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Labor Day: Celebrating the Labors of Our Ancestors

First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia.
First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. “The Gilded Age” included the rise of big business, like the railroads and oil companies, but laborers fought- sometimes literally- for their rights in the workplace. Grover Cleveland signed the law to honor the work and contributions, both economic and for society, of the American laborer. Celebrated on the first Monday in September, ironically the holiday was a concession to appease the American worker after the government tried to break up a railroad strike but failed.

The Labor Day weekend is a good time to think about our ancestors and the work they did to help move our country and their own family forward.

Jefferson Springsteen was a mail carrier through the wilds of early Indiana, traveling for miles on horseback through spring freshets (full or flooding streams from snow melt), forest, and Indian villages. Samuel T. Beerbower, who would be a some-number-great uncle depending on your generation, was the Postmaster in Marion, Ohio, for many years. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.
Edward B. Payne, Pastor, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.

Bad weather, gloom of night, ocean crossings in the mid 1800s, and the threat of disease or injury did not stay our minister, deacon, and missionary ancestors from their appointed rounds either- especially since the felt they were appointed by a higher power. We have quite a number of very spiritual men in the family. Henry Horn became a Methodist circuit rider after coming to America as a Hessian soldier, being captured by George Washington’s troops in Trenton, NJ, then taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and serving in the Revolutionary Army. The family migrated from Virginia to the wilds of western Pennsylvania sometime between 1782 and 1786. A story is told of how he was riding home from a church meeting in the snow. The drifts piled up to the body of the horse, and they could barely proceed on, but Henry did, and was able to preach another day. He founded a church Pleasantville, Bedford Co., Pennsylvania that still stands, and has a congregation, even today. Edward B. Payne and his father, Joseph H. Payne, Kingsley A. Burnell and his brother Thomas Scott Burnell were all ministers, some with formal schooling, some without. Edward B. Payne gave up a lucrative pastorate because he thought the church members were wealthy and educated enough that they did not need him. He moved to a poor church in an industrial town, where he was needed much more, however, he may have acquired his tuberculosis there. He also risked his life, and that of his family, by sheltering a woman from the domestic violence of her husband, and he testified on her behalf.

Abraham Green was one of the best tailors in St. Louis, Missouri in the early 1900s, and many in the Broida family, such as John Broida and his son Phillip Broida, plus Phillip’s daughter Gertrude Broida Cooper, worked in the fine clothing industry.

Edgar Springsteen worked for the railroad, and was often gone from the family. Eleazer John “E.J.” Beerbower worked for the railroads making upholstered cars- he had been a buggy finisher previously, both highly skilled jobs.

Sheet music cover for "Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart," from "The Slim Princess."
Sheet music cover for “Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart,” from “The Slim Princess.” (Click to enlarge.)

The theater called a number of our collateral kin (not direct lines, but siblings to one of our ancestors): Max Broida was in vaudeville, and known in films as “Buster Brodie.” Elsie Janis, born Elsie Beerbower, was a comedienne, singer, child star in vaudeville, “Sweetheart of the A.E.F” as she entertained the troops overseas in World War I, and then she went on to write for films. Max Broida also did a stint in the circus, as did Jefferson Springsteen, who ran away from home as “a very small boy” to join the circus (per his obituary).

Collateral Lee family from Irthlingborough, England, included shoemakers, as that was the specialty of the town. They brought those skills to Illinois, and some of those tools have been handed down in the family- strange, unknown tools in an inherited tool chest turned out to be over 100 years old!

Will McMurray and his wife Lynette Payne McMurray owned a grocery store in Newton, Iowa. Ella V. Daniels Roberts sold eggs from her chickens, the butter she made from the cows she milked, and her delicious pies at the McMurray store. Franz Xavier Helbling and some of his brothers and sons were butchers in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and had their own stores.

Some of our ancestors kept hotels or taverns. Joseph Parsons (a Burnell ancestor) was issued a license to operate an ‘ordinary’ or “house of entertainment” in 1661 in Massachusetts, and Samuel Lenton Lee was listed as “Keeps hotel” and later as a saloon keeper in US Federal censuses. Jefferson Springsteen had a restaurant at the famous Fulton Market in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1840s.

