Stories from the Muddy

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

John Lewis - Great Grandpa Arthur's Brother

By Naomi Lewis

 In the summer of 2005, I was in England researching the Gates family in Kent in the south of England, when it occurred to me that while I was in London, I had a perfect opportunity to search for Great Grandfather Arthur Lewis' brother John.  I spent many happy hours at the National Archives at Kew Gardens.

Arthur Lewis
            I grew up with the story that the last letter Arthur received from his brother told about John being trained to ride camels in the Sahara.  Arthur never heard from his brother again.  For 100 plus years, our family has thought, John Lewis died in the Boer War. I was in and out of London all summer, it was my project while I was there to search for this long-lost brother.

Brian Thompson
When my friend, Brian Thompson found out I was in England to do family research, he started researching his own family. When I returned nine days later from Kent, he had a blossoming family tree.  He was a magnificently obsessed genealogist, staying up until 2 a.m., searching the internet.  Each time I came back to London, I was amazed how fast his family tree had grown.  During his own research, Brian had come upon the Family Records Centre, had visited and said they were very nice and helpful.  So I decided to find out what resources were available to help me find my great grandfather's brother, John.

            After a train journey and the underground and a long walk, I spoke with a young man who explained to me how to search the newly available 1901 British census index. He said it would cost seven pounds, about fourteen dollars, for a copy of whatever record I wanted to see and there was no guarantee it would be the one I wanted.  I told him I'd like to try.  I searched all the John Lewis' in the index and there were many, but one record caught my eye.  I knew John had been a London police constable, and something about a notation that began with London …, made me curious what those dots represented.

I dug in my pocket for seven pounds, the young man said, "Just a minute." He went to a computer and accessed a program only employees were privy to and pulled up the record. He let me look at it.  It was my John Lewis and the dots in the index stood for "police constable."

The 1901 census listed John, his wife, Sarah and their six children, John, Lilian, Arthur, Caroline, Albert, and Sidney.  What was particularly poignant to me, is that my great grandfather named one of his sons John, and his brother John named one of his sons, Arthur, but they never knew it in their lifetimes.

            John did not die in the Boer war.  Now we have more information about that part of the family than we have known for 100 years.  As a teenager, I was convinced we had living relatives still in England.  Now I'm more convinced than ever.

            And the young man who was going to charge me seven pounds whether it was the correct record or not, a record I would have paid 100 pounds for, he printed for me and gave to me for free.  We have help from seen and unseen hands all along the way when we are involved in this work to find our ancestors.

            I felt so close to them as I pieced together their stories. Their landscapes are real places in our hearts.  They are our own blood.

            The young man at the Family Records Centre went out of his way one more time. I couldn't read the street name on the census record, so he retrieved a book and looked up the spelling--Number 6 Crebor Street in Camberwell, Surrey.  I don't know how to search a family forward, it's a bit tricky, but I believe in miracles.

While I was in London, my generous friends, Brian Thompson and Jean Bilton gave me a home and showed me the sights.  Friday, May 27, 2005, I boarded the train at Strawberry Hill to Waterloo station where I met Jean.  It was a thrill to cruise up the Thames to London Tower Bridge past the London Eye, which must be the largest ferris wheel in the world.  The compartments are enclosed and move very slowly.

            We passed some beautifully decorated bridges along the way.  At the tower, of course, we saw the crown jewels and toured the huge facilities of the Tower where enemies of the crown were once imprisoned. We ate lunch and I took this picture of Jean.


             We traveled by underground to Baker Street, where I saw the sculpture of Sherlock Holmes.  We saw a building that had no middle.  We also toured the Marylebone church where Great Grandpa Arthur Lewis was christened.

            We decided to walk to Abbey Road
which was only one underground stop, but a very long distance.  It really was a pilgrimage to recreate the cover of the Beatles album.
Marylebone Church
            It was funny because there was a French woman there and a British man doing the same thing I was.  The Beatles created something quite potent, evidenced by people still thinking about an album cover 35+ years later.  It was the hottest day of the year, so far, and I walked until I didn't think I could walk anymore.

  In the evening, we took a bus to Covent Garden and had dinner at Fizzi.  It was so hot that evening in Twickenham, I propped my windows open with my tennis shoes.  It was probably only 80, but it feels hot there.  The next day was cool again and that's the way I found weather to be in Europe.  There were no long periods of killing heat, it always cooled off right away.

Building without a middle

Waiting for duck (photo courtesy of Brian Thompson)

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All's Well That Ends Well - James Gates Research

By Naomi Lewis

I have searched for my third Great Grandfather, James Gates, for almost forty years.  He seemed to hold the key to my identity and I just couldn’t give up looking.  I knew James and Eliza Mercer Gates settled in New York Mills, Oneida County, New York.  In 1976, I traveled to Whitesboro, Oneida County, New York to see if I could pick up a trail for James and ELiza.  I found them in the Whitesboro Cemetery. 

The stones were old and weather worn.  I decided to do some stone rubbings.  I still couldn't read the dates, but for a moment the letters on the worn stones glowed with clarity, as if they had been blazened with light.  I copied down what I could read.  But, when I sent the records in for their work to be done, they were turned down.  This was a huge disappointment after traveling so far.  Long years passed, almost thirty, before I picked up that trail again.

The census records said they were from England, but I didn't  know where in England to look and didn't have a hope of finding out either.  I longed after this family.  My search from them makes me believe in miracles and the spirit of Elijah.

            A letter was handed down to me from my mother.  It came to her from great Aunt Opal, one of my great grandfather Ed's older sisters.  Her letter to Mother reads:

July 13, 1960
Dear Betty,
Since I wrote you, I've found the letter telling of my father's birth and his mother's death.  It may help you in your search for the Gates family history.  I don't know of anyone else is interested in that line, so keep the letter and pass it on to your children.

