Written by Laura Cooper Gonnam 1957-1964
Transcribed by Kerry L. Gonnam 1994
Between the years of 1957 and 1964 my Grandmother Laura Cooper Gonnam set down in writing the memoirs of her life as she remembered them. These memoirs contain facts of our family’s history that would likely be forgotten had she not recorded them. They also contain glimpses of a life that now, at the end of the Twentieth Century, we find fascinating, but foreign to our lives. I wanted to transcribe these words to the printed page so that the descendants of Laura Gonnam might share with their family what I’ve been able to share with mine.
While in the process of typing these pages I noticed something interesting. Grandma Gonnam continually points out how much things have changed since the time of her youth, the late 19’th century and the early 20’th century, and the time she wrote these passages, the early 1960’s. Only 30 years have transpired between then and now, (Jan. 1994) and if she thought things had changed in the first 2/3 of this century; it’s a good thing she wasn’t around for the last 1/3. Some of the problems she pointed out in 1963 such as the break-up of the family lifestyle have become headlines in today’s world. And if she thought radio was a bad influence on people, I wonder what she would think about television, modern movies, and videos.
Grandma Gonnam was a very opinionated lady and I think used these memoirs as an opportunity to express feelings she maybe hadn’t had an opportunity to before. She was very proud of both the Cooper family and particularly her husband and his accomplishments. Her feelings toward the church and the place of the church in her life are also pretty evident. While some things are repetitive, all in all I feel this manuscript gives a substantially accurate picture of life during that time and how it shaped Grandma Gonnam’s life.
While assembling this manuscript I became more actively involved in the family history than I have been recently. When I contacted members of my Father’s family for birthdates, etc; I was pleasantly surprised to receive from my Aunt Jean Wooden a copy of a Cooper family history she had written with the help of Laura in 1941. Following a lead from that history I sent a letter to DePauw University in Indiana and was rewarded with the following: Official life histories of Samuel C. Cooper and his son Samuel T. Cooper and their activities in the Methodist Church of Indiana; another Cooper Family History written by another descendant of Samuel C.; and a copy of the journal of Samuel C. Cooper during his travels as a circuit rider for the Methodist Church. Through these I have conclusively traced the Cooper family to Baltimore, Md. at the beginning of the 19’th century and believe to an indentured servant landing there from England in 1775. As time and circumstance permit I will continue to follow up on this and other branches of the family. I have included copies of these documents at the end of these memoirs so all can share in the history of this pioneer family that we are descended from.
I hope these memoirs and other material serve you, the descendants of Laura Cooper Gonnam, well.
The way of living and farming in the 1880’s was so different than 1961 that our young people will hardly believe that people lived as they did.
My Grandfather bought the home farm in 1856 and my husband and I bought it in 1919, on Feb.18, the day our youngest son was born, William Jesse Gonnam. My Grandfather’s name was William Cooper. My Father was Alfred Bruce Cooper. My Mother was Mary Funk and was related to the Funks that raise seed corn in McLean Cty. now in 1960. Her Father’s name was James Funk and her Mother’s maiden name was Sarah Ross. My Mother was born in 1856 and died in June 1934.
When I was 4 years old I remember one day being left with my Aunt Lida Funk(Marsh) and I must have been sick as we stayed in the parlor and I had a bed on a couch. My Father, Mother, and Grandfather Cooper had all gone away, and I later learned it was to my little brother William’s funeral. He had died with membranious croup. When they came home later that day my mother seemed to cry a lot and it made me feel bad to hear her cry. We were living in the large house with my Grandfather and across the road to the east of it was a small 4 room house where I was born on June 28, 1882. That small house was occupied now by a widow woman, Mrs. Sarah Millet and her 2 sons, Sherman and Irvin. The older boy was large enough to help with the field work and the younger one spent much of his time in the timber joining our farm and the Jonathan Wilson farm on the south, and the timbers that run to the Illinois River 5 or 6 miles north of where we lived and extending 20 miles west and east both ways along the river. At one place along the river we were only 4 miles from the river. Mrs. Millet helped my mother with her house work as my Aunt was a school teacher, but our house was her week-end home.
My brother William’s funeral was held at the Zion Methodist Church 3 1/2 miles east of our home and he was buried in the Bishop or Anderson Cemetery 5 miles southeast of our home. He was only 8 months old and was buried beside my older brother Stephen who died when only 4 days old.
The next early summer I remember a bad storm. Grandfather slept in the large south room upstairs and my folks downstairs in an east bedroom off the large dining room. I had been asleep in the bedroom in my small bed and Mother had been baking bread & cookies in the kitchen and Father was churning with the big barrel churn near her. Was about 3 PM when a terrible clap of thunder and a sharp report like a gunshot that rattled all the windows and woke me up screaming, bringing G’father rushing downstairs and meeting Father rushing up to see what each one was trying to do–making such a terrible noise. Realizing the house must have been struck with lightning they ran out to look around and discovered the large lightning rod on the main part of the house almost bent double and blackened and the air smelling of sulphur and 3 calves dead out in the orchard just west of the house yard and a large pear tree on the north side of the house split right down the middle of the tree. Mother took her large pan of cookies out of the oven and gathered me up in her arms and ran out to see what had happened that the men were so excited about. It was not raining just then but a short time later, rain came down in sheets and torrents. Of course it had been raining some earlier or the men folks would not have been in the house.
Two years before this all happened my Father’s youngest sister Frances and her husband William Granby( a younger brother of Theador Granby who married her older sister Mary and lived 2 1/2 miles southeast of our home) with their two children; Ray, 4 years old and Ruby, 2yrs old and an Aunt of Father’s and sister-in-law of Grandfather’s, Mrs. Mary McMellen had lived in the large house and us in the smaller one that replaced the log cabin that had stood southwest of the small house and was the first home of the family when they came to Illinois from Indiana and Ohio.[ Aunt Frances and Ray and Ruby all died in one week of scarlet fever and were buried at one time in the Anderson Cemetery where my 2 small brothers were buried.] At that time Indians roamed the country and often stopped to get something to eat, many times giving wild game and quail or prairie chickens to Grandfather for cured pork and bread; even bringing him fresh killed deer and asking for pork in exchange. The woods around were the Indian’s’ real hunting grounds, the women gathering wild berries and roots of various kinds for food and medicine. Deer often came to feed with the cattle and their numbers often reduced a haystack to mouthfuls in one night’s raid. Grandfather put his hay close to the house so the family dog could keep the deer away at night.
My Aunt Frances was about 5 years old when Grandmother Cooper died and it was then Aunt Mary McMellen came to keep house for Grandfather Cooper. She was a widow with 2 grown daughters. I do not remember anything about the older girl, but Ellen, the younger, later married William Rolley who was Justice of the Peace and a lawyer in Morris for years. They had two children; Eutice( who was living in Chicago in 1955) and Edna who married Ed Ruteuber, a photographer in Morris and now lives in Waukeshau, Wis. with her daughter Garnet Tolbert. Edna is a cripple but gets about very well with a cane having broken her hips several years ago, was 77 years old in 1955. They often visited our home and we girls grew very fond of each other. One of our favorite play houses was under a large apple tree in the big orchard. My Grandfather believed in raising everything he could to help feed his family so had planted about 50 apple trees of different kinds as well as other fruit trees and berries. In those days no farm was complete without a huge garden and many long rows of potatoes( both white and sweet) and grapes, both colors of currants ( red & black and sometimes white), gooseberries, blackberries, red and black raspberries, long rows of rhubarb, beds of asparagus and herbs of all kinds…sage, dill, thyme, and mint; many of these used for medicine as doctors were many miles away. I feel today that many of the old simple remedies are far superior to lots of the drugs used now. Long rows of sweetcorn which they dried as well as popcorn for those long winter nights in-doors. Another thing the Indians liked to trade the settlers was maple syrup and sugar and Grandfather learned to make his own later on. At one time Indians were camped in the timber just west of the house and Shabbona’s boys used to come and play with my Father and my Uncle Owen. One time Grandfather had made his boys some stilts and all the boys had fun with learning to walk. The next day the Indian boys came with some nice fish for dinner and asked that he make them some stilts, so he did. He was always ready to help his boys make different things and taught them to share their homemade toys with the Indian boys. Both Father and Uncle were very handy with bow and arrows and learned to ride the Indian ponies bare-back with the one rein, Indian fashion. Grandfather often said when they were some distance from the house it was hard to tell which boys were his. After my father got old enough to work on the farm he and my uncle did much of the work and Grandfather could take things a little easier–as he was not well. Uncle married Miss Selina Tuck and for a few years they lived on the farm once owned by Lester Sutton; they later moved to Hansen, Nebraska where they lived till they died and are buried near Hansen. They never had any family and Aunt Lina was very active in the W.C.T.U. and both in church work. Uncle gave the land for a large grain elevator and a spur of the Northwestern RR that runs thru Hansen, also the ground for the church and many of the other buildings there.
Father was first married to Grace Reniff but she died when her baby boy was born dead. Then, after several years he met my mother, Mary Funk, from Wing, Ill. and married her. There were 5 of us children: Stephen, William, Howard, Clinton and myself. As I have said, Stephen and William died in infancy, but we other three grew up. Both boys had asthma very bad, and at the age of nineteen Howard was sent to a dryer climate to live with my Uncle Owen near Hansen, Nebraska where he has lived ever since, settling in Hastings, Nebraska where he was married. Our youngest brother Clinton had a long sick spell when two years old that left him almost an invalid, very frail and not able to attend school, so Mother taught him at home. When able he would help her about the house and learned to cook very well after getting the entire meal for Mother and Father while Mother was canning fruit or vegetables for winter use.
In those days farm people raised nearly everything that went to feed their families and during the growing time canned or dried or preserved all they could for use in the winter months. Hogs were butchered with some of the meat put in salt brine, then smoked and some meat was ground and seasoned with salt, pepper, and sage or other spices according to the families’ taste and some was put in cotton bags and smoked and some was cooked and put in stone jars and covered with lard to keep out the air and used during the summer months. Beef was also killed and salted down very much in the same way as pork and many of the farms had buildings where the meat hung in large pieces all summer or until it was used up. These buildings were made as near air tight as possible and were called smokehouses. A small fire was made in the center of the small room in an iron kettle or pot and green hickory bark was put on it to make it smoke and the smell of the hickory smoke would penetrate the meat and would help preserve it to be used all summer or until time to butcher again in the cool weather. Some farmers built ice houses and would have sawdust to pack the ice in and keep it air tight and that lasted all summer. It was a real job filling those ice houses and neighbors would help each other as well as helping to butcher the meat. Large iron kettles were used to make the lard. The fat of the hog was cut up in small pieces and placed in the kettle, a small fire was made under the kettle and the fat melted. When the small pieces were a certain brown color the liquid was dipped off into large jars or cans and allowed to cool. The reason the fire was started slowly under the kettle was to keep the fat from burning and turning a dark brown that had a burned taste and smell that made it useless to use in cooking, so the fire was carefully watched to avoid that trouble. If such a thing did happen, it was turned into soap by using lye made of wood ashes from the stoves or fireplaces.
This was done by using a barrel of wood and putting it up on a platform of boards and filling it with straw, then ashes a layer at a time till the barrel was full. Then a board was put on the top and a 1/2 barrel put up on it and filled with water. 2 small holes had been made in the side near the bottom and a small elderberry stick placed in the hole letting the water slowly drip down on the ashes. Then a large jar or another iron kettle was put under the ash barrel and two flat boards put under to catch the dripping lye and let it run into the jar or container at the bottom. Children and animals had to be kept away from the lye drips as it was very strong and would cause terrible sores on humans and kill anything that drank it. I always loved soap making time and when older I helped my Mother make barrels of soft soap. Salt was put into the hot soap to make it into cakes like one buys today. Since I have become grown I have made many lbs. of lovely white soap, but have used the canned lye called Lewis Lye. This can be used for any purpose of house cleaning or laundry. Have made many lbs. for my neighbors. The soft soap my mother made was a brown honey colored and was used besides laundry work and general cleaning by blacksmiths on horses’ hoofs to cure a disease called scratches or hoof rot caused by contact of dirty stalls and muddy yards.
In those days horses and mules were used for all farming and road work. Fancy drawing horses were sold for a good sum and any horse quiet enough for women and children to ride or drive brought large sums of money. My Mother could handle any of our horses and could harness and hitch a team as fast as my Father could, so as I grew older I too learned to handle them. I have a side saddle that belonged to my Father’s youngest sister, Frances Cooper Granby and which I expect is almost 100 years old. It is brown fancy leather with a red velvet seat and I used it as long as I rode any of our horses.
When I was 6 years old I went to school with my Mother’s sister, Lydia Funk, who was teaching at the Gorham School near Wauponsee Station and she drove a little light colored sorrel horse called Prince hitched to a road cart, a 2 wheeled buggy or cart. We sat up on a high seat and put our feet down on a slatted frame hung between the wheels and we got up on the seat from the back and side on a step fastened to the frame back of the wheel. That was in 1888 or 1889 and often there were 25 to 30 pupils in all grades from kindergarten to college or high school age and the wages were $25.00 to $30.00 a month; very different from the wages of today(1958). There were schools of one room every 2 or 3 miles so children could walk to school every day and never had any rides unless the weather was very bad and their fathers unable to work in the fields. When I was about 9 years old my Aunt Lida got married and moved to Livingston County to live; so, I had to attend our home school called the O’Malley School. The children were all strangers to me and we had a new teacher every three months as during the winter months there were large boys, some of them 20 years old, who had to work during the spring and summer months and late into the fall on the farms, so all the schooling many of them got was during the winter months.
One spring we had Miss Gertrude Waterman for a teacher from April till the last of June and during the month of April there were just 2 pupils, the teacher’s sister, 10 years old, and myself. The water was so high in the creeks that it ran over the floors of the bridges and folks were afraid to let the children go over them or even take them to school. Edna and I had lots of play time when our lessons were over and we learned very fast. The teacher brought sewing to school and when it rained so bad we girls could not play outside we played mumblety-peg on the floor with an old jack-knife. The floor was soft pine and we had the blades fixed so we could flip the knife in a certain way and it would stick in the floor. It made a difference in what way it stood up; one way counted 5, another 10, so we made quite a game of it. We also took our dolls and the teacher taught us to make dresses for them. The rains quit about May 15’th and the rest of the neighboring children came back to school so our playtime was over but never forgotten.
There were no gravel roads then and the mud was thick and black and sometimes rolled up on the wheels so bad that it had to be pushed out of the wheels with sticks and deep ruts were made all over the sides of the roads and many buggies and wagons had broken wheels. My Grandfather Cooper loved to sit on the front porch and tell me stories of when he was a boy, and one day he said that someday there will be a gravel road past this house and you will be able to drive many miles and not be in the mud. I have often wondered what he would think if he knew my husband would be the one to get a petition out to gravel all the roads in Vienna Twp. to everybody’s door. I must have been about 7 years old when he told me about the gravel roads. I often wonder what he would think if he could see the changes that have been made since that day many years (70 to be exact) ago. Some are for better, some are not. Also to know one of his great-grandsons would be a supervisor for Vienna Twp as Byrl is now as I write this on Jan. 25, 1960. Also that my husband had fed many head of fine cattle and farmed the land Grandfather thought so much of and had brought his family to many years ago. Also to know that our youngest son was farming and feeding cattle the way Grandfather had dreamed of doing. How well I remember the time he had so many nice fat hogs (over 100) and cholera took all of them and the men hauled all to a spot in the timber and burned them. I saw Grandpa kneeling by his bed during the day and praying that help would come to cure such things before others had such losses, and how glad he would be to know not only hogs but humans are being helped in many ways by prayers and new medical methods.
Grandfather had 2 brothers and one sister that visited us. I can remember the sister, Aunt Sarah Parker, coming to Morris on the train and Grandfather going to meet her. She was a large woman and they looked so much alike. I asked mother if they both had the same birthday. She laughed and told them what I had asked and they all had a big laugh for I did not know how to say twins. Aunt Sarah knitted all the time she visited us; me some mittens, also some for Mother and socks for Father and Grandfather and some pretty lace for a underskirt that is still quite pretty(but badly worn now). Mother used it on my 2 younger brothers’ baby clothes for in those days there was little money for lace or pretty ribbons and everything was put to good use. One of Aunt Sarah’s favorite stories was about their Father’s life as a circuit rider Methodist Minister, being gone for weeks at a time riding a horse and going from place to place preaching, marrying people and holding funeral services for people who had passed away weeks before and had been buried, but the services had to wait till the “Riding Minister” came, as he was called. How their mother had sent them to work for different people; Grandfather to learn the tailor trade and help measure the people for new clothes. How her other brothers were sent to help the grocer and the butcher and to school. Later the older brother, Steven, studied to be a minister and preached in many towns in Ohio and Indiana. The other brother Samuel soon followed the older brother and went to Michigan to be the headmaster of a college or “prep school” as they were called in those days. He studied hard and later became a minister and married a very wealthy lumberman’s daughter and took over the management of a wooden box and basket factory. I have the picture of that place and buildings. Grandfather seldom heard from Uncle Steven, but Uncle Sam wrote often and came to visit us and Grandfather would return his visits.
At one time they had a family reunion at Uncle Sam’s home. I think this was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They were all there; Uncle Steven and his wife and some of his family; Uncle Sam and all of his family; and Aunt Sarah and two of her sons, Abe and Frank Parker; but only Grandfather of our family as there was only money enough to take him up there. We were always poor, but had plenty to eat, clothes to wear , “not fancy but comfortable”, and many friends who count more than money, many times. One of Grandfather’s favorite sayings was, “It’s no disgrace to be poor, but often times very inconvenient and very discouraging.” Two of Uncle Sam’s boys were there that died in the Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago on Nov. 23, 1903, Charles and Willis Cooper, who had gone to see the play put on to see if it was all right to take their Sunday school classes to see it. They were caught and suffocated by the smoke helping people out of the building. Our neighbor Mr. Harry Hough and his wife and a friend of theirs were in the theatre at the time and right by an exit door and he often tells us of the tragedy and how he helped many to escape. Mrs. Hough died in 1958, but he still lives across the street from us, a sad and crippled man. My Father never cared about writing letters, but was always glad to hear from relatives and friends; so after Grandfather’s death we never heard from any of the relatives in Michigan. Uncle Sam’s wife’s brother, Mr. Wells, was the manager of the Cooper Wells and Company Hosiery and Needlewear factory and some of the relatives still run the business and the name still is used yet in 1960.
Grandfather was born in Granville, Ohio–on May 11, 1820 and died when he was 72 years old. His funeral was held in the Zion Methodist Church and he was buried in the Anderson Cemetary, Rev. H.A. Ewell being the Pastor of both Verona And Zion Churches and lived in the Zion Parsonage just north of the church. Our Grandmother’s name had been Frances A. Garrison and they had been married on March 23, 1843. She died in 1856, the same year he bought the home farm. Grandfather often told me of her and spoke of her as Adaline, never as Frances and said she came from Kentucky. I often wished I had known more about her or had been old enough to remember more of what he told me. He died on the very day my younger brother Clinton was born. In his will he left my brother Howard $1000.00 for his schooling and to me the old family organ and told Father he must arrange for my younger brother just born.
When I was about 5 years old I went with my Grandfather to Verona, and the bank then was in the front end or side of the Hardware store and the business of both was run by Mr. Douglass Renne and Mr. Dan Beal, whose grandson Nelson runs the bank in Verona now in 1960. Grandfather drove a large gray mare called Kate, hitched to a one seated buggy, so he tied Kate to a hitch rack (a pole put across two posts) and we went into the building. Mr. Beal came forward and said, “Well well, now just who is this little lady and your name is____?” and waited; but not for long for I piped up “Miss Laura Belle Cooper” and bowed very nicely to him. He never forgot that and as long as he lived he always called me by that full name. Of course every one in the store laughed and I felt very smart to think I had made them laugh; but, Grandfather in telling about it when we got home said, “I had a good notion to spank her good.” and Mother said, “I wish you had. Next time she does such a silly thing you do just that and good and hard where it will do the most good. You have my permission.” But he never did and my Father just looked at me and shook his head as if he thought me hopeless or disgusting.