From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) "May" Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914.
From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) “May” Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914. Note ‘Undertaker’ sign- yes, it was all done in his home. (Click to enlarge.)

Many of our family had multiple jobs. William Gerard Helbling (AKA Gerard William Helbling or “G.W.”) listed himself as working for a theater company, was an artist, then an undertaker, and finally a sign painter. George H. Alexander was artistic as well- he created paintings but also worked as a lighting designer to pay the bills.

Sometimes health problems forced a job change. Edward B. Payne was a Union soldier, librarian, and then a pastor until he was about 44 when his respiratory problems from tuberculosis forced him to resign the pulpit. For the rest of his life he did a little preaching, lecturing, and writing. He also became an editor for a number of publications including, “The Overland Monthly,” where he handed money over from his own pocket (per family story) to pay the young writer Jack London for his first published story. Edward B. Payne even founded a Utopian colony called Altruria in California! He and his second wife, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne, later owned and conducted adult ‘summer camps’ that were intellectual as well as healthy physically while camping in the wild and wonderful northern California outdoors.

Other times, health problems- those of other people- are what gave our ancestors jobs:  Edward A. McMurray and his brother Herbert C. McMurray were both physicians, as was John H. O’Brien (a Helbling ancestor), who graduated from medical school in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America in 1832. He settled in western Pennsylvania, still wild and in the midst of a cholera epidemic that was also sweeping the nation; he had his work cut out for him. (It appears he did not get the same respect as other doctors because he was Irish, and this was pre-potato famine.) Lloyd Eugene “Gene” Lee and his father Samuel J. Lee owned a drugstore in St. Louis, as did Gene’s brother-in-law, Claude Aiken. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck worked as a nurse since she received a degree in biology in 1923.

We have had many soldiers who have helped protect our freedom, and we will honor some of those persons on Veterans Day.

We cannot forget the farmers, but they are too numerous to name them all! Even an urban family often had a large garden to supplement purchased groceries, but those who farmed on a larger scale included George Anthony Roberts, Robert Woodson Daniel, David Huston Hemphill, Amos Thomas, etc., etc. We even have a pecan farmer in the Lee family- William Hanford Aiken, in Waltham County, Mississippi, in the 1930s-40s.

Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress.
Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress. (Click to enlarge.)

We must also, “Remember the ladies” as Abigail Adams entreated her husband John Adams as he helped form our new nation. He/they did not, so 51% of the population-women- were not considered citizens except through their fathers or husbands. Many of these women, such as Lynette Payne McMurray, labored to get women the right to vote, equal pay, etc. (Lynette ‘walked the talk’ too- she was the first woman to ride a bicycle in Newton, Iowa! Not so easy when one thinks about the clothing involved.) Some men, like her father, Edward B. Payne, put their energy into the women’s suffrage movement as well. Many of our ancestors worked for the abolition movement too, including the Payne and Burnell families.

A woman worked beside her husband in many families, although she would get little credit for it. Who cooked the meals and cleaned the rooms for the Lee and Parsons innkeepers? Likely their wives, who also had to keep their own home clean, laundry washed, manage a garden and often livestock- many families kept chickens even if they didn’t have a farm. They raised and educated their many children too, sometimes 13 or more. Oh yes, let’s not forget that women truly ‘labored’ to bring all those children into the world that they had made from scratch. (Building a human from just two cells makes building a barn seem somewhat less impressive, doesn’t it?) Some of them even died from that labor.

June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul in their drugstore.
June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul Aiken in their drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri.

Working alongside one’s husband could be frightening due to the dangers of the job. A noise in the Aiken family drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936 awoke Claude and Mildred Aiken since they lived in the back of the store. Claude look a gun and went into the store while Mildred called the police. Claude fired the gun high to frighten the intruder- Mildred must have been very scared if she was in the back, wondering who had fired the shot and if her husband was still alive. Thankfully he was, and the police were able to arrest the thief, who wanted to steal money to pay a lawyer to defend him in his three previous arrests for armed burglary and assault.

