The Spirit of Anna Wickline Knight

First, a brief history of the Wicklines:

Johann Georg Wickline was born, just before 1700, in Alsace or the Black Forest of Germany. He immigrated to Philadelphia, by way of Rotterdam, arriving on the Palatine German brig John in October of 1736 and married Anna Christina Rietenauer, also of Alsace, in 1741 in Berks County, PA. We can tell that Johann Georg was literate, because he signed his oath to the American government with his signature, not an X mark. All of the Wicklines in America are descended from Johann Georg, my line through his son Jacob George, born 1750 in Montgomery County, PA, and Jacob’s wife Maria Catharine Spahr of Berks County, PA.

Jacob and Maria moved their family south to Sweet Springs, Virginia, right on the border between present-day Virginia and southern West Virginia, where the Wickline family stayed until the late 19th century, when Anna Mazuria Wickline moved to central West Virginia and married William Clinton Knight of Braxton County.


Though she is not a grandmother to either one of us, my mom and I both call her “Grandma Knight.” She’s my grandmother’s grandmother, my mother’s great-grandmother, and my great-great-grandmother. And she was a West-Virginia-hills-country homestead-woman, who shot her own meat, chopped her own firewood (and probably called it “fahrwood”), quilted, gardened, and boasted a canning cellar that was apparently quite a delight to visit. Her whole front yard-patch was nothing but a flower garden. She must have been the embodiment of the old saying about “idle hands,” because I’ve never once heard of her sitting idly. And I could probably deduce that my pricklyness is an Annie Wickline trait, diluted by a couple of generations and tempered extensively by a recent injection of Avery good humor.

If there’s one really great thing about knowing the oral history of both sides of your family, it’s that you can recognize when you honestly come by certain traits in yourself. It’s the old nature versus nurture argument, but as a small-time genealogist that’s half the romance of digging up these old stories — not just figuring out whence a dimpled chin or prominent nose, but personality traits or interests shared with long-gone, unmet ancestors. And sometime last summer, I became possessed by the spirit of Grandma Knight, or at least her DNA. The desire to plant something, and make a mark on my tiny landscape, became an undeniable itch. I finally got Jim to build first one and then a second raised bed, I put in berry bushes and flowers, started planning fall bulbs,* and got Jim to rip out most of our lovely-but-blah box hedges and call in a landscaper for new stone edging and perennial summer and fall bloomers. I honed home-canning skills and plotted out a year of grander canning designs. I tried to figure out where (and how) to start a small vegetable garden. I bought a share in a friend’s farm CSA, and started to research summer fruit and veggie CSAs.

*I think the bulb obsession might come from my dad’s side. Nana (Ethel Durrell Betts) was quite a bulb aficionado, from what I’ve heard, and he seems inclined toward bulb flowers and rose bushes.

My grandmother is a gardener and flower enthusiast (she can grow gladiolas in the most inhospitable soil), and  my mom is a whiz with water-gardening and cuttings. She can take a cutting, ship it thousands of miles in a suitcase, and once at her destination, it grows like gangbusters. I haven’t developed the skills to be a cutting-whisperer yet, but my water-gardening skills are growing in — I haven’t managed to kill off the water-grown green onions in my window sill, much to my surprise (many years ago, though, I did have a disastrous episode with water-grown bamboo). She’s also known to be able to keep African violets, notoriously finicky little things, alive and thriving. Her talent seems to be for the temperamental houseplants, and I think she got Annie’s quilting genes.

I think that the sudden explosion of gardening interest might have been my then-frustrated energy to create and nurture life, because it coincided neatly with the beginning of my visits to the endocrinologist. Going out in the summer evenings and trimming an explosive vinca and pulling weedlets, or watering my little garden before the heat of the day, was therapeutic and gave me something to do and something to focus on instead of being continually frustrated by a lack of progress medically.

A year later, let’s inventory the garden, shall we?

  • blueberries: last year’s Bluegold and Earliblue, this year’s O’Neal (last year’s half-price Toro didn’t make it)
  • tomatoes: Early Girl, Better Boy
  • 155 spring bulbs, a mix of variegated muscari, ruby crocus, Spring Beauty crocus, mini red tulips, purple anemone, and poppy anemone
  • 2 lavender-blue geraniums with purple leaves
  • 2 sage bushes
  • 2 coneflowers (Echinacea)
  • 1 sea grass
  • 1 butterfly bush (Buddleia)
  • 1 red fox speedwell (Veronica spicata; to replace I-can’t-remember-what in the front border that didn’t survive winter)
  • 1 wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa; replacing something else in the front border that didn’t survive winter)
  • 6 indefatigable hostas
  • 1 baby food jar of window-sill green onions
  • a potted “neanthebella” parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) in the nursery
  • a small army of spring petunias and violas, soon to be replaced by
  • another trio of summer vinca

So perhaps I come by the semi-gardening, semi-homesteading bug honestly.

Anna Wickline m. William Knight
Irene Knight m. William Nicholson
Beulah Nicholson m. Cal Avery
Mary Avery m. William Tisdale
me & Jim
Little Miss


1 Comment

Filed under family history, the house

One response to “The Spirit of Anna Wickline Knight

  1. Claire Tisdale

    Nice little history. I enjoy reading anything about anybody’s ancestors. I like the comment about acknowledging where handed down traits originate. It’s like suddenly saying ” Hello. Grandma so-in-so. It’s so nice to meet you.”

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