Reminisces of Flora Blanche Martens Winebrenner
Transcribed from a letter received by her Grandson (Larry Winebrenner) over 50 years ago.
In case you don't know, that word, reminiscing, means looking back, remembering things that happened in the days before yesterday.
I was born December 31, 1885. Now I don't remember quite that far back. I was the youngest of quite a large family, not all the children of one mother, my father having married 4 times. I was the youngest by his third wife. I don't remember my mother. I was just past two years old when she died. Then there was a succession of housekeepers in the next three years, when my father again took unto himself a wife.
Of this marriage there was no issue. My stepmother was past bearing age when she became Dad's wife. She was a short, stout woman, not quite 5 ft. tall-. My Dad was German, born near Copenhagen and this new wife was born near Vienna, in what was then Austria Hungaria, and spoke very little English. That was no drawback for Dad because he spoke to her in German and we kids spoke English, but could understand German quite well, our Dad saw to that, and although we could not read or write German, we were quite familiar with the spoken language. My Dad was a very proficient German scholar and learned to read and write English. He subscribed to several newspapers, among them one printed in German. My stepmother could read German and had her Bible and prayer book, but could not write or read writing. But, oh what a worker she was.
Our Home Place
We lived on a little old stony farm of about 70 acres and our biggest crops were rocks and wild blackberries. We generally kept 4 cows and one horse, a few hens, a couple dogs, numerous cats and generally 2 hogs to furnish salt pork. If we wanted beef, we bought a few lbs. from the local butcher. Most of the farm was steep hillside, so there was very little tillable soil. There was a garden, generally about an acre, for sweet corn and a potato patch, maybe a couple of acres for a field corn patch, and a small patch of rye which Dad raised every year to feed his horse. He would thrash the rye and have the seed ground for chaff, the straw was put thru a cutting box and the cut-up straw was mixed with the ground grain and enough water to make the chaff stick to the straw and this was fed to the horse. Pole beans were planted with the corn to save cutting poles. We also had a few apple trees and cherry and plum trees. There were also about a dozen maple trees that were tapped for their sap in season. We had several large iron kettles in which we boiled the sap to make maple syrup and oh, how good that syrup tasted on buckwheat cakes!
The stony acres were divided into fields, each having a distinctive name, such as the top field, the little field - which was just a strip along our neighbor's line fence and too steep for anything but pasture, the orchard, the meadow, the sugar camp - though why that name I don't know because there were only a couple of maple trees enclosed - the rest were scattered along the path to the watering trough and the stream that fed it, and two that shaded the springhouse where we kept our milk. There was also the field above the house, which was the largest field and the one most cultivated. This field was terraced because it too was too steep to cultivate otherwise. Then there, was the barn field and the lower field, the two least steep of all the farm, but so stony that I don't remember them ever being under cultivation.
The house where we were all born was built of logs, two rooms down and a loft above, also divided into two rooms. These rooms must have been built at different times because there was no connecting door in the loft, there was also no chimney or flue, just a stove pipe stuck up thru the roof.
We had a small bank barn, large enough to house 3 horses and 6 cows with a feed room adjacent to each with a place between for calves or yearlings. I don't remember Dad ever having any young cattle, so that space was always vacant except one time we had ½ dozen sheep that were housed there. What happened to those sheep I don't remember.
I must have been about seven when Dad built a frame house, about four yards from the log house, nearer the spring. We lived in a limestone region, hence we had hard water. Momma saved all waste fats to make soap and that homemade lye soap was what was used for dishwashing, scrubbing and laundry, and how I hated it. We used leno, or octagon soap, for toilet soap. I suppose I was in my teens before we began to use Ivory or some other brands of toilet soap.
There was also a wood lot and the clover field. our garden was enclosed by a picket fence to keep out the chickens. All the rest of the farm was free range for the chickens.
After the new house was built, one of my sisters moved into the log house and her husband farmed the place for a year or two. After that, my brother John moved into the log house and he farmed a few acres for a year. After that, one part of the log house was turned into a hen house and the other half into a storehouse.
There were a number of black walnut trees on the place and we kids had those and hickory and butternuts to enjoy and, until the blight killed the chestnut trees, we enjoyed them too. In blackberry season we picked and sold berries at $.20 per gal. and with the money earned from that we bought our school clothes generally two new gingham or print dresses, two pinafores, two slips and a pair of shoes. Our hose were hand-knit from wool yarn, generally by a cousin who made his home with us during the winter months. He would knit the hose of two color yarn in stripes that ran around our legs and mitts or gloves of two color yarns in the most intricate patterns, and how proud we were of those warm woolen hose and gloves.
Oh yes, there was something else unique about those pre-teen years. We drank tea, not the kind you buy in stores but the kind that grew wild in fields and woods, which we harvested and dried ourselves. There was pennyroyal, a delicately flavored plant that grew among the rocks in the wood; and landstrip, which we drink by the gallon, especially during maple water time. There was sassafras, of which we dug the roots and drank during the Spring as a blood purifier. There was wild cherry bark that made a very effective cough syrup; catnip or catmint, which was very soothing to babies who were fretful; elder blossom and peppermint each had a medicinal value - the elder blossom to break a fever and peppermint to soothe a cold. There was also spicewood and birch that we kids loved as a special treat and also wintergreen - the berries of which we ate and chewed the leaves to make our breath sweet. Tansy was used as a purge and horehound for coughs.
