CATEGORY: GRASS VALLEY
PHOTO: HARVEY AND INEZ
After my Uncle Harvey died of tuberculosis at age twenty five, his wife, who had been Inez Jones, and her two year old daughter, Velma, remained important members of our family. Velma was the first grandchild of Emma and Levi May. She was a beautiful little girl with curly blonde hair and blue eyes, and she was adored by all the May’s and all her Jones family. After Inez married her second husband, Emil Cramer, her child by that marriage, Loy Cramer, was our cousin even though he was not a blood relation.
I saw Inez often during her last years when Velma was living near Port Townsend and Inez was in a retirement home there. I listened with fascinated interest to the stories she told about her life and the history of her family.
Her Jones grandfather had been a prosperous farmer in Illinois when he decided to sell his property and go west. Inez told me that he did not join a wagon train; he made his own wagon train. He hired drovers to drive all his livestock to Oregon. “And they said” she half whispered conspiratorially, “that he had SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS hidden in his wagon!” When he got to the Willamette Valley near Salem, he started buying land from the Indians for twenty five cents an acre. He acquired so much land that his nick-name around Salem was “Hog Jones.” He was able to leave an ample sized farm to each of his twelve children. One of his sons, Harrison Jones, Inez’ father, then proceeded to do the same thing for his children. That is how Inez happened to have a beautiful little farm in Brooks, north of Salem, where she lived most of her life. When she moved into the retirement home, Loy went on living on the farm even though he had become a doctor.
Death was a more common thing for younger people in those years than it is now. I always marveled at the calm way that Inez spoke of the many deaths in her family. She had three siblings, two older brothers and a younger sister. Her oldest brother died as a result of being gassed in the First World War. The next brother was killed from being kicked in the head by a horse when he was only fifteen. Her mother died in childbirth when Inez’ baby sister was born, and that sister died at age two. Harrison then married a wonderful woman with three sons, and the couple had four more sons. Two of those seven boys died, and the five who lived all became doctors or dentists. Harrison was killed when he was in his fifties. He was attempting to remove a tree that had blown down in his front yard. He had cut the trunk into rounds, thus lightening the tree’s weight, and was down in the hole chopping at the remaining roots, when it up-ended, crushing him. Then Inez married my Uncle Harvey, “the May with the twinkle in his eye,” she said with a wistful smile. He was the uncle that died before I was born. Inez lost every member of her immediate family to early death, and yet she was one of the most pleasant, easy going people I have ever met. Perhaps she got so used to trauma at an early age that any unpleasant thing that happened after that seemed mild in comparison.