Week 39 of my Genealogy challenge, from the Amy Johnson Crow, of writing something about your Ancestors for a whole year, #52Ancestors in 52 weeks. This week’s prompt is ‘Should be a Movie’…
I didn’t have to think much about who I would write about or what would make a good movie. I thought about my great grandfather. I have mentioned him before, but decided to see if I could find the book and relate a few items of interest. This is how it started.
Right before I was getting ready to marry my second husband, I came home only to find my grandmother sitting at her desk. She held in her hands small letter size papers in weeping as she read this. I was someone taken back as I had never seen her cry before. I went over to see what was wrong. That is when I found out that her father had been missing for 2 1/2 years. I had never heard about this before. I was somewhat stunned. She explained in short summary as to what had happened to her father. She explained that he kept a record of his life during that period of time. But that it was nothing unusual as he had done things like that when he was living normal life.
My great grandfather had amnesia from 5 May 1923 till September 1925. It was supposed that he was on his way to work that he was hit over the head, robbed and put onto a frieght car and landed in Eastern Tennesse.
Here is the first excerpt: On a beautiful warm day in early spring about 5 o’clock in the afternoon I had fallen asleep in an open train shed along a railroad in Eastern Tennessee. The sheld open in front and around the three sides benches for passengers awariting a train. Several gun reports close by startled and awakened me and getting up from the bench too suddenly made me dizzy and I fell to the floor. Five mountaineers came in and raised me onto the bench. The dizziness clasped quickly and not being hurt by the fall, I sat up and aksed what the gun shotting meant and one said, “Mr. were only having a little horse play back of the shed, having just quit work and on our way Home.” “Where am I”….. Gray’s”. Guess nobody and distance from here. Its in Tennesse. By this time they were sitting and each man had a knife a couple were whittling sticks and the others cutting niches in the bench. Said one, “Where did you come from?” I don’t seem to know – can’t remember being here before or in Tennesse, either.” Well Hobo, you must be a tramp or getaway as you don’t want to tell anything. What’s your name?” That remark nettled me as I was dressed better than any of them very little this name for dist as I could see so I answered at once John Farnam. Do I look like a tramp, I don’t feel as if I have ever been one. But with several days growth of whiskers, an old black cluch hat I was not very presentable especially with a good coating of dust. Well dad, if you get upper income you have a very poor alibi. In the meantime the wind had begunt o rise and the limbs of the tree which I could see from where I was sitting were swaying and a man remarked “It’s going to rain,” Me for home” and they all echoed his statement. I said, “Is there any place round here where I could get a place to sleep” Very few houses here abouts and they are filled with children and babies but there is a place about a mile beyond where you could find a place to sleep.
So here is man the doesn’t know where he came from, never been to Tennessee and didn’t know his name. As you can see from the paragraph above it was someone that could write very well and express himself. He actually was from the Philadelphia area when this unfortunate event happened to him. He found on himself, or rather his sole possessions were six cents in his pocket, wearing dark blue suit soiled somewhat by dust, a couple of keys on ring, pipe tobacco and matches, no papers or letter or anything that would raise an impression me that matters should be otherwise than in my condition at this time. How did he handle this? He said, “I drifted and took things as they came and they came swiftly. Gray’s didn’t look good to him, so he started along the road to find the place of which the man spoke of but never found it. He was on foot during his wandering in place he was not famailar with.
He did cross the Tennesse line into Gate City, Virginia. I had gone since breakfast without food and it came to the point where i must beg for food as there seemed no chance of getting any work in this territory except possibly the hardest kind of labor which I did not feel myself capable, noting the husky man engaged in such work. Besides it did not seem as if I had any knowledgeof work, my hands and muscles being too soft for labor and yet not adapted for anytihng in particular. I had no hestiancy in asking for “a little something to eat” except waiting for a hunch as to when best to attain it. My first attempt was a success, quite a good dish of food handed me on the back steps of a cottage, the woman appearing to take pleasure in the giving me food and talking to me about my day tramp. From then on I did not do any indiscriminating begging but followed my “hunch” and it seldom failed a few of which will folllow later.
After leaving this house came the question of sleeping quarters for the night. His thoughts on this was he would find abandant places and had hard time sleeping due to the cold night and would wake up with cramps but regardless of his dificult situation, he didn’t feel it was right for him to leave the doors open, so he would go out the way he came in and leave it the way he found it.
Some of the places he stayed, they didn’t feel he was the common tramp. He also marveled at the generosity of people who could so little afford to feed strangers. He also mentioned that he noticed his language seemed to be above theirs that it impressed people that way and gave him a better audience on several occasions on remarking that i was not the usual tramp.
He does seem to have his wits about him. Such as he never asks anyone in horse drawn vehicle or auto for a ride and yet rode many miles in preferred rides in automobiles. I heard or read in newspapers where those picked up being attacked after tendering some travelors on the road a life on his way and decided I would rather walk then be passed by as possibly a dangerous person. He did not let it bother him that so few stopped and offered a ride as their feelings were natural and I had not desire to ride with the thousands who under any circumstances would not extend a ride to a stranger.
So this is where he walked for miles and ocassionally got rides. This is how it started. It was Saturday morning and he was on his way to work at Pillings & Sons (medical instrument) company. John worked in the shipping department. However this certain day he never made it to work. It was believed he was knocked over the head and put in a freight train car. He was on freight train headed for Gray’s in Eastern Tennessee unbeknowst to him. You can see from the map how his travels took him. Mostly by foot. He wretches his kneel and struggles with that.
He meets some amazing people. The people he got attached to in Jasper, New York names were Andrew Murray. He went to their door and asked if he could sleep in the barn? Neal answered and went and got his father. His father said he could sleep in their home.
John’s daughter went to see them after her father had passed away. They had felt later that he wasn’t an ordinary tramp, they had tried to go after him, but he must have gotten a lift. He made a BIG IMPRESSION on them. Especially Neal. After John got to Cleveland, he wrote a thank you note and gave his address in Cleveland. From then on they were his adopted family and they sent him presents and especially at Christmas time. They really adopted each other. After John finally came home, two daughters visited us in Philadelphia and later John’s daughter, wife and grandson stopped to see them in Jasper, New York. So there are still nice people in the world then help others. This isn’t the whole story here but I have added my views from reading this document.
Little about John’s life, he was born on 23 Feb 1857 in Williamstown, Lancaster, Pennsylvania which later the town was changed to Vintage. His father was Tailor in Lancaster and owned his own shop. His mother died in childbirth having him. His father remarried therefore he was raised by his step mother. His older brother Edward and older sister Mary Elizabeth was from first wife. However, with his first wife dying in childbirth, the children were raised by the second wife. His father and the second wife had family of their own mainly 2 brothers and one sister. (Milton, Charles and Laura).
John attended Franklin Marshall College in Lancaster. He changed to Philadelphia School of Pharmacy and became a druggist. After graduation he decided to travel. He went west working as a druggist. He went to Denver, on to Los Angeles, California then to Sidney, Australia in Sidney for about 3 years; then on to India for seven years. He lived in Pakistan then to Eruope. He married Essie in 1899 in Philadelphia. He lived on Overbrook, Pennsylania.
John was very fond of childen and they loved him too. He was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There is more detail run down for instance on May 9th night in empty rail road car in Gates City, Virginia; May 23rd near Winchester night in school house awfully cold; Hagertown, Pennsylvania spent night in barn. He spend nights in old mills, empty cabins and houses, barns, churches , construction car trains; There is much more to this story but didn’t feel I needed to relate all of it here. I think you probably got the picture from some of experiences mentioned above.