Monday, December 10, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 11: Leisure Time

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

Sorry about the delay in publishing this installment of Elsie’s manuscript. For some reason it slipped completely off my radar last Monday. I suspect that may happen a few times this season as we all prepare for Christmas.

On one side of our property for a ways ran a canal. It was short distance from the house. The canal furnished some of the water Dad used for his irrigation. We had a good well for our drinking water. Our neighbor, Mr. Church got their household water from our well. Mr. Church would come with a wagon drawn by two horses and in the wagon was four big barrels. He would fill them up and then drive one half mile home.

This land on the other side of the canal, Mother called “wild” It was mostly sagebrush, where rabbits, a few harmless snakes, and a lot of wild flowers, lots of pretty mosses, I loved that pretty moss. The moss was soft like velvet. We had a lot of fun exploring this land. We would pick flowers for our mother. My brother Bill would find a wild rose for me, he knew I loved them, they were scarce.

In the winter time we loved to tracking their little foot prints in the snow. The foot prints usually lead to a hole in the middle of a sagebrush bush. Some times we would find a snake skin. Do you know they shed their skins every year. Some of them were whole length of the snake and some were torn and in pieces. These were our treasures.

At bedtime, after a day of exploring, Mother would check us for wood sticks. Sticks are dangerous left unnoticed. They work themselves into your body, to get out you have to be careful not to pull their heads off. The heads keep in digging. The ticks live in the sagebrush, will stick to who or what comes near them. They caught onto sheep and dogs and can be carried elsewhere. They can course scarlet fever.

Once in a while my brother would catch me a little cotton tail rabbit. He made a little pen for it. The pen had a mesh bottom, which we could move, every day to a new place on the back lawn. This kept him clean and gave him all the green grass he needed. His name from the white tip on his tail. It looked like a small ball of cotton. We’d have him for a few days then Mother would let it out. She said she never let him out but, “that the ol cat must have gotten him.” This happened several times, so Bill and I gave up getting them.

On Sunday, afternoons, Mom and Dad, in their bib and tucker would sit in their rockers and enjoy, a afternoon o relaxing. Dad would smoke his weekly cigar and finish reading his newspaper.

He always read the newspaper to her while she was busy getting breakfast. All of us kids liked to have them outside together, taking it easy for a change. My brothers and sisters would play on the lawn, close by. If it was very hot afternoon Mom would make us a drink from soda, vinegar, water and a little sugar. It sizzled and sputtered and tickled our noses when we drank it. Different from the cold drinks of today, we enjoyed it very much, we didn’t know any better. I think everyone did the same those days.

At night we would sit on the top steps and watch the pretty dragon flies dancing in the light, showing off their beautiful colorful wings.

We would play games on the lawn. Ring Around the Posy, Hide an Seek and Pump Pump Pullaway. Also Kick the Can which my mother didn’t like as she was afraid it would wear out ou shoes to fast.

One of these times I stepped on a wasp. The sting was so hot I thought, I had stepped on one of Dad’s cigarette butts, that was still a light. This was the first wasp I had ever been stung by. No fun. Wasps are larger then yellow jackets and mostly black, on their bodies. A wasp can sting many times but a honey bee but once. On a sting by a honey bee you had to pull out the stinger, the bee would die soon after. If we got stung we would run for some soft mud or for the soda box. They would help ease the pain. We had a lot of bees so we got stung many times, we also ran barefooted, we also had a clover lawn that had blossoms the bees loved.

Dad had many flowers, he was very proud of them. We weren’t allowed to pick them only for special occasions. He said they would last longer and look prettier outside, so everyone could see them. He always had violets, Mom loved the fragrance of the violets.

I am very curious about the game Elsie calls Pump Pump Pullaway. It is not one I have ever heard of from another source. I would be curious to learn how to play it.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 10: Refrigeration to Pronunciation (And My Grandma in Between)

To read this project from the beginning, click here

This entry, by serendipitous coincidence, arrives with perfect timing. Last Thursday, as you probably know, we Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day. This excerpt from Elsie’s manuscript includes a brief description of the birth of my grandmother, Aileen Underwood, who happened to be born on Thanksgiving Day in 1914. I wish that Elsie had written more in her manuscript about the event. She once described it to me in fuller detail, but I seem to have misplaced the notes I took on that visit. However, I do retain a vague impression of the Underwood family carrying on their Thanksgiving dinner the best they could, with Aunt Sadie acting as hostess, while Flora labored in her bedroom. Naturally, Flora would not have been left alone, but I can’t recall the details.

Perhaps Grandma’s birth—and mine as well—were symbolic of what would become important to us. I can imagine Grandma Aileen as a baby in her mother’s womb, realizing that the family was gathering and thinking to herself, “I want to be there, too!” Grandma was the one who first introduced me to my family tree. I remember visiting her and being fascinated with a piece of paper she had spread out on the dining room table. It was the first time I had ever seen one of those classic family tree diagrams, the kind with a picture of an actual tree, and names written on the branches. She explained to me how each branch was a part of the family, and the twigs growing off the branches were the children of the person listed on the branch, while the branches themselves were the children of the people listed on the trunk. I have been fascinated ever since.

Like Grandma, my birth interrupted a family gathering, though in a less dramatic fashion. My parents were able to go to a hospital rather than being in the next room. But I can imagine myself, in the same way as Grandma, sensing a gathering of the family and thinking, “I want to be there, too!” It is almost as though Grandma and I were destined from our births to be the genealogists for our branch of the family.

Incidentally, Elsie misspelled Grandma’s married name, forgetting an s. It should be “Brosius.”

