While living out West shortly after marriage, and feeling a bit homesick, I came across a copy of an Andrew Wyeth painting called “Chester County Farm” Most of his works are on display in Chadds Ford, PA , very near his home and the inspiration for his work. I was drawn to the image for several reasons. The perspective of the fence, the grey and brown images of the not so pretty time of the year, but most of all, the farm.
This was the area of the country where my immigrant grandparents settled. They arrived at very different times of their life, he was a child who came with his mother and younger sister, leaving another sibling behind in eastern Europe. She came as a young adult a decade later, arriving to serve as an interpreter for the many languages spoken by immigrants of that time. She didn’t keep the job at Ellis Island for very long, being disturbed by the treatment of her compatriots. She took a job as a nanny, caregiver for a wealthy Philadelphia family, and somehow met up with her future husband, whose family had settled in Phoenixville, Pa. I will never know how they managed to save up the resources to buy a dairy farm, but they did; settling in rural Chester County. Enter the Great Depression, early 1930’s. They were just a few hundred dollars from full ownership when the bank foreclosed on the farm. They lost it all, and were forced to move to the “city” with 2 young children and work in the local steel mill. Dreams shattered, my grandfather was a broken man, in every way a man can be broken. He died in a state hospital for the indigent with a condition then known as “the melancholy”. The Wyeth print hangs proudly on my living room wall.