Tales of Long Ago
Retold by Gladys YOUNG Burnham
From tales told by her grandmother,
Irena PURVIS Tanner
|Note from Joyce Photos in my own copy of this book are photocopies
of photocopies of photocopies, and are much too low quality to use. I will
include photos from other collections where appropriate.
Reprinted with permission of June SMITH MIckley
|Contents||Chapter XV Off to the War|
Gladys has lost most of her eyesight now, and has just passed her 84th birthday. I read her story which was never completely finished, as her eyesight faded before she had a chance to put all of her notes into chapter form. However, the story that she has written is, to my estimation, way too good to lie dormant in someone’s attic or cellar. So I have taken the liberty of typing it, and putting it into book-form for the family. The story was written and compiled by Gladys YOUNG Burnham for the descendants of
Irena PURVIS Tanner
June SMITH Mickley
My grandmother dominates these pages, as she dominated most of the scenes where she found herself. She was a strong, forceful character, and if, at times, she seemed to ride rough-shod over some of her family, it was from force of habit, rather than from a desire to hurt anybody.
She was a bulwark of strength to many a weaker soul. Her "Fiddlesticks", "Where’s your gumption?", "Get at it and do it!" has spurred many a faltering heart. Her unfailing kindness took her into all kinds of homes on errands of mercy. Whether it was walking through the snow to officiate at the birth of a neighbor’s baby, or burning the midnight oil to clothe a destitute child, she didn’t spare herself if she could help someone in need. She tied quilts for people whose homes had burned, and washed the dishes for a sick neighbor with the same kindly, Christian spirit. Tho’ she sometimes grumbled at a lazy husband who refused to split kindling word for an ailing wife, or scolded roundly an indifferent father who let his daughters carry was water from the spring while he sat on his "britches" and read last week’s paper.
She almost always had a couple of yards of cloth in the house to make a baby dress, or an old pair of trousers to cut down for a shivering small boy. "They that give to the poor, lend to the Lord," was a favorite saying of hers, and she practiced what she preached.
Most of the incidents of the story are written down as she told them to me through the years. I have collected them so I could pass them on to others of the family who have not been associated with her as closely as I have. She is the "Rene" of the story.
On the next page are photos of Charles and Irena Purvis with the following information:
Charles Royal Purvis
b. Jun.04, 1823
d. Jun 21, 1890
m. Jun. 04, 1848
Mary Ann Hart
b. Dec. 09, 1827
d. Mar. 13, 1907
Irena Polly Purvis
b. Apr. 20, 1853
d. Dec. 05, 1950
m. Oct. 31, 1870
Oliver Perry Tanner
b. Nov. 03, 1846
D. Jun. 07, 1912
Our story opens in a little log house near the village of Standing Stone, in the foothills of the Alleghenies in Northern Pennsylvania in March, 1843. A baby boy had just been born to John and Betsey Purvis. Tho’ he was the eighth child, the others had always been welcome, but this time the little stranger was greeted with feelings of dismay.
Six years before, tragedy had struck the family. John was kicked by a horse in one eye. He was blinded instantly and completely in that eye. Before it healed, inflammation got into the other, and he was soon completely blind. They had been farmers but when John could no longer see to get about, much of the farm work had to be abandoned. Charles, a boy of twenty when our story opens, was too young six years before, to go on with the heavy work. The next child was a girl four years younger. At the time of William’s birth, (for that is what they named this last baby boy), Catherine was about sixteen years old. The next girl, Phoebe, must have been about thirteen. Tho’ they were a help and comfort to their mother, they couldn’t do much to help the situation out-of-doors. Jerry was between the two girls in point of years, but he was such a scatter-brained mischief-maker that he somehow managed to upset everything he tried to do. Philena, or Phillie, as she was called, a little girl of ten or eleven, was much more help to Charles than he. The two little girls, Caroline, five years old, and Sophronia, an engaging little miss of three, John had never seen, as they arrived after he lost his sight.
During the intervening years, Betsey had worked at her trade of hat-making. She could braid five, seven, or nine strands of palm leaf, and sew them into hats. She had a set of hat blocks, and could steam and shape them so they had a very professional look. At one time this trade was quite lucrative, but sales had dwindled of late. John told her he guessed she had made so many that everyone had a hat. Tho’ everyone worked and pooled all their resources, the thought of another mouth to feed overwhelmed them.
John had been interested before his blindness in native medicines, herbs of various kinds, and lacking a better way to obtain the juices from them, he steeped them in a pan before the fireplace. He had talked with many people about the efficacy of hemlock oil, wintergreen, peppermint, pennyroyal, and other common herbs, and he knew there was a demand for them, but he had no way of distilling them. Besides, the land around there was too thickly settled to have very big patches of the low-growing herbs. Hemlock was plentiful, but as he said, "Man’s ills can’t all be cured with hemlock."
A few days after our story opens, as he and Charles were coming back from a trip to the village store at Standing Stone, they met a friend, Christopher Ward. As was the custom in those days, both men stopped their teams to visit. John was from Ireland, and old Christopher was from Ireland, too; this was a life-long bond between them. Christopher at this time owned most of what is now Ward Township in Tioga County. He received one of the early land grants from the state.
Christopher gradually drew the story of the family’s struggles from John, and sensed the desperation of the man. As the conversation progressed, the secret ambition of John’s heart came out—to distill and sell some of the herbs native to the region.
"But I can never do it." John said, "In the first place, I don’t have anything to work with, and in the next place, there ain’t enough patches of peppermint in Standing Stone Township for more than a smell, so I guess we’re stopped before we begin."
Christopher Ward thought a minute; finally he spoke. "Man," he said, "I’ve got a thousand acres of woods over west of here a piece, it’s got every kind of tree and herb on it that a body ever heard of, in quantities to fill the biggest still you ever saw from now ‘till do.." And he proceeded to unfold a plan that nearly made young Charles fall off the wagon seat in astonishment.
John said, "I’ll have to see what Betsey says about it."
They made arrangements for another meeting in a few days, and John hurried home to talk the matter over with Betsey and the family.
"It would mean separation from your father, and your4 brothers, Jonas and Gardner, and you wouldn’t get to see your sister, Theedie very often, and you surely would miss your little brother, Daniel, but you would be nearer your brothers, Richard and Roswell than you are now, " John said that night as they talked bout it."They live below Troy, and this land of Ward’s is on Armenia Mountain, west of Troy. You would be back, practically in the wilderness. I don’t know how the children would get any schooling and I know there is no church near."
"I can teach the younger children to read and write," Betsey said, "and a body can read his Bible and pray to God anywhere." So it was decided to take up with Mr. Ward’s kind offer, which, in brief, was this:
John and Betsey Purvis were to have life lease of one hundred acres of land in Ward Township o Armenia Mountain, ten miles above Troy. He would furnish a man to build a house and put up a log barn, also fix a place for a still on the bank of a small creek nearby. He would buy a still for John to distill native herbs. They were to have the use of anything top of the ground. All minerals underneath were reserved. Mr. Ward came over in a few days with the necessary papers, and the family began to make preparations to move to their new home.
We will leave them for awhile, and go a little further back into the story of John and Betsey.
John Purvis went from his home in Ireland with an officer in the English Army when he was about twelve or thirteen years of age, during the War of 1812-14. He served as valet, or body servant to this officer. I don’t remember that I ever heard the rank of the officer, but evidently young John had great faith in the man, and he believed, if the officer had lived, he would have been returned to his home. But the officer was killed, and John Purvis was left alone in a strange land. He was found and taken home by an American soldier, named Daniel Hager, from somewhere I New England, probably Vermont, where he grew up with the Hager children. When he grew to manhood, he married Betsey, the oldest daughter. Later the families came to Pennsylvania, and settled near Standing Stone. John and Betsey must have been married about 1821.
Early in the summer of 1843, John and Betsey and their family moved into the house that Christopher Ward had built for them. It was a large house for the times: a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a pantry downstairs, and two large bedrooms upstairs. Mr. Ward had said that there were lots of herbs to be had for the gathering, and they found this to be true.
Charles and Philie seemed to be the mainstay of the family as the years passed. Jerry learned the harness-making trade and settled at Covington, a town on the Tioga River, about ten miles west of the family home on Armenia. Catherine married Hiram Hall before they moved, and lived near Towanda. They raised a large family, and went West in later years. Phoebe grew up on Armenia, and married Samuel Eaton. She died a few years later, leaving three children; Margaret, Johnny, and Lucy. These children came to live with their Grandma Purvis about the time the last ones of her own children were leaving home.
