Vacationing with the Family

Today I leave with my wife and kids for ten days of sun and fun with my extended family–a Christmas vacation–which makes me wonder what types of vacations my ancestors took.

A cursory glance through my family research uncovered only a few examples of vacations.  I know my immediate family went on trips when I was growing up.  I’ve heard that my parents took vacations with their parents when they were young.  But beyond that, the stories are few.

Evan and Flora Ferree (right) with their daughter Edna and her soon-to-be husband Edward Harris. The baby in the front is Edna's brother Mark--a late addition to the family. The picture was taken in 1905. (Click to enlarge).

I made a note to do a little research, to try to figure out what normal people did to get away in the 19th century and before.  I found a book, Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States by Cindy Aron, that might tell me more.

The earliest vacation that I know of by an ancestor of mine is from the early 1900s.  In the Centennial History of Grant County, Indiana written in 1914, the author reports the following:

Mr. [Evan H.] Ferree on August 20, 1880 married Flora A. Cammack, daughter of Willis and Sarah (Jay) Cammack.  Their children are:  Edna S., wife of Edward H. Harris, and Evan Mark Ferree.  The two little granddaughters in the family are Virginia and Janet Harris.  The Harrises live in Richmond, but each summer Mrs. Ferree and her children and grandchildren spend some time in the Ferree cottage at Winona Lake.  Mr. Ferree has always been a useful man in the community, fulfilling an old saying in Quaker circles, “He is frequently used in the meeting.”

Winona Lake in northern Indiana was known as a vacation spot as early as the 1890s.  The Beyer brothers had purchased much of the land around the lake in the 1880s.  Seeing the natural beauty of the area, they developed it as a resort area.

Religious leaders in the Presbyterian church envisioned the area as a place for retreats and conferences.  By 1905, infrastructure was in place and the number of seasonal visitors had risen to over 10,000 each year.  Between 1905 and 1914, up to 250,000 visitors came during the summers to hear religious speakers and musicians.

Billy Sunday, a former baseball player who became one of the most famous evangelists of the early twentieth century, called Winona Lake his home.  His revivals made headline news all over the country.  He traveled around and preached to millions, but he also drew many to Winona Lake.

A postcard of the Winona Lake hotel from the early 1900s.

I don’t know what caused my great-great grandmother to want to spend her summers in Winona Lake.  I don’t know when she started going there or what she did when she was there.

But according to the history quoted above, my great-great grandmother took her children and grandchildren to the cottage on the lake during the summertimes.  Certainly fond memories were formed.  Pictures were probably taken (I may have even seen a few buried in the family files).

What’s interesting is the contrast between Mrs. Ferree and Mr. Ferree.  While Mrs. Ferree is frolicking with the children and grandchildren, Mr. Ferree is “a useful man in the community.”

Earlier in the paragraph quoted above, my great-great grandfather’s achievements are detailed:  “Evan H. Ferree was a teacher for fourteen years, having had experience in both country and town schools and in a political way he has been favored by the voters of Grant county…He has served as postmaster at Marion, and is at present connected with the Marion Light and Heating Company.”

Perhaps it was Mr. Ferree’s hard work and achievements that made the vacations possible.  I don’t know whether he ever got to tag along or not.  More likely, a man of his generation and his station in the community kept his hand at the plow, his nose to the grindstone, and worked hard to provide opportunities for his children and grandchildren.

I’m thankful that because of his hard work and the advancement of our society through the efforts of many people like him, I can vacation with my family today.

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8 Responses to Vacationing with the Family

  1. pokedpotato says:

    Ah yes…summers are busy times!! Poor Mr. Ferree probably wasn’t tagging along =( I am glad that you guys get to take a vacation!! I expect to see pics on FB. I am kind of bummed though…we are planning on going to the NWC Christmas Eve service. Maybe we will run into you another year!!

    • We’ll miss seeing you when you’re in town! But we won’t miss the snow and cold temps.

      We’ll try to get some pictures up after our trip. At this point, I’m just hoping to survive the trip (2 parents, a sister and brother-in-law, 4 nieces, a wife and 2 kids…and a seeing-eye dog…Florida better watch out!)

      • mirroredImages says:

        now, see, “a wife” who reads your blog might very well take a bit of offense at this, that you might see her as something to be survived rather than a reason to thrive?

        but, that’s probably not what you meant


      • Rebecca Harper says:

        Julia, Zach has said much worse about me.

  2. bronxboy55 says:

    Did they even use the word vacation? It sounds too frivolous, doesn’t it? I wonder what the Quakers called it.

    Great post, Kevin. Have a great time on your trip! Merry Christmas!

    (Was his name really Billy Sunday?)

    • I’m not sure what the Quakers thought about vacation. I’ve always thought the word was kind of funny and yet appropriate. My favorite type of vacation is one where there is a vacating of responsibilities and obligations. Unfortunately, such is rarely true for me now that I’m the dad.

      Billy’s last name really was Sunday. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it was an anglicized version of the German name Sonntag that his grandparents brought over when they immigrated.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

  3. mirroredImages says:

    I am very much looking forward to Florida, where there will be no snow-covered driveways to slide helplessly down. I think it’s funny that Mr. Ferree was too useful to have fun. I also think it’s funny that your peeps vacationed up at Winona Lake, which is now the undisputed hub of your chosen denomination. Destiny, fate, or sheer bad luck?

    Yay for vacation. Color me frivolous, I’d rather frolic than fulminate.

    • I am very much looking forward to Florida also. The connection with Winona Lake further strengthens the observations I made in my earlier post “Grounded.” It is funny the strange connections there are in life.

      Not unlike the fact that my co-worker’s mother-in-law lives within a few miles of where I have vacationed my whole life. And I only have a few co-workers. Weird.

      Or the fact that a fellow attender of our church used to live within a short distance of the same area and will be in the same town we’ll be in on the day that we leave. Strange indeed.

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