Then in September we would pare and quarter apples, string them on cord and hang them on the porch to dry. When dry they were unstrung and stored for use in winter. A bowl of dried apples or a pie made of the dried apples was a tasty treat. Another thing we did was dry sweet corn when in the milky stage. We boiled the roasting ears, cut the corn from the cobs and dried it in the oven. This was also stored for winter and oh, how good a dish of boiled dried sweet corn tasted.
When I was about nine, my Dad went to Connellsville and Pittsburg to visit two of my sisters who lived in those cities. While he was gone Mom and I were alone. One evening Mom sent me to Wellersburg for the mail. While I was gone Mom took the milk pails and went to do the milking. She was sitting on a stool milking one of the cows when Tom, our old horse, came into the barnyard. He never hurt any of the cows, but when he walked toward them, they would move out of his path, and it so happened he went toward the cow she was milking. The cow turned to get out of his way and upset Mom across the stool and hurt her.
She began to cry and pray and call for help. The dogs, hearing her, began to bark and howl. I heard the commotion before I got home but didn't know what it was all about. So I changed my clean dress for the one I had been working in before I went to the barn. There I found Mom leaning against the sled which was housed beneath the fore shoot to be out of the weather.
“What happened Mom?” I asked.
She told me and I helped her to the house and to bed and then once again took myself to Wellersburg for help and a doctor. Peter Knerieum and his wife Becky were very good friends and to them I went first and told my tale. Then to old doctor Fectig and told him, then back to the Knerieum's, and the three of us hurried back to the farm. We crossed the fields by a foot path and were there long before the doctor got there, because he drove his buggy and had to come by the road, which was more than two miles. I don't remember what the doctor said or did, but Mom had to stay in bed for sometime. Mr. Knerieum went to Cumberland the next day and sent a wire to my Dad to come home because his wife was ill. The accident happened on Thursday evening but it was Sunday before Dad got home. He brought my sister Belle home with him and she stayed with us until Mom was able to take over again. Mom always had a lump the size and shape of a kidney in her back after the accident.
Trouble for our Cow
Another time I remember I was sent for help after night for a sick cow to this same Mr. Knerieum. It so happened that Peter had just come in from a long trip over the Allegheny Mountains and was dead tired, so he could not come. "Go to Mr. Goetz. He is a very good hand with sick cattle." So I went back home and told Dad what Peter had said. So I was dispatched to Mr. Ben Goetz. This was about 3-1/2 miles in the opposite direction.
“I don't know where he lives,” I said.
“You can't miss the place.” And he gave me directions and I set out carrying a lantern. It took me over an hour to reach the Goetz place and it was after two a.m. I knocked at the door and a young woman answered the knock.
“Well for pities sake–who are you and what brings you here this time of night?" I explained my mission and she said, “Sorry child, but Grandad has been laid up with rheumatic fever for two weeks. I'd say go for Harmon Hossleroad, but he isn't home. He is helping John Baker stir off a batch of maple sugar.”
So there I was, all that walking for nothing. I returned home to find the cow stretched out in the stable and Mom crying. She and Dad had been up all night to no avail. No one told me what was the matter with the cow, but Mr. Knerieum came to our place shortly after I got home and I heard him tell Dad it was a breech presentation and even had he been there earlier it was doubtful he could have saved the cow for the calf would have had to have been cut up and taken in pieces to save the cow and he wasn't enough of a vet to do that.
So we lost a cow.
The fall before I was 14 our black walnut trees were loaded. We had bushels and bushels more than we could ever use. So Dad sold some to his butter and egg customers, but there were still bushels lying on the ground. Then one day an old acquaintance of Dad's, a Mr. George Deitle, drove in with his three sons looking for walnuts.
“Well,” Dad said, “you have come to the right place. There are bushels lying out there for the squirrels to carry away. I think they can spare you some.”
Well the boys gathered up several feed sacks full and they drove away. The following week they were back for more. Mr. Deitle was a short, wizened little man with a wrinkled up face that only a mother could love. His two oldest sons were replicas of their dad, but they were jolly and once you learned to know them you couldn't help liking them. The youngest boy, a lad of 17, was tall, slender like his mother and really good looking.
Now this will sound funny, but is true. John, the oldest boy, had a number of warts on his hands and one on his knuckle bothered him a lot. It was large and he was always bumping it against everything. I had heard from someone that if you tied a silk thread tightly about a wart it would die and fall off, so we decided to try and see if there was any truth to it. So I got a piece of silk thread and tied it tightly around the wart. While Dad and Mr. Deitle exchanged views, we young ones played dominoes until bedtime. Poor John was suffering with that thread around his wart, but said nothing. Next morning we asked him how his wart was and had it fallen off yet?
“No it hasn't and it hurts like blazes. I didn't sleep all night!”
I felt sorry for him and the other boys laughed at him.
My Dad said, “Well, there isn't anything you can do about it but let the thread on it if you can bear the pain. The thread will stop the blood from circulating and the wart will die and drop off.”
It kept on hurting for a while but before night it eased off and the next morning the wart was gone. He lost it in the bed, nothing to show for all his pain but a tiny white scar. But, oh those hours of agony he suffered to get rid of one wart!
A Proposal of Marriage
How Dad and Mr. Deitle got on to the subject of marriage I'll never know, but they did. John was 21. Sam, the next one, was 19, and Jerry, the youngest, was 17 and poor me, not quite 14, but I was well-built and husky and Mr. Deitle said if I could suit myself with one of his boys he would give us a cow, a pair of pigs and give us a hen and brood of chicks to begin our married life. Dad said that is a good offer, but Flora is not quite 14 yet and there is plenty of time.
