Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Holidays With Abner Thornburg

Abner Edward Thornburg (1859-1921)
was my great-grandfather

Abner Thornburg, 1921

Abner Thornburg died when my mother was a young girl, but the stories she told me about him helped me feel like I knew him at least a little bit. And he left behind a wife and children whom I knew and loved. Mother told me,  “I was only six years old at the time of Grandpa's death.  I think of him as a tall thin but large boned man. He always wore a hat and around home, he wore tan pants held up with wide suspenders. He loved his children and grandchildren very much, and he loved to have us come for the day. When we left, he would stand and wave as long as we could see him. Grandpa was very pleased that people often told him he looked like pictures of Abe Lincoln.”

Like the president, Abner was born in a log cabin; it was built by his father at New Garden in Lee County, Iowa. Abner was the second child and only son of Havila Thornburg and Athalinda Bond.  His sister Lucinda was eleven years older than Abner.

A 1911 photo of Abner and Alpha with their family.

Mother recalled for me one Christmas at Abner and Alpha’s house when they lived on a small farm near Augusta, Iowa. “For dinner, they had one table set for the grownups and one for the kids, with Aunt Mildred in charge of the kids' table. After dinner, Aunt Mildred took us into the big bedroom and entertained us while the women washed the dishes. The men were playing Rook in the living room. After the dishes were done, Grandpa and Uncle Lloyd went to the barn to see about the horses. Grandpa soon came back but Uncle Lloyd didn't make it back until Santa had come and gone. Santa (Lloyd) brought us kids all a sock made of cheesecloth filled with candy and nuts. I was so upset that Uncle Lloyd wasn't back in time to see Santa. Santa passed out the gifts that Grandma had made and that Grandpa had for all of us, and also the gifts that were for Grandma and Grandpa from members of the family. The only thing I remember about their gifts was the knife Papa had got for Grandpa. I had watched him wrap it, so watched as Grandpa opened it. Papa had taken sheets from Ward's catalog and wrapped and tied it and kept rewrapping it and ended up putting it all in a corset box. It was a box about 18 x 4 x 2 1/2". Well it took Grandpa a long time to get it all unwrapped and was lots of remarks and guesses before he got it all unwrapped, but he was so proud and said he was glad he didn't lose it in all that paper."

Year after year, the family tried unsuccessfully to play an April Fool joke on Abner. When at last they were successful, they were sorry because they realized they had taken unfair advantage. As a matter of fact, it was the only time he was ever known to lose his temper. He was down in the cellar sprouting potatoes so he had no reason to doubt them when Alpha and the children came calling, "Come, come! The house is on fire!" When he heard this he was so distressed and panicked, came running, then realized it was an April Fool joke, but by this time his feelings were so aroused and his usual emotional control was lost. For years thereafter, the family recalled "the time Grandpa lost his temper."

Six of the seven living children posed with their parents.
About 1920, Lowell, Henry County, Iowa

Mother also told me about her grandfather’s death. “Easter was early in 1921. Grandpa trimmed the trees and bushes, raked the yard, and made some garden on Saturday before Palm Sunday. Burton and I had the whooping cough that winter so the first time I remember going to that house was Palm Sunday. But since we were both coughing, we did not go to Sunday School. Grandpa gave us each a shiny new penny for Sunday School for when we would go on Easter Sunday. That afternoon several of the men from Lowell and around went down in the Park to play croquet. Papa played, but Burton and Grandpa sat on a bench and watched. It was a beautiful day in late March.

“That week Grandpa took cold and other complications (lungs, kidneys). Papa went every day. Easter Sunday when Burton and I woke, Mama told us Grandpa had died during the night. It had also snowed that night, and when Papa had scooped the snow from sidewalks, I could not see over the top when I went out to the woodshed where the Easter Bunny had left our Easter eggs. I did not go to the funeral. Burton and I stayed with neighbors. The folks did take Burton and I down the day before the funeral. Grandpa's body was not in the casket, but the undertaker had dressed him and--as they said in those days--had him laid out. I remember how nice he looked in his good suit, and the undertaker (Countryman was his name) had picked a small red rose off Grandma's miniature rose houseplant and pinned it on his coat. I knew how much Grandpa had enjoyed the rose and how he had taken Mama in and showed her the buds on Sunday when we were there.”

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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