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Shopping Saturday: Ella V. Daniel- A Farm Wife

"The Square," Newton, Iowa, 1915. Postcard.
“The Square,” Newton, Iowa, 1915. Postcard.

Roberts Family, Daniel Family

Farmer’s wives had a hard life, as did their husbands. When Ella V. Daniel (1866-1922) married George A. Roberts (1861-1939), she was just 18, George 23. They lived on their farm in Mound Prairie Township, Jasper County, Iowa, with three of the four children born to them, as their first child had died in infancy. George Anthony Roberts, Jr., worked hard on the farm his whole life, and his sister Ethel Gay Roberts worked hard as well (although she apparently was more fond of reading than chores). Their baby, Edith Roberts (McMurray) (Luck), who was mentioned as a wonderful gardener earlier this week, wrote stories for her grandchildren about her years growing up on the farm. She detailed the personalities and events of family, and these are such precious stories to have today, and to tell our own children. (We have our own family version of Little House on the Prairie!)

Shopping was a big thing when one lived on a farm, way out in the rural parts of the county. Usually the whole family traveled together in the horse-drawn buggy for the big outing to town. Edith wrote about a shopping incident that happened probably around 1901-2:

My first recollection of mother was very early. She carried me into the store called Carriers and set me on the counter while she did her shopping. We called it trading. As she went out she evidently heard a clerk say, “They will never raise that baby.”

For farm wives, shopping days were not only picking out new calico for a dress, or staples they could not raise on the farm themselves, but they were truly trading days. Ella would bring in items she raised, gathered, or made, in trade for the items the family needed. Edith continues the story:

In the winter we sold butter and in the summer cream.

Mother was a very good butter maker. The secret was getting all the whey out and later the salt water. We came to Newton each Saturday and they say Mr. Hough had regular customers for mother’s butter and if it was to bad for us to get in the folks would rather scrimp along on what they had until mother came in. It was all shaped in rectangular pieces and she would put designs on top and wrap them in snow-white sugar sacks that she had bleached during the summer.

Ella also baked cakes and pies, skills she taught her youngest daughter well. Edith’s pies, cakes, and cookies were always the first to sell at church bake sales, and Ella’s bakery items were esteemed as well. Ella did sell to other grocers in town, including one named Will McMurray. Will and his wife Lynette Payne McMurray had two sons who probably helped out in the store. One of them, Edward A. McMurray, would eventually become Edith’s husband. Shopping was, obviously, a good way to meet and chat with family, friends, and neighbors- and even future sweethearts.

Edith’s story about her father included:

He dabbled in county politics. The time we spent sitting on the bench at Houghs grocery store waiting for Dad. He would be out on the street talking to some one about the county and township politics.

No doubt this was a frustration to Ella too. As a farmer’s wife, she knew there were lots of chores awaiting their return to the farm. But the wait for George who was deep in political discourse would have been a regular part of their shopping day, so the family learned to be patient.

More about those chores awaiting their return to the farm in our next post.

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family treasure chest of stories by Edith Roberts Luck.

2) Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 1- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/05/06/workday-wednesday-tilling-the-soil-part-1/

3) Workday Wednesday Continued on Thursday: Tilling the Soil, Part 2- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/05/07/workday-wednesday-continued-on-thursday-tilling-the-soil-part-2/

 

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Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil
Barns on the Old Homeplace in Jasper County, Iowa, circa 1996.
Barns on the Homeplace in Jasper County, Iowa, circa 1996.

Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

I’ve got dirt under my fingernails and mud caked to the lugs of my work boots. My body aches, but it is the tired throb of hard physical work well done. My soul is satisfied and my heart filled with promise, too, for I have been gardening.

Yes, technically it is not ‘dirt’ under my fingernails- the ‘dirt’ under one’s fingernails would actually be the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. The phrase, however, has more literary panache than ‘soil’ under my fingernails. Though that is what was actually there- soil, a living, breathing organism that gives us all our very life.

I do say ‘was’ there, because I have actually cleaned up since digging and fertilizing and planting and mulching and watering. I did shirk a bit on the watering- I am letting Mother Nature mostly take care of it since big thunderstorms are forecast for tonight. While I was working, though, my connection to the earth and to my ancestors filled me. Much of this post was composed in my head as I listened to pileated woodpeckers announcing their territory. I observed a jagged slime path glisten in the sun as it lengthened, carrying a snail toward my tender young plants for a delightful repast. I rescued a plump Lumbricus to be an Earthworm Engineer for me 24/7/365 and create tunnels for water and nutrients while creating rich soil and fertilizer for my new gardens. I gently tucked in my new plants with compost and topsoil, mulch on top, using my hands for a final grounding into the earth so the roots could grow well and heartily. How many times had my ancestors done the same?