I have often wondered if Mr. Deitle thought that was all that was needed to set up a new home. I guess we could have eaten walnuts and drank milk and bedded down in the hay somewhere, nothing was said about a house or furniture. Well it turned out we never found out what would have happened. Jerry and I exchanged a few letters and that was it.
Siblings and Other Kin
By then my sister Belle was married and living in Connellsville. After school was out the next Spring I went to visit her for a month. When I came home my brother Christ came after me. His wife Kate was expecting a new baby and needed some help and I stayed with them several months and then went back home for a while.
Then Bill Christner, a cousin who was running a sawmill near Glencoe, needed someone to help his wife with the cooking for 18 men and a 3-year old child to care for. They lived in a shack that housed the men. In what they called the bunk house there was a kitchen where we did the cooking. There were 2 bedrooms on the first floor, Christner, his wife and their boy slept in one, I had the other, the men slept in straw bunks on the second floor. It was my job to make up those bunks, help with the cooking, wash dishes and help care for the 3-year old. That job lasted just 3 weeks. Mrs. Christner told Bill she would not take the responsibility of a 15-year old girl getting in trouble with all those men about. So he drove me back home.
Meanwhile, my brother John, now past thirty, was courting a girl in Mt. Savage, Annie Hummelwright by name. A typhoid epidemic broke out in Mt. Savage and Annie was one of the victims. When she died we all went to visit the bereaved family and Mrs. Hummelwright asked me if I was looking for a job and I told her yes. Her niece, Mary Elliot, was looking for someone to do housework for her during her confinement. She only wanted someone until she was back on her feet. I stayed with her for 3 weeks. While there, a neighbor of hers, Susie Winebrenner, came in to visit. She was also looking for help and I went to her next and there is where I met my husband.
Bill and Susie Winebrenner had 2 children, both with light curly hair, both just babies. This was number 3. Bill also had a bachelor brother, who, on our second date, asked me to be his wife. We only dated 2 months when we were married. Quick work you will say, but I never had reason to regret it. I worked for Susie 3 weeks. From there I went to Winfield Trimble's and from there Larry and I were married. Mr. Trimble was a widower with two sons younger than myself. He also had a housekeeper - a maiden lady - who was Aunt Polly to everybody. She was suffering from eczema at the time, her hands were a mess. It was she who taught me how to bake bread.
Oh, I had baked bread before, I had mixed up dough, formed it into loaves and baked it. But Aunt Polly watched me mix that dough and when I thought I was finished mixing, she asked me what I was going to do with the flour left in the bottom of the pan. "Throw it out to the birds I guess, it isn't any good. It's all lumpy." I said. "No child, we don't waste good flour. We add a little more water and keep on mixing and mixing and kneading, until every grain is taken up and the mass of dough is smooth and elastic like rubber. Then grease the whole thing and cover it up and let it rise and there will be no lumps in your bread nor any wasted flour." said Aunt Polly. That kind old lady taught me a lot in the month I lived in that household and I have thanked my lucky stars many a time for the things she taught me.
Setting Up Housekeeping
Now it was 1902, Larry was working for the C & P Railroad Co. 10 hours per day for $1.25 per day. We were married January 29th, but did not go to housekeeping until May 10th because Larry's shack was occupied by his brother Bill's family. Bill was building and his house was not finished until then. Bill built his house 2 stories, 2 large rooms, downstairs and up with 9 foot ceilings.
Our shack was 1-1/2 stories with 7 foot ceilings downstairs, just 14 by 20 feet and 14 feet on the square. Our downstairs contained two rooms, 12 x 14 and 8 x 9-1/2'. The rest of the smaller portion being taken up by the stairway. The downstairs was not ceiled so the 2 x 9" joists were exposed and the upstairs ceilings sloped on both sides under the roof. These, however, were ceiled with rough 1 inch lumber. The whole thing was lined with heavy building paper. A 10' x 14' shed kitchen was added to the back, giving us 5 rooms. The 2 rooms of the main shack were also covered by another layer of paper which Bill and Susie had put on while living there. There was a brick flue in the larger room, which served for both living room and the shed kitchen.
Larry's mother gave him his bed that we had been sleeping in, complete, a wash stand, a kitchen table and a lounge. We bought a 4-hole cook stove called Torchlight and 6 chairs, kitchen variety and a cupboard. My Dad gave me a cupboard and a rope bedstead that was stored in the log house on the farm.
The stove we bought was equipped with
2 iron pots,
2 iron skillets
a tea kettle,
2 iron griddles,
2 bread pans,
1 large draining or biscuit pan,
4 pie pans,
poker and lifter and a soot scraper
and one coal hod,
all for $23.00.
We bought enough hemp carpet to cover the living room, at 19 cents per yard, 3 shades for the living room and bedroom windows and lace curtains for the same. The shades were paper, at 20 cents each, curtains were 49 cents per pair. We bought 1-1/2 yards oilcloth for the table, our kitchen chairs were 50 cents each.
We went to the grocer's and bought:
a barrel of flour at $3.75,
a pork shoulder at 9 cents a pound,
a slab of salt side,
5 lbs. of soup beans at 3 cents a lb.,
sugar at 4 cents a lb.,
10 lb. of corn meal for 19 cents,
baking powder and soda,
2 wash tubs and a scrub board,
broom and scrub brush,
2 water pails,
a wash basin,
dipper and soup ladle,
2 oil lamps, No. 1 and No. 2 burners.
bought enough muslin for 1 sheet and 1 pr. pillow cases,
5 yds. cotton crash toweling for dish towels and
5 yds. unbleached linen toweling for hand towels.