We had two horses, Dick was a prett rome color with a perfect white star on his forhead. He had a lot of spirit. The other horse’s name was Nig, a coal black, but much slower nature than Dick. He was a good work horse.

One day my mom wanted someone to get the mail, our mail box was on apost, about a half mile doun the road. No one was around to ask to get the mail. So I said I would go and get it. She really didn’t want me to go alone on a horse, I had never been on one alone but I wasn’t afraid. I went and got Dick and put his halter on. He was in his stall in the barn. I climbed up the side of his stall. I climbed on his back, bare back and off I went. Everything was fine until I couldn’t reach the mail boxes. I slid off the horses back, got the mail. To get back on the horse again was another story. I was short, I was hardly up to the horse stomack, about six years old. How was I to get back on this horse. I didn’t have a saddle or a blanket, just the reins. Not a thing to pull up with.

All of a sudden I thought of our fence just across the road, it was the corner of our farm land. I pull the horse as as possible to the fence. The fence had barbed wire on the top of a heavy mesh like fence. I had to be careful no to get hurt on the stickery fence, so I stepped really careful on the fence top and pulled myself up on the horse. Horses are slippery without a saddle. I was so calm and not afraid. We arrived home safe and sound. Mother had been watching from her kitchen window. She said I thought you’d have to walk home. It’s a wonder he would stand still for you. I really think the horse knew we had to get home safely.

Mom was always looking for letters from her family, she never wrote home very much but always looked for news from home.

Aileen was born here on November 26th. It was Thanksgiving Day. She was named after Aunt Sadie’s daughter and my dad’s mother Maryann. Her name was Aileen Maryann Underwood. Her married name was Aileen Mary Ann Broius.

We finally got our root cellar which we needed badly. To keep the milk and cream, eggs, fruit and vegetables cool.

The root cellar was dug deep in the ground with a peaked roof. The walls were cement also the steps going doun in it. Also the floor, it was easy to keep clean. It was cool in the summer and hot in the winter, atleast warm enough to keep things from freezing.

Before we had this root cellar, we had no refrigeration Our milk was put into milk pans. The pans were round, about fourteen inches around and about four inches high. They were stacked one atop of the other, with two narrow slats of wood between each pan. We usually had two stacks with four pans high. The fresh milk was always put on the bottom to keep it rotated for freshness. The cream would form on the top, it would take about two days to collect. The cream was so thick you scrape it off with a large spoon. It was so thick. And oh so good.

One evening Mother and Dad went to see “Alexander the Great” Alexander the Great was to be in Meridan, just six miles away. Dad really wanted to so he persuaded Mom to go with him. They left early to be sure they would get there in time for the start.

The boys had the milking to do, I knew the milk had to be taken care of right away, went to the place she kept the milk. I pour the fresh milk into clean pans. I knew I had to put the old new milk on the bottom, there fore I had to lift off the old milk and put this new milk on the bottom. The pans of milk were layered withthese thin slates between layers. I was young and short, to short to reach the pans well. Especially on my tiptoes. This pan was a lot heavier than I wxpected, it slipped and spilt all over me and the floor. My brothers thought it funny, they did help me get cleaned up. I was so afraid to face my mother when she came home. I was afraid she’d scold me, but she didn’t. She knew I just wanted to help. She did tell me I was too young and to small to try doing these things that were to big for me. I didn’t like scoldings but my brothers told me “A scolding don’t last and a whipping didn’t last and they don’t dare to kill to kill me.”

When Aileen was born, my teacher and a man friend came over to see Mom and her baby. The man had whiskers, he asked me if the baby looked like him. I said No! He asked me Why? I couldn’t say whiskers. A “W” was real hard for me. I couldn’t say “biskers” so while he was in talking to Mom I practiced saying whiskers unti they came out of Mom’s room. Then I yelled, She doesn’t have any whiskers.” My teacher was so surprised “Just why couldn’t she teach me that. I never said biskers again.

Vinegar was another word I couldn’t pronounce. I called it “bingar” or bing bing. I had a friend who helped me on the word vinegar. We practiced one whole lunch time. But it was worth it.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here

Monday, November 12, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 9: Laundry and cleanliness

To read this project from the beginning, click here.

These few pages of Elsie’s manuscript are a treasure trove of information on the everyday life of country women early in the twentieth century. It’s amazing to think of the changes that laundry, for example, has undergone in a single lifetime. Elsie and her sisters spanned the days of boiling shirts on the woodstove all the way to the modern technique of simply tossing everything into an electric washer. I’m sure they must have appreciated modern conveniences far more than anyone born and raised in our own era ever can.

You may also recognize a couple of the following paragraphs from my Halloween entry of last year. Now you will get to read them in their full context.

We had to iron most of our clothes, no dip dry or winkle proof or stain resistant. Sometimes stains were taken out by putting wet materials on the grass on a sunny day or rub a little salt on the stain if it’s stubborn. Milddew was common, if things weren’t used and laid around, they would collect damnest. Those days we never had heat all thru the house in the wintertime. A little lemon juice sprinkled on the spots and placed in the sun would come out easy. Grass stains were the most and hardest those days. The spots had to washed and then rub with soap and layed in the sun.

The girls wore dresses and slips, blacksateen bloomers. And black, long stockings Rarely did we have white stockings. We wore our hair in braids, with ribbons to hold the braids. I hated those braids and would take them doun on our way home. Mother never could figure out how they came doun, and I never told her. The children we walked home with would say how pretty my hair looked doun.