 

We applaud all of our ancestors who worked hard to support their family. Their work helped to make the US the largest economic power in the world, and a place immigrants would come to achieve their ‘American dream.’ We hope our generation, and the next, can labor to keep our country prosperous and strong.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. There are too many folks listed here to add references, but using the search box on the blog page can get you to any of the stories that have been posted about many of these persons. Of course, there is always more to come, so stay tuned!

 

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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.
 

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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Typewriters on Tuesday- Roberts, Daniel(s), Murrell Family History

Roberts-Murrell Family History, 1946. Part 1 of 3.
Roberts-Murrell Family History, 1946. Part 1 of 3. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family, Daniel Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

Apparently today, 23 June, is the anniversary of the first typewriter patent. Like all inventions, it would have stood on the work of many before, including an early machine that impressed letters into paper, invented in 1575 by an Italian printmaker.

It is hard to imagine life with only printing presses and the pen- the typewriter made it possible for the average person to easily communicate in a legible fashion. My grandmother had terrible handwriting, so her typewritten letters, with all their mistakes and correction fluid/tape, and the carbon copies, are invaluable. They are especially important since cursive writing is no longer being taught in school, and younger generations cannot really read it sometimes, much less write it.

How many family histories were typewritten, like the above? Some were bound into books or booklets, or just fastened with a staple as the Roberts-Murrell family history in this post. The folks listed in this history are at least 3 generations ago, so some of this information might be lost but for the painstakingly typewritten treasures some of our families are lucky to have today.

My grandmother, her contemporaries, and their ancestors would be so amazed at the leap in communication with today’s word processors and OCR technology.

Roberts-Murrell Family History, 1946. Part 2 of 3.
Roberts-Murrell Family History, 1946. Part 2 of 3. (Click to enlarge.)

The images in this post are a report for the 1946 family reunion of the Roberts family in Jasper County, Iowa. I received it back in the late 1960s, from a Roberts descendant in Newton, Jasper, Iowa. Click on our new “Family Documents” section to download the entire pdf of this file more easily than the images in this post: Roberts, Daniel(s), Murrell Family History, 1946.

Roberts-Murrell Family History, 1946. Part 3 of 3.
Roberts-Murrell Family History, 1946. Part 3 of 3. (Click to enlarge.)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some pictures from that reunion? They are probably out there somewhere… hopefully labeled with names and the date! If any of our dear readers have such pictures, please let us know through a comment on this post or our “Contact Us” form. We would love to share other Roberts, Murrell, Daniel(s), and Blount treasures.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family treasure chest item received in the 1960s.

 

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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.
 

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.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
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Family Recipe Friday: Edith Roberts Luck’s Pineapple Cookies

Grandma Edie's Pineapple Drop Cookies- front. (Click to enlarge.)
Grandma Edie’s Pineapple Drop Cookies- front. (Click to enlarge and see below before making.)
Grandma Edie's Pineapple Drop Cookies- back. (Click to enlarge.)
Grandma Edie’s Pineapple Drop Cookies- back. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family, Daniel Family (Click for Family Tree)

Cooking was an integral part of the life of a farm wife. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck inherited the cooking gene from her mother, Ella V. Daniel Roberts. Edith wrote in her family stories:

Mama was an excellent cook. Nothing fancy, but just good country cooking. There was always room for another pair of legs under our table. Always enough for another mouth. I still feel I should do the same thing. Funny how these teachings stay [w]ith us. 

One of the most special stories that Edith wrote to her grandchildren was entitled, “A Winter Afternoon 1904.” Edith was just five years old, and it was amazing how she was able to so clearly remember incidents from her very early years. She reminisced:

Mother and I had had a nap and I was playing in the kitchen, while Mama was taking out of the oven huge loaves of bread and a pan of six inch high biscuits.

There must have been a dozen in this particular pan she always used for these biscuits. The fragrance from the freshly baked bread was delightful. The golden-browned tops were well greased, making them even more delicious to eat. Mother used a potato water starter. I don’t know just how she did it. I do know that sister was always warned not to upset the cup of starter on the table in the pantry. She baked once a week.

