A Day in Appanoose County

2016 Trip to Iowa Day 3

I was going along pretty well here, writing about my recent trip to Iowa. Then came the maddening, frustrating realization that I experienced a major technical failure on this particular day of my trip. It was my own un-techy fault. Unprepared. Ill equipped. Lacking knowledge. So I stopped writing mid-trip. Really, I am so bummed out about it. Nevertheless, it was a lovely day! Here goes …

2016-iowa-mystic-water-tower-copyWhen I was in Iowa four years ago, my Uncle Roy wanted to take me to Mystic, the town where he and my mom and their siblings were born and spent their early years. I ran out of time during that visit, so I made sure to reserve a day for a trip to Mystic this time.

Mystic, and the rest of Appanoose County, experienced a boom during the late 1800s and early 1900s because of coal mining in the area. Later, the mines ran out and many of the towns are now a mere shadow of what they once were. For today, we’ll just focus on the trip and I’ll hope to write more about Mystic and the lives of my family there another day.

map-of-appanoose-travelsThankfully, I had swapped out the two-door hatchback for a four-door sedan so that Uncle Roy, Aunt Joan and I could travel in relative comfort. I picked them up at their RV in Ottumwa Park and we were on our way mid morning. I was so thankful to have Uncle Roy as my navigator and tour guide.

The first stop on our trip was Elgin Cemetery in Mystic, where members of my Hoskins side of the family are buried. My great-grandmother’s stone was easy to find.

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins nee Bryan

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins nee Bryan

JAN 27, 1864
JAN 7, 1939

Prepare to meet
me in Heaven

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins, nee Bryan was my maternal grandfather’s mother.

Her daughters were buried nearby.

Edna Hoskins Martin and John

Edna Hoskins Martin and John

Ethel Hoskins Bland, Mark and Barbara

Ethel Hoskins Bland, Mark and Barbara



But where was her husband?

We looked and looked for Thomas Franklin Hoskins, but he was nowhere to be found. His death certificate confirms that he should be here, but we could not find even an indentation or tiny mark where an unmarked grave might be. Just to the left of Sarah Hoskins’ marker was a small metal marker. It is difficult to read, but I think the name is Morlan and other Morlans are nearby.

stickler-adaThere are a lot of Sticklers and Milburns buried in Elgin Cemetery – both family lines that married into my family tree, so I took pictures of their markers as well. There were a lot of old stones that were impossible, or nearly impossible, to read. Someone had taken black paint to preserve the names on the old Stickler markers. I know this is frowned upon, but I do understand the motivation. The names on those stones were not long for this world.


Taking pictures of grave markers always seems to be a challenge for me. Here is one of my photo fails. Like my big yellow bag?

I found this short video someone took at Elgin Cemetery. It doesn’t show the part of the cemetery where our family is buried, but gives a view of the landscape.

I’m just going to stop here and write about the rest of my day in Appanoose County in another post ’cause I’m still bummed about what happened next.

P.S. You can enlarge small photos by clicking on them.

To Do List:
Find the location of great-grandfather’s grave in Elgin Cemetery. Thomas Franklin Hoskins.

Related posts:
Flying Solo – Day 1 of this trip
Bonaparte Retreat – Day 2 of this trip
Puzzling Penmanship – includes pictures of Thomas F. Hoskins home and children
Sisters, But Not – Edna Hoskins

Bonaparte Retreat

2016 Trip to Iowa Day 2

The moment I realized I would be happy every morning during this trip.


Delicious breakfast at Oak Meadow Delight B&B

Then I increased my happiness by going to exchange my rental car for a more compatible model.

2016-iowa-hedrick-signI called Dad(Jerry) and set off on the short drive to Hedrick for a visit. I have traveled the route from Ottumwa to Hedrick maybe a thousand times in my life – hundreds, anyway. It had been four years since I was last in the area, so I decided to set the GPS. That was a mistake. I would probably be driving through corn fields to this day had I not known where I was going!

Dad suggested we go to Bonaparte Retreat for lunch. I had never been there before and thought he said Bonaparte’s Retreat. When I was doing a little research for the post, I learned that there are several recordings of a song with that title – by Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, Kay Starr and others. I chose this particular recording because it is the oldest I found in my cursory search and we were on our way to an historic building. Also, could the name of the band be any more fitting for a trip to a restaurant?

Dad was my navigator and off we went without much time to spare. He figured it would be a 45 minute drive, but it took a little longer because a lane was closed on the highway. We arrived 10 minutes past closing time. People were leaving as we approached the door, but the waitress told us to “slip on in, just slip on in.”


