DW. Dame was Lanark’s premier promoter in its earliest days and until he died in 1895. He served on every board and committee, was a state representative, mediated arguments he had no connection with and dogged the railroad companies to bring their tracks through Carroll County, one attempt earlier had been aborted. He was strictly devoted to his adopted hometown. Doubtless, he funded many projects to get them started, or continued.
Perhaps, it was because in his early years, his life was anything but grounded in family. D.W. was born in 1820 in New Hampshire, his mother dying when he was but four months old. He was taken to live with his grandparents. The grandparents died when he was thirteen. There is no mention of a father. Biography notes that he made his own way from his teen years “without pecuniary assistance”—making his way in life on his own “energy of character.”
He married his first wife, Mary Ann Roberts, in 1841 and had two daughters with her, one dying at four years old. The other, Julian Anzonetta, married Justice Levi Bray in Lanark. Roberts/Dame had died in 1847. The second wife, Sophia Worster, married him in 1848 and with whom they had four children. Three of them died in childhood (One girl was named Mary Ann, the name of the first wife). The surviving son, Charles took on many of the father’s businesses and would build the impressive manse between Locust and Franklin that occupies one entire block, a landmark. It’s across from the Methodist Church.
Still, in the nineteenth century women were secondary to men in every level of society. They realized little credit for the parts they played in development of the frontier which was yet mostly “uncivilized” so we know little of Lanark’s First Lady” who certainly was the anchor of her husband’s works. But we receive little personal knowledge of her, unlike D.W. who can be somewhat analyzed from anecdotes that filled the weeklies of yesterday—stern, fair, dour, generous???
But what of Sophia Dame? Her obituary stated that she was very active in the anti-slavery movement and served as “Ceres” in the Illinois State Grange and “never spoke ill of anyone.”
Following Sophia’s death in 1886, the newspaper reported that D.W. lived a life of “quietude, retirement and meditation.”
The couple had come from Carroll County, New Hampshire to Carroll County, Illinois, settling in Section 29, Rock Creek Township in 1857. He immediately went to work to obtain a railroad. After a few years they moved to town temporarily, then back to residence five miles south of the new town, Lanark. Again a move to town in the first block east of Broad Street next to the Howletts, the newspaper editor. Her last year she suffered declining health (liver cancer) but no ill word was heard from her.
Funerals in the nineteenth century were held at home or in a church. Sophia Dame’s was at home where her friends brought a plate of Pansies, her favorite flower, as tribute to their companion in the growing town.
Do we learn anything from knowing that Sophia’s memory was credited with a plate of Pansies? We’d like to think that personal item makes her “come alive” from the past especially for those whose favorite flower also is the Pansy.
The plate of Pansies struck us as meaningful and charming so we used the flower as a theme for PDQ Me. Background of the Dame’s seemed needful so here we are at Pansy.
In the language of flowers Pansy means thoughtfulness. It is from the French word pensee meaning thought or sentiment, appropriate, perhaps, for the many tragedies visited upon the Dame family. No one can say for certain however where the Pansy originated, it goes so far back in time. It’s found in many parts of the world. They’ve traveled all over, perhaps because of their sweet, innocent charm. It is supposed, however, that they are a cultivated form of Viola tricolor, a weed in the grain fields of Europe. You can plainly see the similarities between Pansy and the Violet family. The Birdfoot Violet, in fact, has its top two petals somewhat darkly shaded while the Field Pansy of the eastern states, though in white and light blue, resembles a Violet. There are the usual numerous genus of both Violet and Pansy and many a tale has risen from both. Violets were Napoleon’s favorite flower. He tended a garden of them while in exile on the island, St. Helen. Josephine, who became his wife, wore them in her hair to woo him. She received bouquets of them on their anniversary. Violets became the symbol of his followers in France, they calling him “LePere Violette.” France, and nearby Belgium, became leaders in the development of the flower.
“Rosemary for remembrance, and Pansy, that’s for thought,” declared Ophelia.
Pansies were found in Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains, around the Mediterranean and by the 1830’s were being highly bred in England, the climate perfect for growing the Pansy. Experiments resulted in much success. They crossed the Viola tricolor with the Viola lutea, a hardy example. About ten years later a Briton by the name of John Setter, sent some samples of his experiments to France and in turn went to Belgium where the kinds were almost limitless in color and variety. Some of Setter’s hybrids were sent to the United States in 1848 to become immediately popular. They came to be the rage, and have remained so.
Their colors range from bronze, rust, orange, lavender, white, blue, yellow, pink, purple, black and mixes of all. Their “faces” may be blotched, streaked, or edged.
All Pansies are Violas but not all Violas are Pansies! Pansies have larger blossoms and are treated as annuals, that is, flower, bloom, seed all in one year, while Violas are perennials, blooming year after year. Pansy likes the sun but partial shade is probably preferable, planted in warm, moist soil with half-strength water soluble fertilizer. By picking pansies every day they won’t go to seed and will keep on blooming well into autumn. Yes, they will even survive a light snowfall or temperatures down to 15º, reference says, though they still probably should be covered with an old sheet or dish towel as grandma did. They’ve become a cold-weather plant, surprisingly for all their delicate beauty. Cold will shrivel them into a crinkly green mass but they resurrect and go on blooming.
Modern Pansies consists of Showy and Fancy, the Show varieties specialized in whiteselfs, yellows for background while the Fancy are color blended with all sorts of shadings of many colors. Bedding Pansies might be known as Violas or Tufted Pansies for the little ‘spur’ at a petals’ edge. Each prefers its own “habitat” and you pansy planters will know—where, when and how if spring ever comes!!! The retailer or extension agent, if you have one, will know.
As you plant the Pansy give a thought of someone dear, that’s the purpose of the Pansy, a sentiment. And tip your sun bonnet to Sophia Dame who entered a new challenge on coming west to make the best of it. A plate of Pansies was a fine tribute.