Monday, March 1, 2010
Their great-great-great-great grandpa, William Walbridge Wood, was traveling with his wife Louisa (that's them pictured above), some time in the 1860s, and when they stopped to water their horses found a 6 year old girl sitting in a chair at the bottom of a cistern (a basin used to catch rain-water). She was sitting down there because she was being punished. Not by her parents - they had left town on a train, said they'd return, never did - but by whoever it was that was raising her. William and Louisa took the girl with them, and raised her as their own. Her name was Bessie.
It is maddening incomplete, but that's what I love about this story: the huge gaps in it, the details that will never be known. What was Bessie being punished for? Who were the people raising her? Were they abusive, or merely strict, to punish her by having her sit in a cistern? William was 59 at the time, and Lousisa, as a Choctaw woman, had suffered greatly on the hellish Trail of Tears years before. What was their motivation in taking her, in raising her?
It makes me wonder about what odd scraps of story will cling to my own family 150 years from now, when my great-great-great grandchildren are driving in their flying cars, telling their kids about how strange and primitive life was back in 2010. What questions will they be asking about us? What stories will define us in their eyes? What will be lost? What will remain?