I often went with Grandfather to Wauponsee Station, a small but lively country town on the K & S R.R. that ran 4 trains a day from Kankakee and Seneca. One that went east in the morning to Kankakee about 7 A.M. and returned at night to Seneca about 6 P.M. The other came west at 10 A.M. and returned to Kankakee about 3:30 P.M. All kinds of grain, lumber, coal, and livestock was hauled and always there was a baggage car and a passenger car with upholstered seats of red velvet and a pot-bellied stove in one end for heating in the winter and a water cooler of water with ice in it for summer in the other end and a toilet and washroom at that end, too; so if the train had to stop and unload any cinders or railroad ties in the way the passengers could be comfortable enroute. At Wauponsee there was a large country store, an apartment above the store that often one of the store clerks lived in, a blacksmith shop, an ice house, a church (Universialist), 7 houses, a large grain elevator, several corn cribs, the depot (in one end sometimes lived the agent), a large long building holding lumber, several coal bins (some covered, some open), and a stock yard where farmers yarded their hogs, sheep, and cattle while waiting for the stock cars to be put on the siding to load into. In the store we could find most everything that was needed for living in those days. All kinds of canned goods, sugar, coffee, and a large grinder run by hand for those who wished it ground before taking it home; a long counter filled with shoes, rubber boots, boxes of thread, cases of laces, ribbons, shelves of yard goods, writing paper, pencils, pens, ink, tablets of paper, and farther down were pans, kettles, dishes, and barrels of crackers, pickles and salt meat. Also, a place where the farmers could set their butter jars, baskets of eggs, buckets of lard, and any other produce they wished to trade for flour, sugar, beans and salt; great rolls of rope and leather straps, harness, nails, bolts, hand rakes, hoes, shovels, axes, scythes for cutting grass, and anything a farmer might need. A wagon went out into the country twice a week and gathered up the eggs, butter, and chickens that could be spared and delivered the flour, sugar, and coffee that had been ordered the trip before. I can see the big glass jars that held the sticks of candy and peanuts we children all wanted sitting up on a certain shelf in the dear old store, just as plain as if it were yesterday. The post office was at the east end of the building and one of the owners of the store sat at big desk and when a wagon of grain pulled up on the scales he would get down and weigh the outfit. And when the man unloaded at the elevator, he would weigh it again and then tell the man how many bushels of grain he had had on. One of the owners names was Guardie Newport and the other, Henry Gorham, both are dead now, but the Gorhams have a grandson that lives on the home farm 1/2 mile east of the old store and the Newports have a son that is an artist in California. I know little about him or any of his relatives
I went to school at the Gorham School just 1/2 mile south of Wauponsee Station until I was 8 years old and that was where the older Gorham children went. Harry and Mabel and their Aunt Jessie Gorham most always brought them in a nice buggy. To have a nice quiet horse and a nice buggy in those days was a real luxury and most families only had the heavy work horses that were very quiet and any woman could handle some times because they were so tired from field work. They did not care to more than jog along anywhere the reins of the driver guided them.
One of the games we played at that school was “Store” and we had so much fun. The building had been re-shingled and the old wooden shingles had been tossed into the tall Osage hedge along the south side of the school yard and were often used for starting fires on cool mornings, so we children could play with as many as we wished. So we made little farms, perhaps 2 ft. by 6 ft. and enclosed with the shingles put along like a fence and broken pieces pounded into the ground like posts and then we used small pieces of cloth and sold it to each other for pins. As all the clothing worn those days was made in the home there were plenty of scrap pieces we could use. Scrap velvets sold for one small safety pin, cotton pieces for one common pin, and some lace or ribbon was 2 to 4 pins. Some times the boys got tired of playing and would sell the entire box of his scraps for 1 large safety pin and then go and play ball, so the lucky buyer had to enlarge their shingle farm and get a larger box to hold the new purchases. Every one carried their noon lunch in a tin pail, sometimes a boughten one, but often an empty lard pail; and we would set in the shade of the hedge row and eat, sometimes trading a pickle for a cookie or piece of cake if our mothers had not put in our favorite kind. One girl who always ate with me and traded was Elsie Windsor. She drove an old bay horse and tied her to the hedge. I loved to help her hitch up at night and unhitch in the morning. We girls grew to be the best of pals and went thru life more like sisters than just friends. Elsie’s only sister had died young and she had no brothers and I was the only girl in my family.
My older brother and the next one to me had both passed away and I was 9 years old before I had another brother and 2 years more and I had another. Both of these lived to manhood, but the younger one was a cripple and both had asthma very bad. The older boy had to be sent to Nebraska to live at all and now lives in Hastings, Nebraska, but the younger brother died in 1924 from pneumonia and a hard attack of asthma, so there are only we two left of a family of 5 (4 boys and 1 girl). But I guess I kept everyone as busy as the 4 boys would have done, as Mother always said I could get into more things in the shortest time than any child she ever saw, and she came from a large family herself (11-6 girls and 5 boys), and most of them had large families.
Her father had died in his 40’s, but the mother was determined to keep her family together and being a good clean Christian woman, the county decided to help her and set aside 40 acres with a small house on it. 2 of her boys went to the Civil War and came back as well as a son-in-law. Her oldest son who helped her farm the land was a sickly person so did not go as a soldier. They kept 3 or 4 cows, a few hogs, 1/2 doz. sheep, some chickens (Perhaps 65 hens), 4 or 5 turkeys, 1 doz. ducks, and 6 geese, so Grandmother made butter and cottage cheese to sell and also buttermilk, cream, eggs, chickens, and offspring of the other poultry. She always had a large garden; also a herb garden, and gathered and dried herbs for the doctors to use for medicine. She was very careful to dry only the best and was well known and doctors for miles around came to purchase her herbs. As soon as the girls were old enough and Grandmother thought they could be of help she let them go and work for people not too far away. Sometimes they only got $1.00 for a week’s help, sometimes only board. She insisted they all come home for Sunday and all attended the church in the little country town close by now called Wing.
I went with my Mother to visit her folks and one place I loved to go into was the cave that Grandmother kept her milk and butter in. It was a hole dug down about 4 to 6 ft. and logs to make a roof and then old boards put over the logs and then dirt piled onto the logs., and dirt steps cut into the side so one could go down into the small building. At one end there was a window covered with a screen like any window has today, to make the cave light so one could see all the fruit on shelves built into the sides of the room. On the floor of dirt sat jars of lard and canned meat. Up on the ceiling hung hams and bacon, home cured of course, and wrapped in old sheets to keep dust and bugs off. There was a screen door and it opened into the inside and during the day was kept shut, but at night was opened and a large door let down from the outside to keep animals out. The inside of the cave was white-washed and very clean and bricks were put under the jars to let the air go all around and under them keeping them cool. The butter was very firm and the milk was nice and cold.
Most all farmers had caves like that as many houses were not built with basements and no one ate oily butter or drank milk or buttermilk warm that kept things in the cave. When an old hen brought off a brood of baby chicks Grandmother took a long string of cloth and tied it to one of the hen’s legs and staked her out in the garden with her chicks during the day, but at night we caught the chicks and took her and all to some building to keep rats and wild animals like fox or skunks from getting them. How I wished I could go back to that little old home and have a drink of cold milk from the crocks in the cave.
Everything used on the tables in those days was raised and either dried or canned during the winter days. All that was bought was coffee, tea, flour, sugar, and soda. They even made their own yeast cakes and Uncle would go into the timber nearby and tap the maple trees and they would boil the sap down in a huge iron kettle out in the yard and make their own syrup. Many raised sugar cane and would cut and haul it miles to a mill and trade it for the dark syrup that was called sorgum. Sometimes the maple syrup was boiled down into sugar, but that was a long hard process and had to be watched and stirred for hours to keep it from burning. Wild berries, wild grapes, and crab apples were gathered as well as nuts in the fall and several rows of popcorn were planted each summer that the winter evenings were happy ones. Every farmer had his own orchard and raised all kinds of fruit. The late pears and apples were put in a deep hole in the ground and covered with straw and leaves and later the men would go out to the fruit pit and dig into the side of the pile and get a big paw full while the rest were popping corn and making some molasses candy. I think many had a better time in those days than now as the family spent more time together and made their own fun. Now there are just too many out of home activities to take the children away nights, in fact, most of the time.
Now many only think of their parents as the people who furnish the money for clothes, cars, etc. They have no part in the earning of any of it, nor have they much respect or love for those that do. Boys speak of their fathers as “The Old Man” and the mother as “She” or “Her” and they call their Aunts and Uncles by their first names, seldom saying Aunt or Uncle before the other name such as Bill, Henry, or Tom. Such things would not have been allowed 60, 75, or 80 years ago. Children were taught in those days, not allowed to raise themselves or copy after the things they see and hear on radio or TV like today for those things were unheard of in those days. Few newspapers were taken and they were mostly weekly or monthly ones. The ones I can remember were “The Chicago Inter-Ocean”, “The Prairie Farmer”, “The Youth Companion” “Christian Advocate” (published by the Methodist Church) , and the “Morris Herald”, then a weekly paper 5 times as large as the one published now in 1960 and containing all the news of the entire Grundy County and towns and townships. Each town and community had a person that wrote the items of interest in their part of the community and people visited each other often, so reported the deaths, births, and marriages to the local reporter and they sent it to the paper to be published the next week.
Life moved very slowly but happily in those days and the neighbors near were treated like relatives and helped each other in the winter, at butchering time and wood sawing time, for nearly all burned wood, cutting the dead or fallen trees and hauling it to the farm home and later cutting it up into pieces to fit the various size stoves that were used to heat the homes. Kerosene was used for lighting the homes and lanterns were used in the buildings and carried from building to building as needed, but nearly everyone tried to arrange their evening work so it was all done in daylight hours. The lamps varied in size and were generally glass bowls having a burner with a cotton woven wick attached that could be turned up or down to give more or less light as the user wished. There was a glass chimney to keep the air from blowing the flame out. Candles were also used and were made each winter in the homes as soon as the butchering was done. Sheep and beef tallow were used with the juice from some trees and herbs added to make a brighter light. At one time I helped Mother make candles, but cannot remember the names of the herb-roots she used as I was very small at that time, but like many youngsters I always wanted to help with many things when I should have been playing with my dolls.
Two long to be remembered things that happened when I was very small left scars that I will carry to my grave. First, a neighbor lady and her small son had come to spend the day with us while her husband helped my Father with some field work. The lady was helping Mother tie or make some comforters to be used on the beds in the winter. Mother had pieced the tops of many pretty cloth pieces left from her dresses and mine and the inside was either to be cotton rolls or woolen bats she had carded from the wool Father had taken from our sheep. We children were sent out to play and the boy, being 1 1/2 years older than me, took the lead. After playing with the swing and in the sandbox we decided to look some of the farm buildings over. Going into a small granary he saw my sled hanging up on the wall and decided that would do to pull me on the grass as was summer time. So, I obligingly climbed up to get it down and slipped and my bare foot came down on an axe and cut my foot almost in half. Of course we screamed when we saw the blood and our mothers came running to us. I do not know just how they stopped the blood, but I still have a ridge on the bottom of my foot to show where the cut was. I do not remember if they took me to a Dr. or not as Drs. lived in towns several miles away and horse and buggy travel was slow and then perhaps the Dr. would not be there, often away to some home helping bring a baby into the world. Anyway, I will never forget the day Mr. and Mrs. Henry Granby and their son Benny spent at our house. All of them have passed away now, as well as my parents, so that is just a memory now as I was only 4 years old.
The other happening was when I was 5 1/2 years old and in March. A snowstorm and high wind had blown down the straw stack in the feed lot and buried two cows and some hogs, but all were saved as was discovered and quickly removed. My Grandfather Cooper and my Father decided to put the straw into the new barn just built the fall before and too late to put hay in. So the long rope was put at one end of the barn on a track running the entire length of the building and one end fastened to a large fork that closed around a big bundle of straw and the other end was at the end of the barn and went thru a window and onto a pulley and down to the ground and into another iron pulley and the end fastened to a piece of wood called a singletree and the tugs of the harness of the horse fastened to it. Grandfather had Old Kate hitched to that arrangement and my Father was at the other end getting the straw into the big fork. When that was done he called “All Right!” and Grandfather started the horse up and the straw was pulled up into the barn and Father would pull on a small rope and the big fork would open and drop the straw on the big barn floor upstairs. When the fork disappeared into the big door Father would call “Whoa.” and old Kate would stop and turn around for another load. Child-like I watched several loads go up and seeing Kate getting warm I decided to help her pull the next one. Grandfather said, “Stay back out of the way. You might get hurt.” But as soon as Kate started up I grabbed the big rope with my mittened hands and my left hand was drawn into the pulley. I screamed and pulled my hand out but not before my first finger was crushed and my hand badly torn. Grandfather had stopped Kate at my scream and all the men came running around the barn and Mother out of the house. I ran to her and she covered my hand with her apron and took me to the house. She had been making doughnuts and got flour all over me, but the Dr. said that was able to stop some of the blood. Father jumped onto his riding horse and rode away at breakneck speed to Verona (6 miles away) and the Dr. jumped onto another horse and they raced back to me. The Dr’s. name was Elliot, a young man, and he looked at my hand and had mother get warm water and put carbolic acid into it, clipped off my crushed finger, pulled the flesh and skin over to cover up the torn parts, and took 27 stitches in my tiny hand. As my finger was disjointed at the knuckle it never gave me any trouble at all and daily bathing in Carbolic Acid water soon healed it up. Later, at about 12 years old, I learned to play the organ and piano well enough to play for Sunday School and Epworth League at the Zion Church, 1/2 mile north of Wauponsee Station.
That church served the community for over 80 years and then the Meth. conference decided to close it as they could not understand the Bible where it says, “If a few are gathered together in my name, there I will be also.” Yes, there had been a time when that little country church would not hold the people that came to Sunday services to worship God in their own way. Many times, driving many miles in lumber wagons drawn by slow plodding farm horses tired from the week’s work in the fields. Many who were not Methodist faith, often Catholic, kind friendly people who felt they must worship someplace and this church was not too far away and they could meet their neighbors. I have heard my Grandfather say many times that these people were always very kind and always listened very carefully and never once made a sound that they felt what the leader or minister was wrong or unreasonable in his words or thoughts, and that they were glad to sit and listen to some other religion tell what they thought and felt was the truth. It seems that some still feel that way, but many use hateful words and ridicule any other ideas but those set forth by the priests sent to guide them and teach them to love one another and help any one who needs help as our Lord and Master Jesus Christ taught. But, they some times show their disapproval of what others have been taught and try to live as they have been taught and often act very hateful to people of other than Catholic faith.
As my Grandfather had been one of the farm people that started the idea of building a church it is needless to say when the church was closed by the Meth. conference and put up for sale I felt almost like it was my own birthplace being auctioned off. It was the first place I remember being taken to and being baptized there and attending services for many years, seldom missing a service no matter what the roads or weather were like. I was married at my Father’s house by our church minister and later on took all my family there to worship. Our youngest daughter was married there and as we lived for many years in the neighborhood, I met my husband there as we attended Sunday School and until the church was sold, torn down, and moved to Ottawa by another faith; we supported and attended as often as we could.
We left the farm home where I was born and moved into Mazon, a small country town 9 miles east of our home place when our youngest son Jesse returned from World War II. At first I felt I could not leave my country home and move into town, but my husband was none too well, had always worked very hard since a young boy, and I felt I might be helping him if I went, but he went out every day to work the same as always and I was the only one left behind by myself; day after day. I often grieved for my country home, but knew my daughter-in-law would not want me out there every day; much as we loved each other it would not work. My husband was out in the fields and timber and not at the house very often. He came in every day 9 miles to his dinner (lunch) making it a 36 mile drive each day. I tried hard not to let him know how home-sick I was and always tried to have meals ready, cooking the different foods he liked; but, perhaps I did not do a good job of pretending to like town life. All our children were married and in homes of their own. In the summer and fall I kept outdoors among the flowers and worked in the yard. I visited some among our neighbors, but often I was so blue I shut the house up as if I was away and had a good cry. I suppose many would say I was very silly to do that, but if any one has been truly homesick they will understand. I had been born on the farm and lived there nearly all my life until I was married, and we had been married 51 1/2 years when my husband passed away on May 30th, 1957.
About ten years before he left us one of the boys asked him why we did not close the house up in town and go south for the winter months. He told his father he felt he had worked long enough to take a few pleasures before we got to the place he could not drive a car or enjoy seeing new places. So, one night at supper he said’ ” Laura, how would you like to take a trip?” Of course, I hardly knew what to say as it was so unlike anything he had ever suggested before and I answered,” Might be real nice. When do we start and where do we go?” , never thinking he really meant to go. He answered by saying, “Let’s shut things up and take a trip thru the Southern states and if we find a place that suits us we can stay till warm weather here.” After I understood he really was in earnest I said’ “All right, let’s go.” and he wanted to know how soon I could get ready and I said, “By the first of the week, we will need to have our clothes clean and pack a few things for we may want to keep house down there.” And so it was arranged and we started off early one morning. It was not the first visit down south as several years before we had taken our youngest daughter Jean during holiday vacation on a trip to New Orleans and around the coast to Miami, Fla. and then home by way of Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennesee. Of course we were only gone 10 days, but saw many interesting things: saw a plane come into Miami Airport, also a turpentine camp in Fla., visited with an old Negro man over 100 years old, and many other sights to enjoy and talk about for days no end. For ten more years we packed up each fall and went to Lakeland, Fla. and came home by April 1st nearly always bringing all the fresh and canned oranges and grapefruit we could haul. Billy enjoyed every moment down there and was so glad to get back home safe and sound; and we met many lovely people from many states about our age. Some still write to us and sent wonderful letters when he passed away.
Now I will tell you how I met Billy Gonnam. I had been keeping company with a home boy and my folks liked him real well; but, one night he came to take me for a buggy ride and smelled so strong of liquor and talked so silly I pretended I was sick and made him take me home. Truth was I was scared of him as none of my folks drank and I was never allowed anywhere there was anything to drink. When I got home I told him to go on home and when I wanted to see him again I’d write a letter. I never wrote and he told so many lies about me that disgusted my folks so they told me I was not to go anywhere with him again or have anything to do with him. That fall they sent me to my aunt at Saunemin and I started to high school. I helped my Aunt with everything about the house as they had her husband’s Mother & Father living with them and the old gentleman had a stroke some years before and was in a wheelchair or in bed, unable to even feed himself. I had to walk a little over a mile on the Wabash RR track to reach school and worked at noon in the hotel and restaurant for my dinners. My folks knew the lady owner and she had stayed with my Mother when my second brother William was born. One day in January I got a letter from Mother telling me to come home that my youngest brother Clinton had pneumonia and they doubted he would live. I had gotten the letter at 11:30 when I went to help Mrs. Brown set the tables for dinner and when I showed her the letter she said, “You are needed at home; go out to Marsh’s and get your clothes and be back here at 2 PM. and you can get the train at 2:15 and change trains at Essex to the K & S and be home by 6 o’clock tonight. Your folks will be there to meet you I know.” So, I never waited to eat, only a beef sandwich she gave me to eat as I walked home, and when my Aunt saw me come in she was very angry and said so many mean things I dashed upstairs and packed everything I had. They never offered to take me back to town, so I had to walk and carry two heavy suitcases and wear three coats I could not carry otherwise; so, was near exhausted when I reached town. I went at once to the hotel and told Mrs. B. my story. She sent one of the men boarders to the depot with my luggage and to buy my ticket and made me lay down and rest while she packed a lunch for me to carry and eat on the train. The man was very kind and went with me to see I got on the train and told the conductor on the Wabash Rd. my story. As the 2 roads crossed about 1/2 block from the K & S depot the porter had my suitcases ready and the train slowed down long enough for another porter to help me off and I did not have to walk far to take the other RR. I had perhaps 1 hour to wait so ate my lunch, bought my ticket to Langham near my home and was soon on my way home. Father was there to meet me and all seemed glad to have me home. Poor Mother had been up and down for several nights and was so tired she could hardly walk. Tired as I was, I sent her to bed and I cared for Clinton. He was a very sick boy, but we pulled him through. When I told Father how mad my Aunt was because they had sent for me, he said I was not to return to school at all; so, I wrote to Mrs. Brown and her sister got my few books at school and sold them and sent me the money.
