Friday, October 12, 2012

Gone Home




My sister Wendy and I went on a walk and I showed her the little graveyard in the park that adjoins our parents' neighborhood. It is an ancient plot, with graves dating back to the early 1800s. We examined each marker, reading the names, births, and dates of each deceased buried there. The saddest were the many young people and babies who had barely lived before dying. My favorite headstone was the one for Jane, which had a carving of a hand with a finger pointing upward and the words, "Gone Home."

We found that the little cemetery was the Broas family plot. All we knew of the Broas from the marker was that they were a pioneer family that gave Endwell its shared history. Endwell is my parents' little community. We also noted that 1853 was a very rough year on the Broas family, with many deaths.

When I went home, I got on the internet to see what I could learn of the Broas, and why they were credited with the start of Endwell. It took a bit of digging, but finally I did find a little information from a great great great great grandson of Peter Broas, the patriarch.

Peter Broas came to the town of Union, present day Endwell, in 1816. He was a Quaker, and I found it endearing that his family was described as always cloaked in Quaker clothes, and living in great comfort with his family all their lives. They always practiced Quaker "principle of peace with all men." They settled to farm the land. The description of their farm by the descendent, D.W. Patterson is quoted below:
"Their house and barn were shingled on the sides as well as the roof, with good pine shingles after the fasion then common in Eastern N.Y. and SW Connecticut, a fact that made their buildings as noticeable as their garb."

The Broas had purchased their land through "the Boston Purchase company", which was a group of Massachusetts investors. This Boston group had travelled to upstate NY and negotiated with the Oneida Indians to buy their land, all the way to the town of Owego, some twenty miles distant. That is where my brother John lives. The Boston Purchase bought half of Owego. The other half had already been wrangled from the natives by James McMaster. My brother lives on McMaster street! How strange the many links that connect us are!

Then I researched what happened in upstate NY in 1853, that might have caused so many deaths. There were three major epidemics raging in 1852-3: thypus, cholera, and diptheria. I was sad for the Broas, losing so many children that year. But apparently despite it all, they thrived and continued to live in their quiet Quaker home with the beautiful pine shingles. Most comforting, they found peace in knowing that Jane, when she was buried, had "Gone Home."

Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 (NIV)
when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. [6] Remember him---before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, [7] and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 (NIV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. [12] I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. [13] That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil---this is the gift of God. [14] I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.


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