The "Homeplace" of george A. Roberts and Ella V. Daniel, Jasper County, Iowa. Image taken circa 1900 and hand colored.
The “Homeplace” of George A. Roberts and Ella V. Daniel, Jasper County, Iowa. Image taken circa 1900 and hand colored.

So many of our ancestors were farmers, and they may have not waxed poetic at the long, back-breaking labor required to feed their families and take produce to market to provide supplies into the next crop year. But they loved the soil and the earth- Edith Roberts Luck would tell stories of her father and his connection to the land, and one could see it in her as well. In addition to the crops and animals grown on the farm, she gardened to supply food for the family, like most women with a patch of land did in bygone years. She had a big garden at the family farm, a smaller garden on land she rented at the edge of town, and then a garden at her house that took up most of the back yard of her little Craftsman bungalow in Newton, Iowa.

Edith Roberts Luck in her garden, circa 1980s?
Edith Roberts Luck in her garden, circa 1980s?

She grew vegetables such as Burpee Big Boy tomatoes- so good warm from the field that they were a meal in themselves, requiring just a touch of salt to make one’s taste buds burst with joy. Big ears of corn would be snapped off the tall, big-leaved plant, with a pot of boiling water already on the stove when we got back from picking; one shucked quickly and dropped the ears into the scalding water to stop the change from sugar to starch that happens the moment an ear of corn is severed from its stalk… they were so full of milky sweetness that an ear only required a hint of butter. Digging little red potatoes was amazing as a child- how could roots become such deliciousness? Edith grew more raspberries and strawberries than a family could eat, but that was so she could share with the birds, freeze some to enjoy during the long cold Iowa winter, and then there was the amount she knew would be eaten while harvesting, never even making it to the table.

Edith Roberts Luck in her garden with the fruit of her labor, circa 1980s?
Edith Roberts Luck in her garden with the fruit of her labor, circa 1980s?

Beautiful cut flowers filled Edith’s home with color and scent, and no visit out to one of the gardens would end before a bouquet was cut of irises, gladiolas, roses, or one of many other flowers she grew in rows just for cutting. She always had little vases on a windowsill or side table too- perfect for grandchildren to fill with pansies, or the beautiful-to-us clover and dandelions that plagued her suburban yard. Those little painted glass vases we filled, probably from the Five & Dime, are priceless to us today. It always amazed me that she spent time and energy on growing flowers rather than only food, practical woman that she was. But throughout history, women would grow flowers and gather them to make home smell just a bit sweeter, make a log cabin a bit warmer to one’s heart, and life just a bit prettier.

So many of today’s children do not have opportunities to grow plants, to see where our food really comes from- that it doesn’t just magically appear in the supermarket- or to appreciate soil for the life-giving properties it has. Digging in the soil and observing those who call it home was a favorite pastime for our son. When he was just five and visited the family farm in Iowa, of course he had to take a bucket and shovel. Sitting in between rows of corn taller than himself near the old homeplace, he happily scooped the fertile soil into the bucket and held it in his hands. All of a sudden he looked panicked- “Mom, something is wrong with this soil.” (Yes, he really said ‘soil.’). “It’s black, not red like our soil. The corn won’t be able to grow very well.” Being raised on the red clay of the south, our son had only seen black soil in the flowers we potted together each spring. He was relieved to learn that the corn would grow even better in the richer, looser soil, but we did fill a jar, and brought it back with us as a reminder that our roots grew in that soil too.

 

Next: some of our farming ancestors.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family photos.

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
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Those Places Thursday: Robert Woodson Daniel’s Iowa Farm in 1879

1880 Agriculture Schedule excerpt for Robert Woodson Daniel(s), Jasper County, Iowa.
1880 Agriculture Schedule excerpt for Robert Woodson Daniel(s), Jasper County, Iowa, available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. (Click to enlarge.)

Daniel Family, Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

[Edited to add- Oops! This was supposed to post next week, after the Workday Wednesday posts- sorry.]

Robert Woodson “R.W.” Daniel was the husband of Margaret Ann Hemphill and the father of Ella V. Daniel, who married George A. Roberts 16 April 1885. Ella V. and George had two children who provided them descendants: Ethel Gay Roberts Robinson, and Edith Roberts McMurray Luck.  R.W. and Mary Ann also had another child who lived to have children: Lily G. Daniel, wife of George Washington Walker. If you are descended from any of these folks, R.W. and Mary Ann are two more ancestors who tilled the soil. (See the postWorkday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 2“)

The 1880 US Federal Census Non-Population Schedule for Robert Woodson “R.W.” Daniels tells us that he owned 80 acres of Jasper County, Iowa farmland in 1879-80. The land was worth $2000 total, plus they had $110 of farming implements and machinery, and livestock worth $670.

