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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgivings

My ancestors began to arrive in the American colonies in 1630 and participated in the celebrations of harvests and of special days of thanksgiving from time to time through the years. George Washington proclaimed a thanksgiving day in 1777. The new nation celebrated thanksgiving days now and then through the years until the Civil War, and then President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in every November as a perpetual holiday.

I’ve got plenty to be thankful for. In the spirit of the holiday, I’m looking back at the last eleven Thanksgiving days and remembering specific things among the myriad heaps of things I could name that I am grateful for.

Eleven years ago my brother Dan was still alive and joined us for the holiday at my sister’s house. My! The boys were young then!

Look carefully and you can see the glowing eyes of my dog in the kitchen. Just beside his leg you can see more glowing eyes—the cat Daisy, who was crouching under the open dishwasher door where the dog couldn’t reach her without getting his nose scratched. He got his nose badly scratched. The dogs who belonged to the household no doubt warned my dog, but my dog was not one to take advice from anybody when it came to investigating cats and chasing them if possible. He had to learn the hard way that Daisy was In Charge of that household. Daisy is still alive, but my dog has been gone now for three years. How I miss him!

How I miss my brother Dan! He passed away just last January, and we never had another Thanksgiving together after this one this year pictured here. My family didn’t get together very often, and this had been the first time since another brother, Larry, passed away in 1998. We had gotten together that April to celebrate our parents’ golden wedding anniversary at my house. I am so glad that we did that. We couldn’t have known that that fall would see Larry suddenly leave us, and then my sister’s youngest child a month later.

Thanksgiving 1998 was so very hard. Larry’s funeral was the day before. I flew home Thanksgiving morning, grieving terribly, and my daughter picked me up at the airport, crying because one of my husband’s relatives became angry at her having gone and found her birth family. The entire family that was gathered at my sister-in-law’s house was so tense over the situation that nobody paid one iota of attention to me, nobody spoke one word of sympathy or acknowledgement that I had just lost my brother, the one who was dearest to me of all, the one who had spoiled me from the time I was little and who had made himself one of my best friends. I simply stood in the place of a buffer to my daughter, ensuring that nobody spoke one more word to her that wasn’t polite. I just wanted to get out of there. That year I was thankful at least that I had had a brother who was such a good friend to me.

My siblings and parents, as I said, rarely got together after that terrible year. But eleven years ago we were all together at my sister’s house and there was no drama, there were no hard feelings, no arguments or anything but a lot of laughter and a lot of fun.

The next year we went to Denver to visit our daughter and granddaughter. How thankful I am for these two! They have brought such happiness and fun into my life that I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is to have this daughter, this granddaughter (and my son, looking on), in my life.

The next year we were back at my sister-in-law’s house. Here is one of my grand-nephews, the one who is now working on becoming a television star. He is looking at the television and hoping dinner won’t be too long delayed. Can’t you just see the star quality he exudes?  He’s probably also thinking how he is going to be on that screen some day. I love my sister-in-law, the one who hosts Thanksgiving most years for us. She is one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. She hosts everybody who comes through her town. Her door is always open and there’s always a bed for any relative who needs one. She comes to our house every week and is indispensable to our family. I can never thank her enough for all that she does for us.

The next year we had a different set of relatives join us at the same house. My sister and her kids came, and another of my brothers was living with us at the time. Another of my husband’s brothers and wife came. Sometime in the past years of buying new computers and moving everything from older to newer, I accidentally deleted all my photographs of that year, so this scan of an album will have to do. This is the year I learned that my sister, of all my siblings, is devoted to Thanksgiving Day American football games. Whoever is playing, she has to watch. My husband and I are about the world’s worst sports fans. We never know what teams are playing in the tournaments, never attended our college games and never follow their teams, not for any sport. I was amused by my sister’s need to spend hours in the freezing cold basement watching a game.

The year after that my sister-in-law retired after 55 years of teaching and promptly came down with a life-threatening illness. She was in hospitals for more than two months, and so for Thanksgiving my sister and her children, two of my brothers, my mom (who had come to live with me permanently), and my little family were gathered at my house for the dinner of gratitude. Then while my husband and son and I went to visit the Sick, my family cleared everything up, washed and put away all the china and silver, picked all the meat off the turkey carcass and made soup stock with the bones for me. We were able to enjoy the afternoon as much as possible, happily noting that my sister-in-law had turned a corner and was finally on the mend. How grateful I am for my sister and brothers! They were so helpful that year of crisis.

The year after that we went back to the home of my sister-in-law for dinner. That morning I was out in my back yard taking pictures of my brother, who needed a new portrait of himself to use in a new online business venture. He wanted to try several changes of shirt and use a number of different props, so while he was getting things ready, I took this picture of my dog. We got this dog one early November day at the local Humane Society, ten years before this picture. He weighed 7 pounds and was the cutest, fuzzy little ball of goofy clumsiness you could imagine. He grew extremely fast and became, to our dismay, a biter. He bit everybody, not in any anger or by way of attack, but as a way of expressing his happiness at seeing and being with people—any person at all. We took him to numerous training sessions and finally found some guys who specialized in “aggressive” dogs. This wasn’t an aggressive dog though, we learned, he was one of the most intrinsically excited, energetic dogs ever. Most of the time he was supposedly still, he was trembling or at least panting a lot. We learned to treat him in a way that totally cured the biting and chewing and learned to channel his excess energy. He was a great dog! I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to have this dog in my life.

The next year we grew our first pumpkin in our garden. This picture shows the little jack-o-lantern picture drawn on the side of that pumpkin—I couldn’t carve it, it would have seemed like sacrilege to cut up that cute little globe. The other pumpkins came from my neighbor and were turned into pies. The acorn squash, grown in our garden, supplemented our Thanksgiving leftovers dinners. My sister-in-law always made everything for our Thanksgiving dinners herself and didn’t want any help with anything. Except one thing—my cranberry-orange relish. She always has me make that dish and bring it to her house. Our other sister-in-law had chickens and usually brought deviled eggs, which we sat around and ate during the morning while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television.

The following year we were at the same home of my sister-in-law, with the in-laws who had the chickens. But it had been the election year in the U.S. and I had run afoul of my husband’s family by answering truthfully whom I had voted for. And it wasn’t the approved choice of the rest of my husband’s family. I was made to know how terrible it was that I had voted the way I did. Not that it had mattered one bit in the state of Utah where I live! The majority of voters in the state always votes differently from the way I do and I’m sure that will always be the case. I did not answer—did not even acknowledge the rudeness.

This picture reminds me not of that part of the occasion, but of the charming habit my sister-in-law has of decorating every surface in her main rooms with seasonal objects. There is always something new to see there. One thing she has a lot of—nesting dolls. Her biggest set has thirty-two pieces and the tiniest is the size of a grain of rice. Most of her sets are Christmas-related, but here is one for Thanksgiving. She gave me one for Halloween, skeletons that glow in the dark.

And the following year all the surfaces were decorated similarly, everyone was the same, everything seemed to be a copy, but I found myself treated with solicitous kindness and interest, and I thought it was an interesting way of making it up to me. No verbal apology that would have completely cleared the air, but somehow the communication lines were open and I could tell I was expected to forgive and forget. I did forgive but of course haven’t forgotten. It is interesting that this election year, the relatives called up my sister-in-law and asked whom we all had voted for. She said that not one of us had voted for Donald Trump, and that yes, I had voted for the person they thought I would be voting for. But this year I was joined by my husband and son in voting for the same person. And this year the other relatives have decided not to join us. Perhaps it is best that we not meet until the election has faded from people’s memories somewhat. Politics should never part families. I am thankful that my extended family has negotiated a way not to allow that to happen.