No slacks, shorts, pedal pushers, sleeveless blouses, pretty sweaters. No shells. We had gingham or calico dresses Shoes were MaryJanes, black, Oxfords, high shoes that came almost to your knees. Laced or buttoned. Pretty pretty awful. We didn’t know any different Everyone had the same. Maybe this is why they taught “Pretty is as pretty does”.

Mother wore ankle long dresses. She had a skirt and a pretty blouse, she wore on Sundays. She had a pretty pin she wore at the neck of her blouse.

We used oil cloth to cover our tables. They were easily cleaned, just wipe off with a damp cloth. Years later we had some cloth ones, Indianhead and a linen one for company. The Indian and linen, had to be real damp in order to iron them. With the irons we had those days, it took a couple of hours to iron one cloth.

The boys and men, wore overalls and jeans made of the overall material. The men wore dark blue serge pants to dress up. Those blue and white stripe coveralls were all most like some of the boys wore then. We called them milkman’s pans.

The irons were made of iron and heated on top of the stove If they got to hot they were pushed to the far side of the range top. The irons had a wooden removable handle. You needed about four irons to keep them hot enough, to do your whole ironing. On handle fitted all irons, the handle would clamp on top of the iron. If too hot it would scorch, to cold it wouldn’t iron. To hard to push across the article to ironed. So you had to test it by wetting your finger tip and touching it ever so lightly, if it spit, it was ready. Mom would clean her irons by wiping them on newspaper. This still is a good way to clean your iron. Only now rub your iron over a little bees wax or parafine then wipe it off.

Dad’s shirts were hard to iron, they had cold starched separate collars. The shirts were starched and then dried and then dampened doun real well. They were left several hours between dampening and ironing, for easier ironing. To dampen the clothes we would have a pan of water, dip one hand in the water and then shake over the clothes to be ironed. The collars of the shirts were really stiff. The collars were held on to the shirt in the back with a collar button. In the front of the shirt with the top button of the shirt. The men wore quite a number of bow ties.

Our clothes was two post set up, between these posts was rope. Usually two or three lines. Depending the distance between the post. Sometime we used to have to have props in the middle to keep the lines from sagging. Some of the clothes were long and heavy when wet. Especially Dads long johns.

The clothes were dried outside, if it rained they were hung on one of the porches. Monday was always wash day. The old saying “if there was enough blue in the sky to make a Scotchman a pair of britches” your washing would get dry.

They had no dryers, washing machines, no washing powder. The clothes were scrubbed on a washboard, with hoemade soap made from lard or fat and lye, hard on the hands. The fat was saved from the cooking of their meats.

No running water in the house, all had to be carried in The white clothes were put in a boiler on top of the stove and boiled. She had a certain stick to take the clothes out of the hot water.

Our wash basin, to wash our hands and face was on the back porch. We would wipe our hands and face, on a huck roller towel. The towel was a long one about one and half yds. Sewed together in the middle and then put on a roller. You’ve seen these they have them in some washrooms now. You would use what you needed then pull it doun a little so the next guy would have a clean spot. After all was used it would be removed and a clean one replaced the dirty one. No soft towels then.

We drank water from a long handle dipper, from a water pail that sat on our back porch.

With a barn and lots of animals we had a lot of flies. My mother hated them, she hung fly paper from the ceiling of the back porch. No matter how careful you are with this flypaper it is so sticky on one side. No fly can escape. The wind had blown one of these doun on the back porch which landed on the floor. My mother had called me in and I was in a hurry, I landed both feet right on this fly paper. It was awful, Mother came to help, she finally got a chair for me to sit on. She could get at it better. Between us we got that sticky mess off. It took a lot of soap and elbow grease to get the stickyness loose. She told me next time watch were I was going.” My dad had a good laugh over it. He said “We’ve really caught a big fly this time.” I didn’t think it was funny and I’m sure Mother did’t either. She was afraid I would get it on her floor, she was very particular about her floors.

My dad would take a bath sometimes in the canal, but we couldn’t because we didn’t know how to swim. Our baths were in the wash tub.

We didn’t have a bathroom in our house. Just a out house or (privy) as they were called. This was a small shed like type building, located a short distance from the house. Inside was a long seat across the back with holes small medium, and large, with covers, when not in use you put the cover on. Lye was used to keep it clean and oderless.

At night we would carry a lantern to see our way. One of the older ones would walk out with us, and stand out side and wait for us.
On Hallowe’en the big boys in the neighborhood, would like to tip one of these over, hoping someone was inside. They never got ours, maybe because we had a fence all the way round our place. The fence had barbed wire on top of the mesh fence, hard to climb.

No plumbing inside we had a poe (jerry or thunder mug) under the bed to use when we needed it at night. They even had different sizes of those. These were only used in emergencies.

Some of the poes were made of granite or china, they usually had a handle on one side, kept under the bed. Each had a cover.
To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 6: Aunt Sadie

Walter and Flora Underwood had left their family behind in England when they came to America, and then left their Hawkes cousins behind when they left Idaho Falls, Idaho. Only their son Walter had ever met any of his extended family, and he had been a baby at the time. But in this installment of Elsie Crocker’s manuscript, things are about to change.

Dad was surprised when his youngest sister showed up. She arrived from England, was the first relative we had ever seen. We were excited, we had a lot of relatives in England, but England was a long way off. One thing we missed, by Dad and Mom coming to America, was not knowing our cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It seemed all friends had some relatives near by. That’s why Dad always wanted six children, he got his wish. He didn’t want us to be left alone, when he and Mom were gone.