Using an inflation calculator to compare R.W.’s farmland value indicates it would have been worth about $47,600. in 2014 dollars, or $595 per acre. Today’s Iowa farmland goes for ten times that price per acre, and more. Land was not quite as valuable in 1879, however, since there was still so much of it available in the West.

R.W. paid $3 in 1879 for farm labor, which included value of board (food). His expenses also included $17 for building and farm repair in 1879.

The Daniel’s farm production for 1879 was valued at $1072, which included any commodities consumed, on hand, or sold. This amount was equivalent to about $25,500. in 2014 dollars, which does not seem like a lot of income for a family. They did, however, grow most of their own food, so their farm income would stretch a lot further than it seems.

Acreage included 6 acres mown, 10 not mown, and those grasslands produced 6 tons of hay. On the 35 acres planted in Indian corn in 1879, 1,700 bushels were produced (48.5 bu/ac; today we get 4-5 times that amount with our high intensity farming practices); 514 bu. of oats (for the working horses?) were produced on 16 acres; 8 acres sown with rye seed produced 150 bu., and 8 acres of wheat resulted in 96 bu. of that essential grain, probably much of it to be ground for home use for flour.

R. W. also planted 3 acres in potatoes, providing 400 bu. for the family and for sale, and they most probably had a vegetable garden as did most families in rural areas, although that would not have been listed in the schedule.

Interestingly, the number of acres listed above totals 86 acres, but only 80 were listed as his total.

R.W. and Margaret Ann had 7 horses on hand to do the farm labor and provide transportation. On 01 June 1880, they had 2 “Milch” cows (Margaret Ann probably milked them) and 4 ‘other’ head of cattle. In the year 1879, 2 calves were dropped (born) on the farm, 3 cattle were sold living, and 1 died, strayed, or was stolen.

The milch cows produced enough rich milk to make 250 lbs. of butter that was churned in 1879, probably by Margaret Ann and her daughters, Ella and Lily. R. W. and family also owned 17 swine and 100 chickens on 01 June 1880. In 1879, their chickens produced 300 eggs; caring for the chickens and gathering eggs was probably also a part of the chores of Margaret Ann and the girls.

R.W.’s daughter, Ella V. Daniel Roberts, and her daughter Edith Roberts McMurray Luck mentioned in Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 1, did a thriving business in eggs and butter in their days, too, on the Old Homeplace. They sold them in town, to a grocer named William Elmer McMurray… who just happened to be the father of Edith’s future husband.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Robert Woodson “R.W.” Daniel (1843-1922), Margaret Ann Hemphill (1839-1915).

2) R.W. Daniel 1880 Agriculture schedule: Census Year: 1880; Census Place: Mound Prairie, Jasper, Iowa. Ancestry.com. Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. (OS Page:11, Line No. 09, Enumeration date 10 July 1880.)

3) Inflation calculator- http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php. Inflation calculators take a lot into consideration, and may vary widely in the values calculated because of those factors.

 

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Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
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Travel Tuesday: Migrations to Jasper Co., Iowa

Covered wagon pulled by oxen. Wikimedia Commons.
Covered wagon pulled by oxen. Wikimedia Commons.

McMurray Family, Roberts Family

Ancestors who took up residence in Jasper County, from earliest to latest:

Sylvanus Rufus Benjamin and Sara Ann Palmer in 1865 or 1866 (from Ohio)

Jonathan N. Benjamin and Hannah E. Ford in 1867 (from Ohio)

John S. Roberts and Elizabeth Ann Murrell by 1868 (from Illinois)

Robert Woodson Daniel and Margaret Ann Hemphill by 05 Aug 1870 (from Virginia to Pike Co., Missouri; then to Warren Co., Illinois, thence to Jasper County, Iowa)

Frederick Asbury “F.A.” McMurray and Hannah “Melissa” Benjamin by 1870 (from Pennsylvania to Cedar County, Iowa to Jasper County, Iowa.)

We know the Daniel-Hemphill family came by covered wagon, and the remaining families probably did as well.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Grandma Edie stories and family oral tradition.

2) Census returns, newspaper articles, obituaries, etc.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
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Those Places Thursday: Newton Iowa and the Old Settlers Meetings

A Pioneer Dwelling from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 61, GoogleBooks.
A Pioneer Dwelling from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 61, GoogleBooks.

