Tuesday, August 2, 2011

She Looked for the Good in People

Minerva Jane “Jennie” Tryer (1845-1934)
Wife of John D. Watton
She was my mother’s great grandmother.

Jennie Tryer Watton is holding
a birthday cake baked for her by my mother.

A story about Jennie Watton was shared by my Aunt Marna: Jennie had a reputation for looking for the good in people: "There's never anybody so bad but what there's a little bit of good in them." On one occasion, her daughters Ella and Alpha, pressed her to find some good in a particular man. Jennie had to think for quite a long time, and finally said, "Well, he is a good firefighter." In discussing this story with my mother, she recalls that when similar situations would arise, someone in the family might insert the comment, "Well, he is a good firefighter," and everyone knew the significance of the remark and would try to think of something good to say about the individual.

Jennie’s parents, John Faucett Tryer and his wife Rebecca Walker were married in Indiana in 1838 but settled in Iowa soon after, appearing in the 1840 Iowa Territorial Census, living in New London in Henry County. They had six children, but only Jennie and a younger sister Eve Ellen survived past infancy.  In the TRYER Family Bible of which I have photocopied pages, Jennie’s birth is shown as: "Manurva Jane Tryer, born June 27th 1845."

Jennie was almost 10 when her mother died in September of 1854; Eve Ellen was 4 years and 2 months. Their baby brother died that same year, in December. Their father remarried the following May. During the interim, their aunt Jane Walker Leas cared for the surviving children.

In 1856, John Tryer moved south of New London to Lowell with his second wife, Harriet Furry, and his daughters Jennie and Eve Ellen.That same year, a son was born to John and Harriet, followed by seven or eight more children. For a time, John and Harriet ran a hotel in Lowell (where the Waltz store was located when I was a child). This was the same hotel that Jennie and her husband ran later. 

At the home of my uncle, Burton Thornburg, I examined Jennie's New Testament in which is recorded: Minerva Jane Tryer married March 28th, 1860. The New Testament was dated 1853 and was given to her by Lydia Jane Briggs on February 3, 1858.

Jennie was still a teenager
when she married John Watton in 1860.

One of my favorite stories about Jennie centers two words -- “potatoes” and “firewood.” It seems that John, preoccupied by the demands of his blacksmithing work, forgot his wife’s repeated reminders that firewood was needed for the cookstove. Jennie solved the problem. One morning she went about the usual preparations for the noon meal, peeling the potatoes and placing them in a pan of water on the stove along with whatever meat was planned. But with no firewood, the stove was cold, and the meal uncooked. When John came in for dinner, she served up the meal. He looked down at it, said nothing, got up from the table and returned to work. But by mid-afternoon, a teenage boy appeared at the house and split firewood for the household. In recalling this story with Mother, she commented that Jennie had saved back some cooked food that she gave the children.

 Jennie and John Watton had six children, born between 1862 and 1879. All lived into adulthood and remained in southeast Iowa. Jennie's father and stepmother moved to Medford, Oregon, in 1887. Jennie's sister Eve Ellen and her husband had moved there in 1873.

Jennie had a special interest in trains. She was 88 and feeble when her family took her to see the new Zephyr streamliner train pass speedily through New London and Danville. Present with her were two of her daughters, a son-in-law, a granddaughter (my grandmother) and a great-granddaughter (my mother).  Because there were 4 generations standing in a row to see this event, someone photographed them, but they never got to see the photo. The reason they took her to watch the train pass through was that she had also been present as a young girl in 1856 or 1857 to see the first train west of the Mississippi from out of Burlington. 

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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