2003 Genealogy Trip
Monday, September 22nd
We remained at the Ronald Reagan Inn, but said, "goodbye" to our O'Kane relatives. We journeyed to De Kalb to visit with Chuck and Sharon Watkins and their family. Sharon is Donna's sister. Their home reflects all the work they've put in on it in recent years. We stopped by to see Chuck at his office in Rochelle. His receptionist was a real sport and allowed us to surprise him.
Donna (Heaslet) O'Kane and Sharon (Heaslet) Watkins
Alayna and Tara Watkins, Sharon and Chuck's daughters
A highlight was a trip to Deerfield north of Chicago to see the beautiful home that Alayna and her fiancée, Eric Weinstein bought. They have a delightful yellow lab pup named Prior. We all went out to dinner at a local restaurant where we spent our first evening with Sharon's family. After a long drive back to De Kalb, a nice long visit continued. On a late evening return to Dixon, we were rewarded by a view of Dixon's arch across the main drag north and south through town on the approach to the Rock River Bridge.
Tuesday, September 23rd
De Kalb, Illinois
We journeyed again to De Kalb to spend the afternoon and evening with Sharon and her family. Chuck had told us about the Rochelle Railroad Park, so on our way through, we enjoyed a stop there. Rochelle is a new, main switching point for container shipments throughout the Midwest and to and from both coasts.
We had prearranged to refill my liquid oxygen tank at Sycamore, Illinois, just north of De Kalb. We managed to get that done, although it took three trips to the facilities to do it. The best laid plans of mice and men.....
Sharon fixed a great dinner for all of us. We had a late evening visit and reluctantly said our farewells to the Watkins family and returned to Dixon for our last night at the Reagan Inn.
Wednesday, September 24th
We journeyed all the way from Dixon, Illinois to Rogers, Arkansas, arriving at our motel at about 7:30 pm. Needless to say, we didn't let the moss grow under our feet, nor did we stop to take pictures.
Thursday, September 25th
The objectives of the trip to Arkansas was more goal oriented. Donna had some specific information that she wanted to obtain about her father's early family history on which research she had spent considerable time. We stayed at Rogers because it was close to Bentonville where the James H. Berry Research Center was located; Lowell, where I was scheduled to refill my oxygen on Friday in preparation for the trip home; and Decatur, where Donna's father's family settled in Arkansas. She also wanted to see what we could do about locating the graves of some of her newly identified relatives from the early 1800's. We met one of the nicest, most accommodating people ever at the research center. Her name was Pat Campbell (above and right finding something on the shelves for Donna). She stayed right with us and offered valuable assistance. She really knew what she had and how it was best used. We owe her much gratitude for the success of this part of the trip.
We also traveled to Decatur where the Heaslets made their home after leaving Tennessee. Here is where they lived during the Civil War. The Heaslet Cemetery is located on what is now Petersen Farms property. When they began to tear down the Heaslet family frame house on their newly acquired property, they found this delightful log cabin underneath the framing on the house. It was in great condition because of the protection afforded by the framing. They numbered the logs and reconstructed the cabin on main street by the Decatur Museum. It stands there today with period furniture and cooking utensils at the hearth. This is the second time we visited the cabin. It's not the kind of thing of which you tire.
Friday, September 26th
As a result of her research, we visited three cemeteries in Arkansas and located every grave for which she sought the location. Only one of those cemeteries had anything like a directory. The rest were just "seek and ye shall find". She found her great-great-grandmother and grandfather's grave which is a prize I never expected her to accomplish. True miracles can happen if you are unaware of how difficult the task. I was so proud of her and her accomplishments. There is a quality of tenacity that is required for good genealogical research and my bride certainly has it.
She also found her great-grandmother Margaret's grave in Oak Hill Cemetery in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. She is buried there beside her husband, Ed Bartell. Margaret's first husband and Donna's great-grandfather, William Heaslet, was killed in an ambush by the Ingle mob following the Civil War.
Saturday, September 27th
On the return trip to Centennial, we took a circuitous route from south east to northwest across Oklahoma and into Kansas so we could see the country in Eastern Colorado to which my grandfather and his brother had settled after leaving Illinois. We tried to contact Judy (O'Kane) and Russell Grogan to meet us for coffee when passing through Holly, but couldn't make contact. Judy and Russell did not make the reunion because of extensive travels with Ray and Helen earlier demanded they not take time away from their professional interests. We're sorry we missed. They live in a delightful little town. You could feel the warmth and lack of artificial influences. They were preparing for a their fall festival and had bands, drill teams, equestrian teams and other parade paraphernalia as well as a carnival. Maybe next time. In the meantime, know we really liked your town.