dad’s first cousin, Lawrence Mattern. Pat is my second cousin through one of my dad’s other Mattern cousins. Phyllis, one of my dad’s other cousins who still lives in Creighton, had business in Norfolk, NE that day so she was not able to join us. I learned that Mary Ann, another of my dad’s cousins with whom I had corresponded had passed away a couple of years ago.
Flora Jean knew our great-grandparents, John and Mary Huigens. She remembers them as very kind and warm people. I shared some of the documents and pictures I had brought about John and Mary’s life near Henry, IL and that of their parents. They told us how to find John and Mary’s old house in Creighton, but did not know where the farm was located. I had been unable to get the 1903 Knox County plat map I have to match up with Google maps and was counting on someone there being able to direct me. Pat and her husband own an appliance repair business and have a current plat map, so she took a copy of the old map with her to figure out who lives there now. Flora Jean also gave me a wonderful photocopy of a pair of large photos of John and Mary.
After we said good-by to Pat and Flora Jean, we drove by John and Mary's house.
Our next stop was St. Ludger's Cemetery. My brother and mother had been to Creighton three years ago and had sent me lots of photos of grave markers, but it was nice to be able to visit in person and pay my respects. My brother said it was strange seeing our rare name all over on tombstones. It did seem like every few feet Anne Marie and I were finding another Huigens grave marker. Not to mention Tharnishes and Matterns. We found the graves of both sets of great-grandparents who are buried there and that of a great-great-grandmother, Mary's mother.
Although we didn't find the Kain's house in town, I had, been able to find their farm in the 1903 plat map and had succeeded in locating it’s location on Google maps. We drove by the farm and I collected a small sample of dirt from it on our way out of town after visiting the cemetery. It felt good to be at the site where my Grandma Julia had been born.
As we headed north to South Dakota, we passed through the little town of Bazille Mills, which my grandmother claimed as her birthplace.
Later that evening, we crossed over the Missouri River into South Dakota, land of my birth. OK, so I was born hundreds of miles from where we were, but still. We spent the night in Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota, where several of my high school classmates had attended college. We stayed across from the street from the Dakota Dome, the schools stadium. I had been to USD a couple of times with the high school French Club to attend plays in French by Moliere and Ionesco. I probably also played there with the high school marching band. That was so long ago, I don’t remember everywhere that we played.
(to be continued)