Clara Lureene (Womack) Wood Finstad Letter

Donated to the Union County site by Gary Jaensch
Copyright 2002


      To My Dear Family

     This Will Be the History of My Two Families

     The Hammack’s and Womack’s as to my ability to remember.
Memory is a beautiful thing, but in old age it fails us.

      The Hammack family as I was told, were from Kentucky, I don’t know much about my Great Great Grandparents, other than they settled in Union County, in the town of LaGrande, Oregon. I don’t know the dates.

      To the bests of my knowledge the children were Nancy, Amanda, and my Grandfather Wesley and Daniel. There were probably more. I remember Aunt Nancy and her family. Aunt Amanda lived in La Grande. I remember going to her house once. Uncle Daniel was a dear man. He lived with us at one time. He never married. I remember him so well.

      I don't know much about my grandmother’s family only her name was Sarah Miller. They lived in Indiana. My grandfather went over to Indiana from Kentucky, there he met her and they were married. They lived in Indiana. One son, my Uncle Linze was born there.

 When the wagon trains were coming west; they joined one and came to Oregon over the old Oregon Trail. The date I do not know. It seems like it took some time, as they stopped in the State of Nebraska to work to earn money. I had one Aunt born there. Her name was Josephine.

      They First settled in Union County, Oregon. Later they went on to the Willamette valley; my Uncle Lafe was born there. Later they came back to Union County settling in Summerville.

     They had seventeen children borned to them. Seven died while children, mostly in the diphtheria epidemic that hit Grand Ronde valley.

     Later my Grandparents with their family came to Wallowa County from Summerville. I think the date must have been about 1879 or 1880. The Homestead Act was then so they took up a government claim. Later a timber claim and as he prospered bought more land and they were well off.

     Their farm was just a mile from the top of lostine, Oregon, just over the hill as it was called. I spent many times going to see them. They raised ten children and three grandchildren. They are: Lindsey Hammack, Josephine Hammack Cook, Lafe Hammack, Bert Hammack, Effie Hammack Cook, Carrie Hammack Caudle, Marion Hammack, Emily Hammack Womack Gastin, my mother, Floyd Hammack, Hattie Hammack Leonard.

     My grandmother was a kind and loving women. My grandfather died when I was about 12 or 13, but I remember him well. I can remember him driving to town in a buggy with his old horse named old Bill. He would bring us girl’s apples to eat as he drove past our home.

     He was not able to work, he had asthma so bad, he came to town and he and some old friends, I remember them so well, we called them Uncle Bridwell and Mr. Van Pelt. They would sit on benches that were on the street and spend the time.

     My grandmother lived on the farm after grandfather’s death with my Uncles, Marion and Floyd who farmed the land. After Uncle Floyd married they built a little house for grandmother near by. It still stands today on the old farm. She lived to a ripe old age and is buried in the Summerville Cemetery beside grandfather and her children. It is an old Cemetery, sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful valley. I have visited it a few times.

     My sisters Gladys and Mina and I loved to go to grandma’s house. I remember she had a feather bed, we probably slept in it with her. She always had her table full of food. I can remember the dried apple pies and the chicken and dumplings she made, company was always welcome.

     We had two Aunts who lived on farms near each other. They married two brothers, Uncle Dick and Uncle Mack Cook. We loved to go to their house. I spent more time at my Aunt Effies. She was my favorite Aunt. She had three children, Roy, Grace and Charles who were our ages. One time when I was 15 years old and spending some time with her, she was going to have a picture of Grace taken. She made me a pretty dress and had a picture made of me.

     I liked my Great Uncle Dan. I was about 10, when he lived a while with us. He never married; he was a kind man. One time he gave me a pretty dish to put in my playhouse. It belonged to his mother, my Great Grandmother; I have kept it all these years. Now I have given it to my daughter, it will be kept in the family.
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THE WOMACK FAMILY

     I do not know much about my father’s family. They lived in Missouri. Father’s mother died, I was told, when he was born. I don’t know my grandfather’s name for sure but I believe it was William. My father’s name was Jacob E. Womack. My Grandmothers name was Lureene. I was named after her and my granddaughter; Kathryn Lureene is also named after her. I have been told that my ancestors came from Wales and were coal miners. They settled in Virginia when they came from Wales.  This information was given to me by a cousin. When a young man, my father came to Wallowa to live with his brother, my Uncle John, who had come to the west years before. He then came to Lostine where other relatives lived, here he met my mother and they were married. I do not know the date. I was born July 10, 1897 near Lostine, Oregon. My sister Gladys was born May 28, 1900 and my sister Mina on December 12, 1903. I also had a half sister Leola. (Leola was a child of Emily’s and was raised by Sarah --by gary jaensch). She married at at an early age so we weren't very close. When I was seven years old, my father died in 1904 so, I can’t remember him too well, I can remember him teaching me my A B C’s. A relative told me that my grandfather remarried and raised another family. I do remember my Uncle John but not well though. I did go to their home some when I was a small girl.

