A-hunting we will go

For the most part, my ancestors travelled very little, inclined to stay on home ground, at home or on the farm. I’ve discovered, however, that as recreational travel became easier, some of my ancestors “went up country.”

Out of my squirrel bins came a large album clearly entitled “Illustrated Postcards.” At first I assumed it was nothing more than a collection of vintage postcards. Indeed it is that, but it is also a travel history, a list of friends and relatives, and at the very least an indication that my family members were all literate.

Rex and friend squirrel

My grandfather, Rex Church, would go deer hunting on Thanksgiving Day while his wife, Winifred Lee Church, hunted for places to put all the food and family at the table. With a few hundred acres of his own to walk, he didn’t need to travel far, but occasionally he took off for a hunting “camp.” Hunting was his tradition, but it was also for food. Smaller “game,” though, had nothing to fear (at right).

Rex disposed of his “arsenal” in the first paragraph of his will: his 12-gauge shotgun, his rifle, and his revolver and mounted deer head. (I was not sad to see that mounted deer head finally leave the house!).

My grandmother Winifred was not to be outdone, though. Born and raised on the southwestern plains of Kansas in the mid-1880s (when knowing how to handle a weapon was required), she undoubtedly learned to fish and hunt at an early age. While Rex kept his deer’s head, Winifred got her deer (at left).

My grandmother had her own “arsenal” to hand down: a 16-gauge double-barreled shotgun, a .410-gauge pistol, and a .32 caliber chromed derringer pistol. She was one pistol-packin’ Grandma!

Like many others of their generation, hunting and fishing were part of their way of life, necessary protection while homesteading on the open plains, protecting livestock on the farm, a way to supplement their food supply, or to simply enjoy the flavors of fresh game and fish. My father taught me basic gun safety, but I don’t own any guns, and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with one if I did (unless I used it as a bat). I’m happier doing my hunting in a supermarket!

About Jan Doerr

Jan Doerr received a B.A. degree in Sociology/Secondary Education from the University of New Hampshire, and spent a long career in the legal profession while researching her family history. She has recently written and published articles for WBUR.org’s Cognoscenti blog: “Labor of Love: Preserving a 226-Year-Old Family Home and Preparing to Let It Go” and “The Value of Family Heirlooms in a Digital Age.” Jan currently lives with her attorney husband in Augusta, Maine, where she serves two Siamese cats and spends all her retirement money propping up a really old house.

4 thoughts on “A-hunting we will go

  1. Jan
    I find it interesting that your grandmother was from Kansas and your grandfather lived in Maine. How did they meet? The distance between ancestors families always amazes me. There meeting is usually a story in itself.

    1. Hi Nancy, my grandmother was born in Kansas to a family from the same Augusta, Maine area as my grandfather, and moved back to Maine about 1900. They met, I believe, at a local fencing club! And yes, that is a story for another post.

    2. Hi Nancy! My grandmother was born in Kansas to a family from the same Maine area as my grandfather, and she moved back to Maine by 1900. I believe they may have met at a local fencing club; they were both champion fencers.

  2. My mother left behind a stash of old postcards. Some were written by my grandfather – others by great-grandparents – more still from friends and other relatives. I really didn’t know that my grandfather had traveled as much as he did in the early 1900s – went to the Alamo, went out to the Pacific Northwest, Missouri, New England, Florida, and more. It was pretty amazing for me to realize all the places he went. I believe it was due to his work as an engineer.

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