One Thanksgiving, Aunt Sadie invited our family, for dinner. Dad gave us strict orders, to eat everything on our plate. Aunt Sadie was very much English. Very proud very stylish and spoke with an accent. We were young, and been raised Americans, we thougkt her quite different.

Dad wanted to impress her with his children, mind your manners, eat everything on your plate. Like it or not

Well I ate every thing but a huge big green olive. I put my tongue on it and it tasted awful. No, way was I going to eat that olive. I put it back on my plate, it even larger than ever. I didn’t know what to do I had to get rid of that olive, but how? I waited until all people were busy talking. I wasn’t very old about four and a half. I wore these black sateen bloomers, that had elastic around the legs just above the knees. I waited until no one was watching, I slipped that olive safely in one of my pant legs. When I thought everyone was thru their dinner, I excused myself. I hurried outside with that olive dangling in my pant leg. Being sure no one was watching, I let that olive out. I had never see a olive that big before. Our family never could aford olives no matter ripe ones or green ones.

My sister Olive was born, May fourth, in Burley Idaho She was named after “Olive Fremstead”, who was Doctor Fremstead’s daughter. Olive Mabel Fremstead, became a well known opera singer. My sisters name was Olive Mabel Underwood.

Aunt Sadie sang too I don’t know where it was opera or not. I do remember sometimes when she was going to sing she would, ask Mother if she had a lemon. She told us it would clear her throat so she could sing better.

We moved to Boise, we had a next door neighbor. Who had a big pear tree. Under the tree next to our house was a cellar door. (Basement doors were outside those days.) If a ripe pear would fall on that door or on our side. the neighbor told us we could have them. So you can guess who got the pear or pears. Dad would say “The early bird gets the worm”. I was all ways a early riser. Mother loved pears so much, she usually got my pears I picked up. She would share, with the rest of us.

Our neighbor, whose name was Alvy Mason, became our uncle. We were all surprised to see them together, we never even knew they knew each other. We were all happy because we had known him before.

To continue with the next installment of Elsie's manuscript, click here. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 7: Boise, Idaho

This installment of Elsie’s manuscript discusses just a few of the experiences of the Underwood family during their time in Boise, Idaho.

Three of kids, Walter, William and I, always went to Sunday school, when we lived in Boise, Idaho. The church was just a couple blocks from our house.

It was Christmas time, we were having a program. Mother wasn’t feeling well so we kids went by ourselves. I was in the program. The teacher had us take a pair of white stockings to the church. When we got to the church she had me put these white stockings over my shoes. Just above the toe she placed a huge bow of sparkling tinsel. My part must have been a angel to have had tinsel. When the program was over we got a red mesh stocking of candy and nuts. However the stocking wasn’t the importand thing. It was this tinsel It was the first I had ever seen, I loved it so. I had to get home to show my mom. I didn’t even wait for my brothers. I ran as fast as I could, watching the tinsel sparkleing on my feet. The street lights sparkle and glisten even more. I watched my feet all the way home. Maybe this is why I love glittering things today.

I was just five when this happened.

This was the Christmas Santa brought my brothers a pair of scissors. One day while my mother was at the grocery store about two blocks away.

My brothers cut my mothers curtains and can you believe is, they cut off my eyebrows. Oh. What have you done now. She was mad!!!! I can’t leave you for a minute”

She knew the boys had put each other up to it. She said she couldn’t look at me, and that I would have to stay in the house so no one could see me. I felt bad I was a fraid she never loved me anymore.

In Boise Walter was very ill. Wasn’t getting any better, getting worse all the time. Dad sent for Dr. Fremstead, who came right away. (He had to come from Burley.) He took one look at Walter and ordered a prescription for him He was so ill he walked when necessary by using two chairs. One in front of the other, until he got to where he was going. Usually to the bathroom.

Walter was carrying his head to one side, which scared my mom. He started to show right away. He finally used his neck to hold his head straighter. It wasn’t long before he went back to school. We were happy to have him well.

The story of Elsie and her tinsel is another one of my favorites because it fit her personality so well. She seemed so sparkling herself that it was only fitting that she should love glittering things. As an example of her sparkling personality: I remember visiting her when she was in her 80s and living in a retirement manor. She had several rose bushes in the community garden, and early in the morning she would go down and cut a certain number of roses. Then she would put each in a small vase and leave one outside the door of every one of her neighbors.

Regarding the story of the scissors, I have often wondered about the logistics of a brother cutting off his sister’s eyebrows. Her hair, maybe, but her eyebrows? Just try to picture it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 5: Burley, Idaho

Oops, I'm a little late. I meant to post this up yesterday, but didn't quite get around to it. So welcome to Amanuensis Tuesday.

In this instalment of Elsie’s manuscript, we find the Underwood family again on the move. They have been moving consistently down the Snake River, and this time is no exception. Burley is the next major town downriver.

So much for Raft River Dad and Mother had left and moved to Burley, Idaho. Everything was a lot different in a large city. We now could have a doctor, up to now Mother was our doctor. Dad became deputy marshal in Burley. Dr. Fremstead was our doctor, he also owned the drugstore. Dad and Doc. Fremstead became very good friends.

Here Mother got her first real stove. It was a Home Comfort. If you can fall in love with a stove, I’m sure Mother did this one. The top of the stove was real large, you could cook your pancakes on one end, it was that flat. and smooth. It had a reservior on one side. Now our bath water was heated without being put on the top of the stove. In a wash boiler. The boiler was hard to lift off. Now all we had to do is dip the hot water out of the reservior to the tub. We had to refill reservior but it was done by big bucket fulls. We now had hot water anytime for washing hands and faces without heating the kettle. Or using mostly cold water.

