Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Allen Clan

Enough already about "last parties." Today I'd like to focus on one big happy family that seems to make every day into a party.

One of the highlights of my trip to West Virginia was a visit to the Allen clan - my cousin Nathan, his wife Frances and their brood of four adult children and ten grandchildren. Nathan and his sister Charleen are technically our fourth cousins, but who's counting. They were without a doubt our best friends in "the country," where we spent carefree summers at grandma's house.

What makes Nathan's family unique is that they all live on the same "compound" of more than 200 acres in Sardis, West Virginia. Their five homes are spaced close enough for convenience, but far enough apart for privacy. Frances baby sits for all ten grandchildren, ages two through 12

Food is front and center at most family gatherings. On Friday nights, Frances makes homemade pizza or spaghtetti for the entire clan of 20. For our Saturday afternoon picnic, she whipped up homemade cabbage rolls, fresh corn on the cob and green beans, rolls and, of course, plenty of sweet tea.


Mathews Family said...

What a great family. The kids are getting so big! I'm a little jealous of how much they get to see one another. I propose the "Strother" clan find a 100 acre property to live on. And Aunt Susan, I'll volunteer you for the babysitting. Deal? :)

SAMO Calling said...

Well then, I'll be changing my name to Strother!

Susan Carrier said...

Francis, the Allen family matriarch, has more stamina and patience than I'll ever have. And she's one of the best home cooks ever.

Don't know if I could ever do what she does.

Karen said...

The Allen Clan would make a terrific feature on This American Life or Story Corps (on NPR)!

We've all heard about the Kennedy Family compound, and the compounds of other super rich families (luxury getaway compounds, not everyday life compounds). Those are nice, I suppose, but the Allen Family Compound is a horse of a different color -- an irresistable, heavenly hue! To discover a family in which several generations love each other enough to live together year-round is inspiring! And to learn that they've actually realized the dream is awesome!

It's one thing to dream of an ideal (lots of us did that in the 60s), it's quite another to make it come true and to live it.

Yet another sign that the Strother family -- and their relations -- are very special people!

I wonder what a Duck Family compound would be like .... hmmm?!!

Nope, I KNOW I don't have the energy for it. My hat's off to Francis!!!

Susan Carrier said...

I do envy the close-knit clan.

In terms of life satisfaction, I'm sure they're far "richer" than the Kennedy family or any of the other mega-wealthy families with compounds.

Piper Robert said...

The great Allen family, originally part of MacDonald of Clanranald, a powerful highland clan of Jacobite times. Nathan wears the ancient MacDonald tartan for his kilt. Hey Sis, did he model it for you?

What's amazing is Nathan's family has been on the same farm for 7 generations. Awesome.

Sue, you will find it interesting to know, we are related to the Allen's through several families. Nathan's grandma, Bea, was a Strother. Our Grandma's great grandma, Grannie Allen, was Nathan's grandpa's grandma. Make sense? Also, Phoebe Whiteman Hannah (William Hannah's wife, our great great grandpa) is a relation to Nathan. We are both related to the Harberts. Grandma's grandma was a Harbert. The family tree in West Virginia is somewhat entwined.

Some interesting facts about our family. The highest point in Harrison County, WV is named "Billy Plant Knob", named for our great great grandfather, William Plant. Grannie Allen used to deliver duck eggs to neighbors who lived across Ten Mile Creek. She would wrap the eggs in a big cloth, tie a knot, hold them in her mouth by the knot, hop onto her stilts and cross the creek. She was quite the character. I can picture her on stilts, with a long flowing dress of the time and her shock of red hair. I have a picture of her on my living room wall, do you remember seeing it? She is also in the 5th generation picture, Grandma so proudly displayed. We are direct descendants of Robert Strother, an Army officer during the Revolutionary War. Interesting stuff.

The Allen's are the most caring, giving, kind, considerate, hardworking, God loving people you will ever meet. I had the distinct honor of playing my pipes at the graveside service of Nathan's father. I'm very proud to call them family. How about three cheers for Clan Allen. Hip Hip.........Hooray!

Suzy keleher said...

So interesting, Piper Robert! i, too, have a wonderful heritage of strong men and women in my family...gives me a lot to hope. like my great Grandma selling real estate at age 90 and a great great grandfather that walked 2000 miles to start a farm/ homestead...and Cherokee Indian great-great grandmother that was forced to walk the "Trail of Tears" while with child...my great grandmother...who practically raised my father...a wonderful, God- loving woman. I exist because of her courage...I have a lot to live up to...Love, Suzy

Susan Carrier said...

Great info. about the Strother/Allen families.

I second that hip, hip hurrah!

My only regret from my trip to WV is that I didn't get to see my BFF Charleen Allen. We're both in our fifties now, but the first thing we do when we see one another is the "secret handshake" we created when we were preteens.

Mathews Family said...

"The family tree in West Virginia is somewhat entwined."

Well... as they say, "It's all relative in West Virginia."
Dad, you set yourself up for that :)

Nathan Allen said...

It was really great that Susan took time out of her busy schedule and came to visit the Allen Clan here in Wild,Wonderful West Virginia. It was really great seeing her again..Yes, I am lucky to have my children and grandchildren live here on the Circle A Farm..My wife Frances and myself get to see the grandchildren everyday. With 200 acres we have enough room to raise the whole clan. There are twenty of us living here on the farm.. Every Friday evening my Children and grandchildren come over for family night, Frances my wife out does herself by fixing different kinds of food, she is a great cook. She learned to cook on a wood stove way back in the mountains in Webster Springs, WV..She had 7 brothers and 7 sisters and to this day her family are close...Yes, its great to have Susan and piper Robert in the family, they are like brother and sister to our family, we love them very much..They are welcomed here on the Circle A Farm anytime...

Susan Carrier said...

Hey Cuz, Great to have coaxed you out of lurking status!

(I see I'll have to correct the number of acres and the spelling of Frances's name on the post.)

Anonymous said...

My parents are both from WV.
Any Mullins or Greathouse ancestors in that family tree? I'll bet we're cousins if we look hard enough.

Tara in VA

Anonymous said...

On second thought, any Epling or Wooten families in the line up either? If not, I'll widen the search.

Susan Carrier said...

Tara, we'd be happy to make you (and Amy) honorary members of the Strother/Allens clan.

JN said...

Hi Susan and fellow travelers,

When I was a teenager, my folks fantasized about having just such a compound. Dad had heard of someone who had a similar set-up on Cape Cod, but the patriarch was so controlling, he built houses for each kid to live separately, but only the main house had a kitchen! Diabolical, eh?