One day in real late January we had done a big washing and I had ironed a few needed pieces and as my brother was better and needed no one to sit up with him, we all went to bed. In the morning Father called me (I was then 19.) to get up and help Mother get breakfast and get the two boys up and dressed. I tried to get out of bed but found I could not move my limbs at all. They felt like sticks of wood and seemed badly swollen, so I called to Mother and she came in and when she saw my feet and legs she raised a window and called Father telling him something awful had happened to me. He came running to the house and up to my room and told Mother to wrap me in a wool blanket and get a big rocking chair and he put me into it and pulled me to the stairs. Then he sent Mother on down and told her to get another chair at the bottom of the stairs and he put me down on the steps and he walked in front of me and he steadied me as I bumped my way down the stairs. Then he put me on a couch and I laid there for months except when they lifted me to change my bed. They called our family Dr. who lived in Seneca and described my condition and he said to keep me as warm as they could and give me something warm to drink, that he would come quick as he could. He drove a team and had several horses to change when they got tired; so, in about an hour he drove in, his horses white with lather. Father covered them over with blankets from the Dr’s. buggy and came in to hear the verdict. Dr. Wilcox was a very large man and he quickly looked me over and took my temperature and said, ” Well young lady, you are in for a long siege of laying on your back. You have rheumatic fever along with inflammatory rheumatism. If I can do it I’ll help you walk again; but, I don’t know where to begin first” He asked Mother for a large roll of cotton batten used for comforters and quilts, and some old sheets he could tear in strips. Then he oiled my feet and limbs with a nice smelling oil and wrapped me in the cotton and then put the strips around to keep the cotton in place. That eased the pain and he ate breakfast with my folks and then went to make more calls in our neighborhood telling us a young man on the Wilson farm next to ours was down with the same thing, but not as bad as I was. His name was Ole Anderson and we had gone to school together just before I took the 8th grade examination. Ole had not had a chance to go to school as I had so was in the 7th grade. He had several brothers and sisters. Often during the summer Father would put me in the top buggy and Mother would drive me over to see Ole and his Father would come and lift me out of our buggy and lay me on a bench by Ole’s cot outside and we would visit awhile. When I got tired Mr. Anderson would lift me back into the buggy and Mother would take me home. Sometimes they brought Ole to see me. He got so he could walk long before I could and the next spring they moved to a large farm north of Morris and I never saw them again. I understand Ole’s brother Julius was the one who went to S. Dakota and told friends there I could not live long and would never walk again; but, the following spring, a year after I was taken sick, I got better and could walk some without help. And about July or August I could get about again real good.
I put in my spare time sewing carpet rags and doing all the mending for our family, helping fix vegetables and doing all I could to help Mother with the work. I could wash dishes and my brothers would dry them and reset the table and run errands to help her. In September of that year I was able to visit several girl friends in the neighborhood and stay overnight as many had come and spent several days at a time with me. One of the girls, May James, was rather like a relative as my Mother had stayed with May’s Grandfather’s family for 2 or 3 years before she and Father were married. May’s own Mother had died when she was just a tiny girl and her father had married again, a lady who came from Kentucky. She had divorced her other husband and he and their one child, a boy, had gone to Chicago to live and she had kept house for Mr. James and May and he at last married Mrs. Green. She was a lovely woman and a good cook and had begged Mother to let me come and stay a few days with May, so I went. It was real warm and a nice full moon shone many nights; so some of the neighboring young folks walked down to see May and I. They were Martha & Mary Pyatt and Ed & Alfred Reeves who all lived with the boys grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Moses James, and the girls were her neices she had raised since their parents had passed away. There was another young man with them that was working for Frank Holroyd who had come from Indiana the spring before and had helped the James during corn husking and had gone to Holroyd’s on Dec. 6 to work for them. He was a rather small, shy fellow and had very little to say. We sat out on the back steps and laughed and talked. At last Mrs. James came out with a large pitcher of lemonade and a big pan of cookies and at last they decided to start for home, which was about 1/2 mile away to the north. May said, “Do you think you can walk a ways with them, Laura?” and I said I could and we started out. They all went along laughing and talking and the new young fellow dropped back beside me and asked why May had asked if I thought I could walk with them. So I explained how I had not been able to walk for so long. So he slowed up and took my arm and helped me along. At last they all stopped and by the time we had caught up to them, he had told me how he had came to come out to Illinois and we became real well acquainted. When May and I turned back he shook hands with me and said he hoped he would see me again someday as he liked Illinois well enough to stay awhile. His name was Billy Gonnam.
I had told him I thought it would be nice if he would come to Sunday School on Sunday as all of us were in the same class and he would get to meet a lot more as our class was real large. So I was not too much surprised a few Sundays later to find him sitting with the Reeves boys. My Mother taught the kindergarten class and I played the organ for them to sing and we always got into the back room and started long before the big room did so I could go out to my class and get back to play closing numbers. A few Sundays later May told me Billy had a new buggy and that he was breaking horses to drive for other people and she heard him say he hoped to buy a horse for himself soon. But I wondered just how long it would take for him to pay for the horse and buggy on the $25.00 a month he earned. Of course I did not know how much he was being paid for breaking those horses; in fact, I never did know. There were several parties among the young folks, but I did not try to go in cold weather as the Dr. did not want me to catch cold. On July 4’th the S. School was to hold a picnic at the James Winsor home. There was a large lawn and plenty of shade and a large house so we all expected a gala time. One evening, just after supper, two boys drove in with a horse hitched to a cart and to my surprise found it was Billy and a boy that worked at Holroyds. As I was shelling peas and sitting out on the milk tank he drove right up along side the fence and came over to where I was and left his friend watching the colt. He asked if I would go with him to the picnic at Winsor’s and I told him I would. He said he would come for me about 10:30. I thanked him and they drove off almost before I had time to think. Father was separating the milk in the milk house and came out just as they drove out of the yard and asked me who they were and what they wanted. I told him and he said they were quite a ways from home if anything went wrong with their new horse. He went on to feed the calves their milk and I went to hunt Mother who was working and packing butter in the basement, for we made and sold hundreds of lbs. of butter each week in Morris to regular customers and the next day was delivery day. Sometimes I went with Mother and held the horse while she went into the homes with the butter they had ordered when we were there the week before. But it had been very rainy and the river was up very high so Father was going with her this trip. We had a telephone and one of the neighbors called and told Mother that it would be impossible to go with a team, that people were going over in boats to the bridge and walking the rest of the way. So that ended butter delivery for that week. Later we heard Billy and Mr. Holroyd had gone into town in a boat to get new rubber tired wheels for Billy’s new buggy. They all tried to find out just who would be the girl to get the first ride in his new buggy and Louisa and Mildred Holroyd guessed every girl in the S.S. class, but he only laughed and told them they would find out July 4th and not until then. Mrs. H. said she never thought of me, but thought it one of the Piatt girls; so when we drove up to the Winsor home the girls ran screaming to their Mother with the news I was the one. So she came right out and told me how glad they were; because she felt he was a real nice clean cut young fellow and that I was not making a mistake. I just laughed and told her I might not last very long as perhaps he might get tired of looking after me with my aches and pains, as I was still quite lame at times and walked with a limp quite often. After we had dinner at long tables we played games and later Billy and I drove down to Seneca to watch the fireworks. After that he came every Sun. night and sometimes would drop in for a few moments during the week as he was still breaking horses to drive for different people. My Father always visited a few moments with him, but Mother was not so pleased as Billy smoked cigars and she was a staunch W.C.T.U. woman and did not believe young men should smoke. But Father always had and cigars were his favorites, so Billy found a kindred spirit in my Dad.
Things went along smoothly for a year or more and Mother had gone to visit her sisters in Livingston County and I was left with the home, my brothers, Father, and the butter to care for and sometimes it would be quite late at night before I would get through and get to bed. Father had hired a tramp or floater as they were called to help out with some of the farmwork and he was one of the dirtiest men we ever had. His bed looked as though a hog had slept in it and his hands were never clean. So one night I was out in the wash house rinsing out some overalls to hang out on the line before going to bed, intending to iron them next morning, and Billy drove in and tying his horse, came in to see what I was doing. I was very tired and much of the clothes belonged to the new man so I fairly exploded and by the time I finished I guess Billy thought I felt that way about all hired men. At any rate, he just turned around and walked out remarking he’d see me sometime. I just sat down and cried, but he drove off and it was weeks before I saw him again. In the mean time, Father had let the man go and Mother was home and things were running more smoothly for all but me and I was sure one sad chick. It was Chautaqua time and the neighbor girls south of us named Aker came down and wanted me to join the crowd driving down to Ottawa (30 miles west) to hear some good speakers and wonderful singers. (I found out later why those young people wanted me to go with them. As none of them had ever been to that kind of a meeting and I had gone several times with my folks and my Aunt and knew what to do, where to go, and how to act.) They said they would find someone to take me, but one of the Winsor boys (Clive?) came and asked me to go with him. It was at his father’s home we had gone to the S.S. picnic on July 4th that time. I had never liked this boy; but, I thought I could stand going once anyway, so I said yes. Mother had been called to her folks again in Livingston County, so again I was trying to take her place. Father did not like this new boy any better than I did, so told me to watch my step. We started about 6:30 in the morning and everything went along very nicely until dinner time. There was a large screened building with long tables and we had to get tickets at the door before we went in. There were many people camping on the grounds and we had to stand in line a long time before we could get in. All at once a real old man came running up with a ladies white shoulder shawl on his arm and pushed in front of us. I had seen him pushing an old lady in a wheelchair, so I knew he was a camper or a regular as they were called. Mr. Clive grabbed the old fellow and pushed him off the steps and the old man fell down onto the lovely white shawl. I jumped down and helped the old fellow to his feet while Clive stood over him and threatened to knock him down again if he tried to get in. I turned to Clive and said, “You fool, can’t you see he is a regular and has been in before and has gone only for the ladies wrap. Behave yourself before the Park Police arrest you.” and looking up I saw the police coming real fast. I brushed the old man off and said, “Go on in, Grandpa. This fellow won’t bother you again and if he does I’ll call the police myself.” At least 25 were standing around by that time and Mr. C. looked rather sheepishly in the building. (Later May McGuan told me the other group of S.S. class had seen it all and that Billy had jumped to his feet and said a swear word; but, never went any farther. I guess he saw I had the situation well in hand.) I was so mad by this time I never saw any of them. We ate our dinner and the dessert was blackberry pie and ala mode was 20 cents more so for meanness I ordered that for I had made up my mind that that dinner was the last one Mr. C. would ever buy for me and I intended making it cost plenty and it did. All the excitement had caused Alice Aker to have a headache, she was one of my neighbor girls, and in a few moments she began to have a violent nose bleed. So her sister Georgia and I took her to the big rest tent where there was a cot and she could lay down. We did all we could for her but could not stop it. At last the nurse came and said for me to go to the cook house and get a pan of ice and we would try that. I grabbed the pan and ran out the back way and was taking a shortcut when I ran around a tent and stumbled and would have fallen flat if Billy had not been right there and caught me. Saying, “What in thunder is wrong now!” I quickly told him and he grabbed me by the hand and said, “Come on.” and away we ran for the ice. I told the cook the nurse had sent us for it so she gave me the pan full and away we ran back. I handed the ice to the nurse and Billy pulled me outside the tent and said, “Listen, if you have any more trouble come to me. I’ll be right over on the outside seat and will be watching for you. If you don’t want to go home with that idiot, I’ll see you get home all right.” But I told him I thought I could manage everything and thanked him. But he said, “You remember.” as he went back to the rest of the crowd. The ice helped Alice and our bunch decided to start for home early. It’s needless to say our ride home was a very quiet one and Clive’s horse made good time; but, it was near midnight when I went into the house. I thanked him for taking me and added I was more than thankful to be home and said, “Now you get for home and don’t you come back.” and he got. I knew Father was awake and up; but, I never let on and went to bed, but I did not sleep much. I was too nervous. Next morning I told Father what had happened and I did not omit how helpful Billy had been and he said, “There is a real fellow.” Mother came home in a few days and before the week was over Billy had driven out the 6 miles and taken me for a ride and we talked things over and two years later we were married just 6 years to the day he went to work for Holroyds on Dec. 6, 1905.
He made a splendid husband and a kind and loving father for our five children. When I think of the many things that have happened during those 51 1/2 years we were together I wonder how he ever put up with some of my capers. He often said, “You don’t have that red hair for nothing my little lady.” I guess he thought I could care for myself and when I got mad, which was often, he knew it. Any way, we got along fairly well. We went to Marseilles when we were first married and he took care of a livery barn and boarded the horses of 3 doctors and the undertaker. He often was called to drive the big black team on the hearse and we had a very good business for three years. But after the Interurban street cars came there was not enough business to keep 3 livery barns again, so Father helped Billy get a rented farm to work and we moved to my Father’s until the farm was vacant and we could move in. Our first child, a boy, Harvey, was about 1 year old. We had not been out in the country very long when Billy became very sick with appendicitis and was taken to Chicago by Dr. Wilcox to the F. Willard Hospital and operated on. And thankful to say it was a success, but he was very weak and thin and never seemed to have many real well days after that. The farm where we moved was 2 1/2 miles south and west from my folks and the house needed a lot of cleaning up done on it. The room we had to use as a kitchen had no plaster on and had never really been finished inside so Father and Billy put a wall on of tan tar paper roofing with laths and little tin disks and made a nice looking room and much warmer. I made curtains of nice white flour sacks and they built a corner cupboard for my dishes and put a sink on one side of the room and a pump from the cistern saved many steps. We lived on that farm 3 years and our oldest daughter Mary was born their on Dec. 2, 1907. Later we moved to my Father’s place and then to the Wilson farm where both Byrl and Jesse were born. When we were moving onto the Wilson place from my Father’s farm I was hurt quite badly. We had loaded a hay rack with furniture and a spring wagon with dishes, looking glasses, and cleaning things and my nearest neighbor, Mrs. Don Schroeder Bretz, was with us helping to pack and we were going to get settled enough that night to stay in our new home. Harvey and Mary were at school and had been told to come thru the field to the Wilson place that night. A neighbor young man named Vern Johnson was driving for Dora and I and our team was an old team of mules, very gentle and would stand for hours. Dora got out and so did Vern and began to unload the back of the wagon. As I handed the various things to them by leaning over the back seat. I turned around to get out I fell and caught my left leg between the wagon box and the left wheel and fell to the ground with my leg hanging in that fashion. I could hear something tear, but supposed it was my dress; but, when they tried to get me up, I could not stand on my left leg so they let me lay there till Billy could reach the yard. He was just behind us with the rack wagon of furniture. Together they put me in the wagon of furniture and took me back to the other house and called the Seneca Dr. Coulter. I was bedfast for days and then in a wheel chair for several months as I had torn the ligaments from my knee, but went to our Wilson home in a month and my folks moved back to their farm home.
We had moved to the home farm as my folks had gone to spend the winter in Neb. with my oldest brother, Howard, who had been sent to stay with Father’s brother , Owen, at Hansen, Neb. when he had the asthma so bad the Dr. said a dryer climate might cure him. He was only 19 years old when he left Ill. But my folks did not care for Nebraska, so came home and went to live in the Zion church parsonage on the north side of the church. There were 4 rooms and a pantry and a back porch enclosed with boards and a cistern pump in it and 3 bedrooms upstairs and an attic storeroom over the kitchen. Of course, all the rooms were very small, but liveable. There was a good well of water in the yard and a big garden space with berry bushes and some apple, cherry, and plum trees, also a good old fashioned barn for their team of driving horses, a small pen for a hog, a small chicken house, and a pasture for their Jersey cow. So they were very comfortable. They took care of the church and at that time every seat would be filled every Sunday, some folks driving 5 and 6 miles to services (that was before autos came in use). The church has now been sold and moved to Ottawa by another group of religious people. The ones left who did attend Zion now go by auto to Morris, Seneca, Verona, and Mazon to services. The parsonage has been burned many years ago and that lot sold, but the lot where the church stood has grown up to weeds, a sad ending to one of the most beautiful and well kept country churches in Grundy County where often there was not standing room in the larger building for regular Sunday services. An annex of a large dining room and a kitchen had been added to the regular building during the stay of Rev. Albert Buxton and family, in 1899 & 1900. They lived in Verona as most of the ministers and their families thought our country schools were not taught well enough for their children and Verona was the other half of the parish. At one time Verona had preaching in the morning during the summer and Zion in the afternoon. Then, the next 6 months, it was just the reverse. I think it was about 1886 when the first minister moved to Verona to live and the parsonage at Zion was rented to various families, and all attended Zion Church. Most all the ministers we had were from cities and knew nothing about making gardens, milking cows, or caring for chickens. But, the members of the church kept them in vegetables, meat, poultry ready to cook, butter, milk, and eggs and they counted that as money in their salary, which of course was small. But, a little money in those days went twice as far as it does now, in 1960.
FUNNY THINGS THAT HAPPENED THEN——
We had a new minister and family move to Verona in early Sept. one year and he had preached his first sermon on Sunday at Zion. He had one horse hitched to a light, two-seated, open buggy with no top on it; not like most of our buggies were made. He had brought his wife, her mother, his sister, and his 2 college daughters with him. When they drove into the church yard the black horse was white with lather and breathing very hard and it was time for the services to begin; so, some of the men told them to go in, that they would take care of the horse. They found that the breast strap that helped the horse pull the buggy had broken and it was pulling the buggy by its knees. How that poor horse ever got that buggy load to Zion that day no one will ever know.
The next day, or Monday, we were up early and I went to the wash house and began our weekly wash. We had a machine that was run by hand. I had built the fire in the old cook stove in the wash house and put on the soft water in the big wash boiler and filled the tub to suds the clothes in after they were run through the washer and boiled on the stove and after the sudsing I rinsed them in another tub of clear water, starched what was needed, and then hung the wash out on the lines in the yard east of the house. That was our way of washing in those days and it took a long time, generally all day. Mother was making the soap used in those days of wood and lye and crackelings from the lard made at butchering time and was out in the yard watching the fire made under the big iron kettle; and I was out hanging up the clothes from my second machine of washing; when I happened to look toward the road south of the farm home and saw the minister coming with his load of women. I knew what that meant. It was about 15 to 11, so I dropped my clothes and ran to Mother and told her. “Well,” she said, “If we have to feed that bunch along with our own seven, I guess we better quit this work right now and start cooking dinner. Finish your hanging up and come on in the house.” So I did. How well I remember that dinner. I fixed potatoes enough for threshers I thought, went to the basement and got 1/2 gal. of fried down sausage and 2 qts. of peaches, also pickles and jam and went to the garden for cabbage and beets. Lucky for us we had baked 8 loaves of bread on Saturday besides cookies and cake, so I could put on a very good dinner in a hurry. The company ladies all went to the parlor and one daughter began to play the organ and the other took some books and went out to our yard lawn swing and the older ladies began their knitting and rocking on the front porch while Mother and I got the dinner. By the time our men came in from the field and were ready to eat we were ready and called everybody, 13 of us. I am superstitious so I waited on the table and did not sit down at all. After they had all eaten and left the table, I sat down to eat. I told Mother to go out on the porch and visit with the ladies. The piano playing daughter went to playing again, the other one went to the yard swing to study, and I ate, put the food away and did the dishes. Then I went to the wash house again. I was just a little disgusted with those girls who were only about 2 years older than I was for not helping me with the dishes; so I never went near them. At last the piano lady came out to the wash house and said she wanted to give me an organ lesson before she left, because she wanted to get up a class to take lessons and help pay for her lessons as she would go to Joliet every week to take these. So, I dried my hands and went in and she proceeded to give me a lesson and had me run the scales. I let on I didn’t know anything about music at all till she got done; then I opened the hymn book and played hymns for a long time and they all came in and sang. She looked like 15 cents when her folks found it was me who was playing and not her and she said at last, ” Folks, she has only 3 fingers and a thumb on her left hand and plays better than I do.” I never answered but went out to my washing again hoping they would not stay for supper for by that time I was getting tired and wished I could go visiting and have someone get supper for me. Some city people look down on the country people, but some times they have to admit we are not all freaks. That young lady got up a class of young girls and taught music till cold weather when she wanted them to come to Verona to the parsonage. One by one they dropped out and at last only the ones that lived in Verona took lessons. If I remember, they only stayed 2 years and then moved on, but I cannot be sure just where they were sent.