Jerry eventually married Ruth Hart. They separated, and Grandma had their flock, Roswell, Helen, and Mary, for awhile. Roswell liked to help his grandfather, and was a real joy to him.
Caroline grew up and married Frank Bascom. She died in childbirth, and she and the baby were buried in the same grave.
Perhaps it is well to put in a paragraph here about the method of distillation. For hemlock oil, Charles would take the horse and wagon, or bobsled if it were in wintertime, and get a load of small hemlocks. These he unloaded near the still. John trimmed them, and peeled the young bark until the still was full, which sometimes took several days. Then he or Charles kindled a fire under the barrel of the still, and tightly covered it. The steam collected and ran off through the "worm" into a dish. The water evaporated, leaving a residue of hemlock oil. They kept the fire burning all day, or as long as there was any oil left in the hemlock. Then the still was cleaned, ready for the next "batch". The oil had to be bottled and put away carefully.
Wintergreen season came on as soon as the snow was off the ground. Gathering wintergreens was a family project. Everybody went to the "Windfall", a place about a half-mile west of the farm, where sometime in the past, there had been a high wind. Many large trees had been twisted off, and it was hard to go through, under, or around these old trees where wintergreens grew in abundance. Everyone picked the small plants in baskets, or pails, according to their size, until the whole family had all they could carry. When they got home, came the tedious job of looking them over, and picking out the stray leaves and dirt. Needless to say, the boys of the family usually had something else very pressing to do, so Betsey and the girls usually found themselves left with this. The process of distilling was the same as for hemlock. Early spring was a busy time. Tansey, pennyroyal, princess pine (the pipsissawa of the Indians), and peppermint came on soon. These all had to be gathered, looked over, and made ready for the still. Betsey soon had a large bed of tansy near the house. When it came time to gather peppermint, Charles, and the older children would take the horse and wagon and drive down the north side of the mountain toward Mainesburg, where it grew in abundance along the bank of a creek. They took a scythe with them, and soon filled the wagon box. This was a shorter job than the others, and was left until late spring, partly because it was quickly done, and partly to wait until the peppermint grew about as tall as it would get.
John bought ounce, half-pound, and pound bottles to hold the oils. The ounce bottles were sold mostly for family use. The half-pound and pound bottles went to Doctors and drug stores. Much of the oil was sold clear. Some was mixed with alcohol, and was knows as cut oil. Some was diluted still further with alcohol or whiskey, and was sold as essence. Philie went with John the most of anybody, to drive the horse, and to make change. She liked to go. She got acquainted with folks easily, and was the most help to him of any of the children. She finally grew to womanhood and married Aaron Wood. After that, the grandsons were old enough to enjoy going. Roswell, especially liked these trips. "Peddling medicine", he called it. Johnny never liked it. He was a shy, retiring boy, and didn’t like to meet strangers. He usually got out of going, if possible. Charles continued to help him every spring as long as he worked the still. He usually lived within traveling distance.
Soon after the Purvis family moved to Armenia, the neighbors got together and build a schoolhouse. They called it the Ward School in honor of Christopher Ward. Ward Township had been created at some previous time. As the need arose, a cemetery was laid out, known as the Fellows Cemetery. A Rose family, and a Barnes family soon settled near. The Barnes family were from Vermont. They came the latter part of winter, while there was yet snow, and lived under their sleigh box, with some brush cut and piled on the windward side, cooking over an open fire until they could roll up some logs and build a cabin.
The Fellows family was one of their nearest neighbors. Old Mr. Fellows as a tight-fisted, dictatorial man. His oldest son, Arminus, wanted to be a doctor. The nearest school when they came, was at Sate Road, three miles away. His father opposed the idea vigorously, and finally gave the boy a hundred sheep to care for, thinking this would prove to be so much work that he couldn’t possibly get away for school. He got up early, tended the sheep, and walked the three miles to school. At night, after climbing the three miles up the mountain, he still had to feed and tend the sheep. This is did for two winters. Nights he would read everything he could borrow that had anything to do with medicine. He rode around one winter with old Dr. Maine from Mainesburg. (We don’t know how he got rid of the sheep). The next year he started his practice of medicine. He had no equipment. He doctored mostly with herbs, which he prepared himself. In those days, delivering babies was not usually a doctor’s job. Mid-wives did that. Soon he married a woman who as a mid-wife, so between the, they could take care of most of the ills that human flesh was heir to. If they couldn’t the patient simply passed on into a brighter and better world, (we hope). When he got any money, it went into books. He just had to put into practice what he read. In after years, he became a very good doctor for the times, and his wife, Mis’ Doctor Fellows, as she was called, became one of the most skillful mid-wives of the entire neighborhood. People came to her for miles around to help in difficult cases.
There was never a church in Ward Township. Occasionally a traveling preacher came through, and preached in the schoolhouse. A few people of the neighborhood usually kept a Sunday School going in the summertime. They gathered together on Sunday afternoons, usually. Someone almost always had a "tuning fork". He pitched the tune, and the congregation sang the old hymns of the Methodist Church. A few people had little paper-covered booklets containing the words, which they had brought into the community with them from other days. Then someone read from the Bible, and they had prayer and a testimony meeting. Then it was the children’s turn. They recited the verses they had learned during the week. Some children learned whole chapters. Time didn’t seem to be an object. There are several little books in existence now in the family that were given as prizes for memorizing Scripture. I don’t know where the women purchased them. They were miles from a Bible store, and publishing houses weren’t very common but somehow, they got them. One that has passed down through the family for several generations is, "Charley But—The Boy Who Never Did Wrong’, a very pointed story concerning the bad habit of making excuses.
The Sullivan State Road Baptist Church was built in 1857. That church was only about three miles away, so I suppose if they wanted to attend a church service badly enough after that, they could have gone there.
Mary Ann was of Dutch descent. Her father was Daniel Hart, whose father, also Daniel, came from Holland shortly after the Revolution. She was born December 9, 1827, in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, though their home was just over the state line in New York State, on the north side of the town. Her father died when she was a small girl, and she lived with the Ludingtons’ most of her early life.
They were married at the home of her uncle, Henry Hart, in Sullivan Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. She and Charles went to housekeeping that June in a one-room log house, of the traditional "20 by 20" style, at the foot of Armenia Mountain in Sullivan Township about two miles from Grandpa Purvis’ (John)./ The cabin was lined with boards running around the room on three sides. One end was not lined. There was supposed to be a bedroom there, but it was never partitioned off. There was a garret, but they never had a bed there. The house was built without a fireplace. Cooking and heating was accomplished with a wood stove, the top of which looked like stair steps. The first step had two lids, then there was a rise of five or six inches, then two more lids. It was known as "The Parlor Cook Stove". Back of the stovepipe there were two more little lids on a box-like projection that went part way around the pipe. This made a handy place to keep things warm, and in the wintertime a couple of bricks or a soap stone was usually kept there to keep warm to take to bed on frosty nights, or to wr4ap in old newspapers to put under the feet when any of the family had to ride out in the cold.
One of Mary Ann’s first quilts was pieced like a star, and the name of the block was called "The Star-Spangled Banner." We would call their household furnishings very meager; they had six splint-bottomed ladder-back chairs, and Mary Ann had one rocking chair which was always thought of as her chair, probably because she always rocked the babies in it. When chair bottoms wore out, a neighbor by the name of Jason Clark re-bottomed them with ash splints, or hickory bark. They had a cherry drop-leaf table, and Mary Ann kept the leaves let down when it was not in use, and it was shoved back against the wall out of the way. There was a stand with a drawer, and shelves for dishes and clothing; also pegs driven between the logs to hang outdoor wraps on. She had a cord bedstead painted red, withy large knobs on the sides where the ropes were wound. The other bed was black with yellow streaks. As the family grew larger they bought a trundle bed, which could be shoved under the big bed during the day, and pulled out at night to accommodate the two or three youngest children. Later Charles built another room on the back, where Mary Ann’s sister, Ruth, lived for a time. She had a yellow bed. Years later, a Mrs. Charles Doud gave Rene some dishes, a pitcher and sugar bowl of dark brown ware, which were some of Mary Ann’s first dishes.
