Friday, February 22, 2013

In Search of Richard Pippin

Apologies for not having any interesting blog posts lately! I have had a deep loathing for sewing. I like to think about things I want to make eventually (definitely the Moy Bog dress and I'm getting really interested in the 1920's again) but the thought of actually sewing anything right now is just overpoweringly unpleasant. Besides, the boys used my shears to attempt to cut a small branch in two (they were making "wands", apparently, as they are going through an obsessed-with-Harry-Potter phase) and the tip of the shears broke off. So until I obtain new ones I have a good excuse to not be sewing. And besides, honestly, I want to loose a few more lbs. before making much for myself. And also, to be very terribly honest, I just kind of feel depressed about living history right now. In the 1860's arena there a ton of politics. People bickering and fighting over stupid things. David doesn't want to do anything more with the SCA. I can see his point. It's fun while it is new but after that, it's like, um, where is the history in all this? We want to do more with regency/federal era reenacting but there are so few events for that around here. Rev. war is almost non existent. I like making historic clothes - I love researching, draping, sewing, and wearing the clothes, but I have been feeling lately like there is just no point to do it. There are hardly any events I feel happy about going to and why make something to just have it hang in the closet forever after? It's depressing and frustrating. I feel like I will just waste my time whenever I start to think about sewing something new. I have no friends who enjoy this kind of thing, either, so I don't think I'd be very successful trying to start a small costuming group of my own. Central IL is a lonely spot for costuming enthusiasts!

But, David is busy getting his details in place for a huge sewing project that will soon be necessary (he will be breaking from his long-embraced impression of a federal Asst. Surgeon to go on to full Surgeon in a Confederate impression) so I suppose I am taking a break now so I can jump into his project wholeheartedly and refreshed here in a few weeks or so. I am looking forward to it. Men's clothes are very enjoyable to make. I hope he does well in this impression. He will be doing it mostly alone.

Our mutual interest of late has been family research. We have been trying to do some research, on and off, the past few years but a few weeks ago David finally got a subscription to and we have both been spending almost all our free time on that very interesting and addictive site. It is so fun to discover details about family members; to find new ones, to make connections.

One of David's recently-discovered ancestors was buried not far from here so last Saturday we dropped the boys off at my mom and dad's house and went looking for him. It was not hard to find the cemetery and it only took a little while of looking before we located the grave on a warm westerly slope with trees beyond and a creek running a bit to the north.

It was exhilirating, sad, strangely sweet. Buried beneath a few feet of earth was the body of a man who was my husbands great-great-great-great grandfather. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and moved his family from Maryland to Illinois sometime after the war. We know so little about him but what we know is more than we know about others. I find it so very sad that so much information is lost within such a short amount of time.

Later that day we went to an antique mall and I was even more saddened by the old photographs for sale, stuffed into baskets, thumbed through by strangers. It seemed to dawn on me for the first time that these people are someone's family. And now the pictures are being sold for a few dollars. History is lost. People are forgotten. So much is forgotten.

I am so grateful that David and I have been able to find out more information about our family. I want our children to know their heritage. I want them to know where they come from. I want them to have a physical connection to the past. I don't want their great-great-grandparents to be some vague shadowy thought in their mind. I want them to know that yes, they were real people, just like us. They were here! We have roots.

I want them to read about history and know who in their family was alive during that time. Busy making a living. Raising children. Living their life. It's so sad so many are forgotten! We have a very limited focus on life, don't we? Just the here and now.

And so we found Richard Pippin. His father was a Revolutionary War veteran, Robert Pippin. That has pushed David onwards in his desire to reenact that period of history. I think it all is a very good thing. (I have a Revolutionary War veteran ancestor, too. His name was Rueben Tucker. So yeah, that inspires me to make way more 18th c. things!)



  1. I get that feeling looking at Cdvs, especially of children. That was somebody's baby, they were loved and grew up, had a life and died. Now their nameless image is bought and sold to people who never knew or loved them. It's so sad. We know so little about history, I call it "the erosion of time". :(

  2. I like that you both wore period clothing to go searching for your long past grandfather. It is wonderful to have those family connections to our past history and to think that they were living their daily lives just as we are now.

  3. I sometimes get that way with photos (especially brought home by the fact that I have a whole box full of my great-grandmother's photos, 1880s-1930s, a good handful labeled), and baby clothes can also make me a bit verklempt. "Some adorable tiny baby wore this christening gown ... and they've since GROWN OLD and NOW THEY ARE NO MORE."

    I'm glad you're having fun with - such a great site. I just wish it had better international records, as I ran into a lot of walls with my non-English immigrant ancestors.

