Most of us feel that the American Civil War happened a very long time ago, but I realized how recently it truly took place when I rifled through my grandfather’s old trunk. As a matter of fact, my Grandfather, William Grant McNeal, was a post war baby. . . a post Civil War baby. He was born in 1866. I am still amazed by that. I am a post World War II baby. We should be worlds apart, but we weren’t.
My Grandfather, William Grant McNeal
My dad was the youngest of three sons, Donald, John and James. Each of the boys was born at least 5 years apart. My grandparents presumably planned the distance between their children on purpose so they could afford to send each of them to college. I commend them for their responsible considerations. I remember my grandfather was very old when I was a little girl. He was 88 when he died, Pop was 41 and I was 6. He came to live with us the last few months of his life because my dad was worried about him living alone in the little red school house in Numidia, Pennsylvania where his three sons were raised. Pop hired a pilot named Windy Carr to take his small Cessna plane to fly home to Numidia to bring my grandfather to North Carolina. I remember him as quiet, intellectual and patient. He brought his trunk, filled with family history with him.
My dad, James and his two brothers, Donald and John
Although I never met my great grandfather, also a William, my dad did have a chance to know him and told me a few things about him. Pop described him as having steely gray eyes and, like his own father, he was an academic with old world manners and sense of honor. My great grandfather fought in the Union Calvary in the Civil War. He was lucky enough to make it home, but as far as I know, he never spoke of the war. Instead, he focused on providing his children with an education…including his daughters. It warms my heart to learn that my great grandfather thought women were smart and needed to be educated and self-reliant. My grandfather and my father passed on that respect for women and their expectations that women should be educated and equal. Ya gotta love them for that. My two great aunts, Maggie and Irene, are legendary in our family for their independent thinking. Even my grandmother, Matilda McNeal, was an independent thinker and political activist for women’s right to vote.
My Great Grandfather, William McNeal
Many people have met their great grandfathers. I wish I could have met mine. Still, I am awed by the fact that he fought in the Civil War and that fact makes the war not that far back in history for me.
One of my greatest joys in writing, is including bits of my family history into my stories. The Violin was a story about my Uncle John, Pop’s middle brother who died fly fishing with his friends when he was only twenty-one. I always thought it was so sad that he never had a chance to marry and have children. He played the violin and mandolin, traveled with an opera show from New York City all over the USA and Canada. He had an Indian motorcycle and, according to Pop who thought he raised the moon and stars into the sky, every woman in town was in love with him.
Rebecca Vickery Publishing
Rebecca Vickery Publishing
Creat Space (Print version):
I used Pop’s oldest brother, Donald, in For Love of Banjo. In the story, Banjo replaced Uncle Donald in a trench in France. Later, Donald show’s up at Banjo and Maggie’s ranch with an unforgettable gift. Uncle Donald in real life did fight in World War I, and I wanted to honor him for that.
FOR LOVE of BANJO
I think it’s fantastic that I can include my family history in my writing and I believe many of us do incorporate people and our life experiences in our stories. That’s what makes them special. What family history have you included in your own work? How does it make you feel to see some of your family history in your published work?
My Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/sarahmcneal