The stove came withe several large kettles and a huge tea kettle. The all including the reservior was all blue and white heavy enamel.

We also got some new bread pans, which would hold six loaves of bread. She usually had enough dough left to make a round loaf. Some of the time this bread would come out of the oven as we came home from school. This loaf she let us have was mostly crust, being round, made in a pie pan. With freshly churned butter it was um’um. We never wasted much time in getting home on baking day.

Mother now had a big oven to bake her bread and a warm place to help it raise. Also a warming oven to keep things warm while cooking the remaining dinner.

She would mix her bread at night, cover it with a cloth, them place it on the warm reservior to raise doing the night. The next morning it would have risen to the top of the pan, ready to make into loaves.

One night the dough came over the top and a big ball of it fell into our hired man’s boot, which he was drying back of the kitchen range. Dad was jealous he thought Mom had done it on purpose. Poor Mom she didn’t know anything about it. Dad teased her about it. “Just like the dough in Lenard’s boot.”

Us kids thought it funny.

Mother had another baby girl (Vida) She only lived a few months. The Fremsteads took care of her but she passed away. We all came doun with “typhoid fever” except Dad and my oldest brother Walter. (Drinking water was the cause.) Mom always thought she could have saved Vida.

Our baths were in a wash tub every Saturday night, with a spit bath inbetween. Our face cloths as they were called, made out of old underwear or old towels. We were lucky to have soap only laundry soap. Toothpaste was salt or baking soda.

One day when I was real small, Mom had me standing on the oven door washing my hands and face. She left to get a towel to dry me. I got hold of the soap. My hands were small and wet and the soap quite soft, from the heat of the stove. The soap slipped out of my hands, on to th hot stove top. I tried to grab it, before Mother got back but every time I got the soap in my hands it would slip away again, going across the hot stove. I burn the middle of my hands very bad. Not living near a doctor Mother used lard on them. Oh, how they hurt. I sat for days with my hands on the cold window panes. I had learned my lesson, the hard way.

Sometimes Dad would like to take me to the prison with him. It usually at lunch time. Dad always said the prisoners liked seeing me. They would ask me who I was? I would tell them I was my daddy’s little lumman. Dad was proud when I told people I’m my daddy’s little lumman”. Even when I was growing, my dad would ask if I was Daddy’s little lumman”

Being English, I couldn’t pronounce the letter “W” I still had my front tooth out. I must have looked funny.

When it was snowing and Dad was marshal, walking his beat. People used to say they could see which way h’d gone, by the size of his foot prints. He was a large man and he had a large foot, size twelve. He’d leave foot prints in the snow.

I have never understood what being English would have to do with Elsie’s childhood inability to pronounce the letter “W,” but I have noticed that within our family a great number of things are ascribed to being English.

Speaking of pronunciation, I used to mispronounce poor little Vida’s name. To me, it looked like it should be pronounced “Vee-da.” Elsie corrected me quickly. The correct pronunciation is with a long “i” sound, as “Vie-da.”

Monday, October 8, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 4: Raft River, Idaho

This time around, Elsie tells about when her parents, Walter and Flora Underwood, left the home of their cousins, the Hawkes family. They proceeded to Raft River, stopping for a while in American Falls.

Dad was getting itchy feet again, wanting to make a home for his family, and be indepent. He felt they shouldn’t over stay their welcome. Little Walter couldn’t manage the long outside stairs, to play in the yard. Someone had to be with him all the time. Mother did not want to keep him couped up in th apartment all day, he needed the sun shine.

So when harvests were over and money in his pocket they decided to leave. He felt more secure He had learned a lot. He could find some kind of job. The time was right, the rains hadn’t started yet. The roads would be good and the streams low.

Dad was looking for a place with lots of water and no alikali. This alikali burned his skin and eyes awful He also thought about the winter coming on. Nothing much to do but sit around half the time, in a very small apartment. There must be some thing better.

Mother never told him she might be having a baby. So they loaded up their worldly goods and saying their goodbyes to these care loving people was very hard to do. Mother remembered the first time she said goodbye.

They were on their way. The trip was rough and barren. Lots of sagebrush and plenty of alikali dust. Alikali is a white salt substance that is very drying to the skin. It washes to the top of the soil and shows white, when dry the wind blows it flies in the air. Sometimes the rain washes it up and when it dries it looks like a small lake, at a distance. You’ve probably have seen some, if you have traveled in barren, sage brush country.

They traveled until they came to American Falls, Idaho. They stayed here Dad got some odd jobs. Sure enough Mother was going to have her second child. My brother William George was born on the 28th. of May 1905. They stayed here until Mother and Bill were able to travel.

Dad heard there were men needed, as a boom was on in Raft River, Idaho. It was then a big cattle town. So off then they started for Raft River, with two very small boys and every thing they owned. They made their way to Raft River Idaho. Some of the bridges were washed out. Dad would drive right thru the streams. Sometimes the water came up into the wagon bed. Mother would hold little Bill and little Walter sat on the seat between, Dad and Mother. The seat was much higher then the wagon bed floor.

They arrived in Raft River and got a job there. They homesteaded there. Cleared the ground and built a small house. We had a small vegetable garden and of course a flower bed. We got our water in a cistern. You pulled the water up in a bucket. It was hard water.

Here Dad became a photographer. He not only took the pictures but developed them and printed them. He even did tintype pictures.

Dad had a very good camera, for the time then. Later he took pictures of the school children where we went to school. They always turned out real good. Of course they were black and white.

