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barn on farm

Recently, my family and I spent almost two weeks in Missouri at my father-in-law’s farm. Mornings of clear blue skies over acres and acres of corn and soybean fields with a nice cool breeze blowing the tree leaves. Some days the wind whipped the tree branches, and I gave up thinking I could just hairspray my hair to stay out of my face! Besides the sounds of birds singing, an occasional car or truck churning up the gravel roads, were the train whistles. About 70 trains a day run close to where we were – far enough I didn’t see one from the house – but with no other environmental or man-made noise – I could hear that mournful sound. We would wake with a general purpose for the day. With my mother-in-law’s passing just over a month ago, my father-in-law was learning a new path in life that didn’t include his beloved wife of almost 65 years. He grew up in a time when men in that part of the country took care of the business end of the farm – and the home – and the women took care of the rest – cooking, cleaning, gardening, and nurturing. We knew he was looking forward to someone else besides just him roaming around the large home. So each morning – even though it was vacation – we set our alarm in order to get up and have breakfast on the table by 7 a.m. My husband and I took turns fixing breakfast. Most days, not only did I cook the evening meal but I fixed a decent sized lunch – smoked sausages, a beef roast, or stew. Sometimes my husband and grandson grilled burgers or steaks. My sister-in-law deep fried catfish one evening and ordered pizzas another night. Besides the meals, there was the washing, dusting and vacuuming. My husband and grandson spent time helping my father-in-law clear brush and vines as well as mowing the grass. There were electrical issues in the shop to take care of and accompanying his father on two long drives (over two hours each way) while we were there. Our days were filled with “helping work” but not so packed that we didn’t have time to enjoy ourselves. For the first few days, I helped my sister-in-law in her quest to put together three scrapbooks of photos. After church services on Father’s Day, my father-in-law treated us to a delicious lunch at a nearby (eleven miles!) restaurant. He is a visitor and talker so as we ate, several folks dropped by the table (you know you are in “small town America” when that happens!) to chat. Unfortunately for him, by the time he was done talking with the two or three folks who stopped by, only half his lunch had been eaten and it had gotten cold. Before we left, he made the rounds of other tables.  It was good to see him out and about and chatting with folks. A few days after we arrived, all of us piled into his mini-van and set out on a cemetery tour.  Since it’s a rural area, there were miles and miles between one cemetery and another so we spent the better part of four hours in the car. However, unlike the last time we had done this (many years ago), we did stop several times and get out so I could take pictures of the gravestones belonging to my husband’s great-grandparents, great-uncles, and various other family members. My grandson was able to stroll down to south pond (the farm boasts two stocked ponds except one now has a herd of cattle – mainly bulls – on that section of land) to do some fishing. Each evening ended with the daily television show on their local PBS station – “Cook’s Country”, then “The Doctors”, and then the 9:00 news from Kansas City. About halfway through that, my father-in-law would head to bed, and the rest of us would watch my grandson’s new favorite “old” show “That 70s show”(!), followed by Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” (yes, we saw the episode with a young David McCallum before he was NCIS’ Ducky and a young David Carradine). Then the next morning we began all over again. I took my grandson on some fascinating excursions for two consecutive days before we left (but that’s for other blog posts). It was very difficult – especially for my husband – to leave knowing that his dad would be alone as my sister-in-law (who lives across the street) was out of state for over another week. Now we are home again and standing out on the front porch here is just not the same as being able to see miles and miles in the distance with the train whistles the only loud sound to break the silence.

 

(Photo above: barn on the farm, photographed by Wendy Littrell, June 2013)

martha_stern_obituary

The above obituary was found in a letter of my grandmother’s that she had probably received from one of her siblings as it was for their mother. My best guess is that it was clipped out of the Springfield Times newspaper as it served the Leaburg, Oregon area.

Death Notices
CLAWSON – Martha Jane Clawson, passed away at her home in Leaburg, November 6, 1956, at the age of 84 years.  Born in Clarksville, Indiana, February 9, 1872, and had resided in the Leaburg area for 34 years. She was married in Anderson, Indiana,  December 31, 1910 to William F. Clawson who preceded her in death. She is survived by four sons, Clarence Wilt of Fortville,  Indiana, Jesse Wilt of Indianapolis, Indiana, John and Clifford Wlt, both of Leaburg; two daughters, Vesta Johnson of Dayton, Ohio, and Nellie Lilly of Lee’s Camp, Oregon; nine grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren. Funeral service will be held at Buell Chapel on Saturday, November 10, 1956, at 10 a.m., with Rev. C.R. Alsen officiating. Interment at Greenwood Cemetery.

clawson stone

Headstone for William F and
Martha J Clawson
Greenwood Cemetery, Leaburg, Oregon
(Photo by Glen R Johnson, original & digital
owned & in possession of Wendy Littrell,
Address for Private Use)

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 12 – Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

clawsonstore

W.F. Clawson store in Anderson, Indiana

My maternal grandmother, Vesta Wilt, helped out in the store owned by her step-father, William Frank Clawson, prior to her marriage.  The Clawson’s store was located in Anderson, Indiana. That is about the only job outside of the home she ever had. Vesta was better known for being an excellent homemaker and making so many of her family and friends feel welcome in the homes she shared with her husband, my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson. He always held a position of importance in the military so my grandmother was always prepared to entertain other officers.