One other minister and family I will never forget lived in the Zion parsonage at the time my Aunt, Miss Lida (Funk) Marsh, was teaching at the Gorham School. This man had 2 nieces that made their home with him and both attended Gorham School. Their names were Barr, and his was Puffer and he had 2 small children. His wife was a writer so the girls did much of the housework. Ministers did not get very much money for their services, so what writing his wife could sell helped a lot, and as I told before, much of their living was furnished by the members and very little needed to be bought except sugar, flour, coffee, tea, salt, and spices. With their schoolwork the girls did not have much time to cook and in those days boughten bread, cake, and cookies were an unheard of luxury as everything was made in the homes. I can remember seeing my first boughten gingersnap when about 12 years old, they were small and so hard they could not be eaten until soaked in milk or water. This minister made all the bread and did the washing, but the girls did the ironing nights after school. There was a large, long row of rhubarb by the garden fence and they all seemed very fond of it. Most everybody had plenty of rhubarb and sought many ways of using it. My Mother always canned mulberries, raspberries, and grapes and mixed some with the rhubarb for sauce or pies, so I had seldom eaten it just in plain sauce as it was very tart and neither my Father nor my Grandfather cared for it that way. We were used to it “doctored up” as my Grandfather used to say. May, the youngest of the girls, had begged for me to stay all night with them some night so my Mother had finally given in and I was to stay on a Monday night and go to school the next day and come home with Aunt Lida on Tuesday night. Well, I went. Now at home when I got home from school, Mother always gave me a glass of milk to drink and either a slice of bread and butter to eat or 2 large cookies and then I could wait to eat supper when the men came in at 6 o’clock or 6:30 at night; but, when we got to the parsonage we went right out to swing and play jump the rope; then we walked over into the church yard and looked for 4 leaf clovers. About 6 o’clock Edith, the older sister, called us to come to supper. By that time I was very hungry and when we sat down and grace was given, I was surprised to see only bread and butter and rhubarb sauce to eat and water to drink. What a difference if I had been at home. We would have had either ham and eggs or cold sliced ham or scrambled eggs, fried or warmed up cooked potatoes, cabbage salad and bread and butter, cookies or plain cake, and all the milk a child could drink while the older ones would have hot tea; if very warm, cold tea and cold milk. I began to wonder if this was all we were to have to eat, and it was. I tried my best to eat my dish of sauce, but it had very little sugar in it and was so tart it made my tongue sting. At last they noticed I wasn’t eating much and the minister told Edith to get more sugar and put on my sauce and she told him they didn’t have any more and he said he would have to see about more the next day. Child-like I said, “Why how will you drink your coffee in the morning without any sugar, won’t it be kind of bitter?” “We don’t drink coffee.” the minister’s wife said, “Do you?” “No, I don’t.” I said “But Mother always fixes me a cup of milk with sugar and puts a few drops of coffee in it to give it a flavor and the rest all drink coffee.” “Well, I never heard of pampering children so.” she said. “Yes,” I said, My Mother says she never saw little starved children like yours, but she would sure like to have them for awhile and feed them up and put a little flesh on their poor little bones.” “Well, I never!” gasped the minister’s wife and May jumped up and said, “Come on Laura, we must find a birds nest in the hedge before it gets too dark.” So away we went and stayed out till dark and went right up to bed as soon as we got in the house. What my Mother would have done to me had she heard what I told that night I have no idea. But, Edith told my Aunt next day and they had a big laugh over it. Needless to say they never asked me to stay again over night, but from then on their dinner pails had a different look. What did we have for breakfast the next morning? Exactly the same thing we had for supper except the sauce was warm. Yes we had water to drink, too; but, I never saw the woman or her children before we went to school the next morning. As soon as I got there I went to my Aunt Lida and told her how hungry I was, so she gave me a big fat sugar cookie and sent me outside to eat it and at noon she gave me a sandwich and a piece of cold chicken. Never had anything tasted as good before and when I got home that night I told my Mother I never intended to set my foot in that parsonage again while those people were living there and I never did. Years later the lady and her 2 children came to visit many of the former members of the church and stayed several days with my folks. The children were still very thin and white, and both died of TB in later years. In fact, all that family is gone, also Edith; but, May was still alive in 1910. I do not know where she is now in 1962, perhaps gone to her reward. I understand the minister’s wife sold a number of her books and various writings and that they were considered very good. She was a very nice person and very kind and friendly and everyone seemed to like her very much. My Mother always had an extra place for any minister or their family. Many came back to visit and several wrote to me when my Mother passed away in 1934. Now in 1963 the ministers nor their families make no calls on the families of the church, only those who are members of the board. It looks to me as if they were doing as little as they could to get the people to come to church and draw their money as soon as it is collected. They do not stay as long at their appointment as they did years ago and the country churches are being removed as fast as they can and deserted and if people want to go to church they have to drive miles, sometimes, to towns. However, the autos have helped to shorten the miles. Many times they do not feel welcome in the city and town churches and quit going anywhere. Sometimes they feel their clothes are not good enough, so stay home on that account.
In my other book I told how I met Billy; but not why or how he came to come to Illinois from Indiana or anything about his parents or family. His father was a French Canadian and one of three boys. I do not remember if there were any girls or not as he never said. His (Billy’s) mother was born near Marion, Indiana and her maiden name was France and one of her brothers was sent to Australia to be a government post office worker for the U.S. and another was the co-owner of a large sheep and goat ranch in southern Texas and Mexico–his name was James France. Napolean Gonnam (American way of spelling)(French way was Gannom) was a railroad engineer on the Pennsylvania line and met Rachel France in a RR restaurant where she was a waiter and married her soon after meeting her. He told me it was love at first sight. They had 14 children and four are left now in 1960. (Omer died in July 1961 of cancer.) There were so many bad wrecks on the RR that after a few years of worry Mother G. begged Father G. to find some other kind of work. She had been raised on a farm so he bought a small farm near Dunkirk, Ind. that had only a few acres of workland on it and the rest timber, so, he cleared the timber off and made a very good producing farm. He worked very hard and raised livestock and took much pride in his horses; in fact, had some of the best in that neighborhood. His neighbors all called him Frenchy; but, none ever asked for help without getting the best he had to give. As Frenchy had been raised a Catholic he wanted his children brought up that way; so, when Billy was 12 years old the children all came down with diptheria and 4 of the younger ones died and a tiny baby was born but only lived a short time. As they were in quarantine a neighbor lady of their faith got the holy water and she and Mother G. baptized the baby. Father G. went to the priest and wanted to bury the 5 children in the Catholic cemetery, as it was the first deaths in the family he bought a lot ; but, the priest refused to let the tiny baby be buried with the others saying it had not been properly baptized and a heated argument followed. So there was a small cemetery on the corner of Mother Gannom’s parents’ farm. He decided to bury all of them there and he never allowed any of the family to go to church again; but, sent the children to a Methodist Sunday School at a small town near called Millgrove. But, about a year before Father G. died a new priest came to town and visited them and so he and Mother G. were taken into the Catholic church again and their funerals were held from it; but, they are buried in the little cemetery with the children, not in the big cemetery. A beautiful big stone is on their lot with a nice cross carved on it and it stands out among all the other stones and the French spelled name is in large plain letters, GANNOM. His brother Lewis would not spell his name that way, so Billy always used the name GONNAM as his Uncle Lewis had.
One hot day in the summer of 1899 Father G. was grubbing out a huge tree stump and had a sunstroke and was in bed for months. Billy was about 14 then and had to take over the farm work. His next younger brother was 10 and the youngest 8; so, the 3 boys done the best they could and got the crop in and raised enough to feed the stock. At last their Father was well enough to get around and when Billy was about 16 he was badly hurt by having a riding horse fall on him and was laid up a year or more. As the brothers were old enough to help, Billy went to work for a cattle feeder. He drove a big team of bay horses and was so small he had to climb into the manger to get the harness on them and out on the divider pole between them to finish getting them ready to hitch on the big wagon to haul the feed out for the cattle. He was paid $15.00 a month and his board of 3 meals a day. (The people he worked for feeding cattle were named Smoot and we went to see them one time when back there on a visit. But Mrs. Smoot had died and Mr. Smoot was sick in a hospital and no one was allowed to visit him as her death had nearly caused him to lose his mind, so, we never got to see him. He died a short time after that.) He was then 18 and he said felt himself a man so a year later he and a neighbor friend older than he decided to see the West, so took a train for Kankakee, Ill. and then to Wauponsee Station. They got there about 10:30 AM and went over to the store and asked if the men knew of anyone who needed men to work. There were several men there and one by the name of Henry Warning hired Billy and took him home at once. I do not remember where the other man went, but not far away. I think to a Newport east of town. Billy ate his dinner and no one even spoke a word of English, but talked together in German while they ate. Then the younger man took him to the barn and they worked all PM. At supper the same thing happened and no one spoke a word to him. After supper the young man said, ” You can sit in the kitchen awhile till you go to your room upstairs. I’ll call you in the morning.” So the time went. He told me later if he had been able to get a train that night he would have gone as far away from that place as he could get. But the next morning, he and Henry, the son, had to go and help a neighbor shell corn and then found out people could talk English and would visit with him so he got acquainted with some of the nice friendly boys down the road aways and they asked him to come over that night. Their names were Ed and Allie McGuan (—and we have been friends ever since. The Allie McGuan’s moved to Iowa and we have been to visit them many times for he married the May James I was visiting when I met Billy the first time. They have 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl, all married now and doing well. Allies always come to visit us when they come to visit in Ill. as 3 of their children live near here, the youngest is in Arizona.) He stayed with the Warnings till threshing was over and then went to Fremont James’ till corn husking was over and then went to Frank Holroyds’ on Dec. 6 and stayed there 6 years till we were married. He had bought himself a bicycle and rode into Morris and around the country and as soon as he could get money together he bought himself a horse to ride and later on bought a buggy. He said he never regretted coming to Illinois; but, he never was so homesick in all his life before and he hoped no one would ever be like he had been. He went back to visit his folks several times; but, always came back. He said he was not needed at home as the farms were so small and wages were so little compared to Ill. His parents wanted him home and tried every way to coax him to stay with them; but, he would not. After we were married they wanted us to stay but he said no. He was doing so well out west he could not return, only on visits. I wrote them every 2 weeks and tried to make up for his not liking Ind. To tell the truth, neither of us would have been happy there for any length of time.
Dunkirk was a nice large town, nice homes and stores and a large Ball glass factory there and a glass dish factory and several of his relatives worked there; but, Billy would rather farm and be out in the open. Most of the factory workers, especially the men, drank and Billy was not of their class at all as he had never drank a drop in his life and never felt he needed that to make a man of him. But both his brothers drank and to this day have barely the clothes they wore.. One has been married 3 times, the other one 4 times and he is still batching for himself. Dunkirk has 8 nice large churches, also several schools in various parts of town and a very large high school and many lovely people that we have met the times we visited there; but, Billy never seemed to care to go very often. As his brothers thought he was doing so much better than they were he was feeling himself above them; which was not true at all, but, he was so disgusted with the way they lived and drank and quarreled among themselves he said he felt better far away from them and that they had as good a chance to make decent men of themselves as he had. And if they could not see the good of being decent and well respected, there was nothing more to be done about it.
Both of them came to visit us. The younger one, Edward, asked at once where he could go for a drink of beer or some other kind of liquor. I never saw Billy turn any whiter and after a few moments of silence from all of us he quietly told him, “We are not that kind of people and none of us know any place that you can go to get it unless you want me to take you back to the train for you will not need any thing to drink while you are visiting my home but tea, coffee, milk, and water.” Ed looked down and said, “All right.” and he stayed 3 weeks and seemed to have a good time for Billy took him many places and towns and to farm sales as it was winter time, and not once did he come in with the smell of anything on his breath and when he got home he told the girl he later married he never had a better time in his life and he wanted a home as near like Billy’s as he could get and that he was choosing her because she was the nearest like Laura he had ever met, even to the reddish colored hair. When I told Billy what Ed had said to Hazel he said, “Good girl. I knew they would like you.” and gave me a friendly pat on my head as was his way many times. He was not one to kiss and fuss over anyone, especially in public; so, his pat meant his approval of anything he considered I had done well.
The other older brother, Omer, came once before bringing his second wife and 2 children from Michigan to visit us for several weeks and help husk corn. His first wife, Imo, had died when her baby was born and he had given the little girl to Imo’s mother, Mrs. Wise, to raise for him. He was very much upset and grieved much over Imo’s death as they had been very poor and he felt she might not have had the proper food before Merceline was born. But later I learned Imo had a fever when a child that had left her a diabetic and had needed medical care that even their Doctor did not understand about. Merceline grew to be a very pretty child, lovely red curls that reached her waist, a sweet lovable child with big blue eyes that almost talked when she looked at you. She stayed with the Wises until Mr. Wise died and Mrs. Wise had to go to the hospital for treatment and then she went to her father. By that time Omer and Bertha had 4 children and as she had always been alone, they did not always agree. She was bright in school and at 15 got a job as waitress in a large store that served lunches. On graduation she left her father’s home and I do not know where she is now. Her Grandmother Wise died before she graduated from high school.
Her Father, Omer, ran a lunchroom and a cigar store for awhile and lost it drinking and his wife, Bertha Upp, had to go out to work to make enough to feed the 4 children. After awhile he disappeared and Bertha did not know where he had gone. Bill, the oldest boy, got a job as a golf caddy boy and worked at that after school and Saturdays and Sundays. Eva, the oldest girl, got a job in a 10 cent store, and Harold took a paper route and delivered groceries for a neighbor’s store. Myra was to small to work out so she helped her mother what she could. Bertha took most any job she could find and as it was in the days when the Red Cross had sewing classes, she was put in as instructor of that. About 3 years later, Zella, the oldest sister of Billy’s, was doing a washing for some sick woman on the back porch when a tramp came up and asked for some food. As it was early in the morning she still had the coffee pot warm and told him to wash up on the bench on the porch while she fixed him some breakfast. She came out in a few minutes with toast, eggs, and bacon and coffee and was horrified to find the tramp was her own brother Omer. He told her he had traveled all over the west and generally rode the freight rods to save money he got while working at various jobs. She made him take a bath and gave him clean clothes from things given her to make carpet rags from for some neighbor and made him go to bed while she washed the clothes he had taken off. She told me afterward she never washed dirtier clothes and she had been washing for years as that was the way she had raised her 3 children and kept them in school. Her home was one her Father had bought and put in trust for her as long as she lived. Her husband had proved to be a no-good and drank so much she divorced him when the youngest boy was old enough to go to school. The husband died several years later in the county home. He would not work and if he did every cent he got was spent for drink. Her children are all married. The oldest son and wife have visited us twice and have made a lovely couple. Zella’s youngest son has a truck business in Hartford City the last I heard. The daughter lives in Oklahoma and has quite a large family. She was named Laura after me as Billy’s family all seemed to like me very much and Billy’s Father had said he thought Billy had found a very good wife and that he was well pleased to call me his daughter.
When we visited them he and I had long visits together and he asked me all about my religion and if I seen that the children were being sent to church and Sunday School. I told him all about my great grandfather being a circuit rider in the early days and as much as I could remember about the church and religion I had been raised in and that we attended very nearly every service. He seemed very pleased and said so and was glad Billy had picked such a good mother for his children. About that time Billy came out of the house and came to us and his Father told him what we had been talking about. He made no comment, only that he thought we were sane enough to raise our children in such a manner that they would never disgrace the Gonnam name and there it ended. I have often wondered why the old gentleman was so anxious to find out just what religion we favored. Knowing that he was sick and hardly able to work much, perhaps he was wondering just how much he himself had and if he should return to the way he was raised. At any rate, when we left for home he shook hands with me and said, “See that your children attend church services every Sunday. I am glad you are trying to raise them the best you know how.” I never saw him again as he was taken very ill and Billy went back alone when he passed away as I was not able to travel as our third son had just been born and I had my hands full caring for him and the other three.
Billy was always sorry his Father could not have visited us and seen where we lived. His Mother and youngest sister and his Mother’s brother from Texas and Mexico spent several weeks with us one fall. And his oldest sister and her 3 children spent several weeks with us one summer and we all had a wonderful time. Omer went home to his family when Zella got him cleaned up; but, soon took to drinking again and Bertha divorced him as he did nothing to help her or the children. He went to work in some factory and met a woman he later married. She was a widow with 3 children all grown. Then Omer lost his job and they went to Peoria, Ill. and he found work where his oldest son had and one Sunday drove into the yard just as we were ready to go to church. Billy and I stayed home, but sent the children on. I got as nice a dinner as I could on short notice and they left before dark and said they would see us again. His son, Billy, named after my husband, decided to go back to Marion, Ind. and work for a bakery and before long Omer and Clara followed him. Bertha wrote that Omer could not find work, so Clara was taking in washings to support them. At last Clara wrote me about how hard a time they were having so Billy had me write and tell them he would give Omer work on the farm and a house to live in if they wanted to come. They replied as quickly as they could, so Billy sent Byrl, our second son, with a truck to bring their things and them. They soon bought a second hand car and we gave them rugs and used furniture and helped them all we could. At that time they were living on Rome Maier’s farm south and east of us and the land we worked called the Wilson homestead had an empty house. Omer moved over there so he could be there to feed the 100 head of cattle Billy was feeding on that place as the Maier farm had no accommodations for cattle feeding. Byrl had just been married to Kathleen Madison and they moved to the Maier farm in place of Omer. In June of that year Jesse volunteered for the Army in World War II as an airman, so made more work for Billy and Omer. His boy Billy the 2nd had also joined the Army and men were being needed in the different factories and both men and women worked in them. So as soon as corn husking was done, Omers’ packed up and left one night, never telling us they intended going. When Billy heard the cattle bellowing at the other place he came and told me something was wrong over there and we went over. The house was empty and the cattle had not been fed and there was no signs they had been fed since the day before in the morning. No water in the tank for them to drink, so it took some time to get things going over there. Later we learned Omer had been drinking and that Clara had often done the chores best she could. We also learned later they had got groceries various places promising to pay later and left never paying a cent. Well, we got that mess cleared up as best we could and Billy said, ” Now that is enough helping people that don’t have sense enough to help themselves.” We have not seen nor heard from them since and when Billy died they did not come or even write so I guess that chapter is ended.
The other brother, Ed, has been out here twice; but, got one of our neighbors cornered at Billy’s funeral and tried to find out how much property and farmland Billy had accumulated, but the man told him he did not know, had never heard, and etc., so Ed went home no wiser than he came. Later on that man came and told us what had been asked; but, said he was so disgusted he would not have told him anything anyway and that he was very much surprised to think he would even ask such things. All of them were very jealous of what Billy had done. Billy’s oldest sister, Zella Luzadder and her oldest son and his wife and Ed and his small grandson were the ones that came to Billy’s funeral. The youngest sister, Lila, had been in an auto wreck and hurt very badly and her husband killed; so is in a mental sanitarium now at Fort Wayne, Ind. There are times she knows folks that go to see her, but not always. I write to her, but she cannot answer, so someone else answers the letters. Sometimes it’s a nurse or some person visiting there that does the writing for different ones who are not able to write. (She has recovered and has married again and lives in Ohio. Her new husband is a house painter and is busy much of the time. I hear from them quite often; but, he does the writing. He is some years older than she is.)