The next year my daughter didn’t have anyone to eat Thanksgiving dinner with her, so we had her come home to us and join us in going to our usual place. My sister-in-law helped raise my daughter when she was a tiny girl and my husband and his first wife newly divorced, and she is very, very close to my daughter. It was wonderful to stay there and get up first thing in the morning before the parade was to begin and take a long walk with my daughter up the side of the mountain behind the house. We met these geese on our walk, hissing angrily at our intrusion into their territory. They should have been thankful they were not scheduled to be on the menu!

Here is a view of that wonderful things my sister-in-law makes, from last year. Besides turkey and stuffing, she makes an excellent gravy. The only person whose gravy comes close to hers is her youngest brother’s gravy. They both learned from the master cook, their mother. My husband was not interested in learning to make gravy, so when we have gravy, I have to do it. Mine isn’t bad, but it isn’t like theirs. Oh my. There are the sweet potatoes, and the cranberry relish sauce. I have a little dish of creamed pearl onions and a plate of “Grandma Salad,” which is green jello with cottage cheese, cream, mayonnaise, celery, walnuts, pineapple, and horseradish added. I don’t know if I know all the ingredients, but we all love this salad. The other green salad always has avocadoes, which I love, and radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and either bibb lettuce or romaine. This picture is funny because of the missing green beans. She had steamed the green beans, but we all had forgotten about them and they sat in the steamer until we were cleaning up later and found them.

I took a walk that afternoon up the same trail my daughter and I had taken the year before. Here are some of the “friends” I saw along my way.

This year we will not be staying overnight at my sister-in-law’s house as we have been doing ever since our dog died. (She did not welcome our dog in her house.) My mother can’t do as much as she used to, so it is best that we go down there early in the morning. Today I have been making the cranberry sauce and some pies. My sister-in-law has suffered me to make pies in recent years. She always makes a mince pie, and I make pumpkin and apple pies. I love pie and love to make them. My mother never did learn to make pie crust, but she encouraged all of my siblings and me to try and to perfect our abilities. My grandmother used the method of “Well, you take a little bit of this, about a handful of that, and a pinch of this other”—and somehow that all made a lot of sense to me while it never did to my mother. I always put extra spices in my pumpkin pie. We all like a spicy pie, so it has ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice in it. I am a clove fiend. If I had my way, I’d spice the apple pie with cloves too. But my relatives have limits on what I can do. Anyway, I’m thankful for the opportunity to make pies and cranberry and go to my favorite sister-in-law’s house tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody who is celebrating. “Be in thanksgiving daily,” says a scripture that I particularly like. Let’s be. Thankful.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tales My Father Told Me One Summer Solstice Day

My father died in 2008, and I don’t remember what year he told me these stories. He usually spent the early part of the summer with me and my family from the early 1990s onward. These were probably told between 2000 – 2004.


When I was a Boy Scout, we went to summer camp at Camp Meriwether on the Oregon coast. We spent a lot of time poking around in the rocks and tide pools around the base of Cape Lookout and that’s where I saw a sea star one time with about twenty legs. There were all kinds of marine animals around there. We had a little dock built out into the ocean, and one time I caught a squid off that dock. I hauled him in, but just as I got him up near the dock, there was a flash of black ink and he disappeared back into the water.

The Struan
The place had been the property of a pioneer family called the Chamberlains. The parents at one time had decided to go to Tillamook for supplies and things [this was in December 1890] and left the children at home. Out at sea a three-masted schooner, the Struan, had run into a storm and lost its rudder and sails. They had drifted about for a week or two before the crew was rescued and the ship abandoned. While the parents were gone, this schooner ran straight in toward the shore of this property that the Chamberlains owned. It hit the beach and broke up. It was full of lumber, 12x12s and what all, an immense amount of lumber. The family salvaged it and used it, and in the 1930s there was still plenty left for us to use to build some of our buildings at the Scout camp. I can’t remember that anybody ever claimed the ship or its cargo.

Don Findlay and I went to that Scout camp when we were 13, 14, and 15 years old [1934, 1935, and 1936]. Once I was walking along this one trail at the camp, and suddenly it was as if I had stepped onto a magic carpet—as though I had somehow been there before—in fact, I knew that somehow I had been there before—it was that real to me.

I had another couple times of this sort of déjà vu experience. When I was five or six years old I was at the house next door [in Portland, Oregon], coming down the front steps. At the last step it was as if I’d stepped off and was floating. It was very vivid, very strange. It lasted only a moment.

I used to have a memory of one of these type of “conduit” places. I’d come down and concentrate on a certain place—I always thought it was the gym in my school [Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland, Oregon]. I have a vague feeling that it repeated itself there. But now the memory isn’t quite strong enough to describe well.


Note: My dad was in the Army during World War II, but instead of being sent to combat, he was sent to school for advanced training in electronics and radio communications systems. The Army students were expected to carry a double load of classes, do their Army training and other duties, and make straight A grades or be sent immediately overseas.

In Louisiana during the War there were a lot of cockroaches where we were stationed at the college at Baton Rouge. I remember once there was a cockroach behind the slate in the shower with 3-inch feelers sticking out. We couldn’t see the cockroach itself, but to have 3-inch feelers! Nobody had the nerve to stick a hand in and grab him.

We had the pump kind of insecticide and we glued a piece of candle onto it. With that we could shoot a flame clear across the room. We’d hit the cockroaches and they’d go up in flames. We had ’em trained to mop up under our beds. Good thing the beds never caught on fire!

Once I hit a roach and it fell to the floor onto an ant trail. They swarmed right over it and it disappeared. That was the end of that one.

I opened my foot locker one day and discovered an ant trail had gone inside. They had discovered the cookies Aunt Ruth had sent me. I had to throw them all out—empty the footlocker and wash it out completely.

Another time I had a stick, a mop handle or something like that, and I was poking roaches and killing them. This one roach I hit didn’t die but rose up in the air on its wings and came straight at me! I squared up the stick like a baseball bat and swung when the roach got within striking distance, and I hit it out the door with a Whack! We all ran out on the balcony to see what had happened to it. Darned if it hadn’t fallen to the ground one floor below and was getting up to come at me again. I squared up my bat and hit it again. Third time apparently was the charm. It lay dead. The ubiquitous ants crawled over and retrieved it and carried it off in triumph.

Giant Burrowing Roach at the Audubon Butterfly Garden
and Insectarium in New Orleans on Thursday, July 2, 2015
(Photo by Chris Granger, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We Should Have Figured Out Gaudy Night Earlier

Spoiler Alert! If you have not finished Dorothy L. Sayers’s brilliant 1936 novel Gaudy Night yet, this essay Reveals All. Beware!

When Harriet Vane attends her college’s Gaudy, she has the disagreeable experience of picking up a piece of paper in the quad and finding it is a vulgar, not to say obscene, drawing of a naked female figure attacking an indeterminate figure in a scholar’s cap and gown. This is in chapter II, just after she has had two experiences with Miss de Vine, who has unsettled Harriet to a remarkable degree. As Harriet returns to London at the end of Chapter III, she finds a message on a scrap of paper tucked into the sleeve of her own gown, made with letters cut from a newspaper: “YOU DIRTY MURDERESS. AREN’T YOU ASHAMED TO SHOW YOUR FACE?” She had thought she was leaving this kind of persecution behind her when she had gone to Oxford; to find it there strikes her with pain.

