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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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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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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
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.

Thankful Thursday- Edith Roberts Luck’s Christmas Cookies

Edith (Roberts) (McMurray) Luck, in the 1970s.
Edith (Roberts) (McMurray) Luck, Christmas in the 1970s.

Edith Roberts Luck visited her son and his family every year for Christmas (as well as many Easters, plus the birth of every baby to help out). She would take over the cooking and had quite often sent ahead, through the mail, a big box of cookies and sometimes gifts in with them. She would package the cookies tightly in the plastic tubs that you could get ice cream in, or sometimes they were just loose in the package. (That was dangerous- open the box and cookies for the grabbing and stuffing in the mouth were right there- no opening of tight lids to slow down a family hungry for Grandma’s cookies.) She would use popcorn to cushion the cookies- those were the days before styrofoam pellets, and besides, popcorn would be food-safe, right? Sometimes it would make the cookies smell/taste like popcorn, but hey, she was a farmer’s daughter, and grew the best corn in her garden that I ever tasted.

I always wonder if these recipes were from her mother, Ella V. Daniel Roberts. They cooked for tables full of farm workers at harvest time, and packed a lot of calories into those meals to keep the workers going. These sugar cookies would have helped with that.

Making these sugar cookies and using the cooky cutters passed down has always been very special, especially with our own children, niece, and nephews. It is a family tradition to be thankful for; having such an excellent grandmotherly-type grandma is something I am very grateful for too. One of the best compliments I ever got was from my brother who said that I would make a great grandmother. With Grandma Edie as a role model, I do hope that will be true.

Here is Edith Roberts Luck’s recipe, typed on her old, well used typewriter:

Sugar Cooky Recipe-Edith (Roberts) Luck
Sugar Cooky Recipe-Edith (Roberts) Luck

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family treasure chest of pictures and recipes.

 

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Copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
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.

 

 

 

 

Treasure Chest Thursday: Family Scrapbooks, Photo Albums, and Shoe Boxes

Section of page 2  in Edith Roberts' college scrapbook with sorority invitations. (Apologies for the poor copy- it was a photocopy in the days before scanners.)
Section of page 2 in Edith Roberts’ college scrapbook with sorority invitations. Edith was attending college about 1919- very few women were enrolled at the University of Iowa (in Iowa City) in those days. (Apologies for the poor copy- it was a photocopy back in the days before scanners.)

I recently read a great post that was linked on the Oct. 12, 2014 GeneaBloggers Daily by Gordon Belt: Scrapbooks: the Original Social Media. The article is by Katherine Hoarn, and her premise is intriguing:

“As a means of creating and communicating self, … scrapbooks operate in much the same way that popular forms of social media do for students today.”

Ms. Hoarn continues in her article to discuss how scrapbooks served the same purpose years ago as Facebook does now- to allow communication between family and friends and give a sense of who the person was at a certain point in their life.

Scrapbooking- and by extension the paper ephemera passed down that we family historians so cherish- is also an act of curation, Ms. Hoarn explains.

12 June 1892- Will McMurray's Graduation program from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.
12 June 1892- Will McMurray’s Graduation program from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.

She compares this collecting of text and images to Pinterest and Tumblr sites that showcase interests, passions, and events. Whether neatly organized onto boards on Pinterest or into a scrapbook, autograph book, photo album, diary, or even a shoebox, most of what we have inherited has been culled through generations to be the most important ephemera of a life. If we are lucky, we may even have commentary attached to give us more insight into a life.

"Heap good shot. Ketch plenty fish." Probably William Hanford Aiken.
“Heap good shot. Ketch plenty fish.” Probably William Hanford Aiken about 1910, when he was living in Florence, Colorado with his family.

Instagram, of course, is today’s electronic version of the photo album and if we are REALLY lucky, our old images will also be “tagged” with names, dates, and places.

Mabel Mulhollen is written on the back, Nov. '28 [1928] on the front.
Mabel Mulhollen is written on the back, Nov. ’28 [1928] on the front. Sadly no place clues for this photo.
A caption can touch our hearts or give us a giggle- sometimes both at the same time.

About 1929? Edward A. McMurray, from his own photo album in which he wrote the captions, created  in the late 1940s.
About 1929? Edward A. McMurray, from his own photo album in which he wrote the captions, created in the late 1940s as he was preparing to get married.

