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British woman traces ancestry to Florence

Staff writer

Jacque Grannum could have felt far from home as she spoke to a group of 20 after dinner at the Harvey House Museum in Florence. Home for Grannum is 4,500 miles away in Edenbridge, Kent, United Kingdom.

But there was a sense of home in the room as Grannum realized the end of a three-year quest to discover her family heritage by standing where her great-grandmother, Annie Harvey Bowman, a sister of Fred Harvey, once served tea nearly 140 years ago when it was known as the Clifton Hotel.

“As a child, I looked around and I saw other people with families and I thought ‘Well, I don’t have one of these, I’m going to have to create my own,’” Grannum said. “Now I’ve discovered I do belong to a family.”

Grannum was raised by her mother’s sister after her parents died within four months of each other when she was 3 years old. She knew about her mother’s family, but her aunt considered the history of Grannum’s father off limits.

“One day when I asked about my father’s side of the family, she said ‘Well why not your mother’s?’” Grannum said. “I said ‘You’re my mother’s sister so I already know a little bit.’ She said ‘That’s very hurtful,’ and I never asked again.”

Grannum’s father had two sons from a previous marriage, and she connected with the son of one of her half-brothers about four years ago. He thought his grandfather was buried in a village in Devon, but she knew he was buried in Kent where she lived. They realized then how little they knew about him.

“That was the start of it, really. He said ‘Well, you’ll have to find out,’” Grannum said.

The first milestone came when a friend discovered the location of Annie Bowman’s grave in a churchyard in Blindley Heath, a small village only six miles from Edenbridge.

Grannum then went to London, where she obtained a copy of Bowman’s will.

“My great-grandmother’s will was very revealing. It told me four children were left alive when she died. Two were over in America,” Grannum said.

A note in the will about one of the sons, Edwin Orlando Bauman, was the first clue to Grannum’s link with the famous founder of America’s first chain of restaurants, the Harvey Houses of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad system.

“It told me he was a farmer in Wisconsin, and also that he worked for his uncle, Fred Harvey, on the railroad,” Grannum said.

Entering Harvey’s name in an Internet search brought up thousands of links. As she eagerly read about her ancestor, she discovered one site that specifically mentioned Annie Bowman.

“On the Florence Historical Society website it told me that my great-grandmother stayed at the Clifton Hotel, served tea for her friends, having brought her own tea service,” Grannum said. “I said ‘If I’m going to go anywhere at all, I’m going to Florence.’”

It was a comment she received from the curator of the New Mexico History Museum when he sent her a copy of a letter written by Fred Harvey that cemented her decision to travel to America.

“He said a copy is nothing compared with coming to touch the real thing yourself. You need to come to Santa Fe,” Grannum said.

Grannum’s initial contact with Florence was a phone conversation with city utility clerk Kristi Darnall.

“I phoned up and she listened to this person with the strange accent and she could’ve said I can’t understand a word you’re saying,” Grannum laughed. “Instead of that she put me in touch with Judy (Mills) and Phoebe (Janzen).”

Darnall also confirmed gravesite information for three Bauman great uncles buried at Hillcrest Cemetery — Charles Augustus, Henry Victor, and Edwin Orlando.

“Karen Woodward and I went out Wednesday to make sure we knew exactly where they were,” Darnall said.

Grannum flew June 1 to Las Vegas, Nev., and then to Phoenix, Ariz., with her daughter’s godmother and longtime friend Chris Bruce.

“One day she said ‘Do you fancy coming?’ It took me about one millisecond to say yes,” Bruce said.

The pair traveled by train as they visited historical locations of Harvey Houses and hotels, among them La Posada in Winslow, Ariz. and El Tovar at the Grand Canyon. When they reached the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, N.M., the focus changed from seeing properties to meeting family.

“I met some Harvey cousins, Kay Harvey and her family, who still live in Santa Fe,” Grannum said.

The meeting, which included a visit to Kay’s house, provided Grannum with unexpected personal insight into her link with the Harvey family.

“I collect unusual-looking pebbles and unusual-looking things and paintings, and playing classical music,” Grannum said. “When I walked into that house it was just like walking into my life.”

The experience went hand-in-hand with other similarities Grannum noticed as she learned about Harvey.

“The more I look at things I’ve done the more I can see Fred Harvey, and I didn’t even know he existed until recently,” Grannum said.

But her great-grandmother’s ties to Florence made that portion of the trip a focal point, and it began at 4 a.m. Sunday when Janzen and Woodward picked up the travel companions at the train station in Newton.

The morning included a visit to the gravesites at Hillcrest Cemetery.

“The three brothers are buried together. Two of them probably worked here — they worked for Fred Harvey. They have the most beautiful headstones,” Grannum said.

“I brought some little crosses from the graveyard where their mother is buried at home to put on their graves,” Grannum said. She is taking pieces of wood from Florence back to England with her to place a similar cross on Bowman’s grave.

Dinner at the Harvey House Museum was served much as it was when the restaurant was operating in the late 1800s. Janzen acted as server, dressed in a white and black uniform like those worn by the Harvey Girls. Mills talked about the history and operation of the Harvey House in Florence, and Grannum told the story of her search for family history and travels.

“The search has taken me so wide, to so many places and so many people. I said right at the beginning the highlight for me is going to be my visit to Florence,” Grannum said. “I feel I belong here. I think I landed on my feet.”

Bruce said the trip had turned out to be much more than Grannum expected.

“When we came over Jacque thought she would just go see these places and go home. It’s exploded into something so much bigger,” Bruce said. “I think when we get back home and Jacque starts to go through everything she’ll realize just how huge it is.”

Mills said Grannum’s visit reinforced the efforts of those in Florence who have worked to preserve the Harvey House Museum.

“Here is a case of a lady who didn’t know what her history was, and this is why it’s so important for us to preserve the heritage of what’s happening in Florence, who people are, and what the Harvey House is all about,” Mills said.

Grannum and Bruce re-boarded the train Monday morning headed for Leavenworth, where Fred Harvey lived, and then onto New York City. From there they will make their way home by boat, again using the same transportation Harvey family members used in the 19th century.

Last modified June 13, 2012

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