There are a lot of things I could tell you about my trip to Mt. Jewett: finding headstones, getting left alone in the courthouse basement looking for land records, or taking pictures of the grassy spot where my great-great grandparents house used to be. But instead, I am going to tell you about my single best day.
On Friday, I had gone to the county seat to look up some land records. On the way back to our lodgings, I stopped at the only cafe in Mt. Jewett – Kaffe Sol – because this Seattle girl had gone 4 hours without coffee! I talked with the lovely woman behind the register, and told her why we were in town and that I was just picking up lunch to take back to my mom and get some coffee. As soon as I mentioned that I was doing some family history research, she introduced me to the owner of the cafe, Connie.
Connie and I chatted for a few minutes and she showed me some of the pictures she was collecting to put up in the cafe and hold on to while some of the residents try to start-up a Historical Society. She asked me to look through the photos, one in particular, and let me know if anyone looked familiar since they were trying to identify as many people as possible and she wanted to help my endeavor. So she showed me this:
I looked through this photo of the graduating class of Mt. Jewett High School from 1926 for quite some time. Connie had asked if maybe one of the girls was my grandmother…but I just wasn’t certain and wanted to do a little thinking on it. The next day, my mother and I went back to Kaffe Sol and went straight to the picture. I discussed my theory with my mother, then we honed in on:
18-year-old Helen Swanson. Right there…..in the center of the whole thing. The rebel girl with no hat on.
There was my young grandmother….we were certain. Of all the treasures to find!
Moments later, Connie came and got us and told us we had to meet this man:
Bud Swanson. No….no relation. But he is an older member of the community and remembers everyone and everything. When I explained which Swansons we were related to, he recalled that my grandmother’s brother, Paul, had taken over the farm from his father. Bud knew Pauls kids! And Bud remembered that my grandmother’s brother, Russell “Rusty”, was a state trooper who was killed in an accident on the job. Turns out Bud has a photo from Rusty’s wake that he is going to try to send us.
We all exchanged addresses and information…..hopefully we keep in touch. But in the course of the day, these two people touched my heart with photos and stories and just by being themselves. New friends…..instantly.