Erica Lorraine Scheidt
There weren't four Freeman sisters; there were five.
Catherine and Robert Freeman died before 1865, leaving six orphaned children aged fourteen to a toddler. Although the children were spread across six households and two countries, the oldest five children remained connected. This picture of the four most senior sisters shows their determination to maintain a family connection.
Unfortunately, the youngest daughter, Sarah, slipped away. We believe Ambrose and Melinda Custard in Harwich raised her. 1871, 81, and 91 Canadian censuses for the Custard family include daughter Sarah, born about 1864.
I continue searching for a paper trail. If she had children, perhaps DNA testing would uncover a descendent.
Great-grandaunt Sarah, you are not forgotten.
GRANDMA'S SUNDAY CLOTHES
Grandma Meehan passed away many years before her youngest grandchildren were born - 25 years before I was born. Nonetheless, thanks to my dad and many wonderful cousins - I remember Grandma. The story below is an excerpt from Ava Speese Day's 1981 Christmas letter - it's one of my favorite "pictures" of Grandma.
"Went to the Black Museum and baby sat the office for awhile. Mrs. Bertha Calloway is the busiest person in the State. She took time to bawl me out for going to a motel. I was really the guest of Bertha and her husband, Red, while in Omaha. Bertha had called me in Feb. to see could I attend the opening of a new presentation of the role of the Negro woman in Pioneer Nebraska. It opened at the Governors Mansion, Lincoln, on March 8. I couldn’t make that day but would for the Omaha opening Easter Sunday. The logo they used for the show is a picture of Grandmother, Hester Freeman Meehan; wife of Grandpa, Charles Meehan. the artist did a picture Uncle Wm., (Bill) Meehan took of Grandma sitting in a chair beside their sod home on their homestead in Cherry County, Nebr., I remember when the picture was taken.
I do not recall Grandma in a Sunday dress…always blouse and black skirt. She may have worn Sunday dresses, but it escapes me. The blouse was always white. With many underskirts. When she came home from Church, she folded up the skirt with the top underskirt; fastened with care at the waist and covered with an apron while she got dinner on the table. Later she was dressed again in the Sunday clothes. Dinner was always fixed the day before so it only had to be heated. No work done on Sunday unless it was absolutely necessary; or a neighbor in trouble.
One Christmas Uncle Bill was going to do all the cooking. Grandma tho’t she should help…Uncle Bill picked her up and carried her into the living room & sat her in a chair, saying “Stay there.” How we laughed. We kids really got a big kick out of that…still do. Underskirts…She wore at least three."
Newspaper research led to written confirmation that stories of my granddad's being a traveling salesman were true. Before many Black Canadian homesteaders left Dawson County for Cherry County's Sandhills, several took on jobs other than farming to support their families. The articles shown here are just two of several that attest to Charles Meehan's traveling occupation.
Perhaps the sales job was the only position available. It is fascinating that Charles took up an occupation loosely linked to an industry dominated by his biological family in Detroit. They were prominent clothiers with a significant dry goods trade. Based on my research, Charles had no association with his birth family and may not have known about them. Perhaps it is just an interesting coincidence.
Charles began his sales travels at the family home in Overton (far right on the map), dipped down to Platte, continued to Ringold (lower left), and finished in Cozad - about a 40-mile trip one way. The articles do not tell how Charles traveled. A train connected the Overton and Cozad endpoints but does not appear to have connected with Platte or Ringold. I suspect he traveled by horse and buggy to make stops off the rail track. There is no information about how often he made the trip or how long he was on the road, but the trips were regular enough that he gained a reputation as "the soap and lace man."
A Walmart Superstore stands on the old peddler's route one hundred years later. It is off Route 80, just before Platte.
Newspaper articles from the Overton Alfalfa Herald, 1903, and gained through GenealogyBank.
The picture shown here presents such an idyllic image of siblings, the older sister Annie reading to baby brother Will. That was probably true for as long as it took to take the picture. In 1900 that could have been a long time for a little boy, so as the minutes ticked by his little mind plotted ………
My dad loved his older sister, Annie. She was 20 years his senior. His Mama had too many children to be fooled by the shenanigans of a little boy but sister, Annie, was kind and patient and she provided great leeway for a three or four-year-old's overly active little mind.
Dad’s favorite Annie story included ashes and a very clean wood floor. Even at 55 he thought it was funny and he’d genuinely laugh while relating the tale, perhaps more so because he knew his own five-year-old daughter loved the tale.
Cousins Lena Speese Day and her sister, Ava Speese Day created an image of Grandpa and Grandma Meehan’s sod house. They wrote, “The most affluent people plastered their houses inside and also applied some sort of water proof plaster to the outside. Then with board floors, it was easier to keep clean. Grandma’s second new house was so built. This house had sod partitions. There was a kitchen, a huge living room and THREE bedrooms. This was LIVING!” (From Our Sod House Memories 1972/73, Ava Speese Day and Lena Speese Day – draft of Sod House Memories.)