Dad in Bonaparte, Iowa

Bonaparte Retreat restaurant opened in 1970 in an abandoned grist mill along the Des Moines River in the village of Bonaparte, Iowa.

I chose the Pork Tenderloin for lunch, which the menu describes as “hand-breaded and made famous in historic Bonaparte.” Pork tenderloin was made famous to me by my grandmother Abbie, who served it at my grandparents’ truck stop. I only eat it when I am in Iowa – pork tenderloin is really not a thing in Texas. We had a table by a window with a view of the river. Dad usually enjoys a good conversation with a meal, but we knew we were holding up our waitress and others, so we didn’t linger.


For once in my life, I took a fairly decent selfie.

As we were leaving town I spied the genealogy society sign at the town library, so I had to stop, even though I was not at all prepared to do any genealogy research. Dad stayed in the car while I ran in to see what I could find. The genealogy society records consisted of notebooks on the top shelf of the small second room of the library. The helpful librarian retrieved notebooks for me while I tried to remember what family names matched this area. Oh yeah, SMITH. 😉

I got copies of a few family group sheets, but couldn’t leave dad out in the car any longer, so I left. When I walked out, I found him chatting it up with a new friend on a park bench – a former blacksmith who had pointed out a brick building he had built (Dad was completely unimpressed by his masonry skills, but did not share his opinion until we were out of earshot.) It was a hot afternoon, so I thought we should call it a day even though I had not hit the notebooks containing obits, marriage records, and whatever else was there.

By the time we got back to Hedrick, I was in need of a little Bonaparte retreat myself, so I headed back to my peaceful B&B to rest a bit before driving out to get dad again. We met my sister and her husband for dinner at a little Italian restaurant in Ottumwa and enjoyed a good meal together.

Now that I am home, I’ve been going over the family group sheets I got while in Bonaparte. One set of information was submitted by Clarence Monnett Smith, a 1st cousin 1x removed. We have never met. The other group sheets did not provide the name of the compiler. I’ve been busy checking and adding some new information to my tree. And, of course, I couldn’t stop looking for more. I fell into a genealogy “hole” all day yesterday and could barely crawl out at the end of the day.

I’ve decided to add a To Do List at the end of some posts as a reminder to myself.

  1. The next time I travel to Bonaparte, Iowa, I should spend a little more time walking through the historic buildings, visit some pottery shops, and enjoy a few minutes by the river.
  2. Optional visit to Bonaparte Cemetery to find Laura Sargeant. She was the wife of my great-grandfather Andrew Washington Smith, but we are not related.
  3. Try to plan a thorough visit to Van Buren County. Ancestors lived in Vernon, Birmingham and Stockport. Read; find plat maps; follow up on the group sheets I brought home. I’d like to find old home sites and visit the cemeteries and any other places of interest.
  4. Prepare to do some research in the county seat – Keosauqua.
  5. Enjoy the Villages of Van Buren! The Scenic Drive Festival might be just the time to visit.

A few related posts:
Flying Solo – the 1st day of my trip
Charles’ and Abbie’s Place – a Sepia Saturday post about my grandparents’ truck stop
Tombstone Tuesday: Smith in Bethel Cemetery – on my previous visit to Iowa

Flying Solo

2016 Trip to Iowa

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve written, “I’m hoping to get back to blogging.” Well, here I go again. I’m just going to start writing and see what happens. No promises.

I recently took my first trip alone since my bout with cancer. I finally felt confident that my brain dysfunctions from cancer/chemo had improved enough so that I could manage on my own and I headed to Iowa for a family reunion. Here’s how my first day played out on Facebook:

8:30 am:  Yes I can

Yes I can

2:30 pm: Well I’ve already weirdly hurt my leg by simply standing up to get off a plane. Something popped mid calf. Hope the breakfast I just ordered for lunch turns my frown upside down!

8:30 pm: You have no idea how much it means to me today to have this right outside my door. Hot tea any time of day or night. And I found the perfect mug for my tea.

9:32 pm:  Yes, I can. With limits. … I have wondered over the past 2 years if I have become guilty of using chemo brain as an excuse, or if I have become lazy, or if I over protect myself. While I may be guilty of any of those on a given day, I think today has answered the question for me. I have improved so much and manage in my comfortable little habitat pretty well these days. But take me out of that familiar routine and subject me to a variety of situations that I have to navigate and throw in a minor injury (which made feel fragile) – well, let’s just say that I nearly blubbered all over the car rental guy, have had several headaches, and found myself hugging a complete stranger as she opened the door and welcomed me into the B&B. So grateful to have this lovely, quiet space to give my brain a rest. And for the lessons I am learning.

