Though I knew not the uncles who slept in gold dust,
I’ve been told whom they hated and whom they could trust.
I read which ones fiddled, who sang and who danced;
I hear they worked hard—wonder if they romanced.
I’ve met not the aunts, the women of kind,
but can guess of their hopes and where they were blind.
Am told how my grandfathers laid down their life,
I know where they lived and who was their wife.
I know what they died of: bad kidneys and rage,
some died of weak hearts, others died of old age.
Some died from smoking, from whiskey, from sin;
others from cancer, and a few did themselves in.

Those departed before us, their stories are gone,
’til they came on the Diligent and on the St. John.
They arrived as stonemasons, blacksmiths, and deacons,
planting the New World as seekers and beacons.
Peter left Consdorf and sailed ‘cross the sea,
laid roots in Mazeppa—my father’s history.
George hailed from Sussex to start a new life
and settled in Guilford with children and wife.
Was Henry the smithy? Or did he make shoes?
Ask dear Grace or David, they gave us the clues.
Though futures are clouded by sins of the past—
history’s rewritten by those who come last.

I’ll make note of those briefly from whence I did come:
the Leinens and Tomlinsons and Reilands are some;
the Snavelys, the Smiths, the Shades I give due,
the Sumners and Surdams, must mention them too.
But where are the Masticks, a family of yore?
And what of the Andersons, a part of my core?
The Chamberlins—well-preserved by others held dear,
but the Harringtons—a mystery, the Vonadas—not here.
I descend from the Clemens, the Nigons and Hoys,
though most familiar with Chatfields—their mistakes and annoys.
The stories I’ve heard were not always true,
passed down through the family and now onto you.

Regarding our women so little was written,
so little recorded ’bout how they were smitten.
These mothers of mothers and mothers of mine
were grown from seed you don’t always find.
Herein lie their legends, their letters and lore
with tintypes and photos that show what they wore.
I know what they cooked and what they were taught,
I know some were Catholic—which tells me a lot.
They were strong and defiant—ruled by what’s right,
married men that some left, making do with their plight.
I presume who they were by looking at me,
our blossoms and thorns twining through this same tree.

Through bloodlines, through love, through bad luck or tether—
it matters so little what binds us together.
We’re scattered and distant all over the place
but still all related by marriage or grace.
Those gone before are a part of me still,
a dram of my blood, a slice of my will.
They watch over me with wonder and trust,
to guide me from birth till I too turn to dust.
I’ve sat on their headstones—these relations of past
and pondered and wondered how I am like cast.
I sense all their voices, they touch me in dreams,
I glimpse at their lives to unearth what mine means.

Catherine Frances (Clemens) Sevenau

Peter Clemens  1808 - 1871 Maria Reiland 1822 - 1892 Mazeppa, Minnesota

Peter Clemens
1808 – 1871
Maria Reiland 1822 – 1892
Mazeppa, MN

G-G-Grandfather Peter Clemens. stonemason 1808 - 1871

Peter Clemens, stonemason
1808 – 1871
Mazeppa, Minnesota

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  1. Sandra Youdall says:

    I am smitten

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