Monday, April 30, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you seen the tv program, "Who Do You Think You Are?" Where celebrities trace their family roots, fleshing out their stories, and learning some insight into who they are, and the whys of unasked questions?  Well, when telling his own story, JJ often refers to himself as the poor kid, when he attended Lexington School.  When I was growing up, I was the girl with no friends.  These stories we tell ourselves, when internalized, are taken as truth.  Neither were true, as it turns out.

By truth, what do I mean?  Well, permit me to dip into some personal philosophy.  Truth, is elusive.  No matter how firmly we hold these truths, some held as self-evident, they are but grains of sand. Each facet of truth impossible to describe fully.  Each, dry grain of sand, slips through our fingers, the more tightly we ball our fist.

These truths JJ and I told ourselves were true, to the extent we held them to be so.  Fortunately, the truth we were told and held, has slipped through our fingers, and in picking up the next handful of sand, I believe I've found a better vessel than a clinched fist with which to carry it.

I found last night, some clarity on JJ's family.  I had such fun compiling the information.  I have, ever since the mid-1990s when my Father met his half-sister from his Father's first marriage for the second time in his life, had an interest in family history.  I wanted to know who these family members were, how they lived, the character of their choices.  I wanted them to be more than their name, date of birth and death, and if they married, divorced, had children.  I wanted their stories.  I wanted them alive in my memory.

My family was fun to explore.  Just one interesting fact to wet the appetite is that I can date from my Father's side, back to William Wallace, my Greatx20-Grand-Uncle, (1272-1305) was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence. You know, the one Mel Gibson played in the movie Brave Heart.  It's a crooked line to get to him, but the thread of defiance courses through my blood.

We've stayed countless times with his Father, Jerry, and his wife Billy, at the farm in Wilmore on Pekin Pike.  The farm, the six bedroom house, their life allowed it.

This past weekend marked the very first time we'd stayed with Margi, JJ's Mum.  It was shocking to realize this half-way through their stay.  Jarring in fact.  His Mother's life, with Bill, her aging husband and the care involved, didn't permit such extended visits with our little ones in tow.  Short visits would just wear her and Bill out.  Sadly, Bill passed last year, and I still love him so.  It really does take at least a year to get through grief and recover from the hardships of having someone near and dear in and out of hospice care.  One thing about Bill, you never knew, no matter how hard his body was on him, because who he was was joy and had a wry playful sense of humor and sharp wit.  Margi and I have had our share of trials, and to both our credits, have created space to find our footing.  I'm proud of her.  I'm proud of me.  We could have left the rift, and had not only ourselves to suffer for our shortcomings, but also the ones we both love dearly, my husband JJ and our two little girls.

It is so common that what is left undone by one generation is left for the next to address.  For example, my Mother's paternal Grandmother, Rose Gault, made her son choose between herself and his new bride.  He chose the new bride and never harkened his Mother's door again.  My parents acquiesce and defer not only to my husband, but to his family at every opportunity, to avoid putting me and him in the unpleasant position of having to make that impossible choice.

We didn't get to stay at Rolex
 as long as we did when
the girls were less mobile last year.
Here's Anna with Clara Lou
in 2011.  Below is Greta Jo from
last year too. She was far too
on the go go go! to catch
a snapshot of her.
So, to Lexington we went, under the annual family tradition of volunteering for my sister Ellyn, who organizes volunteers for writing on the official scoreboards around the Rolex Three Day Event.  The first event was in 1979, and our attendance and involvement followed not long after that.  Me, I had just started riding, and my sister Leslie was studying at riding school that year.  I competed on the Kentucky Horse Park ground for Ha'Penny Horse Trial, the Mid-South Combined Training Association (MSCTA) Dressage Finals, and the MSCTA Team Challenge, and many more.  The grounds felt like a farm.  

Today, the Horse Park echos to that rustic past, and to keep pace with the crowds necessary, it has grown and the course become more like a golf course than grounds of a horse trial, suitable to test the war worthiness of a calvary horse.  

The Rolex Kentucky has become a time when we Moise sisters are connected with the horses that once defined much of our waking thoughts.  It's not just a time to see horse and rider compete at a world-class level, but to share the fun for a sport that has learned to evolve and keep pace with its enthusiasts.

When JJ and I started dating, we didn't realize we shared a thread of horses.  I, was a new comer, not having had a family member ride a horse or drive a carriage, as I had as a hobby, since horses were used as transportation.  JJ's family had "The Sale" - but that was a new world of Standardbred trotters and pacers.  I tried to grasp what that meant, as I got exposed to it.  Keeping track of the horse-side of his family though had its challenges since there is an Asa named in every generation, and so many men named John, and women named Elizabeth or Margaret, I got confused and gave up for three years.  That is, until last night.

Having just spent the weekend with JJ's Mum (that is what he chose to call her on his own, by the way), I arrived home, still curious for more.  One photograph, in particular had caught my interest.


Can you tell these folks kept a practice of "toddy time?" I think you can!

