Friday, November 13, 2009

Conger, Andrew Ival

Congers Keeping Walking Stick Tradition Alive
Glennis Nagel

Some children are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but Andrew Ival Conger, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ival Conger, Newark, Ohio, was born June 12, [1970 at Newark, Licking Co., OH] with a walking stick in his hand.

Of course, no one expects Andy to walk with the stick. The walking stick hasn't been used as a walking stick in more than 105 years. The walking stick is a part of Conger tradition.

"In the last 105 years, at least, it hasn't been used as walking stick, but it has been handed down through the family," Andy's grandfather, Robert Conger, 802 W. 27th St., said.

Through the years, the walking stick has been handed down from oldest son to oldest son.

Although Mr. Conger doesn't know how far back the tradition goes, he said, "I think that you may assume this was made in the early 1800's."

"A lot of the story is probably folklore, but the story is that the walking stick was made for one of my great grandfathers by Joseph Tibbles, who was called Uncle Joe," Mr. Conger said. "It was made with the stipulation that it was to go to the oldest son in each generation." However, the tradition was in danger of dying out.

"My father, Finis, was the oldest of eight boys. Out of eight boys, there were only four boys born and I was one of those boys. And from those four, there was only one boy, my son Ival, and he was born 27 years ago," Mr. Conger explained.

"My oldest brother had two daughters, so I got the cane because I did have a son. Of the Congers, there is only my brother, my son, and now my grandson left. Nowhere in the United States is there any more of our family line except us," he said.

Just which great grandfather the walking stick was made for Mr. Conger doesn't know. It could have been made for Finis' father, Sigel, or Sigel's father, Elias, or for Elias' father, Enos.

Whoever it was made for, Uncle Joe reputedly was very particular.

"It is a hickory stick. He hunted all over the woods until he found the branch he wanted, then he tied it. And in two or three years he returned to it, and it had grown straight by that time." Mr. Conger said.

"After he had cut it, he threw it up in the barn and left it for a year. After that year was up, he went and got it. He peeled the bark off of it and threw it up there for another year.

"The next year he began to whittle. The walking stick was carved into four separate segments with each segment made in the form of a different tool handle: a hammer, ax, adz and mall." he said. "Once each of the handles was carved, the wood was smoothed with a piece of broken glass. There was no sandpaper in those days."

"Some people say I should redo it, sand it and refinish it, but
I think it should be handed down in its original form," Mr. Conger said.

In keeping with the tradition of handing down the walking stick, r. Conger has made an old-fashioned baby cradle for each of his four daughters and his son. The cradles are to be handed down from generation to generation.

"I made the first one for our son's wife, Almeda. Hers is made of walnut and the others are of cherry wood. We had hoped that the first baby would be a boy," Mr. Conger said.

However, the first two grandchildren to use the walnut cradle were girls, Sherry, who will be four years old this fall, and Tammy, a year and a half old.

To encourage his daughter-in-law to provide the Conger family with a son to carry on the family name, Mr. Conger offered her a $100 bill and a gold plated baby cradle.

"Knowing her blowing it twice, I didn't think I'd have to make one," he said with a smile. "I haven't figured out how I'll gold plate it yet."

The Congers left for Newark, Ohio, this week to take the walking stick and $100 to the new arrival.

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