Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Lament of Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens

One afternoon after my dad had passed away and after my mom's dementia had gotten to where we could no longer carry on a real conversations, I was rifling through a portfolio of "stuff" related to my mother's Tangen family reunion. (see July 2013 entry for photos of the last one).  My folks had done their best to put together a family history genealogy book and had poster boards showing family trees and a variety of other information that they would bring to reunion events.  While looking for something else I came across part of an old legal-length, hardbound journal that had obviously fallen apart years ago.  The pages were one stitched together section and only a small part of the original.  This is what I saw on the coverless first page --
 After a small space, she continued --
            Died in Topsham Orange County, Vermont, June 4th 1872 at two o’clock in the morning, Rosina M. Richardson, wife of Robert Richardson and daughter of Jane and Nathaniel Healey, age 62 years and six months, 12 days.  Rosina M. Healy was born in Haverhill, N.H., November 16th, 1808.
            My precious mother thou art gone.  None can fill this void in my heart.  None knows how sorely I miss thee, My Mother, never again on earth can I see thee or listen to thy sweet voice in accents of love and tenderness, never read lines penned by your hand.  Oh mother:  how I miss your kind letters.  Oh:  My Mother ‘tis hard to say all is well, so let-it-be, my heart yearns for you.  I shall ever miss you, My Precious Loving Mother.  None can fill the place in my heart that you fill.  Time nor changes can cause my love for you to grow cold.  Few Mothers occupy such a sacred place in their children’s hearts as you do in mine.  I canst not forget you My mother.  Your pure spirit will hover about me to guide me and cheer me in the paths of Virtue.  You are now at rest with Our Father and he has promised to care for the orphans if they will put their trust in Him.  I rejoice that you are so unspeakably happy.  With Christ and the many loved ones gone before.  Our loss in your gain and I will try to murmur not, but be content by [illegible] has [illegible] sent. 

 I had no idea who the "Jane" was that signed the bottom of the page. My own mother's beautiful handwriting confirmed that this was written by Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens.  The only problem with that was that I had no idea who Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens WAS, so that was not particularly helpful.  Jane's agony of soul came through so clearly and, whoever she was she was, she was completely heartbroken over the loss of her mother.  I kept thinking "who is this person" but the people who would know were no longer available to shed light across my path. 
The second entry brought Rosina Jane to life for me even though I still had no clue as to who she was.  Her grief for her mother was still raw. 

            I have visited my mother’s grave.  Watered the soil that covers her grave with my tears.   Have planted flowers over the place where she is laid.
            It was hard for me to leave the beautiful grave of My Mother.  Beautiful spot with soft stream of clear water goes murmuring by where they have laid my Mother.
            I trust the spot will not be neglected but kind hands will strew flowers over her grave, those flowers she best loved. 
            But while we visit her grave may we remember that and the tenement of clay lies there but the soul has gone to rest, gone to God who gave it.  He has recalled his own.  She is happy now, free from pain and care.  Let us all strive to walk in the steps she trod, remember her councils of love.  Let us bear the cross that we may wear the crown and meet our Mother in heaven.                                                                                                Jane

The need to know who this Jane was, and the Rosina of which she spoke, came over me in such a strong way.  I started poking around all the papers in the basement until I finally came across information that lead me to understand that this was my paternal Grandmother's Grandmother writing about the death of her own mother.  Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens was my great, great Grandmother and Rosina Healy Richardson was my great, great, great Grandmother.

I was captured by the idea that perhaps I could find her grave and I knew that there would be a "stream of clear water. . . murmuring where she lay."  This was the impetus for our first trip to "visit my dead relatives."  It was such a memorable time when we made our way to the Topsham town hall and discovered that Rosina Healy Richardson and her husband Robert Richardson were indeed buried there in East Topsham cemetery and the river really did run nearby. 
The trees behind me are on the steep bank running down to the small stream below.  The small river is named the Tabor Branch of Wait's River and runs through East Topsham, Vermont.  Tabor is the family name of the wife of the Nathaniel and Jane Healy parents of Rosina M. Healy Richardson.  Rosina's mother, Jane Tabor Healy, was daughter of Church Tabor who fought in the Revolutionary War and was one of the primary builders of the Washington, New Hampshire Town  Meeting Hall.  He worked particularly on the inside pillars of the building and the windows.  
The search for Jane (Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens)  has resulted in discovering so many ancestors who have contributed to the building and fashioning of this country.  As time has gone by I've learned all about Mayflower ancestors, New Amsterdam ancestors -- the Vandervorts and the Rapalje's, and later immigrants from Norway and Germany.  I have lots of Civil War soldier ancestors, some War of 1812,  and others of  pre-revolutionary battles.  I was surprised to feel more personally "anchored" as I have discovered these ordinary, yet extraordinary forebears.  They were amazing people who would definitely be surprised at how comfortable their descendants lives are now.   And what I love best is how they truly loved God and acknowledged him throughout their lives. 
What I learned about the author above was that Jane -- Rosina Jane Richardson -- had been born in Topsham, VT, where her parents still lived.  After marrying David Stevens she had moved with him to become  an early pioneer of Trempealeau, Wisconsin and then later of Elgin, Minnesota.  She and David had returned to Vermont in 1867 to adopt her niece, Julia Eldora Welch (daughter of Evi Welch and Mary Elizabeth Richardson) and had named her Ella Jane Stevens.  Ella was married twice and the daughter of her second marriage was named Susan Rosina after Rosina Jane. Susan Rosina was my father's mother.
Me, dad, Susan, Ella, Jane, Rosina - six generations and I had only known of the first three for most of my life.   Learning about one's own history is an extraordinary journey.  And everyone has a long and interesting past. 
you + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 + 256 + 512 + 1024 + 2048 + 4096 + 8192 + 16,484 + 32,968 + 65,936 . 
In just ten generations back we all  have over a thousand grandparents.  If we can find our way back just 15 generations, we have almost 70,000 grandparents.  All who lived and died and left their mark for good or ill on the generations to come.   It's never a question of having an interesting history -- only a question of what one can discover once they start the journey.