Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Meanest Man Who Ever Lived

I have accepted the challenge given by Amy Johnson Crow:  http://www.nostorytoosmall.com/posts/challenge-52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/
She has challenged us to write about 52 ancestors this year, and I have jumped at the opportunity.


My father's grandfather, Ambrose Clemens, was known as the one of the meanest men who ever lived.  That was the reputation that followed him long after he died. 

His talent was well-known.  If someone told him they wanted a room built on to their house, or even a new house built, he would ask them how big they wanted it, how many rooms, etc.  Then, he would calculate it in his head.  He would secure the materials and get to work.

When he was finished, there would barely be a splinter left over.

People in Carter County, Kentucky still talk about how he was so talented as a builder.  He probably would have been a wonderful engineer.

They also still talk about how mean he was.

Since I never met him, I wanted to try to figure out why he was so surly.  I have no pictures.  I heard he looked like Albert Einstein.
I began to look through my genealogy files for any clues relating to Ambrose's meanness.  This is the only thing I could realy find:

1.  His father, Francis, had to farm out his children because of the family's poverty, just as his own father, Benjamin had done to him.

2.  His father, Francis, had married three times.  Ambrose was the next-to-the last child in quite a large family.  He just may have been another mouth to feed.

3.  His grandfather, Benjamin, had been taken to court for cruelty to his wife, adultery, and beating his children.

4.  Ambrose married Mary Ann Brown, and soon after his own children started coming in close succession.  The first three were born in 1885, 1886, and 1887.  Five years passed before the fourth and final baby was born.  They were:
     Etta Bee - born 1885
     Richard Lee - born 1886 (my grandfather)
     Ollie Orie - born 1887
     Minnie Dorie - born 1892

Notice the 5-year gap between the last two children.

5.  Ollie Orie died in Sep 1893, and just two months later, mother Mary Ann died.

Ambrose was now a single father with three very young children. 

Ambrose continues to be found on censuses as a boarder, but never owning his own home or land.  The children were farmed out to others, as he had been, and as his own father had been.

Life was not real good to Ambrose, but he went on.  The children that lived turned out real fine, and they were kind.  I enjoyed going to Aunt Etta Bee's and Aunt Minnie's.  When my family moved from West Virginia to Ohio, they were stranded for several days in Portsmouth, Ohio.  Aunt Minnie took them in without a thought and fed them well. 

Sometimes we have to look at the whole picture of our ancestors.  It's more than just a bunch of names and dates.  It's "family history".

This has been reposted, as I have accepted the challenge given by Amy Johnson Crow:  http://www.nostorytoosmall.com/posts/challenge-52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/

6 comments:

  1. I took the challenge too! This is a great post :) I have tried to look at the "big picture" more than once in my research, and did my best to guess motives and ascertain "reasons" behind things. Enjoyed this!

    Beth at: abuckeyetree.wordpress.com

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  2. Great story, Peggy. I love how you have looked beyond the bare facts and developed some background to better understand the man. It is probably more than his contemporaries did for him. It was a very hard life.

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  3. Very interesting profile of your great-grandfather, and such a catchy title! Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Are you aware that in your great- grandfather's time "mean" commonly meant stingy or frugal? Your story of his sad life lends itself to this interpretation rather any cruelty. He probably had to count his pennies all his life just to get by. Look how his children turned out. It's too bad they're not around to give a better picture, and maybe defend his reputation.

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  5. Are you aware that in your great- grandfather's time "mean" commonly meant stingy or frugal? Your story of his sad life lends itself to this interpretation rather any cruelty. He probably had to count his pennies all his life just to get by. Look how his children turned out. It's too bad they're not around to give a better picture, and maybe defend his reputation.

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    Replies
    1. Bebee, you are entirely correct concerning the word "mean". It is well known that this can apply to certain descriptions, such as "mean time", or a "person of means".

      However, this is not the case in the story of Ambrose. Though he was born in the mid 1800's, my parents knew him very well, as did their parents. Even my sisters knew him! (I was born when most of my family was quite old. My sisters were 16, 19 and 21. My parents were born in the very early 1900's. Their parents were born in the 1880's)

      These family members knew him well, and he lived with them on several occasions. He took turns living with family members because no one could stand being around him for very long.

      So, this is more than just hearsay, and it's more than just a legend. It comes from actual accounts of people that knew him well, that opened their homes to him, and could give an accurate description of his personality.

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