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Woonsocket Territory, South Dakota 1884

At the house, a casket in the parlor holds her brother John, hurt on the railroad, they say. Town folks and family fill the house with muffled drones. Her mother and father, stoic. She’s sad for them, though not too sad; fourteen children in all, her sisters barely out of the cradle. John, gone so long she has little memory of him.

At dusk she hurries to the well at the edge of the woods. The bucket bumps her thigh as she listens for footsteps. She keeps to the path, head down to stay ahead of her fear. The plains are not a friendly place. Local news is riddled with tales of frontier outlaws, highwaymen who rob the railroad and roam the countryside for prey.

Her job, to tote water from the well to the house twice a day. With every bit of strength, she dips and raises the bucket that sloshes her dress and pinafore. Winter’s sting arrived today along with her seventh birthday. Tonight she’ll hurry along the path before dark, hoping to hear only crickets, and tomorrow at dawn, the mourning dove.

Jean Cassidy,  2005

To honor my Grandmother Rosanna May Winifred Docter Kartholl,  November 5, 1877 – April 16, 1966


The Book of Symbols. Reflections on Archetypal Images -Taschen 

Path   The suggestion of a path provides hope that there is a way, a correct way or a way that will lead to another option out of a difficult position. “In essence the path implies direction. In the face of chaos and a sense that the events of life are random, it offers something linear, a suggestion of meaning.”

Cradle   The cradle complements the coffin, which carries the dead to the afterlife. Mythically, it is the “cosmic barque on the primordial ocean.”

Dove   A mediating spirit   “Innocence, beauty are the legendary virtues of the docile, inquisitive bird with the softly feathered, round body… Alchemy’s dove, as the soul rising out of the chaotic waters of the nigredo or descending from heaven to meet them, mediates a marriage between our lofty aspirations and the churning affective life that bubbles up from below.”


Her Parents from Hesse Germany: Peter Joseph Docter, 1840 and Margrethe Koch Docter, 1845

Her Sibs:

Joseph  1865

Barbery Henning Docter 1867

Mary Henning Docter 1869

Maggie R .Docter 1869

John William 1870

Theodore S 1871

Martha M (Myrtle) 1874

August Carl (Gus) 1875

*Rosanna May  1877

Julia Angelina 1879

Eva F Maressault  1882

Emma P   1884

Blanche Loretta  1885

Otto John  1887



Left to right front:  Gran, Great Uncle Gus, Great Aunt Myrtle

Left to right back row: Great Aunt Blanche, Great Aunt Julia, Great Aunt Emma


The City of Woonsocket began in 1883 at the junction of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Saint Paul Railroads The town of Woonsocket, named after Woonsocket, Rhode Island, grew rapidly. The first day lots were offered for sale, fifty lots were sold. Woonsocket grew so fast that it was called “Boomstrucket.” The populations from the Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul Railroads drew 500 to 800 people into the plains in two months.

Settlers were also enticed to come to South Dakota by the lure of free land, made possible by the Homestead Act of 1862. Advertising by the territorial immigration commission and the railroad companies probably drew immigrants to the state. If all these factors were not attractive to prospective settlers, gold in the Black Hills was. Gold had been discovered there in the mid-1870s, and by 1878 the region was booming. Between 1878 and 1887 at least 2,179.10 miles of railroad had been constructed.

family history, history, midwest

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