Clara Lureene (Womack) Wood Finstad Letter
Donated to the Union County site by Gary Jaensch
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.