And this: I can’t even tell you how many times I apologized to the car rental guy for not being able to choose a car, for changing my mind about the car he gave me, for not being able to figure out something so simple about the car, for asking him to help me with my bags because I hurt my leg, for him getting wet because he had to go outside with me and it started raining. Poor Kenny!!!

It wasn’t my best day.

But it sure wasn’t my worst.

Yes, I Could. And Yes, I Did. Even though it didn’t go off without a hitch. Even though I sat in my rental car and had a moment that included an ugly cry face while it was pouring down rain.

I said I was learning lessons in that Facebook post. I added that line to convince myself that something positive was happening. And there are a few lessons I hope to remember the next time I try traveling solo with chemo brain.

Make as many decisions ahead of time as possible.
Thank goodness I did this – even the kind of car I preferred. Yeah … that didn’t work out. I couldn’t get gate information for my plane change, but I already knew where I could eat lunch close to the Des Moines airport and even where I could get a Starbucks chai latte if I felt the need before heading off on my 90 minute drive to Ottumwa. Yay Me! Do this. Always.

Ask for help. Tell people exactly what you need and why you need it.
I wish I had been more clear with the car rental guy as soon as he told me they didn’t have the car I had preselected. I don’t know cars, so when he started flinging makes and models at me it was like a foreign language. It would have been better to say, “I’m dealing with chemo brain, I’ve hurt my leg, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. I need something small and simple. Four doors. I need to be able to see out of the back window.”

Give yourself time.
Things feel so rushed in an airport. Verbal directions don’t stick in my brain these days. If something doesn’t look familiar, I may not know how to use it at first glance. Sometimes I forget where something is that I need. Often the problem is that my brain simply processes some kinds of information more slowly than it used to. This causes me to panic. So take a minute to breathe and take that extra few seconds for your brain to process.

If something doesn’t work for you, make a change.
The GPS with the rental car died before I got to my destination, so I had to go the the rental company the next day to replace it. I wasn’t pleased with the two-door hatchback I drove away from the airport, so my husband told me to ask if I could exchange it. I did, and got a car I felt comfortable with.

Plan for what gives you peace and comfort and time to replenish.
I didn’t have many options for lodging. I don’t usually think about staying at a B&B, but a little angel must have whispered the idea in my ear. Oh my gosh! This saved my sanity! What a relief after my stressful day of travel. What a joy to go down stairs to this every morning!

This place was perfection for me. Having a quiet place to retreat to and rest was essential. Also a place that was clean and where I felt very safe. And access to things that comfort me – like hot tea, wifi, and television. A grocery store nearby where I could get chocolate in an emergency. I’m pretty sure I would have been a wreck by the end of my trip if I had stayed somewhere else. And it was cheaper than the cheap hotels!

You may not always find such a perfect haven, but look anyway. If you can’t find the perfect setting, do the best you can and then provide yourself with what will help you feel comfortable. It’s ok to spend a few bucks to have hot tea all day if that’s what you need.

And separate yourself from the crowd if you need to. Go back to your room. Go for a drive by yourself. Find a quiet place to sit.

Accept your emotions.
If you need a cleansing cry, go for it. If you feel that wave of panic, accept it, breathe, think for a moment about what is making you anxious and what might help. If that means finding a friendly face and saying out loud that you are falling apart, do it. Embarrassment be damned.

Acknowledge how well you have done so far. Remind yourself that you will handle it – whatever the next “it” is.
Hurting my leg before even getting off my first plane really started to throw me for a loop. After that, each step of the way I had to tell myself, “you did ____, now you can do the next thing.”

Keep it simple.
Once I started planning my trip, I kept adding more days and more people to see and more things to do. I started to feel anxious. Bless my dear friend who set me straight and told me to keep it short and simple.

If you don’t want to, then don’t.
‘Nuff said.

Don’t pack so much stuff!
I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I hurt my leg as I stood up to get off the plane is because I was also swinging my too-heavy backpack onto my shoulder as I stood. I am always guilty of over packing and I made things harder on myself because of it. On my return trip, my checked bag was heavier, but my backpack was lighter and easier on my body.

Use your support group.
Daily (or more) phone calls to my husband, as well as texts, helped keep me grounded. And my fabulous Facebook friends encouraged me throughout the day.

Accept yourself as you are today. Trust your self-knowledge and your instinct. It’s okay to protect yourself while also taking on a challenge.