The four brothers mentioned in the letter, George, Alfred, Joseph and Stephen Mercer were Eliza's brothers.  I often heard my father talk of them.  And the one who wrote the letter was evidently a sister (Eliza was the only girl.  I think the author was George Mercer's wife's sister, though I can't yet prove it).

The three children left were Jim, Ann, (a beautiful girl, I have her picture) and Edward E., your great grandfather.

We were so happy to have your Grandpa visit us after all these years.  I'm crazy to make a trip to his ranch and get acquainted with your mother.  Don't know if I'll ever get my wish or not.  I'll be 85 years old in August.  I am in good health and get around fine, but my husband can't seem to stand long rides, gets sick, so we have to stay pretty close to home.  Maybe he will get over that in time.

Love to you and yours,

Your Great Aunt Opal (Opal Iona Gates Bibens, born 9 August 1875, in Chariton, Missouri.  She was married to Walter Bibens and had two sons).     

            This heirloom letter is the foundation from which knowledge of this family begins.  We are indebted to M.E. Leach for writing the letter and to those who treasured it and handed it down, probably George Mercer who first received it, and Edward Earl Gates, son of Eliza Mercer Gates, who passed it to his daughter, Aunt Opal Gates Bibens, who handed it down to my mother, Betty Louise Gentry Lewis, who gave it to me.  I wish the picture of Ann Gates had come down with it.  It's sad to me that it is lost.
            I transcribed the letter in 1976 and pondered it for years for clues.  All the twistings and turnings of my mind always came back to what I knew from this letter written at the time of Eliza Mercer Gates death.  It reads:

New York Mills
30 November, 1839

To George Mercer
Lima, Livingston County, New York
Dear Brother,

I have ever esteemed it a privilege to hear from you by way of letter or paper—and I have found it a pleasure to write, but I must say it is a task at present and a hard one too.

If I had not been requested and urged to do it, I could not undertake it at present.  While I was reading your kind letter last evening and while my eye glanced over a few lines, I saw by your writing that you were all in good spirits, but how sad the reverse when you get this—it seems you cannot feel worse than I do—O dear brother, prepare to hear the worst.

How can I write it. Last Saturday at in the morning, your sister Eliza was taken sick.  She was as comfortable as could be expected in such circumstances.  She had a son which weighed nine and a half pounds.  He was born about the same day.  She got along pretty smart.  I went to see her Sunday .  She was very cheerful and smart when I left her and continued so until Wednesday morning.  She had the appearance of a broken breast as she has had before and she thought it so painful she put oil of some kind and washed it in peppermint to dry up the milk in that breast.  The Dr. thinks it was used too fast and dried up the milk all at once and scattered it all over the system.

She began to fail slowly.  She was sensible of it herself and waked Mr. Gates (James Gates born September 4, 1804 in Tenterden, Kent, England) in the night and told him she did not feel as well as she had.  He went for the doctor.  Her lips were purple and very much swollen, the doctor told me when he first saw her.  She had changed so much during the night, it frightened him.  He gave her some new medicine.  She appeared a little better.  Through the day and night following, she began to fail again.  Thursday and Friday, about a week later, she lost her senses, but she came to herself for a short time and said to Mr. Gates that she should not get well and he must prepare himself for the change that would shortly take place in her.  She told him many things which he could not utter to me, but will tell you when he writes.  She said she was happy and willing to die if it was God's will.  She soon lost herself again and seemed to be asleep most of the time.  They thought she needed rest.  They did not know it was the sleep of death.  She lingered along without much pain until Friday when she spoke, I believe, for the last time, but what she said, I have not learned.

Mr. Gates was at home all the time.  She had Mrs. Vandyke to nurse her and had good care.  They were astonished to see her fail so suddenly. They forgot to let me know it until she was struck with death.  Joseph and wife (Lois Hastings) were sent for.  They were there before she died, or Joseph did, but went off after his wife and he did not see her die.  I got there one hour before she breathed her last.  Her eyes were closed and I did not see them open again.  She did not know anything.  She died very easy.  They had a council, but nothing could be done. Mortification had taken place already.  I stood over her with Mr. Gates when she breathed her last.  The house was full, but none in the bedroom but Mr. Gates and myself and Ann (Eliza Ann Gates, born in 1832) and the doctor and the room was small as Joseph and wife were not in 'til she had gone.  He felt dreadfully to think you and Alfred could not be there to see her breathe her last and sympathize with him.  But I must say, I felt for him if ever to see him wringing his hands in agony over his beloved wife.  He caught my hand and said how would brother George feel if he was here?  All in the house were in tears.  She gasped and breathed no more.  She looks as pleasant as when living—but the tears fill my eyes and I cannot see.

O, if you had been there last night between seven and eight what a scene you would have witnessed.  We thought we could not have her buried on the Sabbath, that is tomorrow, and you could not have got here in time.  They will send for Stephen.

Mr. Leach and myself sat up last night.  Mr. Gates has been very friendly with him of late.  Mr. Gates will write to you as soon as he gets collected, perhaps next week, and tell all that I have left untold.  He is in trouble with three little children.  Mrs. Evans will want Ann if he will let her have her.

She is going to be buried beside Mrs. Laurence.  Mr. Leach thinks he shall not stay here long as the factory is to stop soon a part of the winter and there is nothing but orders to be had, hard times.

Write me as soon as you get this.  I think he would like to get a good place within six or seven miles of you.  Mr. Everts is here now, one of his friends from Brockport.  He is trying to cause him to go to West Avon or somewhere where there would be a good place.  Do you know of a good one?  If so mention it.

Love to all.  Tell my dear mother I want to see her much.

Write to me as soon as you get this without fail.

This from your sister,

M.E. Leach

(Is this a daughter of Deborah Filkins? This question after searching census records)

Edward Earl Gates

Edward Earl Gates (Ed Yates father)
B. 23 November 1839
New York Mills, NY

James R. Gates B. 1836  

Eliza Ann B. 1832                                                 

            In the late 1960's, while I was at BYU, I searched for and found James Gates in the 1830 and 1840 censuses.  When I began to search again for the family in 2004, I found a record of James Gates in the 1850 and 1860 censuses along with the names of his new wife, Mary A. and their three children, Anne E., William M., and Benjamin J. Gates.  By 1860, James was living with his son, William M. Gates in Whitestown, Oneida, New York, according to that census.  (There is a brief history of William Gates following). 

