Tritt Family Reunion
The year following my great-great grandfather William Lloyd Garrison Tritt's release from a Confederate Prisoner of War camp, located near Florence, South Carolina, friends and family gathered at the Tritt homestead in the Town of Poygan to pay tribute to this man who volunteered to serve his country at the age of forty-two, leaving behind a pregnant wife - pregnant with my great grandmother Julissa Tritt Flanagan - and eight children. This small and intimate first gathering marked the beginning of the Tritt Family Reunion that would be celebrated each of the next one hundred years.
An August, 1934 edition of the Oshkosh Northwestern bore these words: "Believed to be without precedent in the city, if not the state, the Tritt family descendents of the late William and Julissa Hubbard Tritt, held their 67th family reunion Sunday at Menominee Park here ...
"At the reunion here Sunday," the article continued, "entertainment was furnished by Donald La Point and his Green Mountain Entertainers, featuring old time songs. A vaudeville skit by Marjorie Knoll, Charles Flanagan, Irene Carpenter and Dale La Point was also given which was followed by a resume of the Tritt family history by the past grand matron of the Order of Eastern Star of Illinois, Eliza Varnell ..."
It would be a few years later when I would experience this annual coming-together and remember it as a very special time in my life. The reunions were large. William and Julissa had ten children and the summer gatherings of this family soon branched out to include such names as Knoll, Carpenter, Fuller, Blitz, Wilkerson, Flanagan, McRae, and La Point. The family tree in the 1940s and 1950s had so many branches that the feeling of family in this now large and extended assemblage was becoming difficult to maintain.
The Tritt reunion continued during the later years of my youth with a more-or-less sporadic attendance. Grandma La Point's diary entry for August 29, 1965 reads: "Tritt family reunion today at South Park with a small attendance. Aunt Florence Wilkinson there, the last of the direct descendents. She will be 99 October 7, 1965." When Florence, the youngest daughter of William Lloyd Garrison Tritt, died the following year at the age of 100 this annual event, that had its beginning shortly after the fall of the South, faded into memory.
When I think back to those annual gatherings of the Tritt clan, the sight of my two uncles playing and singing on the old park bandstand always appear first. Donald on the bass and Carvel strumming the guitar played along with others in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s under the names of the Texas Stompers, the Green Mountain Boys, and the Playboys, the latter of which had Sunday morning time on WOSH.
My uncles, who did much of the singing, had that down-home quality that gave their songs a pleasant, almost familial ring. Watching them in their cowboy hats playing and singing everyone's old-time favorites was the highlight of those days in the park. This type of entertainment was reminiscent of the old Flanagan bands that played in dance halls throughout the Poygan area when my grandmother, who was often called to play the piano in the band, was still a young woman.
All my dad's brothers were self-taught musicians as was their mother and grandfather before them. My dad, the only one of six children of Madge Flanagan La Point not able to play an instrument, sometimes aided a rendition with a pair of spoons. Music was an important part of the La Point family, thanks mainly to their Flanagan roots.
The reunions, like youth, didn't last long, but they provide fond memories. They are memories of games and races and cousins and play, of running and exploring the vastness of the park, and enjoying the assortment of good food family members brought, and the freedom to wash it all down with all the pop we cared to drink. Everyone, it seemed, brought their favorite dish.
Asking dad for some change, and usually getting it, to buy ice cream at Miller's Confectionary near the end of the day was a treat most of us were not ordinarily used to.
Watching the entertainment, listening to the music, seeing the smiles of joy and contentment on the faces of the adults, hearing laughter and kind words and feeling that you were a part of it all brought about a certainty of place and a sense of belonging that has stayed with me throughout the years.