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!
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.
Ralph Stewart & Besse J. Jackson, married December 19, 1906 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“In 1906 a young man [Ralph Stewart], heeding the Railroads’ encouragement to populate the West and Government’s promise of homesteads, loaded all of his possessions – wagon, buggy, household goods, teams, cow feed, water and farm implements – into an “immigrant” railroad car in which he rode as caretaker for the stock, and left Oklahoma for his destination, Estancia, then in New Mexico Territory.
In December his Uncle, accompanied by his fiancée [Besse J. Jackson] from Newkirk, arrived by train in Santa Fe where the young couple were married. After living a year northeast of Estancia they moved northwest of Mountainair and filed on a homestead near some old friends from Newkirk, Oklahoma.”
~ portion of transcript written by my maternal grandmother, Letha Rae Stewart Stephens on her memories of her parents.
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.” Teaching children values and giving them the opportunity to excel is essential to good parenting. However, I feel I must also provide my children (and myself) insight into the ones who came before us: our ancestors whose lives and stories have shaped us into who we are. This is my journey; these are their stories…