A large cupboard was built into one end of the house. Grandma Purvis had a chest of drawers, but most people did not have anything so fine.
People of that day used sperm oil lamps to set on the table. Mary Ann had candle molds, and made beef tallow candles to carry around the house, or to use when they got out of sperm oil. She never allowed a bit of tallow to go to waste. If the candle and oil supply both ran out, she wrapped a button in a rag set it in a saucer of lard. This was called a "slut." She could knit or sew by it all the evening. She lived to be over eighty, and never wore glasses.
Mary Ann had a spinning wheel and a swift and made her own yarn. Charles kept a flock of sheep, and the family sheared and carded their own wool. She and the girls knit their own stockings, also socks for Charles and the boys, and the younger children. Rene says she began knitting her own stockings when she was about seven years old. She had to knit her "stint" before she could go out to play. Mary Ann did not have a loom of her own, but hired someone else to weave her cloth. Most of their clothes were made of "homespun." Much of it she dyed herself, with butternut bark, onion skins, and other native plants.
Her dishes were white with blue edges. Her spoons were pewter. Her knives and forks were steel with horn handles. The forks were three-tined.
On the 20th day of July, 1849, the first baby was born. He was named William Finley. He was immediately nicknamed "Fin"; later in life he was known as "Will."" On March 6th, 1851, the next little boy came. He was named Allen Calvin, and was commonly called "Al."
We will pass quickly over the events of the next few years, and go to the old Bible for all that we know of them:
"Irena Polly, born April 20, 1853
Nancy Isabell, born April 4, 1855
Betsey Elizabeth, born August 25, 1857"
We now come to the time when Irene Polly, the "Rene" of our story begins to remember events. Rene had very red hair, and one of her first recollections is being called names by her brothers. One name that never failed to arouse her ire was "Old Sorrel-Top."
Rene began to help out with the care of the younger children when she was very small. Her mother would let her wash out diapers in a tub on the floor when she was too small to reach it if it was placed on anything. She washed and wiped dishes, also, at a very early age.
June 30, 1859, Charles Budd, called Charley to distinguish him from the older Charles, was born, and on February 23, 1862, the last little sister, Laura Ann arrived. All of these children first saw the light of day in the same log house down on the north side of Armenia Mountain.
Mary Ann was a resourceful person, and her children always had plenty to eat, and were clothed warmly in winter. They went bare-foot in summer as all the other boys and girls did in those days. They had stone bruises on their heels, and stubbed toes, and in the fall it was agony to try to put on the shoes that had been discarded so joyously in the spring. They had plenty of home-made bread, maple sugar which they made themselves, potatoes and other vegetables, apples, wild plums and berries of all kinds. Berries and apples were dried and put away in gags, or strung on strings for winter. Wild game was plentiful, tho’ the bear and deer of an earlier day were seldom seen. Tho’ at rare intervals someone saw a bear. Rene and her aunt Phillie went blackberrying. There was one particular place where the berries grew especially large and juicy. As they approached the spot they saw something move in the bushes. They watched a minute, and saw a big brown bear raise his head, look at them, and go back to picking berries. Needless to say, they left as soon as their paralyzed legs could carry them, and without their blackberries. Rene even left her pail, in her haste.
Charles had a small farm, and they usually had one or two cows, so the family had plenty of milk. Mary Ann set the milk in crocks, skimmed it, let the cream sour, then she churned the sour cream in a stone churn with a wooden dasher to make butter. One is appalled to think of the amount of lifting this required. The sour skim milk she used to make cottage cheese. The fresh buttermilk also made a delightful drink as well as making very good pancakes.
Charles used a very large copper kettle to boil sap in to make maple sugar. Mary Ann used it for making soap. Meat scraps and grease were saved all winter. When the first warm days of spring came, she fixed a "leech" – a barrel with a hole in the bottom, and a board running from the hole to a wooden tub. She partly filled this barrel with wood ashes and poured water over them, as the water soaked down through the ashes, the lye ran down and slowly accumulated in the tub. She heated the lye and grease up together in the big copper kettle to make soft soap. I suppose from years of experience she knew about how much lye she needed for the amount of grease she had, she could easily run off more lye, for there was always a big pile of wood ashes in the back yard each spring. These were spread around on the garden and around the rhubarb and posy beds, after soap-making. Mary Ann made about a barrel of soft soap every spring; if she had good luck, it lasted until the next spring. A woman who had to buy store soap before the next spring was either sick or lazy. When Mary Ann made soap, she saved some of the lye to hull a couple of batches of corn. Field corn boiled up in lye until the hulls, or outer skin came loose was considered a de3licacy. After it was boiled and cooled, it had to be washed nine times to wash the hulls off, also to wash out the taste of the lye. She fixed an eight quart pan full at a time, and they ate it with maple sugar and milk, also slightly salted. We can buy it now under the name of hominy, tho’ the commercial product doesn’t have the old-time goodness of the kind the old ladies made.
Sugar-making was the time of all the year that the children looked forward to most. During the winter, Charles and the boys made sap troughs from logs, and spiles from elders or sumac. When the first warm days came in February or early March, the sap started in the sugar maples. They tapped the trees, gathered the sap with the oxen and bob-sled, brought it near the house, where they had got up a huge woodpile. They boiled it down in the big kettle outdoors as far as they safely could without scorching. Then they took it into the house and put it into a small sap-pan on the stove, and Mary Ann cleansed it with milk, and boiled it until it began to "sugar" when a little was taken out and stirred in a saucer. Then the whole mass had to be stirred slowly over low heat until it would "cake" when a little was dipped out and cooled. When it was nearly sugar, the children would have a lot of fun eating "wax." They brought in a pan of clean snow, and drizzled the heavy syrup around on top, and it cooled quickly into the most delectable maple candy. It was at this stage that some was dipped out so the family had "warm sugar" and biscuits for supper. Each had some warm sugar in his own dish and they vied with one another to stir theirs and see who could have the whitest dish of sugar. When everyone had eaten so much sweetness that they began to feel slightly nauseated, someone said, "Where’s the crock of pickles?" Strange to say, a sour pickle or two, set the stomach right immediately, but, "Ugh!" that first bite, after all that sweet.
The whole mass had to be stirred carefully or the "grain" would be broken and it was salvy, which meant that it did not cake well. When the syrup was boiled down to the proper consistency, it was poured into pans or dishes of any kind which had been rinsed with milk. After the cakes were thoroughly cooled and set they could be taken out and wrapped in brown paper. Not a scrap was ever wasted. This was the only sweetening they had, unless someone found a "bee tree." Sugaring continued until the buds began to start, then the sugar would no longer cake, and Charles made a tub of "soft sugar"; it was thicker than syrup, but never got entirely hard. Mary Ann dipped always from a little well in the center of the tub, which each day filled up again. My, how Charles used to like it!
Another product of the maples was maple vinegar. They boiled the sap partly down and let it sour in the sun. If they had a piece of "mother" from cider vinegar to put into it, the finished product taster better, and more like cider vinegar.
When Rene first remembers, her father had a large yoke of oxen named "Buck" and "Bright". He drove them on the road when he had to go to the mill, or to Mainesburg or Sylvania for supplies. He hauled wood, plowed and harvested with them. They were stronger and hardier than horses.
Rene remembers one spring when there as a late snow and the sheep were out with their lambs, and all the children that were old enough had to go out and carry lambs to the barn.
Speaking of sheep reminds me of some of the home remedies that were resorted to in an emergency. The family, at one time, all "came down" with measles. Now the common remedy to bring out measles was soot tea, but Al, being a sturdy outdoor boy with thick, dark skin, did not break out with several dosings of soot tea, and he became quite sick. As in most emergencies, Grandma Purvis was sent for. She came, took one look at Al, then turned around to the assembled family, fixed a determined eye on father. "Charles, get some sheep manure, steep it up and give him a few doses. That will bring them out." Father went for the remedy, but such is the power of mind over matter, that before he returned, the fine rash had begun to come out on Al’s forehead and chest, and they didn’t have to give it to him after all.
Chickens in those days must have been a curious lot. There was no distinct breed. Instead there was the "Old Barnyard Hen" and a curious creature she was. As folks moved from one locality to another, they traded settings of eggs, or swapped roosters, so a hen might have the large upstanding comb and mottled feathers of a Brown Leghorn and the feathered legs of a Brahma. They were generally good layers, and very hardy, scratching their living out of doors, except in the most severe weather.
