Muscatine: roots and wind

My sabbatical road trip has begun! 

It took a long time to get everything all settled and packed, but I left Sunday mid-day and drove down to a campsite on the banks of the Mississippi River just north of Muscatine. I’ve been meaning to visit Muscatine for a long time, since I knew I had relatives buried here. And it was a perfect drive to launch my journey. 

The campground is a lovely setting, with a big wide expanse of open river. But shortly after I got here the wind came up and we have been buffeted about in the camper with all that open space for the wind to gather steam.  Last night the sound of waves crashing on the shore was quite loud, and this morning in the sparkling sunshine the whitecaps look beautiful. 

Yesterday, was my genealogy day. I went to the Greenwood Cemetery where I thought I might find my relatives. I was lucky, and the office was open and they knew where the grave sites were located.  And the weather was grey, but warm. 

I went to see Rev. William M Shaw who was my grandfather’s grandfather.  I knew from family stories that he had traveled to Muscatine from the east, with the wife and two kids. I didn’t realize, that he had died only a few months after arriving here leaving a widow with two young children. My great grandfather would’ve only been 10 when his father passed. This was particularly meaningful think about, when I think about a few facts I do know about that boy’s life. I know he went to college at Grinnell. So  I imagine the family stayed here in Iowa after the father's death. And I know he went on to get a medical degree from  Haring Medical College in Chicago. I know he had a license to practice medicine in South Dakota. And then some how, he goes back east, and eventually marries. He was in his late forties when he married my great grandmother. She was in her late thirties and caring for the family farm alone. I wish I knew more of his life story, and how they found each other. But these landmarks show he was a strong person. But sadly, he too died when my grandfather was just a young boy. So my grandfather didn’t know much of his father‘s life. What we do know, were pieced together from the scraps of paper saved during his lifetime.  

My only clue about why the family went to Muscatine, is the grave that’s beside him. It is of his wife’s mother, Sophia Hubbard. From reading her obituary, I know she lived for many years with a daughter. Not my great, great grandmother Mary Hubbard Shaw, but her sister Sarah Hoover.  The family has kept a couple letters written from Sophia in a beautiful hand, to her daughter Mary. I thought maybe I would find Sarah or Mary’s graves there. But they were not there. These two relatives of mine are alone on the very top of the cemetery hillside looking over the Mississippi .

Today, in the sparkling sunshine and with waves still crashing the shoreline, I’m taking a day to write and catch up on some tasks. I’m going to let the wind die down before I head on to see my cousin and her family in St. Louis. Sophie and I are cozy in the camper, thanks to our heater. And I am thinking so much of my mother’s roots as I prepare to continue writing about her passing. 



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