Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sweet Fifteen

"Be careful what you wish for... might come true."

My children often ask how wishes come true. I tell them that if they'll say them out loud they have a better chance of getting what they wish for. 

But there's also something else I've been contemplating for a while that I should probably tag on to my advice to proclaim their heart's desire to the world. And that is that wishes, once they hit the vast expanse of the human mind, even before they see the light of day, take on a life of their own.

Elizabeth Ann Wheeler turned fifteen on March 19, 1840. She was living in Boston, Massachusetts with her mom and one of her seven older siblings. She was the baby of the family. Wonder what SHE wished for as she blew out her birthday candles? Maybe her hopes and dreams included a 25 year-old Uphard Crossman Johnson of Vermont?

By Uphard's 26th birthday in July of that same year she would be pregnant, and by October 10th, three months later, they'd be newlyweds. 

"We would often be sorry if our wishes were granted."
~ Aesop ~

That's what I want to ask Elizabeth and Uphard. Any regrets? Would you do it all over again?

William Henry Harrison Johnson was born 10 days before Elizabeth turned 16. What an adjustment she would make first to married life and then motherhood! Little Elizabeth was born 2 years later and was followed by James two years after her. 

Six more children came to bless their family before Elizabeth turned 39. And of those nine only four would outlive both parents. Edward they buried twice. The first died when he was four. His namesake when he was thirty-eight, six years before Elizabeth passed away, eleven after his dad, Uphard. I can't imagine the heatbreak losing a four year-old! On Independence day no less!

They'd been married thirty years in 1870. Uphard supported his family as a carpenter in East Cambridge, Mass. when the census-taker came strolling along in the middle of June. 

I looked at the bottom of the census record where a space is left for "Total Insane"... as in, how many insane lived in the neighborhood, not were they totally insane! 

Can you imagine how your neighbors would answer that one for you? Do you know how many times I've had to chase a naked baby down the street in every season, or threaten a teenager with certain death if the snowbank they were jumping into from the second story of the house didn't kill them first? Not because I was worried. But what would the NEIGHBORS say?!!

The space was empty. No one was talking!

Did the census taker REALLY ask that question? 

And if so, who answered it? I can see Elizabeth staring at Uphard, hands on hips, waiting for his reply with lips clenched and eyes that said, "Watch what you say, Buddy!" And Uphard's eyes shifting between her and Mr. census-taker pleading, "Help me! Please?" as his mouth cheerfully oozed, "No crazies here!"

There should have been another box to check:

  • Would an extended stay on the premises make one insane?

And a child would be required to answer. 

Because if anyone would ask Elizabeth or Uphard they'd get the thumbs up, everything's fine here. There had been enough sorrow from death and impending war service to shake even the surest foundation, never mind one that may have begun at the end of a shotgun as a sweet fifteen-year-old girl and her beau tied the knot.

Seems to me they did very well, all things considered. 

And if there was ever a wish to be had it's that no matter what life gives you, you accept it graciously and enjoy the ride having done your duty setting it in motion.

That phrase doesn't sit right with me. If you're going to make a wish, to dream, why not go for the gusto? Be careful? Makes no sense to me at all.

I like Elizabeth.


  1. I have fifteen Elizabeth Wheelers in my family tree, all living in Massachusetts, but none later than 1800. They lived in Concord, Roxbury, Malden, Lynn, Ipswich and other places near Boston... maybe relatives?

  2. Heather,

    I just started adding details to Elizabeth (1825-1896, Boston, Middlesex, Ma.). I know her mom is Bethia (b. 1786 / New Hampshire). I haven't looked for her dad, yet.
    Elizabeth married Uphard Crossman Johnson ( b. 1814, Vermont ) on Oct 11, 1840. I haven't searched for Bethia before the 1850 census. Maybe her mom is one of your Elizabeth's? Let me know. It would be so much fun to see a connection!!

  3. I just love the way you weave your Ancestors lives into a real story that is not only entertaining but makes me think!

    Totally Insane would surly have been checked on my


    Ann Jane

  4. what a beautiful story, and so well written!

  5. LOL ,Jane! It's fun stuff. Right? We're all a bit nuts to everybody else. They just don't tell us!

  6. Yep, if you are going to wish might as well go big.

    1. Right, Jack! Or it's not a dream! Write those novels Jack! There's a dream. Good job for DOING it!

  7. Haha! I kind of like the feeling of being "Totally Insane" and self-labeled as such. It would almost give a feeling of freedom to truly follow your heart.

  8. Frequent conversations with God and all the friendship, love, wisdom, understanding, courage, prudence, justice, self-control, and joy that must come of such conversations. Holiness and all the associated gifts including the grace to heal, cast out demons, and understand-speak all languages. A 100 Million dollars at the present or better exchange rate. SOON.

    In 40 days or less.

    MacBook Pro
    2.5 Ghz quad core Intel Core i7 Processor
    8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM — 2x4GB Memory
    512GB Solid State Drive
    MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Res Antiglare Widescreen Display
    Three 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Additional Displays
    Two Promise Pegasus 12TB (6x2TB) R6 RAID Storage Systems
    Two Adobe Creative Suites CS5.5 Web Premium
    Two Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 Business Editions

  9. Oh, boy! That's quite the list! Knowing what you want is the first step! Posting it for others to read the second. We will spread the word for you, Stan! None of it is out of the range of possibility. I'll talk to God for you! LOL!

  10. nice idea. thanks for sharing...


What do you think? I'd love to know.