Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Wai Gong

That's supposed to say 'Grand father" (Mother's father). Each type of grandparent is different, which makes Chinese an excellent language, as you don't have to say, 'well, I mean My mother's father, or my father's mother"... tedious. The gentleman on the wall is my Great Great Grandfather, John Norton Coffin, who was a captain in the 5th Mass. during the Civil War.

My grandfather was born in China. I cannot tell you how many people will look straight at me when I say that and ask if I'm Chinese. No, seriously. And they're not all children... But now we must step back in time a bit to get to China in 1888.

My great grandmother (and I'm certain there's a simple word for that in Chinese that sums up both Great Grandmother and Mother's great grandmother).. but I digress again. My great grandmother graduated from Medical school as a doctor in 1877. She went to (then) Foo Chow China in 1878 as a Medical Missionary with a women's group. They took the train from Chicago to San Francisco. For my Deadwood friends, General Crook was on that train, as was President Hayes son. The General was there with troops because of robbers.. sigh... How dashing! How daring!

While in China, my Great grand mother (Julia) met my Great grand father (John), who was working for Hedge and Company, importing things. I have no idea what kind of things, but he made a goodly living at the time. He was younger than she (you can see pictures of them on my website), and apparently quite smitten with her. She wouldn't marry him because she didn't want to be married, she wanted to be a doctor. Her mother's life was not a good one; 8 children and three of them lived. I believe Julia had decided to never suffer her mother's fate. He finally wore her down, though, as they were married in 1884. My Wai Gong was born in 1888. Again, I think that this was something Julia might not have wanted, although there are indications that, once here, my Wai Gong was adored.

When he was born, Julia was quite ill with Cholera, and the doctors there despaired of saving her life. They thought my Wai Gong was born dead, or at least unsalvageable, and they delivered him with forceps and put him aside while they worked on Julia. The old Chinese woman who had be hired to look after him picked him up, without being seen, and took him to the servants quarters where she 'breathed life into him'. His survival was quite the surprise.

and his first words were in Chinese...

We'll talk more about him later.


At 3:01 PM, Blogger Peebs said...

Very interesting story, Miz. I wish I knew more about my family.


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