Recently, my family and I have had the honor and pleasure to move into the farmhouse of my original Huntsburg ancestors. I say ‘pleasure’ in the sense of pride and nostalgia. The reality of moving into a drafty, oil-heated home during the coldest winter in decades thoroughly numbs that pleasure through the ol’ pocketbook! Nonetheless, this fulfills a childhood dream of mine and fits this seventh-generation Huntsburger like a hand fits a glove.
As the bustle and confusion of the moving process slowly subside, I have had some brief moments to reflect and take it all in. I’ve walked the woods and fields. I have stood in the places where structures once were; the cow barn, the sugar house, and the original log cabin my family lived in before construction of the current home. I’ve spent time in the horse barn, imagining it in its literal ‘hay-day.’ I’ve walked from room to room in the house, studying the eras of updates since 1822.
I have also pondered how I wish to leave my mark for future generations. To do that, I have been forced to reflect on a simple question with a not-so-easy answer. Who am I?
Some aspects of this almost mid-life evaluation are simple to name off, and easy to display. As a landscape designer, I will certainly plan to leave my flair on the property. The vegetable gardener in me cannot wait for the ground to thaw. Perhaps the easiest identifier to reflect is my genetic ties to this place, for which Jen and I have began collecting photographs and frames to construct a rather large and all-inclusive picture wall.
But this simple expression of my lineage begs me to dig deeper. As I hang these portraits and gaze into the eyes of my family, the ones that made me, the question ‘who am I?’ takes on a different meaning. This next series of articles, titled ‘A Tale of Two Families,’ will take a look into two of the namesakes from which this character came. While there are a great many more, like Koebel, Rose, Grace, and Daniels, the series will focus on the Pilarczyk and Clarke families for the fact that each of these lines, one on my father’s side and one my mother’s, spent the most years here in Huntsburg.
These two families were also selected for their distinctly different histories. The Clarkes have a fairly well-documented pedigree in the country going back to the early 1600’s. The Pilarczyks are relative newcomers, Polish immigrants arriving on our shores over two and a half centuries later. Their history is spotty and what has been passed down is mostly by mouth. The Clarkes were strongly-rooted in agriculture, the Pilarczyks worked wherever they could to make ends meet. Ebenezer Clark arrived in Huntsburg in 1818 with the ‘second wave’ of new settlers. Richard Pilarczyk came around 1930 with a wave of Eastern Europeans. While both of my great-grandfathers were farmers, one had a college degree and worked to implement some of the modern practices of the time. The other stuck to the Old World ways as society progressed. Many great times are remembered here at the Clarke farm. The Pilarczyk farm? Not so much.
And yet, as different as the pasts of these families were, they wound up within one-half of a mile of each other, and shared a few similarities. Both farmed. Both suffered through the Great Depression. Both dealt with alcoholism as a by-product of these times. Both sent family members into World War II. Both had members represent our town as trustees. And eventually, these two families would be tied together forever through the bonds of marriage – and genetics shortly thereafter!
I hope you enjoy this series, and also hope that it takes you on your own genealogical journey as you ask yourself – “Who am I?”