The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Blame Thanksgiving on My Family - English and French


The Stuart Kings of England left an indelible negative impression on their country. Starting with King James I of Scotland, they sided with the Roman Catholics against the Protestants. Previously, James' cousin, Queen Elizabeth balanced both sides rather well, after spending her developing years trying to survive during various conflicts, largely religious, that could have ended her life.

The Stuarts were rather foolish, and that included Charles II who put my ancestor in prison for expecting his loan to be repaid. "Pay back loans? That is for commoners." The bankruptcy of the jailbird, a natural consequence of the king's displeasure, led some of them to sail for America, for a chance to start all over again. They learned early that it is easier to land in the outhouse than to keep title on the penthouse.

That part of the clan became prosperous land-owners in America, and my Uncle Spencer remained a farmer all his life. The Parker (English branch) reunions were full of farmers and ex-farmers, older women in plain cotton dresses, men with sunburnt faces - always joking. When I read a book of English history,  with a profile about the typical 17th century Englishman, I said to my wife, "That is where I got the joking, the gardening, everything."

The English side is a good example of the British crown driving people across the sea for freedom in America. With nothing to lose, many sought a new beginning where the stories were told of large families being all the more prosperous for having that many more workers for the field and kitchen. My Parker cousin told me how she calculated the cost of every meal for every hired hand during harvest.

My mother said she was confined to kitchen work for a large crew and had her fill of cooking, but she also did the work of men and terrified her students with her toughness and strength. "Glove? To play outfield? I don't need a glove." Woe to the teen who thought he could get away with sassing in class. That is why parents begged her to teach their wayward kids and saw how well they did. One classmate told me, "Your mother saved my life." Another one said, "My big regret is that I did not get your mother as a teacher in grade school. My mother tried to get that changed, but it did not happen."

On my father's side was the French Protestant exile from their homeland. That was far bloodier than anything caused by Bloody Mary in England.

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of French Protestants led to many crossing the Atlantic. Later persecutions by the Roman Catholics led to more exiles and escapes. The Noel family settled into farming in the Midwest. One Noel family struggled so hard on free land in Ohio that they did not want to even visit their former home again. Their daughter insisted. That was a sad memory, not unlike the Little House on the Prairie, where the future author saw her family barely survive from year to year.

That family was Seventh Day Adventist until they started pig farming in Iowa, where they did well. That led them to become Evangelicals, even though they had two SDA bishops in the family. That might have made for a cold reunion long ago - raising pork and leaving Holy Mother Sect. What would your sainted Uncle Horace say?

French Protestant history in America is also fascinating. Some geograhical areas come alive when associated with that era. Rochelle and New Rochelle. Cajun history is interesting too, involving those horrible British, who demanded allegiance.

The quest for freedom based on natural rights - created by God, not man - is the story of our families. My wife's family came over from Germany after World War II. Many relatives settled in Ontario and were well known to Pastor Herman Otten's brother Walter (a pastor there for a time).

Other Ellenbergers settled in America because my father-in-law was the first to arrive. His papers had a special seal on them because he helped Patton's troops during the war. Five of the Ellenbergers served in  the US military, and every relative came over legally, becoming citizens who contributed by working hard for their adopted country.

Church members told my father-in-law, "Henry, you cannot send your two daughters to a private college. Send them to the school in town." He thought otherwise, and both daughters earned graduate degrees after graduating from Augustana College in Rock Island.