The children were all called a shortened form of their name. I suppose if I had been the parent of eight children, I would have shortened their names, too. I never would have been able to think of a three, or even a two syllable name, especially if I had occasion to call – say four of them at once.
School, in those days, ran on the plan of three months in the summer and three months in the winter. In summer the little ones went to school, while the older boys and girls helped at home. In the late fall, after Thanksgiving, when the corn was husked, the cider made, the house banked, the animals provided for, the winter clothes and shoes made, and the stockings knit, there was a lull in the work at home. Then the winter term began. The older boys and girls gathered in the little red schoolhouse to imbibe as much as possible of the "Three R’s" until the "sun shone on both sides of the fence", and they were again needed at home.
Rene seems to have gone to school in two of these little schoolhouses; one was the Clark Schoolhouse on Armenia Mountain, the other was the State Road School about a mile from the farm where they lived. Most of the teachers seem to have been from "over on the River," that being the headwaters of the Tioga River, above Troy, Pennsylvania. Canton had an Academy at this time, and these girls could attend the Academy for a few months, and get a certificate to teach. They were often younger than some of their pupils. They "boarded around," and their pay was about $4.00 to $8.00 a month. Each child had a slate and a slate pencil, and some had a few sheets of "fool’s cap" paper. Every family purchased a few books which were supposed to last throughout the schooldays of the family. They were passed down from one child to another, until some of the younger ones never knew what the cover of a schoolbook really looked like. Rene, being only the third of the family, got them while they were still possibly in good condition. She remembers a Geography, having a few pages of maps in the front, and pages and pages of rather finely printed te3t in the rest of the book. The family had a Third Reader, she thinks it was a Sanders, a Mental Arithmetic, and a Speller. The Spellers were supposed to last through a child’s school life. They had words in the front like "to" and "at," and got harder as one progressed. The Speller also contained such miscellaneous information, such as the Alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, table of time, measures, names of the Presidents, States of the Union, and other helps.
Charles and Mary Ann’s children walked to the State Road School, and the State Road Baptist Church to Sunday School. The church must have been fairly new when Rene first remembers it, as it was built in 1857. The people that built it were called "Close Communion" Baptists because they did not allow non-members to sit at Communion, or the Lord’s Supper with them.
In those days the heads of some of the scholars were swarming with vermin, and Mary Ann had a lively time keeping her brood free from "livestock." This was also the day of the "pine gum" craze. The boys and girls scraped the pine pitch off the ends of boards at the saw mill and boiled it up to make pine gum, sometimes flavored with a drop of peppermint oil. This was chewed with great gusto by all the young fry. Many of the children took it to school. Almina Doud was the teacher one summer. She laid down very strict rules about chewing gum in school. One day a neighbor girl, Delia Dewey, or Deel, as she was called, came to school with a mouthful of gum. Miss Doud didn’t notice it until school was in session. Deel kept on, blissfully chewing. When Miss Doud finally noticed it, she sent one of the big boys for a bundle of whips; she wore out one whip after another on the back of poor Deel, until she groveled underneath the seats and gagged for mercy. The joy of conflict was in the bosom of Miss Doud. She continued to flail the girl, until somehow, she found the door, and fled for home. That night all the equipment was taken out of the schoolhouse and burned. The next day, not a pupil came to school. There was no more school that term.
As we have said before, the Purvis family was not plentifully supplied with this world’s goods. Mrs. Miller, a neighbor lady, was quite "well-off" for those days. She had two daughters, Lura and Mary, about Rene and Bell’s ages. One day she sent word for the two girls to stop in on the way home from school. She had a beautiful wool delaine dress for Rene, and a quilted petticoat for Bell. Rene asserted the sturdy independence that characterized her, and promptly and indignantly refused to wear Mary Miller’s old dress, although she knew she would never have one of her own half so fine. As she often said, she never could bear to wear anyone else’s clothes, and besides, she didn’t like the patronizing air with which it was offered. Bell, being younger and not so sensitive, obediently took the quilted petticoat home and wore it, and enjoyed its warmth.
Politics didn’t seem to enter into the lives of the family at this time, tho’ the rumblings of the Civil War were beginning to be heard. Charles as a Democrat, but seems to have been a staunch admirer of Abraham Lincoln. The Democrats were called "Copperheads" in this section and one man’s barn burned because he prated loud and long about his political views.
Rene had very red, or auburn hair, and didn’t back down much for the older boys. She must have had courage, too, in other ways, for she tells of the time when she was about eight years old, that she and Bell, who must have been about six, were sent by their mother with yarn to the home of Aunt Theedie Ludington, at Mainesburg, a distance of fully three miles. Aunt Theedie was weaving a piece of cloth for their mother, and didn’t have yarn enough to finish the piece. She got word to Mary Ann someway, and the only way she could think of to get the yarn to Aunt Theedie was to send the two little girls on foot with it over the long, lonely road. Some of the way was through the woods. They were frightened several times, and it took all their small stock of courage to go over the last hill and past a pasture where some cows were grazing. They thought, of course, that every cow as a bull, and they were very much afraid of bulls. At last they reached Aunt Theedie’s and delivered the yarn. She told them what brave, good girls they were, had them rest, and gave them some hot dinner. When she sent them back in the afternoon, the return trip didn’t seem nearly so "care some."
Other children of the neighborhood that Rene tells about were: Pem, Warren, and Ann Rose, Lura and Mary Miller, Enoch and Lib Austi, Deel, Lucy, Rhoda and Willard Dewey, (There were several other Austins and Deweys, but they were younger.) Carrie Smith, Sate Fletcher, and Elizabeth Nash.
One momentous occasion, while they lived in the log house, was a visit of Uncle Henry Hart, his wife, and their two children, George and Mary. Mary was a month older than Rene, and George was still older. They had clothes made out of "boughten" cloth, and were the best-dressed people that Rene had ever seen. She thought that if she could ever have clothes like Mary’s, she would be the happiest girl in the world. They were on their way to Iowa, and Rene never saw them again.
About the last year that they lived at the foot of the mountain, the School Board (Sullivan Township) decreed that the Purvis children should go up the hill to the Clark Schoolhouse to school, instead of to the State Road School where they had always gone. None of them liked this much. They would be separated from their friends, they had to climb the mountain to get there, and their parents grumbled because the teachers were not so good. They went there only a few weeks before they moved to Elkland.
Another incident will bear repeating that happened about this time: Charles purchased a shot gun from a Mr. Benson, and paid for it in corn. He probably trusted Mr. Benson/ anyway, he didn’t get a receipt for payment. The value of the corn was agreed upon as $12.00. When the corn had been fed up, Mr. Benson conveniently forgot that he had had it. He sent the Constable, Al Rockwell, to levy on their household goods for the $12.00. He came on a bitter cold day in winter. He saw Charles outside, and made known his errand. Mary Ann was watching through the window and guessed that his errand boded no good. She also guessed that he was about frozen. Now in those days a constable couldn’t make a levy through a window. She wouldn’t let him come in to warm himself until he would promise not to make a levy. He stood out about it for awhile, but the intense cold finally drove him to promise. She let him in. He kept his promise, and after he got thawed out, he went away. Later Charles gave Mr. Benson some potatoes, he gave Charles a receipt in full, and they were friends afterward.
In February 1862, a little sister, Laura Ann was born. That winter Charles drew mine props to Morris Run where the coal mines were being opened up.
Jerry Purvis married Ruth Hart, Mary Ann’s sister, a number of years before. They had the three children, Roswell, Mary, and Helen, mentioned in the last chapter. He went into the Army when the war first started. He was a Union Spy, and owned a large white horse. Ruth moved into the little room on the back of the log house. At first, she tried to keep all three of the children with her, but soon it was thought best to take Roswell and Mary to Grandma Purvis’s, and she just kept Helen. With so many little girls under one roof, they had many good times together, though most were connected with some kind of work, as berry-picking, or going after the cows. Dishwashing caused a never-ending argument; one of the Purvis girls would offer to help Helen wash her dishes if she would help them. Helen only had to wash dishes for two, while the dished for Mary Ann’s brood seemed endless. After a few minutes of dish-washing, Helen and one of the girls, usually Bell, slipped off to play. Then there was a mighty argument. If Helen and Bell could get far enough away before they were discovered, sometimes they got away with it, tho’ Mary Ann was apt to remember next time.
