Treasure Chest Thursday – A Poem Mystery

In an attempt to get back to blogging, I started looking for memories that my uncle had written. I didn’t find them. :( But, that led me to look through a few of his mother’s (Eveline) things and one of the items I re-found was this poem. The poem is written and illustrated in brown ink with water color details. It is on thin, but sturdy, art board.

poem.Alice Conner Harness.Hoskins

Tall Tree – a poem by Alice Conner Harness

This may have been on Eveline’s bulletin board at one time because of the holes made by tacks. Or maybe it just hung on a wall.

Several years ago I did a google search to see what I could find out about the poet, Alice Conner Harness, but I came away with pretty much nothing. Since my grandmother Eveline was a school teacher, I wondered if a student had made this for her, or if the poet was someone who lived nearby. Was it a favorite poem of my grandmother and someone illustrated it for her as a gift?

Yesterday’s google search took me to a query I had posted about the poem in 2003 on the Appanoose County Iowa Genweb board. It seems that a few other people have something similar in their possession.

A response in 2010: I also have a copy of this old poem on hard backed paper. ALso looks handwritten and sketched with a tree to the left of the poem. If anyone has any information about this poem or the author I would love to know the background. This was in my grandfather’s trunk.

A response from January 2015: Some 30 years ago my wife’s grandmother died. As we cleaned out her home I found the poem “Tall Tree” on card stock in brown ink and with the drawing of the tree on the right side. My call sign was “Tall Tree” due to me height and so I captured the poem and have had it ever since. It is slightly damaged with a water stain in the lower right corner. I would love to know more history and/or information about the author or the poem. Thank you.

About a week later, someone added an obituary, a little additional information, and the poem typed. The post provides the following information: Alice was born in 1902 in Jefferson County, Iowa, taught for one year, raised a family, moved to California in 1953 and died in 1997. She and her husband, Ezra, lost a son in the Battle of the Bulge. Alice worked as a counselor in the California prison system and started a halfway house for those released on parole.

A little more searching and I found that Alice Conner Harness wrote a 32-page book of poetry titled Along the Way. It was published by the Tribune Printing Co. of Fairfield, Iowa in 1948. It looks as though a copy of the book is available in the Grinnell College Burling Library in Grinnell, Iowa, including the author’s inscription and autograph. Copies may also be available for library use at University of Iowa Libraries in Iowa City and at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

And one more thing about Alice – she was a member of the Gold Star Mothers.

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Gold Star Service Flag – Public Domain

According to Wikipedia: “The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often socially active but are non-political. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor.”

I found one other poem by Alice Conner Harness in a google preview of a book titled That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America by Holly S. Fenelon. Appendix C contains poetry and clippings.


God, help me be worthy of the son I bore
Who, by his sacrifice in the white-hot hell of war,
Paid the price of freedom;
Help me pray for peace;
That men may find wisdom and that wars shall cease.

God, help me be humble when homage is shown
To me, his mother;
This honor is not mine alone.
In his name I am proud to accept it posthumously;
That honor alone is enough for me.

God, keep me ever true with courage so strong
That though the bitter struggle for peace be long,
My faith in the principles he died to uphold
May make me worthy to wear the star of gold.

Alice Conner Harness  Batavia, Iowa

Now I know a little more about Alice Conner Harness, but I still have questions:
*Did Alice write and illustrate the poem onto art board? If not, who did?
*Why do several random people with connections to Appanoose Co., Iowa have a similar or exact item in their possession?
*Tall Tree is about grief and pain, perhaps especially meaningful to those who had lost a loved one. Were these sold to raise funds for some endeavor? Were they given to someone who had experienced a loss? My grandmother did not lose a child in a war, but lost a 5-year-old son to complications of measles.

I hope someone can help us solve the mystery of the Tall Tree!

Fenelon, Holly S. That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012



Sepia Saturday – Christmas Weddings

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images.

I’m glad that Sepia Saturday is “come-as-you-can” during the holidays as there are a couple of Christmas Day wedding anniversaries I had hoped to recognize but missed the day.

First is the 115th anniversary of the marriage of my paternal great-grandparents on Christmas Day 1897.

Wedding of Myron David Webber to Dorinda Rebecca Strange

Myron David Webber and Dorinda Rebecca Strange were married in the home of her parents, John Sylvester Strange and Susan Nancy Hendrickson, in Lincoln, Kansas. Unfortunately I don’t know who stood with them in the photo.

Myron and Dorinda had a large family of nine children – some of whom I have introduced previously:
John Norman
Abbie Elizabeth (my grandmother – she’s mentioned numerous times here!)
Aaron Ferrel
Geraldine Hattie
Fred Myron
Norrine Belle
Lottie Susan
Dora Ersel
Woodrow Wilson

M. D. and Dorinda celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at First Baptist Church in Iowa City, Iowa in 1947.

