Letter From the Editor:
Dear Friends, Family & extended "Cousins",
This is the story of one family of westering Hemenways. It is the story of ordinary, yet remarkable people who participated in the events that made this a great nation. These were people who thought about things, and stood for what was right. Their lives were a part of history, and survive today through those of us who choose to carry the flame.
Here are some of the people who fulfilled the promise of Manifest Destiny. As a pioneering branch of the Hemenways, each move West brought new opportunities, not always a better life initially, but a chance to create it. However, there was also a cost. Only so much could be carried with them. In the days before the telephone, let alone the internet, when they left to go West, they were often gone for good. The past became an echo of scattered items and memories. They went willingly and were often discouraged from leaving. Those who remained were left to wonder what became of them.
This story reconnects us. I have sought to keep it as factual as possible. My intention is to avoid the distortions of revisionist history and political correctness. It is important to note that I did not initially seek this out as a passion. It found me. The more I came in touch with our past, the more I realized how much it meant to resurrect it. In this age when the foundational values of our country are so often eclipsed by the ethos of revisionists of all types, we cannot forget the lives or visions of those who came before us.
I preface this story with an account of how I came to be interested in the history of the Hemenways. It is a story I call "The Meeting".
It was my second year in college, and I decided to move into my own apartment. I ended up moving to Burlingame, a bedroom community just south of San Francisco. About two weeks after I moved in, I got a knock on my door. I opened the door and there stood this eleven year old kid looking up at me curiously. He asked me if I was Tom Hemenway and I said that I was, and he promptly replied that he was too! Well, I thought nothing of it at the time, just a neighborhood kid with nothing else to do. So what if people have the same names, right? I invited him in for a chat and then sent him on his way. Apparently he had seen my name in the Burlingame/Hillsborough Directory and wanted to know who this guy was who had the same name as he!
Well, time passed and I continued to run into other members of this family quite by accident. I met the Dad, Richard, and daughter, DeDe, and one day the father invited me over to their home. As it turned out, they lived just two blocks away from me. It happened to be New Years and as I entered their home I noticed something in their living room that stunned me. They had in a modest bookcase off to the side of the room a set of encyclopedias and several volumes of children's stories. You might ask what's so unusual about that? Well, it just so happened that my family had the exact same books in the same bookcase in my house when I was a kid! Neither of us had seen anyone else with those books.
We shared many names and circumstances. They only knew that their great-grandfather migrated from a small town up north with a name that started with "W" and it sounded like "Willows". I was struck at how musically inclined they were. The Dad was a jazz musician, Tom played piano, and DeDe was a professional singer. It was eerie the way we seemed to have an inherent connection.
Well, to make a long story short, as it turned out, we discovered that we were actually related. Their great-grandfather and my grandfather were first cousins and their great-grandfather moved from Winters to San Francisco around the turn of the century. After the 1906 earthquake, he returned to San Francisco from Winters. His son Clyde later moved to Burlingame, just as I had done. Not only did they have the same names, but also similar attitudes and tastes, etc., etc., and there had been no contact in the family for nearly 70 years! The books and bookcase, by the way, were not handed down in the family but were independently purchased by each family!!
It was many years later when I made the time to do a little research on the family line. It seemed that wherever I lived in this country, I encountered other Hemenway families. Finally I decided to take a serious look at the past. This is the result. Enjoy!
P.S. - For the sake of
privacy, no living people will be profiled on this website. I welcome
contributions from other Hemenway families.
Thomas Dwight Hemenway
Editor and Curator of the Hemenway Legacy