I have enjoyed Fay Sampson's articles on this blog about how family research led to writing her excellent Suzie Fewings mystery series. I'm doubtful that my foray into the Crow family past last week will lead to a mystery series for me— but then, you never know— and it has certainly led to increasing my already-alive appreciation for the heritage passed on to us by earlier generations and the importance of keeping that legacy alive.
So much of the Crow family heritage began in 1789 when John Wesley visited Clones, Ireland, and
Christopher Crow was converted under his preaching. Our branch (well, my husband's actually, you understand) of Christopher Crow's family remains Wesleyan to this day.
In the 1830's, just prior to the Great Potato Famine of 1845, the family desired to emigrate to the United States, but severe limitations on immigration, required that they go to Canada instead. They settled in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, where there was a large Irish immigrant population.
In the 1870's the next generation, headed by another Christopher Crow, his wife Susannah McCracken Crow, and the Crow, McCracken and Welch families chartered a train to take them near St. Paul in central Nebraska. There in the rich farmland they settled two sections of land in the Canada Hill area.
In 1873 Christopher started the Ebenezer Methodist-Episcopal Church, commonly called the Warsaw Episcopal, which met in his living room until they could erect a church building nearby on Highway 11. Further evidence of Christopher and Susannah's appreciation of their heritage is that they named one of their sons Charles Wesley Crow.
Such research always has its poignant moments. Finding Charles Wesley's grave was one of them. It reads, "Charles Wesley, the husband of Laura, died aged 29 years, 2 months and 3 days." His tombstone is topped by a stone Bible.
And always moving are the graves of children. Christopher and Francis both succumbed to a flu epidemic on the same day: April 23, 1881. Christopher, 9 years, 2 months and 23 days; Francis, 4 years, 7 months and 20 days. "Children of Francis and Elizabeth Crowe our kind and affectionate sons lie here. Sleep on sweet ones and take your rest. God took you home, He thought it best," reads their tombstone, which shows their hands clasped.
Three years later Francis and Elizabeth had a daughter. But their joy was short-lived, for next to her brothers' grave is the stone reading: "Bessie C. Daughter of Francis and Elizabeth, May 17, 1886, 2 years, 4 months Our Bessie has gone where there is pleasure untold with her brothers she lives where the street is pure gold."
George, another son of Christopher and Susannah and brother to Charles Wesley, from whom my husband is descended, not only became a minister himself, but married Vesta Preston, herself a preacher— and a very colorful one at that. Vesta was literally colorful, in spite of her high-necked, long-sleeved blouses, because she had red hair that fell to her waist when it came loose from its pins in response to her energetic preaching. It was said to be a good day in church when "Vesta preached her hair down."
Further, she was known to have run out into the muddy streets of the tiny village of Paxton, Nebraska, yelling "Fire! Fire!"
"Where's the fire?" A passerby asked.
"In my soul!" Vesta replied, thumping her chest.
And so we drove on down the gravel roads between fields of corn and soybeans to the Crow Cousins reunion. Descendants of George and Vesta. Among them ministers, missionaries, artists, teachers, nurses, doctor, lawyer. . . All to gather and sing the hymns of Charles Wesley just as that first Christopher would have done all those years ago in Clones, Ireland.
Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.