Saturday, July 29, 2006

1,000 Acres: A Farm Tale (Part One)

While I was home, I visited my 94-year-old grandmother several times. Since Grandpa died eight years ago at 94, she's lived alone in the big farmhouse, doing very well for her age. Lately her memory has been failing a bit, but she remembers all the old family stories and was particularly interested in retelling me the history of the farm.

I also walked and drove around the farm with my camera in hand, hoping for some shots I can use as a new blog header. (Yes, I know--about time, right? I am seriously daunted by the thought, though, so say a prayer for me!) There's nothing to give you new eyes for old sights than viewing them through a camera lens, and I was struck with the natural beauty which surrounded me and the appeal of the old buildings, especially knowing their history.

So here are some of the interesting bits. (Family, I haven't included every detail, but please let me know about any outright errors!)

1,000 Acres: A Farm Tale

My great-great-grandfather was a wealthy farmer. He decided to buy 1,000 acres--which he did, tract by tract, sometimes as small as ten acres--so that he could give 200 acres to each of his four children when they were grown and leave another 200 to his wife, Mary Anne, if he predeceased her.

It was not her first marriage. She and her first husband had a little girl, Sylvia, and a child that died as an infant. One day her husband was out riding and was thrown from his horse. He was injured internally by a stump or fence post sticking out of the ground, and he died. Then 3-year-old Sylvia was climbing up on a little stool to reach a favorite toy and she fell, hit her head and died. Mary Anne was still in her mid-twenties, I believe, when she had buried two children and a husband. She then married my great-great-grandfather and had four more children--two girls and two boys.

The girls were named Emma and Edith. Neither married young; my great-grandmother, Emma, was nearing forty when she married John, and Edith didn't marry till her sixties. John was a farmer without a farm of his own, but when he married Emma, they were given her 200 acres and a house, and soon Emma was expecting twin boys. After the boys were born, strong and healthy, she nursed them for two weeks before the doctor told her she was going to die. She had "childbed fever," probably from unsterile instruments, my grandmother always said. (This was in 1903, when doctors should have, but might not have, known better.) On her deathbed--the same bed in which she had just given birth--she made a list of 100 people she wanted to see in heaven and expressed her wish that both boys would go to college. She died when they were three weeks old.

The boys were given to their Aunt Edith and grandmother Mary Anne (who had just buried another daughter) to be raised. John really didn't have much of a say in their lives, though he visited his boys regularly and kept a close relationship with them throughout their lives. He and Emma must have had so many dreams together, but they were all dashed by her death. On that day, John lost not only the wife he had wooed for many years, but he also lost his boys, his home and his livelihood (the land was willed to the boys, not him). He later bought a little farm of his own, remarried and lived there till his wife died and he came to live with one of his sons, my grandfather, till he died. ("He was such a gentleman," I have always been told. I have read several letters he wrote to his sons while they were away at college, and they were full of gentle, wise, fatherly concern for their good character.)

Part Two
Part Three
The Final Part


Jennifer said...

wow, what an interesting story- you've got me hooked to hear more. And it is so sad too. I will check back for more.
Jenny in Ca
visit me at

CyberCelt said...

You are so right in writing down the stories of your family before the memories are gone. I wish I had of done this with my mother, but now she is gone.

God bless you and your family.

tonia said...


what a sad story! looking forward to the rest of it and hoping it gets happier!

Jennifer said...

How interesting, and wonderful that you have chronicled it. I'm going on to pt 2.

Pamela said...

I've got to read this again...
when I'm rested after this long weekend.

.... your story reminds me of some of my family history that my brother and I discovered a fews years back. Very similiar stories.

Todays medical miracles would have saved so many of these people -- and I wouldn't be here because it would have changed history.

Donna Boucher said...

My mother was Esther Jean...I named Emma Jean in honor of her. I love the name Emma...but I kinda wish I had a little Esther.

Robin said...

Continuing on, too. I just don't know much about my family (on my dad's and mom's side :( ), but my in-laws just completed a book complete with pictures chronicling my husbands. It's a treasure! Your story will motivate others to do the same :).