Well, we moved in, and now it was up to me. Our first breakfast alone was several slices of that shoulder, fried, a skillet full of milk gravy, homemade bread and coffee. We had also bought an alarm clock so I could be sure of getting up in time to cook breakfast for my man before he went to work. I hemmed towels and made a pair of pillow cases and a sheet that first week so I could have a change of bed clothes.
We planted a garden. Larry bought a cow from my Dad and my Dad had given me a tea set of 26 pieces and ½ dozen steel tea and table spoons, knives and forks. Larry's Mother was Mother to all of her kids and I called her Mother too. She had a cow and chickens and they had built a springhouse below the spring where she kept her milk and butter. Now I also had a cow and we shared the springhouse.
We Get a Dog
We soon discovered that we were not the only occupants of our shack, we had company. The place was infested with mice. They were very friendly creatures, but very shy. often when we were eating our meals they would come out from their retreat and sit and watch us eat, waiting for an invitation to come join us, I suppose. I told Larry they looked like they were thumbing their noses at us. We bought traps and set them but only caught a few.
Then one day I went to Mt. Savage for the mail and some small item at the store and while in town dropped in on my sister-in-law, Larry's brother Stewart's wife, for a chat. While there, her two little boys came in leading a little dog by a piece of cord, the kind you tie up grocery packages with. The dog was black with a white chest and a plumy tail.
Their mother said, “Now you boys must get rid of that dog. I just can't be bothered with a pup, six kids are enough to look after.”
“Oh, Mom, he won't be any bother. Can't we keep him please?”
“No boys, nothing doing. I know you boys. You'll be taking him to bed with you and feeding him at the table and goodness knows what else.”
I spoke, “Boys, how about giving me the pup since your Mother doesn't want you to keep him. I don't have any children, and he can be company for me.”
“Oh, would you like to have him, Aunt Flora?”
“Yes, I would. And I'll be good to him.”
They gave me the pup, with the cord leash still attached, and I led him home by that leash. I tied him to the porch bannister until Larry came home from work. I didn't know that Larry was afraid of dogs. Big, little, or medium size. But I found that out when he came home. The first thing he said when he saw the pup was, “Where did that come from?” I explained. And he said, “Neither can we keep him. He will grow up and be a menace and cause all kind of trouble. Take him back.”
I was disappointed, for I loved dogs and cats and all animals except mice and rats, because they were destructful. I untied the cord from the little dog's collar and patted his head and told him to stick around. “Maybe I can persuade Larry to let me keep you.”
I went to milk and he followed me. We ate supper and I fed the little dog. All at once he made a spring for the living room and I wondered what was up. In a few seconds he came back and dropped a mouse in front of me.
“Well, puppy, are you a mouser? I thought that was a cat's title, but if you are, there are plenty of mice around here for you to catch.”
I threw my soiled apron in the corner and the pup curled up on it and we went to bed. We found 3 more mice on the door sill the next morning, dead.
“Well Larry, don't you think we can keep the little fellow. He don't look like he'll get very big and with all these mice around we can use him,” I said.
Larry replied, "We'll keep him a couple days and we'll see.”
So Rover stayed and over the years he became famous as a ratter. What breed he might have originated from we never knew, but rats, mice, moles and chipmunks all fell prey to him. Nothing else was ever harmed. Baby chicks and kittens were safe with him.
In August of that first year of our married life, Larry received a raise in wages, 10 cents on the day, giving him $1.35 per day for 10 hours. We were planning on saving that extra 10 cents per day but it melted away with the rest. We never did save a dime of it, having started out buying on a monthly basis, it seemed we never could get out of it. We bought what we needed on credit and paid at the end of the month. When cool weather came in the fall we needed a heating stove and feed for our cow. We had managed to build a stable, also on the installment plan.
In January of 1903, just 10 days before we were married a year, our first baby arrived–a girl, Ellen Blanche. More extra money was needed. A girl must be paid for the several weeks of my confinement and the doctor must be paid. The doctor's fee was $5.00. We paid the girl $1.50 per week for 3 weeks. Hay was 90 cents per hundred lb. bale and the cow could put away a bale and a half per month besides the mill feed she ate. Oh yes, I forgot, Larry bought 2 pigs of his Dad's that first year and we had to buy corn to fatten them.
Time marches on. In 1905, in February, our second child was born, another girl, Anna Lilian, and we had an old lady stay with me for 8 weeks. She could not do the laundry so that was done by Susie. We paid the old lady $1.00 per week while she was with us. Anna Lilian was a fat, rolly polly baby weighing 10 lbs. at birth.
When she was 16 months old, our 3rd child came along another girl, Margaret Jane. After 6 weeks my milk failed and I had to put her on a formula. Thank goodness we had a cow. Our doctor gave me a formula of 4 oz. milk, 4 oz. boiled water, tablespoonful of lime water and a teaspoonful sugar in every bottle and put her on a 4-hour schedule. That made 6 feedings per day and I made up a full day's schedule each morning and kept the bottles in the springhouse to keep it sweet. We had no icebox or refrigerator.
Now I was a very busy person with 3 babies, 2 of them in diapers, a cow to milk, chickens and pigs to feed, a garden to help keep free of weeds, laundry to do, all by hand, all my water must be carried from the spring vegetables and fruits to can for next winter. Oh, I was busy all right, but we were happy.
This was 1906. During that summer, we had a cloudburst that raised the water in our small creek to a flood. Our springhouse was on this creek bank and all our milk was upset in the trough. The baby's bottles, having corks, did not spill, but several of them soured and I had to empty them, sterilize the bottles, and make new formula. I think that was the year of the San Francisco earthquake and I remember us saying how much worse their calamity was than ours.