There was very little privacy in the log house, and sometimes Mary Ann and Aunt Ruth wanted to talk about something that they didn’t want the little girls to hear. Rene and Helen were about nine years old at this time, but old enough to want to be in on grown-up secrets. The spring was some distance from the house, and a favorite way to get rid of the girls for a few minutes was to send them to the spring after water. In summer, windows were open. The girls would take the pail and start out the door toward the spring, then sneak around under the window to hear what the women were saying. This worked several times until one time one of the girls made a small noise, and they were discovered, and that was the end of that.
In December 1862, Charles heard that there was work in the lumber woods at Elkland. It was very hard to get a living off the farm. The Civil War was going on, there was no money in the country, the farm was not yet paid for, the family were growing all the time, there were more and more needs to be met, and les and less resources to meet them with, so when Charles got a chance to sell the farm to Warren Miller, he was glad to be free of debt once more. He made the deal and had enough left to buy a team of horses. They left the oxen with Grandma Purvis. When the time came to go, they loaded their possessions into a lumber wagon, the family perched on top of the load, and they set out. The day was real cold. They got as far as Uncle Almond Hart’s on a hill out of Elkland. It was nearly dark when they came to the hill, the horses were tired, so they walked up the hill to get there. They stopped and Uncle Almond came out and asked them to come in. When they got into the house, Fin complained that his feet were cold. Aunt Betsey hustled him around by the stove and had him take off his socks. His feet were badly frosted, and the skin came off with them. She rubbed them with snow, and doctored them up, but they were sore for weeks. They ate supper there and spent the night. The talked the situation over but they decided to stay, and Charles would help at such as he could find to do. So the next morning they moved into a deserted lumber camp. Mary Ann said that this was one place where she had room enough. The family before them had kept boarders. Most of the men were gone, but Charles found enough to keep himself and the team busy that winter. It was about a mile and a half from Elkland.
Uncle Almon and Aunt Betsey had several children whose ages ran along with Charles’ and Mary Ann’s children. Joe was Al’s age. Frances or "Frank" as she was called, was about Rene’s age, Henry and Lucy were younger. Aunt Betsey helped out the family finances by working for the neighbors occasionally. When she was away at work, "Frank" took care of Henry and Lucy. Her life was very easy-going and happy-go-lucky, very different from the rather rigid discipline of Mary Ann’s household.
One day, Mary Ann sent Rene and Bell to the store at Elkland. Frank went with them, as Aunt Betsey was working that day. She could usually go anywhere anytime, as she was her own "boss" when Aunt Betsey worked. When they arrive3d at the village sometime during the afternoon, Frank wanted to stop and see a chum of hers. After they went in, the girl’s mother asked them if they didn’t want to help her daughter tear carpet rags. Frank sat down and began to tear industriously. Rene didn’t think she liked to tear carpet rags, besides her mother had told her to hurry back. The woman got dinner, but didn’t offer them any, and Frank worked while they ate. It began to grow late in the afternoon, and Frank was still tearing carpet rags. At last Rene’s patience was exhausted, and she told Frank flatly that she was going home. Down inside she had her doubts that she knew the way, but she made up her mind to start, anyway. Bell, being two years younger, didn’t figure largely in the older girls minds. Frank excused herself in spite of the mother’s remarks "that it seemed as tho’s she could stay a little longer," and they went on down to the store and purchased their groceries, then trudged back up the hill for home. They left Frank at her house and went on. When they arrived home, Rene’s mother was disgusted and said some very caustic thins, tho’ she placed most of the blame on Aunt Betsey, "who should be content to live on what she had, and stay home and take care of her family so she’d know what they were doing."
The next June work on the lumber job was all over, and the family moved back to Armenia Mountain with Grandma Purvis, whose home always seemed to be a never-failing refuge in time of stress to all the family. A few weeks later, they moved into a little log house on the old Ames lot, by a spring on the farm that was later to belong to Rene and her husband.
The first coal mine opened in Morris Run in 1852. By 1853, new mines were opening in Morris Run. The first railroad was built to Blossburg in 1841, and was completed to Morris Run in 1853. The first stretch went from Lawrenceville to Blossburg, and later the branch was added. The tracks were narrow gauge. Rene remembers visiting at Covington, and sitting in a high chair to watch the first train she had ever seen. The engine was painted red, and as she looks back the cars seem very small.
Times were still very hard. The Civil War was at its worst. Men were being drafted from eighteen to forty-five. They were given $300.00 bounty. If they could find a man who was not in the draft they could give him the $300.00, and he would go as a substitute. Thus a great many boys from sixteen to eighteen got a chance to go. Many foreigners were coming into Morris Run, mostly Welch and Irish: a few English. Epidemics of small pox and yellow fever were frequent. There was a pest house where the victims were taken, and someone who had had the disease usually went to care for them.
The Morris Run Coal Company owned all the stores the saloon, and the boarding houses. There were two mines in operation at this time—The Salt Co. Mine, and the Old Tioga Mine, (probably short for Tioga).
After the Northern victory at Gettysburg in July of ’63, business picked up a little. People began to feel that they were not fighting for a lost cause, and some building was started. In December, Charles and Milo Hager (his cousin, his uncle Jonas’ son) took a contract to clear the land, and build fifty log cabins. So before Christmas of that year, the family had moved again; this time to Morris Run. There was no wagon road from Fall Brook to Morris Run then, so Charles took the household goods around by Blossburg with the oxen (by way of Frost Settlement, Covington and Blossburg, about sixteen miles to Morris Run). Charley and Bet rode on the wagon with the goods, the rest of the family walked the six miles from Grandma’s where they had stayed the night before. The two older boys took turns with their mother carrying Ann, who was now nearly two years old, and a very fat, heavy baby. They were tired and hungry when they reached Fall Brook, so Mary Ann went to a house and knocked. She asked the woman who came to the door if she would sell her some food for the children. The woman thought it over, then told her if they would eat what she had cooked, there were welcome. They had eaten a very early breakfast and it was not about three o’clock in the afternoon. Mary Ann thought almost anything would taste good, so she took the children into the house. The woman set them around the table, and dished up a sort of stew, consisting of cabbage, potatoes turnips, and some kind of meat chopped up together. None of the children liked it much, but they were hungry enough, so they ate. When they were through, Mary Ann thanked her, and gave her a dollar. They had just started on their way through the woods toward Morris Run, when they met Charles coming to meet them. They were glad to see him, and also glad of some help with Ann, who seemed heavier by far, than she had in the morning. Imagine how tired the little legs of Rene and Bell must have been! They were only eight and ten at the time.
When they got to the house where they were to live, they found that Charles had moved the furniture in, and partly settled, and had built a fire before he left so the house would be warm. Milo Hager invited all of them over to his house that night for supper. Their house was on of six called Hagartown, which the Company built.
Edd Cooley Milo Burgess
Blakes Joe Lardcom
Mary Ann took boarders to help out with expenses. She had ten to fifteen men all winter. Aunt Sophronia helped her. Among the men who boarded there: Bill Bixby, Perry Decer, the Horning boys, Uncle Sam Eaton, Myron Pierce, and Uncle William Purvis. Mar Ann used cotton soldier blankets for sheets. They kept a fire all night, so the men would not freeze. Upstairs was all one room where the men slept. There was one room, a pantry, and a bedroom downstairs. They burned wood in the stove, and had benches to sit on. Candles were mostly used for light. They had one kerosene lamp which they were all very much afraid of, for fear it would explode, which sometimes happened. The refining process was very crude at the time, and much of what we now know as gasoline was run into the kerosene. That winter Charles and Milo built the fifty log houses. They made up a whole street, twenty-five houses on each side, southwest of where the store now is. *(see page 21)
There were no schools that winter. The two older boys helped their father, and the girls helped around the house. The next summer Mary Culver had a select school, as it was called. Each scholar paid a certain sum each week for the privilege of attending. The next winter, (1864-65) there was a district school, if such it could be called. The teacher had ninety boys and girls of all ages in her own house of two rooms. She had a plank seat around the walls of the largest room, also her kitchen. All of the younger children sat on the planks with such books as they had on their laps. She had a table in her bedroom, and the older pupils who had writing and arithmetic sat around that. The classes stood up and toed a crack to recite. There was no other place for them to go. She had to make her own copies for writing, and make her own and the children’s pens of quills. She had very good discipline. Tho’ they were packed in such close quarters, there was no fooling, and rarely any whispering.