I wish we knew more about Billy’s relatives in Canada and Australia; but, they were never very good to write to each other so he knew very little about any of them. Once, when we were visiting back at his folks, we visited several cousins and I saw my first gas well that furnished enough gas to light the house and cook with and had been able to heat the house; but, was getting lower so were planning to use coal heating stoves. We went to visit the glass dish factory and we got several pieces of nice glassware. The next summer two couples came to our farm and stayed overnight on their way to Iowa to visit more relatives; and were quite surprised to see such large fields and so many cattle and hogs on feed, as farms near them were small and few livestock were kept. The men worked in factories away from home and the women cared for the livestock. Our house on the farm was large and old but in good repair and the driveway was toward the house and another to the barn and they called it a park and said we had a mansion and landscaped lawns. We had our regular farm meals, but to them it was a banquet. I could not understand why as we always used what we raised and I tried to use as many as I could in various ways every day, and as I remember it, to us, was just an ordinary meal, served country family style. One time we went to a homecoming at Marion, Ind. on the train and while there I had my first waffles and barbecued spare ribs. We watched the parade and saw the different entertainment on the streets. Some were fancy dancers, sleight of hand, and talking performing animals. We ate our meals at the church eating places; all splendid home cooked meals and very reasonable.
Once, when I was a little girl about 5 years old, my Grandfather Cooper said we were going to celebrate our birthdays by having lemonade made with powdered sugar and eat sugar cookies every day beginning on May 11th, his birthday, until June 28th, my birthday. So he asked Mother if she would make his favorite cookies and every day about 2 o’clock we would see him look at his big silver watch he carried in his pocket and come to the house and make 2 large glasses of real lemonade and call me to get the cookies and we would have our little party. This lasted every year until he passed away, the year my youngest brother was born. If I happened to be at school at the hour he would wait till I got home and have it all ready. I sometimes wondered if he wished I was a boy and could carry on the Cooper name; if so, he never let on. He would sit for hours telling me of his home in Ohio and Ind. and about their coming to Illinois to buy a farm to raise his boys on. Of the friends they made with the Indians and how they would bring fresh caught fish, fresh killed game & wild fowl to trade for Grandmother’s bread, ginger cake, and cookies, once asking for homemade soup and wanting her to tell how she made it and what all she put in it to make it so different from what their squaws made. It was hard sometimes to make them understand; but when they did, they would laugh and clap their hands to let her know, they were quick to learn. Once a young man brought her a wild duck that the arrow had gone through its body, and an older Indian with him clapped his hands and took the duck outside and brought her in another that had been shot in the head and he had wrung its neck. She was very glad for the exchange and gave them extra bread, but the older man took it all for himself; so she tried to let the younger man know he was to come back later; and he did and brought both duck and a nice string of fish and would not take anything she tried to give him. He covered his face with his hands and wiped his eyes to show her he was sorry for what he had done before. He came many times later and always brought her nice gifts. Once he brought her a nice pair of beaded moccasins made of deer hide. Grandfather kept them in a safe place in his room, but after he died my Uncle Owen Cooper from Nebraska took everything he could find of clothes and keepsakes and took them home with him. Why, I do not know as Grandfather was a large, heavy-set man and Uncle was tall and thin and every bit of clothing would have to be altered to fit him. One thing he took that I have always felt bad about was the quilt top that Grandmother had made in applique yellow roses on white blocks, but had never been quilted. I had always been told it was to have been mine for I was often in Grandfather’s room and he would show it to me and talk about her and want me to learn to sew and take neat tiny stitches like she had done, but uncle took it. and Father never missed it for a long time as there was a lot of sickness and my youngest brother had been born the very day before Grandfather passed away.
One time when Mother and I were visiting my brother in Nebraska he took us to visit Aunt Selina and I asked about the quilt. She told me it would be mine when she passed away and the people that were living with her after Uncle passed away were in the room and heard her tell me. But, when she died they sold all her things, quilt top and all. I wrote them and asked about it and the man wrote I could have it for $25.00 as he knew the people who bought it. I was so hurt and disgusted I never replied, as at that time we did not have the money to spend on quilt tops, no matter who made them. What a lovely thing it would have made to leave my children–Their Great Grandmother’s work. I know both my daughters would have loved it.
My two brothers had asthma very bad and my youngest brother Clinton died from an attack that ran into pneumonia; but, my brother Howard went to Nebraska to a much dryer and warmer climate and does not have much trouble anymore. One remedy we often used to help their breathing was burning blotting paper that had been soaked in saltpeter and then dryed. It made a blue flame and they inhaled the smoke, a very peasant smell. We always kept plenty on hand and ready to use at a moments notice. My Mother and I took turns sitting up nights with the boys and keeping the blotters burning so they could breath. I have told many people about this home remedy and they have used it.
I remember an old boot jack used by both my Father and Grandfather being fastened on the wall near the floor by the outside door to remove their boots, as all men and boys wore boots made of leather that often reached above their knees. I asked my Father why they were so tall and he said no snake could jump that high and the fangs would not strike through the tough cowhide the boots were made of. In damp weather they always put grease on them; either wagon wheel grease or old lard, to keep the leather soft and let the boots slip on easy; otherwise they would be very hard and hurt their feet. Many of the boot soles were made of wood and I have 1 skate made of wood with an iron runner and a leather strap to fasten around the ankle to hold it on and 2 iron screws on the inside of the heel and part of the foot to help hold the skate on. Grandfather brought it from Ohio. The mate to the one I have my Uncle Owen Cooper took when he gathered up all that Grandfather left when he died and it is in Hastings, Neb. at the big mansion called “The House of Yesteryear”, a wonderful building filled with things used in early days. I also have a potato masher made of walnut; was just a piece of stovewood that my father made for Mother one rainy day shortly after they were married. She was getting dinner and he said’ “Let’s have mashed potatoes.” and she said, “I have no masher.” so he made her one and she used it as long as she lived and was able to keep house
In early days all the carpets were made of woven rags and floors were covered from wall to wall. In the spring they were taken up and the long strips cut apart and washed and then sewed together to make the large floor covering. Then straw was put on the freshly scrubbed wood floor and the carpet laid down. A small wooden stick with short nails driven in was used to put the carpet up to the corners and to make it smooth and then tacked down. Later years old newspapers were used instead of the straw for padding as was not so dusty. All of the worn clothing was cut in strips and taken to someone that had a loom and woven into strips as long as the lady stated that would reach across the room. Then she would use a large needle and carpet twine to join the strips together to make the rug or carpet she needed. I have one such stretcher my mother and I used many times.
There was no refrigeration in those days and it was very hard to keep milk, butter, and meat fresh very long. Nearly all houses had a basement or cellar under the house. Many had a cave or small building partly underground to use. My Grandmother Funk had one of these. A 10 ft hole was dug near the house; some 10 ft long and about as wide, but many were not as large. The walls were cut smooth and sometimes stones were laid on the sides, many times not, and the dirt floor pounded firm and smooth and hard. Logs or boards were put over the top in a v shaped roof and a window put in one end covered with screen wire inside, many times put on outside; but Grandmother’s was inside and could be put in or taken out and the glass paned window raised or lowered as was needed. Then dirt was put all over the log or board roof and a door put in one end and steps cut to go up and down and a flat door to cover the steps made on the slant so water and snow would run off. This cave or cellar was nice and cool in the hot summer and milk and cream was many times as cool as if it had ice in it. Meat was cooked and canned in glass jars same as fruit and many times put in stone jars and covered with lard and kept nice and fresh tasting as when first cooked. Lard was cooked and put in stone jars and set on the dirt floor. Seldom was there any dampness there to hinder walking in anytime, if there was boards were laid down to walk on and set things on, shelves were made and fruit jars set on them. Some basements under some of the houses had a long square box set on the floor and water from a field tile run thru to keep the milk and butter cool. But our home place had a stone cemented floor and had several windows set in just under the house floors. These we kept closed in the daytime, but as soon as the sun went down we opened them and for many years my folks made and sold butter from 2 to 20 cows and my Mother took many prizes at fairs for her butter. I helped make and sell thousands of lbs. of butter to steady customers in Morris each year at $.20 /lb. We delivered it in jars every 2 weeks, sometimes more often if they wanted us to. We always got cash for it when ever we came. If our customers did not need butter we took it to the store and often got $.15 /lb for it; but, took groceries instead of money.
We children were always glad when Father brought us oranges or bananas and canned pineapple as we did not get such things, only at Christmas time, and was a real treat any other time of the year. We raised most all our fruit and berries and apples were put in a straw filled hole in the garden and covered with dirt to keep it from freezing and when we needed either apples or potatoes Father would take a pail and go dig into the pile and get what was needed and cover the hole again. Even cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, and carrots were holed up for winter’s use because they were raised on the farm and could not be purchased in small country stores; only in large cities and they were very high in price.
Putting up ice for summer use was one of the winter jobs done after a hard and long freeze. Many farmers had a small tight building that they used for an ice house. Many neighbors went to gather and help with the ice harvest. As soon as a pond or small river froze over it was tested and ice would be from 12 to 25 inches thick. Men used saws made for that purpose and cut blocks of ice and it was hauled by hooks to the shore and put on sleds and taken to the ice house and packed in thick sawdust in layers so when it was needed for use they could start on a layer and put the sawdust that had covered what they needed onto the rest. Ice was wrapped in heavy blankets and taken home and put in many thicknesses of paper and more blankets and chunks were cut off as needed. Every family had an ice cream freezer and many made a custard of eggs, milk, sugar, and flour to cook to a thick custard; then it was thinned with nice thick sweet cream, flavored to suit the family with either vanilla or lemon extract and placed in the can and when the cover was tight the ice was crushed and mixed with coarse salt and a crank turned until the cream mixture was frozen so thick they could no longer turn the crank. Then the dasher was taken out and the lid put on again and more ice and salt placed in the wooden tub around the can and left to ripen for an hour or so. No birthday party or church supper was complete without that wonderful ice cream; but, now as I write on Feb. 17, 1961 very few farms have a freezer, nor hens to lay the nice fresh eggs, or a cow to give the good rich milk and cream that we used years ago. Ice cream is bought the same as eggs and milk and cream and most women use a box preparation for a cake to go with the boughten ice cream. Some of this ice cream when melted is like a sponge; no taste, just a white mass and cold.
The good times we neighbors had 50 years ago are no more and young folks get in their high powered cars and drive 50 to 60 miles to towns and watch movies, later going to taverns where they drink beer and smoke and stay out till near morning and don’t get home (some don’t) till early hours of the morning unable to do a decent days work or even care to. Years ago our transportation was a horse and buggy. Picture shows were outside in the summer and people sat out on the streets and watched the pictures put on the side of a nice building and all the family enjoyed the lovely stories and beautiful scenery shone and when a song was put on the screen everybody sang and all the family enjoyed visiting after with their neighbors and getting a few needed groceries. They went home and all were in bed by 11:30 or 12 midnight. No one had to lay awake and wonder where their children were or if they would ever see them alive again as is the case today.
Of course we had to use kerosene lamps, but they gave a good clear light. There were many different kinds; some hung in the center of the room and could be raised or lowered to suit the family. Of course these lamps had to be washed, trimmed, and filled almost every day; but, we did not think it a task anymore than we did washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. Every one had a small lamp they used in their bedroom and some of the lamps used in the kitchen were fastened on the wall and a bright reflector that one could turn to send the light anywhere in the room we wished. The men folks had kerosene lanterns they carried about the out buildings with them and would hang them up on nails to keep the stock from knocking them over while feeding or cleaning and bedding them down for the night. Many used candles made from tallow rendered from beef and mutton or from berries gathered in some of the timbers. I have helped make all kinds and it is a very fascinating job. I can remember the first matches we used and before that we used paper rolled into a tiny roll and lighted in the front of the stove or fireplace; or often just a tiny chip of wood would be used. I have sat for hours helping make lamp or candle lighters when I was a small girl. Before the kerosene lantern was used a can with holes punched in it with a handle to carry it by and a candle fastened on the inside was used; but, was hard to light once the wind blew the candle out.
Reading out loud to the family was almost a nightly duty and my Father was a good, clear reader and read many interesting books to us. Mother would knit or crochet or sew by hand and show me how to piece quilts; and all would be very quiet so every word could be heard. We took some weekly papers: The Morris Herald, The Chicago Inter-Ocean, The Youth Companion, and Prairie Farmer. Comfort and Womans World came once a month with stories, recipes, and poems. Our Zion Church had a nice Sunday School Library and all were good clean homey stories so we always had a supply of good clean reading to use. Everybody hurried thru the evening chores and were ready to sit and listen to Father’s reading. Of course, we had the best book of all. “The Bible” and it was always read night and morning and all knelt and each said a short prayer asking God’s care and guidance for the day. Every home and family worshipped; but, I do not know of many who do now. They feel that is old-fashioned along with many other things long ago enjoyed.
I have a blue and white pieced quilt my Grandmother Funk gave my Mother when she was married. I think they call the pattern flower basket and double wrench(?). It is getting very badly worn, but I still keep it. She also made me a nine patch quilt for my little bed of pink and white pieces and of my little dresses and aprons. It still can be used, but I do not let it be used much any more. The blue quilt is 85 years old and the pink one 78. I hope to leave something for each of my grandchildren that I have made; perhaps they will enjoy it; but, I do not know as times have changed so much since I was a child. I have a child’s Bible that my Grandfather Cooper bought for me before I could read and every night he would read to me one or two chapters and explain the pictures to me. It is about worn out; but, I still like to get it out and reread again the stories he read to me.
My Folks Enjoy A Winter In Nebraska
After Billy and I moved onto the home place, Father, Mother, and Clinton decided to spend the winter with Howard in Hastings, Nebraska. He was not married and boarded with an old lady and worked for the Burlington RR, so he hunted for our folks a furnished house for the winter. Some friends of his wanted to spend the winter in Texas, so he asked for their house. It was not too far from the Methodist Church or downtown stores, so they enjoyed that winter very much and made many friends. As I remember, our winter was very mild and not much snow and the grass stayed green. One day I was waiting for dinner to cook and was writing a letter to the folks out west when the house began to shake and dishes rattled in the cupboard and the floor dipped and trembled and our old dog Colly laying on the front doorstep began to bark and howl as if someone was hurting her. I ran to the window and saw her looking up at the house standing quite a distance from the house. The phone began to ring and a neighbor wanted to know if we were all right and what made the noise and why was the house shaking. Our Central Phone lady came on and told us that it was an earthquake shock. I understand it was the first one ever felt in Illinois; but, not the last for several weeks later Billy and the man helping him build fence felt another tremor. He was just ready to drive a staple into the fence post and the post kept moving about and he asked the man if he was pulling the wire tighter and he said NO!, it was moving so fast he could not get ahold of it to pull. That one lasted about 3 minutes we were told later. Since that there have been several later shocks in other parts of Illinois, but we never felt them.
The first dinner I can remember was eaten with the Perry Goss family. Mary Goss, who was teaching in Chicago, was home that day and her brother Charles, also Eva and Julius, and my Aunt Nancy Funk who was visiting us, and my Father and Mother and me and my Grandfather Cooper who was a brother-in-law of Mrs. Goss. Aunt Frances we called her and Mr. Goss, Uncle Perry. I do not remember if any more of the older Goss children were at home as they lived in Kansas and Iowa and So. Dakota. I remember a large seat or long window bench on the southeast side of the little kitchen, built from the big chimney to the east side of the wall. There was a south window and an east one I could look out of to watch the dog and several cats setting in the cellar door in the sun. All the men folks were in the big sitting room visiting and Mother, Aunt Nancy and Mary Goss were there also; and as usual Mary had the floor. I remember Mother and my Aunt had taken some needlework and Eva and her mother were getting dinner. I can see the big iron cookstove and the various kettles of iron and the big oven and the monstrous big turkey in a big black pan and oh how good everything smelled. I went into the big long pantry where Eva was getting jellies and pickles into dishes and taking them to the table that was set at one end of the big kitchen. Of course, I was underfoot and always just where Eva did not want me to be, so she gave me a big can of different kinds of buttons to play with and at last Julius came out and began to play with me. He asked me if I liked apples and of course I said yes, and he wanted to know what color I liked best and I said red because we had so many red Jonathans and Winter Snows in our cellar and he said, “Don’t you like yellow apples , too?” “I don’t know, I never saw any.” I replied and he said, “Well you come with me down to the basement and I’ll show you some.” So we went and there in a big barrel were the big yellow ones. So we carried a big pan full up stairs and later on he peeled one for me. Charles Goss sat very close to my Aunt Nancy and they talked in undertones to each other, but the men had hard work visiting as Mary Goss talked all the time and so loud it was hard for the men to hear each other. At last dinner was ready and we were called to take our places at the table. I was set up on the dictionary and the big family bible on a pillow on a chair and at last all were ready and as usual Uncle Perry asked my Grandfather to ask the blessing, but Mary Goss was talking and her Father turned to her and said, ” Be quiet till Brother Wm. can say grace.” When they were ready to eat I turned to Mary Goss and said, “Don’t you know you talk too much?” and my Father grabbed me by the arm and gave me a big shake and said, ” Hush, you do too. Now quiet down and eat your dinner.” and I knew he meant just that. After dinner Julius took me for a ride on his sled as there was a light snow on the ground and Mother helped with the dishes and Charley and Aunt Nancy went for a walk down to the Woodbury School that today (Nov. 1961) is still being used as a schoolhouse. The men folks went out to the barns to look at the hogs and cattle. Uncle Perry was feeding for market that winter. I think Julius must have been 17 or 18 years of age then; but, we were always the best of friends and when we went to church at Zion he always hunted me up and visited awhile. Some of the boys would laugh and make fun of him and say I was a little pest; but Julius always said I was his cousin and a good girl. We always visited his home and after he was married and I was married too, our families were the best of friends. He and his wife and their three boys have all passed away as well as all our folks, my husband also, and I am the only one left of that Thanksgiving Day at Uncle Perry’s.
But I must tell you about my Aunt Nancy and Charley Goss. That day they took that walk to the schoolhouse he asked her to marry him and gave her a beautiful amethyst set ring. Why she took it I do not know because she had come to have Mother get her things ready to marry a United Bretheren Minister, Rev. Richard Beck and later when she told Charley he made her keep the ring and he went to Australia and died there in 1900. He never married. But, Aunt and Uncle Beck, as we called him, lived for years and raised a large family. Our Mary has the ring as Aunt gave it to Mother and she gave it to Mary as a graduation gift from High School in Morris. It is a beautiful stone and real gold band beautifully carved, a real heirloom. I always felt sorry for Charles Goss every time I looked at that ring. I have often wondered if Aunt Nancy did not wish she had married him instead of Uncle Beck as she had to work very hard and more many times with that large family and there seldom was any money so she could visit her folks. I hope she was happy in her chosen work as a minister’s wife. Her children all had college educations but one and I understand he has made a place for himself, also a good name, as a highway policeman in Iowa. The daughter and two of the boys have passed away as well as Aunt and Uncle Beck. One boy lives in Florida after being a teacher for soldiers’ children in a Tennessee camp for a long time. As none of them ever wrote to any of us, I know little about them. In those days an educated person (for many [not all, but some] of them did) felt they were so far above farmers or their families that they were not good enough to associate with; that to work in the dirt was degrading, so we just paid no attention to them.
But one time Aunt Nancy brought her sons and their wives to visit Mother after my folks had left the farm and moved to Morris to live. Mary was at home and we were cleaning house and were papering one of the bedrooms upstairs and had worked all day, very hard. We had baked 6 loaves of bread and a plain cake along with everything else and had gotten dinner for our 5 men and 2 extra men who were putting up hay. About 5 PM a car drove in and in it was Aunt Nancy and 3 of her sons and their wives. She let us understand they had come to the country for their supper as my Mother was not feeling well. The young ladies asked to go to the bathroom at once to freshen up and were horrified to find a part of that place was outside down a long cement walk. So, while they were getting acquainted with that part of the farm Mary carried up a large pitcher of water and got our wash bowl lavatory ready upstairs for them to use. Then she and I began supper while they washed up and Aunt showed the boys the barns, cribs, orchard, and garden. We fried 3 large pans of fresh potatoes and made 3 dozen eggs into deviled eggs and made cabbage slaw, set the table and fed the company before the men folks were ready for supper. By the time they all had eaten we were out of bread, cookies, cake, eggs, and also potatoes and had to have some dug up before we could have dinner the next day. We went to bed that night so tired we never wanted to see city company again and we have never seen any of those relatives but Aunt Nancy to this day. I have often wondered just what those new married ladies would have fed us in those same circumstances; but then they could have sent downtown for supplies. However, we were 6 miles away from any store and our men were using the car, so we did the best we could. That was just one of the experiences we farm wives encountered. Some times I wonder just how we did all that we did and stayed sweet and sane at the same time, but we did, and for one I am very thankful to have had the experience.