Chapter IV gives a short history of Harriet and Peter Wimsey, explaining Harriet’s dilemma about him in fuller detail. While Harriet and Peter are dining at the Optimist’s Club, Harriet’s bag falls on the floor and a post card falls out: “Ask your boy friend with the title if he likes arsenic in his soup. What did you give him to get you off?” This one is a red herring. It has nothing to do with the Oxford college lunatic, although Harriet lumps it with that one. But it does make her change her mind about ending her relationship with Peter just then.

Further into the same chapter comes the letter from the Dean of Shrewsbury, Miss Martin. She asks Harriet to come up to Oxford and help them with the problem of the Poison Pen. The information in the letter, put together with Harriet’s own messages, points to someone who had been in residence during the time of the Gaudy.

In Chapter V Harriet learns about all the messages to that point:
There were a number of messages, addressed to various members of the S.C.R., and informing them, with various disagreeable epithets, that their sins would find them out, that they were not fit for decent society and that unless they left men alone, various unpleasing things would occur to them. Some of these missives had come by post; others had been found on window-sills or pushed under doors; all were made up of the same cut-out letters pasted on sheets of rough scribbling-paper. Two other messages had been sent to undergraduates: one, to the Senior Student, a very well-bred and inoffensive young woman who was reading Greats; the other to a Miss Flaxman, a brilliant Second Year scholar. The latter was rather more definite than most of the letters, in that it mentioned a name: “If you don’t leave young Farringdon alone,” it said, adding an abusive term, “it will be the worse for you.”
Two other items were books by two of the Faculty that had been destroyed. Miss Barton’s book, The Position of Women in the Modern State, had been found on the fire in the Junior Common Room. Miss Lydgate’s manuscript work, English Prosody, had been stolen out of the library and defaced throughout with black India-ink, and parts of it had been totally destroyed.

Finally, there had been a bonfire one night of academic gowns in one of the quads.

In discussing these things and the suspicions attaching to them, the members of the Senior Common Room reveal various prejudices and opinions, including hostility toward Harriet. They narrow the circle of suspects down to the members of the Senior Common Room, their secretaries, the Scouts (maids) who serve the college, and those few students who had been still in residence when the Gaudy took place.

One of the more important discussions for the purposes of figuring out the mystery is the one about the position of the Scouts. The introduction of the problem of class prejudice is a particularly effective red herring, meant to put off any serious consideration of the Scouts as suspects. One must, mustn’t one, bend over backward to avoid the appearance of a prejudice that has recently become politically incorrect? That is what happens here.

Otherwise the attacks on the two scholars’ works (works that attack male superiority and male scholarship), together with the diatribes against academic women who are full of sins, who don’t leave men alone, who aren’t fit for decent society—all these clearly point to a person who disapproves of women filling a position in society once reserved for men. This woman has to be one who lives in the College—because sometimes things are posted and sometimes they are put in place when there could be no visitor in the college. Furthermore, she has to be someone who goes out of the college on a somewhat regular basis so that she could post letters back in. It is someone who can cut up newspapers and paste letters on papers and dispose of the evidence of that activity without leaving any traces in any rooms in the college.

It all points pretty clearly to a Scout with outside ties being the most likely suspect at this point. By process of elimination, why would a Senior Fellow, a lifelong scholar, suddenly begin to attack her colleagues and students? Not very likely, although Miss Hillyard is put forth as the most likely suspect for that scenario. But Miss Hillyard despises men, not scholarly women. She is the reverse of the character we’re looking for.

The only other suspect among the Senior Common Room is Miss de Vine. But great care has been taken by the author to describe Miss de Vine’s character. She is introduced to Harriet in Chapter I as a person who is a Research Fellow, “a nice person,” and one who likes Harriet’s books and looks forward to talking with her about them. She has had a recent breakdown of some kind and does not have a professorship because she is judged not able to handle tutorials. That’s a red flag, but it’s a red herring too, because when Harriet looks at her, she sees through her:
And, looking at her, she saw at once that here was a scholar . . . . Here was a fighter, indeed; but one to whom the quadrangle of Shrewsbury was a native and proper arena: a soldier knowing no personal loyalties, whose sole allegiance was to the fact. A Miss Lydgate, standing serenely untouched by the world, could enfold it in a genial warmth of charity; this woman, with infinitely more knowledge of the world, would rate it at a just value and set it out of her path if it incommoded her. The thin, eager face, with its large grey eyes deeply set and luminous behind thick glasses, was sensitive to impressions; but behind that sensitiveness was a mind as hard and immovable as granite. . . . If anything came between her and the service of truth, she would walk over it without rancour and without pity—even if it were her own reputation.
Her encounter with Harriet about Harriet’s books is even more pointedly clear about Miss de Vine’s core character, which functions as the Voice of Truth throughout the novel:
After ten minutes, during which Miss de Vine ruthlessly turned her victim’s brain inside out, shook the facts out of it like a vigorous housemaid shaking dust from a carpet, beat it, refreshed it, rubbed up the surface of it, relaid it in a new position and tacked it into place with a firm hand, the Dean mercifully came up and burst into the conversation.
This is clearly not the sort of woman who would stoop to Poison Pen letters. She would confront any problem she saw head on with clarity and a view to solving it.

Next possibility, would a student attack these women? No case is made yet for this scenario, but on the face of it, it must be unlikely, as Harriet seemed to be one of the very earliest targets, and at the Gaudy none of the students in residence apparently knew who she was or what her particular notoriety consisted of.

One discussion tries to rule out the Scouts, which is that all the messages thus far have contained no spelling errors. As the Dean puts it to Harriet, “A good speller could pretend to be a bad one; but a bad speller can’t pretend to be a good one”; they go on to discuss whether they can rule out Scouts who might be better spellers than they are.

The theme of why the Scouts should be ruled out continues with a message pinned to an effigy in academic dress, the message a description of harpies written in Latin hexameters by the ancient poet Virgil, something presumably the Scouts would not know. But just before that is found, in Chapter VI the college lunatic attacks the preparations for the dedication of the Library by throwing around all the books and pictures and painting obscenities on the walls. Harriet and Miss Barton, the Bursar, discover it in the middle of the night and are able to alert everyone necessary to get everything put back in order before the guests arrive and the ceremony is held.

In the course of that morning, Harriet has a conversation with one of the Scouts, Annie, who brings her some food while she is watching over things in the Library before the ceremony starts. The conversation reveals that Annie has two little girls, that she and they used to live in a manufacturing town, that she feels that Harriet ought to be married and have children, and that she thinks it is not natural to see “all these unmarried ladies living together”—at which Harriet changes the subject to the Library. And this provokes Annie to reveal this opinion: “But it seems a great shame to keep up this big place just for women to study books in. I can’t see what girls want with books. Books won’t teach them to be good wives.” She further says that the scholarly women there have no heart in them, and that the Bible says “much learning hath made thee mad” as though that applies to the women Annie serves, and Harriet catches a very odd look in Annie’s eyes. Annie finishes by saying that everything started happening “since a certain person came into the college,” meaning Miss de Vine.

Harriet interprets it all to mean that Annie knows something about the college poltergeist. But she thinks Annie has only seen the culprit, not that Annie could be the culprit herself, despite the clues to this point fitting perfectly with Annie’s situation, personality, and opinions.

