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Our Lewis and Clark Journal – Day 8

August 13, 2013

Day 8: The Ohio River (A Family Reflection)     [August 3]

A couple of months ago I discovered ancestry.com.  I spent two weeks reconstructing my family tree, and reaching out to extended family for hints and clues as to our family story. After two weeks, the readily available history was complete. As I continued to search for clues, my son August declared ancestry.com to be a “time suck”.

Almost all of my ancestry is readily traceable, except for the actual GEARY name. There is, of course, the great John White Geary (civil war general, governor of California and later Kansas), but there is no evidence that we are related. (We will pass through Geary County, Kansas on our way home three weeks from now). Geary is an Irish name, though there is a line that arrived here through Germany. Most settled in New York or (predominantly) in Pennsylvania. My own  GEARY line disappears with my great, great grandfather William D. Geary, who arrived in Indiana in the 1890s to marry a young woman and adopt her child. (She had just been abandoned by her husband, an accused horse thief.) Possible leads are always welcome!!!

Another line  of my family, through my paternal grandmother, are the descendants of Richard Pell. Richard came to the British colony of Maryland in the 1760s as an indentured servant for the crime of pig stealing. Apprenticed as a blacksmith, Richard eventually earned his freedom and set up a profitable trade in the East. His son, Captain William Pell, crossed the Alleghenies in 1790 and floated down the Ohio River to the newly founded agricultural paradise of Louisville, Kentucky.  For the next several generations, and with the advent of steamboats, the Pell family would play a central role in navigation and trade  along the Ohio River, with family settlements from reaching from Louisville to Paducah.

On our final evening in Louisville, our family took a dinner/cruise on the Spirit of Jefferson, an historic steamboat still running on the Ohio River. Though we were skipping out on a Presbyterian “Block Party,” we were more than compensated with delicious food and good company (our table-mates were from Eastern Kentucky and celebrating a birthday). I ordered a top-shelf KY Bourbon, only to have it mistaken for iced-tea and thrown away while Noelle and I danced an anniversary dance. (The boat bought us another round of bourbon and whisky).

Though we entreated the captain to let us steer the boat for a moment, we were denided. Nevertheless, the fact that August represetned the  sixth generation of his family travel down the OhioRiver on a steamboat was really fun.

[I’ll add a photo of the steamboat to this post when I find it].

I suppose that being a riverboat family, my family was part of the early nation’s supply chain as it grew toward the West. As yet another way of touching the past with the present, we spent the early afternoon as  a family in a demonstration for supply chain justice as part of the Fair Food Campaign and with members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Learn more here.

Louisville East-20130803-03186

Lewis and Clark travelled down the Ohio River to Illinois to make their final arrangements for the expedition. We will fly, but have no less an exciting journey. The Presbyterian Big Tent conference being finished, we are ready to head out on our actual vacation!

The INDEX of blogs from Our Lewis and Clark Journey can be found here.

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