    Hope you can get involved with RW reenacting in some way! Living near the Saratoga Battlefield, I have a hard time imagining a place where it's not the main period in an area.

  4. Dear Sarah,

    What a thoughtful post. Mrs. G. has it right: erosion of time it is. I have loads of old pictures from family but already some of the situations behind the photos and their contexts are lost.

    Other parts of the family further back are well researched, but, and this may make you laugh, some of the characters are so, erm, righteous and unsmiling that I rather don't cotton to them.

    Still, it's neat to understand your roots. That's one reason I love Kentucky. It's a family-oriented state and quite literally last week upon meeting someone I had them ask me, "So where's your family from?" and they were meaning within the state -- trying to pin geography and social status, you see, via my answer. They got a complicated one, I'm afraid, since personally, I'm an import :}

    Very best, and happy searching,


  5. About the great great grandfather stuff, my twin told my little sister (4 yrs old at the time) about generations, and that she had a great great great great grandpa. She was in awe, and reverently asked his name. When my twin couldn't produce one awe turned to indignance that she had been conned. "how do you know I had a great great great grandpa if you don't even know his name!?"
    I try to remember the stories my parents pass down, though it only goes to the great great granparents. After that I don't even have names. The few things I know about my great great granparents were stories from my grandpa I had to have him send me for a little memories school project in our homeschool. Now he has crossed the Jordan, and there is so much more I wish I asked him....
    But I think in Heaven we will reminisce, and hear the lives and struggles and thoughts of our great great great great grandparents. Its going to be fun.

  6. I am a fellow headstone lover and family history lover as well. I have always enjoyed stories of my ancestors. They bring strength and so much appreciation to my heart and mind. They make me want to be better, in everything I do, and not take anything for granted.
    Being LDS, a Mormon, most of my ancestors lived in Denmark, England, Holland, and Ireland before the LDS missionaries found them and converted them to the gospel in the 1840s. They promptly moved to Ohio and Illinois, then Utah.
    I do have some deep ancestral roots however in Kentucky, Maine, and New York with some wonderful Revolutionary War Patriots and Loyalists as well. What a wonderful legacy they have left us and it makes us better people by trying to get to know them.
    Good luck with your searching!

  7. I, too, love your thoughtful posts, Sarah. :) My sister "discovered" a while back and we had fun as a family looking up relatives. Most either from England and Norway. I don't know all the details but apparently over in England there was a Squire that we are/were related to. When my youngest brother heard that, not knowing all his history like he ought, burst out with excitement, "Does that mean we might be royalty?!" ;)

    You probably won't be out in CO anytime soon, but I have a number of friends who do Rev. war reenacting. They do it with/through Vision Heirs. Their website is: if you ever want to see what they do.

  8. Genealogy is an addicting hobby and one that I love! It connects me with the past and my place in it.

    I have old photos hanging in my house. They are my "instant" relatives and although I don't know all their names, I feel like I'm honoring their memory by keeping them alive in my home. A couple photos that had names I posted on Ancestry message boards and found living relatives. I get a lot of joy helping in that way.

    Question: I have an old photo that I need help dating. She is an ancestor, but we're not sure which ancestor. If I send it to you, can you help in that way? I'm sure it's 1870's-1890's and the women is very old.

    I love your blog and read every entry!

  9. I have been very interested in my family history for over half my life now (I started when I was twelve!) and it's a never-ending journey, trust me. As for gravestones, I've always loved cemeteries the way I love libraries. My mother took me to Iowa in 2011 so we could tour the state looking for the gravestones of my ancestors and it was a wonderful, if bittersweet, trip.

    As for old photos being sold, I always look through each and every one and spend a dollar or so on ones I think I can identify. I have to have a name, and either an estimated date or a location. Then I take it to Ancestry's member tree search and try to identify the person in the photo. Last summer I tracked down three people and mailed their photos back to their families - two young women and a baby boy. So, it's not always a sad thing to see them for sale! Sometimes good things come out of it.

    Historical events are also quite uncommon here in central NJ and it's why I've been reluctant to get into historical sewing despite my great interest. What would I DO with any of those clothes? And I can commiserate too, on the lack of interested friends. I'd have to drag mine kicking and screaming into it if I wanted to start a group! At least your husband shares the interest with you.