Still, this is very early, only Chapter VI, and there have been several red herrings thrown out, as the Virgilian hexameters will obscure things in the very next chapter. Miss Sayers has outwitted most of her readers by this point, and will continue to obfuscate the matter until much later in the book. After all, the reader has been waiting for the arrival of Lord Peter, and before that happens, we will be almost diverted from our detective purpose by the antics of Lord Peter’s nephew, by the big, blundering student Reggie Pomfret who develops a mad crush on Harriet, and by the consideration of one after another of those red herrings—students and faculty. Finally, when Peter arrives, he himself introduces an extreme diversion in the furtherance of the romance between himself and Harriet. It becomes almost more important than the solution of the mystery—almost, but the solution of the romance would be quite unsatisfying without Peter’s explanation of the simplicity of the mystery.

Perhaps the simplicity is why Peter had to be held off stage for so long. Had he come too soon, he would have seen too soon, as we might have done in Chapter VI, that there was really only one likely solution after all, classist though it might seem.




Note: This photograph from Somerville College has nothing to do with the story of Gaudy Night, but Dorothy L. Sayers is one of its distinguished alumnae.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I Wasn’t Doing Anything!

First time I saw her, she was sitting on a porch, staring defiantly out at the world.

As I came around the corner on my next round, she was creeping, her tail twitching and body low to the ground, across the street. I looked over as I passed and caught her in the act.

“I see you,” I said. “You can’t have that pretty bird today. If you jump, the vines will give way. It’s no use. Come on out of there.”

She came.

Purr, purr. “I wasn’t doing anything. I was just making sure that bird was all right. Guarding. Yes, that’s what I was doing. A little guard duty, that’s all.” Purr, purr, purr.


I petted her, and then I left her. I looked back once. She was sitting in the sunlight, staring into the shadows from whence she’d come.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Memoirs of John Andrews, Part 5

Here is a link to Part 4, Father's Death, Marriage to Mirinda, and New Business Ventures


Fruit Farming and Permanent Roots in Rockford

In September we left Mr. Piper—who had married again—and journeyed to Rockford in the buggy. It was a pleasant trip and delightful experience. We made 40 to 50 miles per day, stopping overnight where we could. We reached Rockford at 10 o’clock A.M. September 5th or 6th, 1861. Found all well, Ellen and our goods and our house well under way.

The house was in an almost impenetrable grove of “black jack oak” with branches from the ground up, necessitating a great deal of trimming ere we could get around with comfort or convenience. We arranged to live with James and Harriet for a time, and in a few weeks we had some rooms in a habitable condition and moved in. As it had an upper story, we left that part unfinished for the present and I put my time in painting and glazing the windows, etc. A good cellar was dug and a stone wall built for foundation before the superstructure was built. We had a cistern dug, and connected with a pump in the kitchen. We were thus comfortably fixed, and enjoyed the novelty of housekeeping in our new surroundings.

I could not then build a barn to house our horse and a cow I had bought, but made a comfortable makeshift to shelter them with poles and a straw roof. By this time winter was approaching and fuel had to be prepared. I hired a man to do some grubbing for the purpose of clearing a garden spot for the following spring planting, and also for wood for cooking and heating.

Ellen Hall, now in company with Eliza Oatman, a niece of James Hinkley, entered school in the Rockford school house and continued there for some time.

I must now return to Farmersville for a little time. The store and mill, which had been largely financed by Father, had come to me at his death in 1854, and both were continued on the original lines. As I had to buy out the interest of Mother and Seth, it was quite a setback to me for some time, and now on top of this in the summer of 1865 the mill was burned. But fortunately the machinery was not so badly damaged but that it paid a few hundred dollars salvage, of which I got two or three hundred dollars. This ended all my relations with Farmersville and my old home. But dear to me is the memory of my childhood, the scenes of my boyhood, the struggle and hopes of my early manhood.

During the winter of ’61 and ’62 I got quite a garden patch in shape for planting and in the spring put in a variety of seeds and in the end realized a good return. James had rented a farm one mile west the year before ’61, and this farm we worked together, sowing some wheat and oats, planting some corn, potatoes and beans. This was my first experience with the chinch bug. The wheat was badly damaged, the oats and corn not so bad. And also it was my first with the reaper for harvesting. It was the John P. Manny hand rake, one to drive, one to rake off, 4 or 5 to bind and shock up, on an average of 8 acres per day.

[Note: The chinch bug, or Blissus leucopterus, feeds on plants of the grass family, either wild or cultivated varieties such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and corn. The insects suck the sap out of the growing plants. 19th-century farmers had little control over this pest.]

As this time we exchanged work with Mr. Hill who had a farm adjoining, hiring his machine and helping his force in return.

Somehow they and some others got the notion that I was a stacker and insisted that I should stack their grain. I had never done it but had learned its principle from Father years before. Finally I consented to try my hand at it but mentally resolved that I would not follow the common way of crawling around on my knees and slowly pack each sheaf in its proper place, but that I would do it standing on my feet so as to handle the bundles easier and faster, and if failing to make good I would give it up. Knowing the essential to protect the grain from damage by rains was to have a downward inclination of the stem, and that this could be had better without the close packing of the outside tier than with, I attacked the job and put my theory in practice with success. As I could by this plan put two or three times as much grain in a stack over the ordinary way, and that it kept as well or better, I had calls for more than I could do.

The next year Mr. Hill had a large acreage and importuned me to do his stacking. I would not do it unless he would pay me $4.00 per day. He demurred. The ordinary wage was $1.25. He finally agreed to pay my price. Reaching his place early in the morning, I noticed his men got to work with two teams, but as the grain was some ways from his stack yard, they could not keep me busy, and I said to him, “If you want me to earn my wages you will need another team and man.” He got a neighbor—who by the way was a noted stacker in the vicinity—and by sundown we had all his grain in, much to the surprise of Mr. Meagher, who he had called in to help. Mr. Hill took me to one side and paid the $4.00—the biggest sum by far I had ever received for a day’s work. I learned afterwards that he recouped by not paying Meagher anything. Mr. Hill up to about this time was fairly prosperous. He had a fine intelligent wife and three or four nice children. Race habits got the better of him and he went to the dogs in record time. I never had more to do with him.

[Note: Regarding “race habits”—nineteenth century scientists theorized that different races had essential characteristic habits. In general, white races were held to have “superior” habits and any negative behaviors were assigned to non-white races as “characteristic” of those races. It was all socially conditioned racial prejudice.]

I realize that there are many mistakes in dates that I have no means to disprove or rectify and that some of the incidents do not synchronize with the time or occasion, but are true, only out of place.

On June 27, 1863, Ernest J. Andrews was born, a rugged, strong baby, not so much the handsome facial features as his brothers Charles and Harry, but rather promising with growth, and dominant and self assertive, which in a measure at least his later years justified. Growing rapidly, in a few years we had three boys loyal to each other and carrying the hope that later years justified, of true, honest, and noble manhood. With their cousins the Hinkley boys they had congenial playmates, and through their school life, the trying time of boyhood life, I believe they were fully able to take care of themselves, and also were able, at least in their studies, to hold their own.

Charles was the only one of the three who graduated, and his exercise on that occasion was so unique that it attracted the attention of some Chicago reporter. Harry for some reason we never knew became dissatisfied with his teacher, Mr. Blodget, and refused to attend his school anymore, so we had him attend a private one. Their childhood and boyhood life never gave us any trouble any more than it was with just pleasure that I could sometimes help solve some puzzling problem—something I would not attempt now. I also give them credit that much of the knowledge they have garnered was not drilled into them by the pedagogue route, but largely due to voluntary choice and studious application. I must say here that the predominant factor of this mental alignment is inherited from their mother, not from me. They all worked on the farm more or less till manhood, and after, sometimes, at mechanical work in the shop, at home or abroad. I wished them to feel that they were under no obligation to follow farming as a business, but in any avocation to be true, faithful and earnest, and I believe my wish in this direction has been fully granted.