Of course, during harvest season Ellie Roberts would have been baking probably every day, as there were a lot of hired hands to feed. She would have had help though, with neighboring women coming to the Roberts farm to assist in the kitchen, and then Ellie Roberts would go to one of their farms when the threshers moved on. Add in the extra women, young girls who helped, and little children, and there were a lot of mouths to feed!

Edith continued her story:

It was about time for the kids to come home from school. If I timed it right I could stand on a chair and watch for them to leave the school grounds. We were just a quarter of a mile from the school-house. This afternoon I was standing on a chair jugging from one foot to the other with a carpet ball in my hands. A big basket of them was under the resevoir [sic]. Also near the stove was a tall can of thick cream. It was being warmed to churn the next morning. Mother had warned me to be careful. Finally, while I was shouting; “They are coming, they are coming.” she said sharply; “Edith Mae Roberts, if you drop one of those carpet balls in that cream you will get a hard spanking.” Under my breath I said; “I wish my name was not Edith Mae Roberts.” I was teased about this for years. “So you don’t want to be called Edith May Roberts huh?”

The kids came in all hot and breathless and covered with snow. All hungry as little bears. I knew mother would fix them one of those fresh biscuits and I would get half of one too, with either plum butter or apple butter on it. Delicious! I can almost taste them now.

**********************

The above recipe was a family favorite. We don’t know if it was passed down from her mother or if Edith found it elsewhere. These cookies are unique and totally delicious, especially when frozen and ‘liberated’ from the deep freeze in the midst of a hot Iowa summer without air conditioning.

Like most family recipes, it was told to the writer as Edie was cooking, and she had made the recipe so many times that she didn’t think about things like whether or not to drain the pineapple, which is likely the way to go- it will depend on the moisture in the air when you are baking, and you may need a bit of the juice. These are excellent without the nuts, too, although pecans are very good in them. If the kitchen is warm, pop the dough in the refrigerator for a bit to firm up before baking, or the cookies will spread out too much. The bottoms of these cookies brown quickly, as do the pineapple bits, so do not use a dark pan- an insulated sheet might work better, though of course such things were not available to Edith or her mother as they baked in a wood-fired stove and later Edith’s prized electric oven.  Edie always added a buttercream icing after cooling that was delicious plain or with additional crushed pineapple mixed in. The yield of 3-4 dozen was for farmhands and threshers, it seems- they are very large. Smaller cookies puff up taller and have a better icing:cooky ratio per results of many taste tests over the years.

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family recipe.

2) “The kids” coming home from school would have been Edith’s brother George A. Roberts, Jr. and their sister, Ethel Gay Roberts.

3) The above is not Edith’s handwriting- that was challenging to read. She typed most of her recipes but this one was written as she told it, probably sometime in the 1960s or early 70s.

 

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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.
 

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.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
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Workday Wednesday: Ella V. Daniel- A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife, Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Ella V. Daniel Roberts- A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife
"Farmer's wives are the people to be pitied this hot weather." Marion Daily Star , 30 Jul 1885, Vol. 8, Number 232, Page 4.
“Farmer’s wives are the people to be pitied this hot weather.” Marion Daily Star, 30 Jul 1885, Vol. 8, Number 232, Page 4. Posted with kind permission. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Daniel Family, Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

Some seasons were more labor intense for everyone on the farm, and especially for a farm wife like Ella V. Daniel Roberts. Her daughter, Edith Roberts Luck detailed this in stories and letters about her family:

Mother worked all summer canning and pickling and being like a squirrel getting in winter supplies. Dad (George Anthony Roberts, Sr.) was pretty smart. We had enough strawberries and cherries and other small fruit so that someone in the neighborhood came in and picked on the shares. Even then I can still those [?] cans of berries that had to be stemmed or cherries pitted. Sometimes we used a cherry pitter but mother was a bit skeptical of that as some of the cherries might have a worm in them.

Dad also fixed up a place in the old house… where mother could use a gasoline engine for washing and churning and Dad could use it for cleaning seeds. It was a shaft with belts going over the pulleys and out a window where the engine was housed. He was very ingenious. He made a cistern next to the house and water could be pumped into the house and then into the sink. It was on the east side of the kitchen. Next to the stove. If you wanted hot water, rather warm, you got it out of the reservoir attached to the range or stove on the south wall.