My paternal grandmother, Ella (House) Amore, worked in the Coshocton Glove factory. I don’t know if it was before she was married or after she was married with children.

mom45

Mary Amore using her knitting machine

Mom spent more time working outside of the home than she did as a full time homemaker. She worked as a bookkeeper, a seamstress, a grant writer, a secretary, and in accounting.  She didn’t complete her working “life” until 2003 – at the age of 81. With only a high school education, Mom was very fortunate to obtain some of the positions that she had. As a small child, I was lucky that she was a stay at home mom for awhile. When she did re-enter the workforce, it was as a seamstress for a drapery manufacturer. Then a few years later, she went to work for Apple Manufacturing in downtown Dayton. They worked on contracts for the U.S. Army making cargo covers among other items. It was heavy, dirty work and she didn’t get much more than what the law allowed for minimum wage. Very rarely did she have to miss work due to illness because if she had, she would not have gotten paid. She didn’t have much in common with the people she worked with. Yet she was there for almost 10 years before the government contracts stopped and the plant closed its doors. She painstakingly sent out feelers and resumes and stayed employed. Not only was she a professional seamstress out in the workforce, but Mom was a professional home seamstress. She was very good and for awhile when I was in elementary and middle school, she had regular clients who came to our home. She mainly did alterations but ocassionally would sew clothes – even our neighbor’s wedding dress. She had a knitting machine (see picture above) and took classes on how to be an instructor. Dad and I would drive her to other lady’s homes so she could teach others how to use the machine. Now that knitting machine is mine.

LMM146

Mom as a Senior Aide & Grant Writer at the Fairborn Senior Center – mid 1990s

(All photos – original and digital owned by Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 11: “Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe how did this affect the family.”

My 2nd great-grandmother, Charlotte (Reed) Amore, born August 4, 1828 to Zachariah Reed and Margaret Pope died at the age of 34 years 2 months and five days on May 15, 1862 in Coshocton, Ohio. She had been married to William Amore for a little over 11 years and had borne him five sons – all but two died as young children or infants. She died a year after their youngest son died. Charlotte was not able to watch her two oldest sons grow into men or see them marry or hold her grandchildren. I don’t have any information about her death. I wonder if she was pregnant with another child but died in childbirth. If so, perhaps William didn’t even consider listing the child on a gravestone. Perhaps she caught an illness that killed her. Unless I find a news article about her death, I probably won’t ever what the circumstances were for her death. After Charlotte died, William married Elizabeth Spencer three months later. Elizabeth raised my great-grandfather, William Henry, and his brother, George Washington, along with the seven children she and William had together (one son died as a child, one at 5 months, and another at 15 days).

My maternal aunt, Genevieve Vesta (Johnson) Steffen, died from an inoperable brain tumor on May 2, 1958 a month before her 38th birthday. She was a wife of 16 years to John Steffen, mother to three ages 14, 13, and 12, and was working as a nurse. She was the middle child of my grandparents. My grandmother documented her daughter’s medical problems in letters sent to my mother in Japan. When things took a turn for the worse, a telegram was sent dated April 25, 1958.

telegram_genhealth

Genevieve operated on today
Tumor cannot be revoved
Doctor gives no hope of recovery
but may linger on for
sometime
Mailing tape with complete information
M
other Dad

My mother left for the states in order to be with her family. A few days later, she sent this telegram to my dad.

telegram_gendeath

Genevieve passed away
Funeral Monday morning
Love Dad and Mary Helen

Aunt Genevieve’s death left a void in the family. My grandparents had to lose another daughter (their baby died when only a few weeks old), worry about their three grandchildren who were left without a mother, and do what they could to make sure their son-in-law knew that he would always be a part of the family. I never met my aunt since she died several years before I was born but through all the written words of my grandparents, audio of the tape they sent my parents while she was recovering in the hospital after one of her surgeries, pictures, and the stories told by my grandparents, mom, and my cousins, I feel as if I would have really loved her. I have missed her even without knowing her. I also wish I could have witnessed the family dynamic between my mom and my aunt!

My paternal grandmother’s sister, Julia Ann (House) Tuttle, also died at a very young age. I wrote about her in Meeting Juila.

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 10: “What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?”

My dad’s sister, Marie, was active in her church and it became her life’s calling. She traveled from Coshocton, Ohio to New York to attend the Salvation Army College in the Bronx. My Aunt Marie served the Salvation Army, rising to the position of Major before her death at the age of 101 in 2010. While she didn’t become an officer in the church, my great-grandmother, Mary Angelina (Werts) Amore, believed that helping and taking care of those less fortunate was her calling – especially late in life. I wrote about this in an earlier post – “Mother” Amore.

