• svanderschaaff

The West

My great-grandfather Andrew Adair Cummins was born in Cawker City, Kansas on October 20, 1887. Like the other three great-grandparents I've written about recently, he is the same generation as The Judge's children.


Cawker City Kansas looked like this in 1887, with a population of about 1,039 people.





And it looked like this a few years ago, with a population of 443.




You could say my great-grandfather was born during a boom in Cawker City, one that never came again. Andrew Adair Cummins would attend the University of Kansas and become a civil engineer. His daughter, Mary Cummins, would attend the University of Michigan where she would meet my grandfather, Elliott-the son of Joe Maraniss who came to the US from what is now Ukraine.


Midwest farmers and East Coast European immigrants. (Mary and Elliott below)




Of all the branches of my family, the Cummins side is the most well-documented. My great aunt Jean Chulak created a data base of family history and organized a tri-annual family reunion we still hold. My own aunt, Jean Alexander has continued the family research, adding her professional skills as a former research librarian to the collection. And my father, David Maraniss, wrote a book on his father's ordeal through the red scare, putting the family story through the rigorous search for truth he uses as a historian. (A Good American Family)


And still, it feels that I do not know much.


Part of that, I suspect, is because we do not have many family traditions, religious or secular. And we do not have one place to call home.


I think that is why I am fascinated by the fact that The Judge's family held the house from 1805 until 1941 or so. After all the time, and after investing so much in the town itself, how could this man let the house slip out of his family line? I do not think it was because of the financial burden. I think it was because of the nature of family life itself--his children had drifted away. He'd married a second time. The community became larger, less familiar, so much so that in one written history of my house, the judge's second wife was listed as his daughter--so little was understood of the actually history.


When we arrived at The Judge's house in November of 2020, all of these journeys and identities seemed to collapse.


We signed the contract.


We moved in.


We live in New England where so many stories begin.



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