    We should all celebrate our Rev. War ancestors! Mine is Harris Gammon. :)

  10. Oh my goodness! I feel like you took my thoughts right from my mind! I have felt the exact same about Civil War reenactments for a long time - that the politics were so stupid and that there was no point. It was very hard to see where the history had gone! I still have my costumes, but I have zero desire to go back to that. I actually live in Maryland funnily enough, and I have become disinterested in Rev War. I just want to have an important role, a point to doing it. I also have been more into doing genealogy work and recently found 2 Rev War veterans in My family tree. It's very exciting stuff. Most of my family is from Indiana, Kent., and Tenn.I think we have a lot in common. We even homeschool. I know how frustrating it is to not have friends that sew historical stuff. I ended up going on's sewing forum and finding someone in My area to sew with now and then. A sewing break is always good. I hope your rest is refreshing and you go back to sewing renewed with purpose & inspiration!

  11. I can so relate to both ancestry (and yes, I've been wondering about and the lack of reenacting events in IL - albeit I'm in Southern IL. I have no real interest in War Betweeen the States events, being as I would be rooting for the Gray Uniforms (!) (my Alabama side), but even other events such as the Revolution. We have a bit of history down here, Ft. Massac has reenactments almost every year, but still....just so much hesitation. But knowing I had ancestors that I will never know much about is depressing. I have some knowledge of my father's side of my family, but nothing about my mother's. And there is where the Revolutionary "war hero" was that would enable me to join the DAR, and there is where the Scandinavian/Norweigian side is...and I have no clue. Sigh. Thanks for your honesty here.

    Kathleen in IL

  12. Sarah, I realize its been a while since we've had the opportunity to speak, but I have not forgotten you. I follow your post weekly and really enjoy your insight and knowledge to historical costuming. As I'm sure you are aware my husband also has no interest in the SCA or any other period of reenacting for that matter outside of the 1860's. I to wish we had a ladies only group in the area. I would envision a group that embraced all different eras, socialized periodically, learned from each other, and most importantly had fun!! If ever the plans could be made to embrace such and orginazational under taking I would be thrilled to be part of and help in any way. I hope our paths will cross again in the near future.

  13. I would absolutely LOVE to be part of a historical costuming group! My only flaw is my inability to sew...I hope I get to see you more this reenacting season, maybe I can help get you out of your funk. :D

  14. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and your thoughts. It is true; there is a gladness in preserving what we do know and an excitement in finding out things about people we had not previously known existed. Bittersweet in the fact they are gone and had been forgotten, but oh, it is good to dig up these gems from our history - a very good feeling.

    I think part of my sadness is the realization that life is very brief; in fifty years, who will remember me or my family? We will just be grandparents to somebody; great grandparents. In a hundred years? Maybe someone will care to know our name and when we were born and when we died. The details of living? Will they be gone?

    Most likely.

    What is so cool to realize though is that these people HAVE ALWAYS been there, they have always been part of our family; it is us who have not known them, not they who have hidden themselves from us. It is a solid feeling to know that.

  15. April, I so like your idea for a ladies historic group. I would enjoy something like that so much! Sharing information with like minded ladies, taking excuses to dress up and have tea together. It would be great! Maybe I'll have to see if I can round up any interest in such an endeavor. . .I know the Victorian tea ladies in Bloomington are always popular. Why not something similar (but as you said, embracing all periods) for anyone who would care to join in? There is so much to learn from all eras of history, and sewing and fashion are just one of the few perks of studying it.

    Thanks Christina! I think right now we are planning to do 2 events. One will be a weekend immersion event Labor Day weekend. The other is Delevan; I will be visiting David at some point but will not be actively involved in it. I think we are going to try to make the Jane Austen fest this year in Louisville and there has been some talk of Mississinewa. So, I'm looking forward to what we currently have in mind. I think a few outings with my guys in period attire will round things out pretty nicely! (Peter loves the 1920's so he's my go-to guy for that period!)

  16. A few of my friends and I have started just such a group in the Albany, NY area! Last weekend we had a tea party at a local cafe/teahouse, where our dresses ran from the 1790s to the 1950s. It's tough to get the ball rolling - what American Duchess's Lauren says about needing a "partner in crime" to support you is completely true. I hope you can get up a group to fit your needs/desires!

  17. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for your wonderful posts, and I understand the frustration with reenactor groups and the SCA.

    I've been reading your blog for a while, and enjoying your style of writing.

    I edit the online magazine Your Wardrobe Unlock'd, , and wondered if you would be interested in writing about making your husband's surgeon clothing?

    Please email me at marion.mcnealy AT gmail dot com if you are.

  18. is addictive! I research my family history, too. When I look through the dozens of old photos at an antique shop I feel the same way. Especially pictures of little ones. I turn all of the photos over to see if there are names on the back, and 9 times out of 10 they're nameless. If they do have a name, I'm always tempted to buy it and contact anyone who may be looking for them.



Thank you for your lovely thoughts!