Since the copies of my book have been delivered to special family members and the Belle Plaine Historical Museum, I wanted to share my first book with my readers. It was a labor of love that resulted from hundreds of hours between 2010-2013. First I scanned over 1,500 images and documents from my Grandmother Geneva’s scrapbooks. Then I was asked by a friend from my hometown community of Belle Plaine, Iowa to create an update for the community’s 2012 Sesquicentennial. It hit me earlier this year that I wanted to make sure that the effort that I placed in the DVD was not lost to family members who had not purchased the DVD. Thus, the perfect impetus presented itself for bringing it to print form. Alas, what better timing than when I was just discovering the world of print-on-demand publishing. I opted to use Lulu.com.
The cover photo features a view from my brother and sister-in-law’s driveway. They now reside in the farmhouse where my grandparent’s McLennan lived during the mid-1950s until the early-1960s. The farmland was in the McLennan family for about 70 years, until it was recently sold. Nevertheless, the photo represents fairly “virgin” Iowa farmland. We do not recollect a plow being used in this pastureland. What we do recall though, are the collective memories of mushroom hunting, counting cattle to assure they were “all there,” hickory nut and walnut gathering, apple picking, taking city cousins on a tour by wagon of the farm, using machetes to rid the pasture of persistent Canadian thistles, sledding parties, and warming cold toes around bonfires with friends. The significance of the photo is that in some respects it depicts what the land may have looked like in the 1850s when the pioneers from the East began to settle in the area.
While only a few dozen photos are featured in this book, they are photos that best highlight my pioneer ancestry from these three branches. My book goes back to 1854 with the Patterson’s arrival in Benton County from Ohio. The Plumbs arrived in 1867 from Indiana, but orginally from Canada. Lastly, great-great grandmother, Catherine McKay McLennan, and her son, Lachlan McLennan, arrived in 1869 from the Highlands of Scotland. Generation by generation, the book features the changes in the family and the times, until I bring in the latest generation through photos.
What was it like to be a pioneer during the times of westward expansion? For me, I am much like my mother, as I love to read accounts of brave souls encountering the elements, river crossings, and forging for food. I am mindful of the commitment that it took to make such a drastic change in one’s life. In some ways it is reminiscent of what Steve and I did when we left the Midwest in 2010 to engage in a simplified lifestyle. However, I also acknowledge that movement to the west and across the wide spans of land also meant that infringement occurred on Native Americans. So, I stop to consider what impact we bore on our Native friends during this part of our country’s history.
Now it is time to journey onward through my family archives! Will it be the Vale’s, McClester’s, Carmitchel’s, or Stratton’s? These are branches of my Mom’s heritage, so I look forward to another adventure in saved photos and the genealogy pages of family Bibles!