Today, my husband and I were doing our usually monthly grocery shopping. One thing I had on my list was lotion. When we got to the lotion aisle, my husband said “What brand?”. “Jergens”, I said, “original scent”. He laughed and said “That’s because it reminds you of your grandmother!” So true…
My maternal grandmother, Letha Rae Stewart Stephens (1908-1994), always had a milk glass bottle of Jergen’s lotion on her dresser. She used it every day. I love the smell of that lotion. Now whenever I smell the original scent I think of her and the many summers my siblings and I spent with my grandfather and her in Mountainair, New Mexico. I think of the daily trips to the post office to check the mail…going out to the farm…fishing in the Manzano Mountains…the numerous fruit trees in the backyard…climbing around all the Indian ruins…looking for arrowheads and picking bing cherries. And most of all, the smell of my grandmother as she hugged and kissed us each night before we went to bed.
“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.” ~ Valdimir Nabokov
Finally bit the bullet and had my DNA analysis done through Ancestry.com. Two things I found interesting…one, that there is no Native American blood, as was often mentioned on my father’s side. And two, I wasn’t expecting that much Irish in me! But with a married name of O’Neill – I guess that’s a good thing. Have over 600 possible matches from others in the database, ranging from 4th cousins and closer. Closest being 2nd cousin. I have already connected with a 2nd cousin 1 x removed from my Grandpa Pyatt’s brother’s family! Will take some time to sort through them. My hopes with submitting my DNA is to see if I can break thru a brick wall with my 2nd great-grandfather, Needham Stephens, on my mother’s side. Will keep you up to date on any findings!
Stay tuned for a post on my husband’s results!
My maternal grandfather’s family and spouses.
Luther Franklin Stephens (1894-1977), second row 5th from left, my grandfather.
Letha Rae Stewart Stephens(1908-1994), front row 7th from left, my grandmother.
My parents (Earl Eugene Pyatt, 1922-2010 and Zella Stephens Pyatt, 1928-2009) met in 1947 at the University of New Mexico. They were both in the college band. My Dad played the tuba while Mom played the oboe. Their first date was when the band traveled down to Las Cruces for a football game and Dad asked Mom to the dance afterwards. My Mom had to borrow a prom dress from a friend and she and my Dad danced the night away. They rode back on the bus together. My Dad went on to get his degree in Music/Education and became of high school band teacher in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During their early marriage my Dad played with many different groups/bands…in the first home that they built there was a stage. Only after four of us were born and another was on the way did my Dad realize that he would have to find another profession to support this growing family. He returned to college and obtained his degree in Chemical Engineering. All of us kids played instruments. My Dad would compose music that we all played together. We attended weekly symphony concerts. He never lost his love of music. One of his most enjoyable times in later years was when my brother and I would visit him at his assisted living apartment and my brother would play classical music on the piano in the main entertainment room just for him.
Mountainair, New Mexico. Small town with a population of approximately 1200. This picture is of, what we called as kids, “The Farm”. That is my grandmother, Rae, on my maternal side at the gate along with her sister Nadine on the fence. On the porch, her mother, Besse, her father, Ralph, and her brother, Nolan.
Below is a portion of a transcript written by my maternal grandmother, Letha Rae Stewart Stephens on her memories of life in Mountainair, New Mexico.
“…As the second December (1908) rolled around I arrived in a tent during a snow storm of such depth that Dr. Black had difficultly negotiating the trip on horseback to attend the event.
Next summer a two-room house was built. One room was papered with blue building paper, the other with newspapers and pages of catalogues glued with flour paste.
Our needs were procured from W.R. Orme Grocery, Howard Griffin Drugs and Dunlavy Mercantile. We hauled our water from the Ranger Station wells.
Under the supervision of Mr. Carscallan, Forest Ranger, my father helped plant pine trees on burned over land in the Manzano mountains, also survey part of southwestern Torrance County.
Steam engines on the newly constructed railroad often lost chunks of coal as they sped around curves; several families augmented their weekly fuel by retrieving this coal. On such a trip I recall how we were just ready to start home when one horse broke loose and took off, leaving us only one horse to pull a wagon of coal, a difficult six-mile trip.
In summer large crowds attended Chautauqua meetings in town. There were big Fourth of July celebrations with a bandstand set up in the center of Broadway, which played lively music all day and evening. County Fairs at Willard were well attended. Many times after bean crops were laid by there would be a week of camping for us. It took a long day to make the trip by wagon to Red Canyon campground with lunch at Manzano Springs. Many lumber wagons passed our house daily on their way from mountain sawmills to lumber yards in town where lumber was in demand.”
This house is no longer there…but my Uncle now owns the land and has built his own place on it. It’s nice to know that it will continue to be in the family for many more generations.
My maternal great-grandparents’ (William Thomas Stephens and Mary Ellen Piercy Stephens) tombstone in Rocky Mound Cemetery, Fouke, Miller County, Arkansas.
This is the wedding announcement for my parents that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on June 5, 1947.
The announcement indicates that this pose was created “all in fun, of course”. Little did my parents realize then…but this turned out to be the only posed picture of the two of them together! I have included below a better copy of the above picture…
Needham Stephens was my 2nd great grandfather on my Mom’s side. He has been my brick wall for a very long time! I remember hearing my grandmother talk about him and how he died in the Civil War. According to my grandmother, when his wife went to get his pension, she was asked how to spell the name Stephens. She did not know how to read or write so she picked the biblical spelling of Stephens. I have often wondered if this might be the reason for my brick wall…but I have tried other spelling as well! Any help would be appreciated…below is the information I currently have on him.
Needham Stephens was born in 1812 in North Carolina, USA. He died in 1869 in Batesville, Independence, Arkansas, USA. When he was 40, He married Margaret I. Jones,daughter of William E Jones and Altha Leoner, on 11 Apr 1852 in Lafayette, Arkansas, USA.
He lived in Carouse, Hempstead, Arkansas in 1860.
Needham Stephens and Margaret I. Jones had the following children:
- Elizabeth Hawkins Stephens was born on 08 Nov 1854 in Alabama Township, Arkansas, USA. She died on 13 Feb 1944 in Rocky Mound, Arkansas, USA. She married William L Browning on 08 Nov 1878.
- James Owens Stephens was born on 01 Sep 1856 in Alabama Township, Arkansas, USA.
- William Thomas Stephens was born on 13 Nov 1861. He died on 27 Feb 1933. He married Mary Ellen Piercy on 24 Nov 1889 in Nevada, Arkansas, USA.
It was 3 years ago today that my mom died. I think about and miss her each and every day. She was quite an amazing person. She bucked all the trends as we were growing up. She initially started college with the intent on being a Doctor. Then, as so often happens, she met my Dad. After having five children, and when I was just starting the 1st grade, she started working. What a shock went through the neighborhood! A working mom – rarely heard of in those days. She continued working and started classes at University of Colorado, Boulder. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology. She worked at a local hospital. She was even named Medical Technologist of the year! We moved around a lot when I was young…part of my Dad’s job. My mom would get things organized, houses sold, new houses found and purchased, moving done, kids enrolled at school, etc. She continued working and again went back to school, Sarah Lawrence College, and received her Master’s Degree in Human Genetics. She became a Genetic Counselor for people with high-risk pregnancies. She worked until she retired many years ago. She spent her last few years enjoying life, her dogs, working out to stay in shape, and any time she could get with her family. She was an inspiration. We talked every day on the phone…mainly about trivial things. I sure miss those calls. Find myself picking up the phone to call her all the time…missing her a lot – especially today.
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
I created this video and it was played at her funeral, January 10, 2009.