Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lucy J. Dutton

On the back of this cabinet card is writ:
Sam, Granny Dutton, Anna with Dan
Dutton, Sarah with Willie, Norman.

Granny, before she married, was
Lucy Jane Browning. With her granny
Pennington she fled
the 1833 cholera epidemic
in Jefferson Co.
Kentucky, to make their home in
Sweet Spring Missouri. Amongst the
inventory of things her
grandfather left, the iron pots and skillets,
an oven with its hook and legs, the sheets,
the quilts and beds, dishes, spoons, forks and knives,
the shoats, the steers, and thirty geese, were
listed slaves, including one, named Harriet
who would have been
age 32 the year that Pete was born.
She was the property of
Grandmother Pennington, who, we guess,
motivated by her love, gave Harriet's son, or sons,
to be
Lucy's living dowry.

My great grandfather, Daniel (1)
met her at the state fair in Louisville,
there to sell his wagon load of timber cut
from Dutton Hill's great forest of oaks. They
married in Missouri, 1844, and would have stayed
but on a visit home his father David
offered his seventh son 200 acres of the Dutton
farm, if he and Lucy would move back and tend it.
Daniel went back alone, on horseback to Sweet Springs,
and brought back Charles and Pete. Two years
later Lucy's younger sister, Susan America Browning,
married Martin, Daniel's brother.

In the photograph, Granny Lucy sits, it seems to me,
in self-possessing confidence. Dan holds Anna, who
will die in days of turning six. Sam and Norman, the sons
of Nannie, Dan's first wife, stand at each side. Willie, bedridden
when I knew her as a child, here is a child herself. In the camera
flash she almost merges into her mother, Sarah Belle's
voluminous snow white dress.

On the seat, at Lucy's back, is a crazy quilt, a novelty
in 1896. Phyllis says the stitches aren't by Sarah's hand.
It could be Granny Dutton pieced it herself. If so, some
scrap of wool in it that touched her husband's skin
is as close as I may come to him, great grandfather
who gave me my name. I have no proof that a brass
masonic snuffbox, rashly given to a former lover,
was his. There is, however, a story, that Lucy introduced
her grandchildren to smoke, by
asking them to light, with fireplace coals,
her corncob pipe.

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