Every place has their old settlers- those who braved a hostile land and brought ‘civilization’: farming and ranching, churches and school houses, commerce and vice, as well as families and friends. Newton in Jasper County, Iowa, had meetings of these brave [some would say foolhardy] souls regularly in later years, and the original book recording those get-togethers is in the Jasper County Historical Society Library. The book may also be found online, at the Iowa GenWeb Jasper county page for Old Settlers of Newton, Iowa.

Wonderful records were kept by the Old Settlers Association, and they are a wealth of information for anyone whose ancestors were pioneers in the area. Even for those of us whose families were latecomers to the area, “Old Settler” groups recorded many stories of the life that was, and may have continued for some years after our ancestors moved to the area. Plus, these stories are just delightful reading!

Only those persons who were residents of the Newton area prior to 31 May 1855 were invited to the party held by Albert Lufkin, himself an early settler, at his home on 30 May 1885. Albert had arrived in the area on 31 May 1855, but since the 30th anniversary of that date fell on a Sunday, the gathering was held on the Saturday before. Albert invited about 50 persons, which was all he could entertain with the size of his home.

Of course, as the years went on the gatherings became smaller due to further migration, old age, and death of the members. They began to invite those who had come after 1855 in order to keep the party at about 50, and at one point, had over 100 people, the largest gathering in Newton to that date.

The Old Settlers Association met on 1 June 1891 at the Lambert House Parlors in Newton.

“The tables were lighted as of old Pioneer days with tallow dips and cotton wicks hanging out of saucers of Lard. All at once however, (as the eyes of the Company were not as good as 36 years ago,) the full blaze of the Electric lights – was turned on and the dainties disappeared in a manner to reflect – credit – upon the digestion of the company, and the skill of those who prepared the repast.”

What changes those early pioneers, some of whom may have been born about 1830, witnessed throughout the century!

One of my favorite stories from the Newton Old Settler’s Association:

“I might tell of some of our meetings; I will mention one that was dismissed without the benediction, in consequence of bees stinging the preacher and congregation, but enough for now.” B. Aydelott.”

There are newspaper accounts of the meetings, and those include many of the events of the meeting as well as the historical. Food was, of course, a primary focus of the event, with storytelling, songs, and speeches after, although sometimes, that good food was a problem:

“A. J. Osborn had eaten too much and didn’t feel much like talking.”

"Breaking Prairie" from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 63, GoogleBooks.
“Breaking Prairie” from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 63, GoogleBooks.

By the time my ancestors arrived, there was probably little prairie left to break, but farming was still a difficult task back then- even today. (What would our ancestors have thought of air conditioned, GPS-guided combines???) Our  families who took up residence in Jasper County were:

Sylvanus Rufus Benjamin and Sara Ann Palmer in 1865 or 1866

Jonathan N. Benjamin and Hannah E. Ford in 1867

John S. Roberts and Elizabeth Ann Murrell  by 1868

Robert Woodson Daniel and Margaret Ann Hemphill (between 1866-1870)

Frederick Asbury “F.A.” McMurray and Hannah “Melissa” Benjamin by 1870

 

Cynthia A. Benjamin (1841-1925), sister of Hannah Melissa Benjamin, married Reuben K. Lambert- perhaps she was the “Mrs. Lambert” who prepared such delicious repasts for the Old Settlers?

A handwritten note under the newspaper article for the [likely] 1896 Old Settlers Association meeting noted that $6.68 was collected, and the disbursements were listed. The reunion had been planned to be outdoors but because of rainy weather, it was moved to the Armory. Three dollars were disbursed to “Will McMurry for rent of hall.” William Elmer McMurray (1874-1957) was the son of F.A. and Melissa (Benjamin) McMurray. There was also a note that, “The drapage bill is still unpaid, and nothing in the treas.” (Drapage would be cloth hanging festively, such as red, white, and blue festoons/banners.)

 

The moral of the story? Even though I knew my family members were not early settlers in Jasper County, Iowa, reading through this booklet gave me information about times both past and present. One can do a search within the document to find family names, but sometimes it is just more enjoyable to read through and get a sense of what life was like for early settlers, and those same folks when they became “Old Settlers.” You never know what you will find- the payment to Will McMurray was quite a surprise in this booklet!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Old Settlers of Newton, Iowa: http://iagenweb.org/jasper/history/OldSettlers/Newton.pdf

2) The “dainties” referred to in the 1891 meeting would have been small appetizers and desserts.

3) Old Settlers of Newton, Iowa, page 6.  Bee Sting- unknown date of newspaper article, unknown newspaper.

4) Ibid., 14. Eaten too much- unknown date of newspaper article, unknown newspaper. Probably between 28 Apr and 9 June 1896.

5) Ibid., Will McMurry- page 19, Secretary’s note of 09 Jun 1896.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.