            I was able to find all the family in one census or another, except Ann, who is mentioned in the letter as the oldest child of James and Eliza Gates.  Her birth year, 1832, came down to us from Aunt Opal Bibens.  Because there were no names listed in the 1840 census, I couldn't find Ann. By 1850, when each person in the household was listed by name, she didn't appear.  Aunt Opal said she was a beautiful young girl and had died very young. 
            (A notebook filled with Eliza Ann Gates' beautiful cursive writing has come down to us.)  I didn't know if she had gone to live with Mrs. Evans or not.  I searched the census records for an Evans family with a daughter named Ann about the same age, but could not find one.

Page from Ann Gates notebook
            In the spring of 2005, I decided suddenly to go to Europe.  I was surprised to hear myself say it, not knowing beforehand where it would lead.  But as soon as I made the commitment, things were set in motion.

            The ocean had always been a barrier in my research and I despaired of ever crossing the pond to find where the Gates family came from in England.  I ordered a microfilm through the family history center.  I don't know why I ordered that film out of all the microfilm numbers in my notebook, but when it arrived, I found a family group sheet detailing Eliza Mercer's family.

           The records said Eliza was born in High Halden, Kent, England.  Eliza Mercer married my James Gates.  I figured in those days, they probably didn't travel too far to meet their mates, so concluded James must have been born in that area too.  I had always believed they had married before they left England, but I couldn't prove it.

            I ordered 10 more microfilms to do some advance research.  I found many Gates and Mercers in High Halden, even a James and Elizabeth Gates and some of their children, who I believed were James parents and siblings, but I couldn't find my James’ birth record, so I just wrote everything down.

            I went to the internet and rented a cottage in High Halden.  Now I knew where I was going.  This was a village at the end of the rainbow.  We think England is a small island, but it isn't when we're on the ground.

Cottage and part of garden at High Halden, Kent, England
            When I arrived in High Halden, I headed for the churchyard.  There nestled under an old oak tree were several stones bearing the name Gates.  I rushed to look at them closely.  Some of the words were worn out and I couldn't read them.  One of the graves was for James and Elizabeth Gates and four of their children, but the dates were wrong.  I didn't know how they fit in.

Inside my cozy cottage
             I returned the next morning before church services and met the Warden and asked if there was a book containing the words for the head stones.  He took me to his office and opened a safe.  It was just a slim volume, but it contained the writing on the gravestone:

To the memory of M. James Gates
Of this parish who died 8th of December
1847 aged 70 years
Also of Elizabeth his wife
Who died 21st of May 1839 aged 65 years
And also their four children
                    William June 4, 1812
         Anne 21st June 1819, nine years old
  Elizabeth December 22, 1837 aged 30 years

Flower man at Tenterden
William November 22, 1846 aged 29 years

On a five mile hike of ancient trail over hills and stiles

            Sunday, I attended the meeting at Saint Mary's Episcopal Church and met the local people who were very kind to me and took a five mile hike with my landlords on ancient trails.

            I had made a reservation before I left Las Vegas, for a microfilm reader for a week at the "Center for Kentish Studies," in Maidstone, the county seat of Kent, requiring a bus trip from High Halden to Ashford where I caught a train to Maidstone.

            It took considerable effort.  I'm not as young as I used to be and my health was tentative following an accident.  When I arrived at Maidstone and stood waiting for a friend to pick me up, at the railroad station, I listened to a babble of voices around me.  A voice in my head said, "These are the voices of your ancestors," so I tuned in.  I had difficulty understanding them.  They spoke with heavy accents for American ears, and I wondered if we could communicate when I meet them again.

There was a prayer on my lips every step of the way to Maidstone first that I would hold up and second that I would find what I came for.  Every morning, I made the trek and back at night.  After days of searching without success, I was feeling pretty foolish and sheepish.  I had come so far against all odds of my being able to find what I came for.  I worked so hard, the Lord just had to bless me, didn't he?

            I searched through the last day, and skipped lunch because I was running out of time.  When I finished the last film for High Halden, I concluded he was not born there, boy, am I a slow learner, but where?
            I thought, "You've done your best.  It isn't here." I was tempted to go back to my cottage and cry.  But you know, being magnificently possessed, I just couldn't let it go when I still had an hour that I could work.  I was frozen for a moment.  I prayed.  There were ten towns around High Halden I could search, but I didn't know which one and I was out of time.

            Then I remembered I wanted to search in Tenterden, a town six miles south of High Halden.  I looked at my watch.  I had an hour before the center closed for a four day holiday weekend.  I found the film.  It was a short piece of film.  I began to read, page after page.  I was exhausted and dazed.  I was almost blind from looking at microfilm too long, and I missed it, but then I saw it, and I thought I had seen it before.  I've searched 100s of hours in microfilm and never seen a duplicate record.

            I rolled the film back and forth several times just to convince myself that James Gates, born of James and Elizabeth Gates, 4 September 1803, was on this short piece of film twice.  I don’t know if it is still that way, but it was that day and I caught it.

            I searched for James and Elizabeth's marriage record. Guess what was on their marriage record, "James Gates of Tenterden parish and Elizabeth Blinks of the same parish, married 17 October, 1802."  I had found James Gates father and mother and his mother's maiden name – Blinks. Now I was able to search for her parents, and found Samuel and Elizabeth Blinks and Elizabeth's brothers and sisters, Edward, George, Ann, and Benjamin.

