The Smith family was somewhat of a mystery to me prior to a couple of years ago. Not that they were inaccessible. They are everywhere, and with a name like Smith, the connections never end.
My great grandma Orah Myrtle Smith wasn’t nice (nasty is more accurate). I was horrified to read her unkind thoughts in letters she wrote to her daughter. Penned between 1940 and 1952, and in spite of Orah’s temperament, her efforts captured my father’s childhood. When I realized this, I was hooked. I was so fascinated by her mean-spirited disposition that I started a series called The Malevolent Matriarch. Those posts will be included here very soon.
When I was working on my matriarch series, my mother reminded me of the letters Orah’s father, Alfred Josiah “Si” Smith, wrote to his parents. Better yet, we have the originals. They begin in 1889 in Ironwood, Michigan, and there are fourteen total. I put Orah on the back burner and began a new series called Into Ironwood. Six of those letters have been posted, and you can read them here.
I learned something unexpectedly from reading Orah’s letters, something about me. Orah called her daughter names and expressed “hate” for my father. When ill with diabetes she did not seek regular medical care. Orah lived through some horrific events and appeared to be a very unpleasant person. I don’t excuse bad behavior, but I grew to understand Orah a little bit better.
Apparently unhappy in the photo above (Orah is seated center, dad in front) there was also a lot of good. Orah probably made every article of clothing you see in this photo, having sewed and crocheted by night. In summer, after a long day’s work canning cherries and beans, she kept house for my grandma and an eye on dad.
A very large clan, our Smith branch originated in England. Below is my Smith lineage.
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Samuel Smith b. 1790 m. Jane James
Their son Charles E. Smith (Reverend) b. 1818 m. Mariah Pollyann Bixby
Their son Alfred Josiah “Si” Smith b. 1848 m. Helen Eliza White
Their daughter Orah Myrtle Smith b. 1875 m. Elmer H. Butterfield
Their daughter Lalla Butterfield b. 1898 m. Carl J. Geier
Their son Rodney M. Geier was my father.