When I was about 20 years old Father had a woman who called herself “Madam Costner,” claiming to be a Phrenologist and gifted with mesmeric power, installed in the house for some time to try her “science” on my brother Seth who was afflicted with epilepsy. But like many other, and some expensive, attempts for that purpose, she was a failure. Seth’s trouble preyed so heavily on both Father and Mother that they sought every means that gave any promise of hope, even putting him in charge for months of an eminent physician in Cleveland, Ohio. Seth’s trouble passed away years later. He married twice. [Seth’s daughter] Sibbie’s mother died soon after her birth, and she was cared for by Mother and Harriet.

While the “Madam” was with us she felt of my bumps. Her first ejaculation was what a great “development of benevolence,” then you have a “telegraph head” must go head can’t rest, “you can’t live to be thirty years.” This latter was encouraging—but I have lived to know that all her revelations were false, unless I partly adopt the “telegraph head,” for often I had to curb myself, and many other occasions should have checked that tendency in my relation with the boys.

[Note: Practitioners of phrenology believed that they could determine personality by palpating bumps on the head that were believed to reflect 27 to 40 localized brain functions. They would measure an area and extrapolate on a person’s dominant traits. Some phrenologists combined their practice with mesmerism, which was supposed to allow the practitioner to change a person’s traits. It is unclear what the phreno-mesmerist claimed to do for someone suffering from epilepsy.]

Their mother once said to me on an occasional outbreak that I was a tyrant, but with all my shortcomings and needless worrying, I rejoice in the fact that each of my boys secured good social and lucrative positions. The only cloud that shadows our memory was the passing away of the elder one in his promising manhood. [Note: Charles died suddenly at the age of 40.]

After cultivating the 80-acre farm I mentioned in Rockford with James for two or three years, I bought it and two years later was able to pay for it $2500.00 The only improvement on it was a good corn crib, and a small orchard in the northwest corner of the tract, just beginning to bear and which in a few years gave us bounteous crops of snow, grimes, golden, and some other kinds of apples. The quality was fine—demand good, and the sale of them made a welcome addition to our income.

In November 1863 we found it necessary to go to Dubois, expecting to be gone at least a year, as our tenant had left on short notice. The season had been very dry over a large part of the west, and very largely curtailing the corn crop. On arriving, we found that our tenant had employed a man to take charge till relieved, and he was harvesting the corn. We got three or four loads of corn in the husk.

As we had a number of horses, colts, and a cow to winter, we were pleased to find some oats and a stack of hay, which, in addition to the gleanings of the farm, carried the stock through until grass in the spring. As soon as fall rains came so that plowing could be done, I gradually broke in several three-year-old colts and plowed some ground for early spring seeding.

On the afternoon of the last day of December I had gone to the Post Office. Just as I was starting back a sudden atmospheric change was very perceptible. Someone must have left the door of the polar region open—the blast of the northwest wind was so fierce it was hard to make headway against it, and the temperature was falling rapidly. I at once got the stock and most of the chickens under shelter. That night and the day following, 1st January 1864, was the coldest known up to that time through a section of the country five hundred miles wide from Canada to the south Atlantic states. Having a good lot of wood on hand and using it freely, we got through the cold snap quite comfortably.

I now had to find a man to help and arranged with a man by name Anderson, in order to in part cancel a debt he had been owing for several years, and because his help was needed. We had to furnish house room for himself and family, i.e., wife and two children.

This permitted Mirinda and the children to go home the next summer. I remained until late fall, boarding with this family after her departure. We got in the usual farm crops, and also several acres of beans. They all turned out well. As the Civil War was raging, I was able to send several hundred dollars home, the result of the sale of the crops to the Army.

Ben Davis apple
The orchard had grown finely and had commenced bearing so I had sent a small lot home to be put on exhibit at the County Fair, held annually in Rockford. It was a surprise in particular the Ben Davis, that variety was unknown then. They were so attractive that orders for grafts came from some of the nurserymen. I supplied, and in a few years that “beautiful” apple was common. We had planted peach trees with the apple, and made a fine exhibit of that fruit also.

[Note: The Ben Davis apple is largely forgotten again. You can read about it here on this website.]

Two years after settling in Rockford we planted some pears and grapes. When the latter got to full bearing, some of the prominent men of the city who had been attracted by our display of South Illinois fruits were astonished. Our vines were loaded with the finest fruit ever grown there. We had many visitors and questions as though we had by some secret process produced such crops of grapes. They had grown the Clinton, a grape a little in advance of the common wild grape. When the people saw our success and that it was as easy to produce the best as the ordinary, grape growing had a boom. When I say “we,” in connection I mean James Hinkley and myself. Our interest here was similar, our partnership was the orchard south.

Soon after returning from Dubois in November ’64 the man left in charge of the orchard was drafted in the army. Corresponding with a man we knew in Dubois, I arranged for a party to see to things until the spring following. Then James and Harriet with their children went and remained there until the spring of 1867.

Early in ’66 Mother went on a few months’ visit to her old Indiana home, stopping on her return at Dubois with Harriet, and in November following came to us. But she was soon taken with pneumonia and died the first of December.

James had an older brother in California, a “49er,” and on his own initiative James sent funds for traveling expenses with the request that he come and take charge of the place. He accepted the proposal and at once came on. This seemed a “promising” way to secure a permanent tenant, but “all that glitters is not gold.” He was a bachelor and had charge for several years, but then he bought some land in the vicinity and remained for many years. [Note: This older brother was Adino Hinkley.]

I will now leave this theme for the present and notice more home and personal matters, and give time for our beloved boys to grow some, and fast they did. They had their childhood plays, and had for company their cousins, Anson, Arthur and later Otis and Ralph Hinkley, and this pleasant condition continued, through their school days and while Childhood lapsed into boyhood and even unto manhood there was no lengthy break in their intercourse.

As our boys grew up they were all helpful and willing, although differing in their preferences as to their studies and pursuits were very congenial at all times in their daily intercourse. Charles was cheerful, social, enjoyed music, especially singing. Harry quiet and thoughtful. Ernest ever active, urging for some new thing to do. These inclinations seemed prophetic, and were in part at least realized as they reached manhood and selected or achieved occupations.

When Charles was about eighteen he and Harry were interested in the canning business, inaugurated by Mr. Skinner, and worked at times at that at Rockford and at Chicago for a short time. We were glad when they quit that and returned to the farm.

About this time, when Harry was 17, we became very uneasy as his health seemed failing, his eyes troubling also. A little later he went to California for a change, but remained but a short time, and the next winter he spent in Florida, with the Upsons, and he, as well as ourselves, was grateful for the good results. Of his own volition he was learning shorthand, and kept it up when release from farm work gave him opportunity. Becoming proficient [he] was employed by a lawyer, studied law, and finally received his license with the results we all know.

Ernest remained on the farm and from the time he was 17 until 21 was my right hand man. His mechanical inclination or taste was such that I sought, and usually accepted, his suggestions, and in buying improved machinery for the farm accepted his decision. In ’78 and ’80 we built a basement barn that would hold a large amount of hay, and begun adding to our stock of cows, increasing our milk supply. We had been selling milk in a small way for some time to a milk peddler. This called for a way to house and fasten them. Ernest was equal to the call and soon had stanchions etc. for forty of them He remained with us until 1884. He had become restless and wished to branch out for himself, which was his perfect right. As I had of late years depended so much on him I felt his departure to his chosen field, but hoped for his success, and I was not disappointed.

