Died on the Fourth of July

On this day as we gather our families together with picnics and fireworks to celebrate our country’s independence I can’t help but think of my 2nd great-grandfather Edward Byron Patton. He was 34 years old on this date in 1860. Less than a year later Abraham Lincoln would become president. The father of 4 small children ages 1-6, the youngest, my great grandmother Mary Jane.

Edward Byron Patton

Edward Byron Patton

There was no celebration for Edward or his family on that Fourth of July and I would imagine it was tainted every year after. For on that morning his 27-year old wife Esther passed away. A newspaper account read that so greatly admired was she, and through respect to her memory in their small town, “all patriotic demonstrations were suspended and not an unnecessary sound was heard throughout the day.”

Edward never remarried and over all those years ahead, as a single father, he raised his children. Along the way he became a successful builder and contractor. I can imagine he was a beloved father, grandfather and patriarch.

I often think of what it must have been like for my great grandfather on that solemn day, traditionally set aside for happy celebration. I wonder what it would have been like to have watched him on that day conduct his affairs with the loss of his young wife. He was once a breathing living person, as real as you and I. Not just a name with dates and places among a long list of thousands who came before us. How I would like to set across the table from him and get to know him.

That’s a little of what I think about, every 4th of July.

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A Letter to Friends and Citizens

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A broadside of Washington’s Farewell Address, from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress

It came to be known as George Washington’s Farewell Address.  But it was never given as a speech. Distributed instead as a letter to the people of the United States it’s considered one of the most important documents in American history.

In his letter to “Friends and Citizens,” Washington devoted most of it to offer advice as a “parting friend” on what he believed were the greatest threats to the survival of a fledging nation. Among his subjects were foreign relations and free trade, credit and government borrowing as well as political factions and the party system. The letter is a masterpiece and, although written 218 years ago, his advice is worthy of our attention as it still governs much of our public affairs today. Just as Ronald Reagan did more recently George Washington looked ahead to the country’s future with great optimism.

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Aces and Eights

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James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok epitomized the adventureous men of the wild west I envisioned as a boy. He was among my favorite characters I read and heard about, and made even more famous, in the television and film westerns of the 50s and 60s. Characters that included the likes of Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, the fictional Marshall Matt Dillon, Bret Maverick and Paladin from Have Gun – Will Travel. All of them good guys, ‘cept they all wore black hats, Dillon the single exception! Hickok lived a most interesting life of notoriety, some said he was the fastest gun in the west, but, as boys are apt to be, I was most intrigued by the drama and circumstances of his death. Continue reading

James Garner – Actor, Poker Player

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The Young, Dashing Bret Maverick

I’ve been distracted of late, it isn’t the first time but this blog is never far from my mind. I’m always conflicted on what to write about and how long these entries should be, not to mention finding the time to concentrate on whatever subject it is I finally choose.

Realizing I post regularly to my Facebook page on a myriad of subjects I got to thinking today: Why not just expound on some of those same things here within my blog? After all, each entry doesn’t have to be a lengthy epic of paragraph after paragraph of astounding, deep-thinking commentary. It just needs to be a sharing of a single thought or two on my interest of the day, something I hope worthy of sharing with you my regulars. Something “compelling” would be a word a friend often uses. So, here goes!

By-the-way, thanks as always for stopping by!

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Young Love: War Interrupted

Stories of young love are often remembered as the folly of our youth. They are the stuff that is part of growing up. A few sometimes strike our youthful, tender spirits with the sting of heartbreak, just as it can in adulthood. Such is puppy love and the price we pay for being teenagers. But few young romances are enveloped in the drama of war, surrounded by a devastated world. This is the story of Anne and Peter Schiff and of a missing image that took more than 60 years to be discovered. Continue reading

When Lincoln Spoke

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Presidential Candidate Abraham Lincoln, August 1860, Springfield, IL

“I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?” ~~ Abraham Lincoln, after being called ‘two-faced’ in a debate

It’s common knowledge Abraham Lincoln was not a handsome man, nor was he esteemed on first notice as graceful or socially adept. Described as homely, uncouth, rough-looking, a tall 6′ 4″ angular, awkward man in clothing that didn’t seem to fit, Lincoln was even said by some to be ugly. His remarkable face, height and flat-footed, springless walk never failed to make a powerful impression. As a London Times correspondent wrote: “It would not be possible for the most indifferent observer to pass him in the street without notice.”

But Lincoln, a dirt-farmers son was ambitious and determined to succeed. From the time he was a boy he was self-educated, an avid reader of any book or newspaper he could find. His stepmother remembered he was unusual, he had to understand everything, repeated facts to himself until they were “fixed in his mind.” With little formal education he left home at age 22. “I was a friendless, uneducated, penniless boy… a piece of floating driftwood.” Continue reading

Bradley Kritzer – An American Hero

Pfc. Bradley Kritzer

Today* would have been his 27th birthday. An all-American boy from small-town America. Bradley G. Kritzer, like many from the small boroughs of central Pennsylvania’s Clearfield county loved the outdoors and someday hoped to work there with an organization like the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Brad is a lot like many of my cousins with hunting and fishing a favorite pastime.  It is said that he grew up with a rifle in hand, hunting turkey and deer with his father and going fishing every chance he got. Brad is a distant cousin whose life I was drawn closer to by the tragedy of his death. Continue reading