Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Letters from Aunt Gladys (Newcomer) McCully

In February 1995, my Aunt Gladys (Newcomer) McCully sent me a letter with some memories of her father and her early years. This letter of Aunt Gladys’s helped me much better understand some of the things I’d observed about my Grandmother when I was a child. She writes (italics are my own notes):

“........I remember my father as being a quit man - a hard worker - kind. I never saw him abuse his animals. We girls never had to work in the fields or do heavy chores as many farm girls did. As I look back I think we should have. He was interested in knowing what was going on in the world by both the Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio newspaper) and radio, that wonderful exotic invention that brought Lowell Thomas and Amos and Andy. I also remember the sleigh rides.

My mother was not a farm girl and I think missed many of the amenities that might have been hers elsewhere. I thought of this when I was volunteering at the Historical Museum (in Saginaw, Michigan). I was working on an exhibit portraying life in the early 20th century. There was a difference between the farm home and the town or city home! I have to describe my mother as being “straight laced” which was not unusual at that time. On the lighter side - she enjoyed music and had some training. Her alto voice was often used in the church choir and as a soloist. She was excellent as a reader of prose - not poetry.

Dad was a Mason and both parents were Eastern Stars. These organizations (and the Gleaners) provided the social life for them. Dad did not go to church, but mother was very active in the aid Society and the Temperance Union.

On Saturday night we went to town in the surrey. I don’t remember fringe on the top! This was quite an occasion - the band played in the village square - later there were free movies (we took our own seats). Of course we had an ice cream cone too. 5 cents each! Dad often bought some peanuts which we sprinkled on our oatmeal Sunday morning.

By the way, my dad enjoyed the threshing time. It was long hard work but the companionship was important.

My parents moved to Michigan a few years later then you said. (I had originally thought it was in 1908.) My birth certificate shows that I was born in Ohio Feb. 26, 1908. I have always understood that they moved to Michigan when I was about 3 years old.

I recall so many things about W.W I. At first I had no idea what a war was. My parents explained it. It was so far away across the ocean but by the time the United States was involved I was old enough to appreciate the bond sales - Red Cross Days - etc., etc. Then dad received a questionnaire from the draft board, but fortunately the Armistice was signed. It was celebrated with great jubilation. Waldron really shook that day!!

It was a big decision when my parents decided to build the new house. First they built the new granary. This would serve as our sleeping quarters. Then the kitchen from the old house was moved next to the granary. It continued as the kitchen. Many meals that summer were served on a table under the two maple trees in the yard. Wonder of wonders - the new house had a furnace to supply central heat AND we had a bathroom with a flush toilet!......................”

In another letter from Aunt Gladys, received in February 1997, she relates some more memories of the Tuttle Road farm near Waldron, Michigan..

“..This farm of 80 acres was bisected by a fairly wide lane which gave my father easy access to any of the fields or the woods., which was at the far end of the lane. Near the woods was a wooden bridge over a ditch which went the width of the farm.

About a third of the way back on the left side of the lane was an area of wetland called a swale. Dad wanted to drain this. This would call for hand labor- no equipment available such as we have today. Sam Flowers and son (or sons) were experts in the tiling business. They lived about a mile North of us. To lay the tile the ditch had to be a precise depth and evenness. I used the term ditch, but really it was a long narrow channel as a trough for the tile. Sam Flowers was the best! Hard work? You bet!

Across the lane and a little further back, the land was a little higher. I remember Dad removing some stumps from this area. In my mind is a remark dad made one time when my older sister Martha and I were helping(?) dad chop down thistles in this area. He said that at one time there had been a log cabin there. Some years latter I asked my sister Florence if she knew anything about it. She said no. I don’t know the early history of the area or the farm, but I believe the story could be true. Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory and was slow to be settled, partly because of swampy land, and was not easily accessible until after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. Then settlers began to arrive in Detroit, and fan out into the southern part of what is now Michigan state.

Bernice Chappel has written several excellent novels about this part of our history. In my opinion one of the best was “Reap the Whirlwind”. Other titles were “In the Palm of the Mitten”, “Bittersweet Trail”, and “Blowing in the Wind”. We used to sell them in the Museum Store. [The local history museum in Saginaw, MI.]

All or most of the lumber for the new house came from the woods on the farm. I don’t remember the kinds of trees, but I do remember going nutting with mother. We gathered hickory and butternuts. Closer to the house was a huge black walnut tree. There were some fruit trees near the buildings - apples, sour cherries and plums. One lazy summer day we children were lying on the ground under the trees when my brother, then a small lad, quietly and seriously asked, “Is there an engine that pulls the sun across the sky?”

Our black and white cows were all named (Mary, Daisy) as were the horses (Mutt, Bill, Dan, Jack, etc.). Babe, a grey mare, was the mother of Jack. when Jack was full grown, he was kicked by another horse. Lockjaw resulted. Lacking modern medicine, Dad had to put Jack away. I can still see him leading Jack down the lane.

There were many small animals. Lots of cats. We were always excited when dad came in to announce a new calf, pigs, or kittens. One year I had a pet lamb. I think that was the only year we raised sheep. We had to take the runt pigs into the house to be babied and give them a good start and then out they went.

In Robert Schuler’s biography he tells about being sent out into the pig lot to gather corn cobs, (This was Iowa), to be used for fuel in the house. We never had to do that, but there was a pig lot west of the barn. We always had a swill pail by the back door!

I didn’t intend to write so much - just got carried away! I will celebrate my 89th birthday next week. I have had time this past year to think about what happened years ago. I am thankful for good health, a wonderful family and that we enjoy each other...

[At the end of this letter Aunt Gladys adds this PS.]

During W.W.I my sister Martha and I drove a horse and spring wagon to town to deliver the milk for dad and neighbors, Mr. Bradley and Mr. Moyer. We were paid a small sum for doing this. We used the money to buy war savings stamps. We also drove Bill about the area to sell tickets for the benefit of the Red Cross. I must have been about ten years old. G-

Aunt Gladys grew up and went on to become a teacher. She married Uncle Nathen and they lived in Saginaw, Michigan where they raised a family. Aunt Gladys passed away in 2003.

1 comment:

  1. Great contribution, Bill. I really enjoy hearing stories that tell me of how my ancestors lived. For those who do not know, Gladys' parents are my great grandparents, and her sister, Martha is my grandmother.