The work continued with hired help. After a year or two Charles married—returned to the farm—took charge of the milking and started a milk route, and took an interest in the farm. A house was now needed, and in ’85 we built the house. We now had Charles move into it and keep the hired help, and also work the land for a year or two.

Ernest went away the 11th of August 1884, when 21 years of age, and some three years later having accomplished his purpose returned to Rockford with a wife and baby. This added another daughter to our family. As he was equipped for business, he soon got employment with a prominent lawyer and in this connection followed the same course as that of Harry, ending with his license as a lawyer. He and Harry made some arrangement that I never fully understood by which Charles became interested and which was so much more congenial to him he abandoned the farm etc. I was sorry to lose the assistance of the boys, but I was pleased that they had all succeeded on their own volition and individual efforts in reaching the desired positions. I had told Charles that I would take the charge of the farm off his hands any time he wished, and as that time had now come the transfer was made. We were living at the old home, and he was in the new farm house. We soon made the exchange. I carried on the business of farm and milking with hired help until I was 64 [1895], when in an evil hour I rented the farm, sold off most of the stock and I have never milked a cow since.

Here are views of the Andrews homes in Rockford:


I still have many pleasant memories of those active days of the long ago, and will have so long as memory lasts.

When Adino [Hinkley] took charge in 1866 the orchard had grown finely. For two or three years we had some peaches for market and in ’67 a light crop of apples. In ’68 the trees both early and late were heavily loaded. On the 4th of July I went down to help about the early harvest apples, and found a great part of them were picked and not more than half grown. These were an entire loss. I stopped the picking at once, and three weeks later we gathered the residue for which we found a profitable market in Chicago.

The winter apple crop was very good and was gathered and sold in good order for fair prices.

All our affairs continued, both at home and south, with but little change in our activities, and the results thereof until 1872. This was the 14th anniversary of our orchard experiment, and a gratifying crop of peaches and apples, both early and late, made it incumbant on me to be on hand in early summer. Charles was now 12 years old, soon followed me and became very active in his cheerful and boyish way. In August both he and the best hired man, in most respects, were stricken with fever. He [the hired man] undertook to doctor himself, with the result it caused his death, at his home in Wisconsin, where he was induced to go. Charlie’s mother on learning his condition at once came down bringing Harry and Ernest. A doctor was consulted and following his directions and her loving nursing in a few weeks had him fully restored. They all remained for some time and enjoyed delicious peaches, fresh plucked from the trees, without stint or pay. They were so abundant that the pigs almost fattened on them. They returned home in the fall, while I remained to secure the fine apple crop, several car loads of which went to Rockford and met with ready sale, the balance sold on commission south and in Chicago.

I had known Allen Cope in Mount Vernon, Indiana, some years previous to our leaving Indiana. He left there before we did, and I had lost all track of him until 1870. He learned somehow that I was at Dubois and he came to see me. We had a very pleasant reunion and what was more I learned that he was in the same business. He had a large orchard thirty miles north of us planted a few years later than ours, but was in full bearing, had a fine crop in ’72.

In April ’72 a magnificent bloom gave promise of another profitable crop. But alas we had not learned then to protect the tender bloom by smudges, from frost that sometimes cut off the fruits, and one night did the job. That year there was no apples or peaches in that section. What to do was now the question. We wanted apples, and our customers would expect us to supply them. In August following I went to Michigan and northern Indiana to spy out the land, and found that there was a good prospect of a fair supply. In September went back prepared to buy—knowing that Mr. Cope was in the same condition as to fruit as I informed him what I had done, and discovered, and soon he arrived. I had bought the apples in a number of orchards and was busy packing them when he came. In less than two months we have over two thousand barrels packed and shipped.

As Mr. Cope had a large frost proof apple house, and as I found he was a far better salesman we sent the larger part to his place and a few car loads to Rockford. As much of this fruit was for late winter and spring market, it was necessary to repack to eliminate all defective specimens. I went down to Mr. Cope’s place and spent some weeks there, while he did the marketing. A good profit was made on this venture and on what part sent home and managed by James.

Anson Hinkley was born at Farmersville November 1857. He grew up to manhood at Rockford. Sometime in the ’80s, I sold my interest at Dubois to James, and in time Anson moved there and has continued, first as his father’s assistant, and after his death as owner, and with his boys continues it with success and financial profit.

As the boys grew up we needed more land. For some time I wanted part of the Church farm which joined my first purchase on the east. Mr. Church was anxious to sell the west forty, and after dickering for a few years he reduced his first price and then I bought it, paying him in cash $2600, about 65 dollars per acre, a large reduction of his first proposal of $125 per acre. This gave us a farm of 120 acres. James had rented the Jobs farms and I subrented part of that for three years.

Sometime during the process—I do not remember the year—Mr. Agard, who was a grain dealer in the city, came to me and said that he had a mortgage or rather a trust deed of the Jackson tract and asked if I would not buy it—saying it had to be sold to cancel the obligation—about $5000, making a very reasonable offer as to payment, etc., that I at once told him that I would take it. So very soon that became one of our possessions and still is.

A few years after going to Rockford we bought a 50-acre tract on what is now Auburn Street, North Kent’s Creek running through, paying $2,000 for it, and very soon selling 24 acres of it for 90 dollars per acre to C.O. Upton, on which he built his slaughter house.

In order to get the land we needed a street, as private property in the City limits intervened. We made application to the City Council, and they after investigating granted the petition, and thus Furman Street became one of the City’s thoroughfares.

After using this tract in company with James for a number of years, I sold out my interest to him, as I had then bought the place we now live on.

The Jackson purchase included also 27 acres north of Auburn Street in the slough, Kent’s Creek meandering through it, as there was no way to reach it except by consent of Mr. Colton through his land, I tried to sell it at a low price—failing in that, we cut several crops of heavy grass, hauling the hay out through Colton’s private way and stacking it on our land.

The winter following ’81 was attended with heavy snow fall, making the roads almost impassable for the delivery of hay from a distance, giving haysellers nearby a monopoly, and ours went off at unprecedented prices.

The Brantingham estate had two 80-acre tracts west of the Jackson, and something near 46 acres from Auburn to Kent’s Creek. Dr. Lane and Joe Brantingham were executors. After several weeks dickering and in the end getting quite a reduction in the price demanded, I bought it for ten thousand and ten dollars, paying one thousand down, the balance at my option as to time, with eight per cent interest. Altogether I was now indebted to the extent of $18,000, and an annual interest obligation of $1200.

Here the fates came to my rescue apparently. B.A. Knight and James Ticknor started a boom. Knight wanted sixty acres in the southwest part of our holdings. I delegated to Harry the deal, as I thought it was the right of the boys to say yes or no. Harry put a price of $200 per acre—and $12,000 cancelled my obligations. It is one of my regrets that I did not make the farm pay instead of taking that big bite of it to do the paying.

Knight got busy; a street car line was cheaply built. Lots were selling fast at $250 or more each. Factories were built. I was invited to help financially, and as the movement had so far been to our advantage, I could not well refuse. But invariably I demanded that my investment must be made by the sale of lots at least the rate of $250 each. In this way some $2000 went. The car line, after passing through many tribulations, finally reached success in the present service of that organization, and no doubt it has been worth to us much more than what we put in it.

Now comes the Diamond Factory, and of this I do not write, or keep in my memory.