Some Times We Had Very Funny Things Happen
Now for a funny thing that happened at the Wauponsee Station store. Many years ago a wonderful Christian family by the name of Harper came to the little town and William, the father, began to work for Mr. Gorham and Mr. Newport in the store waiting on trade and driving the wagon out into the country gathering up the eggs, butter, and other farm produce in exchange for groceries ordered the week before. One morning when he was very busy sweeping out the store, one of our near neighbor women drove up to the hitch rack and tied her horse and came into the store with a jar or earthen crock in her arms. Making sure there was no one else in the store but Mr. Harper she said, ” I wish you to exchange this fresh churned butter for some more that someone brought in yesterday. Who all did?” and he hastily named several who had brought in butter; “But why?” he asked. “Well,” she said, ” a mouse was drowned in that cream and if I did not know about it or had not seen it I could eat the butter; but knowing it I just cannot. It is nice clean fresh butter just churned this morning, but I want some different.” “Oh never mind,” said Mr. Harper, “I’ll fix that.” and he went down into the small cellar where they kept the butter, lard, and meat. He grabbed a jar and ladled her own butter into it and took it up and put it on the scales and it weighed a small amount more as the jar he used was a little heavier than the one she had brought in. He hastily tied it up and got her a few things she needed and she left, more than happy to think she had some butter someone else had churned that week. On the next delivery day he came to our house and seemed very much disturbed and asked for my Father at once. Mother called to Father who was mending fence near the garden and he came in at once and Mr. Harper told him he had done such a terrible thing he wanted to know what to do about it. and told the story I have just written. By the time he finished my folks were almost overcome with laughter, but he was so earnest and worried over what had happened he could not see anything funny about it all. As soon as my Father could talk he told him not to worry any more, that he had done the only thing he could do under the circumstances and nobody had been hurt. Mr. Harper and his whole family were good people, wonderful Christians, and has since passed to the better world, as well as his wife and several of their children and all of my family and the lady and almost all of her family who ate the butter. My Father told me never to tell any one about what Mr. Harper had told us, that it was all confidential business; but, today thinking about Wauponsee Station and many things that were enjoyed there I felt that I might write about the poor mouse that caused so much trouble. I wonder how many of us have eaten much worse taken from the cream our purchased butter is made of because out of 100 families I have in mind there are just 2 I know who make there own butter. Eat and be happy for you don’t know any different. For me, I’d love to have some old homemade butter to eat on my homemade bread, for I do bake yet at nearly 80 yrs.. of age.
The Day We Fooled The Old Hens
Many years ago there were very few of the different kinds of chickens we see listed at the hatcheries now and many were just everything and called barn chickens. They were every color and size. So my Mother wanted something different and sent off for some Large White Cochen eggs, but we only raised 2 out of the 15 eggs. At last Mother heard of some near Coal City that were for sale, so she bought them and got them home. There were 5 hens and a rooster, large and white with a ring of black feathers around their necks like a necklace. Also, black feathers on their feet and the hens weighed 7 lbs. each and the rooster 9 lbs. We had a nice place for them in the orchard in a rabbit box and pan with nests made in a big box at one end. Each day the hens would set on the nest and cackle as if they had laid an egg, but we never found an egg. At last Mother set me in the window of the parlor and told me to watch very carefully and see what happened. After awhile a hen went on the nest and later began to cackle and every one of the others started to run to her and they ate that egg in less time than it takes to tell it. I told Mother what I had seen and she was sure disgusted. So we took some common eggs and opened the ends of the shell very carefully and got the contents out and mixed it with mustard and red pepper and very carefully put it back in the shell and pasted paper over each end. Next day Mother fed the chickens as usual and put the doctored eggs in the nest. In a little while one hen went in to lay and on discovering the eggs called all the rest to the feast. Pretty soon they all came out with their mouths open and dashed for the water pail and just stood around looking at each other with their mouths open. That day we got 3 nice cochen eggs and never again did they try to eat eggs and strange to say, they did not cackle any more either. So Mother raised a nice lot of lovely chickens and sold many eggs and chickens to different neighbors. No doubt that was a mean thing to do but we were desperate and thank goodness it worked
My Little Rooster
The next spring some friends gave me a pair of banty chickens. The little rooster thought he was king of the chicken yard and was the first to crow in the morning and the last one at night. We called him David and Mother’s big white cochen Goliath. Our barnyard was very muddy after a big rain and the chickens were all out to get fish worms and the two roosters got in a fight. After several rounds Goliath knocked David down and stepped. on him and held him down in the mud. Goliath was so very tired he just stood there getting his breath and looking all around to see where David was. At last he walked away and poor little David got up and walked away and after that when ever he saw Goliath he made himself very scarce and went as fast as he could in the other direction. I had 11 tiny chicks hatch out and found homes for most of them that fall. I always loved every animal and fowl and made pets of many of them. One year after Harvey and Mary were going to school and we lived on the Wilson place, we had a young Plymouth Rock rooster that from the very first was much larger than any of the baby chix and grew so fast. He was larger than any chicken on the farm; in fact, he was the size of a large turkey gobbler. He was very tame and would eat out of our hands and made the most peculiar noise like he was trying to talk to us. He would turn his head first one way and then the other and if we spoke to him he would answer us at once in that queer way. He lived to be 2 years old as he was such a pet we could neither kill him nor sell him; but one morning we found him dead under the roost. We never knew what caused his death as he seemed all right when they were fed that day. We had a large black dog come to us about the time our big chick was hatched and they became good friends. We used coal stoves in 3 rooms and every morning Billy would empty the ashes into a large metal wheelbarrow and when they were cool would haul them down to the hog pen and fill holes up, but as soon as the ashes were put in the barrow to cool our big dog would jump up into the mess and curl up and keep warm. Before very long the big rooster would come and sit on the side by the dog and seem to fall asleep too. Now very few people use coal stoves or even coal furnaces, all oil or bottle gas. I doubt if many even know how to build a fire in a stove using coal or wood.
Long Ago Sunday School Picnics
There were many celebrations in neighboring towns, but several of the church families with small children did not care to attend them, so would go to each others homes and put their picnic dinners together and visit and let the children play. We always had some fire crackers to shoot and there was always 2 or 3 freezers of homemade ice cream and all the lemonade we could drink and the day passed very pleasantly and no danger of any accidents or runaway horses to watch out for on the way home. We had a minister by the name of Albert Burton who had been raised on a farm and also his wife, so he suggested the S. School go to someone’s home and have a picnic, so my Father said, “Come to our place.” We had a big yard and large walnut trees to put up swings in and several brought long wooden tables only used at threshing time and about 80 people gathered with well filled baskets of fried chicken, baked ham, baked beans, fresh homemade rolls, cottage cheese, pies of all kinds, also cakes and cookies and doughnuts and at least gallons of pickles and cooked vegetables, jam and jelly of all kinds and several freezers of homemade ice cream and milk cans full of real lemonade. We young folks played games, some had brought croquet sets, some tennis, others took to the swings and the mothers set the tables and the babies lay on blankets or comforters in the shade. The men visited and kept an eye on everything. What a scramble there was when the word, “Dinner” was called. Many a boy took his favorite girl and helped her fill her plate and then spread clean newspapers in a secluded spot and got his own plate and sat down to eat with her. There are several pictures among my treasures of several different gatherings.
Zion Church was a flourishing and well attended church then and people came for miles around to attend services, no matter if they were held in the daytime or at night the church was filled. As my memory wanders back I can see the different families seated together and the choir up on the south side platform and the young lady who played the organ which was later replaced by a piano and can hear the loved voices singing the old hymns, now have all passed away and I hope are singing up in heaven as beautiful as they did down here so long ago. There were three special days we celebrated in S. School: Easter, Children’s Day, and Christmas. We never could have a big program at Easter as it was impossible to get the children to practice, but each teacher gave out verses to be memorized and given on Easter Sunday and the choir had prepared special music and the teachers had pretty book marks and candy Easter eggs for gifts to the small ones and everyone was remembered some way. Often the older children received bibles and were promoted to a larger class, sort of graduating one might say. I can remember one spring, we had all been sick so much that Mother and I had not had a chance to get to town to get us a new hat; so we sat up after all had gone to bed and used black liquid shoe polish on our old last year’s hats and colored some pale pink and white flowers with liquid blueing (used to make clothes white) and ironed out some ribbon and trimmed our own hats and wore them proudly to services the next day and got a lot of compliments on them. We never told they were our old last year’s hats fixed up. Mother said, “What they don’t know won’t hurt anybody.” and that was that. They looked new anyway.
Children’s Day services was a different program. We had to go to the church for 2 or 3 Saturdays before and learn songs and how to march up on the platform and recite our many recitations and group plays. The last practice we brought arm loads of flowers and pretty vines and trimmed the church and fixed bouquets to set on the steps leading to the platform and wrap the front railing with various kinds of vines. Anyone with a singing canary would bring them in cages to sit on the window sills and when we sang the birds sang also. Every girl had a new white muslin dress and new shoes and the ones with straight hair had done up curls with rags to make curls and were very proud of their looks. The boys all had new suits or their old ones cleaned and pressed to look new. After the services were over, bouquets were made up to send to anyone in the community that was sick and unable to attend. One year a bunch of boys went down along the river in boats and got pond lilies. The church was filled with the gorgeous perfume from the roses and the lilies. One year Leda Winsor and I were sitting together and Ed Reeves and Billy got up and pinned the most beautiful red roses on each of us. We were about the proudest girls there to think the two most popular boys had picked us. Later on we four were married; Billy is gone now but Ed and Leda are still here in 1962. Soon we will all go to meet Billy and be together again.
Christmas always was a grand time. A large evergreen tree was put up in the front and was trimmed with popcorn and cranberries and fancy cookies and there the small packages were tied to the branches and the large ones piled under the tree. There were always dolls sitting up on the branches waiting for eager little girls and sleds for the little boys. Santa Claus always came with a big clothes basket full of sacks of nuts and candy for all and then he left to go somewhere else and different teachers gave out the gifts. Of course we always had a nice program before Santa came. Once I remember he came riding in a big toy wagon drawn by a billy goat. He said the reindeer got sick and a kind man loaned him the goat, but he had had so much trouble with the ornery critter he would walk the next time he came if the reindeer got sick again. Some of us recognized his voice as Herbert Vanderpool and the goat and wagon was for his only son Ray we learned later on. I could write for days and never tell all the good times we had at Zion Church and the dear friends we knew long ago that have gone across the river we sing about. Oh, to be a child again among them all once more.
Birthdays among our different friends were often observed and several families would get up a basket dinner and go to a friends house and spend the day visiting and playing games and all eat together. Many times the person whose birthday was being celebrated had forgotten all about the day and was really surprised. We seldom took gifts unless it was some of our close relatives. One time several neighbors went to the Reniff home in Norman Twp. in March, as was Herman’s birthday. It was a stormy day, but, we went in the big lumber wagon as was very muddy and there were no gravel roads as there are now. Mother had stewed 2 nice fat hens and had made a chicken pie (She used a large round milk pan 12 or 14 inches across and 4 inches high and put the hot thickened chicken and gravy in it and covered it with real baking powder biscuits.) and when it was all done and just out of the oven we were ready and started out. Father was driving a large farm team that went very slowly on account of the roads, and before we reached the Reniff home Mother called out from the back of the wagon where she sat watching her pie, “Bruce, if you don’t hurry up this chicken pie will be stone cold and won’t be fit to eat.” “Well,” said Father, ” I guess it can’t be helped. My team is all lathered up now and I don’t want to stay up tonight caring for horses with the colic.” At last we got there and the pie was still warm enough to eat. Uncle Herman, as we children called him, grabbed his plate and helped himself to a generous helping and very generously covered his whole plate with granulated sugar to our amazement. Mother laughed at our open mouths and said, ” Oh, he always does that, come get yours now, but don’t put any sugar on yours since you may not like it as well as he seems to.” Uncle Herm was not our real uncle, but my Father’s first wife was his youngest sister and died when their baby was born. My Mother and Father were married four or five years later and Mother always said it was because they did not have a real Dr. when the young lady became sick, but had a mid-wife, or a lady who went and helped sick folks when ever needed. My Father was away helping thresh oats for neighbors when they came for him and he went for a Dr. at once, but it was too late when the Dr. got there. Both she and the baby were dead. In those days there were no telephones and Drs. were in large towns and rode horseback to their country patients. Always after that my Father went for a Dr. at once whenever we were taken sick. He never forgave his young wife’s folks for not getting a Dr. and depending on an old lady’s help. No wonder there were so many home remedies used in those long ago days that people laugh about now. But, simple though they were, they often helped, at least till a Dr. could be consulted.
Another time we entertained the Reniff family on one of their birthdays and Mother roasted the hens and made bread dressing. It almost seems I can smell that delicious odor yet for whenever she opened the oven door it filled the room and how hungry it made all of us. Uncle Herm took twice of the dressing and his wife, Aunt Mercy said, “Can you taste the sage in it?” “There is no sage in this.”, he said. “But there is.’ she said, “I saw Molly put it in and fine cut up onion, too.” Then he asked Mother and she told him yes, but that she didn’t use too much of either, just a tiny bit. He said, “Well, there are no sticks in the dressing and I just can’t believe it’s true.” “Well, there is and you don’t need to only eat a little; eat all you want.” she said. “All right”, he said and grabbed the dish for a third helping. Mother was a splendid cook and could get a good meal with the most common of foods. She was never extravagant, but, we always had plenty. She baked bread twice a week, many times 6 to 8 loaves; and one dish Father and Grandfather loved was dried bread dipped in hot stewed chicken gravy piled high on a large platter. Grandfather often said, ” This is a meal fit for a king.” and it was. My Grandfather sure loved to eat and seemed to enjoy his food. He was not a large eater or ate too much, even if he was a large man.
One spring we had so much rain that the creek called Hog Run that went thru our timber was water from hill to hill and stayed flooded for several weeks. We had a young man from Morris helping with the farm work and cutting firewood with Father by the name of Trace Hall. He loved to roam around the woods and sometimes he fished or hunted squirrels or rabbits and anything he got that was to eat he always dressed it and brought it to the house ready to cook. Sunday was strictly a day of rest at our home and the whole family attended church and S. School. No farm work was done and the team we drove to services was not the one used for farm work and all the ones used during the week went out into the pasture to rest. Neither was food cooked, but was prepared on Saturday and warmed up for Sunday meals. Meat was roasted or hams boiled, large pans of baked beans were made, pies and cakes baked, brown bread and white bread made were all prepared on Sat. that with fresh tea, coffee, or huge pitchers of milk was drank. At that time Zion and Verona churches had the same minister and for 6 months services at Zion were in the morning and for the next 6 months they were in the afternoon. This particular morning we had all gone to services but Trace, and he took his gun and fishing rod and went to the timber. When we got home at noon he was back with 2 of the nicest pink fish. Each must have weighed 5 or 6 lbs and he had them all dressed and ready to cook and as we did not have ice or refrigeration like we have today, Mother said they must be cooked at once, so our dinner that day was entirely different from other Sunday dinners as we had fresh cooked fish and fresh fried potatoes and hot coffee. Trace said the fish were salmon, but we never saw any more in our creek like them. However, we often caught catfish or brook trout, but when the factories began to run their waste and the towns their sewage into the Illinois River it killed all our fish. We burned wood in all our stoves at that time so the winter months were spent in cutting trees and getting it to the house to be sawed up later to use. Sometimes several farmers would come to help with the sawing and then Father would go and help them and people would come to our timber and cut trees and haul them as far as Verona each winter. Some farmers had bought 2 or 3 acres of timberland when they bought their farms in the prairie and came to work in their timber lots on nice days, so when Father bought the home farm he also bought the timber lots from the others as many were now using coal to burn. Now very few use coal for heating as they do not want to carry out the ashes or fix the fires any more. I wonder if the bottled gas or electricity failed, what would people do for fuel, but no doubt there will be something invented by that time. Anyway, there is so much eaten out of cans that is already cooked they won’t lack for food.
About Men That Have Helped Us On The Farms
One man that came to help my Father was a young Norwegian by the name of John Hoy. His folks had come from Norway and had gone to work for people north of Morris. He had 1 sister who married a man named Eng and they were all born in Illinois. There are quite a few of her sons in and around Morris, but I do not know any of them. John was a large strong young fellow and was a great help to my Father. He was always pleasant to both Mother and I and always spoke to us both when he came in to meals. He always called her Mrs. Cooper, but had a strange little name for me; we never understood what it was, so it must have been in the Norwegian language. Whenever I would ask him what it was, he would laugh and say, “It’s just a nice name for a red-headed girl.” and to this day I have never found out what it was or meant. I have asked other friends of that nationality, but they cannot help me. John stayed for about 4 years, year ’round, then he went to Chicago with a cousin with the same name. He got work as a street car motorman in Joliet and married a very pretty young woman, much younger, by the name of Edna. She was just out of school and worked in some novelty store. They came down to visit my folks real often and she seemed such a nice girl. They had one son a few months younger than our first son, Harvey, who was born in Marseilles on Dec. 1 while Billy was taking care of the livery barn for Dr. Butterfield. Johns’ called their boy Ellwood. He was a nice fat baby and so pretty, but died when he was about 7 months old from infantile paralysis. John was heartbroken, but Edna seemed to be relieved of the babies care and began to go out more each day with her former friends. They came down to see my folks and us several times and Billy asked me, “What was the matter with Edna that she did not act like she used to, did not seem to be very friendly or want to visit about anything?” I could not tell him anything, but I too did not understand why there could be such a difference in her as she did not seem to grieve over the baby’s death as John did. The apt. where they lived in Joliet was quite large and they had one bedroom rented to a young man that worked where John did. I do not know when John discovered that things were not right at his home. He worked an early run and came home in the early PM, and the other man went to work just before John got home, on a different run. Edna never got up and got John’s breakfast because he could get rolls and coffee across the street from the car barns, but would come home early for evening dinner. One morning he got up, dressed, and went downstairs; but took off his shoes at the door and made quite a noise unlocking the door and shutting it as if going out, but hid in the dark entrance. In a few moments he saw Edna go into the roomers room, so he went up carefully and opened the door and found Edna sitting on the edge of the man’s bed in her night clothes talking to him. I guess that just about killed John for he told the man he could have Edna and everything in the apartment, that he was getting out and getting a divorce and that was just what he did and came down to my folks again as his parents had both passed away and his sister had a big family of her own. He stayed with my folks and helped get the crops in the ground and then went back to his job as motorman. I do not know what became of Edna and have never seen nor heard from her to this day, for John drew his savings out of the bank and left at once. Well, she had all the furniture and household things and the rent was paid for 2 months he told my folks and she had picked her man so what more could he do? He worked as a motorman until the city got rid of the streetcars and put in busses, but he had never learned to drive a car so could not drive a bus and was out of a job in Joliet. He had met and married a very nice woman about his age whose name was Ivy. She lived with her Mother and Aunt, both real old. Her Father had passed away just after they were married. He had been a government man of some kind in Mexico City and was retired. Ivy could speak Spanish, also Mexican, real well and had a good job. We all liked her very much, but they never had any family. John had joined the Order of Moose and Ivy belonged to the woman’s auxiliary of the Moose, so they were both interested in the same things. John had made all arrangements to go down to Florida to the Moose Lodge Home at Orange Park, Fla. and had made arrangements for her Mother and Aunt to go also and get rooms near the home; but Ivy dropped dead on Christmas morning just before they were to leave. Again John was heartbroken. He could not take the 2 older women with him as only wives were allowed, so he put them in a nursing home in Joliet and went to Florida by himself. He was getting very old and feeble by that time, but they sent him out to the farm run by the order and he worked there for several years. Billy and I often visited him, both at the farm and later when he went on what was called the sunshine list, on our way home from spending the winters in Florida. John passed away in May 1955 just after we had come home from seeing him in late March. He was buried in the Moose cemetery from the Methodist church he joined when he went down. He was a good man and everyone seemed to like him for he was kind and honest and never said mean things about others. Our last winter in Florida was 1956 and 1957. Billy passed away May 30, 1957 and the next winter my brother Howard and his wife Hazel Cooper went down with me and I have not gone since and doubt if I ever will, writing this on Feb. 21, 1963.