Our hog pen was also on the bank of that creek and Larry had built a pen of logs around the pen so the pigs had some ground in which to root and wallow. Larry feared his pigs would drown and was all for going out there and releasing them. The water was at least hip deep and swift.
I said, “No, Larry. You are not going out there. The water would wash you away. if those pigs drown we will be minus our winter's pork, but if you are washed away, what will I do without you, and our three babies, they need you too!”
When the water finally went down (it only lasted a couple of hours) we found our pigs alive and well. The water had washed weeds and debris against that fence and the floor in the pen was only washed clean. But our pigs didn't get any milk the next couple of days.
The flash flood took half our garden and the water reached the steps of our back porch. This put the fear of future floods into Larry’s head. So in 1907 he had the shack moved to higher ground. They tore the flue down, put rollers under the shack and moved the whole thing, nothing was taken out of the house and nothing was broken. The shack was set on posts, the flue was rebuilt and housekeeping same as before, only now Larry decided to dig out a cellar and put a foundation at least under part of our home. Work, work, work, that man could find more things to do. Work all day on the railroad then work on his excavation until 9 o'clock, fall into bed so exhausted he could hardly say goodnight. He finally got 2 corners of his foundation in place. It was not a very deep cellar. You could not stand upright in it, but he worked on that wall until he had enough space for a potato bin and a row of shelves on which to store my canned goods.
February 14, 1908, our 4th child came - another girl, Marie Christine. Since it seemed I wasn't going to get any sons, I named this one for my dad, Christine for Christopher. Of all the grandchildren, he had no namesake and there were several dozen.
The second calf our first cow dropped was a heifer and we raised it so now I had two cows and we managed to have them freshen at different times of the year, thus assuring a constant supply of milk and butter. This with our garden and a few hens, plus our two porkers each fall constituted most of our food supply. We bought flour, cereal, sugar, salt and an occasional piece of beef. All the rest was home grown and home canned. We lived very well.
Our First Boy
June 29, 1909 our 5th child arrived, a boy this time, Lawrence Murray, named for his Dad and the doctor who delivered him.
During this year and the next the Western Maryland Railroad was laid and it passed our place just a few hundred yards above our house. A crew of men camped in a large house adjacent to ours and they got their water supply from our spring. I still don't know what nationality these men were, but foreigners, and all foreigners were Hunkies to everybody so we called them Hunkies. The foreman was named Popovitch. His wife did the cooking for the crew. Mike Popovitch spoke broken English and his wife no English at all. Mrs. Popovitch was delivered of a baby while they were camped there and since I was the only woman in the place that Mike knew, he came for me when the doctor asked him to get some woman to assist him.
I can hear Dr. Murray yet saying, “Whiskey and beer by the gallon and not a d_____ stitch to dress this child!”
I returned to my home and got an outfit of my own baby's and dressed that child and gave Mike a list of things to get so I could make some clothes for the baby diapers, gowns, bands, etc.
There was another family living in that house since it was a double. One evening, while we were eating supper, Larry's brother Bill, who had dropped in and was sitting by the window, said to us, "Hey, look out there Popovitch's house is on fire!"
We looked, and sure enough, the place was ablaze. Someone in the second story had upset or knocked down a lamp and the flame was going for the roof. All the men ran to help the family on the other side of the house to get them and their possessions out. Henry Winebrenner was the man and they had several small children. Henry brought his wife, Anne, and the kids to our house for the night.
We gave them shelter for the night, bedding the kids down on the pallet on the floor. The neighboring men saved all the furnishings. They were all piled up in the field far enough from the fire to be safe. I think they lost a wooden wash tub that, in the fire, was forgotten on the front porch.
During all the excitement of the fire, Mrs. Popovitch and her baby were forgotten. When all the excitement died down, Mike knocked on our door.
“Please give my wife and baby shelter tonight. I have no one to go to.”
Larry said, “We are full up. Can't any of the other neighbors find any room for you?”
Mike said, “I only know this good lady. Please give my wife, just my wife and baby, shelter. I can sleep on the ground. I only ask for them.”
I said, “We are crowded, but I'll share my bed with your wife and baby. I have a baby too, you know, and we will share. Larry, you bed down with the 4 girls, upstairs. Henry and his family have the back room. I'll take Mrs. Popovitch in with Murray and myself and we'll manage until tomorrow.”
And that is what we did. Henry found a house to move into and they left the next day. I don't remember where the Popovitch family went, but they also left.
Several Deaths in the Family
During the fall and winter of 1909-1910, Larry's sister was dying of cancer and Susie and I took turns staying up with her nights. Susie also had a young baby. She was nursing hers at breast, mine was bottle fed, so I could leave my child at home while Susie had to take hers with her. It was a very icy winter and we had a good stretch to go. There were 4 lots between and on the side of a hill. Walking was precarious, but we made it. Lizzie, the sister, died March 30th and Larry's Dad, who was helpless from the waist down, died on April 5th.
Dad Winebrenner [James Hiram] was a huge man, well over 200 lbs., and Susie and I were all the help Mother had to lift him onto the commode and back to his rocking chair. Susie ruptured herself lifting him and I lost my next baby the very day Lizzie died, so I didn't go to either funeral. I was only 6 or 7 weeks pregnant, but hemorrhaged terribly. The doctor ordered me to stay in bed for a week and off my feet for another week and no lifting or heavy work for another month, and I was glad to obey. I was so weak from hemorrhaging, but I couldn't lie abed and see my man and kids want for food, so with the help of my 7 year old girl I managed the cooking and baking. Another sister of Larry's, Jane, did my washing and milking until I was strong enough to take over again. Lucky it was summer time so we didn't need to worry about keeping a fire going except to cook and bake.