[Note: This is where he ended writing his memoirs. There was a Diamond Furniture Company that started in Rockford in 1891. Perhaps he put money in and lost it, but we will never know for sure.]






1919 Andrews Family
Back: Mae (Harry's daughter), Mamie and Harry Andrews, Rex and Beulah Andrews (Charles' son), Elizabeth P Andrews French (Charles' daughter).
Center: Mamie's sister Fannie Ginders, Mirinda and John Andrews, Vinnie and Ernest Andrews, Cordelia Andrews (Charles' widow).
Front: Charles Andrews (Harry's son), Chellis French Jr. (Charles' grandson), Glenn Andrews (Ernest's son)

Mirinda and John Andrews, 1920
About the time he was writing his memoirs
John Andrews died December 28, 1922 at the age of 91. Mirinda Andrews died April 14, 1928, age 87.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Memoirs of John Andrews, Part 4

Here is Part 3 of the Memoirs: Farm Inventions, Politics, and Business.

Father’s Death, Marriage to Mirinda, and New Business Ventures

When the schoolhouse at “Yankeytown” was burned, it contained a small library which of course suffered the same fate. In building the new house, a room was arranged for installing a library in the future, and after a few years it was commenced first by voluntary donations of books and money, and enough was realized in the latter way to purchase more. This was about 1852.

Additions were made in like manner until probably 1856 to 1858, when a wealthy philanthropist of New Harmony anticipated Carnegie in his library gifts by a number of years by giving libraries, if certain conditions of his will were complied with, the sum of five hundred dollars—and as ours fully met the requirements of the will, we got what was called the equivalent in books, but we had no choice in selecting them. We felt that there was collusion between the executor of the will and the bookseller, but rather than make a row, we receipted for what we had.

In 1854 at a meeting of those most interested, a plan was discussed for the loaning of the books, and also for someone to see to it. As no one would wish to spend much time as librarian in this small affair it resulted in choosing Saturday afternoon for distribution and a turn-about for the job of the librarian.

Father and Mother were then on a visit to two sisters of Mother’s—Dorcas Palmer in Ohio and Aunt Mary Smith in Michigan. She was the mother of George A. Smith. Father was so impressed with George’s financial ability that he offered to loan him quite a sum to aid him in a mercantile business. They were gone on this visit three months.

We had a tenant on the farm for several years, and with his help, and when occasion required other help was employed, I kept the farm work going and at the same time paid some attention to the store, which was prospering now with a competent clerk. I think that Father was pleased with results in the farm and was satisfied that I could operate the store to advantage. In a manner he suggested that I take personal control of that also. This was very gratifying to me, and what experience I had in that direction had shown me that I was a better salesman than any clerk we had before.

At this same time the cooperation mill was being built, and perhaps Father exerted himself too much both physically and mentally. He was stricken with what was called congestion chills, and in a few days he died, aged 68 years. Father’ death at this time was a great shock to us and was also a serious loss to the neighborhood community. It entailed on me responsibilities in a financial way that no previous occasions in that direction had occurred to help me to meet.

Fortunately for me nearly all the small obligations that were due him were settled. The main obligation was consolidated in the larger loan to George Smith, which I was able to satisfy at the suggested time the following spring with the specified amount, $2500, and receiving in return his note and his father’s endorsement, and mortgage on sufficient real estate to secure it. This ran for several years at a satisfactory rate of interest. He was very successful in his business, and also in a political way, serving in the State legislature, first in the lower house, then in the Senate for several terms. When the time came that I wished to use the money for a different purpose, he was well able to satisfy me. He died a few years later, aged 68.

Soon after Father’s death and before his will had been acted on, some business matters that were under way stopped for the want of a head, and here I had to assume the responsibility to go on with plans as formulated and soon affairs were in good working order.

The mill was being built under the supervision of a competent miller, one of the largest subscribers who had been a miller all his life. As most of the funds were advanced by Father to the subscribers in the form of loans, and as Father’s death under these conditions at once stopped construction, he—the miller—inquired of me what he should do. I told him to continue as proposed and that the necessary funds would be furnished. Work was soon resumed and in a few months the mill was completed in all its details and operations commenced. The miller’s name was Samuel Black. James Hinkley, who had lately returned from California and took a financial interest, was installed as engineer, and operations commenced and successfully continued for several years. A fine article of both flour and meal was made and found a ready and profitable market in New Orleans.

After a few days Father’s will was read and then probated.

It was satisfactory to all concerned. He appointed his nephew Anson S. Osborn and his most intimate friend Eben Ellis executors. In due time they settled the estate satisfactorily.

He had quite a library for that time and place of standard works of history, biography, and various other subjects. This collection had its beginning while he was in business in New York and additions to it in his latter days. The will specified that this was to be divided in three parts, to my sister Harriet, to Seth and myself. This was done, but it was a pity it had to be as it broke off its value as a whole.

To Seth and myself the farm, jointly or divided as we chose, to Mother a specified sum of money, and the profits of the farm during life. To Harriet a sum of money and eighty acres of land, mostly timber, two miles east of Farmersville. This bequest was intended—and did—equal in value one share in the farm. As I had but little money that I could use of my own, I had to borrow of Mother and Harriet for a time to keep farm, mill and store in successful operation.

In 1856 Harriet and James Hinkley were married. In 1857, having some funds that I felt free to use and knowing that James controlled Harriet’s legacy, I proposed a joint investment in a new business that had for some time been appealing to me.

Most of the farmers had apple orchards and by this time in full bearing. Apple bees were common—the young people getting together, and surrounding a generous pile of fine fruit would spend a pleasant evening in preparing the fruit for drying. This was done by spreading the pared and divided apples on large scaffolds in the sun, or stringing the sections on needle and thread so they could be hung up to dry in the house over the fire or unused rooms. Still, as the crop increased as the trees grew larger, there came to be quite a surplus and much left to waste.

[A bee in the 19th century was a work party.]

But now buyers began to buy up, pack and market them. Insects or disease had not injured it, and a ready and profitable market was developed. It surely seemed an easy way to make money. Why not try it on a larger scale? Here was Illinois joining us on the west with cheap lands and fine market facilities by both railroad and water in all directions. James had a small farm joining ours on which he was planting an orchard. I suggested that we go to Illinois and plant a large one.

After a few days reflection he assented to my proposition and in November 1857 we went and bought 165 acres in Washington county. We paid in due time $15.00 an acre. My cousin Anson Osborn was a nurseryman and on his farm joining ours had a fine lot of the then standard varieties, and the following spring—1858—we bought and shipped to our new purchase some three thousand trees, enough to plant eighty acres. This was one of the first, if not the first commercial orchard ever planted in the state. With some mishaps, through lack of experience, in a few years we had a fine orchard of apple and peach trees in bearing. It was a wonderful and pleasing surprise to me the extraordinary growth the trees made in that apparently worn out soil and the early response in a few years in fruit bearing. This place was 80 miles west from our home in Indiana.

We had employed a man with a family we had always known to take care of it, and they had moved there as soon as planting was finished. He was a good worker but lacked efficiency, and in a year or two they got homesick for their old associates, and returned to Indiana, necessitating a change.

At this time Miss Piper and I, after a year or more correspondence and some personal visits, were married in Lincoln, Illinois, on the 21st September 1858 and immediately went to my home.
For various reasons we thought it best to sell the farm and did so, giving possession the first of March following.

