Monday, August 3, 2015

An Adventurous Woman

I've decided it's time to be a bit more dedicated to this blog I christened in late March. Somehow with the coming of spring I became immersed in nature photography and sharing those photos on my other blog atMuldoon. And what fun that has been!

My current goal is to better job of balancing my time between the two.

So where does this woman fit into my family research experience? She falls under the column of facts received from a reliable third party source. In her case for me that would be many conversations with  my father, who even though he did not meet her until her late years, knew much of her life story as told to him by his father, Maggie's brother. For me this is a reliable source of information unless further research proves otherwise.

Meet, my great aunt, Maggie
Margaret Davis Barnett

Just as her mother's, era of the civil war draws my interest so does Maggie's albeit, a few decade later.

I am drawn to Maggie's story by her apparent courageous and adventurous spirit. I have no way of knowing if she felt that in her spirit or if her decision to leave her home and travel across the continent was directed toward a commitment to her family and their care. Either way she took a journey I'm not sure I would have considered at that date and time.

At the age of thirty-four she embarked on a life changing journey. She, two of her brothers and a first cousin boarded a train for Wallowa County, Oregon as homesteaders. Her obituary gives this insight into early years there.

"Miss Barnett was an early settler of Wallowa County coming to the county in 1903... She was also a pioneer school teacher."

The rest of the story, as related by my father, is that she never married and that her life was plagued with financial woes. One of her brother's, Joseph, died twelve years after their arrival and her younger brother was reported to have become an alcoholic. And then of course there was the 'Great Depression'. These and other unknown factors lead her to heavily mortgage her properties (two hundred plus acres as a homesteader) which she struggled with up until she died.

At some point after my father returned from serving in the Army in WWII in 1945, he and his father traveled to Oregon at which time he took these pictures of the two homes she owned at that time.

And so it was that after residing there for forty-four years she died penniless and as the result of a prolonged illness.

This post wouldn't be complete without relating the 'other' family story about Maggie.

Family lore has it that Aunt Maggie carried a gun in her apron pocket and that on one occasion for an unknown reason it discharged and wounded her in the leg.
           Note: The story grew as time went by and another relative tells that after being
           injured she lay by the kitchen door until being discovered some time later.

As a child who grew up watching multiple 'cowboy' and 'pioneer' t.v. series and movies this story of course made Aunt Maggie appear to be bigger than life.

As an older adult I now appreciate that as a result of this character in the family novel, I was able to spend time in the my father's company hearing his voice and experiencing his wonderful sense of humor.

Those memories along with Aunt Maggie's portrait hanging in my home contribute to my ongoing interest in researching our family and passing on what I come to find to others.
While the photos from my first two posts came from the 'dress box' I told about in my first posts here and here ; this portrait rested in the attic of my childhood home. How it ever survived is amazing. It must have been covered by glass for at least part of that time or it would have been easily destroyed since I believe it is either pastels or chalk.


  1. Gayle,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds posts at

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Oh, I have enjoyed this...I so hate to think of her dying penniless...well, not so much that as that I hate to think of her having to struggle so.

  3. Absolutely fascinating story about Aunt Maggie. Loved reading about her. Sad that she died penniless and never married. She is such a strong, interesting person to have in the family!