10.31.2013

HALLOWEEN – Celebrating a Heritage not a Commercialized Holiday

In memory of T.A. Moore & M. Jeanette Lane, both born October 31st

For most Americans, Halloween or “All Hallows Eve” is simply a time to dress up, attend parties, and allow children to go door to door receiving candy from strangers.  When I was a child, we made our own costumes from whatever was on hand and often used worn pillowcases to accept the treats we received from neighbors we knew.   We really did bob for apples, make popcorn balls, eat candy corn, and carve a jack o’ lanterns.  For me, though, it was more than a Christian holiday that had once been dedicated to remembering the dead, saints, and martyrs.  October 31st was the day my mother was born, and also the day her great grandfather was born.


Thomas Anderson Moore was born in Scio, Harrison County, Ohio in 1838 and was the oldest child of a school teacher, James U. Moore.  The grandfather, Eli Moore, was a blacksmith who had emigrated from Ireland in the latter part of the 18th century and settled in Pennsylvania where James was born and married.   According to his childhood reminiscences, Tom was born in a cabin owned by a Dutchman named Malachai Jolley who kept a store.  They later moved to Uhrichsville near the maternal home of his grandparents, the Updegraffs.  When his uncle, Isaac Moore, moved to Canal Dover, they bought his home which near Stewart's tavern where the stages stopped to change horses. He described the house as situated on an acre of land, built from hewed logs with no plaster, and consisting of only two rooms.  

In his brief sketch Tom referred to his mother, Rebecca Cook, as being Pennsylvania Dutch and extremely religious.  She and “all the other pious folks” did their cooking on Saturday because Sunday was reserved for worshiping the Lord.   His uncle, Joe Moore, had been disowned because he had “married a lively young woman named Jane Grubs who danced.”  After his marriage, when the people would have nothing to do with him, Uncle Joe left Ohio.  No one knew or cared where he had gone “for he played the fiddle at balls and parties, and it much horrified the family for it was so sinful. It was a sin, even to laugh on Sunday.”

Within a period of five or so years Uncle Joe had converted.  He had become a Methodist and had since moved to Madison County, Illinois where he carried on the Moore family trade of blacksmithing.  Finding a great demand for cow bells because the stock grazed in the open, Joe wrote to his brother James and asked him to join him at the forge.  So in 1847 Tom, along with his parents and younger siblings (Isaac and Cinthia) left Ohio and moved to Collinsville, just across the river from St. Louis.

By time the Civil War had broken out, James, a Southern sympathizer, had parted ways with his wife and family and had gone to Lamar County, Texas where he died in 1887.  Tom, his youngest brother Joe, and his mother had moved to St. Louis.  In 1860 Tom was listed as an ice dealer and his divorced mother was listed as a widow.   At the same time his bride-to-be, Clarissa V. Pilcher, was living with her widowed mother and four of her siblings.  In 1862 they married, but were separated by the war when Tom enlisted in the Union to serve with the 33rd Missouri Infantry.  The following year, on July 4th, Tom sustained a gunshot wound over the right temple and The Missouri Democrat had erroneously listed him as mortally wounded.  The surgeon who treated him at Memphis was A.T. Bartlett, who at a reunion for the 33rd Missouri in 1890 wrote that "Private Thomas A Moore's wound consisted in an extensive compound fracture of the anterior portion of the skull and a large section of the bone was removed long after the receipt of the injury … and is a forcible and touching reminder of what our country cost."

After recovering, Tom returned home to his wife and worked as a carpenter and building contractor with the Pilchers and the Kalbs.  In 1890 his blissful married life was tragically cut short when his beloved Clarissa died at the age of forty-four.  He lived another twenty-five years as a widower, and died in St. Louis in 1915

Exactly one hundred and four years after Tom’s birth, his great granddaughter, Mary Jeannette Lane was born in St. Louis.  Named after her paternal grandmother, the 7th child of Tom and Clarissa, my mother – like her great grandfather – was the daughter of first generation Americans.  Her mother’s family was from Southern Italy and faced many prejudices, including some resistance to her parents’ marriage by the Moore relations.  Apparently the only thing the two families shared was their Catholic faith, but the birth of my mother united the Irish and Italian families as they each truly adored her. 


“Jeanne”, as my mother was known as a child, lived in St. Louis until the age of fourteen.  The fifties, for all its “American Pie” reputation, were for many a time of change and turbulence.  America had recovered from World War II and the economy was growing, but fear of Communism, and issues of civil rights also dominated the minds of many.  My mother was eleven in May of 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional and violated the 14th Amendment.  According to her accounts, the integration of the classrooms did not come about easily. 

The stories my mother told me of how her “colored” friend was not allowed to go into a diner, or how she was herself chased down, taunted, and attacked by a group of “colored boys”, shaped my own sense of judgment.  The prejudices her Italian family and other ethnic groups faced, gave me the inclination to support those who suffered racial injustices.  I saw these inequalities through my mother’s compassionate and caring nature.  Having lived with these realties, she had not raised me with the common American dream that I could do or be anything. Rather, she taught me the importance of living by the Golden Rule and placing value not on what one had or achieved, but on the way one conducted their self. In essence, she taught me goodness and equality. 

Aside from social justice, my mother also passed down to me her passion for history and knowledge.  We come from a long line of people who not only valued words and wrote them a poetic grace, but who lived their lives by those standards.  I can’t say if it is because their day of birth straddles the time between fall and winter on a night when saints, martyrs and the world of the living and dead become obscure, but each were able to see the other’s point of view, or “walk in the other’s shoes” as she liked to say.  They wavered not in their sympathies for the less fortunate, and without hesitation, held out their hand and heart to those in need. 

So instead of donning a costume for an ancient holiday that has morphed into another commercialized holiday, today I celebrate the lives of my 2nd great grandfather, T.A. Moore, who I knew not personally but who left behind written words which speak volumes to the man he was – and most especially to my dear mother, Jeanette, who I miss and appreciate more with each passing year. 

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