Lost History

Today we visited the grave of my paternal great-grandparents Carrie and Allen Brougher, born in 1862 and 1848, respectively.   Next to their tombstone was another, smaller one that I would not have noticed had my Mom not pointed it out to me.   It was my great-great grandmother’s tombstone.

As I looked at it, my Mom said, “The interesting thing is that she was never married.”

Excuse me?  Come again?

Serepta had a child out of wedlock and never married?  In 1862 at the age of 20?

I smell scandal!

Unfortunately, I have no way to fill in the details of this tantalizing piece of information.  My Dad never knew his grandparents, as they were both dead years before he was born, and a child born out of wedlock no matter what the circumstances, was not considered suitable table conversation.     There is a fairly detailed family history on my Dad’s side, but it is mostly names and dates.   The few stories that do appear are more on the heroic side; a female cousin who stood up to Southern sympathizers during the Civil War & of course our ancestor who fought in the Revolution.   The details surrounding Serepta’s life as an unwed single mother don’t qualify (although heroic might be exactly the right term to describe her circumstances, given the time she lived in).

No private journals or letters exist to reveal the story, so we are left with only speculation.

My Mom thinks it is likely that she got pregnant by a boyfriend and would have married, but he died before they could wed.  You know what?  Maybe he was off fighting in the Civil War and was killed!  I just now thought of that, but it makes sense, right?

Although….that story might have survived due to its’ tragic element.    So it is also possible that she had an affair with someone ‘unsuitable’ which is why no one ever spoke of it again.    She never married, which means she either didn’t want to or couldn’t find someone who would take on her and her child by another man.

The point it, we will never know.   And it is bugging me to no end.

These are the stories that make history come alive, and no history is more interesting than your own.   So for the sake of your own descendants, write it down.  All those stories told in hushed tones; all the things that right now may seem mundane or embarrassing or unimportant because “everybody knows about that”.   Someday they will be read with excitement and awe.  Someday those stories will be like treasure.

Don’t let those stories become lost history.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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