The saloon was flourishing. Everybody drank some, but a man was seldom seen drunk. Much beer was drunk, and it was a common thing to send a youngster, boy or girl, as the case might be, to the saloon for a pail of beer, which was set on the table and everyone helped themselves.
$2.50 a day was top wages for a man. Cloth of any kind was very expensive, most of it was woolen. Cotton cloth was very scarce. Paper was often used in quilts for bats. Old rags were washed and made up into quilts or blankets. Gingham, when it could be found, 27 inches wide was 80 cents a yard. Women wore hoop-skirts taking yards of material.
Mrs. Blake, one of the neighbors, used to hit the bottle frequently. One Sunday morning she was in her cups, she got up, pout on her hoopskirt and a waist, but forgot to put on any other clothing underneath, and went to Bloss to Mass, to the vast astonishment of the neighbors. The Blakes had six children: Edd, Will, John, Kate, Sarah, and Mary. Sarah was about Rene’s age. One night Rene went to stay all night with her. The family were very strict Catholics. The girls went upstairs to bed, and Sarah made an excuse to go downstairs for a drink. She was gone so long that finally Rene went to the head of the stairs and listened. She heard them saying their prayers. The "Hail Mary’s" was a strange thing to Rene, as she had never heard Catholic prayers before, and the Blake girls were very shy about their religion. The girls liked each other, and got along very well. Their boys somehow escaped the draft, and worked in the mines. Many boys went as substitutes that winter, and some of them didn’t come back. There were many deserters at this time, and Rene knew several who came to Morris Run, changed their names, and worked in the mines.
All food was very scarce and expensive, and folks had some queer makeshifts. Mary Ann often gathered sorrel and mixed it with elderberries or dried apples to make pies. The sour sorrel flavored with sugar and spices made an appetizing dish. The Irish cooked potatoe tops and buckwheat for greens.
There was an epidemic of Small Pox the summer of ’65. Charles was exposed accidentally. They had the children vaccinated, and sent them out to Granma Purvis, while Charles and Mary Ann got provisions and medicine, and shut themselves in their house with an old man who had had Small Pos, and waited for the first symptoms, which never came. They stayed there during the period of quarantine, then went for the children. They had not escaped so easily. None of them had the Small Pos, but as soon as the vaccine began to work, they broke out with an itching mass of sores. Rene said her fingers were so bad that her hands stood out straight. The sores ran their course, and tho’ apparently not dangerous, were very uncomfortable.
One of the neighbors, the Shiplers were a very interesting couple. They were English. Mrs. Shipler was very young. She came of a good family in England, and had been forbidden to marry Mr. Shipler under penalty of being disowned by her people. She married him anyway, and they ran away to America. Their sole ambition was to get enough money to go back home and impress the family. They went without all the comforts, and most of the necessities of life, so much that it was noticeable in a day when going without things was the common lot of everybody. During the years they lived in Morris Run, they had a baby boy named Jimmy Lincoln. Rene was very fond of this baby, and used to take care of him sometimes when Mrs. Shipler went to the store or meat market. Rene pieced her a quilt, tho’ she was only eleven years old at the time, which she took back to England with her. They went back when they thought they had enough money. Rene describes the roll of bills she carried as about as large as her arm. Rene had never seen so much money before. She never heard from Mrs. Shipler after she left for ‘ome. She had always been very curious about what happened to her when she arrived there with her husband, the money, and a beautiful baby boy.
Tho’ Charles worked hard, Mary Ann kept boarders, and the older boys worked too; these were lean years. On October 19th, 1864, Mary Ann had another baby, a boy, named George McClelland. She seemed to be worn out with work and child-bearing. She kept to her bed for three months. Aunt Sophronia was there at first, but she cut her finger badly, and went home, leaving Rene to manage the younger children, do the housework, and care for the baby and her mother, which was no small chore. She had to bake bread, as well as do the rest of the cooking for nine hearty eaters. After Aunt Sopronia’s finger healed, she came back for a few days. She looked around and noticed that the household tasks were well done and told Charles that he didn’t need her that Rene was getting along all right. (Rene was eleven and a half years at the time). Besides, she was getting $3.00 a week at Blossburg in a boarding house, which was almost unheard of wages at that time, and Charles could not afford to pay her more than a dollar. The family talked the matter over, and decided she could go back to her boarding house job. That ended Rene’s dreams of school for that winter. Some time during the winter Grandma Purvis came to visit them, and stayed a few days. She must have been very welcome, especially to Rene, as she probably shared some of the responsibility while she was there. Rene remembers her visit mainly for two strange articles of food that came into the house then. Charles went to Bloss on business, and came back a pint of oysters and a pound of coffee. All the children liked a sip of coffee sweetened with maple sugar, but Grandma and Charles had the oysters all to themselves. They ate them with great enjoyment, raw, with salt, pepper, and maple vinegar. Al expressed the general opinion when he said he would not mind eating them if they’d take the insides out.
As the winter wore on, Mary Ann got up and around, and was able to take over light tasks. Everyone thought that the South could not hold out much longer, but the North was getting stripped of nearly everything; clothes were giving out, and there was no more to be had. Food was very expensive. All of the men of fighting age had gone to the war, many of them never to return. Charles was too old to go, and Fin and Al were not old enough, so our family were spared, but many friends and relatives were in the conflict.
Money was very scarce. A kind of fractional currency was in use, called "shin-plasters". It was issued in denominations of 5, 10, 15, 25, and 50 cents. The silver coins of an earlier issue had nearly disappeared from circulation. The coins in use were ½ cents and 1 cent pieces of copper, 2 cent pieces of bronze, 3 cent, 5 cent, and ten cent, quarters and half-dollars of silver. Large pennies were not coined after 1857. The copper-nickel cents of the war years were called white pennies; there were many counterfeit quarters and half-dollars. They could be spotted because of their light weight. Silver and gold dollars were coined, some $3.00 gold pieces were made, also $10 and $20 gold pieces, but poor people rarely saw them. Many states, viz., Georgia, California, Colorado, South Carolina, and Oregon issued gold coins about that time. All coins were known as Specie. The U.S. government suspended all specie payments early in 1862. All government debts were paid with green-backs an shin-plasters. Postage stamps were also used. To keep them from wearing out, they were encased in a metal case with a layer of mica over the face. Many New York firms had their own ads on the back. This was called "Necessity money". There were also war tokens of 1 cent value, issued by various parties, firms, and individuals during the war. They were about the size of our cent, and were not legal tender. They were of no value after the war. In 1864 the U.S. government issued demand notes in $5, $10, and $20 denominations, payable at the subtreasuries of New York, Philadelphia, etc. The motto "In God We Trust" was not placed on coins until 1864. The bronze 2 cent piece was the first to bear it. Most of these coins are not rare, but not much rarer than they were to the Purvis children during the Rebellion.
As many of the coins were very small, the women knit purses to carry them in. They were like a stocking leg about ten inches long, and had a slit in the side near the top. When the coins were inside, the top was folded over, keeping them safe. They were made mostly from dark-colored yarn, and men, as well as women used them.
As the long, hard winter was about to end, more cheering news began to come from the Southland; Lincoln was re-inaugurated on the 4th of March. One of his first official acts was to call deserters back to their posts, promising them pardon. Many who had been hiding went back to duty. Sherman was successful in his march to the sea, Grant closed in on Lee’s Army, and on April 3rd, Richmond fell. There was a time of rejoicing such as most places had never seen. In Morris Run, there was a holiday from all work. Flags flew from all public buildings; men walked around the streets weeping with joy. Some of the reckless got drunk, and the religious went to church to pray. The war was over. The slaves were free. When Lee surrendered two weeks later, there was another occasion of mild rejoicing, but nothing like the first celebration. Mr. Lincoln’s name was on everyone’s mouth as the deliverer of the country.
While the nation was rejoicing over the end of the war, the awful news came of Lincoln’s assassination. The day the murder was announced was Saturday, April 15th. The nation was plunged into the depths of grief. The Purvis children were young, but all of the older ones remembered that time as long as they lived. It seemed as tho’ one of their own family had died. Bells were tolled, and people talked in hushed voices. It seemed a shame that such a good man must die, just when the nation was beginning to appreciate him.