Oh yes, Dad sharpened knives and scissors on this set up in the old house. He could not stand a dull tool.

Although they had an inventive setup, making life a bit easier than in other farmhouses, life was still full of tasks. Processing the farm’s produce, canning, and cooking were hot and time-consuming tasks. When a home was being built, as in the excerpt below, or if it was planting, harvest, or threshing season, there would be many more mouths to feed.

Can you imagine mother cooking for all those workmen, a dozen or so in all that mess. I would have to stand and shoo the flies off the table with a branch from one of the trees. Hot, oh it was so hot. Not small wonder that she died at 52 years of age. The men slept in the old house and when she churned she would call to them when she had gathered butter and they would come from all directions to get the fresh buttermilk. The men cleaned up out side at a bench with towels and soap ready. Just imagine the work she had to do.

This meal for the workmen would be a meat and potato meal. Vegetables two or three of them and pickles and jam and relishes. Pie and cake and bread that she baked herself with coffee and tea and milk. Sister at that time was a teenager and did help but mother never did have hired help unless she was sick. Come to think of it, I cannot remember her ever having help. Now the neighbor women came in at threshing time or other times when there were men to cook for but never paid help.

Edith reported that her mother was a kind and loving soul, and very hardworking, but,

There were two chores that irked mother…

[One] thing that mother had a hang up about was having supper before the chores were finished. You see in the fall and winter and spring too, everything was done by the men before they came in to supper. In the summer mother wanted to have a little daylight for her to work out in her garden after supper. I can see both sides and always it was a bit of a thing.

“Dinner” was the noontime meal, and was the biggest meal of the day since everyone had been up working at dawn (or before) and still had many hours of chores left. “Supper” was a lighter, evening meal, so a little less work for Ellie Roberts.  They did sometimes have company though, such as the man that George Roberts bought his first car (a Rambler) from, in the big city of Des Moines, Iowa:

The dealer and his family came to see us often. Mostly at the evening meal. I know he just came for a good country meal. Suppers were mostly leftovers and with company it was pretty scarce for us kids. Mr. Miles would say ”he could not make his bread and jam come out even” so he would eat on. I don’t blame him as mother’s apple and plum butter and homemade biscuits were delicious.

George Sr. and Jr. plus their hired hand would have gotten their usual portions of food, since they worked hard on the farm. The women and children would share the leftover leftovers.

Winter comes early in Iowa, and keeping the fruits of the year’s labors protected was important, as was heat for the house. We are so lucky to be able to flip a switch from ‘cool’ to ‘heat’ or our programable thermostats do it automagically. Not so in the early 1900s and before, as Edith describes the second chore that irked her dear mother:

She would have to talk and talk to get Dad to put up the stoves in the two front rooms. She would polish them with black stove polish, her hands would not be free of it for days. Then the stove pipes would have to be fitted. The piece of metal that covered the opening during the summer would have to come out with a lot of soot and a big metal piece put down for the stove to set on. Well it all added up to stress for sure. The stove in the parlor had to be put up because of the fruit and vegetables in the cellar under this room. Much of mothers summer work had to be protected from the freezing weather. It was a much nicer stove than the one in the sitting room. It had [isinglass] or mica you could see thru and we burned anthracite coal. That is what is called hard coal. The embers burn a long time seemingly with out flames or smoke. It was fun to sit on the floor and just watch the burning coals thru this glass. The ashes had to be taken out each morning in the other stove and I am not sure how often in the parlor stove as it was much cleaner and needed less attention.

Illnesses, of course, clustered into preferred seasons, and a farm wife had to be prepared to treat everything from poison ivy to assisting with childbirth:

In the neighborhood mother had the reputation of being very good at helping the doctors when emergencies came up. In this same house where Ruby was born mother helped deliver a child that was a real hard case. When there was illness in the neighborhood they would call for mother. Just being around her would instill confidence and trust.

 

 

To be continued…

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Excerpts in green are from letters and stories written by Edith Roberts Luck. They are protected under copyright law since she wrote them in the 1970s and 80s, so may not be published or posted elsewhere. Family members may request permission to republish for non-profit use; please use our contact form.

