My family’s thread is long and unbroken and woven into the fabric of America. Penningtons, Gillards, Peaveys, and Campbells, Strands, Thoresons, and Tollefsons emigrated from nations in Europe, settled America, tilled her soil, fed her people, sent sons and husbands and brothers to fight America’s wars, worked in her factories, and helped make her a great nation. The blood of brave men and women courses through my veins and propels me on.
Arthur Lee Campbell served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War. William Jackson Pennington enlisted in the 64th Georgia regiment during the Civil War. Charles McPheeters Campbell graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, left as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church and became one of the earliest settlers of Boulder, Colorado.
Ole and Nettie Thoreson left their home in Aurdal, Norway as part of the Norwegian migration when that great people left their homes and farms and sailed to America aboard crowded ships packed with families seeking a better future for their children. Upon arriving in Baltimore, Maryland Nettie and Ole crossed America’s heartland by wagon and horseback. Nettie worked as a midwife, and Ole became the first postmaster of Soldier, Iowa. When their home burned to the ground in the 1870s they pulled up roots once again and left to farm in Valmont, Colorado.
William Wagner Gillard settled in Ontario, Canada and then moved his family to Colorado in the early twentieth century. The Campbells left Scotland for Virginia. The Peaveys came from York, England and followed their neighbors to Georgia. They all left their ancestral homes to seek better lives for themselves and their children in America.
My niece Cellie’s maternal grandfather was my dad, John William Pennington, son of William Gordon Pennington and Cellie Estelle Peavey. Dad grew up listening to the stories of his parents as they told the stories of their families. When Dad turned seventeen he enlisted in the Navy and fought in World War Two. He served as a gunner’s mate aboard a troop landing ship and saw action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. His ship took a terrible mauling in the Battle of Okinawa and almost sank, but Gunner’s Mate Second Class John Pennington survived, returned home and married Margery Lucille Gillard; they raised a family of five children, four daughters and a son. Dad served during two more wars, Korea and Vietnam, and then retired from the Service in 1968. He worked hard at many jobs before finally retiring for good at the age of 62 in Tampa, Florida. Soon after he retired his daughter Sally gave birth to Cellie Estelle.
I couldn’t be there the first time dad held Cellie in his strong hands. But I know the flood of thoughts that passed through his mind as he held her were thoughts of his beloved mother, Cellie Estelle, and of his mother’s and his wish for a better future for their children and grandchildren. The thread grows longer and stronger with each new generation.
© 2014 Will Penny