I'm beginning a blog for my Pinkerton genealogy (my mother's side of the family, something like the one I already did for my father's side, the Strachans. This one I'm calling the Roseburg Pinkertons. www.roseburgpinkertons.blogspot.com. The Pinkerton side is Irish American back to the Revolutionary War. The Cochran line (my maternal grandmother's maiden name) crossed the plains on the Oregon Trail, so I and my cousins are entitled to join the Daughters of the Revolutionary War and the Daughters of the Oregon Trail. I don't know how to do it and don't much care.
When my mother was approaching death (she had a blood cancer and knew that she had five years from the time of diagnosis to her actual death in 1998), she asked for only two trips to confirm her past. One was to visit the local farm at the foot of Mt. Hood where the Oregon Trail pioneers first signed on in a book kept there. She got into an argument with the docent who claimed that HER ancestors came earlier than my mother's ancestors, which my mother refused to accept. Arguments are a mark of my mother's family heritage. One cousin argues that Cochrans are better than Pinkertons because the Cochrans were tough enough to walk to Oregon but the Pinkertons simply took the train. What he really means is that the Cochrans were richer and had more prestige. This is the family's secret agenda, all the while claiming that modest means are a Christian virtue.
The other trip was to Burlington, Washington, where the family was living when my mother was growing up. She had strongly attached to the place and started school there. The family, James McMillan Pinkerton and his three sons, had been prospering contractors in Sparta, IL until they took the train to the Northwest. Things had gone well. In Burlington the family company built the great dairy barns that abounded there, most of them now rotted and collapsed. It's a wet place which is good for grass and bad for buildings.
Grandfather J.M. Pinkerton began to have health problems and the doctor told him he had to move to a warmer and drier climate. He went down to the train depot and interviewed all the traveling salesmen who were the times' version of the Internet, coming and going between small towns. They agreed that the place he should go was Roseburg, Oregon, a timber town at the southern "bottom" of the Willamette Valley and so the family moved.
James McMillan Pinkerton bought a farm on South Deer Creek with excellent soil and a huge ancient tree under which the local Indian tribes used to meet. His son James, James' wife Florence, and their little daughter Nadine went with the older couple. The twin stayed behind to wind up family business, but caught a fever and died, which his mother always felt had been caused by leaving him instead of keeping him in the family circle. There was enormous grief until one day Nadine, a pre-teen, claimed she saw him come up the aisle of the family's church, embrace his mother, and assure her that he was fine, not to mourn for him anymore. The family seemed to believe her vision.
This new place grew small fruits and row crops. Nadine was dearly attached to her grandfather, so when the grandfather went out to hoe, she tagged along. He would carefully spread his suit coat -- which was what most men wore all the time in those days -- and she would take her nap on it. But he was not always indulgent. He had a habit of pacing along with his hands behind his back. One day little preschool Nadine saw him doing that and came along behind with HER hands behind her back, pacing. When he realized what she was doing, he was very angry, shouting, "You'll not mock ME!" She got a licking.
But John Pinkerton, my mother's father, had less money and made a less prosperous choice of farm. It was a prune orchard with an inadequate well. The house was unfinished and the school had deteriorated in more than one way. My mother felt that it was the reason her sisters never learned to spell properly, while she -- with her Burlington schooling, was always a good speller. And she yearned always for that home place where she used to kneel in the window and watch the camp of the Indians who came to plant, hoe and harvest the fields around the place. She was fascinated and wanted to go visit, but her mother was scandalized by the idea.
In 1930 the Pinkerton women decided to make a safari back to Burlington. John had had four daughters, but in 1927 Helen, fourteen years old, had been killed in a car wreck with her sister Vera, a few years older, driving. Vera had been devastated and stayed out of school for a year. Perhaps this was a kind of recovery trip. In the photo above, they are (l to r) Vera, Aliene (the youngest), Ethel (John's wife), Florence (James the twin's wife) and Nadine (James' daughter). I've sent the actual scrapbook of the trip to Celeste, Aliene's granddaughter, because she is the oldest of that generation, but I took a few scans first. The inside of the front cover notes that the handwriting belongs to Lucy, my mother, and Aliene was the "goo mixer." They were a lively bunch who took a big communal bedroll (not sleeping bags) and stayed in an amazing assortment of shacks when not with relatives.
When they got to Burlington, they were so anxious to see the old place that they went straight there without even making sure of their accommodations first.
It was very sad to see the former home of the John Pinkertons. It was generally run down and the upstairs windows were "out." From the photo it looks as though the sashes had been removed rather than the glass being broken out. (That's not a bird. There's a mark on the photo.)
The barns were in good shape, though unpainted. They were meant to shelter a horse or two, the buggy and wagon, and maybe a cow -- with a LOT of space for hay upstairs and a little roof extension over a window where the hay could be hoisted up with ropes and pulleys. There was not a lot of wind in this country, but the rain was relentless.
As it turned out, the James McMillan Pinkerton house (center on the second page above) was in good shape. The present occupant was delighted to have company and served refreshments as well as allowing a good long prowl around the premises. Aunt Florence found the old buggy and the family's abandoned first car, lined up rural fashion in case of needing to fall back on them if only for parts.
This 1930 pilgrimage back in time was not repeated by 1998 when my mother died. She was 89 by then, too weak, and letting things go.