2) Ruby Robinson DeMoss was the child of Ethel Gay Roberts Robinson, Edith’s sister.

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

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.
 

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.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.

Ella V. Daniel Roberts- A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Ella V. Daniel Roberts- A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife
Ella V. DANIEL ROBERTS, circa 1904. Cropped from a family portrait.
Ella V. DANIEL ROBERTS, circa 1904. Cropped from a family portrait.

 

Roberts Family , Daniel Family (Click for Family Tree)

A farm wife’s life revolved around the simple rhythms of the seasons, the crops, the animals, and her family. Her youngest daughter, Edith Roberts Luck, later wrote stories and letters to her family, detailing the people she loved. She particularly loved her mother, Ella V. Daniel Roberts:

I know she lived the life she loved and she was happy… She worked so hard with Dad [George Anthony Roberts] to pay for these acres. I am sure she enjoyed it all. I never did think she enjoyed the new house as she did the home place. It was just too fancy. 

Although a large woman and short, that did not slow her down with her farm work.  Edith wrote:

I have heard women say; “No one can move as fast as Ellie Roberts.” “She can get more done in less time than any of us.”

Milking was a constant chore on the farm- it HAD to be done twice daily. Ellie Roberts used a small three-legged stool- Edith wished she still had it, and never could believe that her large mother was able to use such a small stool for milking.

Mother milked too. I can see her coming up the grade from the barn carrying two big buckets of milk. The cats following along behind ready to lap up the foam if she had to get her second wind to continue on to the milk house which was just east of the kitchen porch. Imagine two hundred pounds and working like that.

An old, well-used milking stool. Via WikiMedia Commons.
An old, well-used milking stool. Via WikiMedia Commons.

Writing about the horses and cows, Edith remembered:

The barn was warm and noisy with their movement and eating. We would go up in the hay mow and throw [hay] to put in their mangers. Brother helped mama milk, and I would have to go Protesting to the house, because I couldn’t be in the cow-barn where they were milking. 

Brother (George Anthony Roberts, Jr.) … did the separating too. Before we had the separator mother skimmed the cream off the top of the tall cans. In the winter we sold butter and in the summer cream.

Chickens were usually the responsibility of the wife and sometimes children as they got older. Feeding them and gathering eggs was a chore done every day as well.

There were eggs to gather and mother always raised her chickens from eggs out under setting hens. She never had an incubator. I don’t know [w]hy.

I was scared of those old hens. They could really peck you. I can see those little chickens breaking out of the shells and Mother going along and helping some if they were having a hard time. That was why she was so mad at the two snakes that were twined around each other when she was carrying water to the hogs that were so hot on a summer day. She discovered these snakes on the way to the hogs and she set down the water buckets and took a hoe and killed the snakes. Nowadays we know bull snakes are good to catch rats etc. But all mother could think of was them getting in her hens nests and eating her eggs that were about ready to hatch or had hatched. You cannot blame her. She was rather a timid person and I was so scared for her.

Roberts Family Farm- small barn circa 1970s.
Roberts Family Farm- small barn circa 1970s.

The animals on the farm required constant attention, and it was all a part of being a farm wife. For Ellie Roberts, even her vacations had to do with farm work:

When she was forty years old and I was ten we had the first vacation I can remember. I can see her now on the scales at the packinghouse we visited. Packing house you say. Yes that was it. Mother said, “She had seen so much stock driven or hauled off the yard she wanted to see what happened to them.” This was in Council Bluffs. We visited an Aunt Net. Well your grandmother couldn’t take it. I saw those squealing hogs being dipped into hot water and I was sick, so Aunt Net took me away. But mother, she stayed thru the whole procedure. Where they took care of the cattle was not so bad I guess.

To be continued…

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Milking stool- Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tabouret_pour_traire.JPG

2) Excerpts in green are from letters and stories written by Edith Roberts Luck. They are protected under copyright law since she wrote them in the 1970s and 80s, so may not be published or posted elsewhere. Family members may request permission to republish for non-profit use; please use our contact form.

 

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