My little girls kept the floor swept and the house picked up and with ½ gal. pails kept the water bucket and tea kettle filled. Bless their hearts, they were good children. Poor Larry had to tend our garden alone, but he didn't complain. When I would sympathize with him he would say, “You just take care of yourself and the babies and get well and strong again, I'm doing O.K.” God bless him, he was so very good to his family.
In April of 1911 Mother Winebrenner [Suzanne Logsdon] died. She went to live with Bill and Susie after Dad died. She had chronic bronchitis and dropsy the last year of her life. I was with her the night she passed away. Either Susie or I stayed up with her at night. This night was my turn. She wanted up on the commode and I helped her up. She asked for a drink and I had to step to the dresser to get her drink.
I said, “Think you can sit alone til I can get your drink?”
She replied, “Oh yes, I'll be O.K.”
I stepped to the dresser for the glass of water, but before I got back to her side, she threw both arms up and went over backwards on the floor. I ran to the stair door and called Susie and Bill. They came down quick as they could, but she was gone and we could not revive her. I went home. We lived just across the road from each other. I told Larry his Mother was gone and we cried in each other's arms for a while, then, since it was almost time to get up anyway, I went to the kitchen and started breakfast.
Over the years, I can't recall the dates, Larry received small raises in his wages. From $1.35 to $1.60 to $1.85 per day. Also there was a cut in time from 10 hours to 9 hours. Working men everywhere were fighting for higher wages and shorter hours. Railroad repairmen were always the last to get a raise and were the lowest paid of all laboring men.
There was a piece of vacant land adjacent to our property belonging to the Union Mining Company that was ideal for pasture and Larry rented this and threw a barbed wire fence around it and here we pastured our cows. Some of our neighbors also had cows and asked us to pasture them because it was close, else they would have to pasture with Mr. Trimble, who also pastured cattle. The price for pasture was $1.00 per head per month, May thru October.
About 1912, Larry took a notion to buy out the heirs of my Dad's old steep rocky farm. The farm did not belong to Dad outright, his second wife's father had given it to her with the understanding that should she die first, the place was still his as long as he should live. At his death it would go to her heirs and there were six children - 4 boys and 2 girls. Two of the boys had sold out their shares to their oldest sister. The rest were all willing to sell, except the youngest girl. She was also willing to sell, but her husband said to sell the ground but hold on to the mineral rights because, he said, "There is coal under there and maybe some day a mine will be opened and you will get a share of that." Larry said, "No deal, if I can't have the whole thing, I don't want any of it. I might have crops planted and someone comes along digging for minerals and my crops are ruined! I accept no such deal, we stay where we are. The old place isn't worth that much anyway." So we didn't move. At the time I was disappointed but I'm glad since that the deal didn't go thru. There is nothing there now. There was a mine opened on the place. The frame house burned down. The log house was torn down or fell down. The bank barn was torn down. The foundation stones were used to shear up the mine. All the fences rotted away and the place is a wilderness of locust, wild rose bushes and sumac and I suppose wild blackberries. What timber was on the place was sold. Even the fruit trees went to the mill.
Dad and Mom Move
My Dad bought a house in Wellersburg and moved there. He and Mom were too old to stay on the old place alone. There were no neighbors nearer than Wellersburg and no one there who cared enough to look after two old folks who were no relation.
World War I
Next rumblings of trouble all over Europe. Small nations were being taken over by stronger nations. War mad Kaiser Bill of Germany took over all the small western countries of Europe. Poland first, then the others (I can't name them) one after the other and the papers were full of the atrocities. 1914-15-16-17, more and more cities being bombed, ships were torpedoed, food and war material that America was shipping to the beleaguered countries was being sunk. England was now in the war. London was bombed. Where would it all end? If Kaiser Bill wasn't stopped, would the U.S. be next? Heaven forbid. Some of our boys were anxious to get into the fray and shipped across. Some joined the Canadian troops. and then our ships were being sent to the bottom by mines and torpedoes and the U.S. went into the war to help England and her allies.
In December 1914 another child was born to us, another girl, Roberta Violet.
Our boys were being drafted for overseas duty. All men from 21 to 40 were eligible and Larry's brother Bill was in that bracket. Bill could not read and Susie had to stop to spell every second word, so Bill came to our house to hear the war news read. I was in bed, but that didn't matter. I must read every night after supper. I would get so tired I would fall asleep reading. I was three months getting my usual good health back after that confinement. Every time I got up and tried to do any housework I'd take a backseat and go back to bed for another week.
1918 Flu Epidemic
In 1918, the year of the flu, when people were dying like flies, my oldest girl, Blanche, was the first one to take it in Slabtown. She came home from school feeling ill. Next day she was worse and she stayed in bed. In just a couple of days the next two in order were down. When they tried to get up, their noses would start to bleed. The wouldn't eat. They developed coughs. My boy, then 9, and Marie, 10, were next to take it, but by then Blanche was feeling better.
I had an awful pain in my chest, but with all those babies to think about, I just couldn't give up and go to bed. Besides, I was afraid if I gave up and laid down I'd never get up again. My chest hurt me so bad I couldn't sleep anyhow, so I rested in the rocking chair, dozing when my eyelids wouldn't stay open any longer. Then I thought if I only had a bottle of Dr. Dunlop's King of Pain. I believed it would ease this pain. My Dad had sold this medication for years and we all swore by it. No matter what the pain was caused by, a dose of that eased the pain. I got up and went to the big corner cupboard and began searching thru my assortment of remedies and found a King of Pain bottle with perhaps a teaspoon full of the medication in it. It was supposed to be taken in a glass of water with a teaspoon of sugar.
