Friday, August 01, 2008

1,000 Acres: A Farm Tale

This weekend we'll be heading to the blessed place of my birth, Ohio. My great-aunt and both brothers and their families are all visiting my parents and grandmother who live there--what's another 8 more people to descend upon the group? (Good thing my sister-in-law's parents live nearby!) I thought it might be a good time to pull this true story of our family farm out of the archives....

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.)

6 comments:

Heather said...

How interesting! My mom is from the Hamilton, OH area.

Summer said...

Jeanne, I always love hearing this story. Thanks for reposting.

Islandsparrow said...

a fascinating story!

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...

wow . . .

what an amazing, incredible, emotional, story! and how wonderful it is that you know this heritage. often our heritage is lost over time.

just. . . wow . . .

amy (in roscoe!)

Margaret Cloud said...

How sad all those deaths,sorry, I lost my own father when I was 9 years old. I was born in East Liverpool, Ohio and proud of it, I now live in Michigan.