Friday, August 9, 2013

Family History and Pioneers.

        I don’t have early pioneers in my heritage… but I do have Grandma Jane… 

I have something near and dear to my heart.  I don’t even know what it’s called, but I spent many hours with my grandmother sticking apples in the top and with a wooden pestle and a tripod of legs {neither of which I have today} we would spend hours squishing apples through these little holes {skin and all… which I later learned is why our applesauce was red}.

My grandmother was not a wealthy woman and other than her engagement ring that is broken and tarnished… this is my only other inheritance from her………..

Before they joined the church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Grandpa George and Grandma Jane had some severe hardships… we have many photos of them… none of which Grandpa was ever smiling!

By 1940, Jane not only was raising two little children, but now had inherited her two siblings as well.  Her father died when Jane was only 14… and now her mother had died leaving her brother and sister orphans… Jane and George took them in and raised them.  Grandma Jane was now raising 2 families.  She was barely 21 years old!

When Rex Erwin, their forth child, was born in 1944… he had a hair lip and cleft palate… doctors told Jane and George to take him home and let him die!  Back then surgery to fix this birth defect was just in it’s infancy.  Because George made a decent living, He was able to afford a high quality surgeon for his son's cleft palate.  Today Rex is still living and quite healthy.

         One day she offered a prayer for her son Kenneth to stop smoking, when promptly after her prayer… the missionaries appeared at her door.  They returned to share the same message with Grandpa George… they both joined and it changed their lives and the lives of their descendants forever!

         One year after joining the church George and Jane and their 14 year old son traveled from Ohio to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the temple.  They returned to Ohio and for another year or so they continued to meet in Downtown Mansfield in the upper floor of a store for Sacrament meeting.

         Since George was a master carpenter and had built many homes and businesses in the area, Grandpa was the natural choice to hire to build a new building to meet in.  It was just down the street from the German Apostolic Church building his own father built.  While showing the inside of the building, which was not yet completed, Great Grandpa stepped backwards and off the 2nd story balcony… falling to his death.  Great Grandpa & Grandma Bogner were pioneers of their own family and had immigrated from Austria/Hungary in the early 1900’s.  They brought with them the skills of carpentry and upholstery and set out to make a living for themselves in that field.

         My grandfather’s special tool (I called it a compass, but I’m sure it was some kind of surveying tool) was lost by his granddaughter down the drain of the baptismal font in the Mansfield Ward building… I still have special memories of how upset he was… and yet so compassionate with a little girl who was just playing with grandpas “toy”.  I was only 3 at the time.

When the building was complete it was dedicated by then General Authority, Harold B. Lee (future president of the church). Bro. Lee went back to Salt Lake and told the brethren that George was the person they needed to go to South America and build chapels.

         Barely 6 years after joining the church… George and Jane accepted the call to serve a 3-year building mission in South America. 

                                          Jane & George with the work crew (3rd & 4th from right)

They left on their mission sometime in early 1964... They sold everything... including their home to finance their 3-year stay. During their time in South America, he built and repaired chapels in Porto Alegre, Brazil; Arica, Chile; and Soa Palo, Brazil and in other areas of South America. George became ill towards the end of his mission in 1967, and went to a doctor near the town of Porto Alegre in Brazil. It was determined he should go home immediately. On the plane, before it even left the runway, George Passed away... Jane was left with George until the coroner from Peru came and filled out the paperwork.

Jane came to back to Ohio after Grandpa’s death and My mother came back from New York after a divorce… and the two of them created a home for myself and my brother and sister… thus Grandma Jane began raising a 3rd family! 

Years later, as the 3 children grew Grandma Jane made sure she had her car warmed up and ready to go on bitter cold winter mornings to take all of us to Early Morning Seminary.  Over a span of 8 years, driving 40 minute round trip, 5 days a week, all 3 of us attained Grandma Jane’s goal and graduated from Seminary…

As we grew she helped send me on a mission (the first full-time proselyting missionary in our family).  My brother married and had two children, and my sister married in the Salt Lake Temple and moved to Utah.

My brother would divorce and have custody of his two children… and Grandma Jane began raising her 4th family… her great grandchildren.  How she lived to the age of 82, I’ll never know!

George and Jane gave they’re all and then some... Photos before they joined the church show 2 somber individuals… never smiling in the photos.  Photos AFTER they joined the church are quite different, mostly smiles.  I would have never discovered this gem of knowledge if it weren’t for my work in Family History.  It is amazing to see a physical change in their appearance after their baptisms.  They certainly were pioneers… giving up most of their families, selling all they had, leaving for a mission soon after joining the church… then dying while giving their all… Like the early pioneers, NEVER ONCE in all the time living with my grandma did she EVER complain about the sacrifices they made… in fact, she lovingly spoke of their time together building the kingdom in South America. 

Their descendants have a rich heritage... Our heritage and legacy lies in those who've come before us... They gave us the foundation of the Gospel to build on.

         My mom and Grandmother instilled in us the desire to do right, to obey the Gospel principles… I don’t remember them EVER  PREACHING this to us, they just did it by example!

         One of those examples was doing Family History… of course that was back in the day when the genealogy papers were strewn all over the kitchen table, the top of the dishwasher and even a little card table on the side.  These women were SERIOUS!!

         When I watched them, I was curious, but not too interested in joining in.  I didn’t “roll my eyes”, but I didn’t have much of a desire to research on my own, though I did enjoy the “genealogy trips” many of which were to Zanesville and to Athens, Ohio.

         There came a time when I felt the need to know more, so I got out the genealogy and family history stuff and started studying it.  What I realized was that there were just a bunch of names and dates… almost all of which were NOT sourced.  I had NO IDEA where mom & grandma got this information.  So I set out on a journey to document everything.