It is the wood floors that caused the trouble …. clean, scrubbed on hands and knees, clean, clean, clean wood floors. Wood floors that sparkled – scrubbed clean by big sister Annie. Picture a neat kitchen, table cleared and ready for lunch, dust wiped away – and all the ashes from the morning fire stored safely in the old bucket next to the spotless stove. Cleaning a Sandhill house could be a challenge, but Annie made it look so easy – she was really good at cleaning.
Wouldn’t Annie think it was funny if there was a smudge on that beautiful, clean, clean, clean wood floor? Why, she’d chuckle at the spot she missed, get the scrub brush and rag, and wipe the spot away. The best spot maker, something that would make a spot she couldn’t miss, was a little of those almost cool ashes. Just a little … maybe a little more … she might not see that so just a little more. Yes, eventually nearly the whole bucket – warm wood ash on damp wood floor.
In the end Momma fussed, Annie scolded, fortunately, brother Ed wasn’t there, brother Harry thought it was a great idea, brother Den just frowned and shook his head, sister Rose got busy cleaning up and little sister Gertie just hoped no-one thought she was involved. And Papa – Papa grabbed his youngest son up and made a bee-line to the well-used woodshed. Years later the Meehan siblings all laughed about it as their remembrance brought a smile to the faces of new generations.
“The Angel and the Mischievous Boy” is a word and image portrait of Annie Meehan Von Ohlen (2nd oldest Meehan child) and Bill Meehan (youngest Meehan child). The picture, taken about 1900, has always been a favorite of mine - it seemed to beg Dad's story.
Pictured is the family of my paternal uncle, Harry Meehan. Seated center is Harry's wife, Nina Early Meehan. Standing second from right is my first cousin, Margarite Meehan Harrold. Margarite's daughters Bonnie and Darlene are on either end. Second from the left is Minnie Early Byrd, Nina's sister. The little girl is Uncle Harry & Aunt Nina's great-granddaughter, Margarite.
The Omaha Star's online records at Newspaper Archives proved invaluable. The newspaper published this article on November 9, 1951.
This biography, written by Ava Speese Day, was submitted to RootsWeb by Darrell R. Fransen.
Pictured are Charles and Rose Meehan Speese (seated center) surrounded by their daughters and sons in 1953.
Located at RootsWeb which is funded and supported by Ancestry.com and the RootsWeb Community.
William Speese's life story is both humbling and inspiring.
Family Connection: Rev. Speese is the oldest brother of Charles Speese who married Rose Meehan. He is the son of Moses and Susan Cropps-Kirk Speese.
These Nebraska Homestead babies were born three months apart in Overton in 1897 and remained friends until Goldie died in 1956. The families were both members of the Elgin Settlement (Buxton). When Bill's oldest brother, Charles Edward (Ed), was born in 1876, Goldie's father, William P. Walker, was the "informant" who reported the birth for entry into the Ontario, Canada birth register. The Meehans, Walkers, and several other Buxton families migrated to Nebraska together.
When Bill passed away in 1965, Glenn Hannahs's letter of condolence read, "William and I have known each other many years (since 1906). We were in Nebraska as boys."
Over the years, there were marriages between the families, strengthening the bond of family friendship that has lasted several generations. As Bill wrote, "Friends for now and evermore."
In the glow of the early morning,
My dear old friends I see,
Like Phantoms near but distant,
Singing, Home Sweet Home, to me.
They are beckoning and calling,
While in dreams they hover near,
Singing, crying and rejoicing,
Every mood I seem to share.
Till I wake from idle dreaming,
Still I live within the past,
‘Tis my only pleasant moment,
Oh! If it could ever last.
Just a thought of pessimism,
Just a murmur of despair,
When my dreams of home are ended,
And I face this world of care.
Oh! If I could see my comrades,
See them face to face today,
And could hear their jokes and laughter,
How t’would cheer me on my way.
When the working day is ended,
In the evenings glow I’m sure,
That my friends are true and faithful,
Friends for now and evermore.
by William H. Meehan
The first-generation Meehan children born in Nebraska took their first breaths in Soddies. Many of the second-generation Meehan children did as well. Lists of family members born in sod houses will soon be added to the documents section of this site. Bill Meehan and Ava Speese Day created the documents for the Sons and Daughters of the Soddies, Inc.
For those who would like to know more about life in a Soddy, the following YouTube video by the Oklahoma Historical Society gives an excellent overview.
"The most affluent people plastered their houses inside and also applied some sort of water proof plaster to the outside. Then with board floors, it was easier to keep clean. Grandma’s second new house was so built. This house had sod partitions. There was a kitchen, a huge living room and THREE bedrooms. This was LIVING!"
The National Park Serivce site includes stories of several family, extended family, and friends and their Homesteading journey. The site is located at https://www.nps.gov/home/black-homesteading-in-america.htm.
Those Audacious Meehans
All pictures used on this site are the property of Catherine Meehan Blount unless otherwise noted. Other images are used with permission.
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