            I've wondered for awhile where the Edward in my great grandfather and great great grandfather's names came from. There were no Edwards anywhere in the Gates or Mercer families before, but James Gates brother was named Edward, and the Blinks family was full of Edwards, so I solved a little family mystery for myself.  We just have to endure through that last impossible hour, because it is in that hour that miracles happen. We have to be in the act of doing for breakthroughs to happen. I know this from being a writer.  If I put my bottom in the chair in front of the computer, somehow over time, miraculously, a screenplay takes form.

Downtown Tenterden
             I decided to stay a couple extra days at the cottage in High Halden so I could visit Tenterden.  What a treat to find a very picturesque town. 

           The graveyard at St. Mildreds contained large stones for the Blinks family. 

           While there, I met a young archivist who had a book compiled when the details of the stones were more easily read.  He, as good as his word, emailed me this inscription on Eliza's father, William Mercer's tombstone at the "Old Meeting House," a Methodist church on Ashford Road, which read:  Sacred to the memory of William Mercer, late of this parish, who died 31st October, also Mary Mercer, his wife, who died 25th March 1863, aged 85.  Had issue Eliza, who died 29th November, 1839, aged 35.  Left surviving William, Joseph, James, Stephen, George and Alfred.            

Stained glass inside St. Mildreds Church
             This was poignant to me, because my Eliza had died so far from home, across the ocean in New York.  There is a story here about a father who missed his daughter, I think, to find her death information carved on his own tombstone.

           When I returned to Las Vegas, I was able to verify that my James’ parents were the same James and Elizabeth I had found before I left home.  They had left Tenterden for High Halden by then. I had actually been to their graves, but didn't know it until I came home and was able to review the dates in my big notebook.

             Knowing the families were Methodist in an Episcopal country gives me some insight into why the young members of both the Gates and Mercer families came to America. My grandmother, Gladys Gates Gentry told me she grew up Methodist.  Just a tiny bit of trivia.  There is a plaque on “The Old Meeting House” Where the Gates and Mercer families went to church that states Benjamin Franklin visited the church. Grandma Gentry also told me an ancestor was a tailor for a King. I'm still trying to figure out which line of the family it could be.  James and Eliza's son, Edward Earl was a maker of fancy shoes for women, so that talent could have come down from a tailor to a king, but the name Mercer means a dealer in cloth. So it could also be that line. The mystery continues.

            I found this on the internet about William, one of the brothers of James Gates.


The name of William Gates still brings a gleam to the eyes of Frankfort folks, and to Herkimer County residents. They enjoyed pointing to the Gates Home, the site of the old Match Factory. A display of a collection of Gates matches in the village library attracted much attention. The manufacture of friction matches began in 1844. These man-made matches were cut in three-foot lengths, both ends dipped in Selfware, dried and cut in half, making the finished match one and one-half feet long.

It took great effort and patience to introduce this new fire maker to the public. Gates, however, met the challenge and enlarged his factory eight times, operated 19 buildings, and employed three hundred people. During the 13 years when the factory reached its peak of production, the United States Government collected more than three million dollars of revenue on one cent a box of every one hundred matches. Later the interests were joined with the Diamond Match Company and after 50 years of prosperity in Frankfort, the industry was moved to Oswego in order to be nearer the lumber resources.

Thus, the origin of the Diamond Match Company has its beginnings in Herkimer County and in the town and village of Frankfort. The marker at the site of the William Gates Match Factory reads: "1844 peddled matches in Utica; 1854 invented the first continuous match machine; and 1855 introduced the first phosphorus match." (This was accomplished by Mayor George Corrado some years ago.)

The village of Frankfort was incorporated on May 7, 1863 and by 1872 had four churches, a bank, a grist mill, a saw mill, woolen factory, and the match factory owned and operated by William Gates. The village was a principal manufacturing center for the Central New York Center for the West Shore Railroad. The railroad buildings are still here, but occupied by the Union Fork & Hoe Company and other firms.

Data for this write-up was extracted from the following publications:

HISTORY OF HERKIMER COUNTY by George A. Hardin, Frank H. Willard, 1893.
HISTORY OF HERKIMER COUNTY 1791-1879 by F. W. Beers & Co. 1879.
Various Newspaper Write-ups - Herkimer County Historian
High School, Frankfort, N.Y. dated 1913
Business Section-East Main St., Frankfort, N. Y. dated 1918
Data compiled by Esther Hays, volunteer for Frankfort Free Library; member Daughters of American Revolution, Col. Marinus Willett Chapter, Frankfort; member Colonial Dames XVII Century, Mohawk Valley Chapter; member Daughters of Founders and Patriots Early Frontier Chapter, New York State.

            After a time for mourning, James Gates remarried Mary A. and bore three more children:  Ann E., born in 1842, William M., born in 1845, and Benjamin J., born in 1847.

            I fretted about whether or not to have Ann Gates sealed to her parents, not knowing if she had gone to live with Mrs. Evans or not.  One day I received an impression I should do it, and so I did the paper work.  While I was on the Oneida County website, in anticipation of writing this history, I found a wonderful site with several links to the history of the area.  There was a link to the Old Trinity Episcopal Church Baptisms 1829-1836.  At first sight, I didn't think I needed it, but I had opened all the other links, so decided to open them all.  To my surprise there was Eliza Ann Gates baptism record for October 5, 1835.  Her parents were given too, James and Eliza Gates.

           What a happy ending after so many years.  Never give up.  The Lord is in His work and I believe our ancestors have their hearts turned to us as much as we have our hearts turned to them.  I personally did Ann's sealing to her parents April 19, 2006.  It was a very moving experience, even the sealer was crying.  Afterward, he asked me who she was and I told him a bit of this story.  He thanked me for bringing in the names, including hers, whose work we did that day.  I feel it was a day the family had waited for.  All the James Gates family work is complete as far as I know back to the beginning of records in Kent in 1500.

White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, England

Hills and sky High Halden, Kent, England

Double rainbow in my garden at High Halden

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Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis

My mother, Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis, was the family historian and genealogist.