This enabled us to settle the estate in the manner the will prescribed, as the store building was on the farm yet was included in the sale, but the goods remained in the possession of the stock holders and continued business with a competent manager for some time. The mill was distinct and on ground purchased and owned by the stockholders. In both of these interests I retained and added to my shares. Previous to the sale of the farm Mother and Seth had gone to Genessee, Wisconsin, and bought a farm there.

In the spring of 1859 Mirinda and I bid goodbye to Farmersville and went to her father’s at Lincoln [Illinois], stopping a short time at the orchard where I planned some work for the tenant to do. As this was the first time Mirinda had ever been separated for any length of time from her people it was a very happy meeting. Down at the orchard there was several log buildings for stables and a large one of only one room and loft for the tenant. The Finches were living in this and had made it very comfortable. Yet it seemed necessary to build a new house if we should stay there for any length of time, so after stopping at Lincoln for a few days, I went back to make arrangements to build.

Cairo, Illinois, in the 1850s
I arranged with Finch to get out the sills, etc., and then I went down the Illinois Central Railroad to within a few miles of Cairo. There in a swampy locality was fine timber of poplar and cypress and mills competing with each other, very anxious to sell and raise a little money. For two or three days I selected and loaded on the cars quite a lot more than I had intended in the first place. I felt that it would all be needed in time and that never again could it be had at the-then prices. On getting back I was fortunate to find several carpenters wanting work, and they at once went to work, and in six weeks we had a house large enough for two small families. I then sent for Mirinda and in a few days she came and we went to housekeeping.

James Hinkley and Harriet had now sold their home in Indiana and they came and occupied one half the house and we the other. I had bought doors and sash for the windows and got the siding dressed, and we were able to putty in the glass and do the painting. The plastering of the house we left till late summer. It was managed by James while Mirinda and I were on a long visit at her father’s. We had not expected to make this our permanent home but thought to get things started and take time to look around.

With some of the surplus lumber we fixed up the old log house in good shape and we lived in part of it and boarded with the Finches while building the new house. This was Washington County Post Office and R.R. Station, a small place, some shops, two stores, a pharmacy and a very good doctor, and a large depot building in which lived the station agent, who was also the postmaster.

The location and the inhabitants did not appeal to us as a permanent place to reside, and we had not gone there with that expectation. The people were nearly all from the southern states, and consequently the society was not congenial, especially for Mirinda and Harriet. We remained there till 1860 when James and Harriet went to Rockford and Mirinda to her father’s, and I remained for a time at the orchard.

This was the year Lincoln was elected, and as I had now gained my citizenship I had the pleasure of casting my third presidential vote, and this time for the successful aspirant, for that high office, A. Lincoln. I had in 1852 voted for John P. Hebe, the free soil candidate who was defeated by Franklin Pierce and in 1856 for the gallant pathfinder John C. Fremont [who was defeated by James Buchanan]. In the fall of 1860 I made a trip on horseback to Indiana and on my return I joined Mirinda at Lincoln.

Our first child, Charles, was born at Lincoln in October 1859, and our second, Harry, in 1861. Charles was born while his Grandma was living. She died [January 1861, age 46]. We had gone there on my part that Mirinda could be with her mother for a long visit. Both of these boys were to their proud parents very handsome and were made much of by their Aunt Anna, a very bright and beautiful girl of 6 to 7 years old [she was actually 12 in the spring of 1861].

The death of Mrs. Piper occurred while we were making preparations to go there, but as we had agreed to and as Mr. Piper had asked me to come and take charge of his farm for the season, we went there in March 1861, just before Lincoln was inaugurated [inauguration day was March 20]. As soon as the season opened for farm work, the two boys [Mirinda’s brothers Asa and Charles, ages 17 and 15], and myself got to plowing and in May to planting. For reasons of his own Mr. Piper sent Charles to a friend at Mt. Pulaski and that left Asa and I to do the farm work. As there was no small grain, all the plowed ground, some twenty-five or thirty acres, was planted to corn. We got the planting done with some help in good season, and a good stand of corn rewarded our effort and after cultivation gave us a good crop.

In the place of small grain there was a large piece of heavy meadow. Now the question was how was that to be harvested? A part of it was sold on the ground to some of his friends, but the larger part was left for Asa and myself to manage. The men to whom Mr. Piper had sold a part of it went at it with their scythes, and he expected me to do the same. At this I demurred and on inquiry, I found there was a mowing machine in the vicinity that could be hired. I told Asa to look it up. I did not propose to do by hand what could be more readily done by horse power.

Mr. Piper evidently thought I was taking advantage of his offer to harvest it on the ½ shares he had proffered for managing his farm. But knowing the better way I was obdurate. Asa found the machine and employed the owner to come and cut the grass. A hay rack was found a few miles away and that being secured, we were ready for the job, and as the weather was fine, with some additional help, we soon had it all in the stack.

Soon after the corn was ready to lay by, and I was anxious to prepare for the future. James Hinkley in 1859 had left the orchard home and found Rockford satisfactory to him and had bought some property there, had a house built, and moved there in November 1860. When we got the farm work where a vacation of a few weeks would not interfere, I went to visit them—James and Harriet—at their home in Rockford. This was in July 1861. I was pleased with the town and surrounding country, and my only objection was that it was so far north. Realizing that the sisterly sympathy existing between Harriet and Mirinda was a strong factor in making a new home, I took an option for a short time on a lot of seven acres in the city limits adjoining James’ tract of ten acres. The price was about $200 an acre.

Then before closing the deal I went back to Lincoln and soon after down to the orchard. The Finches having left, I installed a new tenant—James Longfellow.

I then went to Farmersville, Indiana, on horseback, a two day trip. This was not a pleasant one. The Civil War was raging, the people were largely southern sympathizers and the Union men kept quiet. At one small village a peculiar and suspicious flag was flying. I went in a public house where there was on the floor the national emblem [the flag of the United States]. Seeing it there, I made an inquiry about the unfurled emblem. I received no satisfactory answer, but the approach of a number of apparent investigators suggested that it might be the part of prudence to resume my journey.


The next day I reached Farmersville. The store buildings with most of the goods had burned the year previous and a very modern store occupied its place. The old cooperative company was superseded by an individual management. My loss by the burned store was several hundred dollars. The mill was still adding to my income in a very generous manner.

On this occasion I settled up all my business there, and in order to do so in one case took a nice buggy to balance an account. Buying a harness, I put my horse to the buggy, my saddle and belongings, including quite a sum of money, in it and started on my return trip.

On my return from Indiana on this occasion I stopped at the orchard for several days. We had quite a drove of hogs, some 60 or 70 head that with proper feed would be marketable in a few months. While in Farmersville a former neighbor was inquiring for stock of that kind to feed, and knowing that we had not sufficient corn at Dubois of our own, I thought this a good chance to get rid of them. Getting a good offer, I sold the lot to be delivered at a town on the Wabash about 70 miles away. This plan was carried out and a check for quite a sum was received.

As the horse that had taken me to and from Indiana could not be spared from the farm, it had to be replaced. Having a number of unbroken colts, I exchanged two of them for a fine large one and started on the way to Lincoln where I arrived after ten days’ absence.

I now closed up the deal for the lots in Rockford. As money at this time was in great demand I received a large rebate for the cash payment of the whole sum. I made arrangements with a carpenter in Rockford to build a house, indicating as near as I could by letter the point or place to build and sending the plan I wished followed.

Ellen Hall, an adopted girl of Mother’s that had been with us for some time and all the while we were at Lincoln helping in the housework on the farm, was sent to Rockford by railroad and also all our household goods.

Here is the final episode. Part 5: Fruit Farming and Permanent Roots in Rockford