Community, Creswell, Uncategorized

Creswell is calling

CRESWELL – Marcie and her husband Garl lived in Vienna, Austria, for the last few years. But Garl’s mother, now 93, isn’t in great health, which led them to come back to the States, specifically South Carolina, to be close to her.

The couple visited Oregon last month because, given Garl’s quickly-approaching retirement, the pair are looking for somewhere new to settle down, and “the West Coast is calling to us,” Marcie said. They made the most of their trip by visiting a niece in Portland and an uncle in Eugene, but the duo also dedicated a day to learning about Garl’s family history in Creswell.

“I had checked online and found that the Creswell Historic Museum was only open for specific hours, so I didn’t hold out hope that we would be able to get in to see any documents, any books, anything like that, but I left a message on the answering machine literally the day before we were going to be arriving to the area,” Marcie said. “I didn’t expect a call back, but right away, this lovely woman, Suzanne Peterson, called me back, and she set it up for the next morning.

“This woman spent hours just helping us. She was obviously proud of Creswell and obviously, she had a lot of history herself. I found out she was a widow, and what she didn’t tell me that I learned later was that she was the daughter of these two people, Harry and Bertha Holt, and that they had founded an international adoption agency in 1956, so she comes from a long line of people who are quite giving, and she spent a great deal of time with us. I was very grateful. She was so proud of being from there, and she suggested places for us to go, like the Creswell Bakery, which was yum, and she helped us figure out where the cemeteries were.”

Peterson said the three of them spent about two hours sifting through history and “absorbing” the content available. She added that she didn’t think she did “anything tremendous with them,” since she happened to be able to work with their schedule, “but they were very pleased to be able to go there and find out what we did have, and they bought a picture.”

According to Marcie, Garl’s great-great grandmother, Francis Precechtil, immigrated from Bohemia, Czech Republic, in 1857. She was living on a plantation in Texas when she met John Schmitt during the Civil War, and they “stealthily” avoided union and rebel troops to make their way to Ohio. By 1878, they were living in Oregon as farmers in Creswell.

Francis and John had nine daughters and five sons; and they had 37 grandchildren by 1909. This led The Oregonian to write that they “were probably the largest family of adults” in Oregon. One of their sons, Charles Schmitt, married Marian Wyatt Lower, and they are Garl’s great-grandparents.

“It was interesting, after a number of generations, to be going back that direction and taking a look at a history that my husband did not know a great deal about, so that’s been nice,” Marcie said. “It’s also been lovely to be able to share this information about my mother-in-law’s grandfather, who she remembers, and show her photographs and things as we have found their headstones.”

Marian’s parents, William Phylander Lower and Mary Amanda Martin, were part of a “cattle train” that migrated from South Dakota to Creswell, and they are buried at Cloverdale Cemetery.

According to Marcie Behm-Bultz, this photo is from a 1909 edition of The Oregonian, which wrote that the Schmitt family was “probably the largest family of adults” in Oregon. John Schmitt was Garl Behm-Bultz’s great, great grandpa.

Marcie and Garl visited Cloverdale Cemetery while they were in town. Before wandering the cemetery, cleaning headstones and fallen limbs as they went, Marcie and Garl encountered another kind stranger who would give them directions, safety advice, and a parking spot.

“There was no way to get into it on public access, and due to the ice storm, it was just a big mess with limbs and so forth. We pulled into the gentleman’s yard that was next to the cemetery, and I insisted on getting out and knocking on his door,” Marcie said. “Sure enough, he was very nice, and he told us we could park in his yard. He said, ‘At least you asked. Usually people don’t even ask. And there’s ice storm damage, so just be careful, and you can go in that direction.’

“Everywhere we went around Creswell, the people just went out of their way. When I got back (to South Carolina), and I realized it was called ‘The Friendly City,’ I thought to send an email to the mayor. I didn’t hold out any hopes that this gentleman would even check his email or look at something from someone on the other side of the United States, but he wrote me back a lovely email right away.”

Stram said he doesn’t typically receive emails like Marcie’s which recount a pleasant trip to Creswell in search of family history.

“It was really a thank you to the people of Creswell. It wasn’t so much that our government’s doing a great job, although I think we have a great city manager and staff. It was just a thank you to a person who went the extra mile,” he said about Peterson. “I thought it was just an affirmation of our people, honestly.”

Marcie said she’s quite proud of the South’s reputation for being so friendly, “but I have found that all over the world people can be exceedingly kind, and we experienced that in spades when we were in Creswell.”

“I’ve got chill bumps talking about this, but it’s so reassuring when you actually experience that and you recognize that for what it is and not just a kindness that we can show toward one another,” Marcie said.



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