         What I came to know was that the work they did was extremely accurate… but I came to know for MYSELF who my ancestors were.  I came to know why I have some strengths, most of them inherited from grandparents & great grandparents.

         I came to know my ancestors and still am meeting new ones.  One is Mercy Ann VanHorn, my 4th great grandmother.    She married Charles Booz.   In 1838 they set out for Ohio from Pennsylvania leaving everything behind them…   She began giving birth to children in 1837 and had one child every TWO years… her last child being born in 1867…   30 years after her first child was born… YES, she was the mother of 15 children!!!!

         Mercy Ann’s life shows some traits of physical and mental strength… as well as some spiritual strength.  She endured what, at the time, was a long journey from Pennsylvania to Ohio.  She was probably pregnant with her second child Amanda, at the time!  She lived through the Civil War, with her son (John) serving in that war.  Her husband died in 1872, Since he died of “apoplexy”, a term for sudden death, it was probably shocking to Mercy Ann.  Her youngest child, Cora Belle, was not yet 5 years old when he died. 

         Mercy Ann also endured much sickness within her family.  In 1869, Esther Ann, her 7th child, died.  On the 1880 Census, Louisa, is shown to have had consumption also known as tuberculosis.  This disease seemed to have played a part in attacking this family. Another daughter, Amanda, contracted the disease as well and died from it in 1892. Within months Mercy Ann’s son John also contracted the disease and died from it in 1893 and then Amanda’s daughter Lilly also died from it only months after her mother and uncle.  Mercy Ann was “exposed” to TB five times and  lived on at least another 3 years after having watched 6 of her children and a granddaughter die.

         Her strength in pioneering a new life in Ohio has had a lasting effect on me as I have done her temple work and studied her descendants…

Nearly seven years before the pioneer exodus to the mountains of Utah, William Clayton wrote to his fellow Saints in England, urging them to come to Zion, not realizing that Zion would soon be in wagons and handcarts moving west. He wrote: “Although we are … distant from each other I do not forget you. … But to the praise of God be it spoken, all I have endured has never hurt or discouraged me, but done me good. … We have sometimes been almost suffocated with heat…, sometimes almost froze with cold. We have had to sleep on boards, instead of feathers. … We have had our clothes wet through with no privilege of drying them or changing them, … had to sleep … out of doors, in very severe weather, and many such things which you [have] no idea of. … [Yet] we have been … healthy & cheerful. … If you will be faithful, you have nothing to fear from the journey. The Lord will take care of his saints.” 1 CLOSED QUOTE

William Clayton would later pen the lyrics to “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (Hymns, no. 30) during the trek across Iowa. He and a host of others would learn even more intimately during the 1,300-mile exodus to Utah that there is “nothing to fear from the journey” if faith is your constant companion.

In his talk  “You Have Nothing to Fear from the Journey”  in April Conference in 1997, Elder M. Russell Ballard asked this question:
Is there a lesson in the pioneer experience for us today? I believe there is. The faith that motivated the pioneers of 1847 as well as pioneers in other lands and other times… was a simple faith centered in the basic doctrines of the restored gospel, which they knew to be true. That’s all that mattered to them, and I believe that is all that should matter to us. Our faith needs to be focused on the fundamental truths that God lives, that we are His children, and that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son and He is our Savior. We need to know that they restored the Church to the earth in its fulness through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  CLOSED QUOTE

The path of the modern-day pioneer may look different, but it is no less difficult, I watched my grandparents do it and I watch my mother do it as a single mom… it presented hardships and required sacrifice, perseverance, and faith.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, “… Church members did not become inactive while crossing the plains, when the sense of belonging and being needed was so profound.” 7 CLOSED QUOTE

Francis Webster, a member of the Martin Company, stated, “Everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.” CLOSED QUOTE (David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, p. 8.)

         What a powerful statement… do our “extremities” turn us away or make us bitter… or will you, like your pioneer forbears… come to an absolute knowledge that God lives, that this is His gospel, and that Jesus IS the Christ.

I hope that this priceless legacy of faith left by the pioneers of your family will inspire all of you to more fully participate in the Savior’s work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children. And to provide the Temple Work through Family History to make that blessing available to all your ancestors.  


  1. Cindy, I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I have taken this journey with your grandparents. How well I remember them both!!

    Your story is a tender one. Thank you so much for writing it...

  2. Cindy,

    What a wonderful post! I too don't have early pioneers in my family history who crossed the plains, but I do have pioneers who joined the Church in Norway, Sweden and Brazil and subsequently immigrated to America. My mom and her family are the pioneers from Brazil. I am so thankful for their faith and dedication.

    By the way, you mentioned Athens, Ohio. I have ancestry from there. Oh, and that metal grinding mill looks so familiar. My in-laws had one and I remember using it when I was canning at their house one year.

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Jana,

      Thank you for your comments... My Athens family were mostly Wooley's and Adams... would that be common to us both? Thanks for posting me in Fab Finds! If you need to contact me directly you can do so at

  3. Welcome to Geneabloggers!! This is a great blogging community.

    Regards, Grant

  4. What an amazing story! Such a testament to faith! Welcome to Geneabloggers!

    1. Piper... thanks so much ... the story is amazing because my grandmother was... I miss her tons!

  5. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels in The Homeplace Series such as: "Back to the Homeplace"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist:

  6. Great story! Welcome to Geneabloggers and congratulations on raising 4 Eagle Scouts - I have two that I hope are on their way - they are in Cub Scouting now, A Webelos and a Wolf.


    1. Thank you Christopher!! Good luck with your boys... I hope they have awesome Scout leaders like my boys did!