Solley in Pennsylvania
By Lois Thompson Rekowski
This article was kindly provided by Lois and published in the April 2001 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society. Other photos from Lois are in our Picture Gallery
For my research, I have pretty well reached an impasse with information that can be gathered at a distance and I need to visit central Pennsylvania in person. In Pennsylvania we are hampered by the fact that many records were maintained by churches that no longer exist. It was not until late in the 19th century that our courthouses became responsible for maintaining public records.
My aunt, age 80, has given me information that the Solleys came from an area near St. Bonaventure and La Jose in Pennsylvania before they arrived in the area near the town of Grampian. I have not a clue how either of those places came to be named, but this is new information for me. I need to visit the towns and see what I can find out and if her memory is serving her correctly.
The first two photos are of my grandmother from around the turn of the century. The first shows my grandmother, Lois Rula Solley Thompson, as a young girl, wearing quite an elaborately flowered hat. The lady seated on the left was a family friend.
The second shows my grandmother after graduation from normal school. Normal schools trained women to be teachers. I would guess she is in her late teens here. She finished our eighth grade at age 14 and then attended normal school for a year or so. She then returned to teach in the rural one room schools that were common in the area at that time.
The third photo shows her before her marriage, ca. 1920. If you look closely, she now has that look of an experienced teacher! (Cynicism!)
In the above photo you can see my grandmother in the back row at the far right. Her baby brother, Roscoe Solley is in the back row as well, third from the right. I am suspecting this photo was taken immediately before her leaving for normal school. I believe this is a picture of her Sunday school class at the time.
Grandma gave up her teaching career when she married. She went on to have three surviving children, two of whom are teachers and one who is a nurse. My grandfather died in 1954 and she returned to work as a clerk in a hardware store until her retirement in the mid 1960's.
She was a generous lady and stayed involved in her church as long as she was able. The annual church homecoming would bring Solleys from far and wide to her home. Somehow, almost akin to the parable of the fishes and loaves, she had food to feed all comers. A typical repast included ham, fresh corn-on-the-cob, homemade noodles in chicken broth, all cooked up on a coal-burning stove in the heat of summer. We marvel at what she accomplished! Folks would sit in the house or on the back porch visiting. Kids would be playing in the yard. It was quite a happy time for all and was held the last Sunday of the summer before our Labor Day holiday.
The last photo shows her in the 1960's. She later encountered severe problems with her hip, and went to live with my aunt, where she passed away in 1987.
I just hope one of these days to find a link back across the ocean. Have just discovered a Silas Solley, a name I didn't have before, about the time of my ancestor Isaac Solley & in the correct locale. Am very curious to see the connection with him - he appears in an 1850 US census. Wish me luck.
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