- William Chism
- John Marion Chism
- William Chism
- Charles Chism
- Thomas Chism
- Rosemary Chism Jordan
- Chris Jordan
I am the seventh. Mom pointed that out to me as we were chatting recently. I am the seventh generation on this farm. We often hear discussion about Seven Generation Sustainability and we should think about how we will impact people 140 years into the future. But we can’t begin to imagine the world ten years from now, let alone 140 years from now.
From mom’s blog, “William was born in Virginia on Dec.12, in either 1798 or 1800.” In my case 140 years only goes back 5 generations to when great grandpa Charlie was born. (Charlie is second from the right in the back next to his brother Tom who, in that picture, looks EXACTLY like my grandpa Tom. Maybe less shoulder than grandpa.)
That hedge tree I hate and plan to cut? It’s ancestor may have been purposefully planted here by William.
Charlie built the white barn 100 years ago. Did he expect it to last this long? Dick built my house. Grandpa built ponds, corrals, loading chutes, more barns. What will I leave?
Do you know anyone who has as strong of a connection to the land as me? Not even the King ranch! Not only did they own it, most of my mother’s fathers are buried here. We have carved rocks to prove it.
Patria. Patriot. Patriotic. My 60 acres, ’tis of thee.
Will we still be here on the fatherland in seven generations?
I don’t know.
I can’t know.
I’m not even sure it’s important.
But I’ll tell you this – and I say this from the perspective of someone who is almost as deeply rooted as any American can be – I don’t think William bought a farm to fix his descendants in one place for all of time. In fact, though we modern folk read Laura Ingalls Wilder and swoon, I don’t think William saw the farm as anything other than a means to an end.
Let’s revisit Illinois in 1834. Illinois is a state but there is more land available on the continent than there are people to settle it. Europe is pouring itself into the US. Jefferson wrote quite a bit about the lack of opportunity for private land ownership in France and those who could were leaving their father’s rocks and hopping on a boat. So, while owning the means of production is important – and it is – the specific land we are currently parked on is less so. For some reason William, born in Virginia, moved to Kentucky then on to Illinois. My understanding is they were frozen out the first winter, returned to Kentucky and came back again. So they had some mobility and some tenacity.
Somewhere along the line prior to William the Chism family left Scotland and changed the spelling of their name. I met a man from Scotland recently and he joked with mom and dad that the Chism clan are midland Scots…I think he meant that to be a somewhat derogatory joke but it went over my head. And it doesn’t matter because I’m not Scottish. Nor am I German. Or Irish. Or whatever. But the point is my ancestors left their PATRIA! And why? Why did they abandon the rocks that marked the graves of their fathers? Because their prospects looked better elsewhere. What dead father wants to make his children suffer in proximity of said rocks?
So what is this farm? If we assume, and I think we can, that this farm represented a measure of hope, a feeling of place and the means of production for a family relocating from Kentucky…then what were William’s thoughts about me? …about the farm?I have no idea. William died long before I was born and I am not aware of his journals but I have to believe his thinking was not dissimilar to my own.
I have an attachment to my farm. I live in my grandma’s house. We put our dishes in cabinets she built. Our wood stove is in an addition built by a cousin of my grandpa’s. The house was built by a great-great uncle. We watch TV in a room built by my father. Most of the family is buried 200 yards from my back door. As a child I rode grandpa’s three-wheeler all over the farm. My cousin Kate and I ran down the hill and played in the creek (downstream from the hog floor…in retrospect, yuk). I remember the one time she touched the electric fence well. I have been in this house every Christmas of my life but one. I have an emotional attachment to my farm. I owe the bank a bunch of money for my farm…so I have a legal attachment too.
But what about my children?
This hasn’t been a post about chickens or cows or pigs or manure. This is a post about purpose!
My farm is a place, not a purpose. The chickens, cows, pigs and manure are just the means. Land forces us to work hard and save money but the children are our wealth. The children are the ends…even when covered in silly string.
If William Chism had time to wonder about the seventh generation, I have to believe his thoughts were less about farmland and more about family. Would there be a seventh generation? Not just generations formed by boys and girls doing what boys and girls do but intentional families. Julie and I are intentional about family. Our parents are intentional about family. My grandma and grandpa Chism were intentional about family. Aunt Marian was intentional about her family…even if we weren’t her kids. Mom has memories of her intentional grandmother. My dad’s grandmother lived with us for a while when I was a kid (hilarious!). The culture of our family is not an accident and while it is true that there wouldn’t be Christmas memories in this house if Uncle Dick or a grandma Chism or grandpa’s cousin or my dad hadn’t built it, the house is the least important part of that list.
In some recent writing I have focused more on my kids and less on my business and that is entirely on purpose. I have an amazing and challenging job in town…a job that I don’t plan to leave any time soon. In fact, I like my job so much that I do it on my vacation time. The Chris Jordan you see on this blog is hardly Chris Jordan at all…but then again it is. The real Chris Jordan is absolutely fascinated by farming, that’s true. So much so that he journals what he is learning on an almost daily basis.
But the real Chris Jordan is even more fascinated by his wife and children. And as he lists his hopes for 140 years from now the well-being of his family rank far above his hopes for the well-being of the farmland he lives on.
My ancestors once moved out of Scotland. My children or grandchildren may move away from the farm…or even the US. That’s how it is.
We may not have the farm in another 140 years. But will there still be a family? Will our family culture persist? Or will there just be children?
William Chism succeeded.