Aaron, Margaret, M. D., Dorinda, and Fred Webber

In my grandmother’s photo album I found a picture of some flowers sent for the celebration and of a “wedding cake” – which I assume was also a part of the anniversary festivities.


Fifty-five years after the marriage of her parents, Woodye (Woodrow Wilson Webber) married the love of her life, Orville Kessler, on Christmas Day 1952.

Woodye had two children from a previous marriage and she and Orville had three more, but all were Orville’s children. The adoptions took place when the older girls were no longer girls, but quite grown up – a joyous occasion! I don’t have a picture of their wedding, but their daughter Wilda supplied me with these pictures from Woodye and Orville’s 55th wedding anniversary.

Wilda said in her email: “The bells in the 2nd photo are from our grandparents 50th anniversary and if my memory is correct were hung for Mother and Dad’s wedding, Dorinda’s and mine.”

And to bring this full circle, I’ll end with a poem written by Woodye’s and Orville’s daughter, Wilda. The poem evokes a memory of her grandfather, Myron David Webber, on a Christmas morning.


Rising early,
Grandfather stoked the ashes
of yesterday’s fire,
added fresh coal,
our first gift
on Christmas morning.

by Wilda Morris
From Secret Place (Nov. 1998 – Jan. 1999).
Used with the author’s permission.

If you would like to see more holiday stories from sepia images, visit Sepia Saturday.



And when love in life has ended…..

May it go on in heaven above. – Fred Webber

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the marriage of Fred Myron Webber and Carol Richards on August 14, 1932. Fred was my Grandmother Abbie’s brother. I put out a request for a wedding picture and received this from their daughter. Thank you!

Carol Richards and Fred M. Webber 14 Aug 1932

Fred Webber was highlighted in the Spring 2000 edition of “The Strange-Webber Connection” family newsletter. Family members have given me permission to use stories and memories shared within its pages, so I’ll share a couple that reflect on their marriage.

This excerpt explains the title above:

“Carol Webber shared with us the following poem. She explained that, while they were both students at the University of Iowa, she and Fred  went on a picnic with friends. They fetched a bucket of water for the group. Later, Fred presented Carol with the following poem, above which he had mounted a picture of the two of them carrying the pail of water for the picnic.”

Hand in hand, the two together
Went to get them all a drink;
Heart in heart the two were also.
Of love only could they think.

For he was hers, and she was his
(They are that yet, you know)
‘Twas only right that they should love.
The Lord in wisdom made them so.

Hand in hand – Oh, what a symbol
Of the life that is to be.
When each one must the other strengthen
In their work, which God will see.

Cool water for some thirsty folks
They brought; and this portrays
The services which they will give
To others, through all their days.

Heart in heart – be this the token
Of a growing, life-long love,
And when love in life has ended,
May it go on in heaven above.

Just four months prior to their wedding, Fred was “publicly ordained to the work of The Gospel Ministry on the fourteenth day of April, 1932, by a Council of Baptist churches, composed of 25 messengers from 14 churches, convened at the call of the Immanuel Baptist Church at Rochester, NY.”

Fred’s first three pastorates were in Baptist Churches. In 1941, he was received into the Presbytery of Buffalo-Niagra and for the remainder of his career in ministry, he served in Presbyterian churches and other assignments within the Presbyterian Church.

Fred and Carol had four children and were married for 56 years – until Fred’s death August 30, 1988.

Also included in the newsletter are memories that Carol Richardson Webber shared about her marriage to Fred.

“After 56 years of marriage, there are many ways in which I remember Fred. I’ll try to share a few with you.
I remember Fred as a loving husband and father. He could always find time to help with or check the children’s homework, play a game of catch or something. Always ready to drive them and their friends to ball games, etc.
I remember him sitting in his easy chair surrounded by books and papers and doing crossword puzzles in ink.
I remember his devotion to work. He was a student and spent many hours preparing for a service.
I remember him as being able to fix any toy or household item – but always having to go buy a tool before he could do it.
I remember his love of camping and taking pictures. As the children would say, he was “stopping to take a picture on every corner” as we were traveling.
I remember his cluttered desk and how he knew where everything was. I couldn’t dust his desk.
I remember his love of music and how he made that a very special part of the church service.
I remember his ability to come up with a joke or a story that he hadn’t thought of in years. He had a terrific memory.
I close as I started – remembering him as a loving and devoted husband and father for 56 years.”

Carol and Fred Webber 1968

After reading the above, It seems fitting that the only picture of Fred and Carol that I found among my grandmother’s photos was this one of Fred with his camera.

The words of the poem above reflect the life and work that both Fred, as a pastor, and Carol, as the wife of a pastor, envisioned for themselves (or at least Fred envisioned) throughout their life together. Carol has since passed away.


And when love in life has ended,
May it go on in heaven above.