Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taking Root In Nebraska !




Thomas Gordon Gardner was my great, great, Grandfather. His journey through life brought him to Nebraska where the Roots of my family were planted.

Thomas Gardner and his wife, Mary Ellen Allen were both born in Kentucky. They married in 1860 in the state of Missouri. Thomas served in the Missouri state militia for three years prior to his enlistment in the Union Army at Maryville, Missouri in 1865. He served during the Civil War and was discharged later that same year.

Mary Ellen and Thomas came to Nebraska around the year 1883 and settled in Custer County., near the village of Westerville. There they homesteaded and had timber culture lands. It was on that little farmstead that they raised their eight children, seven of whom lived to adulthood and had families of their own. Their sixth child, Willis David Gardner, was my great Grandfather. Mary Ellen Gardner died in Custer County, Nebraska in 1897. Thomas Gordon Gardner died in the near by town of Broken Bow, Custer County, Nebraska in the year 1929.

In the year 2008, my sister-in-law and I took a trip through central and eastern Nebraska on our way to the Nebraska Genealogical Society's Annual Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. We attended the conference over three days, made research stops, visited several relatives, haunted the halls of a couple libraries while doing research, and most importantly-we visited several old family cemeteries. It was great fun and educational to say the least!

One of our stops was a visit to the old Booknau (Westerville) Cemetery near Westerville, Custer County, Nebraska to locate and visit the graves of Thomas Gordon and Mary Ellen Gardner. The cemetery is a beautiful old country cemetery on top of a hill and is still used today by the small population of a once busy community.

Next stop, location of the nearby homestead of Thomas Gardner. It lies just to the North and west of the town of Westerville. The old house still barely stands, close to 125 years old. It is a rare beauty standing in a small grove of trees at the edge of a pasture and very near a public dirt road. Outside is the windmill and old water pump that served our loved ones. We were accompanied by another cousin as we scouted out the property and took photos. We felt as if we had discovered a sunken treasure of gold ! One dreams that it must have been a grand and happy little home for our ancestors in it's day. We managed to come home with some weathered boards and a few old bricks from the crumbled chimney. These were truley treasures to cherish as they had been touched by the hands of those who had gone before us and planted those precious Nebraska Roots.

If you have not visited the town, home, or final resting place of one of your forefathers; you may be missing a precious piece that belongs in your heart. It wells up wonderful feelings of love and pride in your SOUL !

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