Well, there was just about one dose in that bottle so I got a glass and fixed it and drank it down, hoping it would at least ease that pain. In about 15 minutes I began to cough and I heard or felt something like a bubble bursting and I began to spit mouthful after mouthful of the most awful stinking stuff anyone ever smelled. It was October and there were flies and as I spat that stink into the coal hod they swarmed over that. I kept covering it with coal until the coal was a wet mass then I shoveled the coal into the stove to get rid of the stink. When all that blood and pus was coughed up, the pain was gone and that night I slept. Next morning I felt fine, only weak.
Anna and Jane were still too weak to get up. Blanche got up and said, "Momma, I feel so much better today." But now Murray and Marie were down. Roberta, now 4, and Victor, who was born in 1916 showed no sign of illness, so I was happy the sick ones were now getting hungry, but they didn't want anything I could fix for them. We had a tree of Rambo apples and the 2 babies would bring in little buckets full of them and carry them to the sick ones and they relished them. They ate apples and threw the cores beneath their beds. When at last they got well enough to be up and downstairs and I could move the beds and sweep under them, I had almost a coal hod full of dried apple cores.
Doctors were literally worked to death during the epidemic. When I told our Doctor about my pain and what I had done and about the cough and my spitting, he told me I had had an abscess on my lung and it was a good thing I was able to spit that up that it probably saved my life and that I should thank God that it broke that way. The two babies didn't have a very bad case of flu–just a day in bed. I think the diet of apples helped as much as anything.
During that month, every family was stricken. There were 3 very young babies in our town. All three of the mothers were down at the same time. I was now better and my family on the mend so I went visiting the ones who were sick. Some whole families were down and no one to do anything for them. I took over the three babies each morning and bathed and dressed them. I also did what I could for the mothers, which wasn't very much. Grace Bridges was hurting in her lungs and was certain she was getting pneumonia. I made a mustard plaster and put it on her back. She was one of the mothers whose baby I bathed daily. Well, she had some blisters on her back, but she didn't get pneumonia. Mrs. Wolford, my nearest neighbor, also had a small baby that I bathed daily and I mixed up a pan of bread for her and panned it for her. Her husband baked it when he came home from work.
Before we were all quite well, Larry came home feeling so bad he couldn't eat his supper. He stayed in bed two days and then got up and went back to work. We had one death in Slabtown, an Italian family lost their wife and mother.
I must go back a couple of years. When Blanche was about 10 or 11 she got a rash on her head and it got worse and worse. I took her to our doctor and he said it was eczema and we'd have to cut her hair if I wanted it to get well. He mixed up some salve and told me to cut her hair and everyday lift those scabs off the sores and bathe her head with bichloride solution and then use the salve on the sores and then make some white caps for her to wear. Well, I did as he told me and that poor kid had to go thru that torture every day. At the same time, Marie had a swelling on the back of her head which turned out to be a cyst, so I had two heads to work on instead of one. Marie's cyst was well before Blanche's eczema. I only needed to cut a small bit of Marie's hair off, just around the cyst. Blanche had sandy hair that was curly and when her eczema finally got well her hair lay in ringlets all over her head when it grew out again.
World War I Shortages
During the first World War, to make wheat available for the armed forces and for export, we were asked to buy other cereal products in proportion to the amount of flour we bought. Now this was no hardship for me. I could make use of the other cereals with my brood. I would buy 25 lbs. of flour, 10 lbs. of corn meal, 10 lbs. of rolled oats and 5 lbs. of rice and for every 25 lbs. of flour, the same ratio held. We all like corn bread, corn griddle cakes, rice with milk and sugar or boiled with beef or chicken or made into pudding or fritters, rolled oat porridge was our breakfast with milk–lucky we had cows. Sugar was scarce but corn syrup could be bought in any amount so we substituted syrup for sugar and raisins were another plentiful product and I learned to use all these substitutes. Corn bread full of raisins was delicacy we all loved. Then I heard rye flour could be purchased without taking all the cereal grains and I bought 25 lbs. to try my luck at baking rye bread. My first batch was a failure, lucky I only messed up two loaves. My second trial turned out sweet and nutty and we all loved it.
We needed stamps to buy shoes and we could only buy one pair per person. That was OK, we couldn't afford more than one pair each anyway.
Over the years my kids, like everyone else's had their quota of childish diseases–chicken pox, measles, mumps and whooping coughs. Some had harder cases than others but when they had run their course, the children seemed no worse for their bout–no after effects.
Dad Moves to Slabtown
During 1919-1920 some enterprising person or persons built a row of 10 houses across the creek from and back of Slabtown and among that bunch of workmen was a man named Stanley Dorman who took a fancy to my daughter Jane. She was just a kid, 15 years old, but like all the rest of the Slabtown kids, had to go see the new houses being built and that is where they met.
The house where Larry's Dad lived before he died, Larry's brother Tom lived in. For some time he had bought it or traded for it before Grandad died but for some reason gave it up and a Mr. Clinton Uhl was the owner. Larry bought the house from Uhl because the house was partly on our property, the line cutting thru one corner. We rented the house to several different parties, but now the house was empty and my Dad took a notion he wanted to move into this house to be near some of his family. He was in his late 80's and Mom too was past 80. So they moved from Wellersburg to Slabtown.
