Monday, March 11, 2013

Matrilineal Monday : Getting to Know "Aunt Thank"

Thankful Caroline Hammond Gaston
photo courtesy of Audley D. Gaston

My mother's family always referred to Thankful Caroline Hammond, my second Great Grand Aunt, as "Aunt Thank".  All I remembered hearing about her was that my Grandmother, Gertrude Thankful Andrews, was named after her, that Aunt Thank had no children, and "Aunt Thank" was the Andrews' family nickname for her.

All of this changed recently when I received an e-mail from a fourth cousin whose relative had married Aunt Thank.  This relative had looked at my tree posted on and contacted me about our mutual relatives.  We exchanged some information and stories, and now, thanks to a new cousin, I know a lot more about an interesting woman.

One story shared by my cousin was that Aunt Thank had an eye infection as a young child that left her very sensitive to light for the rest of her life.  Yet, even with this physical problem, Thankful was able to teach school for some years.  Before her marriage in 1862, Thankful lived with her parents while she was teaching at the local school in Sadsbury, Pennsylvania.(1)  Later, Thankful and her husband, Athelston Gaston, were living in Franklin, Iowa, with one of her sisters, and Thankful was once again teaching school.(2)  Apparently her vision problems did not prohibit her from teaching.

I had always heard that Aunt Thank had no children, but I have since learned through my new cousin that Thankful and Athelston Gaston had a daughter, Alma, who died at the age of two.  The cemetery where Alma is buried has apparently suffered the effects of time, so  I'm grateful to the volunteer who walked the cemetery in 1998 and recorded all the markers visible at that time.  The recorded information about Alma's marker reads "11 3/4" arch-top marble [headstone] : SACRED to THE MEMORY OF ALMA Dearly cherished child of ATHELSTON & THANKFUL GASTON, departed this life Dec 5, 1864, AGED 2 Yrs 7 Ms & 15 Ds" (3)

Apparently Thankful and Athelston opened their doors several times to care for children after Alma's death.  The 1880 census indicated an adopted daughter named Emma living with the family.(4)  Additional information about Emma has been virtually impossible to find; perhaps 8-year old Emma was actually a relative who lived with them for a while.  One more thing now on my to-do list.

In 1900, their 22-year old niece Grace Hamlin [Hammond] lived with them while attending college in their hometown of Meadville, Pennsylvania.(5)  Grace was the youngest child of Thankful's brother Thomas Benton Hammond who had died some years before.

Every so often, you stumble upon something unexpected.  Thankful, her brothers and sisters, had grown up in Rushford, New York.  According to a local history of the area, Thankful and all of her siblings had been involved in the Spiritualist Movement.  Thankful was even considered to be medium!(6)  Stumbling across this tidbit sent me Googling to learn more about this movement from the mid 1800s.

It can be difficult to have an accurate picture of someone from the past, but several things point to Thankful having been a special person in the Hammond family.  My mother never knew Aunt Thank, being born years after Aunt Thank died, but she always knew of Aunt Thank and had mentioned  Aunt Thank to me on a number of occasions.  More importantly, Aunt Thank must have had a number of fine qualities for my Great Grandmother Ruth Edith Hammond Andrews to name my grandmother, her first born, after her aunt, Thankful Caroline Hammond.  

Now that I've learned more about her, Thankful's quaint name is certainly a lot more interesting for me.

(1) Pennsylvania, Crawford, Sadsbury, p.826 [stamped], dwelling 246, family 24-, John Hammond [and family], accessed 1 Mar 2013, citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1100.
(2) Iowa, Story, Franklin,  p. 60 [stamped] L W Sibley [and family] dwelling 124, family 125; : accessed 2 Mar 2013, citing NARA microfilm M593, roll 420.
(3) Yoset, Thomas L. "The Barber Cemetery" in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, ( : accessed 10 Mar 2013).
(4) Pennsylvania, Crawford County, Fallowfield, ED 98, p. 152A [stamped] A Gaston [and family] dwelling 10, family 12; : accessed 2 Mar 2013, citing Family History Film #1255119, image 0517.
(5) Pennsylvania, Crawford, Meadville, ED 27, p 17A [written], dwelling 366, family 407, Athelston Gaston [and family], accessed 2 Mar 2013; citing Family History Library microfilm #1241399.
(6) Gilbert, Helen  Josephine White, ed., Rushford and Rushford People. Rushford, New York : Chautauqua Print Shop, 1910, digital images, ( : accessed 10 Mar 2013).

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