Saturday, August 14, 2010


The John Dobson Family circa 1871

My favorite retro era is the 1930s through the 1940s. It seems to me that's when the concept of home management was at its peak – when it was studied as a system that could be taught for the benefit of the individual and therefore society. As the '40s became the '50s and '60s, we began to question that "a woman's place is in the home" and women began to express their right to find fulfillment outside the home, to have careers apart from or in addition to home and family – and rightly so. The wrong was that home management as a career was de-valued to the point that we stopped teaching, developing, and encouraging it. Some of us feel the loss of that. Some of us have discovered we can still find it – through the written word (books and letters) and through each other. The subject of domestic encouragement is really rather timeless in nature. Modern conveniences may relieve us of much drudgery, but the value of the home to society remains.

Here's an anecdote about my paternal great-grandmother, Lucy Winans Dobson, from my Grandmother Ina Dobson's unpublished memoir. Lucy was Ina's mother-in-law, of course. To my knowledge they never met. Lucy lived near Deloit, Iowa, with her husband, John.

"John Dobson was a good and kind man," Ina writes, "and was often called upon by the native Americans to settle little matters between them and the settlers. One chief and his wife called at the house to do honor to Grandpa John. At the time there were twins in the old cradle, Julian and Junius. Before this there had been twin girls in the old cradle, Julia and Mary. This seemed a great thing to the chief -- that this woman had born not one but two sets of twins, and he thought Grandma Lucy a wonderful woman. He offered to trade his spouse and I don't know what else for Grandma! We do not know by what diplomacy Grandpa John got out of this situation.

Julia Ann & Mary Jane; Julian & Junius
"Grandmother Lucy was a handsome woman, a great manager and worker. She raised lots of chickens and geese and had eggs and butter to sell, as well as some garden stuff. She made clothes for the family, and even the boys wore home-made clothes till they were in their teens. Grandfather raised sheep and used to take the wool to Peoria, Illinois, to trade for 'full cloth.' This was a heavy grade of wool cloth used for suits for men and boys, from which Grandma made clothes for the boys."

By the way, the two sets of twins were just four of the ten children that Lucy bore between 1856 and 1876. The girl twins were born in 1857 while the boys, Julian (my grandfather) and Junius were born in 1864.

Family generation gaps are certainly interesting, aren't they? My great-grandfather John Dobson was born in 1834, my grandfather Julian Dobson in 1864, my dad in 1904, and I in 1949. My half-sister Harriet's first great-grandchild was born in April of this year, just weeks before Harriet turned 80, while my half-brother Chuck at 74 has great-grandchildren who are half grown. Some people, like me, never knew their great-grandparents. They were gone by at least 20 years when I was born. 

[Recently through this blog I became acquainted with Leah, a shirt-tail relative, who provided the family portrait of the John Dobson Family from her genealogy research. I had never seen the family portrait but had the photo of the twins taken in 1871. Together, Leah and I worked through some errors in dating and identification of the photo. The baby is not Lawrence, who was born and died in 1868, but Cora, born in 1870. See the cute little topknot tied with ribbon?] KW


Leah said...

What a surprise to see the Dobson family photo and mention of me. The Dobsons in Iowa were quite well known and respected in their day. It wasn't just the 10 children with 2 sets of twins, but the type of people John and Lucy Winans Dobson were. They'd be pleased to know you are keeping the family "alive" today.

Hallie said...

Why don't you think Ina ever met Lucy? I suppose she didn't meet John either? How is it that she's writing about them--is it from what Jack told her? Didn't we establish that your grandpa went by jack or am I making that up?

So many questions...

Ann said...

What a treasure for your family - very cool!

Kathy said...

What a surprise! Three comments on a Saturday afternoon!

Yes, from what I have read, John and Lucy Dobson seemed to be people of integrity, successful in their world. Such a long time ago.

Hallie -- I read something once that seemed to imply Julian had gone back to Iowa in the 1910 time frame, but I would have to search that out to be sure. I just don't think Ina traveled back to Iowa or that Lucy traveled west.

Yes, my dad told me that Julian went by Jack -- Jack and June -- but Ina and Bertha both referred to him as Julian in their letters. Perhaps the womenfolk thought the name "Jack" a little undignified or perhaps Jack himself preferred Julian for some reason. Yes, they continued to refer to Junius as "June."

It is a great treasure to have these old photos and some written info. Without that, we wouldn't have much. Start now -- write your story, write down what you know about your parents and ancestors.

Chris said...

Hmm, Dan's grandmother's (his mother's mom) maiden name was Winans. We have (I think) some information on her. I'll have to see if we can find it.

DrJulieAnn said...

I'm catching up on my reading. Even though I am not related, I still love reading about your family!