Well, today’s the day (9/6) we meet our previously unknown family. If you haven’t read my blog about how I found them, you should take the time to get caught up now. It’ll make much more sense.
We struggled to get ourselves out the door at the time we had agreed upon, but eventually we got on our way. (Bonus, the girl who worked at the CVS where we picked up sodas for the road asked us where we were from and when we said California, she goes “Why would you come HERE?!”) The trip to Reading from Emporia was only about 20 minutes. Boy, was it out there. Here’s a video of what the surrounding area looked like.
Very quiet and calming, but also very far from everything. We started musing about different scenarios. What if you had an emergency? Where would you go? Do you call 911? How long would it take emergency services to get there? I mean, there’s a local fire department that I assume is trained in basic EMT services, but this town is so small I wonder if they have second jobs as well.
When we arrived, the main street was comprised of maybe 6 buildings: a post office, church, community center, café, fire department, and the elementary school. Apparently several of the buildings are new. In 2011, the town was hit by a tornado, and FEMA helped rebuild the town. The community center is also the tornado shelter, which was both comforting and disconcerting.
We arrived and met our hostess, the woman I had been in contact with over the last few weeks. We barely had time to say hello, and they announced that everyone was heading over to the church for Sunday service. I was actually pretty excited to see what a small town service was like. We drove the 30 seconds it took to reach the church (hey, it was hot outside, ok?), and entered the church. It had apparently been built after the tornado of 2011, and was very pretty.
About 25 people were in attendance at the service, and it seems as though if the reunion hadn’t bee happening, it would have been about half that. The other thing I discovered that morning was that Methodist services are not for me. Lots of call and response sort of prayers, although helpfully printed in the program, were odd to me since I didn’t go to churches like that growing up. But it was a nice message overall.
At the end of the service were the announcements, where they talked about an inter-city picnic with nearby Americus, population 896. It’s so adorable. This is the part of rural America that I find appealing. The sense of community and togetherness. When I was living at home, there were people on that street that I had never even met. We don’t talk to each other around here, let alone have picnics or bbqs with each other.
After church we went back to the community center/tornado shelter and the reunion began in earnest. Our hostess had everything organized so well! This all started with William and Sarah Schlobohm (pronounced sh-loh-bahm, in case you were wondering). They had like 12 kids, each of which had a poster with pictures mounted up around the room. Each of the Schlobohm children were given a color, and we all got nametags corresponding to the line we come from. Since we are descendants of Ida Schlobohm, we got light yellow nametags. It really did help to identify people. Although since Ida had 6 children, even we yellow-tagged folks had to remind each other which kid we came from.
Hopefully this helps. William & Sarah > Ida (one of the 12-13 kids) > Mabel (the birth mother of my grandmother that we recently found).
So everyone at the reunion was a direct descendant of William and Sarah, but most of the folks were from Ida’s line (the Griffiths). Our closest relative, as far as I can tell, is one of Marjorie’s children. He would have been my grandmother’s cousin. Marjorie passed away in 2010. It’s a shame we didn’t get to meet her. We even met a woman who knew Mabel and spent several summers at her home in Emporia. It was really neat to find someone who had met her. It felt like we were connected to her that way.
It turned out only a handful of people knew about Mabel giving a baby up for adoption. So much of the day was spent telling the story of my grandmother’s adoption and then how we found the Griffith family and ended up here in Reading at the reunion.
We also spent some time looking at pictures, family trees, and even the Schlobohm family bible, documenting their marriage in 1866.
There was even the entire family tree printed out from Family Tree Maker taped end-to-end for us to look at.
It was such a neat experience to see all of this documented history. One of the family members asked me what my username is on Ancestry (it’s billyidolfreak, naturally), and he said “A ha! I’ve seen you!” Many of the family members there are actively putting together family trees on there and we discussed the pros and cons of viewing family trees on Ancestry vs Family Tree Maker. Fascinating stuff.
Lunch was pot luck style, and full of delicious comfort foods like scalloped potatoes, green beans, fried chicken, pasta, three different kinds of potato salad, and assorted baked goods for dessert.
Then we started taking pictures. First we took one big group picture. Even though the group was relatively small, it was sort of like herding cats. The two gentleman behind me started cracking jokes after a while “There will be a couple fewer Schlobohms if we don’t hurry up.” “Can I take a medical leave from this picture?” Every family has a couple, right?
Then we took family pictures with each line: Alice’s line, Ida’s, etc. A few of us connected on Facebook later (there was NO cell service in Reading, eek!), and made promises to connect on Ancestry.com or via email.
It ended around 4pm, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to Emporia. One of the other Griffiths had told us the exact address of Mabel’s home and we wanted to see if it was still there. It was! But I didn’t get a picture because we were being creepers driving up and down the street and I didn’t want to make it obvious.
Then we headed to the cemetery to see if we could find her headstone. Thanks to Find-a-Grave, we knew right where it was. I love technology, seriously. It was pretty hot, so we didn’t hang out too much, but it was really great to see all of these family locations and get a sense for the life of our newly found family members.
When we headed back to the house, we decided staying inside with the air conditioning and watching tv sounded just fine. We had a long couple of days and doing nothing seemed liked the best option. Our hosts were just getting ready to leave for the evening when we arrived. James plays in a vintage baseball league, which I didn’t even know existed. He and his team don period costumes and play baseball exactly the way they would have in the early 1900s. Occasionally they get paid to do so as part of one of the local cities’ historical society exhibitions. Although they invited us to go with them, it was like 100 degrees and we were exhausted.
So instead we stayed in the lovely air conditioning and watched tv. Yes, it was boring, but we really just needed a little time to do nothing. Plus we got to hang out with the dogs some more, which was great. We went to bed before our hosts even returned from their vintage baseball game.
You might think this is the end of the story, since this was the whole reason we traveled to Kansas…but you would be wrong. You see, we still have to get back to California and with my family EVERYTHING is an adventure. So stay tuned for the 4th and final part to this story. Coming soon!