This was taken 1942 at the  The picture of my grandparents was taken in September 1942. It was taken at the pre-cocktail (toddy) party at their home before the rehersal dinner at the country club for their daughter Elizabeth's, Davis-Jewell wedding). That sofa has been in their Grandson Charles Davis' possession since his mother, Elizabeth Berry Jewell Davis downsized and moved to an apartment. It is now in his living room. His Moma's story is that Moma Jewell would not allow "Old Pappy", as he was affectionately known, to have his toddy until the photographer took the pictures. He was not pleased.

JJ's Mum told me the who, but the following details I found when I got home, all on the internet. This is Mary Henderson Worthington Jewel and John Berry Jewell, JJ's Great-Grandmother and Great Grandfather, given who had the photo, as you may have guessed, on his Mum's Jewell side of the family. John Berry Jewell had hundreds of acres in Jessamine County and a "small horse farm" on Paris Pike, two doors down from Lexington Country Club, and a home at 221 Woodspoint Road, near JJ's Mum's house and Henry Clay's Estate, Ashland. He was President/Treasurer of Jewell Tobacco Warehouse Co., Inc. with warehouses in 340 9th Avenue North, Franklin TN, at at 566 McClelland, Lexington, and President of Jewell Oil Co. of Ky., Inc., located at 525 S. Mill St., Lexington Kentucky. No small wonder too.

His father, was Asa Hickman Jewell.  According to the 1900 census, he was a "horse trader"  You could say he was a horse trader, but there was much more to him!  He owned the horse sales firm, Harbison, Jewell, & Co., which conducted sales of horses at Tattersall's Mart, S. Broadway, and also in Cincinnati and Atlanta. There are family stories of "Cousin Asa" as he was affectionately known to not just horsemen in the Bluegrass, racing friends and rivals up and down what is now Broadway/Harrodsburg Road, before there was Tattersall's and The Red Mile. (Perhaps that's why the tracks were built around there?) Yes folks, that is the equivalent of drag racing, in his day. That said, Asa was a typical Kentucky Gentleman: suave, smart, always polite and considerate of friends and business associates. He was described as one of the finest characters to grace the harness horse field. His father, John Jewell, had been born in High Bridge, near Wilmore, Kentucky in 1812. It was his father, John Moses Jewell, born in 1776, who had moved from Maryland to pioneer Kentucky.

Jumping back to the last century, John Berry's brother, Robert Berry, assisted their father Asa in managing the family farm, Pleasant View Farm, and started breeding Standardbred harness horses in 1922. "Uncle Bob," as the Haws boys have referred to him to me, but who is their Great-Great-Uncle, took on running the farm in 1937. He was the State Fair Manager in Louisville, and also had a hand in running Pleasant Hill in Shakertown. It was at this time that Uncle Bob was Director of the United States Trotting Association.  He owned one-half interest in the sale company, held in partnership. I believe that this is when the Sale would have moved from being in Atlanta, Lexington at Tattersall's and Cincinnati to Delaware, Ohio, home of the big race, The little Brown Jug. I don't know who the other partner was, but the office was at the family farm, Pleasant View. Was it his father? Was it someone else? I'm guessing Cousin Francisw will know. :smile:. When Uncle Bob hired and then partnered with his nephew, John Berry Jewell's son, named for their father, Asa Hickman Jewell, who would keep his promise to his Uncle, as I understand.

This Asa Hickman Jewell, II, b. 1910, was JJ's Grandfather. He worked the Sale in Delaware Ohio. Clearly, it has a history beyond the years ticked off most calendars from a date of incorporation. Grandfather Asa graduated from MIT, worked in as a stockbroker in New York. His Aunt, Therese Worthington Grant, his mother's sister, had the first fried chicken restaurant in NYC. Asa and his wife Margaret Loring Jewell worked together at their restaurant, which was located near the Waldorf Astoria, in NYC, and eventually owned it. He contracted TB and moved to Franklin Tennessee where, at some point, served as Mayor. When his Uncle Robert was ready to retire, he asked Asa to learn the Sale. He bought out his uncle, as promised. In the years he first owned the Sale, the office was in Wilmore (don't know where, but would like to). When the house on Pekin Pike was built, Grandfather Asa moved the Sale office to what was then his 200+ acre farm on Pekin Pike, where it currently is run by his former son-in-law, Jerry Haws, JJ's Father, with an eye of having a fifth generation in the horse sale and trading in one of Grandfather Asa's three grandsons, who were just 19, 17 and 14 years old when Asa passed away in 1989.  

There aren't many old timers at the Sale that remember Grandfather Asa, let alone Uncle Bob, or the I'm sure wild stories of Asa Hickman Jewell, I.  What's fun to envision is that in the years that Grandfather Asa worked at the Sale in Delaware Ohio, Grandfather Asa wore tweed jackets in winter and linen in summer.

His toddy of choice was copious quantity of gin.

JJ carries on the family tradition. His favoured toddy is modicum of bourbon.


So, I have friends as it turns out, I have friends.  All I need do was figure out I had to risk holding out my hand.  And JJ, he wasn't the poor farm kid.  He came from a family rich with history, as we approach the May Sale, his what?  thirteenth or is it fifteenth year working in Delaware?  He goes there knowing he's fifth generation in the horse industry, from a family as diverse as the horsemen who go there.  
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