Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bringing the Past and Present Together

I had never heard of the Palouse region of Washington until a few months ago when I began planning for this trip, but here is where my maternal great grandfather, Edward Lemuel Adams,  and his family came from, and where descendants of that pioneer family live today. The Palouse is a large area of rolling hills in eastern Washington state, green in spring, golden in summer, dedicated to agriculture - primarily wheat. It's possible that the term comes from a French word, pelouse, "land with short thick grass", or "lawn."  It might be related to a Native American term.  Appaloosa horses first came from this region.

I knew the family had a farm in Fairfield, Washington, from the comments and notes my grandmother, Bernice Adams Tess, left behind.  Though her father and mother were divorced when she was small, and he was killed when she was eleven, she corresponded with her cousins, and spoke of the family he whole life.  I wanted to see the farm, walk the cemetery and meet the cousins living in the area now.

In a book Early History of Fairfield, edited by Glen Cameron Adams, teacher, printer and historian, there is a wonderful story related by a cousin I met that day, Gerald Holt.  Holt loves to tell family stories.  He contributed this anecdote about the Adams/Holt farm established by Civil War veteran Herman Heinrich Adams and his wife, Annie Lucretia Moore in the 1880s. Gerry Holt's grandfather, Arn,  built the barn; his mother Hermanie Adams Holt features importantly in the story.

The family lived at the foot of Mica Peak in a one-room cabin with a 40-foot tent while Grandpa Holt built the large sawmill for Jim and Emanuel Hansen.  After completing the sawmill he brought his family back to Fairfield, where they stayed with Herman and Annie Adams.  In December 1909, fire destroyed the ranch house.  All the neighbors came as they saw the smoke clouds rising.  Uncle Bert Adams had his rising horse in a pasture behind his house in town and never did catch it to get to the fire.  Everything was burned except a picture of the old buildings which Hermine Adams Holt threw out the door.  The picture with its broken glass still hangs in her home.

Hermanie is gone, but Gerald has the watercolor painting, a little water stained, but a fine representation by an itinerant painter from 1890 of the old ranch.  I was thrilled when Angie brought the picture to our luncheon get-together at Cutters Cafe, in Fairfield.

After the fire the ranch house was rebuilt in brick, and today is slowly being rebuilt by Evans Holt.  The barn still stands intact, pictured here surrounded by green grass.  We went into the house, which is bare of windows, and inhabited by pigeons, and looked out over the fields toward Fairfield.  I tried to imagine Annie's lilacs blooming, the barn filled with horses, and the old steam thresher that might have been a reason my great grandpa left home.  According to Gerald, Len wanted to run the steam thresher, but his older brother Will wouldn't let him.  Len was so angry that they fought, and Len burned a haystack and left to eventually become a railroad engineer.

I knew my great grandfather was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Rockford, Washington, not far from Fairfield.  It's a pretty place on a hill, looking out over the town and the surrounding countryside. Many of the Adams cousins, Gerry Holt and granddaughter Angie, Deral Adams, and Garry Adams, and Dona Adams Kochheiser were all there that cold and windy day to walk the cemetery, talk about who was who, and take photos.  Grandpa Adams is buried next to his grandmother's second husband, Lemuel Peele Moore (1812-1884), but no stone marks Adams' grave.  The superintendent of the cemetery took down what I knew: Edward Lemuel Adams, born July 22, 1872, died May 24, 1914.  Then the cousins discussed how to best mark his resting place.  My Grandma Tess would be so pleased.


Charlene Brown said...

This is a lovely story, Sherry. I thought the little painting might be yours, but then discovered its special significance when I read your account of its history. Very nice post!

Margaret Ann said...

Okay...tears here...beautiful!