This year’s challenge by Amy Crow is another weekly blog for 52 weeks about 52 ancestors This weeks theme is on “TOUGH WOMAN”
Caroline Elizabeth Gasper-Bough was my maternal grandmother. She was born in 1894 on St. Croix, Danish West Indies, and was the daughter and only child of Victoria Richard (1877-1899) and Stephen Gasper (1871-1925). When my grandmother was about five (5) years old her mother died. Caroline knew nothing about her father, only that he had a wife and that a song was written where the chorus went “Stephen Gasper boy go home to your lawful wife” (Quelbe style) I believe that chorus tells it all
Caroline’s mother’s brother Thomas Richard, took responsibility for Caroline’s well being, to include where and with whom she would reside. However unstable Caroline’s young life seemed, her Uncle Thomas made weekly visits each Sunday so that little Caroline would have a sense of belonging. As Caroline matured, she worked as a live-in House Servant with a family on the island, with the surname Lang. My grandmother told me stories about her Uncle’s weekly visit and rides in the buggy visiting friends and family. Every now and then she would sing that chorus about her father. It would be many decades later that I would see her listed in the census with the Lang family.
She later met my grandfather Julius C. Bough who was born and raised in St. Croix. He was a merchant who worked in his father’s dry goods store. They eventually tied the knot in 1926. She appeared to have had about 8 children. However, only 4 lived to adulthood including one who died at the age of 19 in New York.
After the transfer in 1917 of the Danish West Indies which is now, the US Virgin Islands hopes ran high. But with the economic ills as well as the “strong arm” tactics of the Naval Administration, hopes dwindled. By 1930’s, thousands of natives migrated to New York City for they were considered US Citizens.
My grandparents are among the first US Virgin Islanders to migrate and settle in New York. My grandfather went up first and later sent for his wife and children as shown in the New York Passengers List, 1820-1957.
Starting this new life in America was full of hope and dreams. My grandparents were married in New York, and my mother (Joyce Bough) became the first American, born in the family. Ten years after Caroline’s arrival to New York, her husband Julius Bough died leaving Caroline Elizabeth, a widow, with children. Like most people during the depression era, their lives were not easy. Their lives were hard. But in the midst of the struggle she resisted the feelings of uncertainty about the future. Instead, she looked for ways to add to her income. Eventually, the family opened a Newsstand in Harlem in the 40’s on 145th in New York. Out of this tiny newsstand they sold the daily papers, pickles and candy. I have no idea how much one could make selling newspapers. When I listened attentively to these stories I would wonder how much could you make selling papers. I quickly realize it wasn’t about getting rich, but that it was a means to an end.
When I review my grandmother’s life, she appears to be a woman that was certainly acquainted with grief. Her experience of life showed her strength, love and devotion to her family and God. Her home was open to friends and family from St. Croix. It was at home where stories were shared that taught VI history, family genealogy, and the best native food ever. From her life, one learned resilience, dignity, integrity and commitment.
Sources: Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA). US Virgin Islands Census (Danish Period 1835-1911). Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA), PO Box 338, Frederiksted, US Virgin Islands 00841. Images and index reproduced courtesy of VISHA.
So detailed..so vivid. I am so proud of you! So….the Joyce Bough that went to IAU with me…what is she to you? i assume she is named after your Mom.
I am so glad that you are enjoying the posts, when I wrote about my grandmother I really missed being in her company. It bought back so many memories. Living in the Virgin Islands is full circle I walk where my ancestors walked. Its a nice feeling. The Joyce that you make reference to is my cousin. I appreciate your remarks. Thank you again.
BTW…I missed your previous 2 postings. Will go back and find them.
I have to catch up.
Great post! Did your grandmother ever make it back to St. Croix?
Minkyadoo, you go girl! 52 in 52 is an awesome challenge to undertake. Great story about Caroline Gasper. I especially love her picture. Can’t wait to see who’s next.