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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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Sentimental Sunday: Roberts Genealogy in an Address Book

Page from an address book of Edith Roberts (McMurray) Luck, with genealogical information of family and friends.
Page from an address book of Edith (Roberts) (McMurray) Luck, with genealogical information of family and friends.

Sometimes the small ephemera left by a person can be so personal that it makes me sentimental about them and the sweet times we had together. Seeing the handwriting, seeing who is important in her life, and just noting that this was information that she thought was important enough to pass on, touches my heart. Edith (Roberts) (McMurray) Luck is a big part of why I love family history so much, so this find made me very sentimental about the times she talked about her family, and drove us all over the county to visit her cousins and elderly relatives. There was only one of the new-fangled copiers in town, and family members would not allow us to take their treasures, so my sister and I copied obituaries, letters, etc., by hand, using a purple Flair pen (the coolest thing to come out of the 60s). There are precious documents that were shared that hot Iowa summer, items that would have been lost forever had we not transcribed them in the 1960s.

Here is a transcription and some details about the persons she listed:

Grandpa Daniels  [Robert Woodson Daniels- Edith’s maternal grandfather] March 21-1862

enlisted Rocklimogen W. Vir

5’8″

Light complexion- Light hair   Grey eyes

discharged fm USA [United States Army] March 25-1865

was 23 years

Born May 26-1843

Died June 20-1922  79 years

 

Grandma Daniels [Margaret Ann Hemphill Daniels- Edith’s maternal grandmother]

Marg A.

Born Sept 25- 1839

died Dec 19- 1915   76 years

 

George Roberts [George Anthony Roberts, Edith’s father]

Born Nov 18 -1861        78 years

died April 18 -1939          5 months

0 days

 

Ella V. Daniels [Ella Viola (Daniels) Roberts, Edith’s beloved mother]

Born Oct 29 1866        55 yrs- 3 mo- 18 days

Died Jan 17 1922        56 yrs.

 

Georgie Roberts [Edith’s brother, George Anthony Roberts, Jr.]  June 30 1965 [death date]    76 [years]   -1889 [birth year]

 

Ethel Robison  [Edith’s sister, Ethel Gay Roberts, married to Bert Robison]  Jan 28 1969 [death date]  78 [years]  1891 [birth year]

 

Winnie Carson [Edith’s first cousin- Winnie Viola Walker was the daughter of Lily G. (Daniels) Walker, Edith’s mother’s sister, and married Archibald Carson (1892-1982)]   June 1997 [June 1897 was when Winnie was born- an error in Edith’s notes]

 

Hilma Stines  [Edith’s first cousin and sister of Winnie Viola Walker, both daughters of Lily G. (Daniels) Walker, Edith’s mother’s sister; married Ruben M. Stines.] Ap. 1900 [birth date either April 1900 or approximately 1900; census calculation indicates about 1902 for birth.]

 

Mrs. Annie Hunniball   [Eliza Ann Fletcher, a close friend and neighbor of Edith as an adult. Annie was born 18 Dec 1880 in Timworth, Suffolk, England, and married Albert John Hunniball (1877-1965); they never had children. As a young woman, Annie worked in one of the palaces of the British Queen.] Died 7.45 PM.

1971  Tues Jan 26- Buried

Thurs Jan 28

 

As I was typing out these names and dates, I thought it somewhat ironic that Edith would have used a page from her address book that had a place for a phone number, since telephones were unknown when some of these persons were born. But then, maybe it was not so ironic, since the lifetimes of these folks spanned a simpler time, leading up to the use of the telephone and even the automobile in the early 1900s. By 1914, the US had the most telephones per capita of any country, so even Margaret Ann (Hemphill) Daniels may have seen or used a telephone before her death in 1915, depending on when it was introduced to their rural area. What an amazing time period to have lived, from the late 1830s until the nineteen-teens and twenties. The changes in technology were just astounding during that time span.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family treasure chest.

 

Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.

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.

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.

Wedding Wednesday: Ella V. Daniel and George A. Roberts

Roberts-Daniel marriage announcement, after 16 Apr 1885. newspaper unknown but possibly one from Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa.
Roberts-Daniel marriage announcement, after 16 Apr 1885. Newspaper unknown but possibly  from Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa. (Click to enlarge.)

Ella Viola Daniel was just 18 when she married her 23 year-old friend and neighbor, George Anthony Roberts.

Great-granddaughter wearing the wedding dress of Ella V. Daniel.
The sixteen year-old great-granddaughter of Ella V. Daniel wearing her wedding dress, about 1970 in Edith Roberts Luck’s home. The dress was stored in the attic for over 50 years of hot Iowa summers and very cold Iowa winters. (Click to enlarge.)

Ella and George had four children together, with the first living only three months. Their children were John Robert Roberts (1888-1888), George A. Roberts, Jr. (1889-1965), Ethel Gay Roberts (1891-1969), and Edith Mae Roberts (1899-1982).

Their daughter Edith remembers them as a loving couple, and they had 36 years together before Ella died at age 55. George lived 17 years longer, and remarried, to Lucy L. (Cadwalader) Frank  (1875-1970).

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family photos and ephemera.

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.