Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bransons, Part III: Hellen and Troy

Troy Branson 1875-1954
Hellen Branson 1877-1918

Yamhill county, the blue line is the Willamette River
George Washington Branson's family (see Bransons, Part II) lived on a farm in Yamhill County, which the Willamette River runs through.  From 1869-1887 the farmers of the Willamette Valley had their own newspaper, the Willamette Farmer. “We strive to make it interesting and readable,” an early editorial declared, “and hope to see it in the hands of every man and women interested in lands, agriculture and kindred interests.”

But from 1873 until about 1880, the Willamette Farmer fell in love with a subject that was as far afield from the daily lives of its readers as it was possible to get: Schliemann's excavations at Troy.  And the Bransons, in their farmhouse full of seven children, clearly fell in love as well.  Read some excerpts of the Willamette Farmer articles, and picture a big family at the kitchen table, reading of this far off time and place at the end of their long days:

Oct. 5, 1872: He is disappointed at finding no trace of Trojan civilization, but intends to continue his search and reach the virgin earth trod by the first inhabitants of the laud, if compelled to dig to the
depth of fifty feet. He hopes to shed light, by his excavations, on "the greatest darkness of pre-historic time, and to enrich science by the discovery of a few curious pages of the most ancient history of the great Hellenic nation." 

Dec. 28, 1872: The latest excavations at Troy have led to the discovery of a burnt house at the depth of forty-seven feet, which contained the complete skeleton of a Trojan woman with her gold ornaments.  The bones of a child were also found in the original soil.

Sonya Schliemann, wearing jewels from the find.  

Sep. 6, 1873: The telegraph brings one of the most poetic themes for an editorial that the heart of man could wish for.  It gives the details of a great discovery made in the course of an antiquarian's researches on the site of the ancient city of Troy . . . Mr. Schliemann yesterday returned from Troy, having completed his excavations after three years of labor by a grand master-stroke.  He has discovered the palace of Priam and a large treasure in gold and silver.  He has carried away with him forty large cases containing various articles, also 15 baskets of real treasures.  I saw in his house today gold goblets and vases, which shine just like the gold of our age.

May 14, 1875: (The editors continue the romance, in a piece titled "Aged Beauties") Helen of Troy was over forty when she perpetrated the most famous elopement on record, and, as the siege of Troy lasted a decade, she could not have been very juvenile when the ill-fortune of Paris restored her to her husband, who is reported to have received her with unquestioning love and gratitude.

April 20, 1877: (Alongside an article on Schliemann's latest excavations at Mycene, an article titled "Literature Among Farmers") It is often said of farmers that they are an "illiterate set."  This is spoken more in contempt than in candor or in truth.  From pretty extensive travel, I am well convinced that the farmers of Oregon, in comparison with other States and other countries, are not "an illiterate set." . . . where does literature shed a bright halo, and leave a brilliant luster in its course? In our homes; around the fireside . . . Literature, in all ages, has been a solace to the weak, a prop to the tottering, a guide to the lost, a shield to the innocent, health to the sick, light in darkness, knowledge to the ignorant.

And so, in 1875, the Bransons have a son, and name him Troy.  In 1877, they have a daughter, and name her Hellen.  (Schliemann, it should be noted, named his own children Agamemnon and Andromache . . )  All of the romance of a different age, the excitement of the excavation, and their balance of their daily lives and their literature are crystallized in these names.

No comments:

Post a Comment