Travel Tuesday: A Trip to Town in 1906 by the Roberts Family of Jasper County, Iowa-Part 1

Horses in Snow in Marshall County, Iowa, 1940, by U.S. Farm Security Administration.


Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

Although the above image is not for Jasper County, Iowa, and was taken much later than 1906, the view would have been much the same for little Edith Roberts [later McMurray Luck] and her family as they drove to town in the long, cold winters of her childhood.

Edith wrote stories, spurred on by her dearest granddaughter, of her years growing up on the family farm. People travelled and visited more than many of us thought they would in those days, and in Iowa in winter, that would mean a horse (or two) carrying them through ice, snow, blizzards, etc. (They took the train to some places, but with living way out in a rural area, one would have to get to a larger town or city for a train depot.)

“We lived ten miles from Newton, Iowa. Once a week, weather permitting, we made a trip to Newton, winter and summer. “

Edith’s parents were George Anthony ROBERTS (1861-1939) and Ella Viola DANIEL ROBERTS (1866-1922). Edith’s big brother, whom she adored, was George A. ROBERTS, Jr. (1889-1965). She loved her sister, Ethel Gay ROBERTS ROBISON (1891-1969) very much too, even risking the wrath of their father as she passed notes to Ethel from the boyfriend her father did not like. (Ethel married that boyfriend, Bert ROBISON, and her father disowned her, never speaking to her again or acknowledging her children.) But I digress, and we need to get back to 1906, when Edith’s just seven years old, and the family was heading to town.

Here is a description, in Edith’s words, of some of the preparation for their trip:

“Brother would be outside getting the horses and bobsled (or buggy) ready. To make up the bobsled they would put a wagon box on the two sets of runners and two sets of sideboards on the wagon box to cut down the wind blowing across the wagon box. Then they dumped a lot of clean straw in the wagon box and scattered it around, making it a foot deep at least. It smelled so fresh and clean.”

Getting ready to leave meant dressing for the weather, as well as wanting to look good when one got into town.

“While mother was hurrying around seeing that I got dressed, and sister too, Dad would still be warming his back at the oven door. He was always so cold. He had had sciatica-rheumatism before I was born and had had to learn to walk again.”

Edith was the baby and beloved by her father, who had red hair, as she did. (Her brother Georgie had red hair as well.)

“I would be would be wearing either a blue dress or a red one, whichever was the older. The newer one would be kept for special occasions. Every winter I would have one new dress, just one. When I pranced out for my dad’s admiration, he would say; “Well, well, my girl is a red bird today, what is yours?” or a bluebird, if I was wearing the blue dress.”

Ethel was fifteen in 1906, so was very concerned with how she looked before the trip.

“Mother would be insisting that sister put on a sweater as she was never dressed warm enough. She would say; “Button up your coat, and tie that fascinator closer around your neck.” A fascinator was a long wide scarf very soft and warm. Sister had worked on her hair all morning and did not want to spoil it.”

Leaving the house was not as easy as checking our programmable thermostats (ok, who even bothers with that??). One had to plan ahead, as they knew they would be very cold by the time they got back home:

“Dad or mother would bank the fire in the cook stove so that all we had to do when we got home was just stir it up, and with some corn cobs and a dash of kerosene the fire would be going in short order. No one was allowed to use kerosene except mother and dad.”


To be continued…


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “A Trip to Town, 1906–Wintertime” by Edith (Roberts) [McMurray] Luck. Written in the 1960s-1970s for her grandchildren.


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