Trinity UCC

Trinity UCC

My maternal grandmother (Vesta Wilt Johnson) came from a family who were members of the Church of the Brethren (the Stern side). My maternal grandfather’s (Glen R Johnson) parents were members of Central Christian Church in Anderson, Indiana (a Disciples of Christ congregation). After Vesta and Glen were married and moved to Ohio in the early 1920′s (after my mother and her two older siblings were born), they joined Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church in (present day) Fairborn, Ohio. When the E&R churches joined with the Congregational & Christian (not Disciples of Christ) churches in the early 1950s and became the United Church of Christ (not to be confused with Church of Christ), Trinity’s name became Trinity United Church of Christ. My mother had been a member and then later, after she had been away from the church due to military moves, etc., she re-joined Trinity in the early 1970s. That was the church I was baptized as an older child and then in eighth grade became a confirmed member. In eighth grade, I joined the church choir and participated in the youth group all through high school – serving as the President of the Youth Group when I was a senior. Trinity provided the foundation for my Christian education and faith. Through my church camp experience, I met friends – one of which I remain connected to via Facebook. Several other friends from my youth group have remained friends as we approach (maybe are now “beyond”) middle age.

My mother served Trinity in many capacities: member of the Women’s Guild and hostessing meetings at our home and many terms on the church council as well as President of the Congregation. For her Trinity was “home” – her connection with her childhood, her parents, and people she had known in her adopted hometown of Fairborn most of her life. It is where we celebrated her life after she had passed away.

My mother, especially, modeled “serving” the church for me. As an adult, after I had drifted away from worshp – but never God – I found that something was missing from my life. I had a wonderful husband and four beautiful kids. I was no longer working full time outside of the home. It was time to get back to church and give back to others through service. We began attending the church where my husband and I had our reaffirmation wedding (as we didn’t have a “church” wedding when we were married). Our youngest was just a little more than a year old on that Mother’s Day when we walked in to Round Grove United Church UCC in our city. That “baby” is now a 23 year old mother of a three year old, and we are still there. I have served on the Christian Education Board, been Sunday School Superintendent, served on the Cemetery Board, taught VBS and Sunday School, served as Women’s Fellowship secretary, ushered, greeted, served refreshments and worked in the kitchen for meals, and fifteen years ago, I was offered a position as the part time administrative asisstant. It’s a position I enjoy.

Round Grove United Church

Round Grove United Church

When my mom’s sister got married, she converted to Catholicism so her children were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. The oldest daughter decided to take steps in order to become a nun. Divine intervention ensued when she met the man she was destined to spend her life with, raising a daughter, and enjoying their two grandsons – a man who was about to take his vows to become a priest! Even though they didn’t take “formal” positions within the church, both of them were very active in lay ministry and serving in other areas.

Religion, faith and church have been very important in the lives of so many of the women in my family and in my ancestral past.

(Photo of Trinity UCC courtesy of General Preservation Corporation; Photo of Round Grove United Church in possession of Wendy Littrell)

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 9: “Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.”

Ella_Amore_4074803_435

This is my paternal grandmother’s death certificate.  Ella Amore (nee House) was born on June 22, 1882 in Ohio. Her father is listed as James House and her mother is (incorrectly) listed as Fannie Ogden (correct name: Frances Virginia Ogan). Gramma was 64 years and 11 days of age when she passed away at 5 a.m. on July 3, 1946 at her home located at 684 John Street in Coshocton, Ohio. She died from breast cancer which she had been battling for 2 years. Even though my grampa, Lloyd Amore, was still living, my uncle Gail (William Gail Amore), oldest son of the family, was the informant. Gramma was buried three days later in the Prairie Chapel Cemetery in Coshocton.

lloyd & ella gravestone close

Gravestone in Prairie Chapel Cemetery for Lloyd W. and Ella M. Amore

(Photo of gravestone taken by Robert Shackelford – cousin – and a copy sent to Wendy Littrell)

(Image of Death Certificate downloaded from FamilySearch.org website)

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 8: “Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.”

As I’ve reported many previous times, I have a large – (read that LARGE) collection of letters that include:

  • My grandparents (Glen and Vesta Johnson) wrote to each other during their courtship.
  • My grandparents wrote to each other during the time my grandfather was in training with the Signal Squadron and overseas in France during WWI.
  • My grandparents wrote to each other whenever they were apart (for military or visiting other relatives).
  • My great-grandmother (Martha Stern Clawson) wrote to my grandmother (Vesta).
  • My grandmother’s (Vesta) brothers and sister wrote to her as they lived in Oregon/Washington and my grandmother was somewhere else (usually Ohio).
  • My parents and my grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to each other when my parents were stationed in Japan in the 1950s.
  • My grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to my parents when my grandparents were stationed in Germany.
  • Postcards several members of the family sent to each other.

washington d.c. postcard

Postcard my grandfather sent to my parents on January 28, 1951 from Washington D.C.

paris postcard

Postcard from my grandfather to my parents on December 6, 1950 from Paris, France

I feel immensely fortunate that I have this collection of letters from the past because it gives me a glimpse into their lives during a time before my birth.

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