     I was well acquainted with some of my cousins, Bertha, Fanny, Marion and William. Some cousins of my father came west in the early days. I am not sure if Uncle William Womack was his uncle. His wife was Aunt Martha. They had a large family. I remember most of them, especially Uncle Croft, as we called him. His family was close to us. Also a daughter, Aunt Mary Bell Ward and her family. This Womack family came west from Illinois and Missouri. Some other cousins settled in Idaho, later coming to Oregon. The one I knew best was Lee Womack.
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Womack and Gastin Family

     When I was 9 years old my mother and Thomas Gastin were married and he became a real father to us girls. We loved him dearly. He was a poor man, working to support us. He worked mostly on farms. Later when the railroads came to Wallowa County he worked on them.

     The Gastin family came west from Missouri and settled near the town of Wallowa, between Wallowa and Lostine, along the river road as we called it. Papa Gastin had three brothers, Uncle Frank, Uncle Archie and Uncle James. He also had two sisters, Aunt Jennie and Aunt Nellie. The Gastin families treated us girls as their own. Uncle Archie never married. Uncle Jim and his wife aunt Kate lived on wheat farm a few miles from Wallowa. They had a family of four sons and one daughter, we girls loved to go visit them and spent many happy times with them. Uncle Jim died quite young; Aunt Kate lived to an old age. My children also loved to visit her when they were young.

     Mother and Papa had a long marriage and a good life together. Papa died in 1942 and mother died in 1949. My parents are all buried in the Lostine Cemetery. (Emily’s grave is between Jacob Womack and Thomas McClellan Gastin’s)

     Wallowa County was Indian country. They lived there, the hunting and fishing was good and they loved the rivers and mountains.

     In 1867, a treaty was signed with the government and by 1871 settlers began to come into Wallowa County, many settled in Lostine, a little place.

     After the Homestead Act was made, more came mostly from the east and Lostine became a town. It was named Lostine after a town called Lostine, Kansas because so many people from Kansas settled there. So many farms came into use as well as businesses in town. By the time I was a child it had several stores, two hotels, drug store, blacksmith shop, a gristmill, meat market, bakery, schools and church. I have such fond memories of my childhood years and as a teenager there.

     The winters were long and a lot of snow, which we liked to play in. When spring came we girls would go to Lostine hill and other places to pick wild flowers. We looked forward to that. It was said there were Indian graves on the hill.

     By the time I was a teenager we had other things to do. In the winter there was school activities. Some parties and basketball. My sister Gladys and I were on a team and of course sledding and skating. When we were older we went to dances some. So I had a happy childhood. We had a good home where there was no strife and plenty of love from Mother and Papa. My sisters and I were always close and still are.

     Later the City had a civic building where lots of activities were held. Finally we had a motion picture show, the silent type. In the summer there wasn’t much to do. Gladys and I found what work we could.

     As you see our young lives were filled with love although, we had some bad times and some tragedies when we were small. There was an old cook stove in our back yard so, one day we got some matches and was going to put a fire in it. The outcome was that, I caught on fire and almost lost my life. I was down for a long time; I still have a scar on my hip. Another time my sister Gladys contracted typhoid fever and her life was in danger. One time we lived on a farm my Papa was leasing and a near tragedy almost occurred. There was an irrigation ditch running not far from the barn lot. It wasn’t very wide, so Gladys and I decided to take our little sister Mina, who was four or five for a boat ride, so we made one by tying a rope in each handle of a washing tub. We put her in it, one of us on each side of the ditch. We did fine until we came to the footbridge and we had to let it go, so she went on down. Luckily Papa heard us scream and rescued her. We almost got a good spanking that time. I remember we were sent to the house to stay in. Papa didn’t believe in using a paddle. These are a few little stories I thought might be of interest.

     Later we moved to Echo, Oregon where Papa was employed on the railroad. Mina was in school then.... Gladys and I were working, she at the post office and I at a hotel.

