Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fearless Females: Following Lisa Alzo's Women's History Month Blogging Prompts

Dear Grandparents,
For the last six years, Lisa Alzo who writes "The Accidental Genealogist", has provided suggestions to help us share the stories of our female ancestors during March which is National Women's History Month.  Lisa's first question asks if I have a favorite female ancestor. I am fascinated by the stories of all my ancestors however, my grandmothers have been important influences in my life.

Hazel Bynon (Allen) Cone
(image was incorrectly labeled Hazel "Bynom" Allen)
My paternal grandmother, Hazel Bynon (Allen) Cone, daughter of Chester Bynon and Ida Mae (Dye) Allen, was born 5 February 1896 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She grew up in Knoxville and Johnson City, Tennessee before her family finally settled in Memphis. Her mother was injured in a train accident and was an invalid for many years. Young Hazel cared for her mother and raised her sister Dolly who was ten years younger. She became an elementary school teacher and taught until she married Charles Newton Cone. After a whirlwind romance of two weeks, Hazel and Charles were married 4 September,1926 and she left friends and family for Seattle, Washington.

Petite, red-headed, and strong-willed, Hazel was a force to be reckoned with. It was clear from birth that I was going to be short of stature, so I admired her influence over my grandfather, father and uncle all of whom were six feet or more. She convinced me that I could achieve anything I wished for and was willing to work at.

Ada Grace (Colby) (Werst) Branchflower
My maternal grandmother, Ada Grace (Colby) (Werst) Branchflower, daughter of William Wallace and Mary Elizabeth (Hugunin) Colby, was born on the family farm near Kirwin, Phillips county, Kansas 21 October 1902. She was the fifth and final daughter born to her parents and a full ten years younger than her next sibling. She was doted on by her older sisters, three of whom became teachers.

Her mother was suffering from polycystic kidney disease and was often away seeking treatment in Kansas City or Denver. After an operation at the Swedish Hospital in Kansas City, the family was advised to move to Oregon where the milder climate was supposed to have been beneficial to Mamie Colby's health. They settled on "Pine Lawn Farm" outside of Newberg, Yamhill county in 1911.

Grace's world changed terribly at age 15 when her mother died suddenly. The distraught young woman kept house for her father while continuing high school. He gave her a dog to help ease her loneliness. When she left home for Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University), her father married her mother's best friend and her own namesake Ada (Keeler) McNay. Evidently, Grace was only informed of the marriage after the fact. Any hope of a successful step-mother relationship ended when one of Ada's first acts was to give away Grace's beloved dog. Heartbroken, Grace never forgave her stepmother and never set foot in her father's home again until after Ada's death.

There is much more to tell of Grace's story but for now I want to focus why she is one of my favorite female ancestors. I inherited my love of family history from her. As the oldest of the grandchildren, I was over napping when most everyone else was still required to sleep in the mid-afternoon. I was allowed to look at the scrap books filled with carefully preserved photographs of her family. She was happy to answer my questions about life on the farm, Kansas, her parents and her sisters. She told me of her grandfather's service in the Civil War and his grandfather's service in the Revolutionary War. The stories fascinated me then and do to this day.

More stories will be shared.

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