Perhaps this is one of the pictures that Walter Underwood took of his children’s class. Elsie is the girl seated to the far right. Her brothers are also in this picture. I believe that the boy seated in the front row nearest the teacher is one of them, but I am not presently sure which is the other.

The camera stood up on a frame, three legs like a tripod but much higher. He could stand up and take the pictures. He had a black cape, he over his neck and around his shoulds. To keep the light off his lens and flim. He would look thru the lens and focos on what he was taking. He would take his pictures with a blub on a long cord. The cord was fastened to the camera. He would squeeze the blub to take the picture.

Later when I was going to school, he’d take some pictures, he’d get all riged up and ready to shoot, he’d tell us “see the birdie”. Of course we knew there wasn’t any bird, we’d laugh or smile. That’s just what he wanted us to do. His camera was one of those according type, the kind you see in antique shops or thrift shops.

I was born here in Raft River, Mother’s first girl 4 ½ lbs. I arrived six o’clock in the morning. Mom said I was ready for company one hour after I arrived. She had a midwife for me. No doctor just a nurse that could deliver babies.

Mother told me when I was jus six weeks old I pulled up, by the legs of the chair. Mom told me could remember this day as she had a friend over that had a baby boy the same age as me. She said they were wondering who would be the first to pull up. She told me to her amazement I did, right then.

I pulled up eary but maybe I shouldn’t have. I knocked out my first baby tooth. Mother was playing peek a boo with me. I looked doun in a hurry, trying to hide my face, I came doun on the seat of the chair. Bingo! Mother took me bleeding to my dad about one half mile away. He put it back in place. Mom said it was growing real good. Then I knocked it out with a hammer. I was teased a lot. without my front tooth. Everyone called me Grandma. They didn’t have the song “All I Want For Christmas is My My Front Tooth.” It was along time before I got my front tooth.

We had chickens on this land, the coyotes tried to steal our chickens. They were brave They would come right in the yard, she would shake the tea towel at them They would run away. Sometimes, she said they would come back with several more.

Dad was on the police force. He would be gone several days at a time. He and another man would go on horse back. They were suppose to bring back a thief or a outlaw.

My mother didn’t like this one bit. She was afriad to be left a lone over night. She had three small children. The town, at night was pretty rough. She called this town “a God forsaken country. Thank goodness Dad didn’t have to go very often.

After all she was a city girl, this must have been rough on her.

On day Dad was gone, Mom was, chopping some sagebrush. She left me in a clothes basket, thinking I would be O.K., I was only nine months old. She didn’t go very far but when she come back I was gone. She paniced thinking the coyotes had gotten me and dragged me away. I surprised her, I had gotten out of the basket and had waled a short way. She was happy to find and to know I could walk. She said after that she kept an eye on me.

Mom made our bread, ever since her cousin showed her how. She did a good job to.

It just happened after one of those bakings. She awoke one morning, to her surprise she found some odd looking people on her front porch. What to do, she was scared. Dad was still in bed, she ran in and woke him He sid “Just give them a loaf of bread”. She went back and did as she was told. The Indians were from the “Black Foot Tribe” They bowed and smiled at her.

Mother said she had studyed the Indians in school but had never seen one. Never expecting to be so close to them and handing, her own baked bread to them. The folks would wonder about that. The Indians came back a few times after that, she missed them when they quite coming.

My version of Raft River (not to many years ago)

Raft River now is a spot on the map. A service station, a very small store and a lot of rattle snakes.

We drove thru one day and stopped at Rupert Idaho, we asked about Raft River, the waitress smiled and told us, There’s nobody there anymore. There are a lot of rattle snake and they aren’t very big. It hot and dry when we went thru and sagebrush every where. This was a big cattle country at the time my folks were there.

I did how ever wonder, where my folk’s place had been. Where in this barren, desolate place, I was born.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Before the Creeksea Ferry

I have already discussed in some detail the lives of George and Elizabeth AMOS after their marriage, when they were living on Wallasea Island at the Creeksea Ferry. However, I have only alluded to their lives before that.

A few years ago I was able to trace Elizabeth’s parents and siblings, but only within the past month have I made the breakthrough that allows me to identify with conviction the previous family of George. But let us begin where I did: with the 1881 British census.

1881 finds the AMOS family residing in the “Ferry House” on Wallasea Island. It identifies George’s birthplace as Dover, Kent, and Elizabeth’s as Maldon, Essex. Fortunately for us, a niece by the name of Esther FILBY is staying with them. Of course, she may be the daughter of a sister of either spouse, but there is the hope that she is the daughter of a brother of Elizabeth. That gives us the first hint of a possible maiden name for Elizabeth. Perhaps her name had been Elizabeth FILBY.

This surmise holds up when examining the 1891 census. By an even more fortuitous circumstance (from the point of view of the genealogist), George’s mother-in-law is now living with them. To state the obvious, that can only be Elizabeth’s mother. And what is her name? Mary A. FILBY. She is listed as a widow, and her birthplace as Stow, Essex—which, however, cannot be found on any map. George’s birthplace is now identified as East Langdon, a village near Dover, and Elizabeth’s is still identified as Maldon.

Armed with the information gleaned from these censuses, I was able to find a marriage record of sorts at FamilySearch. As a transcription of an index, it could hardly be considered the best possible evidence, but it did yield some valuable information. According to this record, a George AMOS and an Elizabeth TILBY were married at Christ Church in Southwark on 7 Nov 1875. Considering how easily Ts and Fs can be confounded in older handwriting (and being unable to examine the original handwriting myself), the name TILBY is a good match for FILBY. The date is also a good match, being just far enough before the birth of their oldest child. The location surprised me a little, but was not far enough out of the way to be improbable. The record, of course, contained a source microfilm number which I could have ordered at my local Family History Center, but I never quite got around to it.

