I get homesick a lot. I live nearly 1,000 miles from where I grew up, and sometimes it feels like 1,000,000. I knew all my neighbors—heck, I think I was related to half the town. Now I don’t even know my next door neighbors’ names. So I spend a lot of time talking to writers on online.
You can imagine my surprise when I met a woman who lived in Michigan (I lived there before), Florida (I wouldn’t mind living there if I can’t move home), and now lives in Pittsburgh (the city closest to my hometown and the city where I went to college). We immediately hit it off.
P. C. Zick’s writing career began in 1998 with the publication of her first column in a local paper. By day, she was a high school English teacher, but at night and on vacations, she began writing novels and freelance articles. By 2001, she left teaching and began pursuing a full-time gig as a writer. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre.
She writes three blogs. Her blog and her novels contain the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.
She’s working on her sixth novel, Native Lands. Live from the Road was her first venture into self-publishing in 2012. Trails in the Sand followed in January 2013. She’s re-issued two novels previously traditionally published.
She also writes nonfiction. From Seed to Table is a collection of blog posts about gardening and preserving produce. She’s also published her great grandfather’s Civil War journal, Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier. It’s this body of work I’ve asked her to talk about today, because it touches on connecting with our roots, a topic dear to my heart. So without further ado, I give you P. C. Zick.
Heroes for All Time
My great grandfather, Harmon Camburn, died nearly fifty years before I was born, yet for the past forty years a part of him has moved with me from Michigan to Florida to Pennsylvania. He lived between the covers of a light blue notebook on typewritten—and I do mean typewritten—pages prepared by my cousin from his handwritten journal. Those pages contained his experiences as a Union soldier from 1861-1864 when he joined Michigan’s 2nd Infantry and began the long journey to Washington D.C. where President Lincoln himself reviewed the newly minted and young soldiers ready to fight a battle for the preservation of the Union.
This past year, I decided that Harmon Camburn needed to come alive for our time. As I delved into his writings, I often veered off course as I researched some of the names he mentions in his journal. One trail brought me to a woman I’d often heard about in reverential terms in my family. My father and his siblings called her “Aunt Laura,” so I always assumed she was my aunt, too. Only upon researching her did I discover that everyone called her Aunt Laura because of her dedication to important causes. She worked tirelessly to ensure young women and African Americans received an education. She advocated for the abolition of slavery and became a leader in the Underground Railroad. She also fought for women’s suffrage although she died two decades too soon to see women receive the vote. Her Quaker upbringing created in her the quest to help all those who suffered at the hands of inequality. She later joined the Methodist Church after seeking a religion that best suited her beliefs.
She moved to Adrian, Michigan, from New York, with her husband. They had eight children, and yet she still managed to open the Raisin Institute, a school devoted to the education of all—no matter race, religion, or gender. She began working for both the abolition of slavery and the freedom of slaves through her work with the Underground Railroad.
A statute stands in front of the Lenawee County Courthouse in Adrian with the dedication, “A Tribute to a Life Consecrated to the Betterment of Humanity” Her autobiography, A Woman’s Life Work, chronicles her pursuit of equality. Her philosophy and faith is shown through her active narrative. She doesn’t need to pontificate her viewpoint. Her work speaks what she believes. It’s rich with dialogue and shows a life lived with only one thought: the betterment of all humans.
She began hiding runaway slaves on her farm in southeastern Michigan, sometimes personally escorting them to Canada. She became friends with Sojourner Truth during her work at the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C.
Her obituary states that when the Civil War began in 1861, she lost her students and one teacher at the Raisin Institute as they enlisted in the war effort. One of those students was my great grandfather, Harmon Camburn. In addition, after her death in 1898, they brought her body to Harmon Camburn’s home in Adrian for the public to come and pay tribute to “Aunt Laura.”
I discovered through the Camburn family tree that I can claim Laura Haviland as a relative through marriage. Harmon’s older brother married Laura’s daughter, Esther. Other siblings married Havilands as well.
My experience with researching and publishing the Civil War journal gave me a chance to gaze into the lives of both Great Grandfather Camburn and Aunt Laura. They did not live or die as martyrs for a cause, but as real human beings who fought for their beliefs without questioning why they did it. In their hearts and souls, they acted out their faith.
I consider my own life one of relative luxury compared to my ancestors and know that I have many miles to cover before I ever come close to the legacy left to me. Bringing to light the words of Harmon Camburn and the life work of Laura Smith Haviland is my start at walking respectfully in the large footprints they left.
The Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier begins with “An Excuse” from Harmon Camburn.
“If what I write meets the eye of others than those for whom they are intended, I have only this to say: It was only written for my children. And if I confer upon them as much pleasure as I shall take in gratifying them, I shall feel amply repaid.”
I hope both of them are smiling down upon me knowing the work they did is still alive so many years later. I am humbled and grateful for the legacy that both left.
P. C. Zick has lived in Michigan and Florida. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert.
For more information about her work or to follow her on social media, click on the links below:
A Woman’s Life Work by Laura Haviland
Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier (Harmon Camburn) presented by P.C. Zick
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PCZickCivilWarJournal
Writing Whims: http://www.pczick.com
Living Lightly: www.pczick.wordpress.com