The next summer passed without any outstanding events, in the lives of the Purvis children, at least. Coal was discovered at Fall Brook before it was at Morris Run. During these years a railroad was built through to Fall Brook, and a wagon road was laid out between the two towns. Arnot was built up about the close of the war.
Lew Nearing was the "big man" of Morris Run. He must have been one of the local managers for about sixty years. O’Donnell was at the head of the pay office.
The Welch Church was built during the war years also. The services were conducted in the Welch language. The Catholics all went to Blossburg to Mass. Most of them walked.
Milo Hagar moved out of Morris Run and bought a farm. Milo Burgess took his family and moved to Kansas, soon after the war ended. Kansas was just being settled. Charles talked a great deal about going West, but never could get enough money together to take his family and go.
*(As Gladys recalls now, the fifty "log" houses that Charles and Milo built were frame houses, rather than log, and most of them are still standing. J. M.)
ARMENIA MOUNTAIN AGAIN
February 1866 found the family again out on Armenia Mountain in a little log house on the farm known to the family as the "Bill Purvis Place". They moved on Ann’s fourth birthday. Carpenter work had slowed up at Morris Run. Immigrants had stopped coming, and the town never grew much more. Charles didn’t know anything about mining, and didn’t like the idea of it, so decided once more to turn his attention to farming.
During the winter Rene had worked for George Connelly for a week and was paid with three yards of red and black striped calico. Her mother made a waist for her out of it. She thought this waist was very nice, as cotton cloth was still scarce and expensive. In the spring she worked awhile for Aunt Lydia Hart. Aunt Lydia was very kind to her, and showed her how to do different kinds of work that Mary Ann had never bothered with. She had such a large family that she was glad just to get things done, without being too fussy. Aunt Lydia was different. She had only two boys, Eddy and Odell, so she took time to be very particular about her work. This was irksome at the time, but in after years, Rene was glad for the training. During the time she was there, she gave Rene blocks for a quilt, and a little Testament that had belonged to her sister, Delilah VanZile, who had died when she was thirteen. Rene was very choice of the Testament. It was her very own and she always kept it. She took the quilt blocks home, and her mother made them into a quilt. She and Bet and Bell had it on their bed. After she had been there a few weeks, Mary Ann sent for her to come home as she was not very well, and needed her help.
On May 9th or 10th of 1866 there was a big snowstorm. Aunt Theedie Cooley died and was buried during the time the snow was on the ground. The funeral was at Blossburg. Charles went and took Grandpa and Granma Purvis. Aunt Theedie was her sister. The snow melted before they returned, and became a foot or so deep of slush; very hard to travel around in.
That summer they moved to the Robbins lot, which later became the Chamberlain place. Lots of berries of all kinds grew there, and when summer came Rene and Bell picked berries and took them to Fall Brook and sold them. They began in June with strawberries. They picked two big milk pails full during the day. At night they hulled them, and the next day they walked four miles to Fall Brook. When their berries were sold, they walked back home. They did this about twice a week. After strawberry season the raspberries and huckleberries came on, and still later, the blackberries. They were thankful to have the blackberries come, as they grew high, filled the pails fast, and didn’t have to be hulled.
We have told before about Grandpa’s blindness and his still. Rene and her sister were old enough by this time to go over to his house and help him. They picked baskets of wintergreens and peppermint, looked it over, and helped fill the still. They like to help keep the fire while the oil ran off. He could split his own wood, but it was a slow, tedious process. He would strike a blow with the axe, then fee where he had struck, then strike another. Sometimes, if no one else were available, he took one or two of the girls with him peddling. Aunt Sophronia was married to Jerome Soper about this time. Her first beau, George Horning, had died in the war. The winter after Rene was thirteen years old, she went to school at the Clark Schoolhouse for three months. Helen Palmer taught.
In December, 1867, Grandpa Purvis died. Mary Ann sent Rene over to Grandma’s to help her. Aunt Sophronia and several neighbor women were there. He was laid out on boards in the bedroom. Aunt Sophronia sent her in to mop the floor. She didn’t like the idea very much, but she went. She wasn’t exactly afraid, but she felt queer when she got in there. She stuck to it until the job was finished. Her mother told her later that the reason Sophronia sent her, was probably because she didn’t want to go herself. The neighbors decided that all the family should have black clothes to wear to the funeral, so they brought in all the black garments they had among them. Rene, at this time, was a lanky, unformed girl of thirteen, and didn’t fill up the ones they brought for her very well. Nevertheless she wore them because they told her she had to. There was a deep snow and the wind drifted it in all the day and night before the funeral which was at the State Road Baptist Church. All the neighbors turned out and shoveled the road down the mountain so they could get there.
Grandma’s own children were all married and away from home, except Phoebe Eaton’s three, Margaret, Johnny, and Lucy. They were there with her, so she was not alone. Lucy was a year younger than Rene. The other two were older.
The next summer, Rene, Bell, and Lucy each picked a ten quart pail of wintergreen berries which they took to Mainesburg and sold. They heard of a show that was going to be there that night. They had a great desire to see it, so they went home and told their folks about it. Charles had to go to Mainesburg for groceries, so he told the girls that he would go that night and take them. Bell and Lucy spent their money for the show. After Rene thought it over, she decided she wanted something else worse than she wanted to see the show. There was a pretty piece of blue and white cloth in the store at Mainesburg. A few days later she walked to Mainesburg, a distance of five miles, and bought the cloth. Her mother made it into a dress for her. She thought she had the best bargain. The show was over, but she still had her dress. Rene’s hair was now a deep, rich auburn, and she had a large quantity of it. She had the mil-white skin and freckles to go with it. Also, the temper that is supposed to accompany "red hair". When her brothers wanted to tease her, they called her "Old Sorrel Top". That always got a rise out of her. She was about five feet, three inches tall, and never grew much more.
This same summer after she was fourteen, she and her mother each picked and dried a bushel of blackberries. (This was a bushel after they were dried.) They took them to Mainesburg, sold them and took their pay in cloth out of the store. Rene got a pink and white dress out of the deal. Mary Ann and the other girls got a dress each. Charles had some sheep. After they were sheared, he took several fleece to the carding mill below Miamisburg, and had them carded. The carder took out a certain amount of rolls to pay for the carding. Rene and her mother spun the rest of it into yarn, and they knit stockings and socks for the family out of it. Money was still very scarce. Most things were purchased by trading. If a farmer wanted a package of tea, a pound of soda, or some horseshoe nails, he would take eggs or butter enough to the store to pay for them. Old clothes were torn into carpet rags, which were knit or crocheted into rugs. Cotton thread was very hard to get for years after the war.
Sometime during the year, Charles moved to what was known later as the "Sam Purvis Place:" The house was very old, and Charles built a new framed house on the place. At last Mary Ann had a home. Rene was never home much after the family moved.
A HIRED GIRL
During the winter before Rene was fifteen, she went to school for the winter term at the Clark Schoolhouse. When school was out she decided to look for a place to work where they wanted a hired girl permanently. Most families on Armenia had a girl to help them only when there was illness in the family, or when some emergency arose, but on the State Road between Mainesburg and Sylvania lived a number of, for the times, well-to-do farmers. They owned their own farms, had a sizable dairy, and sometimes had some little business besides, such as a sawmill, or a turning mill. Some of them held public offices, such as Justice of the Peace, or Tax Collector. They had a hired girl all the year around. Now there was a vast difference between the social stature of the mistress of the house, and the hired girl, in her eyes, at least. Tho’ sometimes she was the daughter of a neighbor whom she had known all her life. Most girls were not allowed to eat with the family, and the sleeping quarters set aside for the use of the girl were very poorly furnished. A bed with a cornhusk tick, and a chair were usually the only furnishings. The woman who included a small table or bureau thought she was really pampering her help. The girl was supposed to help milk, do most of the housework, bake the bread, wash and iron, and generally be at the beck and call of any of the family who wanted anything done. Her day started at four or four-thirty o’clock in the morning, and ended when weariness drove the family to retire at night, usually at nine or nine-thirty. It was a poor housekeeper who couldn’t keep a girl supplied with busy work, such as sewing carpet rags or spinning yarn after the supper dishes were washed, the house put to rights, and the potatoes peeled for morning. Hired girls in those days never got into mischief—they neither had the time or the energy. The magnificent remuneration for this life of gaiety was usually about a dollar a week. The heads of those households must have been a sickly lot, for most of them that Rene speaks of were confined to their beds about two-thirds of the time with some malady. Not really desperate illness, but just something that kept them from getting around and taking an active part in the business of living. Maybe they just felt "doncy" most of the time, as the Pennsylvania Dutch say.
Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Nash were one of these couples, although they were different in some ways. Mrs. Nash prided herself on being very democratic. She allowed her girls to eat with the family, and they could make their own clothes in their spare time. Yes, she saw that they really had some time to themselves, and she was very kind-hearted. In June 1868, Rene went there to work, and such was the atmosphere of that home that she really felt as if it were her home. She was sorry to leave when the time came to go. She worked there for fifteen months and Mrs. Nash thought a great deal of her and always called her "Renie".
She taught her her way of baking bread, pies, and cakes. She was a very careful housekeeper, and they lived well, although she wasted nothing. Glass cans were not commonly used, but she preserved fruit of all kinds in crocks with layers of honey or maple sugar. They made their own butter and soap. Rene did not have to milk. Mrs. Nash had a daughter, Elizabeth, who was married to John Dewey, and they lived in a house on the same farm. During the winter she had a baby daughter born whom she called Dora. (This name Dora, in later years, became Mrs. Willard Dewey and took care of Rene’s brother, George, in his last years.)
Kerosene lamps were in common use by this time. Rene, however, was not allowed to blow one out. She took her lamp upstairs to see to undress by, then set it out on the top step. Mr. Nash went up and got it after she had scurried back into her room in the dark.
Rene grew up during these years. She went to several country dances at Ed Dewey’s, a neighbor who had a large house with a ballroom upstairs. He was Deel and Wallace’s father. He had a large family, and there was always something going on at the Dewey house. Rene attended church and Sunday School at the State Road Baptist Church. The State Road Methodist Church was built while Rene was at Nash’s. Nelson Welch was one of the first members. When Rene was about sixteen a revival was held at the Methodist Church. About fifty were baptized. Rene’s brother, Allen was one of them.
Other neighbors who lived nearby were: Tommy Reynolds, Elliot Rose, Fordice Morgan, Isaac Squires, VanBuren Reynolds, Mack Andrus, and Lyman Smith.
If Rene went home for a visit, she had to walk up the mountain, then about a mile across the top of the mountain to her father’s house. She had to do up her work before she left on Saturday night, and be back in time to do the washing on Monday morning, which she always had to do, regardless of the fact she had already walked three miles that same morning.
Nash’s daughter, Elizabeth (she was called "Lib" by everyone but her mother) married John Dewey. They had one child, Dora. John died after a couple of years of marriage. Lib later married Al Lounsberry and raised a family.
Rene worked for several other families over the next year or so. Ed and Emma Cooley lived near Covington. Em had "spells" of some kind when she thought she was going to die. Ed would have to hitch up the team and go to Blossburg for her mother, sometimes in the middle of the night. While he was gone, she would spend the time singing. "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There" was a favorite. There really couldn’t have been much wrong with her, only in her mind. She out-lived both her mother and her husband. They had several children who didn’t take her "spells" too seriously.
Another person Rene worked for was Elias Cleveland. Mrs. Cleveland was another chronic invalid. She said she had "female weakness," and sat in a chair, or lay on the bed most of the time. I think "Lydia Pinham’s Vegetable Compound for Female Troubles" had not yet been invented. There were also several children there. "Lias worked for a lumbering outfit hauling logs. His day began about four 4 a.m., so that meant early rising for the hired girl, as she had to fix his breakfast and pack his lunch. Mrs. Cleveland could almost always find something for Rene to do until she had to get the children up, get their breakfast into them, pack their lunches, and get them off to school. Her day ended when Elias and the children had their supper, Mrs. Cleveland was settled for the night, and the supper dishes were washed. There was little chance to rest during the day, as Mrs. Cleveland usually was working on some project where she could use Rene’s help—tearing carpet rags, sewing on patches, or some other necessary work. These were the long periods of service as a hired girl. There were other short sessions as a couple of weeks at Elbert Connelly’s, and some scattered weeks at Deel (Adelia) Connelly’s (Walter and Burt’s step-mother). The average pay was about one dollar a week
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE
In those days a girl was considered grown up and ready for marriage by the time she was seventeen. Rene’s seventeenth birthday was April 20, 1870, so in common with all the neighborhood girls, she began to think about eligible young men.
It so happened about this time that a family moved into the Armenia Mountain neighborhood by the name of Tanner. (Amos and Fanny). They had had five sons in the Civil War. The youngest, Amos II, was discharged the day he was fifteen years old. Ben had had the bone shot out of one forearm. The family had lived in the Greene’s Landing area, but moved to Armenia because there was much lumbering going on at the time, and a prospect of work.
The sixth son, Oliver Hazard Perry Tanner, (born November 3, 1846) named for Commander Perry of Lake Erie fame, had served about eighteen months in the Union Army, most of which must have been spent in Rebel prisons. He had been in both Libbey Prison (an old tobacco warehouse in Richmond, Virginia) and on the island known as Andersonville. He was discharged from the Army June 11, 1865, after Lee’s surrender. He came home to Greene’s Landing and taught two winter terms (three months each) of school. He was an avid reader, reading everything he could find, which included the Bible, and Sir Walter Scott.
Rene met Perry, as he was called (the "Hazard" seems to have been forgotten as soon as he was named, and he thought of himself as Oliver Perry, and signed his name "O. P. Tanner") at a neighborhood party at the Clark Schoolhouse in the spring of 1870, and they were attracted to each other. She was seventeen, and he was nearly twenty-four. He saw her home from the party, and they dated steady after that. One date, if you could call it that—was very interesting.
It was the custom for the young folk of the community to "sit up" with the dead. An old lade had died, and Perry and Rene, and Al and Mimie Horton volunteered to "sit up". In those days corpses were not embalmed, but the "sitters" had to wring cloths out of a solution given them by the undertaker, and lay them on the hands and face to keep the skin from turning dark until the day of the funeral.
They did their job as far as the wet cloths were concerned, but made a party out of the occasion. They paraded around in sunbonnets and hats of the family, told jokes, and had a hilarious time in general. The lady of the house set out pie and apples for them to eat when they were hungry. They all became much better acquainted that night. Mimie (Jemima) and Al were married January 1, 1871. Perry and Rene were married on Halloween, October 31, 1870, by a Methodist minister in Burlington, Pennsylvania. (Reverend Oliver ______). Perry’s brother, Sam Tanner, had a lumbering job on the West Branch (Susquehanna). Shortly after their marriage, Perry left to work with him in the lumber woods. Rene stayed with Perry’s sister, Mary (Mrs. Rob Swain) at West Burlington until he earned money enough to send for her to make the train trip to Williamsport.
He met her in Williamsport, and they stayed all night at a hotel. They had bear steak that night for supper. This was a new experience for Rene, and she was a little frightened by it all. The next day they had another short train trip up the West Branch. Perry’s brother met them at the railroad station with a team of horses and a lumber wagon. Rene took all her possessions in a little round-top trunk which Rob Swain had bought for her in Troy. Sam’s wife was Pennsylvania Dutch, and their speech and ways of living were so much different than Rene was used to, that she was very homesick, and glad when spring came.
In the spring when high water came, they floated the logs down the West Branch to Sunbury. The lumber job was over, and Perry and Rene came back to Armenia and started housekeeping in the Clark house. Perry was a good carpenter and worked away from home a good bit doing carpenter work. Their house was near his parents. Life was very hard. Water had to be carried up a long hill for all household use. Perry was gone most of the week, and Rene spent many days alone. His sisters, Jane and Rachel, were in sometimes. There was a large family yet at home, so they were quite busy there. The sister, Lavicie had died, leaving a small girl, Estella, who lived with the Tanners. I am not sure of the exact size of the family at this time, but as near as I can remember from Rene’s stories, there must have been the father and mother, (Amos and Fanny), Ben, Bill, Simeon, Jane, Rachel, and little Stella, which made eight to cook and do for. Amos Jr. and his wife, Samantha (called Smanth), lived near. Perry’s mother gave Rene an old willowware sugar bowl to keep soda in, which is still in the family. (1976)
NOTE: book has photos of Zachary Taylor Tanner, John Zebulon Tanner and Emma Belle Tanner, Cora May Tanner
Retyped and submitted by Mallory Babcock – July 2008