My First Cake I Ever Baked
When I was about seven years old my Grandfather Cooper went to Chattanooga, Tenn. to see my Aunt Esther Haymond. She was his oldest daughter and they were running the large hotel on the top of Lookout Mtn. Aunt had not been very well so he went down on the train and planned to stay a month. He left in April and would not be back by May 11 or his birthday, so one day I told Mother I wanted to make a cake so when Grandfather came home I could make one and we would celebrate our birthdays with it. Mother said, “You can’t make a cake now and expect it to be good by June.” I told her, “No. I only wanted to learn how so I’d know how by June.” About that moment my Father came in and wanted to know why I looked so sad, and when Mother explained he said, “Oh, let her try. She won’t spoil it too bad and she has to learn some time.” So Mother gave in and told me what to get ready to make the cake. She said, “Get a clean newspaper and sift 2 level cups of flour with 1 level teaspoon of baking powder, twice. Next put 1 cup of granulated sugar in a mixing bowl and add soft butter the size of an egg and 1 egg. Cream all this together and add 1 cup sweet milk. Stir it all together real good and add the sifted flour and baking powder and flavor all with vanilla. Next, grease a 9 x 12 pan 2″ high and pour the batter in it, spread it around and bake about a half hour in a moderate oven.” So , I did as I was told and “low and behold” it came out delicious and I have used the same recipe all these years. The one I made for Grandfather turned out just fine. I made so many cakes Father said he didn’t think he would need any more cake for a whole year or till our birthday next year. Sometimes Mother had me take out some of the batter and mix it with melted chocolate and put it in small spoonfuls around in the creases of the white dough making a marble cake. Some times she had me add spices to the extra dough taken out and again she had me mix cut-up walnuts (as we had lots of those trees in our barnyard) and again raisins. So I learned how to make many kinds of cake using the same “standard” recipe. I sometimes made 2 layers and again cupcakes in the gem pans. I do not know just who in our family was the proud one when Grandfather came home. He said my cake was the best he ever ate. He enjoyed his visit in Tennessee and took long walks in the woods and brought back a walking stick or cane of cucumber wood. It is among some of my keepsakes out at the old home place where Jesse lives, because I left several things out there in the storeroom upstairs. Mother asked if my cousins Edith and Ina helped their mother bake but Grandfather said no, she had 2 Negro women to help her, but the girls waited on the tables and Frank, their brother, helps them as often there were 30 people to feed and the girls were in school most of the time. Uncle John Haymond had several teams of large mules to bring the guests from the railroad up to the hotel and the road was often so muddy he had to put on 4 mules tandem to make the trip. But while Grandfather was there the hotel owners and the town had the roads graveled and that helped alot. When Aunt Esther was taken sick they left the hotel and moved to Ashville, N.C. and all went to work at various things and Aunt had a Negro woman to help her with the housework. Aunt died about 4 years after Grandfather passed away. Also, Uncle John had died, too. We never hear from any of the family.
The Henry Warning mentioned earlier that Billy first worked for died several years ago; but March 10, 1963 Henry’s wife died in a nursing home in Ottawa. She was 93 years old.
Trip With Mother When 5 Yrs Old
When about 5 years old I made a trip with my Mother to the Funk and Stubblefield Reunion. (I was 81 on June 28, 1963.) We were visiting Mother’s Mother near Wing, Ill. and word came that there was to be a reunion down near Bloomington at Funks Grove on the following Saturday, and as that was Grandfather Funk’s people (he had passed away years before) Mother insisted that we go. Her bachelor brother William took us and Grandmother to the Wabash train at Wing and left his team in the livery stable there and went with us. We reached a small train stop and on getting off found a colored man waiting to take us to the picnic grounds. There did not seem to be any real roads, but a wagon track along a fence. There were gates to open and the colored man gave the lines to Uncle and got out and opened and closed the gates each time. At last we got to a beautiful timber and a huge crowd of people were sitting around while colored people were setting food on long tables and smaller colored folks were waving green branches to keep the flies away. Soon, we were called to eat and such wonderful food: delicious platters of ham, roast beef, fried chicken, and dishes of vegetables cooked many ways, salads of various kinds, pickles, jams, jellies, and fresh breads and hot buns and beverages of all kinds; milk, lemonade, cold tea and coffee. I had never seen so much food, or so many strange people, and the colored folks kept passing more food and one real old man said to me, “Honey child, you are not eating very much. You sure never will grow to be a big lady unless you eats more than ‘dat.” So I began to eat and Mother said I did very well. Sometime during the afternoon a boy a little older than I was who had sat near us at the table at noon came by and told me that the old Negro man we had seen at the table was serving watermelon, so I went with him to get some; for if there was anything I liked better than ripe, juicy watermelon, it was just more and more of it. We each got a nice big new-moon shaped piece and sat down to enjoy it. Well, well. I had on a nice white dress, white stockings, black shoes, white knitted mitts, and a white straw hat trimmed in blue forget-me-nots with blue ribbon ties under my chin and that juice was all over me. When Mother found me later I was sure a mess, but as she always carried a spare outfit for me we departed for an outside washroom and she stripped me and I got the thrashing of my life and a new outfit of clothes. She sure laid the law down to me and it was soon time to go to the train to go back to Wing where Uncle had left his team of cream colored horses. I never saw him drive any other color, nor do I believe he ever owned any other color. I do not believe I ever enjoyed watermelon as much as I did that day and I love it just as much now as then and I am 81 years old as I write this. Just last Saturday, August 21, 1963 Wilha and Jack Shellman stopped here on their way home from the 79’th reunion. I may be able to go next year, at least I hope so.
The First Fireworks I Ever Saw
When I was a small child Wauponsee Station was a real town, small of course, but grew by leaps and bounds for awhile. There was a large grocery store that anyone could get just about anything needed in the home or on their persons or any of the common well known remedies used in those days because Drs. were so far away and used a horse and buggy or rode a horse. So travel was slow and not like 1963 methods of travel as no matter what is the trouble, help can reach the distressed in moments; either Dr., ambulance, or neighbors, where it took hours before. At the top of the large grocery store was an apartment and generally the family of the man who worked for Mr. Henry Gorham and Mr. Gardie Newport, the owners, lived up there. There was no modern plumbing. All water used was carried up a long flight of stairs and carried down again. There was a long stairs on the south side and another on the north side of the building. This 4’th of July I remember my Mother and I sat on the steps on the south side and all the steps were full of women and children and the horses and mules and buggys and wagons were put in a large lot or pasture on the north side of the store so not to frighten them when the fireworks went off over in a field south of the K & S RR track. This railroad went from Seneca to Kankakee and there were 4 trains a day, which was only 2 trains that went up and back and hauled grain and stock and people either way to reach another railroad going to Chicago and other large cities. Of course we were visiting among ourselves when a large long streak of colored light flew into the air and lighted up the whole place. There was a loud bang and dozens of pretty star-like lights flew every way. It sure was a lovely sight and some men told us it was called a sky rocket and that there would be more of them later on. There were pretty wheels with all kinds of colored lights and loud banging noises that were nailed to posts and trees and lots of firecrackers, some so loud you wanted to hold your hands over your ears, and a never ending of those beautiful sky rockets. I think it lasted perhaps a half hour, then they passed around ice cream in little paper cups and our Mothers had brought along spoons; then they passed cake and cookies to eat with the ice cream and it was all homemade. Every family had brought something and also their lanterns and they were hung around on the buggies or on the fence posts so it was light as day. After the older folks had visited awhile, all went home happy and the little ones asleep and still dreaming of the sight of their first fireworks. Wauponsee had a nice band that played many well known songs and marches of the day. There was no jazz or wild discording music as there is today and whenever they played a song that the crowd knew the words of, everyone sang and the band played more softly.
In this small country town there were 15 houses, a depot, lumber yard, ice house, blacksmith shop, grain elevator, coal sheds, a church, a post office, and a park. People came for miles to trade and worship and no one in the surrounding community worked on Sunday as they do now in 1963, as it’s hard to tell what day of the week it is as you drive thru the farming country. Now there is nothing left of Wauponsee Station but the shell of the old store building as the inside was taken out to make a shelter for cattle and weeds are higher than a mares head. All the houses are gone, the church burned down, also the grain elevator and the last remaining house burned several years ago. The railroad has been torn up and the land is now farmed where it was. There was a small store built where the depot stood, but that failed to draw any trade and has been sold and turned into a home. All of the former residents of the old town have passed away and Wauponsee Station is only a memory, but what happy ones they are. I am one of the very few left any more. There is one left living near there now; the son of the man that was the K & S agent by the name of Roy Johnson. He has a garage and car and tractor repair service back of his house. He never married and lived with his Mother who was one of the Esgar daughters who married Wesley Johnson, the oldest son of J.K. Johnson, a good carpenter who built nearly all the houses around the neighborhood, also the Zion Methodist Church 1/2 mile north of Wauponsee Station. He used to say he loved to build houses but it was so hard to please the women. “First they wanted a window here, then moved over there, then put back in the first place chosen and it made him so much extra work he sometimes wished he had never learned the carpenter trade.” He was a small man and moved about very quickly and was a very friendly person. The name Wauponsee was an Indian name, but the first name given to the little town was Hill Park, then Hill Station and then Wauponsee. I do not know if the post office was at any of these names other than Wauponsee. The church there was Universialist and one of the store owners wives, Rev. Alfreda Newport, was the minister. Her husband was co-owner of the store and elevator and Post Master. They had 2 children, one a little girl who died in infancy and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery at Morris and her monument is a figure of a little girl, the only monument of that kind in the cemetery, very different but beautiful. Lightning struck the church and burned it down one stormy night so all the members went to Verona where there was another church of the same denomination. Rev. Newport was a very gifted woman and sang beautifully, also played the violin and piano. They had a son who was a gifted painter and was living in California in 1962, but never comes back to visit.
A very sad thing happened to the other owner of the store, Mr. Henry Gorham. His mother was living with them and the ladies took daily buggy rides around the countryside and often into Morris. One day they were ready to start and in fighting the flies the horse got the lines caught under her tail and onto the buggy thill, causing her to turn around and around and upsetting the buggy. Miss Jessie Gorham had jumped out with one of the children in her arms and laid it down and Grandma threw the other one to her just as the buggy went over and Grandma was thrown out and hit her head on a stone and was killed instantly. Then the horse fell down and could be stopped. Everybody loved Grandma as she was such a lovely lady and the entire community mourned for years for her. As long as she had lived she had helped everyone in sickness or trouble and shared food and clothing with the needy and helped care for the sick no matter who or where they lived in the community. She always went prepared to bathe the sick one and change the bed and feed them broth or gruel she had brought and the Drs. often said Grandma Gorham’s way of care often healed the sick where their pills and plasters failed. She was a wonderful person and was missed by more than her own family. Her son Henry had 2 children, Mable and Harry, and I went to school with Mable. Both have passed away now, for both have left several grandchildren who are making good in schools and colleges. I remember Rev. Mrs. Newport so well because she gave dramatic lessons and at that time the W.C.T.U. was holding speaking contests, giving silver and gold medals for prizes. I entered several but never won a medal. At the Universialist Church once, during one of these contests, I had a very long and very dramatic speech. I got thru the first part very well of two pages, but all of a sudden I could not think of anything, so, catching my breath, I started on the last page and left out about 1 1/2 pages of a very dramatic part. The story was about a ship on fire at sea, and my story came out very well, but I didn’t get any medal. I never tried to give any more recitation. No one but Rev. Newport and I knew I had forgotten my part. She said later on that I never showed anything was wrong and it was not until I had left the stage that she found out my mistake. She was a very gifted and understanding person and did not scold me. My folks did not know that I had made a mistake and had not recited all of my recitation as I should and Mrs. Newport said, ” You did so well. I do not think it is necessary for you to tell them about it. But if you feel you want to, that is alright with me.” After they left Wauponsee Station to live they moved next door to my parents in Morris, just south of Chapin Park and the two families were together nearly every day. At last the Newports sold their morris home and moved to California to live and at one time had a small stationery and gift store. After my Father and brother had passed away my Mother and her sister Aunt Lida Marsh went to Calif. and visited the Newports. But now in 1963 all of the above mentioned have passed to the better land and I do not know anything about Harold, the Newport son. There is a cousin of his that lives near Belvidere, Ill. who married Ruby Aker and have a large family, now all married and in homes of their own except the youngest son. But I do not see them very often so know little about the relatives left in the Newport family. My sister-in-law Hazel Green Cooper is also a cousin of Harolds, but the last time I asked her about him she said she never heard from him. But he was always a quiet retiring person and kept to himself from a tiny child, not having any real boy friends while living in Illinois that she knew, not even her younger brother.
We visited a cemetery Five Miles in Livingston County and I got quite a lot of dates of my Mother’s folks so will write it down here before the papers are mislaid or lost. Grandfather James Funk was 52 years old when he died of pneumonia near Wing, Ill in 1867. Grandmother Sarah Ross Funk died in 1910 and was 88 years old. She had a sun stroke several years before and was like a little child much of the time and lived with her son William near Wing. Mother’s brother Riley was 52 years old and died in 1910 at Aunt Ellen Brydia in Okla. Another brother Ross died in 1909 and his wife Sadie in 1910 in Wing where he operated a livery stable. Their daughter Nellie was killed by her husband in 1921 in Wing and then he killed himself. She was his second wife and his small son found them both dead when he came home from school. Nellie was a very kind and friendly person and Mr. Green was very jealous and criticized her every move but his children all loved her. He was caretaker of the grain elevator in Wing. She was of a large family and all are dead but one brother Chester and a sister Sarah. Now both are near 75 years old. I will now begin my new book. This is the 27th of November, 1963 and I am 81 years old. I hope the various little remembered stories I have written will be enjoyed by my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren because we are living so differently now than when I was a child. Our President John Kennedy was shot and killed Nov. 23’rd in Dallas, Texas.
Although at the end of Book 2 Laura said she would begin a new book the only thing I have in my possession is some loose sheets. Either she started a book and tore these pages out or there is another book somewhere. If anyone would happen to have a third book I would most appreciate borrowing it to transcribe. KLG.
Zion S. School 4’th Of July Picnics
One year it was decided to have the celebration at our home. Long tables were set up out in the yard in the shade and different women brought out table cloths and Mother got out all of ours and many brought chairs and Father went to the church and got all that was there so everybody could sit up and be comfortable when they ate. (That was before the addition was built on the north side of the church for all such gatherings during Mr. Buxton’s stay as minister.) I think every family brought fried chicken, scalloped potatoes, and potato chips as we had just learned to make those dishes; and various garden vegetables prepared as their families liked them best. Also a big freezer of ice cream. I have a picture of that years’ group of 50 people and ten are still living in 1964. After dinner we had a program. We sang songs, some recited poems, then had games for everybody to join in and prizes of cake or pie or cookies were given and an extra dish of ice cream. Everyone had a wonderful time. I think that was one of the very best picnics we ever had. Another time we put the tables down in our 2 basements as it had rained and the ground was too wet to go outside. We had about the same amount of people each year. One year we went to John Winsor’s, another to Jim Winsor’s, to Herbert Vanderpool’s, and to the Cooper’s several times. As the children grew older they wanted to go to some town to celebrate and so the S.S. ones were discontinued. Many of the older folk met at different homes. Sometimes Reniffs, Coopers, or Winsors; and enjoyed their dinners and visits together. Some times at night fireworks were enjoyed at Verona or Wauponsee Station. But we never failed to celebrate the 4th of July.
At last a group of people from Verona and surrounding country went to Harford’s Grove (now Malmquist’s) and put up stands where soft drinks, ice cream, candy, fruits, and CrackerJack were sold and families brought their well filled baskets and ate on the ground under the trees. Mother would spread a table cloth down and we would all sit around it and the food was put in the middle and each one helped himself to what he wanted and passed it on to the next. Our plates were kept filled till most of the food was gone. There were always baseball games and some of the young folks brought tennis sets and croquet sets and played all P.M. Some would go home from each family and get the night chores done and then come back for fireworks. A wonderful day to remember.
How I Lost My First Finger On My Left Hand
In the summer and fall of 1886 my Grandfather had a large new barn built on the home farm. Some hay was put into it from the big stacks out in the hay lot just to see if the big fork at the north end of the barn and the long steel track that ran through the entire barn roof and a large rope at the south end that was fastened to a singletree and a horse hitched to it and it pulled the hay up into the barn and a small rope, when pulled, unloaded the fork of its load of hay onto the loft floor. Of course I wanted to watch everything as any child would so I was outside with my Father or Grandfather nearly all the time. Grandfather was not a very young man and not very well, so Father kept a man to help with the farm work. In those early days we had bad snow storms and many days roads were closed so the cattle were kept in the barn lots and fed on the straw stacks, often eating on the sunny side of the lots and eating so far in it looked like a cave. This made it a warm place to stay in and still eat, but the snow on the tops of the stacks often melted and caused the roof of straw to fall in and one March night that was what happened at our home and was discovered as soon as the men went to get the cows to do the milking. Hurriedly getting forks and shovels they soon got the cattle and hogs out and while several were lame for weeks, none died. Then the men decided to put the best of the straw into the barn, so a hay rack was loaded up with nice clean straw and taken to the barn. Grandfather hitched his old driving horse, Old Kate, to the rope at the south end of the barn and Father got the fork full ready at the north end and the man went up in the hay loft to pile the loads back as they were brought up into the barn. I was of course watching and Grandfather told me to stay back and not touch anything; but childlike I saw Old Kate was having a hard time to start the load, so I decided to help. I grabbed the big rope and my left hand was dragged into the wooden pulley and I screamed and Grandfather stopped the horse and ran back to me. I had got my hand free when the rope slacked up and of course ran home to Mother. She had heard me and was making doughnuts and came out with her hands all flour; but, when she saw the blood she screamed for Father and took me into the kitchen. Of course he and Grandfather and the man all came running to see what had happened and Father jumped on his riding horse and went to Verona for the Dr. It did not take very long before they were back again and Dr. Elliot was caring for me. He told Father to hold me on his lap and turn me around so I would not see what he was doing. He had to cut my mashed first finger off my hand and sew the next two up and pull the skin over the exposed bone and sew it also. He had put something in the water he used to wash my hand and I did not feel anything. In all he took about 40 stitches to close the wounds. He put something more on and a salve to help heal it and wrapped me up in a big bandage. All the time he was working he told me stories to get my mind off myself. He was just a real young man, just out of college, but Drs. of today said it was a very splendid job and it soon healed up. It was several weeks before i knew I had lost a finger because my hand was in a bandage for several months. We learned later the Dr. had used Carbolic acid in the water he washed my hand in. We often drove to Verona where he would put new dressings on it. I was 4 years old and it all happened on March 27th. I went to school next fall at the Gorham School south of Wauponsee Station because my Aunt Lida Funk taught and stayed with us. I was 5 in June and started in the fall in Sept. There was no law then about age limit. I had a baby brother born in May so Mother was glad to get me in school for my little brother had colic so bad and was so fat. He died the next winter or spring with the croup. They called it Membraneous Croup. My hand healed very nicely but I had to be very careful not to hit it on anything; but I learned to play the organ and later the piano. But no teacher ever tried to teach my left hand. I used it the best way I could.