 As I was growing up, Mother made a great effort to gather the artifacts of her family.  She learned a great deal from her mother, Gladys Gates Gentry who possessed a huge box of old photographs and was able to identify the people in them.     

Betty wrote numerous letters to known and unknown older relatives, among them, Opal Bibens who was Grandad Ed Gates (Yates) older sister, and Ed's Cousin, Charles Gorman in Laddonia, Missouri, to glean what they knew of the family.  The children of our family called Gladys Gentry, Grams, Osborne Gentry was Papa, and Edward Earl Gates (Yates), we called Grandad.

            Mother interviewed her parents and grandfather during a summer vacation at Tassi, on the Arizona strip.  We all sat in the shade of the cottonwood trees as each in turn narrated their memories and Mom took dictation.  This was the beginning of our book of rememberance.  Without her efforts in the 1960s, we would not have any of these stories of her family now.  Betty wrote a sketch of her own life.  Because these writings exist, I will let these dear people speak in their own words, then I will tell you what I remember about each of them. 

I imagine it was a sun-baked day on the high plateau of Colorado, May 30, 1927.  The delivery room in Saguache was hushed.  A nurse ran into the hallway.  "It's a girl," she whispered to the father leaning against the wall, biting his fingernails.

            "She's so small.  I believe her head will fit in a tea cup," the Doctor said.  "I worry about her vision."

            Baby Betty Louise lay on a pillow for her bed, her mother's arm around her.  "She's perfect in every way," her mother, Gladys, said.

            The nervous new father, Otto Albert Meining, was breathless as he entered the hospital room where his wife and premature daughter waited.  "She's adorable," he gushed.  "Let's name her Betty and Louise after you," he said as he kissed his wife.

            Otto's parents were John Meining and Emma Snyder Meining.  The family moved from Dayton, Ohio to Colorado where Otto met and married, Gladys Louise Gates, the daughter of a local rancher, Edward Earl Gates.

            Gladys' twin, Betty's Uncle Glenn, carried baby Betty everywhere, holding her on a pillow.  "I loved her from the first moment I saw her," he said.
            Otto had great aspirations and worked hard for the sake of his new family, but in October of 1931, he caught a chill and developed double pneumonia.  The doctors at the Salida Hospital tried all the known medical practices, including tapping his lungs, but they could not save him.  Otto was only 27 when he died October 26, 1931.

            After Otto's death, Gladys worked in Salida until the hospital bills were paid.  Then Gladys packed a bag and Betty and boarded a train for St. Thomas, Nevada.  This was the nearest train station to Gladys' father, who had started a cattle ranch on the Arizona strip.  (St. Thomas was the town that disappeared under Lake Mead when Hoover Dam was built on the Colorado River.)

            Gladys, who is my grandmother, gave me this cute story about Betty.  "When Betty was about five, a sheep herder named Horace Sylvester stopped by the ranch at Seven Springs for water.  Betty was always on hand to help him and to talk to him.  There was a tent boarded to the side of the ranch house for cooler sleeping in summer, before the days of air conditioning.  One day, Betty said to Horace, "Me and my mother sleep in the tent.  Mama has a pistol, so if anyone come around she can take it out and tell them to 'get.'  Nobody would know it doesn't have any bullets in it."
The following is what Betty wrote about her own life:

            I, Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis am the only child of Gladys Louise Gates and Otto Albert Meining.  I was born May 30, 1927 in Saguache, Saguache County, Colorado.  Mother tells me I idolized my dad, yet I have no memories of him.  He passed away before my fourth birthday. 
                My first definite memory is when we arrived in St. Thomas, Nevada.  I was very tired and didn’t want to walk from the tiny railway station to the hotel through the deep sand.  I believe Grandad Ed carried me.

When we headed for Seven-Springs out on Grand Wash in the Arizona Strip, I was terrified crossing the Virgin River.  I was on top of a load of grain and supplies.  Mother rode a pretty yellow horse, Polly, that Grandad gave her as a gift when we arrived.  I believe my worst fear was that my mother and her horse would be swept away down the river.

It was a lonely life out at Seven-Springs with only a big black dog for a playmate.  I remember my fifth birthday out there.

One day the dog and I were running full speed coming back from the fields.  I had a rope tied around his neck, and when I fell, he dragged me.  For awhile, Mother thought for sure I had a broken arm, but young children of the outdoors soon recuperate.

How well I remember the mule trips in a pack-box.  They put me in a pack box on one side and a large boulder for balance on the other side of the old mule, Maude, and away we’d go for fishing trips down on the Colorado River.  I soon learned to ride the mule.  One time old Maude got to running with me and I fell off.  Mother on her faithful palomino, Polly, was running at break-neck speed to catch her.  Mother says she could feel how that horse stretched herself out longer to keep from stepping on me.  Somehow, Polly kept from trampling me.  Eventually, I learned to ride a horse and loved it.
I also remember Osborne Leland Gentry, coming out to Seven-Springs to court Mother.  Osborne was the son of Harry Gentry of St. Thomas.  The Gentry's owned the mercantile company, a freight line, and the St. Thomas Hotel.  I eagerly awaited Osborne's coming, he always brought candy.  I thought his car with the rumble seat was real perfection.  When they were married, I was beside myself they wouldn’t take me with them on their honeymoon.  I stayed with Osborne's sister, Auntie Della Whitmore at the old St. Thomas Hotel.  I probably gave her a terrible time.  I remember fussing a lot and being naughty.  I learned how to defend myself against my rough and tumble male cousins, Gale and Sidney.

We moved into a little white house below Overton, Nevada, where Roxton and Della Whitmore lived, for my first, second, and third grades.  I was lucky to have a superb teacher, Ella Perkins.  She was very good to me and helped me a lot.

In the first grade, I played hooky one afternoon with my best pal, Norma Shurtliff.  My mother didn’t find our antics very funny, as we managed to saddle up horses and ride alone.  The horse I rode wasn’t a child’s horse by any means and we could have been badly hurt.  Mother tanned my bottom and I never forgot it.  I never played hooky again and learned to be more careful around animals.

