I'm Sorry, Almira Ann

Almira AnnI'm Sorry, Almira Ann by Jane Kurtz. Illustrated by Susan Havice. (1999) Reading Level: Ages 9-11. 96 pages. Henry Holt & Company. ISBN: 0805060944.

Family Connections to the Oregon Trail

Great great grandmotherThis is what my grandmother looked like as a little girl, growing up in Idaho. In this picture she is with her older brother. In 1881, her mother crossed the plains by covered wagon at the age of six. Grandma's Aunt Ida told stories about helping gather buffalo chips for fuel and picking flowers. Grandma's grandmother would also tell stories about what it was like, traveling on the Oregon Trail--including the sad moment when my great-great-grandmother was kneading bread and left her wedding ring hanging on a branch. By the time she discovered what she had done, the wagons were far away from that spot.

Jane's FatherMy great-great-grandmother and her husband settled in Boise Valley as the first of three generations of sagebrush homesteaders. My grandmother could remember being let out of school to watch a covered wagon go by. In 1932, when my dad was in fifth grade, my grandma and grandpa Kurtz moved across the Snake River into Oregon where they, too, became sagebrush homesteaders. The picture to the right shows my father as a young man.

On my grandfather's side, Elizabeth Fairchild, born in 1819 married Peter Kurtz, born in 1823. They had fourteen children. The first thirteen were named George, Elizabeth, Isabel, Solomon, William Alfred, Miles, John, James, Ezra, Ellis, Edward, Martha, and Lee. Maybe Elizabeth and Peter got tired of naming children because everyone in the family just called the youngest child "baby" until he got to first grade and his teacher named him Otis. After Solomon served in the Civil War, he took the younger Kurtz children (his siblings) to Kansas and homesteaded there. Otis eventually caught "gold fever" and in one of the mining towns, he met and married Ida May Heaverin.

Marion Kurtz babyMarion Kurtz - young manTheir only son was my grandfather, Marion LeRoy Kurtz, named after General Francis Marion.  General Marion was nicknamed the Carolina Swamp Fox.  He was a Revolutionary War hero who harassed the British during the American revolutionary war, hiding in the swamps of South Carolina with his men. The pictures (to the left) show my grandfather as a baby and as a young man. His parents homesteaded in Willow Creek, Idaho, and he didn't go to school until he was eight years old because he had to ride a horse three miles.

Grandmother EdithEven when Grandma was an old woman, she could clearly remember the summer she was thirteen years old, when there was a big Fourth of July picnic, and her mother made her a beautiful dress of white with little pink rosebuds. When one of the big boys named Marion Kurtz offered her a stick of gum, "that was something!" When Edith got to be fifteen, she and Marion started to do fun things together (raspberry picking, picnics) and when she graduated from high school, Marion asked her to marry him but then he went off to World War I and she went off to college. In college she played basketball and made 28 points in one game. Here's what she looked like around that time. The coach later said, "Edith was the most natural basketball player I've ever seen."

Wedding of grandparentsGrandmother KurtzMy grandma and grandpa got married in 1919 and spent 66 loving years together until my grandfather died in 1985. Grandma Kurtz lived to be 99. She lived in her own little house, and almost to the end, she had a great sense of humor and loved making doughnuts and quilts for her children and grandchildren.

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Family Connections to the Oregon Trail