Having Mother’s Friend From Normal
My Mother had gone to school with a family by the name of Lord. One of the girls was named Louise and one of the boys was called Felstead. He later became a minister and Louise married a butcher by the name of Faunze, a German. They had 3 children. The oldest, a girl, died with T.B. when she was 16 and the boy, Charles, was a helper in the butcher shop. The youngest was a boy, Ralph. Mrs. F. wrote to Mother and asked if she and Ralph and a girl to look after him, as he was only 3 1/2 years old, could come visit because she needed a rest. My Father went to meet them at Gardner so to save them waiting for the K & S for 2 hrs; but the ride was a long one of almost 4 hours as it was a very warm day and the horses were slow. At last they arrived and Mrs. Faunze was very tired and went right to bed, although it was only 4 o’clock in the afternoon and she told my Mother if it stayed that warm all the time she would want her bedding fresh every day and that she might want her meals brought to her in bed in case she had to stay in her room. Mother told her that as long as she had brought the girl to look after Ralph she would have to take care of her also; that she and I were too busy with extra men and canning to take on any more work. Mother came downstairs pretty well disgusted with her company. So the lady got up and dressed and came down to supper and ate with the rest of the family. Of course it must have been quite an effort for her, but I think she must have understood Mother meant every word she said and that all of them would have to wait on themselves just a little if things went smooth for the 2 weeks they planned to stay with us. I had my doubts it would work out for we were always extra busy all summer for we always canned 400 to 600 quarts of fruit and vegetables every year, often adding some meats and we had wonderful meals all the year around. We did not consider it a hardship to try and save what we raised in our gardens and orchards, as the women of today, now in 1964. Well, to go on with Mrs. Fauntz, Nellie, and Ralph. Our men were always up by 4 or 4:30 AM and after taking care of the livestock and milking the cows and getting the horses curried and harnessed ready to go to the fields as soon as they have had breakfast; Mother and I always had that ready as soon as they came in from the barns. Of course our guests did not appear until about 9 or 9:30 so a second breakfast had to be prepared. Nellie was so glad to get the ham and eggs and fried potatoes; the nice big dish of oatmeal cereal with real cream; and the homemade bread with real butter; cocoa made with milk and coffee for the older folks. Ralphy tasted a little of this and a little of that and got down and went outside to look around with a cookie in his hand. Mrs. Fauntz was sure he would get killed and poor Nellie had to leave her breakfast and run out to rescue him, so Mother sent me to watch him and let Nellie eat. After awhile she came out and I got the fire going in the wash house as I knew I had to wash the beds as Mother said I should, and then help her with dinner for all. About that time Ralph let off a yell and I ran to see what was wrong with him and found him in the backyard and my brother’s little wagon up-side down near him and I got him up and asked where they were and he said he didn’t know. Just then Howard came out of the chicken house where he had been filling the water pans as he always did and Clinton came from the wood pile with an armful of wood for the big range in the kitchen. By that time Mrs. Fauntz was sure Ralph was being killed or had been attacked by a bull or some other wild animal like an old Plymouth rooster. By the time we had assured her he was not harmed in any way, that he had rolled down the slope made by the cistern pump; a cookie made him happy again. But it took both Mother and I to get Mrs. Fauntz onto the back porch and into a rocking chair Mother always kept on the porch to catch her breath whenever she had a chance. With Nellie to watch Ralphy while my two brothers took fresh water to the men in the field and get the mail that one of them had gone a mile and a half to Langham for, I did the washing of their 3 beds and made up their beds as soon as the sheets were dry and then helped with the dinner. Mrs. Fauntz had Nellie change Ralphy’s clothes at dinner time and they were almost late for dinner. Poor Nellie got scolded, but we knew it was not her fault because we could hear her trying to coax him to let her wash his hands and face. What he needed was a real good scare and I decided to help her get him ready for supper and I did and we were not late. But he did not eat much and Mrs. Fauntz was sure he was sick or had played too hard.
Well, we put up with them until the 2 weeks were almost ended. Poor Nellie nearly run her legs off keeping Ralphy from being killed. She had to be with him all the time when he was awake. But he always took a nap in the afternoon and she got some rest, but Mrs. Fauntz always had a lot of things for her to do. Mrs. Fauntz, or Aunt Lou as we were taught to call her, was not sick or need real bed care, but did not seem very well and wanted so many things done for her all the time: a drink of water, a fresh handkerchief, the shades lowered or raised, a fly killed, or a dozen other little things. One day Nellie told me her older sister was the one who generally cared for Ralphy, but that she had gone to a church camp where Mrs. Fauntz’s brother was a teacher for the two weeks and Mr. Fauntz was paying her entrance fee while there, so Nellie was taking her sister’s place, but she would never do it again and she cried when out of Mrs. Fauntz’s sight. The crowning touch came when one evening my brothers were sent to feed the chickens and fill the water pans and gather the eggs and I had gone to put the apple and potato peelings and discarded cabbage leaves into a pan where an old sow and her 8 little pigs were. I threw the leaves in and she began to eat, when Ralphy grabbed one of the little pigs that was by the fence and it squealed and he decided to climb in and get it. He was on the other side of the pen from me; but I ran to him and grabbed his shirt to pull him out and the old sow came on the run and I grabbed a club and hit her over the head and grabbed Ralphy and threw him over the fence and kept hitting the sow and calling for my Father. He came on the run and grabbed a big club and went into the pen and hit her on the nose till I could get out and then climbed out himself. He grabbed Ralphy and turned him over his knee and gave him a good spanking and told him to get for the house and tell his Mother what he had done to him and said he would be up in a few minutes. I don’t think I ever saw my Father so mad. He told me he was proud of the way I had tried to save Ralphy and told Nellie he was glad she had not tried to get in the pen as he was sure one of us would have been bitten badly and said the bite of a hog was very poisonous and that she might not have hit the sow as hard as I had and would have made her only madder. We all went to the house and he went right out on the front porch where Mrs. F. and Ralphy were and told her the whole story and asked her when she was going home. She said in a day or so and he told her he was taking her to the train station in Gardner the next morning at 7:30 to catch the 11 o’clock train. He was afraid if they stayed longer Ralphy would either get killed or badly hurt, so they went home. Nellie wrote me several times, but they moved away to California and I never heard from her again. I have often wondered if she is still alive and where she and her family are now. Ralphy went to school as soon as he was old enough and was killed crossing the street at the wrong time when about ten years old. His Uncle Rev. Lord spent over Sunday with my folks and preached at both Zion and Verona and of course stayed with us and he said Ralphy did just as he pleased all the time and that caused his death. I think the family must all be dead as have not heard from or about them for years. I know Mr. Fauntz died and she was married to a Mr. Green as they visited Mother in the 1920’s or shortly after my folks moved to Morris to live. We entertained many people, but never any that caused us as much trouble as Mrs. Fauntz and Ralphy and we sure were glad to see my Father drive in and know he had seen them safely on the train and started for home.
History Of A Pioneer Family
by Laura Jean Gonnam
The following essay was a history of the Cooper family written by Laura Jean Gonnam with the help of Laura Cooper Gonnam in 1941. Jean states that she wrote the history for use in an exhibit of a log cabin owned by Harry Hough at the Grundy County Fair which originated in Mazon and was held there for years
Back in the years following 1800, everyone was talking of the West! The place where the land was so rich; could be purchased for a low price; land of prosperity, promise , and adventure. Why, yes, everyone was going to the great West. It must have been exciting, the talk that passed form mouth to mouth of the pioneers as they conversed over corn cob pipes around a warm fire.
Gradually the fever crept upon family after family and of course it did not miss the Cooper family who was then living in Granville, Ohio. They soon picked up all their worldly possessions and started toward the West, but they only went as far as Rockville, Ind. (slightly Northeast of Terre Haute, Ind.)
Leaving his family in this little village, Reverend Samuel C. Cooper traveled from town to town, in that vicinity, carrying on his religious work. He also attempted to raise money to finance the DePauw University, which was then just a struggling little institution. Before the University was completely finished he died and his work had to be carried on by his son, Samuel T. Cooper
This boy who followed in his father’s footsteps in the ministry was a great promoter of education. He helped to found a Methodist College at Valparaiso, Ind. which is now one of the leading educational forces in the state. Although the best efforts of his life were devoted to the advancement of the cause of Christianity, he also was the successful business man who founded the Cooper Wells & Company, knitting and spinning industry in St. Joseph, Mich. It is believed that this company is still in operation, although the remaining relatives of the Cooper family have not heard of it in recent years. Reverend Samuel T. Cooper died on Feb. 3, 1892.
The other son, William, followed his greatest desire and moved from Indiana in the year 1852 with his wife, the former Frances A. Garrison, to Illinois. For two years the happy couple lived near Ottawa, Ill.
Hearing of some more of that fine land, William finally purchased 220 acres of it in Grundy County. As the little family bounced along in their horse-drawn wagon and stopped on their land what a proud feeling they must have had! Suddenly, before their eyes the prairie and timber changed into fields with corn, oats, and wheat waving in the cool breeze; a large barn, crib, and other farm buildings; and a lovely white house. Yes, their home–to be passed on to their sons! What a happy moment! But this was only a dream and there was much work to be done.
Slow but sure, the trees disappeared and a log cabin was built and other necessary buildings erected. No, it was not their dream farm; but, in a few years when and if the crops were good, they could easily fill their wishes.
Neighbors were few and far between, the closest white neighbor being about five miles away. Shabbona, the Indian chief, though, lived along the Illinois River and the Cooper family saw his tribe more often than their own white people.
The friendship between the Indian and Mrs. Cooper grew after they traded a loaf of brown bread for several prairie chickens and quail. The Redman had become intoxicated by the delicious aroma and after much difficulty explaining, received what he wanted. This was just the beginning of the trading that was transacted in the following years.
The Indians often added fresh meat of deer, squirrel or rabbit, fresh berries or rich maple syrup to the simple meal of cornbread and beans that the Coopers had cooked over an open fireplace. This was the main food they had in those early days.
The nearest important trading post was Chicago, and once a year the Coopers would go with neighbors after supplies to carry them through another year. All excess livestock was driven to Chicago to be traded for necessary supplies. As a protection against bandits and roving Indians, Shabbona and his sons often accompanied the little band on this long six week journey.
As Mr. Cooper came from a strong Methodist family, he and his family attended the Methodist Services held in the schoolhouse built on Hog Run in Vienna Twp. Feeling that a church was necessary, Mr. Cooper became one of the first founders of the Zion Methodist Evangelical Church, which is situated one half a mile north of Wauponsee Station. At the present (1941) date both the school and church are used and little is changed, even after these many years of use.
Meanwhile, the little family had begun to continue their life dream. The fertile land was cleared; a barn, crib, and other out buildings were built; and then began the building of the house. Huge logs were exchanged for stone and dressed lumber, which had to be hauled from Joliet and Chicago. The other buildings were made of rough lumber, but the house was to be the best. But Mrs. Cooper never had the chance to live in the new house for she died in 1856 leaving 6 children for her husband to care for. William Cooper carried on even though he missed his wife and finally completed the new home. In 1892, William Cooper bid his little family farewell.
The children left home and went on to complete their desires. Bruce Cooper remained on the farm after buying the land from the other heirs. Samuel started for Nebraska where he spent his life farming. A daughter, Esther, married John Hammond, and they went to Lookout Mountain, Tenn. where they ran a fashionable hotel for many years. The boy, Ellis, died while very young and Frances and Mary both married neighbors and lived near the Cooper home, but both died while young.
Bruce Cooper married Mary Funk, of Livingston County, who was related to the people who own the present Funk Seed Corn Company. This young couple had five children: Steven, William, Clinton, Howard, and Laura. Steven and William died in infancy and Clinton died at the age of 31. After farming for 35 years, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Cooper retired from the farm, bought a home in Morris, Ill and spent their remaining years comfortably. The son, Howard, did not carry on farming, but married and went to Hastings, Neb. where he became a garage owner. This left the farm to the daughter, Laura, who married William Gonnam of Indiana.
The farm will never be carried on down through the years by the name of Cooper, but I am sure William and Frances Cooper would be proud if they could see it now. with the addition of modern conveniences, the buildings have changed considerably when compared to the first home built on the land, but their life dream has come true. You see, I know, for my Mother was Laura Cooper and I have for the last sixteen years lived on the old Cooper Homestead.
Please note: The following obit of Samuel C. Cooper refers to William Cooper’s father or Laura’s Great Grandfather. Samuel T. Cooper was William’s brother. Neither one ever lived in Grundy County. However, Samuel C. was very instrumental in spreading Methodism to Southern Indiana and helped found Asbury College (now known as DePauw Univ.) Samuel T. was very active in the methodist Church but then helped his sons begin a knitting business. The two older sons were lost in the Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago but the third son turned Cooper Knitting of Kenosha, Wi into Jockey Underwear.
Minutes of the North Indiana Annual Conference
held at Muncie, Ind. Sept. 24, 1856
After severe struggles of the mind, he yielded to his convictions of duty and engaged in the work of the ministry. He was employed by the presiding elder, Charles Holliday, as assistant preacher on the Vincennes circuit. In Sept. of 1827, he was received on trial in the traveling connection, and appointed to Lash River Circuit, in the state of Illinois. In 1828 he traveled the Princeton circuit where he married her who has since shared his toils and sorrows, and now mourns his loss.
But we will not follow him through all his appointments as missionary and circuit preacher, often in hard and laborious fields, as presiding elder and college agent, both of which offices he filled with great efficiency and usefulness. His last appointment in the conference was to the Greenfield circuit, where he labored till the second quarterly meeting, with more than ordinary success and usefulness , when he was reluctantly compelled, on account of feeble health, to give up his work.
He twice represented his conference in the General Conference. His last service for the Church was in the last General conference, which he attended in very feeble health for a few days of the former part of the session, and then bid his fellow laborers in the Gospel field farewell, and went home to die.
He sunk gradually, till the evening of the 19’th of July, 1856, when he sweetly fell asleep in Jesus. Everything was arranged; he was ready, and his last words to his companion were, “Well, I am going.”
He was a good preacher; always systematic and clear. He had great business capacities, was a safe counselor, and we, as his younger brethren in the ministry, and sons in the Gospel, loved to listen to his counsels and follow his advice. His loss will be long and severely felt by his brethren of the North Indians Conference.
His funeral was preached in the college chapel, in Greencastle, before his family and a large congregation of his neighbors, by his last presiding elder, Rev. J.H. Hull, on the 14’th of September, and before the North Indiana conference, at Muncie, on the 28’th of September by Rev. C. Nutt. Respectfully submitted
Historical Notes Regarding Samuel C. Cooper
From Index to Appointments of Methodist Episcopal Ministers in Indiana
Year District Church Minister
1828 Wabash Princeton Samuel Cooper
1830 Indianapolis Crawfordsville Samuel Cooper
1831 Crawfordsville Pine Creek Samuel Cooper
Year District Church Minister
1832 Missionary Upper Wabash Samuel Cooper
1833 Vincennes Rockville Samuel Cooper
1834 Crawfordsville Rockville Samuel Cooper
1835 Vincennes Otter Creek Mission Samuel Cooper
1836 Bloomington (P.E.) Samuel Cooper
1837 Centerville Ind. Asbury Univ.(agent) Samuel Cooper
1838 Bloomington Ind. Asbury Univ.(agent) Samuel Cooper
1839 Greencastle Ind Asbury Univ.(agent) Samuel Cooper
1840 Greencastle Ind Asbury Univ.(agent) Samuel Cooper
1841 Greencastle Ind Asbury Univ.(agent) Samuel Cooper
1843 Greencastle Ind Asbury Univ.(agent) Samuel Cooper
From: DePauw Through the Years Vol. 1 by Geo. Manhart
1962 Depauw University, Greencastle, Ind.
“From the beginning it was the plan to finance the University chiefly from funds collected either for the endowment of professorships or for perpetual scholarships. The collection of such funds was entrusted largely to agents, four of whom were appointed at the beginning. These were Wm. Shanks, S.C. Cooper, Wm.A. Daily, and John A. Brouse, all ministers of the Ind. Conference.”
From: Ohio Marriages extracted from the Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly
1980 Edited by Marjorie Smith
1819, Aug. 19 Cooper, Samuel and Caroline Thrall
by Spencer Wright; Justice of the Peace; Licking Co.
Minutes of the North-West Indiana Annual Conference
held at Terre Haute, Ind. Oct. 12-17, 1892
While yet a youth, the subject of this sketch was soundly converted to god, and at once became deeply moved, though but eleven years of age, to bring others also to repentance. Soon after his conversion he was placed with Henry T. Sample, of Lafayette, Ind., where he learned the trade of tanner and currier. When about twenty years of age, Samuel began holding prayer meetings and delivering exhortations to his young friends, and became even then a power for good among the young people. In 1845 he was employed by Rev. Charles M. Holliday, Presiding Elder of the LaPorte Dist., and traveled as a supply, serving a part of that year on Sumption Prairie Circuit, in St. Joseph County, and the remainder of that year in Valparaiso Circuit, in Porter County.
At the session of the Annual Conference held at LaPorte, Ind., in 1846, he was admitted on trial and appointed to the Roseville Circuit, in Parke County, where he served as second man with Rev. Nelson Greene, preacher in charge. In 1847, he was junior preacher on Greencastle Circuit, with Rev. Hezekiah Smith as preacher in charge. On both these circuits he was very successful in his labors, especially among the young people; and during the time he served on the Greencastle work, in addition to his labors on the circuit, he studied hard and recited in the regular college classes in Asbury Univ. at Greencastle. In 1848, he was appointed to Terre Haute Mission; and in the north part of that city, during the time, built a neat little frame church, adding all the territory to his Charge between the Wabash River and the Illinois state line. In 1849-50, he labored in what was then called “West Mission” in the City of Indianapolis, but the people called it the “Depot Charge” because he preached and organized the society in the depot built by the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad Co.; and these were two years of marked success. In 1851 he was stationed at Michigan City; and on Oct. 13, 1852 was married to Miss Mary Ward. In the fall of 1852 he was appointed to Mishawaka Station, where he had a glorious revival and many souls were saved. In 1853, he served as preacher at Roberts chapel, Indianapolis, during which year many were converted and added to the church. In 1854 he served Richmond Station with his usual success. In 1855-56, LaPorte Station; in 1857, Attica Station; in 1858-59, Valparaiso Station; in 1860, Valparaiso Circuit; in 1861, Westville; 1862, South Bend Station; for the next four years was Presiding Elder of the Valparaiso District. For twenty-five years, while engaged in active service, he was uniformly successful in his work. He was dignified in manner, chaste in style, apt in illustration, a forceful and impressive gospel preacher, with a remarkable gift in exhortation. the pure and good man never made a failure in the work assigned him during his twenty-five years of active labor. Early in 1868, he was thrown from his buggy, which resulted in a broken limb, by which, for a few weeks, he was unable to attend to the work of the District; and from 1868 to 1871, though having to go on crutches, such was his energy and conscientious efforts in the work of the Master that he scarcely ever failed to reach a Quarterly Meeting. At the Conference of 1871, he was granted a Supernumerary relation.
In 1875, he settled his family at St. Joseph, Mich., where he and his sons went into business, and built up a large and remunerative industry; yet Samuel T. Cooper never forgot the vows of his early consecration, nor lost the spirit and piety of the minister and true man of God. While prosperous and “diligent in business”, he was “fervent in spirit” serving the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit, he went out into the waste places, organizing societies, building houses of worship, contributing liberally of his own means, and thus winning multiplied hundreds of souls to Christ.
He was in revival work almost up to the hour of his death. Having rendered effective service for two weeks or more in the protracted meeting among his old friends in Valparaiso, he returned to his home–his work was done, and on the 2nd day of February, 1892, from a sudden attack of apoplexy, his spirit was released to join the “innumerable company” above. Leaving his family amply provided for, he did not forget the indigent worn-out preachers–widows and orphans–leaving by will a handsome sum for the needy and dependent of his Conference, which he loved so well.
So lived and thus died Rev. Samuel T. Cooper, whose name shall live in our memory, and the fragrance of whose successful life shall be as ointment poured forth; “for thousands have risen up to call him blessed,” for having taught them the right ways of the Lord. For is it not written that “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever?”