History is a funny thing. You either really like it or you don’t. I happen to really like it. Grandmother Myrtle Dunbar Jenkins and the Dunbars are who I want to introduce you to now in this installment. She was 4th generation Ulster-Scot or Scotch Irish. Census records from a rural area of Caldwell County, Kentucky places her great, great grandfather from Antrim, Ireland. The story goes that around 1825 or so when he was 12 years old he stowed away on a ship headed to South Carolina. The other version of the story is that he came with his parents and siblings. I tend to believe the second story, however, it does make for great adventure reading to think he was a stowaway!
As always, I enjoy learning all I can about who I am researching. So I picked up Notre Dame Professor Jay P. Dolans’s book The Irish Americans. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Irish-Americans-History-ebook/dp/B003RRY3TM/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2 .
When I began to understand that a huge part of my roots was Irish, it became evident I needed a little history lesson. Mr. Dolan does a wonderful job of retelling the Irish American experience in such areas as faith, labor, and love and it is written in such a way that you can see why the Irish excelled at assimilating to the American experience.
My particular family was that group of Irish that were protestant. and they were farmers in rural Kentucky. As far as I can tell this particular group has not been studied as much as the Irish Catholic or the Irishman that moved to the big city. It is actually a sad story to tell in regards to events before World War II because so many of my family members died due to lack of three important medical breakthroughs. These all pretty much were the top public health achievements in America of our time. They were sanitation, vaccinations, and medications.
It was truly a miracle if a family was spared a family member dying in those days. My grandmother witnessed much sorrow and death as a child in those early days. She was one of 12 children born to William Wesley Dunbar and his two wives that happened to be sisters. My grandmother’s mother was the second sister who married William after her sister and his first wife died. Out of the 12 siblings, five of them died. All the boys died. Seven girls were left. The leading cause of death was consumption or what we know as TB. However there was death from simple things as an infection and diarrhea. It was a horrible set of circumstances that would kill off your family member back then. Below I share a picture of four of the seven girls that lived to adulthood: Bessie, Virgie, Myrtle (my grandma), and Pearl from left to right.
To me the underlying story of The Dunbar Girls is there ability to be tough. Today everyone thinks you have got to be tenacious in our times of stressful jobs. These girls had to be strong and resilient watching people they loved around them dying. There is nothing that can compare to that in my opinion. These Irish girls became mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers because of modern changes in our health care..They could still live in rural Kentucky and finally get treatment when they needed it for these basic needs. Below you will see a photo of my grandmother who like all her siblings started a family very young. She was 16 years old when she married my grandfather Willie Jenkins:
But at this same time as she began to raise a family- she saw her own mother die at the age of 40 from another ailment that it seems no medical doctor could explain in 1926. Below you will see a picture of her with my great grandfather and then 6 months prior to her dying.
Why do I share such a story? In reality I had a hard time bringing myself to it, but as my husband has said I need to talk about this part of my family like I have written about other family lines. I want you to know I loved my grandparents. I came very late in their lives and in fact was one of their last grandchildren. I am very proud to say I am part Irish. Today all these 7 wonderful ladies are gone, but they all lived long lives and paved the way for their daughters and granddaughters. In this picture below I remember this being taken as the sisters were together in 1977 for the first time in 53 years on the farm they grew up on.
I hope you will take the time and look at the stories of these women in my link below I am providing. The link is of their father and then as you read his story, you can then click into each of his children and see pictures of them..
And now I bid you farewell in Irish. Until my next installment: Slan!!!!