Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memorial Day, plus 5

Memorial Day has become a bittersweet holiday for me. Before my service, I thought of Memorial Day as the start of summer or a reminder that school was winding down. It was the beginning of the lazy days. All that changed after enlisting in the army. You never really think about the sacrifice that ordinary people make under extraordinary circumstances until you realize you may be put in that position and asked to do the same for duty, honor, and country. Memorial Day. The past few years have been different because I have married and we have a young daughter. So there is more of an emphasis on the family for the first warm 3 day weekend of the summer season. But I always find the time to reflect on the many. This year I want to take just one of the many and tell his story to the people who read this pathetic diary of a common man. So I did some digging and I found that story in Somerset county Maryland in the name of First Lt. Oliver T. Beauchamp. Come back everyday until Memorial Day for this look at one of Somerset counties finest citizens.

November 1896

Oliver T. Beauchamp was born in the fall of 1896 and grew up in Somerset county, Maryland. In the early part of the twentieth century, life on the eastern shore of Maryland was a far cry from the docks in Baltimore or the politics of Washington, D.C. At that time, Somerset county was at the height of its growth. Of the lower 3 counties, in 1910 when young Oliver was 13, Somerset county had the largest population of the 3. Life was all about working the land. Much like Somerset county today, but with some notable differences when you look at the data. In 1910 there were 1986 farms in the county, in 2006 only 301. The farms were more numerous back then, but smaller in size. These smaller farms had very different crops than the Somerset county of today. Back in 1910, Somerset county claimed to be the strawberry capital of the world. The county produced some 2859 acres dedicated to growing those delicious berries, growing some 4.5 million quarts of strawberries. Now there are less than 10 acres with strawberry patches in the county. Oh how times have changed. This is one of those things that our great grandparents had that was better than what we got today. In 1910, no one had an idea that soybeans would be one of the biggest crops we grow. Why would they when they were growing some of the best sweet potatoes, figs, apples, and grains? But we aren't here to talk about the quality of food that our distant relatives enjoyed, are we?

Oliver T. Beauchamp would have seen things that would have excited him around this time. Somerset county was not the poorest country in Maryland back then. Some of these farmers had money. If they didn't, the people that packaged the food did. So things that were considered expensive and so freakin new they defied logic a few decades ago started showing up. A good example is the automobile. Somerset county at the time was mostly a horse town. The concept of a car to get into town was just that, a concept. The world was changing around Oliver and Somerset county. It was getting faster and didn't seem to be the big place it was made out to be. Seriously, you could get on a boat in 1910 and be in England in 3 days. THREE DAYS! Yes the world was and is getting smaller all the time.

The turn of the 20th century saw inventions being patented at an astonishing rate. Ideas that were science fiction just a few decades before 1910 were reality: the airplane, the automobile, electric light, and the telephone. Things that we take for granted today were the cutting edge back then. These inventions made us adventurers and more efficient killers on the battle field. They helped transfer information faster. This in turn kept us in tune with news from around the world. We knew about wars in other lands. We knew about the politics of Europe. For the first time, humans were in the know. And we liked it. It was exciting times indeed. Even for a farm boy from Somerset county Maryland.


~Heather*Ann~ said...

WOW i love all your posts and cant believe i stayed away this long :) Did you email me yet? I havent gotten anything Dave says hi! i am going to post some pictures of the kids here so take a look :) also i wanted to know how you got that bubble game on your page i love playing it lol
Have a good day

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