Monday, April 29, 2019

The Family Secret

         My Great Grandmother was born December 2, 1867, and died December 12, 1955. She was my mother’s mother’s mother. I have one vague memory of greeting Grandma (Josephine Day) Saunders and her exuding love toward me.  I knew that she had raised my Grandmother and her five siblings with my Great Grandfather absent most of the time. 
        My Great Grandfather, Franklin Gifford was the Captain of a barge on the Erie Canal.  He routinely traveled from one end of the Great Lakes to the other.  The Canal went right through our hometown of Rochester, NY.  He would visit his family and sometimes leave money for them.  When asked what became of him my Grandmother told me that he got sick on one of his travels and finally died out west. 
        I had no reason not to believe my Grandmother’s story, until one day my uncle told me that it was a family secret.  He told me that when he was a little boy, he visited a hospital with my Grandmother.  He had to wait outside on the lawn, while they went in to visit with Franklin, who was very sick.  My uncle told me that his Grandfather waved at him from his hospital room that day.  He died the next day.
        Evidently, in addition to being the Captain of a barge on the Erie Canal, he was also a two gun totting gambler of some repute.  In Chicago he got in a fight over gambling and shot some guy dead.  My Great Grandfather then went to prison until he was about to die.  He was released to go home to say goodbye to his family. 
        I like the true story better than my Grandmother’s propaganda.  She was raised when it was vitally important what people thought of you.  She was ashamed of the truth so she invented a story.  Her story allowed her to hold her head up.  
        I’m glad my uncle told me the true story.  While my Great Grandfather may have been considered a desperado, I believe the true story adds a certain flair to my ancestry.