As one who laments the passing of paper and worries what treasures will be left for the next generations to cherish in their even more ephemeral electronic world,  I truly treasure the scrapbook, photo albums, and shoe boxes of photos and papers left by our ancestors. I am so glad that we do have ways of sharing the old-timey via new technology, though, so all can gain a bit more insight into those who have gone before.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1)  Geneabloggers Daily: http://paper.li/geneabloggers/1306385546

2) In the near long ago, boys graduated to long pants as they matured- a rite of passage that was longed for by many, much as our generation cannot wait until we can drive.

3) While searching for appropriate pictures for this post, I found the above image of Mabel- we have a younger picture of her that until this moment we thought was the only one- see Mystery Monday: Mabel Mulhollen. She may be more important in our family than we realized since there is more than one photo of her. We can also use this photo of her at an older age to compare to other family images from the same time period that include people we do not know. Is she family or part of the FAN Club? More research needed.

4) FAN Club= Friends, Associates, Neighbors; researching these folks can help us learn more about our ancestors.

5) The Newton (Iowa) High School Class of 1892 included Lillie Brown, Ella Clarkson, Marie Hass, Henry Jasper, Fred Kennedy, Belle Lambert, Artie McKinley, Willie McMurray, Hettie McCord, Fred Meredith, and Lillian Patten.

Mystery Monday: Roberts, Daniel, or ? in Early 1920s?

Possible Roberts, Daniel, or ? Family Picture. Woman on front right is probably Edith Roberts. In with images from the early 1920s, possibly taken in Iowa.
Possible Roberts, Daniel, or ? Family Picture. Woman on front right is probably Edith Roberts, man to her right with bow tie is probably George A. Roberts, Jr., Edith’s brother. (See below.) In with images from the early 1920s, possibly taken in Iowa.

 

This image is in the photo album of Edith Roberts (later McMurray and then Luck), in with images taken in the early 1920s. The woman in the front on the right appears to be Edith, but it is unknown who the other persons are. Since she is by herself and we do not recognize any of the men in the picture, she may not yet have been married nor had her son, Edward A. McMurray. (He was born in 1924.)

We would be very interested in learning more about any of the people in this picture! Please contact us if you know them.

 

REVISED later in the day after looking at more family photos: The man with the bow tie to the right of Edith is probably her brother, George Anthony Roberts, Jr. The woman two persons to the left of Edith, holding a little girl with a barrette in her hair, may be Edith’s sister, Ethel Gay (Roberts) Robinson (1891-1969). The child may be Ruby Robinson, born 1915, or Helen Viola Robinson, born 1921. Ethel’s husband Bert Robinson (1890-1977) may be the man in the back, just to the left of  “Georgie” Roberts. These assumptions/guesses are just from knowing these people in later life and looking at the few pictures we have of them. The man in the center with a tie (in front) may be George A. Roberts, Sr. OR Robert Woodson Daniel. There is a picture of RW Daniel somewhere in the family archives, as I remember Ed McMurray talking about it as we viewed an image. It is on a little cassette video somewhere, just begging to be digitized. Even better would be finding the original, which has not turned up in boxes of family pictures. I am now leaning toward this being a group photo of the Daniel family, as George Roberts, Sr., was not happy with his daughter Ethel’s choice of husband, and he disowned her when she married Bert Robinson; thus, a picture of them all together was unlikely as Geo. Sr. was a strong-minded man (per his daughter Edith). George Sr.’s wife and the mother  of Edith, George, and Ethel’s was Ella V. Daniel, but she had passed away 17 Jan 1922; I don’t believe she is in this picture, which may help date it after 1922 or so. R.W. Daniel’s wife, Margaret Ann Hemphill, died in 1915, so that may also date the photo. Again, any help would be appreciated with identifying the people in this image.

Edited 05/12/15: The man that might be RW Daniel might be correct, but his wife is not in this picture. A story by Edith Roberts said Margaret Ann Hemphill was very thin, and always dressed in dark colors. She was ill for many years before her death, so it is very likely that she is not in this image. RW was bald, per Edith’s story, so that may not be him in the image either. 🙁

 

Still searching for information…

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family treasure chest of photo albums.

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
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.