Thursday, April 18, 2013
An innocent was born February 11, 1900 in the town of Barton, county of Orleans, state of Vermont.
The innocent one was the end result of an illicit affair between Clarence Gray and Flora Wheeler. Clarence and Flora were both native to Barton; Clarence born in 1874, Flora born in 1882. This affair and the ensuing pregnancy brought the wrath of Mr. and Mrs. George F. Wheeler down upon their daughter, Flora. Being only 18 years of age, she was thrown out of the house. Now, with no place to live, no immediate prospects for a husband to provide a family and much needed support, a baby on the way, and no idea how she was going to support herself. By the time the enumerator came around, door to door, for the taking of the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, in June 23 - 30th day, Flora and baby were renting a room at a boarding house. They were still in Barton.
Jump ahead to April 7, 1904. Sam Nelson's and Flora Wheeler's wedding day. It was Sam's second and Flora's first marriages. Sam's first wife died in childbirth along with their third child. As per the norm back then, the husband had the responsibility to find a new wife to be the mother of his children. Thus, it was a relatively fair trade. Flora helps to raise his two kids, and Sam agrees to help raise her child. As for Claude, it is definitely clear that the farming life was not for him, because by 1920, Claude had left Sam's farm to join the U.S. Navy. He was enumerated on the ship, The Philadelphia, while in port in Philadelphia, PA. Claude served his country quite well in the Navy, as a Quarter Master 3 during WWI, and survived to come home without any permanent injuries or loss of limbs. He then turned his attention to working as a coal miner, marrying a lovely lady named Nevada Bragg from West Virginia, and raising their daughter, Flora Anne. Claude later lost his wife in 1952.
History does not record the pitfalls and achievements of the common man. All the paper trails that humankind generates in a lifetime, does not automatically connect the dots for us. It is for us to go in search, and find the millions of dots which are scattered to the four winds, to connect them, much like we did as children in our activity books. Claude Wheeler's life was very much like those tiny little dots as he went from beginning his life as an emotionally labeled and scarred infant of one biological man. Then several years later, he becomes the step-son of his mother's husband. Then, in July 10, 1973, when Claude lost his valiant battle with cancer; for strange reasons still unknown to me at this time, another, completely different man is suddenly listed as Claude's natural father.
I would like to say that, there may be heroes and the like lauded in the media; but Mr. Claude Wheeler has my utmost respect, and even though he may not be my direct blood relative ancestor, I am still proud to call him family.