     At this time World War One was on and it was a sad time. In the winter of 1918, there was a terrible flu epidemic and many people died. All of us had it except Mina.

     While working at the hotel, I met a young man, James Franklin Wood and on January 14, 1919 we were married. Three children were born to us, Marjorie Ellen, October 29, 1920, and Sarah LaVonne, November 18, 1921, and LeLand James, August 21, 1926. Marjorie was born in Hermiston, Oregon, LaVonne in Stanfield and LeLand in Wallowa.

     James (Jim) was working as a signal maintainer at the time on the railroad and we lived in Echo, Oregon. We lived in Durkee, Oregon, Princeton, Idaho and Wallowa, Oregon. We had a good marriage for nineteen years, when he became ill and on May 3, 1938 after a long illness with cancer, he passed away, he is buried in the Lostine Cemetery. Memory still lingers on of a good husband and a loving father.

     Later I met an old friend, Hans Finstad. Friendship was renewed and on February 3, 1940 we were married. At that time he lived in Baker, Oregon where he worked for Oregon Lumber Mill. We made our home in Baker. He was a good stepfather to my children. LeLand was a boy of 13 when we were married and he raised him as his own son.

     We were privileged to have had 44 years together, living in the same home we bought when we married. On November 23, 1983 he passed away and is buried in Baker, Oregon.

    I am now living in Port Lavacca, Texas where my daughter LaVonne has so kindly taken me into her home.

    I have 9 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

Part Two

     Just a few episodes of interest of the things my sisters and I did besides those I have written. My grandson Gary has asked me to write of them.

     My sister Gladys was always with me and one time a girl at school, Hazel Winings, called her a tag tail. No one was going to call my sister that, so I put up a good fight and hit her. It was recess at school I got in trouble with my teacher. One time Gladys got in trouble at school. She and some others played hooky and a lady who was a good friend to all of us wrote excuses but they got caught. She got a good scolding from Mother.

     When we lived on Uncle Jim’s farm, there was a wheat bin full of grain. One day Gladys and I decided to play in it but papa found us before anything happened. One time when we were at Uncle Jim’s playing on the barn loft, where there was a hay barn with high rafters and we had been to a circus in town. Gladys and Laura decided to do a trapeze act on the rafters with a rope, but Roy and I being scared called Mother and Aunt Kate. Both girls got a good licking. One time when we lived on this farm we had to walk to school. This time it was winter and on our way home we got caught in a bad snowstorm. We could hardly see, but Papa had told us to always stay by a fence so we did. Luckily Papa came and found us.

     When Gladys was a little girl some gypsies came to Lostine where we lived and they started to walk away with her. They were down the street, but mother ran and got her. The gypsies came and camped there at times.

     Almost every summer, a merry go round came and stayed for several days. It was the highlight of the summer and then there was the 4th of July celebration. There wasn’t much going on in the summer. In the winter there was sledding on the hills and skating on the pond.

     Christmas we had a tree at church. It always was a big one with homemade decorations. We had a program to, and then candy was given to all the children as our names were called. There was a community tree for all of us. In those days we didn’t put up trees in our homes, but we put up stockings. Christmas was a happy time, not commercial. People went to church and family homes.

     Easter was nice too. I remember we girls always had a new dress. I remember one time I had a little Parasol and I was happy to have it. I think it was pink.

     A few other things I remember about us girls, Mina Being younger wasn’t in on the things we did, but one time when I was about 17 I had a boy friend who lived in Enterprise. He wrote me a letter every day and ended by saying I like you yes I do. I wouldn’t let Gladys see them and I hid them in the wood shed in a sack of feathers but, Gladys got Mina to get them and showed them to some of her friends who called me yes I do. I got even with her, I wore a new dress of hers before she did, was she ever mad.

     One time I had a boyfriend, who lived in Wallowa, so one Saturday I baked a cake and I thought I had it safe as I was going to serve it to him and other friends. But when I went to get it she had found it and had taken it to her friends. I always got mad at her but not for long, we always stuck together and were known as the Womack girls.

     Our Mother was a good Mother, we could always talk to her, she always gave us good advice. Papa was such a good father; he always looked after us and knew where we were and whom we were with. I wondered often how he knew so much. He never yelled at us, just talked. I don’t think us girls ever kept any thing from them. This is the end of these little stories, but the memory lingers on. I was lucky to have such loving parents and two sisters who were and still are very dear to me.