My Uncle Wayne Gates (Yates) took pity on me and drove me uptown for candy.  That was dear of him and I still learned the necessary lesson.
In 1934, when I was in the second grade, I had to have my tonsils out because the Doctor said they gave me leakage of the heart.  Dr. Hardy had his home and office in the brick house where Billie Perkins lived.  Did I fight like a wild cat when they put me on the operating table.

They had to call helpers from outside to hold me down.  Then when they were half done, and I was waking up, they had to ether me again.  So by the time I first came out of anesthesia, I was very silly, and embarrassed my mom to pieces.  I told the Doctor, “I feel like I’ve drunk a quart of wine,” though I had never tasted any.

My fourth grade was spent in Nelson, also known as Eldorado Canyon, Nevada.  The folks tried mining on their own and then Daddy Gentry worked for wages.  I had a superb teacher here, Mrs. Elva Petersen.  Our school house was a small, one-room building.  Here she taught eight grades.  She also was a friend to me and I recall her trying to fatten me up by feeding me fresh goat's milk.  Her son made friends of the tiny chipmunks.  They were so sweet in the cages he built for them.

Mother’s health broke and we spent some of the summer in Las Vegas.  My fifth and sixth grades were in Goodsprings, Nevada.  I had another splendid teacher, Miss Sarah Williams.  She was crippled with arthritis, but her penmanship was beautiful.  I dearly loved her.  Here I had a part in the school play.  I was “Columbia Gem of the Ocean.”  How big I felt that night and how frightened.

My very best pal these two years was Nora Seybert.  How we loved to play horses, and chase the local burros.  I always loved the outdoors and animals.  I was very much a tomboy.  At this writing, summer 1962, I still love the outdoors, but health challenges don’t permit much activity.
Osborne's sister, Aunt Laura Mae Gentry bought an accordion and tried to teach me to play.  I wasn’t one to practice and played outdoors instead.  Today I regret it and try to convince my own children to play with the same outcome.

Dad Gentry worked down in the Chucheta Mine both years we were in Goodsprings.  I always looked forward to payday.  Dad always gave me a dime.  I bought a root beer and a big hunk candy bar.  And at the time, they were big.
           In 1939, we moved back to Overton where I finished up schooling from grades seven through twelve.  I was a hard-working, obedient school girl.  I liked all my teachers and had swell friends.  I never did anything clever or won school honors—just a B student and a good athlete.  Part of our high school time was during World War II, so gas and food were rationed.  I only recall two school trips, both for band.  I played French horn.  During my senior year, I was the leading lady in the senior play.  My mother worked on census enumeration many hard weeks in order to buy me a lovely cedar chest for my graduation gift.

           I never cared for the boys my age.  I was tall, so I went out with a few really swell older fellows.  I became engaged to (Alkie) Robert Elwood Perkins, Jr.  He was a splendid fellow and why I got over him, I’ll never know.  Our engagement lasted one year then I called it off.  We had many swell, fun times together with our crowd—Lowell Leavitt, Billie Rae Perkins, Caroline and Perry Perkins, “Alkie” and I.  We organized many chicken and corn roasts and swimming parties.  It was always clean fun and not hurting anyone.
After graduation from High School in 1945, I lived in Las Vegas nearly a year with Ada and Lee Speirs.  They gave me a good home.  I worked in the Sal Sagev Hotel.  During this time we lived out in the Huntridge area of Las Vegas  and I rode the bus to and from work.  I ate lunches every work day at the old Silver CafĂ© and bought a caramel sundae most days after work.  We had scrumptious meals at Ada’s every night.

Clarvid Arthur, Sonny, Lewis
            Clarvid Arthur Lewis and I began going together in early October, soon after his return from overseas duty in the South Pacific.  He had lovely brown eyes and was such a charmer.  We went together seven months or so.  Since we were both stubborn, we had many arguments, but they only seemed to draw us closer after making up.  He proposed several times before I finally gave my final, “Yes.”  On May 3, 1946, we drove to Las Vegas and together picked out a beautiful six-diamond ring set.  It was a happy day for me.

           After we arrived home, we visited our folks and then the congratulations started.  Since I wanted to be married on a Sunday, we chose the first Sunday in June, which was June 2nd.  Our wedding day might have been on my birthday, but we thought a Sunday wedding more appropriate.  Then began the fun of buying furniture and household utensils.  Our first furniture was a lovely six-piece veneer bedroom suite.  Then a dinette set and small radio.  It was so nice to pick out everything together.  That made it more memorable.

           House cleaning was fun too.  The idea of it being my own house soon made drudgery fun.  After the curtains were hung, floors waxed, furniture arranged, and all those necessary little details, our little house really looked homey.  We had help from our families, of course, and advice, which was very valuable.  All in all, we believed everything couldn’t have been any nicer.

           Our first child ended in miscarriage.  We both felt so bad and hoped God would be better to us the next time.  Then we were blessed to have Naomi, Malcolm, and Cornel.  They were the joy of my life.  I loved our children, and our life on the ranch was what I had always dreamed of.

           I was baptized into the L.D.S. Church, April 8, 1955.  It was one of the loveliest memories of my life.  The church gave me fulfillment.  It was something I was lacking and needed.  My Patriarchal blessing did wonders for me during health battles.  August of 1957, I had an emergency gall-bladder operation, one I was truly grateful could be performed.  I haven’t enjoyed real health since.  In 1961, I was finally diagnosed with an incurable blood disease known as Systemic Lupus Ermatoyosis.

            This ends the brief autobiography Betty wrote.  I never thought to ask my mother who she was before she was my mother.  Sixteen years after her passing, I found diaries and books containing the lyrics of songs she liked written in her own hand.  There were several sheets of song typed song lyrics as well.  She was a prolific letter writer.  I was among those lucky enough to receive letters from her faithfully throughout my life and some of them survive.