Elizabeth FILBY

From here, knowing her birthplace to be Maldon, estimating her birth date as 1855, and knowing her mother to be Mary A. FILBY born c. 1812, it was not particularly hard to find Elizabeth living with her parents before her marriage. An entry with all the requisite particulars (excepting that her mother’s birthplace is recorded as Purleigh instead of Stow) appears in 1871 in Latchingdon, Essex. It is the household of John FILBY, a shoemaker, born c. 1814 in Purleigh. Living with him are Mary his wife and Elizabeth his daughter. No other family members are mentioned.

Tracing them back a little father, we find that Elizabeth was not an only child. In 1861, in Snoreham, Essex, the household contains a son, William, born c. 1849 in Snoreham, a daughter, Mary Ann, born c. 1853 also in Snoreham, and Elizabeth, still born in Maldon. This time the enumerator reports that their mother Mary was born in Stowe Maries, Essex, which is phonetically close to the “Stow” of 1891 and finally furnishes a location that can be found on a map.

Now that we know the proper household, we can go back even farther. The 1851 census reveals yet two more children: Henry FILBY, born c. 1835 in Purleigh, and Samuel FILBY, born c. 1850 in Latchingdon. These are in addition to William FILBY, to whom we have already been introduced.

Going back farther yet, to the earliest British census that lists the names of inhabitants, namely the 1841 census, brings us a little bit of a surprise. John FILBY, shoemaker, lives in Purleigh, Essex with his son Henry FILBY—and his housekeeper Mary HOWARD. This Mary HOWARD is approximately the age that Mrs. Mary FILBY would have been in that year: 24 is only three years from the expected 27. This page of the 1841 census also gives a clue as to Mary’s parents. The previous household is headed by a John HOWARD, age 60. Given their close proximity and identical surnames, it is a credible guess that John HOWARD is Mary’s father.

From this census we can deduce that Henry FILBY is John’s son from a previous marriage, and we can guess that Mary HOWARD was soon to become Mrs. Mary FILBY. The latter guess is backed up by the FreeBMD Marriage Index, which reveals that in the Oct-Dec quarter of 1842 there was indeed a marriage between a John FILBY and a Mary HOWARD.

Since we have reached the earliest possible census in our search, let us leap forward in time to the period between when we last saw Mary with her husband in 1871 and when we see her as a widow living with her daughter Elizabeth in 1891.

John FILBY is still alive and apparently making shoes at the time of the 1881 census. He and his wife are living together in an empty nest in Latchingdon. They are both reported as having been born in Purleigh, and for the first time since she was a housekeeper for her future husband, Mary has a recognized occupation of her own. She is identified as a “Nurse Sub Med,” which seems to be a sort of acknowledged nurse, but without formal training as such.

The best possibility for when Mary (HOWARD) FILBY became a widow is found in the FreeBMD death index. There is a record in the Oct-Dec quarter of 1882 for the death of a John FILBY in the Maldon district. This is the best match both because of his age and his location.

I have also done some research on Elizabeth’s siblings, especially her brother William, but we will leave that for another time.

George AMOS

As for George AMOS’ ancestry… that has been a little more difficult to trace. Taking East Langdon, near Dover, Kent as his birthplace, and searching the censuses for a George AMOS born c. 1853 brings multiple results, none of them an obvious match. There were, however, other researchers on this line, and I tentatively accepted their claim that he was the son of Edward AMOS and Sarah CONSTABLE.

Last month I returned to George AMOS’ profile on Ancestry and did another search for records. Ancestry is always updating and adding new databases, so periodic searches are essential. And this time my search was well rewarded. Remember that transcribed marriage index record that I found and never got around to ordering? There was the original, in all its handwritten glory, digitally scanned and appearing on my computer screen through the wonder of modern technology.

I have become more or less inured to disappointment in marriage records (outside of Luxembourg), seldom finding much in them beyond what is already known. That, at least, has been my experience of American marriage records, some of which contain no more than names and a date. This, however, was not to be my experience in the marriage of George AMOS and Elizabeth FILBY—FILBY, indeed, now that I could see it with my own eyes and distinguish the letter F. (The difficulty had arisen with her signature, in which the line crossing the F seems instead to be dotting the i.)

Most notable of the information contained within this record is the names and professions of the fathers of both the bride and the groom. The bride’s father, as anticipated, is John FILBY, a shoemaker. Although not new information, it is helpful in that it shows that we do have the correct marriage record. And now—if only there were a way to print a drum roll!—we come to the groom’s father. Strictly speaking, he appears on the record before the bride’s, but I have taken the liberty of creating a little suspense. The groom’s father is stated to be Abraham AMOS, labourer. So we can discard (or at least set aside, as they could turn out to be related more distantly than previously thought) the family of Edward AMOS and Sarah CONSTABLE.

Finding an alternate George AMOS, given the superfluity of the name, has not been hard. In fact, a George AMOS of the proper age and approximate birthplace is found the son of an Abraham AMOS in 1861. Conveniently, several of the details contained in this census fit what we know of the Creeksea Ferry’s George AMOS better than the formerly accepted household of Edward AMOS. Firstly, the location of the household is East Langdon, claimed as George’s birthplace in 1891. The birthplace of this 1861 George AMOS is said to be West Langdon, but he is only eight years old; perhaps he was raised in East Langdon. In any event, the two villages are within a couple miles from one another, and share noticeably similar names.

