Every trip home leads to new discoveries. We had time this trip to stop in and visit an aunt and uncle from my father’s side of the family. Trips home always include purchasing items that I cannot get inTennesseesuch as pureNew Yorkstate maple syrup from a local manufacture. The way back to my mother’s house took us passed relatives and we decided to drop by and see if they were home.
The weather had been rainy and chilly and the house looked buttoned up tight. We walked down the driveway, up onto the porch and knocked on the door. The greeting was warm and inviting and we settled in for a bit of a chat. Another aunt had mentioned that she thought that my uncle might have a copy of my great grandmother’s picture. The conversation took a turn and I asked. He couldn’t remember if he did but his wife was pretty sure that they did and went digging for it. She turned it up in a photo album and removed it for me to see.
So this was Mary Clemence DeFruytier Van Houtte, the woman that I had done so much research on. I liked her immediately. Most photos from the “olden” days show weather worn individuals glaring out from furrowed brows back at the viewer. Her face was relaxed and pleasant, peering out from under a large hat, her body enveloped in an even larger coat.
I asked my uncle if he could remember hearing about the family that had come over to work and then left. He chuckled and related this story. It was during the Great Depression and at the point where Prohibition over-lapped. I did reseach later and learned that the years would have been from 1929 to 1933. The Depression would extend past Prohibition by several more years. He told me that his father, my grandfather, had gone to the train station and picked them up, from his account there were three of them. He stated that residents couldn’t find a job, but these three individuals all found work.
The didn’t live with my grandfather and he wasn’t sure where they stayed, He continued the story with a grin, explaining that they didn’t like it much here because in order to have a glass of wine you had to hide off in some corner. They packed up and returned to France leaving a large woven case with my grandmother that she used to store blankets in.
This family visit has been and still is a family mystery. I have searched through passenger records over and over to any listing of either side of my grandfather’s family to see exactly who these three people were to no avail. On my grandmother Clemence’s side of the family, her siblings were all deceased prior to 1929, but she had a lot of adult nephews that might have visited. The information I have on my grandfather Emil’s side of the family is missing too many dates to be able to determine if the visitors were from his side of the family.