There Mom died and Dad was alone. One of his grandchildren, Katie Petenbrink, also lived in Slabtown and he moved his bedroom furniture and his easy chair into her house and stayed with her until he died in 1921. Blanche, my oldest daughter was now married and she bought some of Grandad's stuff and went housekeeping in that house.
Rose Alice and Victor
Meanwhile, in 1920, we received another bundle of love, Rose Alice. Victor was now in his 4th year and was troubled with enlarged tonsils. He could not sleep lying on his back. If he turned on his back he would choke trying to get his breath. Either his Dad or I got up in the night to turn him over. Our doctor said we should have his tonsils out. Well, he was only a baby and to put him in the hospital was unthinkable, but the poor little tyke was getting worse and the doctor finally persuaded me to his way of thinking. Now it was up to me to get Larry's permission to have it done. At that time the C & P was running a special train every Saturday night from Piedmont to Cumberland.
Dr. Murray said, “Take him to Miner's Hospital on Saturday morning and you can bring him back home on the 7:30 train. He won't need be away from home even one night.”
Now I had a baby a couple of weeks old and she was breast fed so Anna went with me to take care of Rose so I could stay with Victor. When the doctor was ready for him I carried him into the operating room and laid him on the table. Victor patted the table and said, “You lie down by me Mommy.”
I said, “There isn't room for me darling, but I'll stand here by you and hold your hand. You go to sleep now and when you get awake I'll be right here and your old tonsils will be gone.”
They put him to sleep and led me out of the room telling me not to worry, he would be O.K. It didn't take long to do the surgery. They brought him back and put him in bed. I was allowed to sit by him until he awoke. When he woke up he vomited and cried a little, but the first thing he said when he was conscious was, “I can breathe now Mommy.” I hadn't cried during all this time, just prayed, but those words from that baby brought the tears, but they were tears of joy.
That was in July. A month later, in August, we had to take Blanche to the hospital for surgery, an appendectomy.
In March of 1921, we took Jane to the hospital, another appendectomy.
In March, my Dad died. It seemed we were having more than our share of trouble.
Blanche was married that spring and in November gave birth to a boy, our first grandchild.
During that year our roof started to leak, not just one place, but so many places that I had trouble finding enough pots and pans to catch the drips. That meant a new roof. The original roof was shingles, but now there was a composition roofing that was highly recommended and we decided to have this new roofing put on rather than shingles. When the men began tearing the old shingles off they found the roof was only partly covered with sheeting. It was just stripped. That meant we must get more sheeting because the composition roofing required solid sheeting to make a decent job. So I made another trip to the lumber yard to get the required sheeting.
Next thing the whole east wall of our shed kitchen began to fall apart. The house, being built shanty fashion, had no studding and there was nothing else to do but renew this wall. It was cold weather, so we closed the door to the living room and kept the children in there until the wall was renewed. The ceiling in the kitchen was rough lumber, wide boards with wide cracks between that let the dirt from the old shingled roof fall thru, so we bought some ceiling lumber and had a new ceiling put in the kitchen. What a mess that was when the old wide boards were ripped out. All the dirt from the old shingle roof came down into the kitchen. But thank goodness, little by little, we were getting straightened out.
In June of 1922 Jane and Dorman were married and they stayed with us until Stanley could build a place for them to move into. Stanley had two children by a former marriage and they were also with us. That fall his two children and two of my own took scarlet fever and for two months we were quarantined. The children didn't all take the disease at once, but one at a time. One got well, we cleaned and fumigated and then another took it and so on. We had to clean and fumigate four times. In 1923 Jane and her family moved into their own home. In June Jane gave birth to a girl, our second grandchild.
Meanwhile, the boy Blanche married got himself into trouble. We discovered he had sticky fingers. He was caught and sent to prison. While he was in prison we kept her little boy and she got a job to help take care of herself and the baby.
In 1924, we had another addition to our family - another girl, Virginia Lee. Nine children for us and 2 grandchildren.
From here on dates are hazy. I know there were two more marriages during the twenties. Anna was married to Austin Keller and Marie to Raymond Hause. Blanches' husband, Lester Beeman, was released and he and Blanche were reunited and went housekeeping in Frostburg. Soon, however, Lester got himself in trouble again and was sentenced to prison again, for a longer period this time. Blanche was again pregnant and in November 1925 she gave birth to her second child, another boy. She could not take care of a baby and work, so again we took her and now 2 children, so she could go to work. She got a job at the shirt factory in Frostburg and went to work, going back and forth by bus. Her two little boys grew up with their uncles and aunts in our house, all children together.
During the time Beeman was in prison, Blanche went about with another man and got herself in trouble and in 1929, in April, she gave birth to a little girl. Now there are three she has to work for. Again, when Beeman returned, he comes to us and asks us to intercede with Blanche and get her to come back to him and they would go on again. Now may God forgive me if I was wrong, but I had advised her to not go back to him and I told the boy so. "She is of age and can do as she pleases, but if it was me, I'd say go prove yourself before you decide to take up your life with her again. We have your two boys and her little girl and I think that is enough for us to take care of. You and Blanche talk it over and decide." They did, and he gave her a divorce .
In 1930 Roberta was married and in February of 1931 she gave birth to a boy. In the interim Murray had enlisted in the Marines and was stationed on Paris Island. While there he met and married a girl from Beaufort, S.C. and they had a boy too, who was born in 1931. Our family was growing. Anna had no children, but Marie gave birth to a little girl in 1929. Jane also had another little girl, born in 1925. In 1935, Victor, now 18, eloped with his sweety and was married. Victor, 18 and Eleanor, 17, just two kids . . .
(Courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Murray Winebrenner, Jr.)