Secondly, Abraham AMOS’ wife is named Isabella, which would be a likely source for the name of our George’s eldest daughter. Such a supposition would be consistent with common Victorian naming practices, although they don’t seem to have strictly adhered to any such practice. (The origin of their eldest son Arthur’s first name remains a mystery.)

Thirdly, although this is admittedly rather slim evidence, we can amend the parenthetical observation about George and Elizabeth AMOS’ eldest son. Despite the fact that the source of his first name is unknown, this household at least gives a possible source for his middle name. There is a son of Abraham AMOS named Thomas, which is known to be Arthur’s middle name.

Working forward with this household, we find Abraham AMOS again heading his family in East Langdon in 1871. This time, however, the only child still living with them is Thomas. Once again we are faced with the question of where George could be. Since he is not residing with his parents, and since we can eliminate the George AMOS known to be the son of Edward AMOS as well as any listed as the son of other parents, the most feasible candidate (but certainly not the only possibility) appears in the William PIERCE household of Saltwood, Kent. This George AMOS, listed as a servant, is the right age. He is said to have been born in Saltwood, but that is within twenty miles of East Langdon, near enough for an error to be plausible. That is the extent of the case for him, so acceptance of this as our George AMOS can be only on the most tentative basis.

Reversing direction, we can work backward through the censuses with the Abraham AMOS family. But first we must take another glance at their household in 1861. Way down at the bottom of their household, where visitors and servants are usually found, appears the name William COCK, age 21. Servant he is not, nor is he a visitor or a lodger. Curiously, he is a “son.” The fact that his surname is not the same as that of his father suggests that he is not the son of Abraham AMOS, but rather his stepson. Such a hypothesis would imply that Isabella had either had him by a previous marriage or illegitimately before she was married. Therefore, we can presume that her name when she married Abraham had been Isabella COCK.

In 1851, we find Abraham and Isabella in West Langdon. This time the household includes a son William the same age as William COCK would be. It is probably the same person, but this time styled an AMOS. It is not uncommon to find a stepchild enumerated in a census with a technically inaccurate surname. Thomas AMOS is also included in the household, but his line contains no surprises. He is three years old and said to have been born in Eythorne, Kent. In fact, so far as I have discovered, his birthplace is recorded so consistently that the only part of it that varies from census to census is the spelling.

The FreeBMD marriage index discloses a marriage between Abraham AMOS and Isabella COCK in the Apr-June quarter of 1847 in the Eastry district of Kent. Therefore they were not yet married to one another at the time of the 1841 census, and at this time the paucity of information on their lives before their marriage makes it impossible to locate them with certainty in that census.


1841 England Census, Essex, Purleigh, page 23, How Green, John Filby household. GSU roll:  241366. Digital images, Ancestry.

1851 England Census, Essex, Snoreham, page 30 (stamped 301), no. 23, John Filby household. GSU roll:  207425-207426. Digital images, Ancestry.

1851 England Census, Kent, West Langdon, District 7, page 20-21 (stamped 57-58), no. 22, house 3, Abraham Amos household. GSU roll:  193534-193535. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1861 England Census, Essex, Snoreham, District 3, page 23-24 (stamped 48A), no. 30, John Filby household. GSU roll:  542751. Digital images, Ancestry.

1861 England Census, Kent, East Langdon, page 11 (stamped 20), no. 48 Martin Langdon, Abraham Amos household. GSU roll:  542659. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1871 England Census, Essex, Parish of Latchingdon, page 16, no. 93, John Filby household. GSU roll:  829959. Digital images, Ancestry.

1871 England Census, Kent, East Langdon, Martin, page 7 (stamped 21), no. 42, Abraham Amos household. GSU roll:  827259. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1871 England Census, Kent, Saltwood, page 27-28 (stamped 38), no. 130, house no. 127, William Pierce household. GSU roll:  827265. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1881 England Census, Essex, Wallasea Island, Rural Sanitary District of Rochford, page 1, no. 2, Ferry House, George Amos household. GSU roll:  1341427. Digital images, Ancestry.

1891 England Census, Essex, Canewdon, Rural Sanitary District of Rochford, page 1, no. 1, Cricksea Ferry Rd (Ferry Boat), George Amos household. GSU roll:  6096503. Digital images, Ancestry.

England, Marriages, 1538–1973 , index, FamilySearch. Previous version accessed 31 July 2003, George Amos and Elizabeth Tilby, 07 Nov 1875; citing reference , FHL microfilm 384912, 384913, 384914, 384915, 6026046.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index:1837-1915 [database on-line]. Citing entry for John Filby, Oct-Nov-Dec 1882, Maldon, Essex, vol. 4A, page 211. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index:1837-1915 [database on-line]. Citing entries for Abraham Amos and Isabella Cock, Apr-May-Jun 1847, Eastry, Kent, vol. 5, page 195. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Accessed 21 Sept 2012. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index:1837-1915 [database on-line]. Citing entries for John Filby and Mary Howard, Oct-Nov-Dec 1842, Maldon, Essex, vol. 12, page 283. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

Gaskin, Joan. Nurse or SMS. DEVON-L Archives. RootsWeb, 13 Aug. 2001. Web. Accessed 3 Oct 2012.

London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 [database on-line]. Citing marriage record for George Amos and Elizabeth Filby, Southwark, Southwark Christ Church, page 106, 1875, No. 212, 7 Nov 1875. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Accessed 21 Sept 2012. Original data: Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1921. London Metropolitan Archives, London.