            Betty kept a five-year diary, a gift from her mother, Gladys, from the age of thirteen through seventeen.  Each entry space is filled.  She recorded a summary of her day every day for five years.  I 'm in awe of the discipline it took. I was able to write in a journal for one summer.
This is the first entry in Betty's five year diary:

            New Years Day, January 1, 1940
            At , Mom, Dad, and I went to Bert's.  Sid and I went for a ride in Bert's     car.  He had to buy some gas, so I loaned him 25 cents.

            It was interesting to see the entries year after year from 1940-1944.  Here are all the entries for a particular day of the year recorded on one page of her diary.  The next year, 1941, her New Year's Day was spent babysitting for 25 cents.  The next year, 1942, the rodeo was 25 cents, but it wasn't very good.  In 1943 she records, I feel very well.  I read awhile and went to the horse races at Jack's.  I didn't go to a show and went to bed at .  In 1944, she writes, I began the day mopping and doing the housework, then rode Blackie, my horse, then rode around with Jack and family.  I had supper with my folks and went to bed at .

            As the diary progressed it showed how diverse her interests were.  How she loved life with its many choices.  I count this diary as one of the great family treasures.  How I love to read her childhood memories.

           A friend wrote this in one of her school year books.

Dear Betty,     
            You're the swellest girl with a charming personality   that will take you far.  I have always admired your golden natural hair.  Here's to a very successful Senior year for you and I know it will be.
As Ever, Louise.

            Betty's hair was an important feature, for it would draw the attention of a special man, Clarvid Lewis, my father.  Betty was always whistling or singing.  We children, begged her to sing "Three little fiddies swam over the dam," again and again.  How she must have grown weary of it, but she never said so.

            Betty Louise was a beautiful girl.  She was a drop-dead-gorgeous woman.  I found pictures in her yearbooks.  Even later in life, people always commented as she was about town, that she grew prettier every year.  I personally think people do grow more beautiful as they earn definition and character in their faces.  I don't really understand our modern culture that's so infatuated with youth.  "Age that includes wisdom is worthy of homage."  A friend recorded the following in her year book in 1944:
Dear Betty,
            Perhaps this is beside the point, but I've thought you one of the loveliest looking girls I've ever seen.  Often is the time when I've wanted to say so, but you know how we neglect to do things we really want to.  Wishing you success in everything.  Mabel Aarhus.

Other year books include these entries:

            It was too great for words working with you this year.  I shall always remember the brilliant student who pulled us through U.S. History class.  You always helped us when we were in a pinch.  Keep up your studious nature.  You're really such a swell gal and the privilege was all mine to know someone like you.  A friend and classmate, Mitzi.

Dear Betty,
            I hope you will always remember the fun we have had in Seminary.  And the fun we had on the basketball team.  And especially the fun we have had in band playing our alto horns.  A friend, (I hope) Elaine Hardy.

            P.S. Policeman!  Policeman! Be on duty.  Here comes Betty, our American beauty.

From the director of the Senior play in which Betty played the heroine:

Dear Betty,
            I'd like you to know that I appreciate your hard work and your cooperation in helping to make the Senior Play a success.  I hope you have enjoyed being in the play as much as I enjoyed having you.  The heroine, Pam, will be remembered as faithful and cooperative.        Ada Bachman.

This letter came in an envelope with two one cent stamps on it, from her first, second, and third grade teacher, Ella Perkins:

            Dear Betty, I wish you great joy and happiness.  For three years I had you in my charge and always remember them with pleasure.  With all sincere good wishes, Ella H. Perkins.

And from her Principal in High School:

            We are going to miss you around the halls of old M.V.H.S.  Who am I going to "bawl out" for going down to the Post Office, now that you are going to graduate.  Anyway, it has been a pleasure to have you in school.  Best of luck.  Grant Bowler.

            Betty was loved and admired by all who knew her.  She was friendly, even though she was shy.  In the last years of her life, I, Naomi, marveled how she could motivate strangers waiting in a check out line at the grocery store to talk to each other and laugh together.

            Betty loved to ride.  She was a born horsewoman and loved her horses.  When still a small girl, I was envious of my mother as she galloped ahead of me.  Through my fears and tears, jolting along, she encouraged me to give my mount its lead.  It was a smoother ride after that, but it was years before I found the joy in riding she did.  Horses were not just animals to her, they were friends.  She had compassion if they were in pain or were afflicted.

            She wasn't afraid to doctor or comfort her pets.  We raised many cats as I was growing up.  She was forever doctoring and bathing their eyes when they caught a cold, or whatever needed to be done to put them on the path of health.  She bought pills from the pharmacy if they need pills.  I, personally, would turn that over to the experts, but she was truly involved in whatever she did.  I guess as she was growing up they had to do things for themselves.  They didn't have the conveniences we have now.  I grew up around strong women and never learned that I couldn't do things because I was a girl.  I watched my mother, Betty, grandmother, Gladys Gentry, and Great Aunt Laura Gentry do things for themselves.

                It was Betty's nature to nurture.  She was a loving mother and giving friend.  She was in her element at Christmas and loved giving gifts to neighbors, family, and friends.                                                                                                                                                                                     
            Mom was the one who remembered people's birthdays and anniversaries with a card of remembrance.  After she was gone, her nephew Murray Perkins told me how he missed her cards.  He knew he would always receive one card on his birthday, from Betty.

                Mother held a conch shell to my ear and I heard the ocean for the first time.  I don't know for sure, but maybe she bought it on her honeymoon in Catalina.  Mother took me to church where I learned some memorable songs. "My Two Little Hands folded snuggly and tight," taught me how to be in church.  And "Give Said the Little Stream, give O give, give O give," is self explanatory, but my favorite began with "The golden plates lay hidden, deep in the mountain side."  The music was melded perfectly with the words.  How mysterious that song was to me.  How I longed to find something that had been hidden.  I finally did when I was almost sixty and found Mother's Five Year Diary.  I read it nightly, until I had read it cover to cover.  Mother was the most honest person I ever knew.

