Our road to our next stop on the family search led to a short side trip to another Presidential Library: Herbert Hoover's birthplace, library, and museum, in West Branch, Iowa. The grounds also include a walking trail, the Hoovers' graves, some restored prairie and a collection of buildings representing small town life at the time of his youth.
We were surprised by our ignorance of his life story. His Quaker parents died when he was ten, so he was sent to Oregon to live with his stern Quaker uncle and aunt, where he learned self-discipline and emotional restraint, but not how to enjoy life. However, he entered Stanford University the year it opened its doors, and before graduation had met the love of his life, Lou Henry, the only coed majoring in geology, which was Hoover's field.
He started as a mining engineer and later financier, traveling as far as London and Australia and becoming Herbert Hoover library fabulously successful and wealthy. Soon after their marriage, Herbert and Lou were sent to China, arriving just in time to be besieged during the Boxer Rebellion. They were quick to develop their skills as organizers and administrators of relief operations including rescuing Americans caught in Europe at the outbreak of World War One, and at the end of the war Hoover directed famine relief operations in Europe.
His Presidency was only one chapter of a long, complex and fascinating life in public service. He saw the signs of financial disaster before the Great Crash, but was nevertheless made a political scapegoat because, despite the many programs he initiated to provide jobs and relief he was unable to prevent the great amount of suffering that resulted.
We were amused to see that instead of the replica of the White House Office which we found in other libraries, this museum has installed a duplicate of his post-Presidential office in the Waldorf Towers, in New York. Hoover was offered no assignments by Roosevelt, who was always afraid of anyone stealing the limelight, but all the succeeding presidents found jobs for Hoover to do, starting with the Hoover Commission on government reorganization. He was a major force in world affairs until his death decades after his term as Chief Executive. Naturally we bought a recent biography, which we'll report on later.
Imagine a map drawn on a piece of blotting paper; here and there an ink blot shows a concentration of our relatives, while the rest of the map has only a few tiny dots. So far we've found three of these large spots, each in a tiny midwestern farm town: Ellsworth, Kansas; Chapin, Iowa; and Apple River, Illinois. Each of these spots has yielded well over a dozen relatives for the family tree; the last one almost three dozen. We're discovering how the westward expansion was effected: the pioneers chose new areas to settle and soon family and friends followed to the same area. This provided support groups to help the pioneers establish themselves in the new territory.
Apple River is on the border with Wisconsin, and lots of Wisconsin residents get their mail delivered by the postman from Illinois. So the town Cemetery established by ancestors cemetery is actually in Wisconsin. When we drove up we saw a sign naming the three men who had founded the cemetery. We recognized the name of Elsa's great-great grandfather; the second was his brother, the third the brother-in-law of another brother. It was named the West Ella Cemetery, after a town in Yorkshire, from which the families had emigrated. We've been here for over a week, and on our last pass through the cemetery counted more than thirty relatives whose graves we've identified. Lots of other graves are for the families into which they married.
The original attraction of this part of the country was mining. Lead and zinc mines were highly profitable local industries from the early 1800s until the 1970s. In the nineteenth century, mining regions of England, such as Cornwall and Yorkshire, which were becoming paid out, provided a ready source of skilled miners. Many of the immigrants, learning of the ready supply of U. S. government land, turned to farming.
Of course farming is the primary basis of the economy here today, but tourism is running second, featuring old buildings and mine tours and Cornish specialties. The names of the towns - Galena, Leadville, New Diggings, Mineral Point - reflect the heritage.
Naturally it's taking us a lot longer to do our genealogical research with so many kinfolk. Our work here is doubled by the fact that the records are contained in two states, in two county seats about thirty-five miles apart. But we're having lots of fun. We enjoy the informal and friendly atmosphere of small courthouses. The judge walks past our work area, his black robe flapping; the clerks clear a table space for our laptop by moving the casserole from yesterday's potluck. We have climbed on chairs to tug metal drawers full of wills from their high shelves. Sometimes there is an outlet for the laptop, sometimes there is a worktable. Most of the time we make whatever photocopies we want, then leave payment on the way out -- all on the honor system.
Stopping for gas at a crossroads mini-mart, we learned about local insects. To prevent gnats, pour vanilla extract on a rag and rub it on your forehead or tie the rag around your head. If you don't like vanilla, you can use vinegar, or a combination of the two. However, the construction workers swear by an application of Absorbine, Jr., The big flies you sometimes see have been imported from China to eat the army worms. The flies have now eaten all the army worms and are looking for other things to eat but they don't bite humans; they just look ugly.