Sarah Hume Ferguson
My paternal great-grandmother was Sarah Jane Hume Ferguson of Reading, Pennsylvania. She was a remarkable woman, who had a photographic memory and a sharp wit. She could read an entire page of a newspaper and then recite it back practically word for word. She could sit in the back of a large church congregation and afterward recite by memory who sat where and what they were wearing.
Through thrift and intelligence, she provided support for her three children: a son George, a daughter Emma, and a son Harry. My grandfather Harry was the youngest child and became the object of much of Sarah’s attention. Sarah recognized in Harry the same intelligence and the same capacity for memory that she possessed.
Over the years—even before her husband’s death—she set aside whatever meager savings she could for the education of Harry. She knew that to try and save for the schooling of all three of her children would be a futile task. She made her choice to devote what she could to help with the education and advancement of Harry, so that he would not be forced to become a railroad man like his father. He eventually won a scholarship to the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and then to the University of Michigan.
He graduated from there, became a chemical engineer, and took a job with Humble Oil in Texas. For decades afterwards he provided financial support to his sister and brother, and to their children.