            Betty loved nature.  One summer she was able to stay in Colorado, in the land of her birth, with the Aunts and Uncles who had loved her all her life.  Uncle Glenn took her into the mountains.  She so wanted to catch a particular kind of fish that summer, and she did, because I found the picture. 

            This is something Betty wrote when she was out in nature:

            What pure bliss this is to just quietly lay and take in the sounds of nature, river, birds, and the breezes through the big cottonwood and willows.  Who would have thought I would be enthralled with a river.  How it rushes, bounding over boulders on its merry escapade.  It has its own special roar; sure isn't a lullaby.

            I feel intoxicated with all the outdoor drama going on around me.  How many years have I longed to do what I'm doing these days.  The mountain jaunts are even more precious.  The sheer beauty to behold has to be God-given.  Every sight is full of unforgettable pleasure--the never ending multitude of magnificent pines and aspen, groves that go on and on as far as the human eye can see.  The big fluffy clouds are even special dressed in exotic blues.  Oh, why am I not a poet so I could put this down eloquently?

            Betty encouraged people to develop their talents.  She loved the music I wrote, and always asked to hear it live, but I was not the only one she inspired.  She was known for her sense of humor.  I found this letter from Eva:

            As ill as you have been, there is still that "sense of humor" that I know is Betty.  I am going to try to write an article about a "sense of humor," and what prompted me to do it, Betty Lewis.

           Betty accepted her illness and did her best with it.  She endured a great deal of suffering and endured to the end with faith in Christ.

           No one loved life more than Betty.  I'm amazed at what she accomplished every day.  I found a short diary from1952, and wonder at the variety of activities that filled her time.  She had two children by then.  She mentions our evening romps together, when we were teething, when we were sick and coughing, and our temperatures.

           Betty was civically active.  She took beginning and advanced "first aid" classes.  She collected for the "March of Dimes."  She voted.
           Betty had many friends and mentioned her involvement with them on a daily basis.  She belonged to a club of several women who met once a month to play canasta and socialize.  They rotated from house to house and she mentions where it was held on a particular day.  I loved it when we had "club" at our house, because there was always candy, nuts, and goodies left over.

           Betty wrote letters to her folks nearly every day.  She recorded her favorite radio programs, among them Lux Theater and Mercury Theater.  The cakes, pies, and cookies she baked were of such variety, I wonder if she taught Betty Crocker.

           She fed her father-in-law, Clarence Lewis, when he was at the ranch, and the other hired men too.  She mentions Henry, the old man who fed the calves, hurting his hip while he was roofing.  She took him to the doctor and the hospital.

           Betty mentions the farm dog, Lady.  On March 6, 1952, Lady gave birth to eight puppies.  I remember Mother taking me to see the puppies and I petted their soft fur.

           Dad bought new chicks and Betty took care of them.  She kept the accounts of the house and ranch.  She mentions when she irrigated, drove tractor, or scrubbed the barn and equipment.

           Back then, the floors in the ranch house were linoleum.  She oiled them.  She painted the bedroom and woodwork, and shellacked a chest of drawers.  She dealt with car trouble, running out of gas, and the washer quitting.  She loved music, especially Mario Lanza.  It must have been a big upset when the radio quit one day in 1952.
           Betty kept track of people's birthdays and sent them cards.  She recorded the kind of cake she baked for whom.  She made special cakes for each holiday and in the case of Easter, painted eggs.

           Betty picked peaches, apricots, figs, pears, plums, and tomatoes and canned them.  She sewed, picked almonds, picked corn.  She butchered and cleaned chickens.  She wrapped half a pig, cut the fat into strips, and rendered the lard.  She mentions there were messes galore.  She wrapped a deer after Sonny, my dad, and Uncle Paul went deer hunting.

           Betty mowed the lawn, and planted flowers.  She washed four to eight loads of laundry, one load at a time, in a day sometimes.  She tended other people's children.  She cleaned the pantry and papered the shelves.  She went to church and served her neighbors.  She baked bread.

           She recorded a family trip to Yellowstone each day, and when she returned home, without missing a beat, she was back into her routine.

           She mentions when she was dizzy, had headaches and backaches so bad she had to go to the osteopath.  The entries never stopped, her schedule never faltered.  She rose between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and went to bed between 9 p.m. and midnight.  She only mentions an hour nap when she was very sick.  She recorded her weariness and kept going.

           Betty, Sonny, and friends went to the movies.  She recorded the name of the film, the baby sitter, and how much she paid them.  She mentioned the books she read.  Once in awhile there's an entry that she rode King, her beloved palomino.

           I know she kept an immaculate house, I grew up in it, but her diary just reads, housework, "odds and ends."  She records the quarrels with my father and when they weren't speaking.

           Betty recorded on November 15, 1952: "Still sick."  She was expecting my youngest brother, Cornel.

           All these records were kept in a "Daily Reminder" with the space of about one inch by three inches.  They were the highlights of each day, succinctly written.  Suddenly the entries ended, November 24, 1952, the day before Thanksgiving.  I can't help but wonder why.  Was she so sick in her pregnancy she couldn't keep it up?  Did someone care for her?  I remember her saying one time that her heart and kidneys didn't work well when she was pregnant.

My favorite picture of my mother
This is the way I always picture her in my mind
            I know there must have been diaries for each year, but I have only found this one from her young marriage, and the childhood "five year diary" from 1940-1944.

           Betty was ill for years before she was diagnosed with Lupus. 
            Lupus.  Lupus is the wolf.  He stalked her from upwind and chased her until she was exhausted.  He wagged his tail.  He went for the kill.
            She lay pressed between two white sheets, blue from lack of oxygen.  A ventilator squeezed air, whoosh, whoosh into lungs too tired to do their job.
           I stood at the foot of the bed.  A technician sweat to insert a life-giving tube into collapsed veins.  Lupus.  Lupus.  Why my mother?

Betty, September 1990, two months before we lost her.

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